Saturday, November 28, 2015

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Warning: This Post May Be Considered Politically Incorrect


I am offended!   

The US seems to have become the land of the perpetually offended.  So, having resisted as long as could, I decided to join the movement and be offended myself.    

I am offended by:

Spiritual and Moral:
  • Intolerance toward Christianity in the name of being tolerant to other religions
  • The portrayal in the media of Christians as misguided bigots or just plain stupid
  • The idea that believing the Bible on the issue of  sexuality makes someone phobic or out of touch
  • The idea the stating something is a sin according to the Bible means you can't love the sinner anyway
  • People that can believe ancient aliens can account for various historical items but not believe in God
  • People that believe the earth specially and the cosmos in general came without an intelligence behind it, but never say where the ingredients for it came from or account for the mathematical odds against it all happening without a designer
  • The replacement of a genuinely good vocabulary with profanity and the use of the name of God in vain
Educational:
  • The idea that testing students repeatedly with high stakes exams will produce a better education by itself
  • Creativity and Higher Order Thinking skills are shoved aside in the name of making sure students pass the various tests
  • The dependence on computer programs to encourage reading rather than just introducing people to books they enjoy for their own sake
  • The expectation that sending students to a private school via vouchers will magically make all the problems associated with faulty home environments (and other issues) go away 
  • The increasingly dark tone of too many adolescent aimed books in the name of portraying reality without stating whose reality this is supposed to be
  • Parents who expect the school to take care of all the children's educational needs and issues with little or no effort on their part
  • The idea that we must be inclusive and non-censoring about the books in the library, except for the Bible-related items  - which might offend someone
Miscellaneous:
  • Guys spilling out of their pants, girls spilling out of their tops,  and other poor fashion choices
  • Ripped clothing that is sold for big bucks as a fashion trend
  • The idea that zombies will improve Pride and Prejudice somehow
  • The increasingly dark, oversexualized, gory, and profane themes of the media
  • People who complain about a book -- conservatives or liberals-- without reading the whole book
  • People -- conservatives or liberals  - who believe you are not equipped to read an age-appropriate book and decide for yourself about its content, so it must be removed
  • The idea that I can not just enjoy a book.  I have to analyze it for possible offensiveness
  • People who sue over little things so that truly important things get lost in the crowd
  • Media shows that make heroes out of evil people 
  • People who use vulgarity in online forums rather than coming up with well thought out posts
  • People who DO NOT get offended by things such as genocide,  child abuse, human trafficking, murder, and other truly awful thing
  • PEOPLE WHO MAKE THE COMMENTS SECTION INTO A POINTLESS ARGUEMENT
Have I offended most everyone now?   

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Political Savvy -- American Style



The US presidential election is a year away, but the campaign trail is well traveled already with at  6 Democrats and 15 Republicans - currently- running.  The media loves posting the latest sound bites, even social media as your Facebook friends post the positives of their preferred candidate and the negatives of their no way,  no how choices.

So, how can you show some political media savvy, sorting out the trash from the treasure?

First, check the veracity of the stories for yourself.  A previous post on this blog discussed urban legends and how to check them.  Some sites particularly for politics are

Second, look at the context of statements.  An example is the fact check site  http://www.politifact.com/.    It  can be useful for checking statements.  However,  a casual reading of just statements and the site's choice of placement on it Truth-O-Meter may be misleading.  Be sure to click and read the story associated with each statement and click on any links with in the story for more information.  

Third, find out about their views on the issues important to you. A look at more than one source will help with this. Some sites for this
Fourth, be alert for bias.  for example, a site with conservative or right  in the label is more likely to be pro-Republican whereas a site with progressive or left is more likely to be Democratic.  A helpful article on detecting bias can be found at http://fair.org/take-action-now/media-activism-kit/how-to-detect-bias-in-news-media/ or http://rhetorica.net/bias.htm

With a bit of research and some thinking for yourself, you can be a politically savvy media consumer.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015

IMHO: Lovely, Wonderful Books - in Education

Image from Pixabay


 “What is your best idea to improve education in the state of Texas?” 

That is the question Dan Rather and his grandson Martin Rather, a student at Rice University, are asking, and to encourage answers they are promoting the Rather Prize. The website (http://www.ratherprize.org/) notes: "The Rather Prize is a five-figure prize to a student, teacher, or administrator who can best provide an idea to improve Texas education. The prize is open to anyone answering the question (through any medium), “What is your best idea to improve education in the state of Texas?”"

I first saw this on a Facebook page for retired teachers and my comment was "less testing and more actual teaching", but that is less an idea than a wish.  So, I got to wondering what actual ideas might help education?   
Having taught for 35 years, I have seen educational trends come and go.  Technology is one such trend.  When my mother was teaching, she was admired because she knew how to thread a film projector.  When I was teaching, I was admired because I knew computers and the internet. Now, as much as I like computers, I would agree with those that see it a tool to support teaching not to become the teacher. 
So, what would help education, not just in Texas, but across our nation?   The thought that keeps coming to me is:  Support libraries and make reading enjoyable again.   
Numerous studies have shown the importance of good school libraries staffed with professional librarians (http://www.lrs.org/data-tools/school-libraries/impact-studies/), so let's stop closing the libraries, laying off professional librarians, and cutting program funds.
More than that, let's make reading enjoyable again by letting students read for fun more and to take quizzes less,  by bringing back story time at home and school, by letting them know we as adults enjoy reading, by finding ways to bring the fun back to reading. 
That is IMHO, of course, but certainly reading is a foundation skill in education, so I end with this quote:
“There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” 
 - May Ellen Chase
For more on the Rather Prize, go to http://www.ratherprize.org/

Sunday, June 28, 2015

"Snoping" Around: a follow up to An Urban Legend Feel


Some time ago, I wrote a post called An Urban Legend Feel, discussing clues that an item maybe an urban legend. I also included a list of helpful sites, including one of the best known: Snopes.com, a favorite of mine.

However, not all like Snopes, many considering too liberal, suspect in funding, lacking in research expertise or other faults.  So, in the interest of fairness I decided to check out the folks behind Snopes.com: Barbara and David Mikkelson.  

 Let's start with what they say about themselves, which they have not hidden (as one criticism says).  The About Us page on their site can be found at http://www.snopes.com/info/aboutus.asp. A
few pertinent facts:  their political leanings are David -- Independent, Barbara -- Canadian citizen;  their source of funding is through site advertising; the site is well-regarded by various media sources, including this article first published by Reader's Digest: The Rumor Detectives.  Other sources for checking out the fact checkers include:

So, can you trust Snopes.com?  Generally, yes, but as one blogger notes in discussing the site:

Most intelligent people have come to realize that it’s foolish to use only a single resource to determine the accuracy of a given story.
http://www.stephenfrasier.com/blog/writing/snopes-com-reliable-source/

For other sources to check that story, see the links in the original Urban Legend Feel post on this blog site.


Picture By Asbjørn E. Enemark (www.teamul.co.cc) [CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, June 26, 2015

A Clowder of Information


Clowder: a group of cats 

Thinking is good, I have often said.  

In thinking about this blog, I decided a change was in order on this blog, thus the new description of topics covered: education, technology, books, libraries,and media literacy. These are favorite topics of mine, but I plan to have posts for every one from educators to families, from newbies to geeks, from beginning readers to hard-core bibliophiles.

So, watch for more on this  clowder of informational topics from the Computa-Cat!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Box of Hope

The news is filled with stories of war, disease and disasters. Too often children are caught up in these, their lives filled with the hopelessness of hunger, need and fear.  So, how can a box bring hope?  When that box is filled with gifts given by people sharing in the work of Operation Christmas Child, a Samaritan's Purse ministry.

Each fall, thousands and thousands of boxes, filled with gifts such as toys, school supplies, non-liquid hygiene supplies and more, are collected for this ministry.  After processing at  central locations around the United States, the boxes are sent around the world to children in need in countries around the world.

For several years now, I have packed a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.  In a holiday too often filled with give me, give me, this brings the joy of Christmas back as I search for just the right items for a boy or girl in the age bracket chosen.  I smile as I think about the child opening the box to see the gifts, getting encouragement  and hope from the care and love shown by the simple act of filling and sending in the box.

How can a box bring hope?  See how at http://www.samaritanspurse.org/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child  or  https://www.facebook.com/OCCshoeboxes