Saturday, June 30, 2007

Oxford to Stop Requiring English Lit Majors to Study Shakespeare

Under a new proposal being considered by Oxford University in England, undergraduates majoring in English Literature will no longer be required to take a course on Shakespeare. Currently, seniors study all 36 of the Bard's plays. Under the new proposal, this course would be replaced with one that studies all English literature written between 1509 and 1642.

At first glance, this does not seem too bad since many of Shakespeare's near-contemporaries such as Spenser, Milton, and Marlowe wrote important works. Studying Shakespeare in isolation does not allow for comparison with other authors of his time period the way an integrated course does. However, in practice this means that students could
"avoid altogether answering questions or filing coursework on the Bard. In the words of the proposal paper, the man who gave the world the Merchant of Venice, Hamlet and Macbeth would simply be 'absorbed into Paper 4... joining the list of Special Authors'."
Given that Oxford is arguably the best university in all of Europe and certainly one of the top universities in the world, I find it incredibly disheartening that they would even consider allowing English Literature majors to skip Shakespeare.

What would an English Literature degree from Oxford mean if the school does not require the study of England's greatest author?

Fantastic Speech by Pope Benedict XVI on Education

Pope Benedict XVI recently gave a speech to Rome's diocesan convention on the topic of education. An English translation of the text is available here. The Holy Father addressed the
great "educational emergency", the increasing difficulty encountered in transmitting the basic values of life and correct behaviour to the new generations, a difficulty that involves both schools and families and, one might say, any other body with educational aims.
Because of modern society's emphasis on moral relativism, Pope Benedict says,
education tends to be broadly reduced to the transmission of specific abilities or capacities for doing, while people endeavour to satisfy the desire for happiness of the new generations by showering them with consumer goods and transitory gratification. Thus, both parents and teachers are easily tempted to abdicate their educational duties and even no longer to understand what their role, or rather, the mission entrusted to them, is. Yet, in this way we are not offering to young people, to the young generations, what it is our duty to pass on to them. Moreover, we owe them the true values which give life a foundation.
Pope Benedict makes it clear who bears primary responsibility for educating children:
it is very obvious that in educating and forming people in the faith the family has its own fundamental role and primary responsibility. Parents, in fact, are those through whom the child at the start of life has the first and crucial experience of love, of a love which is actually not only human but also a reflection of God's love for him. Therefore, the Christian family, the small "domestic Church", and the larger family of the Church must take care to develop the closest collaboration, especially with regard to the education of children.
Families are called to greater participation in catechesis and the entire process of Christian initiation for children and adolescents. Parents are additionally reminded to shield their children from negative influences of our culture, the
relativism, consumerism and a false and destructive exaltation, or rather, profanation, of the body and of sexuality.
While Pope Benedict does not specifically mention homeschooling, it is clear to me that the practice addresses many of the concerns he has about modern education.

[HT: Deep Furrows via CIN]

Friday, June 29, 2007

Manila Archdiocese in the Philippines Issues Dress Code

Now why can't the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops do this?
In a circular sent to parish priests on Sunday, Father Godwin Tatlonghari, assistant minister of the Archdiocese of Manila's Ministry of Liturgical Affairs, said a new dress code was being imposed following complaints from worshippers that the slack dress sense of some was proving to be disturbing.

Male Catholics should wear "long-sleeved polo shirts, collared shirts, or t-shirts paired with either slacks or jeans", the circular directed, advising against wearing caps, basketball jerseys, tank tops, and shorts to church.

Women were told to stick to dresses, long gowns, or collared blouses as against spaghetti-strap tops, tank tops, short skirts, skimpy shorts and sleeveless shirts with plunging necklines, the MLA stipulated.

This should be common sense but unfortunately too many Catholics wear attire more suited for the beach or worse a nightclub to Mass.

If I were in charge of writing up the guidelines, I would personally consider a nice pair of khaki shorts to be more appropriate than jeans, and I don't have any problem with women wearing modestly cut pants or sleeveless dresses/tops with a modest neckline. But that's quibbling. The important thing is that the Manila archdiocese is actually taking a stand on the issue, and I applaud them for doing so!

[HT: Pattie Curran on the 4Real Learning Yahoo group]

About "The Scandal"

Anyone who molests a child should go to jail, whatever his/her occupation. Anyone who covers up child abuse should go to jail, whatever his/her occupation.

It absolutely infuriates me as a Catholic that certain individuals among the hierarchy shuttled "bad apple" priests from parish to parish for decades fully aware of the problem and allowing it to continue. It is Christian to believe in the forgiveness of sins, but that does not mean putting the allegedly reformed sinner back into the position which he/she abused to begin with!

Studies indicate that Catholic priests are no more likely to be pedophiles than clergy from other religious traditions and actually less likely than similar "helping" occupations such as teacher, child psychologist, sports coach, Scout leader, etc.

So why does one hear more about abuse by Catholic priests than that of other clergy? IMHO the reasons include:

(1) Catholicism is the single largest American denomination. As of 2002, there were over 60,000 active and retired Catholic priests in the U.S. So there's simply a greater number of potential abusers even if the percentage is no higher than other faiths.

(2) The centralized organization of the Catholic Church makes it easier to uncover the records of abuse. Protestant denominations have a much more autonomous structure for each individual congregation. The editor of Christian Ethics Today told The American Baptist Press in January of 2007 that he believed this structure and resulting lack of accountability created a higher risk in Baptist and other Protestant churches: "Most Baptists and nondenominational ministers know that ‘If I get caught, I can move to California and start a new church.’”

(3) The anti-Catholic bias in the elite media. A 1980 study by Robert Lichter of the Center for Media and Public Affairs found that of the 286 most influential journalists at the time, fully half "eschewed any religious affiliation" and 86 percent seldom or never attended religious services. In 1995, Lichter did a follow-up and found that the number attending religious services once per month or more had increased somewhat, to 30%. By contrast, among the U.S. population in general more than half attend at least once per month and 44% attend on a weekly basis. It is clear that as a group, journalists are much less religious than the American public and this definitely plays into the biased coverage of the Church.

I'm not going to sit here and defend the actions of certain individuals in the Church hierarchy. However, I do think that it's a serious error to blame the Church as a whole for a handful of "bad apples". Humans make mistakes, even bishops and cardinals. That doesn't excuse them from the consequences of those mistakes (which I believe should absolutely include prison time when warranted). But it isn't a problem with the underlying teachings of the Church such as priestly celibacy.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Proud Members of Red Sox Nation

I would not normally do this, but Jen over at "Diary of 1" was kind enough to give a shout-out to me on her blog and I do like to support the cottage businesses of homeschooling families as a general practice. Anyways, she is having a contest to promote her family's sports merchandise store called Jen is granting a $20 credit towards anything TeamMascot carries to the first 20 people who blog about their favorite sports team. Since I usually give Red Sox-themed items to various of my relatives at Christmas, I might as well buy them from Jen's store rather than some huge chain, KWIM?

If you were to visit our home, it would be very obvious where our sports allegiances lie. Even though DH and I grew up in different areas, the sports teams fortunately are not league rivals. Our favorites hardly ever meet, except in the Super Bowl and the World Series. Even then, he's more of a football fan and I'm more into baseball. I can live with our kids rooting for the Eagles over the Patriots if he can live with them rooting for the Red Sox over the Phillies.

Just by coincidence, my DS is wearing his Red Sox shortalls and matching shirt today and I read him the picture book Fenway Park from A to Z by the Red Sox Wives Organization this morning. My DD wore her Red Sox pajamas to bed last night.

On the kids' bookshelf, there are also: Fenway Park 1-2-3 by the Red Sox Wives, For the Love of the Red Sox by Mark W. Anderson, 86 Years: The Legend of the Boston Red Sox by Melinda Boroson, and 101 Reasons to Love the Red Sox and 10 Reasons to Hate the Yankees by David Green.

On the nursery wall are the 2004 American League Champions and the 2004 World Champions pennants and a framed membership certificate for my DD of "Red Sox Kid Nation".

My brother taught my DD to say "Yankees stink! Go Red Sox!" when she was not quite 2. Of course, at the time it sounded more like "Ankee tink! Go wessok!" I'm just thankful he had enough sense to teach her the "clean" version!

The night that the Red Sox finally won the World Series again after 86 years, I woke DD up during the 7th inning stretch to take her to a party they were having at my DH's grad school. She had just had her 2nd birthday but I didn't want her to miss history in the making. When they got the final out, I was overcome and poor DD started bawling too! I had to tell her through the tears that I was crying because I was so happy but of course she was too young to understand.

Here's a photo I took of her that night before all the tears started flowing:

So why am I such a die-hard Red Sox fan? I think it's because the team means(t) so much to my dad and especially to his father. My poor grandpa was a lifelong Sox fan but he passed away before he got to see them win the World Series :-( So many times over the years they came so close to winning it all, only to rip the fans' hearts out at the last minute (Bucky "bleeping" Dent, Bill Buckner's error, and too many other painful memories to mention). Yet despite it all, my grandpa remained fiercely loyal and always believed that "this will be our year" even though it never was during his lifetime. Being a member of Sox Nation prior to 2004 was the triumph of hope over experience.

It's easy to be a Yankees fan with their 26 championships and all but eventually David won out over Goliath. The Yankees had the most humiliating choke EVER in MLB history and boy was that sweet for all of us who got to witness it! I realize that's not a very Christian thing for me to say, LOL!

I don't know if the Red Sox will come to mean as much to my kids as they do to me for several reasons. First, they are growing up outside of New England so they won't have the peer reinforcement aspect. Yes, there are members of Red Sox Nation all over the world, but they don't get the same media attention out here that the local teams do. Second, they won't have the close association with my grandfather since he passed away before DH and I were even married. Finally, 2004 changed what it meant to be a Sox fan. Before, they were the underdogs, the ones you really had to rely on faith and hope in order to support. It was almost a form of masochism. My kids won't have any memory of "the Curse" or any understanding of just how tough it was to watch them blow it over and over. Yet paradoxically their struggles made their fans all that more loyal to them. "Cowboy up!" "Believe" and all the other slogans we Sox lovers chanted through the many long decades...

Pray for Favorable Reception of the "Motu Proprio"

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf of "What Does the Prayer Say?" posted an excellent prayer the other day for "the good reception of the Motu Proprio which will derestrict the older form of Mass, the so-called Tridentine rite":

May the hard of heart yield to the Holy Spirit when hearing of Vicar of Christ’s will.
May the eager rejoice graciously and with true thanksgiving to God.
May the ignorant seek first to learn before making judgments.
May the learned offer comments in charity.
May our priests use considered prudence.
May our bishops be generous and paternal.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Thy faithful and kindle in them the fire of Thy love.
Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created
And Thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
O God Who taught the hearts of the faithful by the light of the Holy Spirit, grant that, by the gift of the same Spirit, we may be always truly wise, and ever rejoice in His consolation. Through Christ our Lord.

"Motu Proprio" Expanding Use of Tridentine Mass to be Released on July 7th?

New Catholic over at Rorate Caeli has a bunch of posts suggesting that the Vatican may release the expected "moto proprio" expanding the use of the 1962 Tridentine Latin Mass on July 7th.

I've never worshipped at a Tridentine Mass and my current diocese has not granted any indults for its use. There is one over at St. Margaret Mary in Oakland and one at Our Lady of Peace down in Santa Clara but those are just too far for us :-(

I'm not sure I would want to attend a Tridentine Mass every Sunday while our kids are small (we have enough of a challenge getting them to behave through a Novus Ordo Mass), but I would be interested in perhaps attending once a month by myself if one were offered locally.

Most parishes offer multiple weekend Masses. My current parish offers 6- shouldn't one of those be the Tridentine Rite? Perhaps it could be the 7:30 A.M. Sunday service since serious Catholics would not mind getting up early in order to celebrate a Traditional Latin Mass.

UPDATE: The Vatican has released the official Latin text and both Catholic World News and the USCCB home page have unofficial English translations.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Quaternary TT: 13 Words Certain Individuals Think You're Too Stupid To Hear


I've been seething (v. to be in an agitated emotional state) all day about the great lexicon debate. Below are 13 examples in alphabetical order from the America article (discussed here) and the Globe and Mail article (discussed here) of words that Bishop Trautman and Professor Beck think you're too stupid to hear used. Some are a bit more obscure (adj. not easily understood) than others, but they all strike me as reasonable to utilize (v. to put into service) in the context (n. setting) of a classroom lesson or a church service:

1. betwixt- adv. between
2. gibbet- n. gallows
3. incarnate- adj. existing in bodily form
4. ineffably- adv. indescribably
5. inviolate- adj. virginal
6. nefarious- adj. extremely wicked
7. prefiguring- v. imagining beforehand
8. suffused- v. to become overspread as with a fluid or light
9. sullied- v. made dirty
10. thwart- v. to prevent
11. unfeigned- adj. genuine
12. unvanquished- adj. unbeaten
13. wrought- adj. shaped

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
*Please note that I take no responsibility for the content of other blogs, so caveat viator! (let the traveler beware!) *

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

George Weigel's Response to Bishop Trautman

Leave it to George Weigel to be both more succint and more eloquent in his response to Bishop Trautman's article than I was! [HT: Brother Andrew Kosmowski SM's comment on Happy Catholic's post].

The Lexicon Debate, Catholic Style

Via Deputy Headmistress over at "The Common Room", I discovered a really thought-provoking post by Happy Catholic entitled "New Translations, a Bishop's Tantrum, and Efficiency." In it, she discusses a recent article in America: The Catholic Weekly by Bishop Donald Trautman of the diocese of Erie, PA. In the article, called "How Accessible are the New Mass Translations", Bishop Trautman criticizes the updated English Novus Ordo Mass translation approved last June by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Bishop Trautman served as chairman of the USCCB Committee on Liturgy. He told Catholic News Service last November that the U.S. hierarchy is divided over whether they favor "accommodation to the receiver language" or "fidelity to the original Latin". To put it bluntly: whether they like the "dumbed-down", "wishy-washy" language adopted in America after Vatican II or whether they consider that to be liturgical abuse. The good news is that a majority of U.S. Bishops rated the new more faithful translation as "Excellent/Good"; the bad news is that 47% of them rated it as "Fair/Poor".

So what precisely is it about the updated translation that bothers Bishop Trautman and so many of the other U.S. Bishops? In his own words:

"What will the person in the pew hear and comprehend? Will the words 'prefiguring sacrifices of the Fathers' and 'born ineffably of the inviolate Virgin' resonate with John and Mary Catholic? Is this prayer intelligible, proclaimable, reflective of a vocabulary and linguistic style from the contemporary mainstream of U.S. Catholics? Is this liturgical language accessible to the average Catholic and our youth? Does this translated text lead to full, conscious and active participation? I think not."

So in essence, Bishop Trautman agrees with Professor Clive Beck, the one quoted in the Globe and Mail article who believes that using big words "puts a distance between you and young people."

If there's a gap between what Catholics ought to know and what they actually do know, shouldn't the Church try to bridge it by elevating its members' level of understanding rather than by dumbing itself down? The origin of the word "educate" is "ducere" or "to lead". The purpose of the Church is to lead its members out of darkness into Christ's light. If Catholics no longer have the vocabulary to follow allong with a faithful translation, then it is the Church's responsibility to teach it to them.

The most serious problem with the current N.O. translation is that it goes beyond just simplifying the language to actually changing its meaning. The Latin "et cum spiritu tuo" is currently translated "and also with you" rather than "and with your spirit". The direct translation is easy to understand, and it correctly reminds Catholics to focus on spiritual rather than worldly matters.

Bishop Trautman appealed in his article to Catholics to "speak out" against the updated translations. This is an incredible thing for him to do, since the Vatican itself issued rules in 2001 calling for faithful translations of the Latin. In May 2006, Cardinal Francis Arinze, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments, told the head of the USCCB that if a current text does not conform to the new translation norms it must be changed.
"It is not acceptable to maintain that people have become accustomed to a certain translation for the past 30 or 40 years, and therefore that it is pastorally advisable to make no changes.... The revised text should make the needed changes."
Unfortunately, some Catholics laypeople are already heeding Bishop Trautman's rebellious call. Steve from "Catholicism, Holiness, and Spirituality" blogged a couple weeks ago that
"I'm irritated enough [about the new translation] to start writing my bishop about this, for all the good that will do."
Memo to Steve and Bishop Trautman: the Church is not a democracy. Christ told Simon Peter "upon this rock I will build my Church". That mean's the Pope's in charge! The Protestants may have turned their back on this, but as Catholics we must be careful not to.

Intriguing New Book Celebrates "Girls Gone Mild"

My mom gave me a heads-up the other day about a new book by Wendy Shalit entitled Girls Gone Mild: Young Women Reclaim Self-Respect and Find it's Not Bad to be Good after reading a review of it in The Wall Street Journal . Ms. Shalit writes about how more and more girls and young women these days are rejecting the hypersexualized culture epitomized by Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the rest of the celebrities more known for their partying than their actual dramatic/musical accomplishments. Instead, they are
reverting to an earlier idea of femininity. They wear modest clothing and even act with unbrazen kindness. They don't mind abstinence programs at school, and they prefer a version of feminism based on self-respect rather than sex-performance parity.
Inevitably, this has caused a "generational gap" with the "second-wave" feminists of the 1960's and 1970's. According to Ms. Shalit, the older feminists are
so committed to the idea of casual sex as liberation that they can't appreciate or even quite understand these younger feminists. To them, modesty is a step back, even a betrayal of the liberationist spirit. They don't understand that pursuing crudeness is the problem, not the solution.
Feminism was supposed to be about opening up choices for women and empowering them to make their own decisions about what is best for them as individuals. Instead, it seems that many "feminists" want all women to claim the traditional male role of high-powered careers, recreational sex without love or commitment, etc. for themselves. Any woman who dares to reject this gets bashed as "anti-feminist", "brainwashed by the patriarchy", "repressed", "religious fanatic", yadda, yadda, yadda.

Supercasual sex is not what most women really want. The "hookup" culture is by and large male exploitation of vulnerable young women and teenage girls. It's what used to be known as "taking advantage" of somebody. Ply them with alcohol and psychological pressure to get selfish gratification without any real emotional connection or commitment. Too many girls and young women have low self-esteem and are willing to let themselves be used in this manner just to gain some male attention. Do feminists really consider this "liberating" for girls and young women?

I've personally never met a woman who regrets waiting for Mr. Right but many who regret that they didn't wait. A study done in 2000 by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy found that 72% of teen girls surveyed who were not virgins regretted having had sex.

Christians often get ridiculed as being "afraid of" or "against" sex by those who favor recreational sex without love or commitment. Quite the contrary, Christians actually value sex extremely highly; it's not just another bodily function but an expression of love and commitment between husband and wife. Also for devout Catholics and "quiverful" Protestants, as being fully open to the procreative aspect should that be God's plan.

Girls Gone Mild looks intriguing, and I've put in a purchase suggestion at my local library for it. They've got Ms. Shalit's previous book so hopefully they will choose to buy this one too. You can read the author's blog here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

School District "Regrets" Decision to Black Out Provocative Yearbook Photo

Newark, NJ Superintendant Marion Bolden has issued a formal apology to Andre Jackson for ordering staffers to black out a sexually provocative photo of Jackson in all copies of the East Side High School 2007 yearbook.

Previously, Bolden had described the picture, which showed Jackson, 18, kissing boyfriend David Escobales, as "illicit."

"If it was either heterosexual or gay, it should have been blacked out. It's how they posed for the picture," Bolden told The Star-Ledger of Newark for Saturday's editions.

After coming under fire from homosexual advocacy groups, however, Bolden issued a statement Monday that he "personally apologizes to Mr. Jackson and regrets and embarrassment and unwanted attention the matter has brought to him."

The issue IMHO isn't the homosexual nature of the picture but its sexual explicitness. If Jackson was merely holding hands or hugging Escobales, I would support his right to have it included as a freedom of expression thing. On the other hand, if Jackson were kissing a female, I would consider it to be an inappropriate photo for a yearbook. It's what Jackson is doing that is the problem with the photo, not whom he chooses to do it with.

Shame on the Newark school district for backing down under pressure from special interest groups! Yearbooks should be G-rated not R-rated.

10 on Tuesday: Favorite Bands

The theme of this week's "Ten on Tuesday" is 10 favorite bands of all time. There have been so many great bands over the years that it was really hard to narrow the list down to just 10. In no particular order:

1. Eagles
2. U2
3. Beatles
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival/Revisited
5. Police
6. REM
7. Bon Jovi
8. Heart
9. Alabama
10. Duran Duran (guilty pleasure I know!)

Time to Vote in the BlogHers Act 2007 Survey!

BlogHer has posted the survey for what issue their 11,000+ female bloggers want to see chosen as the 2007 initiative will tackle. The choices definitely lean a bit to the politically liberal side:
  • Adoption/Foster Care
  • Darfur
  • Encouraging Financial Independence for Women
  • Education and Literacy for Women
  • Election Access and Reforms
  • Global Warming
  • Health Care Access and Quality
  • Nuclear Waste
  • Global Poverty
  • Rape, Sexual Assault, and Domestic Violence Against Women
  • Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  • Supporting Environmentally Conscious Practices
  • "Women's Rights" defined as "promoting civil and physical liberties for women, including voluntary marriage and divorce, access to birth control."
  • World Peace
The only one I really have an issue with is the "women's rights" one because it seems to be promoting a radical feminist agenda I have serious concerns about. If that gets picked, I obviously am not going to be using this blog to promote it!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling #78 Is Up!

Shannon over at Homeschool Hacks is hosting this week's 78th edition of the Carnival of Homeschool with a "surgery" theme. Looks like an interesting assortment of posts!

Moral Code for Public School Students in 1925

I recently came across a 1925 article from Collier's magazine listing a "moral code for school children" [HT: Bruce Larson of Sequoia Ministries]. It really goes to show how far our culture has tragically deteriorated in recent decades that a school today would be unable to post it out of fear of a lawsuit :-(

If I Want To Be a Happy, Useful Citizen I Must Have:

Courage and Hope

I must be brave—This means I must be brave enough and strong enough to control what I think, and what I say and what I do, and I must always be hopeful because hope is power for improvement.


I must act wisely—In school, at home, playing, working, reading or talking, I must learn how to choose the good, and how to avoid the bad.

Industry and Good Habits

I must make my character strong—My character is what I am, if not in the eyes of others, then in the eyes of my own conscience. Good thoughts in my mind will keep out bad thoughts. When I am busy doing good I shall have no time to do evil. I can build my character by training myself in good habits.

Knowledge and Usefulness

I must make my mind strong—The better I know myself, my fellows and the world about me, the happier and more useful I shall be. I must always welcome useful knowledge in school, at home, everywhere.

Truth and Honesty

I must be truthful and honest—I must know what is true in order to do what is right. I must tell the truth without fear. I must be honest in all my dealings and in all my thoughts. Unless I am honest I cannot have self-respect.

Healthfulness and Cleanliness

I must make my body strong—My eyes, my teeth, my heart, my whole body must be healthful so that my mind can work properly. I must keep physically and morally clean.

Helpfulness and Unselfishness

I must use my strength to help others who need help—If I am strong I can help others, I can be kind, I can forgive those who hurt me and I can help and protect the weak, the suffering, the young and the old, and dumb animals.


I must love—I must love God, who created not only this earth but also all men of all races, nations and creeds, who are my brothers. I must love my parents, my home, my neighbors, my country and be loyal to all these.

Humility and Reverence

I must know that there are always more things to learn—What I may know is small compared to what can be known. I must respect all who have more wisdom than I, and have reverence for all that is good. And I must know how and whom to obey.

Faith and Responsibility

I must do all these things because I am accountable to God and humanity for how I live and how I can help my fellows, and for the extent to which my fellows may trust and depend on me.

National Board of Medical Examiners Refuse to Allow Breastfeeding Mom to Take Pumping Breaks

Sophie Currier completed a joint M.D-PhD. from Harvard and the only hurdle left before she can begin her medical residency this fall at Massachusetts General is passing a 9 hour exam run by the National Board of Medical Examiners. Dr. Currier is also mom to a 7 week old daughter Lea, whom she is breastfeeding as recommended by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and many other health experts. Dr. Currier has asked the NBME for permission to take a 20 minute break every 3 hours in order to pump breastmilk. However, last week the board denied her request on the grounds that only disabilities covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act qualify for special test accommodations.

In a statement faxed to the Boston Globe, Catherine Farmer, the board's manager of disability services, wrote that the disabilities act:
"does not cover temporary conditions, such as pregnancy. . . . Furthermore, lactation, breast-feeding and breast pumping are not disabilities as defined by the ADA."
Dr. Currier agrees that breastfeeding is not a disability, but points out that if she fails to pump every few hours, she risks developing mastitis. Having experienced mastitis myself, let me assure you that it is a particularly nasty infection with a quick onset, and it can often require surgical draining.

Breastfeeding advocates condemned the decision as inhumane and insensitive. Dr. Ruth Lawrence, chairwoman of the AAP's breastfeeding section, told the Globe:
"Few women are likely to request such extra time, and breast-feeding is a physical need that should be filled just as the need to eat should be. One would hope [the board] would accommodate this particular physiological need not just for the individual being examined, but for her child"
My heart goes out to Dr. Currier and I pray the board will reconsider its decision! As doctors, they should be fully aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and should provide reasonable accommodation to nursing moms. Dr. Currier's request for a little extra time between sections of the exam to go pump in private is not an unreasonable one. She's got a legitimate special need, even if it does not meet the ADA criteria of a disability. It's absolutely outrageous that she has to put her own health at risk just because some committee is being overly strict in their view of what constitutes a valid reason for special test accommodations.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Happy St. John the Baptist Day!

Today is the feast of St. John the Baptist, and the priest who celebrated the Mass we attended this morning gave a very interesting homily about him. He reminded us that St. John the Baptist was not afraid to speak out against sin, even though it ultimately cost him his life. Recall that King Herod, who was married, publicly took Herodias (the wife of his half-brother Phillip) as his mistress. St. John the Baptist spoke out against Herod's wickedness and Herod imprisoned him as a result. Herodias then plotted with her daughter Salome to have St. John the Baptist killed. (Mark 6:17-28).

As Christians, how often do we take an unpopular stand about what is right and wrong? When modern culture celebrates immoral behavior, are we willing to speak out in opposition?

Obviously, we must take care to direct our criticism towards the sinful behavior rather than towards the sinner. We are all sinners by virtue of being human, and Christ calls us to be merciful. Let us not forget, however, that in the famous passage about the Pharisees and the adulteress where Jesus told the Pharisees: "Let the one among you who is without sin cast the first stone." (John 8:7), He went on to tell the woman "Go, and sin no more." (John 8:11). We are called to be merciful towards sinners, but they are also clearly expected to refrain to the best of their ability from repeating that sin.

Fortunately, in our country, we do not have to worry that speaking out against sin will cause us to become a martyr like St. John the Baptist. However, we may still have to pay a price for sticking up for our beliefs. Those caught up in the hedonism will likely insult us. We might not get a hoped-for job as it appears Dr. James Holsinger, Jr. may not or even lose our jobs as Gen. Peter Pace did. It is not easy following the "narrow way" that Christ calls us to in Matthew 7:14. May we look to the example of St. John the Baptist to help us find the courage to speak out for what is right regardless of the price we may have to pay for doing so!

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Dumbing-Down of the American Lexicon

Via Henry Cate from "Why Homeschool", I discovered an excellent post by Mama Squirrel over at "Dewey's Treehouse" entitled "It Pays Makes-Some-People-Very-Nervous-That-You-Want To Increase Your Word Power" In it, she discusses a recent article from a Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail called "Are We Losing Our Lexicon?" The article examines the debate surrounding the value of an extensive vocabulary.

Critics term it elitist, undemocratic, and (dare I say it?) pedantic:
Clive Beck, a professor of education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, relishes the collapse of the standard Western vocabulary. "I think it's partly a democratization, of getting teachers to have a closer relationship with their students, and being able to talk on the same level. I love correctness in speech and in writing. But I think to some extent I have to go with the change.

'Betwixt' for instance, is just an old-fashioned word. So you shouldn't use it. 'Nefarious', people don't understand it, so don't use it. I think it does put a distance between you and especially young people if you use an old-fashioned word. True, some people like to be old-fashioned. But I think the world is changing so rapidly that we should change with it. So if you don't explain what it means, you waste people's time."

By contrast logophiles, from the Greek logos (word) and philos (lover), lament the deterioration of the typical individual's vocabulary. Robert Brustein, founder of the American Repertory Theater and professor of English at Harvard, explains:

"I have found a deterioration in the capacity of students to use language. Just the papers I get require more work on my part. Imprecise writing. There's a laziness too. A kind of disconnect between the mind and the words.

So the capacity to articulate what's in your mind has declined. I just think, even though more people attend school for longer than ever, that people are not as well educated as they once were. We teach them not how to swim, but how to get along in the pool. We teach social and political things well enough. But we still don't know how to read and count."

Mama Squirrel points out that possessing a rich vocabulary allows the individual to read many of the greatest ideas ever written. Who needs to burn a book if we can dumb down the populace such that they cannot comprehend it?

Mama Squirrel discusses the importance of reading to help build vocabulary. I absolutely concur.

One thing I did not see mentioned in either the Globe & Mail article or Mama Squirrel's reaction to it is the abandonment of classical language study as a contributing factor to vocabulary decline. Throughout most of the history of Western Civilization, to be educated was to be fluent in at the very least one of the classical languages if not three (Latin, Greek, and Hebrew). The first public school in America, founded in 1635, was called Boston Latin. Its name reflects its mission, to teach Latin (and also Greek). Latin is still mandatory for students there; however, few other public schools require its study. In 1905, 56% of public high school students studied Latin. By 1994, only 1.5% did. The numbers for Classical Greek are even more dismal. In 1997, the enrollment for classes in that language was an estimated 929, and 72% of those students attended private schools.

Over 60% of words in English are of Latin origin and another 5% are of Greek origin. The percentages are even higher in certain fields such as science and law. Students who study Latin in high school score significantly higher on the verbal portion of the SAT than students who study modern foreign languages such as French or Spanish. A study of fourth, fifth and sixth-graders who studied Latin a mere 15-20 minutes a day for a year performed a full year higher on standardized vocabulary tests than their peers who had not.

We are planning to have our children study Latin in our homeschool for both academic and religious reasons. We are also planning on studying Greek roots by using a program such as Joegil Lundquist's English from the Roots Up or Michael Clay Thompson's Word Within the Word series. Rummy Roots looks like a fun game to help reinforce understanding of these classical roots.

Rather than "leveling the playing field" by shunning the use of complex words, we as a society should try to expand the average person's vocabulary. Encourage the study of classical languages in our schools. Journalists, authors, and teachers should avoid "dumbing down" their writing and speech and instead aim to enrich their audience's vocabulary.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dad's Role in Promoting Literacy

Janine Cate from "Why Homeschool" had a great Father's Day themed post last week called "Father's impact on education". In it, she discusses some of the research findings on fathers' influence over their children's education. She also reminiscences about how her DH Henry used to read to their now-teenaged daughter as a baby.
"She could just barely sit up and drooled like crazy. She would just beam up at Henry as he read to her. This is the daughter who was reading 60 chapter books a month when she was ten. Now that our daughter is almost 13, Henry has moved on from reading Cat in the Hat for our daughter to discussing books like John Adams with our daughter."
That reminds me of my DH and DD. He started reading to her pretty much the moment we brought her home from the hospital (she was 2 weeks old in the below picture).
She's now 4 3/4 and the two of them have a Saturday morning ritual where he reads her selected articles from the Economist magazine and then explains them to her. Not the type of read-aloud I would think to do with her, but I'm certain she benefits from experiencing two different perspectives on reading.

I recently came across an interesting research paper by Richard Fletcher and Kerry Dally of the University of Newcastle in Australia entitled "Fathers' Involvement in Their Children's Literacy Development". In it, the researchers discuss the barriers to getting fathers involved with family literacy activities. One of the biggest is a perception that reading is a "feminine" thing:
"In their survey of school-family literacy programmes Cairney et al. (1995) reported that the participation of parents in the programmes was strongly gender based, with mothers representing the majority of participants. Not only were the family members more likely to be mothers than fathers but also virtually all of the school personnel who participated in the programmes were women. According to Cairney et al. (1995, p.36) 'Programmes were largely initiated, planned, run and coordinated by women for women'. The problem with the disproportionate number of women involved in school-parent literacy programmes is that such initiatives may inadvertently reinforce an already strongly established perception of literacy and learning as 'feminized' activities (Cairney et al., 1995). The following comment by one of the course presenters in Cairney et al.'s survey reveals that boys may be particularly disadvantaged by the gender imbalance in early literacy education and the perception that reading is 'women's work'. 'Children see reading as a feminine thing to do, because a female infants teacher teaches them, mum reads to them at home' (Cairney et al., 1995, Vol 2, p. 62)."
This can be one of the real advantages of homeschooling. While the mom is often the primary teacher, the dad is typically much more involved with the children's education than he would be in a traditional school. This was discussed in Dr. Michael Pakaluk's excellent article "Nine Reasons to Homeschool". Greater involvement by the father in education may help to explain why homeschooled students score so well on standardized tests of reading.

I feel so blessed to have a DH who enjoys reading and sharing his love of the written word with his children!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cool-Looking Products for Father-Child Bonding

The website has an interview with Mark Jacobsen, the founder of a website called "Adventure Boys". Although Mr. Jacobsen intended the "Adventure Boys" series of books, games, and toys to be a way for fathers to connect with their sons and "reclaim boyhood", really the products could be used with a child of either sex. Plenty of little girls would love to spend time with their daddies learning magic tricks, building model cars & boats, making an action movie, learning to tie knots, or even playing silly pranks on others.

It's important for kids to get one-on-one bonding time with both parents, and most dads aren't exactly interested in playing tea party or going on an outing to the ballet (at least my dad wasn't and neither is my DH). The "Adventure Boys" products look like just the type of stuff perfect for DH to do with the kids once they're old enough for them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

TT: 13 Shades of Lipstick/Lip Gloss in My Make-Up Bag


Things are pretty busy this week so just a quick TT this time around. When I'm feeling a little down, one of my favorite pick-me-ups is to get a new shade of lipstick or lip gloss. It's an inexpensive (and calorie-free!) way to brighten my mood. Here are 13 shades currently in my make-up bag:

1. Think Bronze
2. Golden Raisin
3. Girly
4. Soft Opal
5. Sweet Honey
6. Terracotta
7. Grapevine
8. Tenderheart
9. Berry Freeze
10. Honey Bee
11. Nude Shine
12. Midnight Berry
13. Vixen

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Want to Keep Students From Fleeing Government Schools? How About Less PR and Actually Fixing Their Problems!

The Palm Beach [FL] Post has an article in today's paper about how the county school district is planning a series of public service announcements touting its schools. This is the result of an unanticipated enrollment drop of more than 3200 students this past school year.

The ads show that public schools are "meeting the needs of our children," said Judith Garcia, manager of The Education Network (a local cable channel that is producing the ads). She said they "help people understand that the school district can be more tailored to what their specific interests and talents are."

This statement appears to be contradicted by one of the main reasons the article cites for the drop in enrollment: the exploding popularity of "
other education options - including home schooling, private schools and charter schools."

If the Palm Beach County district schools were actually meeting the needs of the children living there, parents wouldn't be making the big financial sacrifice to privately or home school them.

Here's an idea: how about spending a little less time and effort doing PR and a little more on actually fixing the problems that are causing families to flee traditional public schools??????

CHBM Carnival: Deja Vu Edition

As the Crazy Hip Blog Mama Carnival did not run last week, they've held over the theme of "Something I made that I'm really proud of" until this week.

In case you missed it, my entry can be found here.

Because I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It...

I don't care if people like me! I've got strong opinions on things and I'm not about to stop voicing them just because I'm in the minority in certain parts of the blogosphere.

I just don't get why certain people seem to be afraid of engaging in discourse with others who hold different views. Groupthink is apparently what they desire. The 8 characteristics of Groupthink are:
  1. A feeling of invulnerability.
  2. Discounting warnings that might challenge assumptions.
  3. An unquestioned belief in the group’s morality, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
  4. Stereotyped views of enemy leaders.
  5. Pressure to conform against members of the group who disagree.
  6. Shutting down of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
  7. An illusion of unanimity with regards to going along with the group.
  8. Mindguards — self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting opinions.
How can a person even know what he or she actually believes without seeking out a variety of perspectives? Otherwise, he or she is just parroting back what somebody (parent, teacher, doctor, clergymember, politician, etc.) told him or her. Do one's homework, listen to several different arguments, then make up one's own mind.

Someone who is truly secure in his or her beliefs should welcome the challenge of interacting with an individual holding a different perspective. One is free to think that person is 100% wrong about a given topic, but one still needs to respect his/her right to hold & express that opinion without engaging in petty namecalling.

Speaking my mind, and respecting the right of others to speak theirs regardless of whether or not I agree with them- that's what makes me a "darn good Mommy blogger".

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Where the Presidential Candidates Stand on Educational Issues

I can't say that I really care all that much for any of the 2008 presidential candidates, but here's a very interesting website that lists where each of them stand on various issues affecting education.

If you want to know how the NEA rates a number of the candidates (IMHO the lower the approval rating, the more likely it is he/she supports true education reform), here's the breakdown:

John Kerry 100%
Evan Bayh 91%
Joe Biden 91%
Russ Feingold 91%
Dennis Kucinich 90%
John Edwards 83%
Hillary Clinton 82%
Chris Dodd 82%
Ron Paul 67%
John McCain 45%
Chuck Hagel 36%
Sam Brownback 27%
Bill Frist 27%
Duncan Hunter 17%
Tom Tancredo 8%

No rating was listed for Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Thommy Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, Bill Richardson, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Al Gore, or Newt Gingrich.

Carnival of Homeschooling #77 Is Up!

Judy from "Consent of the Governed" is hosting the 77th edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling: Homeschool Road-Trip. Judy did a great job hosting!

This is *EXACTLY* the Type of Attitude I was Referring to Yesterday...

I've got to run out to park day with our inclusive homeschool support group in a little while, so I'll post a longer response this evening. But if you want to see a prime example of the type of "politically correct" attitude I object to being imposed in government schools in my post yesterday, read here.

Please note that I attended public schools from 4th-12th grade and graduated in 1995 (a lot more recently than the author of the attack piece) and my youngest brother graduated in 2003. Every day I check out the headlines at DailyEdNews and typically read several of the linked articles. These are all from the mainstream press, not religious media. So I don't just spout what Focus on the Family, Exodus Mandate, or my church has to say about public schools (FWIW, I've never heard any of the priests at any of the parishes we have attended preach about public education).

I do hold strong religious convictions, but I'm no fanatic. I attend church once per week, not daily, and it's a Novus Ordo (modern) Mass rather than a Tridentine or Byzantine one. I do not wear a headcovering to church. I would support the reinstitution of married priests and deaconesses should the Vatican decide to change Canon Law. I do not presume to know whether any given individual may be saved, as that's for God to judge. I have hope that a loving and merciful God wouldn't condemn a good person simply because he or she is not a Catholic.

The only jumpers I own are maternity ones and they were gifts or hand-me-downs. I wear pants, knee-length skirts and shorts, and sleeveless blouses & dresses so long as the necklines are modest. I've had short hair in the past and would consider wearing it that way again in the future.

I'm very much looking forward to the release of the 7th Harry Potter book, the 5th movie, and the movie adaptation of Phillip Pullman's The Golden Compass. I do not believe that fantasy novels are any threat to a person who is secure in his/her faith.

My cousin is a SAHD while his wife is the primary breadwinner, and I think that's great!

I consider reason and faith to be complementary ways of knowing, and definitely do not believe in a "Young Earth" literal reading of Genesis 1. The best scientific evidence I've seen supports an age for the universe in the billions of years and for evolution as a mechanism. As there is no way of proving or disproving any role for God, atheists are free to believe that it's all just random, and I'm free to believe that it's divinely-guided. However, I do strongly believe that children need to hear the arguments pro and con for each viewpoint so that they can make an informed decision about what to believe.

What I seek is pluralism. I object to having only one worldview presented in public schools, whether it's atheism, Protestant Christianity, or even my own faith. If someone wants a school environment completely free from religion, that should come in a private or home school- the same as a person who wants one specific religion taught. Teachers and administrators absolutely should not show favoritism to one worldview over another, but that does not require secularism.

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Movies to Quote

The theme of this week's "Ten on Tuesday" is 10 favorite movies to quote:

1. The Princess Bride "You keep using that word...I do not think it means what you think it means." "You fell victim to one of the classic blunders...The most famous, of course, is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia' but only SLIGHTLY less well known is THIS: 'never go in against a Sicilian when DEATH is on the line! Ha, ha, ha, ha...CLUNK [falls over dead]" "Get back, witch!""I'm not a witch, I'm your wife!" I could go on all day but those are my favorites!
2. Casablanca "Round up the usual suspects" "I'm shocked, shocked to find gambling in this establishment!" Again I could go on all day...
3. The Wizard of Oz "I don't think we're in Kansas any more, Toto" "Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!"
4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail "We're the Knights of the Round Table, we dance whenever we're able, we do chorus scenes with footwork impeccable...""What are you doing now?" "Averting our eyes, my God" "Well, don't! It's just like those miserable psalms, always so depressing. Now knock it off!"
5. Star Wars IV: A New Hope "You flew in this heap? You're braver than I thought..." "I don't know who you are or where you've come from, but from now on you'll do as I say, okay?" "Wonderful girl. Either I'm going to kill her or I'm beginning to like her."
6. Lord of the Rings "All that glitters is not gold, nor all who wander lost" "One ring to rule them all, one ring to bind them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them" "It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing" "Even the smallest person can change the course of the future."
7. My Fair Lady "She's so deliciously low. So horribly dirty." "I ain't dirty! I washed my face and hands before I come, I did." "If the king finds out you are not a lady, you will be taken to the Tower of London, where your head will be cut off as a warning to other presumptuous flower girls!" "You see, the great secret, Eliza, is not a question of good manners or bad manners, or any particular sort of manners, but having the same manner for all human souls. The question is not whether I treat you rudely, but whether you've ever heard me treat anyone else better."
8. The Sound of Music "Raindrops on roses, and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens, brown paper packages tied up with strings, these are a few of my favorite things" "When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window." "You know how Sister Berthe always makes me kiss the floor after we've had a disagreement? Well, lately I've taken to kissing the floor whenever I see her coming, just to save time."
9. Gone with the Wind "I'll think about it tomorrow, for tomorrow is another day!" "Fiddle-dee-dee" "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a d***!"
10. The Gospel According to St. Matthew The movie is a bit on the strange side, but you can't beat the dialogue as it's taken almost word for word from the original Scripture.

Monday, June 18, 2007

And Now For a Little Shameless Vote Grubbing...

If you enjoy reading this blog, please consider voting for it in the "Best Educational Blog" category at the Blogger's Choice Awards website. I *am* flattered that someone would even nominate me at all given that I'm still a relative newbie at blogging. But it would be nice to receive some votes from people who are not related to me! ;-)

Diversity Without Cultural Relativism

"Diversity" has been one of the most-misused words in education for the past few decades. When I looked up the definition in my Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language (affectionately referred to in our household as the "roach killer" for its massive size), I found: (n) 1. difference, unlikeness 2. variety, multiformity 3. dissimilarity
As practiced in the government education system, however, "diversity" has become a codeword for the imposition of one particular viewpoint. Talk about Orwellian abuse of language!

During the turbulence of the 1960's, public schools came under fire from racial and ethnic minorities for being too Euro-centric, from feminists for being too patriarchal, from religious minorities and atheists for being too Protestant, and so on. I want to make it clear that I do agree these groups held legitimate grievances. The problem is that rather than embracing pluralism, government schools merely substituted the old WASP viewpoint with a new politically correct one.

This new viewpoint preaches cultural relativism, the idea that all cultural values are equally valid. Gender was now to be considered a "social construction" rather than a biological reality, and the goal became a unisex education rather than an egalitarian one. Rather than broadening the canon to include more non-Western and female authors, it was by and large dumped in favor of dumbed-down but politically correct textbooks. Science classes now presented only one side of controversial topics such as evolution, climate change, population, and so on. History and geography morphed into "social studies", which presented a biased view of Western Civilization particularly Christianity, European countries, and the United States. Copious attention was paid to the negative aspects and the positive aspects were given little to no attention. Even math classes were affected, with a shift in emphasis from teaching the correct way to solve math problems and individual work to fuzzy "discover your own methods" and group work.

The biggest shift was in the role of religion in public schools. The classroom changed from a place where students were indoctrinated in a Protestant worldview (bad) to a place where students are indoctrinated into an atheistic one (worse). Personal expressions of faith by students became taboo. Even non-specific references such as the "under God" phrase in the Pledge of Allegiance fell target to lawsuits by advocates of the complete removal of spirituality from the civic arena. These were aided by activist judges who misinterpreted the First Amendment as requiring freedom from religion rather than the Founding Fathers' intent of freedom of religion.

The establishment clause means that the government cannot show a preference to any one worldview. The complete removal of religion from public schools is a violation of this, since it promotes atheism. I'm not suggesting a return to the days when teachers began the school day by reading from the Protestant King James Bible. But what about encouraging students to read from a spiritual text of their own choosing, whether from the Bible (Hebrew, Protestant, or Catholic version), the Book of Mormon, the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, etc.? Nonreligious students could read some other sort of inspirational writing if they choose. Just a little daily ritual to encourage students to think beyond their own self-centeredness to higher concerns.

Certainly history and literature classes should include study of non-Western cultures and authors. However, they should be in addition to the study of Western Civilization, not instead of it. The contributions to America from different groups are important, but students first need to have a clear understanding of the 3 main influences: Judeo-Christianity, the ancient Greeks, and the ancient Romans. Science classes should provide a fair and balanced view of controversial topics and encourage students to make up their own minds after a careful consideration of the evidence presented by both sides.

Unfortunately, the stranglehold of what Bill O'Reilly terms the "secular progressives" in this country over public education means that it is unlikely that government schools will embrace the pluralism that true diversity requires. Because of this, parents who disagree with the "politically correct" viewpoint will have to resort to private, parochial, or home schools.

Ironically, I started writing this post for the "diversity" edition of the Homeschooling Country Fair but I found the restrictions of that particular carnival to be against the spirit of diversity. How can one celebrate diversity when one does not permit others to voice differing opinions?

I certainly do not share the Pearls' beliefs on corporal punishment, but I support the right of parents to raise their children in the manner they feel is best (so long as they comply with the laws of our country). Also, I object to the gag on religious content. I do not believe that all worldviews are equally valid, though I support the freedom of individuals to choose whichever one they desire. I do not expect everyone to share my beliefs, but I do expect that others will support my freedom to express them (just as I support their right to express opinions with which I disagree).

Note: Further thoughts on the matter can be found here.