Archives for category: School

Last night I watched Bright Star, a newish movie directed by Jane Campion about John Keats by way of his fiancee and muse, Fanny Brawne. It was wonderful. The sense of the seasons, the acting, and my God, the costuming–for me it was pitch-perfect. Even the Husband watched it, when he hadn’t thought he was interested.

And it’s a good thing I did watch it. Otherwise, who knows how long it would have been before I realized that John Keats is my favorite English poet? And that he has been for years, except I didn’t know?

I think about the principles that guide my life. I try really hard to notice when I am acting from my own good thoughts, and when my culture is merely performing me. Batman, the single most determined and mindful superhero in existence, is my patron for many excellent reasons. The search for beauty and truth is one of these principles.

Just today at dinner, my mother-in-law mentioned that due to her school’s new diversity training, she and the other teachers were no longer allowed to have Christmas parties or bulletin boards or celebrate it in any other way–nor any other holidays, to be sure. I was speechless. It’s kind of funny, but it’s the perfect example of how West Virginia is exactly 20 years behind the rest of the nation. Husband says he was not only never taught about religions, he was occasionally lectured that only saved Christians would escape Hell.

But there’s a kind of evenness still between my education and his. He may have never learned about basic cultural ideas as far as religions, but I never learned the name of the man who wrote the line that inspired me as much or more than anything else I ever read:

‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

I am entirely certain I never read “Ode on a Grecian Urn” before last night. I picked up the line from culture, as one picks up so many things. I was enchanted by the idea and have thought about it for years. At times I have agreed entirely and other times I have felt that while beautiful, it lacks some dimension of truth–it leaves something out. Currently I am able to wiggle philosophically into agreeing completely again.

Which brings me to this: having an American public school education as I do, and being as determined as I am to be well-educated and well-read, I have so much catching up to do! I finally read Moby-Dick a year or two ago, at least ten years after I should have. I have never read Don Quixote, Milton, Chaucer, all of Beowulf, enough Emerson or Whitman, Thoreau, Yeats, much Shelley, Byron, Joyce, the full Inferno (only an abridged high school version), the Aeneid, the Iliad…so, so many great works that I am quite certain would help me learn how to be a better human being.

Now, on the other hand, I have read some useful and excellent works that no English class ever heard of. Godbody by Theodore Sturgeon. The Callahan Books by Spider Robinson. Illusions and Jonathon Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (OK, a few English classes may, please God, have heard of that one). The Graveyard Book–that one taught me what it means to grow up and to be alive.

So I don’t mean that I am illiterate, except by the Heinlein definition (that is, I cannot read French, Spanish, Greek and Hebrew, and my Latin is very poor). But I do mean this: of all my friends, everyone I’ve spoken to, I received the best education with the most excellent teachers. And there is still all this, that I never received.

Here, for contrast, I present a clip of Mr. Stephen Fry conversing with Mr. Craig Ferguson. I love and admire both of these men and would dearly love to be able to take part in this conversation. But note at the 4:13 mark: how many graduates of American public high schools could join in the quotation, as Craig did?


Prof. Terry Shank of Marshall University has put on a video and slept another couple times.  I have learned one new thing so far:  commensalism is the term for the type of symbiosis that neither helps nor harms the host.

Today was very difficult.  He had thrown his back out and stood for the whole class anyway, and had a confrontation with one of the African-American students who sits at the front.  He’s so uneven in his treatment of people.  For instance, as I’ve mentioned the only students that he makes noises at, the kinds of noises you use to get your dog to leave something alone, are the African-American students, and the only African-American students he yells at for doing anything he doesn’t like are the ones at the very front of the room–these are also the only students besides me who’ve said a thing or asked a question all session.

It’s really hard to take, and yet it’s crystal clear that this is one of those “college” classes that are actually high school classes–and a horrible high school, at that.  One cannot point out these things in a respectful manner and hope to receive anything like a considered, sane response.  I have a friend who tried.  He said she was being too sensitive.

The only thing to do is survive the next two days, graduate, and move the hell to another continent.

Just a quick one tonight: class today was a little rough due to a showdown between the prof and some guys who were talking quietly among themselves, and the lecture just seemed a little slow and was very stats heavy. I’ve taken to drawing in class–seriously drawing, attempting to learn how to draw and reading my artist-husband’s books on it and all. It helps a lot, especially since the teacher speaks so slowly that I can write a heading, sketch a little, and then take notes without missing anything.

But even better, lab rocked! We had to do math which was (for me) fairly hard, which means challenging, which means I had fun! Because say it with me y’all: “Challenging is rewarding!”

The other good news: my husband is *finally* getting his passport tomorrow. This means that when I get my new pictures done, we can finally apply to teach in Korea! Thus, Hooray!

Today’s class was much, much better. There was no movie, and while the lecture was a little redundant for me, that’s only because I had biology last semester, and it obviously wasn’t for most of the class.  I and a couple others actually asked questions, and the lecture portion was broken into reasonable bits by breaks.

For lab we went outside and walked around identifying trees.  Surprisingly, and gratifyingly, there was almost no self-segregation.  Everyone kind of hung out together and joked and helped with the trees, and I didn’t hear anyone blow off the assignment or complain about it.  Everyone was pretty into it.  I even made a couple of the sporty guys laugh with my assessment of the US’s chances against England on Saturday (i.e., that we will beat them into a bloody pulp and piss on their graves).

We just watched the Seattle Sounders play against DC United.  United had 3 goals, us none, and two of their goals were literally within 5 minutes of each other.  Then, it the last 5-8 minutes of play, Seattle scored two goals within I think two minutes of each other! Everyone else was in bed so we couldn’t scream, except in our hearts, which we did.  I don’t care at all that they didn’t win; Sounders fans are by far the best in the US, and supporting that team is all about that community–basically, we’re there win or lose.  Before we scored, the commentators noted that one time the Sounders lost 4-0 before a home, sold-out crowd, and they refunded every single ticket.  Seattle is my beloved hometown, but that really cemented my love for the Sounders.  That was a noble and gracious thing to do.