17 November 2003
Perhaps you people don't remember how this goes, so I'll remind you: you update your journals and blogs. Then I read them and am entertained and have a chance to do something while I'm waking up that won't involve work. See? Doesn't this sound reasonable? I knew it would.
Unless it doesn't because you have a million and one other things to do. (Or don't have a journal or a blog, of course.) In which case...never mind, then.
Our garbage truck plays two notes half a step apart when it backs up, so I keep waiting for it to go into the rest of "Für Elise." It does not do so. This is probably for the best.
The Strib seems to have entirely forgotten what the phrase "most people" means. "Most still want babies to be boys," is the headline. Number of people polled who want their babies to be boys? Thirty-eight percent. Umm. See, I was a physics major, so I can give you this highly technical information: that means that most people do not actively want their babies to be boys. The rest were pretty evenly split between wanting girls and not caring which they got. So more people actively wanted boys than actively wanted girls or didn't care. But that doesn't mean that most people did. The most people did. But not most people. They did it again later in the article: "Most men polled -- 45 percent -- preferred sons and most women -- 36 percent -- preferred girls." And do they see that neither of those is most men or most women? Apparently not. They go on to talk about how, "People tend to believe they'll have a special bond with a child of the same sex." Umm. Except that a lot of people apparently don't believe that at all. Most do not, in fact, if these numbers are any indicator. Under these conditions, if ten percent of people said they liked vanilla ice cream best, nine percent each liked chocolate, strawberry, peanut butter, etc., the Strib would report that as, "Most people like vanilla!" No, no, no.
Language means something, people!
And then there's the state social studies standards argument for primary and secondary schools. Uff da mai. These people! Why is everyone so damn wrong? You'd think somebody would stumble on being right, just statistically speaking. But we keep getting people who are on and on about how kids need to Memorize Facts, Dammit! And more people who are on and on about how they need to Discuss Issues, Dammit! And it all just makes me want to scream and clutch my head. They're often hung up on Patrick Henry: how important is it that kids know who said "Give me liberty or give me death" and when? Patrick Henry! Always Patrick Henry!
Of course you have to have facts to base your discussions on, or you get people like some of my college classmates making assertions that, "In the '50s, like, nobody knew women could work outside the house." (What, we used the magical forgetfulness ray on them after the Rosie The Riveter posters?) And of course you have to discuss the implications of facts or they won't have any reason to stick in your head or anything to do once they get there. But the thing I want kids to learn about history is that it's a rat's nest. I want kids to have a sense that whatever they're interested in, history has bits of it, and it's all connected to each other, and the best you can usually do is grab an end and pull. And also that it's a bunch of stories laid end to end. Some true stories, some fiction, some stories about stories ("this is how the propaganda was written to justify the X regime"), bunches and bunches of stories.
For me, both the goal of teaching kids facts and the goal of teaching them to analyze situations are subordinate to having kids who want to know. It doesn't matter if you have a kid who can rattle off the First Amendment from memory or a kid who can write a five-paragraph essay about why the Founders adopted the First Amendment. If the kid doesn't care or want to know anything more, it'll all end when the semester grades come out. The problem is, of course, that you cannot write standards for giving a hoot; you cannot write tests to determine for sure whether the knowledge will stick around and get thrown at other situations later. And writing tests and standards makes people feel so very good.
I don't know...let teachers teach what excites them. Let kids go haring off on weird report projects. While a certain amount of cultural commonality is a good idea, I'm not convinced that a kid who knows a whole bunch of details about Byzantine charioteers is fundamentally better or worse off than a kid who knows a whole bunch of details about Cortez. I'm not convinced that the Kuomintang is an inherently more or less worthy subject of study than the Napoleonic Wars. And it seems like the standards people want to be able to do -- oh, it's that old problem again! -- a total ordering. A ranking of historical figures in order of importance to American schoolchildren with George Washington at #1 and Lajos Kossuth at the very, very bottom.
Total orderings. We hatessss them, precioussss.
They also want to be able to separate out art history and music history and history of science and technology and all of those other interesting histories from History, which is about kings and battles, or else about masses and forces, but for heaven's sake has nothing to do with paint, lathes, or violins.
Boxess. We hatess them, too, gollum gollum.
The rejection drought continues, and with it the acceptance drought. And I have the statistics to prove it! Here we go. May: 17 rejections. June: 15. July: 18. August: 17. September: 17. October: 11. November to date: 3. Now, that's all down a bit from summer 2002, partly because I've sold some of the stories that were getting shipped around and haven't written as many to replace them. But I haven't sold that many stories since the move. So they're either at slooooow markets -- and some of them are -- or they're caught up in the mail forwarding. Entirely possible. Entirely frustrating. And it makes things like the Realms of Fantasy slush page incredibly frustrating: there's me! There are some stories! Read already! One of them arrived here after...check date...not so long, really...and hey, are those stories ones I sent with the current address on them? When did I start sending with the current address? Is she pondering passing them on, or has the post office got them in its clutches? Aaaaagh.
So easy to drive oneself crazy with this stuff.
In the meantime, I have articles to write. Phone calls to make. House chores to accomplish. Car to take in for winterizing. E-mails and letters to send. Printer to clean. Books to read. Meals to cook. Novels to edit. Wife to murder. Guilder to frame for it.
And the main page.
Or the last entry.
Or the next one.
Or even send me email.