Saturday, March 29, 2008

TJED and Intro from Kelly

First, Hello! Thank you for letting me join your book discussion. I’m very excited to have women to discuss interesting books with! I look forward to getting to know you better through our discussions.
Please forgive any typos. I am doing the bulk of this typing while nursing. I also won’t be looking up page numbers and things for this particular book. I read it a long time ago and I am just going to weigh with what I have in my head. So anyway….here goes!

This book changed my life.

I say that in all seriousness. I am a different person now. I view education differently. I think differently. I am interested in topics that I never even thought about previously.

When I first read Thomas Jefferson Education, I realized that my Education was completely under my control and that I could learn anything I had a mind to learn. I realized that I wanted my children to grow up able to THINK and evaluate. I know I didn’t learn how to think growing up. Maybe that is because of my parents, maybe because of my teachers. Probably both.

Like Julia, I thirsted after the information that was in this book. The high ideals and ideas gave me something to consider that I had never considered before. It gave me a starting point for my own studies.

Since reading this book, the bulk of my research and studying has focused on education and family life. It’s something that’s pertinent to me right now. I find it fascinating. I also study and discuss politics, economics, and other things that I would never have even considered studying.

I agree with DeMille that our country’s educational philosophy is not developmentally correct for children. I like his ideas on working and learning together. I love that he thinks parents should set an example for their children. I agree that learning should be enjoyable as children. I agree with him that fostering a love of learning in children is vital. I recognize that these are not completely original ideas but have, in fact, been spoken by many people, not the least of whom have been Church leaders.

This book places the responsibility of each individual’s education where it belongs, on the individual. I like that.

I read through all your posts and found them fascinating. There were some things that I totally agreed with and others in which I had a “little bone to pick”. I don’t want to get into that too much, but I did want to respond to one thing that Andrea wrote. As I read it I had an interesting thought. I haven’t put too much effort into it, so bear with me. In response to this question, “Do you aspire to having "wise" children, or are you okay with children who are happily settled into good careers? Is there a difference?”
Andrea wrote: “I want my children to end up as wise and loving and kind as President Hinckley. Since I am not as wise or loving or kind as President Hinckley that guarantees that my children won't be--but at least I can teach them to WANT to be like that. At least I can teach them that just being okay is NOT the best they can do.”

So here’s my thought, although a little off-topic from the original question. I disagree that children cannot surpass their parents. I think it’s possible. It reminds me of the poem that President Monson likes to quote that says, “every now and then God places a giant among men”. What if your child is going to be one of those “giants”? I’ll tell you honestly, my parents only ever believed that their children could reach a certain potential. I love them dearly, but I could feel that from the time I was little. There was a certain “I was only this good at math so I don’t expect you to do any better” sort of mentality about them. They expect us to be the same sort of people that they are professionally. That jives with what DeMille was arguing about the aristocracy (I had other thoughts on that, but I can save them for later).

I totally expect that my children will surpass my efforts in most areas of my life. Maybe I sound like a parent with impossible expectations, but I’ve decided that dreaming big is probably one of the things I lacked as a child. I dreamt safe. I don’t want that for my children.

On that same wave-length, My mom told me once that she has a theory that it is possible for every generation of parents to improve on the generation that came before it. She looked at our own family history (from my great-grandparents through to me) and thought it worked. We have progressed from detached, semi-abusive/strict parenting, to parents who don’t beat their children and say “I love you” to their children. The addition of the Gospel has played a huge role in this progression. I hope my children keep it going!

So that’s my little idea. That’s part of what I love about this book – it suggests that you dream big for your children…and start by dreaming big for yourself.

That is all I’ll say right now. Like I said, it’s been awhile since I read the book so I might be idealizing it and attributing ideas to DeMille that aren’t there. And I hope this didn’t turn into Kelly’s platform on child-rearing. :-)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Positives

As I promised, I will write out the positive things I picked out from the book.  

1.  "As students become familiar with and eventually conversant with the great ideas of humanity, they learn how to think, how to lead, and how to become great." (pg. 40) 

"At a deeper level, knowing how other think, feel and act allows us to predict behavior and lead accordingly.  We can develop empathy, compassion, wisdom and self-discipline without subjecting our relationships to a more painful learning curve."  (pg 62)

I really think he has a good point here--besides being a little corny about the great part.  Reading classics seems like a great way to learn about humanity and philosophies.  I feel that by reading a wide and deep level of books you begin to recognize the patterns and behaviors of people and begin to understand how life has not varied much for humans for thousands of years.  It gives you a larger perspective and I think makes you less narrow-minded and prejudiced.

2. "When Scholars do an assignment, either say 'great work' or 'do it again.'  You can help them, but have them do most of the work and never accept a low quality submission or performance." (pg. 46)

I think this is a brilliant idea.  And I was extremely impressed to see how Andrea applied it in her classroom.  If I ever homeschool, this is one method that I would really like to apply.

""Multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and other such exams measure memory of facts only, which requires little thinking." (pg 76)

I agree again completely.

3.  "People sup together, play together, travel together, but they do not think together.  Hardly any homes have any intellectual life whatsoever, let alone one that informs the vital interests of life.  Educational TV marks the high tide for family intellectual life." (pg 60)

Indeed!  I really need to find ways to introduce more "intellectual" conversion into our home.  My parents were really good at this--mostly we discussed books.  My husband doesn't like to read so that makes that strategy hard. Our good friends from Europe say that's the most annoying thing they find about living in the U.S.: that guys only talk about sports and women only talk about tv shows and the like.  I guess I take that as a compliment that they like having us over. 

4.  "The classics can be hard work, and that is exactly what is needed to learn to think.  Thinking is hard; deep thinking is not entertaining or easy.  Thinking is like exercise, it requires consistency and rigor.  Like barbells in a weightlifting room, the classics force us to either put them down or exert our minds.  They require us to think. Not just in a rote memory way, either.  The classics make us struggle, search, ponder, seek, analyze, discover, decide, and reconsider.  As with physical exercise, the exertion leads to pleasing results as we metamorphose and experience the pleasure of doing something wholesome and difficult that changes us for the better."  (pg 65)

As far as I'm concerned, this is the best argument in the entire book for his methodology and his best idea altogether.  This is exactly why I'm participating in this blog and reading random books on the Cold War. 

5. "The arts are perhaps the most important because they deal in the medium of feeling and expressing.  Writing comes before reading because most students, if left to their own devices, will ask how to write their name before they seek to learn to read.  That is, self expression comes before the desire to study others.  Art comes before writing.  Children can be practicing artists before they study great art, and their studies will be the better for it."  (pg. 88)

As a wishful artist, I just liked this thought.

Julia's Naive (but very real) Response

What you both need to understand from my background is that TJED was my very first exposure to this style of thinking (other than being married to J.). So, the fact that I LOVED every aspect of this book and drank it like a thirsty baby is not too hard to believe.

However, as I have read, researched and experimented with many different types of educaiton styles in the last several years, I would like to say:

a) it is not up to the teachers to teach better, it's up to the partents - - but I still wish there were some way to change the current system. For instance, why do I keep hearing other countries are so far beyond us in their education systems (note: this has not been personally researched, it is on my "list of things to study", but I've heard it from sources who have lived in other countries and then moved back to the States...feel free to argue the point).

b) DeMille's ideas and philosophies are NOT the one an only way to teach ( I do not use his overall methods, nor do I plan to, just the basic ideas of reading and writing)

c) I wish his book were NOT geared toward homeschooling because it would be an effective method to get into the public school systems (at least, the basis of the theory)

d) I must also thank the both of you for your comments on comparing....I really needed the vent and validation! :-) Again, I think it boils down to raising confident children. How do we teach them HOW to think? For me, TJED has a good start on this. If we can teach them HOW to think, they will be confident & then not worry about the thoughts of others (as their mother does!).

Sorry, that's all I have time for today. :-)


My (Andrea) response to Kami

Kami--I love you.  I agree with every single thing you wrote except that DeMille did say you should read Lord of the Flies.  I won't be doing so, however.  

All the things you listed are problems that arise when a person tries to sell a new approach.  They get preachy.  They make impossible claims.  They hard sell, as Timothy would say.  And pompous is exactly the right word.

What has REALLY bothered me in all the other TJEd reading I have done, is how much he tries to hard sell getting a liberal arts education at his college.  Does he really think I need to get a degree specifically in his college with his mentors in order to teach my children according to his methodology?  My master's in history doesn't count?  My impressive record at BYU (five years worth of study in four years with a broad range of literature/history/humanities courses) just doesn't live up?  My degree and experience in education has no merit.  Is he taking crack? (Okay, that last statement came from my having spent time with Amy.  She brings that out in me.)

I'm glad I was able to get that off my chest.

Here is what Dad had to say:  First, that he would have liked to get all his faculty to read the book because he liked so much of what DeMille had to say, except that the emphasis on homeschooling undermines the books usability in a regular educational setting.  

Things Dad liked:  the emphasis on reading.  Of course, Dad was a TJEd parent long before DeMille showed up on the scene.  He liked the broad definition of "classic" and the point that reading is critical to learning.  He also liked the emphasis on writing.

What he did not like: the pompous "this will fix everything in education" premise.  The idea that education is failing.  It isn't.  Teachers do an amazing job, and like Kami sort of pointed out--the only thing that is failing is families, and educators can't do anything about that.  

Also, my Dad has a strong "How will you use this?" approach to life.  He doesn't see the value in reading a bunch of classics if it isn't going to get you where you want to be.  Therefore--DeMille needed, in Dad's opinion--to more clearly explain the purpose behind getting a liberal arts education.  The whole "leadership crisis" doesn't wash with him (or me, or Kami).  Dad is certainly a fan of a liberal arts type education: he likes gym and art and music.  He isn't a "reading, writing, arithmetic" kind of guy, but still, unnecessary work is unnecessary work and children who grow up in a good home are successful in whatever educational system they find themselves in.  Panaceas have to address the family---not education.

So--Dad liked what Kami and I liked, didn't like what Kami and I didn't like.  Hmm.  

As for the rest of what Kami said, she really does like lots of DeMille's ideas (that was for Julia, in case you were wondering as she said nothing good about it), but she wasn't as willing to overlook all the ridiculousness in his book as I was.  

As I read more of his writing I get more and more annoyed with him, except that his core ideas I totally love and want to implement:

1) let kids play more and stop trying to force them to do academics when they are too young
2) as kids get older give them more responsibility at home and in their education
3) reading, writing, discussing are the best teachers
4) spending lots of quality time with your family is quality socializing
5) thinking about big ideas is FUN!

There you have my "pompous" views! 

Monday, March 24, 2008

Ta-Da: My Views of TJEd

Once again I'm writing a prologue to my essay, mostly to say that my remarks on this book are not going to be in essay form. Lo siento. Perhaps I will write an essay later, but I'm on vacation and I might just focus on responding to the remarks and essays already written. So here goes.

First of all, I wanted to list the things that really, really bugged me about this book.

1. "The truth is that this debate will continue until we realize that it is a fruitless discussion. Education will never be fixed, and in fact it doesn't need to be fixed. Any effort to "fix education" will fail for two reasons. First, education is so many things to so many people..." (pg 11-12).

"At the risk of being redundant, let me reiterate: the solution to America's educational dilemma is to get students to voluntarily and passionately study hard..." (pg. 104).

Is it just me, of did he just contradict himself? I think he did. And I think his first argument still trumps his second argument. His solution holds no weight because people will never agree on what an education is and so it's really no solution, it's just another "popular option" as he puts it, that "will not and cannot fix education." (pg. 12)

2. "Greatness isn't the work of a few geniuses, it is the purpose of each of us. It is why we were born. Every person you have ever met is a genius. Every one." (pg. 8)

I may be cynical, but I completely disagree. I think there are definitely people out there who are not so bright. Stupid, in fact. Very, very stupid. The whole IQ system--which yes I know, is flawed and biased and all that--was an attempt to measure self-evident differing levels of intelligence. Not every child will be able to read the books in his indexes. It just won't be possible for them. And even if they can read it, not every child will be able to understand it, and they never will, and no amount of teaching or mentoring will change that. Along with that, to go back his solution above to fix education, I really don't believe that all children simply can be motivated to teach themselves by a great mentor. Yes, it may work for a large portion of them, but there's no way you could motivate them all. So many other factors come in to play. The largest being that children are motivated and influenced first of all by their family and home life. I think his method would work if first you fixed all the homes in America. No more abusive, addiction driven, unloving parents, or lack of any parents, and replace them all with concerned, loving parents that prioritize education. Oh wait, that would be all the families and teachers that have so great success with his program in their homeschooling and charter schools. Hence, all his talk of how his method is proven to be successful is garbage, it's only worked in a limited settings as far as he's explained.

3. "Could anyone (in the class of 25 students) say anything about the Mayflower Compact? Complete silence. John Locke? Nope. James Madison? Silentia. Magna Carta? The Spanish Armada? The Battle of Yorktown? The Bull Moose party? Don Giovanni? William James? The Tenth Amendment? Zero. Zilch. Forget it. The embarrassment was acute." (pg 16)

Van DeMille assumes throughout the book that a classical liberal arts education is to be educated and that by lacking this education, you wouldn't know how to think and therefore could not be an effective leader. I once again disagree on every single point. First of all, he's extremely pompous in my mind to even dare label what an education is or should be. I think there are innumerable ways of being educated. And here's my pompous assertion, I think an education is whatever allows you to live, provide for yourself and family, navigate society successfully, and improve your status within that society. Knowing how to think is definitely a part of that, but I find it ridiculous to conclude that the African Bushman in the Kalahari don't know how to think simply because their education doesn't include liberal arts. I think their education was very well suited to their needs (well, until recently anyway) and I'm sure they knew how to think through problems facing them and that they have their share of brillant leaders among them as well. A liberal arts education is simply not necessary for everyone--even here in the US--to be able to learn how to think and lead. That being said, I do agree that a liberal arts education can help a person be more well-rounded and conversant about world events and such.

4. "The second type of education is the professional system... This is done by teaching them when to think. ...Their specialized knowledge makes them valuable as experts in their field, and an important part of an interdependent system where other other experts tell them when their knowledge is to be applied and what to do outside the scope of their expertise. ...The professional system has been very effective in achieving its goals, but it is not a substitute for leadership training." (pg. 23)

Are you kidding me? Obviously Van DeMille has never worked in a professional setting outside of education. As a nurse, yes I realize that often (at least in my field) benchmarks and formulas are set to follow of how to respond or treat certain conditions, made by other experts. Many nurses and doctors daily recognize something amiss before the patients have reached those benchmarks and develop treatments uniquely for a patient, outside of what a textbook or other "expert" recommends which work fabulously. Medicine and healthcare demand a extremely high level of imaginative and creative thinking, as no human is the same or reacts to treatments the same. To say that professionals are not capable leaders and thinkers is ridiculous. There are amazing leaders throughout the history of medicine just as much as there are throughout the history of statesman and politics. For instance, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale, and Hippocrates. If professionals simply relied on being told when to think, no advances in medicine, chemistry, computer science, psychology, etc would ever occur.

5. "In class societies, the middle classes have tended toward the professions while the aristocracy received leadership education." (pg. 22)

Again, this argument is lost on me. He claims that those with the leadership training were the ones who changed and shaped and improved society. As I recall from history classes, it was the bourgeois--or middle classes, the ones from the "professional system"--that brought together the ideas and then put into action the formation of the United States. John Locke, Rousseau, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, Benjamin Franklin etc. were all not members of the aristocracy. They were all members of the professional class: lawyers, farmers, and the like. (Which ties into my argument in #4.) So where does this leave his ill-thought out theory? Aristocrats received training on how to rule, not lead. That's why revolutions occurred.

6. "In addition to these considerable benefits of public schools, they often came with a down side. Consider two of the most successful cases: Eighteenth Century Germany, and Nineteenth Century Britain. Each instituted public schools to educate the poor, and the standard of living increased. But eventually the professional and leadership schools deteriorated because they simply couldn't compete with free, government-subsidized schools." (pg. 22)

I'm a little confused by this statement. First of all, without any specifics or explanation he expects me to believe that "professional and leadership schools deteriorated." Now, I don't know much about Eighteenth Century Germany, but as far as I know about Nineteenth Century Britain, they were pretty much at the top of the world still with their huge Empire, universities and colleges that people came from all over the world to attend, and were making vast contributions to science, literature, music and math. Van DeMille does this throughout his book: makes wide claims with no evidence. Thank you, I know how to think, and I do not swallow random examples without proof. He also makes the claim that teachers are "handcuffed." Now I don't deny that, but the only examples he gives are a list of mostly fictional movies on page 104. That's pathetic.

Another wild claim: free the teachers and they'll be able to inspire kids. To use one of his examples for this--Stand and Deliver, one of the few movies based on fact not fantasy he listed, is about a phenomenal teacher who does inspire his students. Do you know what happened to him ten or so years later? He was fired for allowing too many students in his class (now that is a valid example of teachers being handcuffed) and he started teaching in San Francisco whereas he had been in Los Angeles before. However, he didn't have nearly the success he'd had before, mostly because his classes were far more racially diverse and he didn't have the same connection he had had with his primarily Hispanic classes in Los Angeles. So my point is, even if you have a fabulous teacher (which due to my lame roommates in college I have a low opinion of a large portion of educators, so I consider a fabulous teacher quite rare) other factors can strongly influence their effectiveness.

7. In talking about grade schools: "What happens if you try to get ahead? A factory worker moves you back into place." (pg.25)

I don't believe it. Ever heard of AP programs, honor classes, skipping grades, besides the thousands of teachers that willingly work with advanced students to help them learn at their level.

"But once you're in that percentile, once you make it and say, 'I'm at Harvard,' you are required to get on the conveyor belt for several years until they stamp another diploma on your forehead. You say, 'But I want to think; I want to be a leader.' The institutional response is that there is time for that later, after you have graduated; for now you need to focus on your conveyor belt studies." (pg 26)

This seems to me the second half of the scenario he suggested in the first quote. Again, I don't believe it. In college, yes you still jump hoops, but I fail to see how any person who wants to "lead" as he puts it, could not find the opportunity to do so. In college and universities there are so many opportunities to influence whatever you set your mind too; just as many or more than you would find once you're graduated. Also, the conveyor belt studies, or gen ed classes, would fill some of his expectations for a more liberal arts education I would assume; as people would not generally take a literature or humanities class are required too. I really just can't accept his premise here, and again, he makes no attempt to validate his statements.

8. In his index sample questions, he lists a Jane Austen as being in a Victorian time period. They were set in the Georgian era. Nit picky of me? Yes. But he's the one that going on with lists of things that show how people aren't educated, and that seems like a basic knowledge of Jane Austen to me.

9. He doesn't like Lord of the Flies, in fact he calls it a broken novel. And then he suggests reading few "broken" stories. This whole concept or broken, bent, and whole stories seems highly idealized to me. (His whole method in fact, seem idealized to me). I personally love "broken" novels. I find them more realistic and believable, also more moving and emotionally charged. My favorite author is Edith Wharton and one of my favorite books is Catch-22, all of which are deeply broken. I guess this is personal taste, but I found his claim that everyone hates Lord of the Flies tasteless.

Well, now it is late, so I will have to save my list of things I did like about the book for tomorrow. But while I was writing I thought of a suitable essay topic, so I really may write one now.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Answers to TJEd Questions

This is Andrea--and I am finally going to answer some of the TJEd questions I posed, and respond to some of your responses.

1.  How well do you feel you were taught "how" to think?"

I thought it was interesting that Julia said she didn't feel like she was taught how to think and had to teach herself as she got older, but Kami and I both feel we always knew.  I definitely think this is a case of nurture as opposed to nature.  We grew up with our Dad--a cynic, independent thinker, who was always questioning things we said (who told you that?--with the famous eyebrow raised--and you believed it?).  
I disagree with Kami--I don't think we teach students how to think in the schools.  Certainly textbooks are not designed to create critical thinkers.  Again--the home is where the really critical things are learned.

5.  People constantly point out the need to socialize our children. What does that mean?  What are we socializing them for?  What behaviors do we want to encourage?  What social skills do they need for a normal life in our society?  Is school the best place to get those skills?

I agree with Julia--the whole socialization question is ridiculous.  All children learn to interact with others--and some are naturally better at it than others.  What you learn in school is how to avoid those that make fun of you, find those that you could be friends with, and how to please the authority figure--or, how to get away with as much as possible without getting punishments you don't really want.  For example, we would bring home report cards with 97% or above and Dad would say, "What percentage is an A?"  We would say, "95%" or whatever it was, and Dad would say, "Why did you waste your time getting a higher percentage?"  School is a game, and some play it well and others do not. 
Okay--that was a little off-topic.  To bring it back to socialization: a better example.  I moved all the time.  I would go into a new school and watch all the kids in my classes for a few days, immediately weeding out all the people that I obviously was not going to be friends with (students who were clearly "cooler" than me, jocks, skaters, cowboys, really strange people, or those who didn't have the same moral standards), then I would narrow down to my top three picks for a friend and then I would approach those people and spend some time testing them out.  
I was "socialized" to move well and make friends quickly and efficiently.  Who were the major players in that socialization process--my parents.  Tim has a cousin who is six or so.  Her mother buys her the trendiest clothes possible--modest or not--and is always talking about style and weight and image, and wants her to be a cheerleader.  Which crowd is this girl going to hang with and what is her prom dress going to look like--I think that is fairly obvious. Who is her primary socializer--her mother.  

   Yes, children notice what other kids are doing, but weird parents (as Julia said) create weird children.  Trendy rich parents create trendy children.  Academically inclined parents usually create academically inclined children.  Sports fanatics usually create little jocks.  I'm just saying families socialize their children.  And families that don't socialize their children usually wind up with the children who are the worst off.  For example, girls  who don't have grown-up males in their lives (by that I mean an involved dad or grandfather or older brother) are the ones that usually turn to love interests for acceptance and wind up with a whole host of problems.  My meth casualties (my students who were removed from homes where the mother used meth) usually had a really hard time because they had no one at home interacting (ie socializing) them.  

  This became longwinded when my point is simple: families socialize and then a student plays out the effects of that socializing in the school environment.  

13.  Do you aspire to having "wise" children, or are you okay with children who are happily settled into good careers?  Is there a difference?

I purposely made the question leading and biased but I think it is the heart of the question of education.  It has been pointed out in other places, but education means different things to different people.  I want my children to end up as wise and loving and kind as President Hinckley.  Since I am not as wise or loving or kind as President Hinckley than guarantees that my children won't be--but at least I can teach them to WANT to be like that.  At least I can teach them that just being okay is NOT the best they can do.  Granted, I want them to understand that they will not be perfect overnight, but I also want them to know that they should always be pushing themselves to improve.  To magnify their talents.  To think about big ideas.  President Eyring mentioned at President Hinckley's (PH's) funeral that he read a play of Shakespeare's because he knew how much PH loved Shakespeare.  When President Eyring mentioned to PH that he had read the play PH said to him, "That is a good start, but you have a lot of studying left to do!"  I want my kids to want to do that studying.  To learn more, to be more, to give more.

   I don't know if I am explaining this well, but every time I talk about homeschooling with my dad it gets back to--"so they might read more books and do more writing, but so what?  What are they going to do with it?"  I can never answer!  I don't know what to tell him.  But I feel strongly that what I feel is spiritual and not secular and can be only described through the scriptures, because when I try to describe what I want for myself and for my children, secular language fails me.  But think about these scriptures in regard to an "education."

D&C 130: 18-19, Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection.  And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.

D&C 93: 36, The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.

And D&C 88: 40, For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own  . . ..

I want wisdom, virtue, light, mercy, and intelligence to resonate with my children.  I want them to DESIRE these things--to search for them, to reject our current standards of mediocrity and do the best with their lives they are capable of.  I want them to want more than just a nice career, a little family, a few nice things.  Again--I am not explaining myself at all well.  Maybe that delightfully trite saying that is all over the place will have to suffice: "Shoot for the moon because even if you fail you will be among the stars."  I want them to aim high.  Or maybe it would be more useful to say: I want them to live up to the divinity within them.  To join themselves to a cause greater than themselves (I love the quote Kami has on her wall) and become some of the truly noble and great ones (ie Pres Hinckley) as they refine themselves in the process of moving that great cause forward.  I  cannot put it into words, but surely you can also feel the grandeur people are capable of and know what I am trying to say.

Postscript: I do not think you have to homeschool to achieve this.  I just think you have to really invest everything you have into your parenting and have a grand vision for your family. 

14.  DeMille claims that we learn about human nature through the classics. 

My example of this is "Illusion" by Paula Volsky.  After reading that book I have a much better grasp on slavery and other divisions of people like the very real socio-economic categorizing of people.  Along with classics though--you have to interact with people to really get a handle on human nature.  

12.  What is on your classics list?

I am still working on mine, but Kami, I had to laugh--hysterically.  Tom Jones????  Amusing, yes.  Hilarious, yes.  Roll on the floor laughing, yes.  But a must-read??  Then again--it does teach what happens if you have too many lovers and one of them is your mother.  HAHAHA!!  I seriously love that book.  If you are going to include that you really have to include Moll Flanders which is also hilarious and teaches you about what happens if you have too many husbands and one of them is not rich and one of the others is your brother.  Love that book. 

Life of Pi - An Essay on Love

Did this story further my belief in God? I wouldn't say that it did. However, I would say that it increased my desire to love - - to love others, to love life, to love God.

In the beginning when Pi was becoming part of all religions he first learned about Christ. "This Son is a god who walked?" he pondered. "This Son is a god who died in three hours, with moans, gasps, and laments....What is there to inspire in this son? Love, said Father Martin." (p.56) Love. That is the connection to all religions. Further, when approached by all religious leaders, Pi exclaimed, "Ghandi said, 'All religions are true!' I just want to love God." To which his father responded, "I suppose that is what we're all trying to do - - love God." (p.69) Thus, we must be accepting and tolerant, showing forth that love the Savior gave so freely for us. We must love others.

Secondly, we must love life. Pi showed his love for life, for living and breathing, through his miraculous survival. Whether the story of the animals be truth or not, he examplified love for life. He showed that he was willing to fight. Before his ordeal he stated, "You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it." (p.91) Did he not do just that? It was hard. It was strenuous. It was down right impossible. But, he held on to his love for life and living.

Thirdly, connected to the love of life is that love we have for God. When his father asked him why he wanted to pray, Pi's simple response was, "Because I love God." (p.72) This love of God is what also led to his survival. While travelling through is veil of tears he said, "Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love - but sometimes it was so hard to love." (p. 208) Would you not find it difficult to love in such a situation as this?! He had so much to fear, to hate, to be angered toward, and yet he chose to turn to God.

Thus we see in the conclusion of this great story a boy who survived. Why? How? Love. An act of love for those who left him and those who saved him (be they real or imagined), an act of love for his will to live, and an act of love in turning his will over to God. "Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer." (p.297) Pi believed. Pi loved. Pi survived.

Life of Pi (Julia's Tardy Response)

Okay, so this is WAY LATE in the game, but I just finished Life of Pi and NEED to resond.

First of all, I have done no other research/homework on the book other than reading most of what Kami and Andrea wrote as well as reading the book and commenting to myself. :-) So, this may come as a very naive, not nearly as symbolic approach to the novel.

These are
some of MY favorite quotes:

Spoken by a Sufi Muslim: "If you take two steps towards God, God runs to you!"

"Evil in the open is but evil from within that has been let out. The mian battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but the small clearing of each heart."

This one comes from the true nature lover inside of me: "Nature can put on a thrilling show." Can't you just imagine a beautiful lightning storm, the torrents of an angry see, the beauty and solitude of a gorgeous sunrise and the peace of a sinking sun! Oh, watching nature is much more enticing than anything else out there!

"The feeling of busyness was profoundly satisfying; I hadn't thought at all about my plight or myself." - - Isn't this so true! It's like the note from President Hinckley's father to his missionary son, "Forget yourself and go to work." What a more happy people we would be if we all took head to that counsel! Pi continues, "I kept myself busy. That was one key to my survival."

"My greatest wish - other than salvation - was to have a book."

"At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking." This is where I thought of Linda Eyre, Andrea. It reminded me of "Teaching Children Joy" and the Joy of Curiosity. Don't you find that life is so much more enjoyable sometimes when looking through the eyes of your children. Christmas is more exciting. The moon is more beautiful. The little ladybugs are actually noticed! It's an amazing thing to "wonder" over something!

The following quote, when looked upon in the light of the gospel, reminded me of the Parable of the Sower.
"Some of us give up on life with only a resigned sigh. (Matt. 13:19) Others fight a little, then lose hope. (Matt. 13:20-22) Still others - and I am one of those - never give up. We fight and fight and fight....We fight to the very end (Matt. 13:23)."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

My Turn!

Hello Fellow TJED-ers. :-) Yes, I am finally responding. And, first I must express my frustrations because I am FINALLY getting ready to comment on Life of Pi (EXCELLENT BOOK) and now you're already discussing TJED. So, therefore I'm WAY behind and HATE being behind in anything. However, I'm sure I'll catch up when you read one of the Cold War books because those may not be TOP on my list to read. (I will try, Andrea!). Anyway, I will comment on TJED for now (because I LOVE the questions) and I've fully read the book more than once! BUT do not be surprised if you find a random Life of Pi comment in here along the lines. So, for me, can you Rasumssens PLEASE slow down!! (j/k)

On to my answers:

How well do you feel you were taught "how to think?"

I'm going to have to disagree with Kami here and say that this actually was not a very silly question! Sad, but true, I don't think I was really taught HOW to think. I think I was taught WHAT to think, but HOW to think was a bit of a new concept for me as I've "grown up". Also, I don't think it's all in what we've been taught. I have one child who is like me, thinks very much inside the box, does only what is told and doesn't expand much beyond that. However, my daughter thinks WAY outside the box and is always thinking of the next step in what we learn. So, I think it's one of those nature vs. nurture things... some of it comes naturally, but it is up to us to then either teach our children HOW to think or to help them expand their way of thinking without limiting them. What has taught me HOW to think? I'd say I really caught the fire from a few sources: Andrea Rasmussen, J. Hathaway, FINALLy getting past general ed. classes in college and focussing on what I really cared about (marriage and family), reading TJED, reading in general, and educating my own children.

Reading on the topic: The Wheel on the School by Dubois and Diffendoofer Day by Dr. Seuss

2. Have you written a personal and/or family mission statement/paper/motto—whatever? Are you planning on doing that? If so, what kinds of things are you thinking about including? I know the Eyres had something about learning themselves and then going forth to serve.

Yes, actually. First of all our Family Motto is "Better Together" because we've learned that it's much easier, quicker and more fun to do everything together (i.e. work and play).

J. and I sat down and wrote out our family mission statement when John was 1 yr. old. We've gone back to change it, but have found that it's perfect for what we want our family to become. So, we've stuck with it. It's up on our wall next to the Proclamation on the Family.

What does it include? Well, here it is for you:

We, the Hathaway Family, as children of our Heavenly Parents, will strive to create and atmostpher within our home which will prepare us to return to our Father's Kingdom by:
Following God through the words of his prophets and apostles
Serving our brothers and sisters, and using our talent to help others strengthen their own
Participating in and planning wholesome recreational activities and performing our labors to the fullest
Seeking knowledge with enthusiasm through study, faith and prayer
Finding joy and happiness in all of Heavenly Father's creations and the many blessing He has given us.

3. Is there a leadership crisis today?

I like what Andrea said about not having a "follower crisis." I think we've forgotten what a democracy means. What it means to have our voices be heard. The first amendment is way overused thus creating no true leadership to follow because the "bashing voices" are too loud.

4. DeMille lists public education as 75% social and 25% skills. Agree/disagree? And the ever popular: So What? If it is 75% social, what impact does that have on our children and society?

I'll talk more of the socializing in the next question: but I do agree that 75% of education is social. This doesn't mean it is the RIGHT kind of social, but yes, when you cram 30 kids in a classroom there's not much else you can focus on other than the social "system" of education (unless you're in Andrea's class of course). Someone once said, "There's a system I think kids need to learn in public school and that is why I put them there." What?! It's true, though. I think there is a social system that goes along with public school and true education can't be the focus. I believe it was in DeMille's writings that you don't necessarily want your 5 year old to be socialized by other 5 year olds (that could be from Raymond Moore?).

5. People constantly point out the need to “socialize” our children. What does that mean? What are we socializing them for? What behaviors do we want to encourage? What social skills do they need for a normal life in our society? Is school the best place to get those skills?

It's funny how socialization is only brought up to homeschoolers! It's actually a very naive question to ask homeschooers only. Aren't we all trying to "socialize" our children by teaching them correct principles and hoping that they govern themselves according to those teachings? This was one of J's big issues while I researched homeschooling. He didn't want our children to become "weird". Ha! Since then, we have both conceded that "weird parents" create "weird children". In other words, it's the parents who ultimately socialize their children. Not the public school system. I, like Kami, want my children to hold conversations well, to be able to know HOW to think in situations, and to survey the needs of others and act upon those needs. Those are my key desires. I have to add this here: My parents were telling me (basically) that our children are their favorite set of grandkids (don't let that get out of this blog!). Why? "Because they actually like us," is what they say. In other words, they hold conversations and talk to my parents. They aren't "brainiacs" or anything like that, they are just social "animals." Now, there are many things my children haven't quite picked up on like sitting in a classroom for 8 hours (+ a little playground time) but I'm sure that will come in time. :-)

6. Can you legitimately criticize homeschools for not socializing?

I think I answered this in the question above, more or less. :-)

7. What is your plan to socialize your child/children (in and out of school)?

I agree with Kami - - Church, good friends & conversation, discussing things at home - - I don't think enough families actually sit and DISCUSS things together as a family. Heck, taking them to the playground is one grand social experience as well. hee-hee

8. What is the advantage of socializing across ages and how do you do that?

Have lots of children!!!!! :-)

I think one benefit of socializing across ages is that it eliminates the "I'm dumb" or "I'm smart" feeling. I think there's more room for "I'm an Individual" beliefs that can happen in multi-age classrooms/situations.

9. “Leadership curriculum is individualized.” Do you have any examples in your own schooling of a teacher doing a good job individualizing the curriculum? Was that helpful?

There was no individualized education for me my whole life! And, even having my own five children has made me realize just how tricky that can be. So, I don't blame anyone for this. I think it comes down to the individual individualizing it for themselves. That's what I want to teach my children - - YOU are incharge of YOUR education!

10. According to DeMille, depth and breadth are both vital in education. I feel that I missed the depth part until I got my masters—and now, I feel like I should, as a person with a master’s degree in history, know more about history than the underlying premise of masculinity during WWII. Talk about no breadth! Do you feel the same way?

I wish I knew more about everything in depth, but it's just not possible! I think that if you don't have breadth, you do not know what questions to ask, where you want to go in your individualized education, and what all there is to know. For instance, I don't think the average kid even knows what majors you can take in college or what jobs are out there?!? No clue! I'm sorry, but when I played the game M.A.S.H. I did not list "statistician" as my husband's job. AND all growing up, all I wanted to do was be a teacher. Teacher, doctor, lawyer, dentist...what more is out there? I think that's one problem with not enough breadth. As for depth, as I've tried to teach my children I've recognized that depth really isn't all that important in some areas at this young age. As kids get older I feel it's more vital to go into more depth with the things that THEY are interested in...but they can't know what that interest is without the breadth first.

11. DeMille wrote: “The conveyer belt education system has made us more highly trained as a generation, but less educated.” Do you agree?

I think as a whole population, yes.

12. What is on your classics list? What do you think it is imperative that your child read?

My goal is to read all Newberry Award Winning books. :-)

On my List: The Robe, The Giver, Charles Dickens, Little Women, Around the World in Eighty Days, Anne of Green Gables series, C.S. Lewis, The Woman in White, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Gone with the Wind (of course!), The Hiding Place, To Kill a Mockingbird, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Wheel on the School, Shakespeare, A Girl Named Disaster....

What is imperitave? I agree with Kami that I just don't want them to read "fluff" - - I want them to read things that will inspire them HOW to think rather than WHAT to think.

13. Do you aspire to having “wise” children, or are you okay with children who are happily settled into good careers? Is there a difference? Is the question leading and biased?

Leading and biased? Yes. BUT it is not a dumb question. I think it's one we all need to ask ourselves...What am I really wanting my children to become? I want wise children. I want children who can survey the situation and make a choice that would make them happiest. If we first train them to be wise, then they will not just be "happily settled" (does that make sense)? I guess what I'm saying is that I don't want them to settle for mediocre simply because reaching higher is "too hard" or seemingly unattainable.

14. DeMille claims that we learn about human nature through the classics. Do you agree? Have an example? Is learning about human nature important?

It's not the sole way to learn about human nature, but it is definitely one way to expose them to the breadth of thinking and living. A variety of experiences leads to learning about true human nature. I think there is much to be learned about being unique while reading Anne of Green Gables; about what you really think about God and your desire to live in Life of Pi; about making wise decisions in Charles Dickens' writings; about the joys of imagination in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe; and the thrill of an adventure and exploring from Around the World in Eighty Days! These values taught in "good reading" (i.e. classics) fosters discussion between friends, parents & children, co-workers, etc...that leads to developing one's own view of the world around them and who they want to become in the midst of it.

15. DeMille wrote: “Learning is difficult but the process is not complex.” Agree?

Sure - it's only complex as we make it.

16. DeMille wrote that one goal for an educated person is the ability to define a problem. He maintains that almost anyone can solve a problem once it is clearly defined, but it is difficult to get to the heart of a problem. Agree/disagree? Do you think leadership training in a DeMille style program the most effective way to produce such a thinker?

First of all in response to this question I encourage you to read this wonderful article by Elder Pinnock entitled, "Ten Characteristics of an Educated Person." It is superb!

All I can say is DeMille opened up a whole new way of thinking for me, so I know it does work! I think that it truly can be the basis of learning in a home. And, I do feel that that is what I am trying to do for my children, train them to assess the situation, define the problem and solve it. Sometimes figuring out what is wrong is the hardest part, but once you know the problem it's simple to solve. It's almost like when we are trained in MFHD classes how we need to figure out the heart of the disagreement rather than the topic of the argument. For instance, when John doens't flush the toilet, does it really bug me that he doesn't flush the toilet, or that he doesn't think of other people coming in after him OR does it actually make ME feel bad because I am the mother who should be training him to use the toilet properly?! And, when my children misbehave in public, am I thinking more of their actual behavior and that's why I get so upset, or is it more the thought "what will others think of me"? So, I guess I agree with this statement.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

So Much to Say, Where to Start?

I have so much I want to say on this book, and yes I did finish reading it today. But it's 9:30 PM and I have to get up at 4:45 AM, so I thought I'd limit my writing to answering Andrea's questions. That should give me a basis for my essay later anyhow.

1. How well do you feel you were taught “how to think?”

This is a silly question to me. I always knew "how to think." I didn't always want to go through the work to actually put what I knew into practice though. It's called laziness. And yes, I think it's very easy to get by with straight A's in the public schools while still being completely lazy. I know, I did it. But I don't ever remember not being able know how to work or think through a problem or issue if I wanted too. Did I learn it from school? Maybe some. Did I learn it from books? Probably, in part. The largest part was from my parents. Also I think my interest in art helped because I had to find creative ways to do things like burn crayons over candles to make what I wanted.

2. Have you written a personal and/or family mission statement/paper/motto—whatever? Are you planning on doing that? If so, what kinds of things are you thinking about including? I know the Eyres had something about learning themselves and then going forth to serve.

No and probably never will. However, I did like the quote "Shall we not go on in so great a cause?" well enough to hang on my wall in the living room, and in an abstract way without ever putting it into words (before now) I kind of considered it a personal motto.

3. Is there a leadership crisis today?

No. Prime example: Condoleezza Rice

4. DeMille lists public education as 75% social and 25% skills. Agree/disagree? And the ever popular: So What? If it is 75% social, what impact does that have on our children and society?

As an outcast, nerdy child for at least half of my public school years, I disagree to that. I think it depends on the child and their personality. So if it is 75% social, I don't really care if the other 25% is a worthwhile education.

5. People constantly point out the need to “socialize” our children. What does that mean? What are we socializing them for? What behaviors do we want to encourage? What social skills do they need for a normal life in our society? Is school the best place to get those skills?

I have personally never of heard of socializing a child before. Humans by nature are social animals. Biology, history, etc all prove that. Social skills I would want my children to have would include being able to express themselves clearly and hold a conversation with almost anyone of any age, being respectful of others and being able to work effectively in a group (just for the record, I don't discount the advantages of being able to convince that group to do what you want). I think parenting (as in teaching values and respect) have far more impact on a child being able to function in a social situation than simply being in a social situation ever will. But again, I think the personality of individual children and people will always play a major role in their social abilities and tendencies--extroverts vs. introverts.

6. Can you legitimately criticize homeschools for not socializing?

No. Like I said above, parents can effectively teach social skills.

7. What is your plan to socialize your child/children (in and out of school)?

Athletics and church activities and good friends and conversation.

8. What is the advantage of socializing across ages and how do you do that?

I think the advantages are huge. As soon as you are in the workplace, you meet people of all ages and need to be able to sound intelligent to them. Expose your children to being around adults.

9. “Leadership curriculum is individualized.” Do you have any examples in your own schooling of a teacher doing a good job individualizing the curriculum? Was that helpful?

No, I can't recall any examples of an individualized curriculum that was helpful. I was in an accelerated math class once that was based on the theory of working at your own pace, correcting your own papers, asking the teacher for individual help when needed. It was a joke, I goofed off all the time. The most helpful example I can think of is twice teachers recommended good books to me.

10. According to DeMille, depth and breadth are both vital in education. I feel that I missed the depth part until I got my masters—and now, I feel like I should, as a person with a master’s degree in history, know more about history than the underlying premise of masculinity during WWII. Talk about no breadth! Do you feel the same way?

I do think breadth is important. However, depth perhaps not as important for the general studies of a kid in public schools. (For instance, I had a humanities teacher that made us memorize the heighth, width, etc of the Parthenon. Who cares? It was a complete waste of time.) Personally, I'd rather see a curriculum taught that showed how different subjects are interrelated and connected--I think that leads to better understanding of consequences and possibities.

11. DeMille wrote: “The conveyer belt education system has made us more highly trained as a generation, but less educated.” Do you agree?

That depends entirely on your definition of an education. I'll explain more thoroughly in my essay my thoughts on that.

12. What is on your classics list? What do you think it is imperative that your child read?

Imperative? I don't know that I have any books I would consider imperative. However, I would like my children to be able to read and enjoy "classical" books and not just the latest Danielle Steel. As for my own classics list: Catch-22, Jane Austen's, Bronte's, War and Peace, Lord of the Flies, HMS Ullysses, The Time it Never Rained, Tom Jones, The Lord of the Rings, Edith Wharton's, The Perilous Gard, To Kill a Mockingbird, King of the Wind, The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Seperate Peace, Dracula, My Antonia, The Prisoner of Zenda, Mrs. Mike, The Dark is Rising Series, The Attolia Series, Ender's Game, Who Has Seen the Wind, and The Great Gatsby.

13. Do you aspire to having “wise” children, or are you okay with children who are happily settled into good careers? Is there a difference? Is the question leading and biased?

I hope to have children that are happy. I think it takes wisdom and good career to manage that. And the question is definitely leading and biased.

14. DeMille claims that we learn about human nature through the classics. Do you agree? Have an example? Is learning about human nature important?

Yes and yes. But I don't think that's the sole way to learn human nature.

15. DeMille wrote: “Learning is difficult but the process is not complex.” Agree?


16. DeMille wrote that one goal for an educated person is the ability to define a problem. He maintains that almost anyone can solve a problem once it is clearly defined, but it is difficult to get to the heart of a problem. Agree/disagree? Do you think leadership training in a DeMille style program the most effective way to produce such a thinker?

I don't necessarily agree. I think often a problem is more complex than would allow for a clear answer and the difficulty often lies in finding the solution that will solve most of the problem's quandaries with the least ill repercussions. Yes, I think his method would be effective, but not the only way.

My TJEd Essay

3. Is there a leadership crisis today?

Many people claim that America suffers from a leadership crisis. The basis for their argument is the seeming inability of Congress and the President to create and pass legislation that effectively deals with the sizable problems our society faces. Immigration. Health care. Social Security. Reliance on foreign oil. Terrorism. Homeland security. Most Americans would agree that our country is in desperate need of solutions to these problems, but they would then claim that Congress wastes time and money by playing “party” politics instead of buckling down and solving these problems in a spirit of bipartisanship.

Certainly these arguments have some validity. Nancy Pelosi’s ill-considered trip to Syria was a superb example of “party politics” with little thought to anything other than discrediting the Republicans in general and the president in particular. Other examples abound; enough to convince most Americans that the main problem lies with our leaders.

I do not believe America has a leadership crisis. America is a country of able problem-solvers who embody all the characteristics of the founding fathers: ingenuity, dedication, vision, and even morals. There are many people capable of running the country and leading it effectively.

What America does not have are good followers. In fact, I suspect many of our problems stem from a “follower crisis.” I see this crisis as having three main parts: 1) special interest groups who care nothing for the general populace of the country and yet are so vocal and so demanding and so illogical that they manage to dominate our politics; and 2) an apathetic general populace who deign to get actively involved in the political process outside of vitriolic and ill-informed criticism; and 3) the media which refuses to disseminate information in a meaningful way, and instead produce “news” so biased in nature that it is impossible for the general public to understand the issues facing the country—even if they were so inclined.

Special interest groups’ influence has far exceeded their usefulness. I understand their historical importance. I am grateful to suffragettes and civil right’s workers. I am glad that conservation has become mainstream so that educated and informed decisions can be made concerning America’s incredible natural resources. Certainly, I am glad that sexual harassment in the workplace has declined and that citizens with AIDS are not getting fired because of their disease. These things are all good. Unfortunately, in America, we have forgotten that special interest groups are called “special interest groups” because they do not reflect the majority. Just because a small body of people feels a certain way does not mean that politicians should jump to attention and legislate in their favor. The reason they do so now is because special interest groups are increasingly vocal—shrill, actually. They make so much noise, claim so much media attention, and behave in such nonsensical ways (and they fork up big bucks) that politicians cannot see their way around them to find more moderate voices.

And the moderate voices are usually not even there! When the ridiculous law passed phasing out normal light bulbs and replacing them with mercury filled light bulbs that are poisonous when they break—how many moderate, average Americans knew that the law was even being considered? And if they did, how many of them wrote to their congressman? Exactly. So the wackos who care more about tree frogs than your children won again. I meant wackos in the most politically correct way possible. In a few years from now, when we are frantically evacuating our house because a light bulb broke—we can think fondly of the eco-Nazi’s who helped guide our country to new heights of stupidity. My point—moderate Americans (the vast majority of us) need to be more involved so that the strident voices of special interest groups are tempered by more mainstream ideas.

The media could help with this process, but instead they have aligned themselves with the most liberal voices they can find. Bush is Satan. Obviously—how could I fail to learn that lesson with the media’s accurate and unbiased news presentation? Oliver DeMille pointed out that one presidential debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglass lasted 16 hours. Douglass spoke first, covering in detail his beliefs and plans for his presidency if elected. Then Lincoln expressed his appreciation for Douglass’s remarks, requested that everyone go home and get food, and then reconvene because his remarks would take at least as long as Douglass’s.

What could a common citizen like myself do with an eight-hour, detailed presentation of a candidate’s belief system and plans for his upcoming presidency? A whole lot! I might actually get a sense of who is most closely aligned with my own ideas and vote accordingly. Instead, we rely on short sound bites and two-hour debates where each speaker is limited to two-minute responses. Why two minutes? Why can’t a speaker explain himself fully? Nothing of importance can be explained in two minutes. Our current election is a perfect example. Two minutes was just enough time for Thompson to gather his thoughts. Before he had a chance to speak his turn was over. Two minutes was just long enough for Ron Paul to get laughed at and just long enough for McCain and Romney to get annoyed with each other for purposely misconstruing each other’s comments. Not enough time for the listeners to understand any of the candidates’ stances on important issues. Not enough time for any of the speakers to demonstrate eloquence or intelligence.

And yet our media prefers to have the general populace in ignorance. They like to pick stories to sensationalize and then mislead Americans by their coverage. The “Let’s Blame Bush for New Orleans” was a prime example.

As a result of the media’s and special interest groups’ hammering of our elected leaders and the majority’s apathy and sheep-like belief in the veracity of the media, our politicians are not unable to lead—they are terrified of leading. Any legislation is ripped to shreds before it has even been written. Americans display hostility and anger if a piece of legislation does not immediately solve a problem perfectly, and they want a guarantee of success before any new legislation is tried. The recent failure of the proposed immigration law is a perfect example. Our Congress is quite literally damned if they don’t and damned if they do. Imagine if FDR had worked under those conditions!

At some point, we have to let the leaders lead. Ask their think tanks, study out possibilities, and then create solutions without the onerous burden of infallibility. Unprecedented situations usually require gradual solutions. One step in the right direction, a few steps back, new insights gained, better legislation enacted, results analyzed. Time and space for leaders to breathe. Our current elected officials do not have that time or space.

Our media, not content with hamstringing our leadership, then proclaim to the world the unfitness, incompetence, and downright stupidity of our president and his advisors. Slander is acceptable under the banner of freedom of the press. The media certainly does not feel it necessary to maintain the dignity of the presidential office and appears entirely unconcerned that it weakens the administration’s position across the globe.

Is that the way to teach our children respect for authority and this country? Even if Hillary (God help us) is elected—she should be treated with utmost respect by the media. Although some might find me overly nostalgic, I think fondly of the media of the 1930s and 1940s which chose to be so respectful of their president that almost nobody realized FDR was confined (for the most part) to a wheelchair (although there is nothing wrong with being in a wheelchair—it is the respect shown our president that I am getting at).

Now—can teaching character education in the school bring back that kind of true patriotism (not the kind of patriotism that leads to Muslims getting harassed in our schools and neighborhoods)? No. Only parents can teach morals and values and patriotism and how to be a good follower. So do all people need to homeschool? Yes. Of course. Parents always have “homeschooled” in that they have passed on their fundamental values to their children. That should certainly continue. Do I think everyone needs to keep his or her children out of public schools in order to do that? Of course not. However, if we do not create many excellent followers soon, our leadership will soon be completely defunct.

A few thoughts on TJEd

I wrote down the Top Ten ideas I took from TJEd. I still have much to say, including some thoughts on the questions I posted, and my essay, but thought I would put these on first. Also--many of you (okay, Kami and Julia) expressed an interest in what my Dad had to say on the subject, so I will be posting about that later on as well. Sometimes when an "authority" which, face it, Dad is on education, says something it makes your own previously clear thoughts all muddled. I would rather we muddled each other's thoughts first, and then let Dad muddle us further.

“Lay down true principles and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender.” Thomas Jefferson

1. Education cannot be fixed because people cannot agree on its purpose (Dad and TJEd)

2. Students will determine their own educational attainment.

3. Teachers motivate and guide.

4. Liberals see school as a place to promote a social agenda; conservatives as job training.

5. At one point in the book, DeMille says that America doesn’t have an aristocracy. How ridiculous. Has DeMille ever cruised around the Mediterranean with the Kennedy’s? I doubt it. Does he brunch with the Rockefellers? Highly doubtful. The aristocracy is so rich and so far removed from our lives that we don’t even think about them. But they are very much a part of the social, political, and economic fabric of this nation.

6. One of my favorite points DeMille makes is that teachers should only accept QUALITY work. I know I rant about this all the time, but, I am ranting about it again, here.

I assigned five essays to my 11th graders for one semester. Almost every class day was spent in its entirety on working on those five essays. I worked extensively with the students one-on-one, and I never assigned anything else. Therefore—if they used their time in class, they had no homework. Ever.

Does that really sound that hard? No. So explain to me why I had so many parents complain about how “hard” I was, and how “excessive in my demands.” Why? Because I expected the essays to be perfect (for an 11th grader). The students wrote their best draft, and then I graded it. If a student was unhappy with the grade, he kept working on it until he earned the grade he wanted and stopped turning it back in and stopped meeting with me about it.

Parents were used to teachers expecting quantity work—but they got very angry when I expected quality work. As a side note—not all parents complained, and I had several parents request me because of my reputation—but many others were upset.

I do not understand how we can expect our students to learn to work and achieve and excel if no demands are placed on them. At some point a child has to learn that “anything worth doing is worth doing well” and we are NOT teaching that at school. Mostly because teachers with 40 students don’t assign things that require time-intensive grading in the first place, and then they don’t have time because of ludicrous government imposed time schedules (for tests) to allow students to resubmit work. Improving on our original efforts engenders the most growth.

Hmm-I waxed longwinded again—sorry. This is a very big issue with me. Students will never learn to write well if nobody holds them to a standard. On the flip side—I have rarely met a student who does not rise to the level of expectation set by the teacher.

What exactly does that mean for Miriam? Does that mean that I have told her she is “always disobedient” so many times that she believes it and doesn’t try anymore? Hmm. I must ponder that a little more.

7. “Virtually uninterrupted reading.” My favorite part of TJEd, the part that struck such a chord, is the idea that reading teaches more effectively than anything else. As a life-long, passionate readaholic, I definitely attribute my success in school to what I learned reading and writing.

I wish I had more teachers who pushed me to read more challenging books—although the hours I spent with dragons and magic were certainly enjoyable-I would be a better writer and reader if I had been pushed beyond my limits more often.

8. “Read, write, discuss. Keep it simple.” I am sold on that philosophy of teaching. As a “retired” teacher—I can attest that my students progressed the farthest and had the most enthusiasm when they had to motivate themselves and when the curriculum was cut to the bare bones. The more they wrote, the better their writing, and the more empowered they felt. You should have SEEN their faces when they got an A on a paper (it was very difficult to get an A on a paper, although I usually only gave A’s and B’s and F’s for term grades because when the students took control of their own education, they tended to work harder and blame me less for their end grade). I had students—big highschoolers—tell me that they had VERY PROUDLY taped their essays to fridges, bedroom doors, themselves, to show the world that they could get an A from Mrs. Young. It was awesome. Only real work creates real pride and belief in an ability to achieve. But--those were the semesters when we read, wrote, discussed, without falling back on all the cutesy curriculum devices.

I know it works because my students scored higher than the district average when the year before our school was 10 percentage points behind the district. Our school didn’t score higher than the district but all my classes scored higher than the school average, and all my eleventh grade classes (writing intensive) scored above the district average.

Yes, I’m proud of that—but it just proves that an emphasis on reading and writing and discussing, an expectation of quality, and turning over the responsibility to the student really does pay huge dividends.

9. Writing as learning! Very important. Writing requires clarity of thinking. I like the idea of daily writing, and daily essay writing in a “commonplace book.” Definitely something Miriam and I are going to do.

10. Set up your writing standards together and let students have a huge say in what they learn and do. I think DeMille made another strong point here. Obviously, some browbeating will take place, but the more ownership the child has, the better.

Monday, March 17, 2008

TJEd Questions

With the Life of Pi, I relied on questions I found on a website to generate discussion. The questions were not very helpful. This time, I created my own questions based on what I thought about during and after reading TJEd. Hopefully, these questions will prove more useful. I will be posting my responses to these questions and my essay tomorrow (hopefully). Feel free to join the discussion!

1. How well do you feel you were taught “how to think?”

2. Have you written a personal and/or family mission statement/paper/motto—whatever? Are you planning on doing that? If so, what kinds of things are you thinking about including? I know the Eyres had something about learning themselves and then going forth to serve.

3. Is there a leadership crisis today?

4. DeMille lists public education as 75% social and 25% skills. Agree/disagree? And the ever popular: So What? If it is 75% social, what impact does that have on our children and society?

5. People constantly point out the need to “socialize” our children. What does that mean? What are we socializing them for? What behaviors do we want to encourage? What social skills do they need for a normal life in our society? Is school the best place to get those skills?

6. Can you legitimately criticize homeschools for not socializing?

7. What is your plan to socialize your child/children (in and out of school)?

8. What is the advantage of socializing across ages and how do you do that?

9. “Leadership curriculum is individualized.” Do you have any examples in your own schooling of a teacher doing a good job individualizing the curriculum? Was that helpful?

10. According to DeMille, depth and breadth are both vital in education. I feel that I missed the depth part until I got my masters—and now, I feel like I should, as a person with a master’s degree in history, know more about history than the underlying premise of masculinity during WWII. Talk about no breadth! Do you feel the same way?

11. DeMille wrote: “The conveyer belt education system has made us more highly trained as a generation, but less educated.” Do you agree?

12. What is on your classics list? What do you think it is imperative that your child read?

13. Do you aspire to having “wise” children, or are you okay with children who are happily settled into good careers? Is there a difference? Is the question leading and biased?

14. DeMille claims that we learn about human nature through the classics. Do you agree? Have an example? Is learning about human nature important?

15. DeMille wrote: “Learning is difficult but the process is not complex.” Agree?

16. DeMille wrote that one goal for an educated person is the ability to define a problem. He maintains that almost anyone can solve a problem once it is clearly defined, but it is difficult to get to the heart of a problem. Agree/disagree? Do you think leadership training in a DeMille style program the most effective way to produce such a thinker?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Some thoughts on religion


I loved your essay.  It made me feel bad that I couldn't think of anything eloquent to say.  However, I read through the other website with increasing sense of --- separateness from the world at large.  It was a strange feeling.

For example, I am not used to discussing religion with atheists and "scientists."  To put it plainly--I have had deep religious beliefs (religious as in faithful and church-going) since I can remember.  To read Genesis and wonder if it is literal is far outside my normal thinking, and it has been SO LONG since I have talked with the "outside world" that it was weird to hear these concepts discussed in such foreign terms.

For example: the definition given by one reviewer of faith was: selective suspension of disbelief because religion is beneficial to us.  Or separating "faithful" and "religious" into two separate categories.  How is it possible that someone who is religious could then not be faithful?  I guess if you meant the people who went to church strictly out of social pressure.  

Also--and this pretty much demonstrates my personality in a glaring way--but most of the people involved in the discussion stated that faith is incredibly complex.  Not so.  Faith is the most simple and straightforward notion I can think of.  You believe--or you do not.  

My brain is too tired for this right now.  I am just glad, Kami, that you wrote your lovely essay about religious belief because it encapsulated what Martel was trying to do.  Sometimes, I think I need to get out more, but the absolute fact is that we perceive the world through our own lens and my lens is faith.  I think Martel's book demonstrates how our own "lens" guides the interpretation of our own, and other people's, story.  Reality is a lifeless and useless word.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Other random things on Pi

This is some tidbits taken from the site I posted before, but I thought their discussion on the island was fascinating. Both of these are regarding the unbelievable acid algae island.

"It's the fulcrum in the story, where the realistic becomes the surrealistic. This illustrates the point that, similar to religion, each story has believable and unbelievable elmements. And if we are to accept a story, we must believe all of it, or none of it. This ties in with faith and the suspension of disbelief with respect to the miraculous elements of religion."

"Just an example, take the chapter of the floating island, which was also of much interest to our book club. This story is fascinating but, as this discussion shows, literally incredible to some. But if we view it as part of a fable or symbolic universe, then the island is a sort of metaphor: an apparently safe place where our tiger selves (that is, our fierce, instinctual, physical selves) would stay forever, well satiated, if our other rational or spiritual selves didn't recognize the dangers and force it to leave. I think most people have been on such islands: places where they feel safe and sheltered but which slowly, inevitably eat away at them, causing them to become lesser individuals, with no more stature than tamed, doomed meerkats."

Kami's Thoughts on the Life of Pi

First of all, I have to admit that I cheated... but only a little. I read quite a few other sites about the Life of Pi and (ahem) construed many of my thoughts from that. I only have to say in my defence that it has been a long time since I have had to write anything, let alone come up with deep and profound thoughts to write about. I'm simply out of practice. Really, as I recall, that's all research papers and essays were, rewriting other people's studies and ideas anyway. So, here is the link to the site with the best discussion I found on the Life of Pi. Before my essay though, here's one of my favorite quotes--irrelevant to my essay unfortunately.

“Do you realize where you are? If you’re not happy with this figment of your fancy, pick another one. There are plenty of fancies to pick from.
Hmmm. Figment. Fig-ment. Wouldn’t a fig be good?
“So there’s no one, is there?”
“Shush…I’m dreaming of figs.”
“Figs! Do you have a fig? Please can I have a piece? I beg you. Only a little piece. I’m starving.”
“I don’t have just one fig. I have a whole figment.”
“A whole figment of figs! Oh please, can I have some? I…”
The voice, or whatever effect of wind and waves it was, faded. Pg. 307

I decided to deal with only the first question posted by Andrea.

1. Yann Martel recalls that many Pondicherry residents provided him with stories, but he was most intrigued by this tale because Mr. Adirubasamy said it would make him believe in God. Did Pi's tale alter your beliefs about God?

While Life of Pi hardly changed my views or beliefs about God, it's dealing with God and religion was definitely my favorite aspect of the book. At first, I found Pi's choice to follow three distinct and very different religions amusing. I tend to agree with his priest, pandit, and imam--that only one religion can truly be practiced if all of it's beliefs are accepted wholly and without alteration. That is deeply rooted in my core beliefs of my own religion, as well as the fact that logically, to accept a religion completely, I could not then accept a contradicting belief. Truth is truth is truth. However, I believe there is pieces of truth in many different religions, and while I may not agree with every doctrine of those religions, I do not consider them evil, destructive or such. On such a level, I can understand Pi's evaluation of them, “…that Hindus , in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.” Pg 62 From my limited understanding of Hindu religion, it can be very self-contradicting anyway, perhaps making it easier for Pi to accept the multiple points of view to begin with. Also, I felt that Pi was simply trying to feel closer to God, and in each religion, he felt a piece of truth that was lacking in the other ones. This is quite apparent in his description of his fascination with Christ and the uniqueness of his condensation to suffer and die, and also in his closeness he felt to God while preforming his Muslim prayers. That makes perfect sense to me because Christ's atonement is so personal and prayer breeds devotion, especially when done as frequently as Islamic beliefs require.

Pi makes it very clear that his faith kept him alive. Or to clarify, his animal instincts as symbolized by Richard Parker kept him alive, but his desire to continue to live and have hope for a worth-while life after the horrors he had lived through was from his belief in God. As he said, "The lower you are, the higher your mind will want to soar. It was natural that, bereft and desperate as I was, in the throes of unremitting suffering, I should turn to God." pg. 358 When talking to the Japanese investigators, he justifies his beliefs this way:
“If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for? Isn’t love hard to believe?”
“Mr. Patel—"
“Don’t bully me with your politeness! Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?”
“We’re just being reasonable.”
“So am I! I applied my reason at every moment. Reason is excellent for getting food, clothing, and shelter. Reason is the very best tool kit. Nothing beats reason for keeping tigers away. But be excessively reasonable and you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater.” Pg 375
I think he is right too. In disallowing any room for faith, we not only deny ourselves the most poignant joy and peace religion can bring, but also "throw out" the spiritual dimension of ourselves. Granted, some people would argue that you don't need religion to be spiritual, but by definition spirituality encompasses the supernatural, sacred, and devotional aspects of ones beliefs or character, which still requires a level of faith. For example, just as Pi describes atheists as being religiously devout in their denial of God even without proof, requiring, ironically, a degree of faith. With the Japanese investigators, Pi readily understands that they seek a story with no need of faith: “I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality.” Pg 381 Refusing to acknowledge something on faith, or only believing what you see, you're left with the question Pi asks, "What do you do when you're in the dark?" pg. 371 and you certainly are not stretched or grown or made to "see higher;" you are indeed left unchanged. To Pi, the better story was certainly the one with God.

The opposite of faith is of course, doubt. Pi states, “Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” Pg 36 I found this entirely true. Doubt, I believe, is what pushes us to question our faith and learn more, which I think is beneficial. However, doubt solely, without the striving to find answers is destructive and is equated with fear by Pi. In fact, Pi explains doubt as the first advance attack of fear which then defeats disbelief and reason, “It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy.” Pg 203 Fear is the opposite of hope, and without hope there is only despair and no will to to live; as Pi describes, "A part of me did not want Richard Parker to die at all, because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger." pg. 207

One way Pi combats doubt, fear, and despair is his ability to see God in nature and life around him. One instance that I identified the most with, was when he was watching the lightening storm. I always find storms exhilarating and I felt he expressed exactly my same feelings in this way: “The effect on me was completely the opposite. It was something to pull me out of my limited mortal ways and thrust me into a state of exalted wonder. …I was dazed, thunderstruck—nearly in the true sense of the word. But not afraid. To Richard Parker I shouted, “Stop you trembling! This is a miracle. This is an outbreak of divinity." At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and far.” Pg 294-295 Not only a storm, but a breathtaking landscape, a night sky full of stars, a birth, a death--all these at times can make one realize the amazing complexity of the universe and grasp how limited our understanding of it is, and thus humbling us to the recognition of God and his greatness. Truly, with this message in his story, it's easy to see why he would claim his story would make you believe in God.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Andrea's Thoughts on Life of Pi

I know Kami isn’t quite finished, but I wanted to do my “homework” before I forgot the things that I was thinking about.

First: My Favorite Quotes from the book.

1. “I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”

Many people believe that animals would prefer to live in the wild with all the “freedom” that implies. Unfortunately, those people fail to realize that the “wild” is a very, very dangerous place. Animals have much shorter average life spans in the wild because they are prey and there are not any vets to fix them up if they become sick or injured. Their “freedom” in the wild is really a myth, as they are too busy surviving and worrying about where their next meal is coming from to benefit.

In the same way, many non-religious people claim that religion limits people’s freedom. Such is not the case. People CHOOSE to be religious thereby exercising all the same freedom of choice as those who choose to not be religious. At which point, any behavior that is prescribed by the religion becomes an extension of that original choice—long after it has become such a habit that no real choice is made in the doing of it. For example, my choice to go to church this morning did not limit my freedom but was an expression of a choice that I made because I had the freedom to choose.

2. Pi was explaining how lion cubs could be raised by a dog and the lions would choose to not notice that they were so much bigger and different than their adopted parent, “. . . for that would mean they were motherless, the absolute worst condition imaginable for any young, warm-blooded life.”

The thought just struck me as sad—and true. And after what happened to Pi’s mother, and what he saw, I just felt extra sad reading this.

3. During the storm Pi relied on the sailors for assistance. Trusting them absolutely. He said, “Only when they threw me overboard did I begin to have doubts.”

Sometimes we trust our leaders (in all arenas) too much when life is difficult. When we feel stress it is much easier to go along with what a person in authority is saying. Also—when we are complacent and feel like nothing the authorities do can really affect our nice lives—we also are at risk to obey too quickly and ask too few questions.

America appears to have a strange dichotomy at work where half the country is dangerously centered in the complacent model, and the other half hinders all progress by screaming about what the authorities are doing just to cause problems. It is difficult to get through the tons of useless information and sound-bites and people screaming to find real information that would help a person evaluate rationally the questions and issues facing the country.

4. “And between us was only a thin tarpaulin, easily got around.” Pi speaking about himself and Richard Parker.

Sometimes it is disconcerting to realize that our base natures are so close to the surface and so thoroughly a part of our lives. We make good choices over and over again to try and rid ourselves of the parts of us that are distressingly terrible—but it takes a lifetime to do it—and in the meantime we make the same poor choices over and over again despite our ongoing efforts to try and conquer ourselves.

5. Along those same lines: “Only if I tamed him could I possibly trick him into dying first.”

Only if we use some strenuous moral agency and force ourselves to make the good moral choice so many times that it becomes habit—will we even have a chance to get rid of our own basest urges. For example—if you haven’t tamed yourself to avoid drugs, you cannot hope to master anything else about your behavior. If you haven’t tamed your appetite, you cannot hope to lose weight. If you haven’t trained yourself to turn off the tv, your ability to reach other goals will be severely hampered.

6. “I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I am grateful. It’s the plain truth—without Richard Parker, I wouldn’t be alive today to tell you my story.”

This sounds a lot like survivor guilt to me. As a deeply religious, nonviolent person, Pi felt excruciatingly the decisions he made and the actions he took. However, it is also true that the survivor instinct in humans is amazing and impressive and absolutely necessary—especially in extreme circumstances.

7. “To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away.”

This made me think of parenting, because most things make me think of parenting. Linda Eyre (a parenting guru from our mothers’ generation) talks about aware parenting. Know what you want your kids to be like and then plan out how you are going to help them get there. I think this concept has had an incredible impact on my development as a mother.

8. “I saw my suffering for what it was, finite and insignificant.”

None of our suffering is insignificant to God—although it is finite.

9. “Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love—but sometimes it was so hard to love. Sometimes my heart was sinking so fast with anger, desolation and weariness . . . .The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart.”

10. “What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell.” Similarly, “It is important in life to conclude things properly.”

This reminds me of when I was in Mexico. I botched a farewell there and it still hurts me to think about it. My BIL just told me about “quitting” his job by pulling a no-show, no-call. He justified his behavior by saying that he didn’t like the job. He should have concluded things properly.

11. Japanese inspector: “We believe what we see.”
Pi: “What do you do when you are in the dark?”

A very, very good question.

12. “Doesn’t the telling of something always become a story?”


2. Early in the novel we discover that the narrator majored in religious studies and zoology. In subsequent chapters, he explains the ways in which religions and zoos are both steeped in illusion. Discuss some of the other ways in which these two fields find unlikely compatibility.

I disagree with the writer of this question. I do not think the author discussed the “illusion” of religion. The whole book reinforced the belief in God and the benefits of religion and real faith. I also don’t think Martel discussed the “illusion” of zoos. He talked in length about the fallacies that surround the discussion of zoos, but that is all. Maybe I missed something—but the more I read through these questions the more I think I should have thought through them more carefully before selecting them.

3. Yann Martel sprinkles the novel with italicized memories of the "real" Pi Patel and wonders in his author's note whether fiction is "the selective transforming of reality, the twisting of it to bring out its essence." If this is so, what is the essence of Pi. And what is the essence of reality?

I like thinking about the essence of reality because in a large family you quickly learn that the essence of reality is nothing. There is no essence of reality. The only thing that is truly “real” is people’s perceptions of reality. I have nine siblings. Half of us think we had the happiest childhoods possible. The other half remembers things very differently. Coming to understand that a person’s perception is reality for them prevents a lot of conflicts.

4. How might the novel's flavor have been changed if Pi's sole surviving animal were the zebra or Orange Juice? (We assume that if the hyena had been the only surviving animal, Pi would not have lived to tell us his story.)

Obviously, the sailor was too wounded to make it more than a week or so. So that is a lame question. Also, if his mother made it, the entire story would be different. He wouldn’t have killed the cook, most likely, and would not have had to come to terms with that. Or, even if he had killed the cook, he would have had his mother to motivate him to survive and would not have the memory of his mother’s brutal murder to dwell on. Being ALONE made the story so poignant. His thinking about his own capacity to be brutal, and human nature, and God. All of those things would have altered significantly if he had another human on board to talk to.

8. Besides the loss of his family and possessions, what else did Pi lose when the Tsimtsum sank? What did he gain?

The obvious answer to that is that he lost his innocence. His innocence about his own nature and his innocence about the decency of other humans. Also, he found that he could rely on God more than he had ever dreamed, and that he could survive due to his strong desire to live. And that he could “rise above.” I know, I know, a little trite.

10. Why did Pi at first try so hard to save Richard Parker? (This question confuses me because, like some of the other questions--it makes me wonder if the person writing these questions really understands what happened. Make of it what you will--I still think it is an interesting question.)

Mostly, he kept Richard Parker alive because Richard Parker was the human/ahuman in him that would go to extremes to stay alive and he needed to stay alive. If he had let Richard Parker die, what would be left? A gentle vegetarian philosopher who could not have dealt with the ferocity of his surroundings.