Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Having a colleague on sabbatical

When you work in a department of two, you notice very quickly when one of the two of you is not at their post.  In academia, every seven years, you're allowed to solicit the right of sabbatical.  My colleague received sabbatical this semester.

I am all alone, and it's not very much fun to pick up the slack.  Today has been an especially taxing day.  I feel something about like this:

or maybe something along these lines:

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Mormon Missionary Talmud

Is it lawful for a missionary to eat dinner at your home after 6PM without an investigator?  NO!
Is it lawful for a missionary to eat dinner at your home on the weekend without an investigator?  NO!
Is it lawful for you to give a ride in a 5-seat car to a set of elders and a set of sister missionaries?  NO!
They cannot be "broken up" and must sit as companionships.  The opposite gender must not come in contact with the other.  So, if you're given an "assignment" you have to make two trips.  Keep in mind, these missionaries have a car.  That's right, they have a car.

Seriously, these are some rules that are handed down by the independent prelate of a mission president, and we're given putative 'assignments' to drive these missionaries to meetings, but we're not allowed to have them ride in cars together.  It's ridiculous and I refuse to do it anymore.

I don't trust the missionaries.  We don't know them.  They are often weird and self-centered.  There's no way I'm passing along the names of my friends to people who I don't know and don't trust.

The missionary program is broken.  You cannot serve if you've committed certain sins, denying the Atonement to many.  You cannot serve if you're overweight, because we have an image to uphold.  You cannot serve if you play video games, because who in the hell knows why.

I'm getting fed up.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Zero Tolerance with Children = Cowardice

When I was about 20 years old, serving a Mormon mission in Costa Rica, it dawned on me one day that my view of the world was too narrow.  I recognized that there were indeed mitigating factors in personal decisions, even moral ones, that had to be accounted for when determining the value or lack thereof of a decision.  I stopped seeing the world in black and white, or even shades of gray.  It became a technicolor dreamcoat, an endless variety of plausible possibilities in need of time and intelligence and contrition to become wisdom.

Juxtapose that with the story out of Colorado of a 7-year-old boy suspended from school for throwing a pretend grenade against some "evil forces" so that he could "save the world."


The young lad was merely playing at projecting his authority and control over the world.  He was acting out something that most kids do.  We play at war, at cops-and-robbers, probably nowadays at irhabists-and-soldiers.  The school has a zero-tolerance policy (the first sign that wisdom is lacking in school governance) toward acts of violence, even pretend or make-believe ones.  Zero tolerance is a foolish way of administering discipline.  You tie your own hands so that you don't have to use discernment, and worse, to insulate yourself from litigation.

A principal could have easily reminded the lad that such play wasn't appropriate at school.  But, even then, is pretend fighting against 'evil forces' really that big a deal?  Are we stifling imagination in the name of zero tolerance?  I believe we are.  Play is a fundamental aspect of mental growth.  Any time we thwart that, we're taking away learning and developmental opportunities from a child.

Here's a link to but one of the 41 million results of a Google search for "importance of play for children."  http://www.pediatricsdigest.mobi/content/119/1/182.full

Administrators should be allowed to use wisdom in the administration of the discipline of their charges.  Perhaps we need to insulate them a little from litigation, but zero tolerance is cowardice.  This situation reminds me of the wisest book I know, Ecclesiastes, over 2300 years old.  Chapter 4, verse 13 seems apropos here:  "Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pining for Mardi Gras

I haven't been to a Mardi Gras in NOLA since 2007, and it's killing me.  I'm having a Mardi Gras party here at Coker College today at 8PM in the SUB.  I'm making a boil of potatoes, corn on the cob, garlic, lemon, onion, and sausages.  We've also got someone making some gumbo, and I'm doing an improvised King Cake.  But, it ain't the same.

Yelling "Throw me somethin', mister" until I'm hoarse, hoping to get a coveted medallion strand of beads, high-fiving Mike Lindsey, Matt Brady, Clay Larsen, or Brent Bastian has no peers.  I miss trying to convince the Van Dams to come down to the neutral ground with us.  I miss camping out the night before the big parades, sharing those quiet hours with my buddies as we ate crawfish, pistachios, and talked about life, church, sports, or whatever was on our minds.

There were no smart phones.  We sat and talked and enjoyed each other's company.

There's nothing like that here.  Parades that aren't for Mardi Gras are boring.  No one throws you anything, the floats are just people waving.  There's no artistry or imagination in them beyond mere aesthetics.  I want comedy, humor, satire.  Krewe D'Etat has always been my favorite krewe for the level of wit in their themes.

I want to be there right now.  Next year, when I'm on sabbatical, if Costa Rica doesn't work out--we're going.  No doubt about it.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A transcript of my stream of consciousness about bullying

I hate bullies.  I hate bullying.  I have little respect for anyone who defends bullying or bullies.  We live in the 21st Century and it's high time that this practice ended.  Sadly, it has not, nor does it appear to be ending anytime soon.

I work with teenagers, and I see bullying happen every week.  Of the three main types of bullying, emotional, verbal, and physical, thankfully, I don't see physical bullying happen.  If I did, I would react swiftly to end it immediately.  But, I do overhear students speaking ill of others, mocking them for their choices of fashion, words, or gait.  Our culture seems to relish mocking others, jonesing after the latest fix of schadenfreude at the expense of someone who probably can't afford the abuse.

We have rules.  We have laws even.  We have parents telling us not to do it all our lives, yet the abuse continues, the excuses continue.  If you don't like the cut of someone else's jib, why not examine the text of John 8:1-8 closely?  Even if you don't believe in Christ, a Savior, the Atonement, or an Eternal Reward, it's still a great way to live one's life.  Humanism abhors violence, placing the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as among our unalienable rights as humans.  Why then do we shit all over the attempts at happiness of others?  What causes us to mock failure, to mock ugliness, to mock slovenliness, to ridicule stupidity, obesity, poverty, or anything else determined opposite or deviant from the putative norm?

And, then there are people who defend their own bullies.  Years later they look back and say that they 'deserved' it because they were X thing that merited mockery.

Life is hard enough without someone else beating you down for their own amusement.  If you see someone bullying, stop them.  If they don't listen to a simple, "leave them alone," tell an adult, call the police, call security, but call them out, at the very least.  Don't let someone else suffer because you didn't want to get involved.  Stand up to bullies.  Never ever laugh at what they say.  Never agree with them.

Bullies ruin beautiful things.  Innocence lost cannot be recovered.