Because all experiences are valuable.

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Thing About Sapphires

Behind the screen
among the dust rabbits
and film canisters that would clatter about horrifically
if knocked over (but no one goes back there),
one lost sapphire winked
like a holy star
each time the right light hit it.

Rings lose stones and the stones lose their places
and the right to be seen,
in the dark and the dust
for the part of the movie
that features them,
in just their own light.

The thing about sapphires is
they are
And no amount of time or seeming insignificance
can dim them.
A million years will find her just as piercingly blue
and precious,
when all the stars, and all the screens are dust...
All the light will be yours.

T Sylace for Kristin K 2-28-11

Friday, February 25, 2011

The failure of the AP course system, IMHO

Whew! What a crazy week it has been. Like none of us have ever thought that before...
actually, how common are the non-crazy weeks these days?

Wednesday at school, we had Assessment Day. I am really unclear on what was being assessed. We went to a convocation and heard a speaker talking about the school's new initiative to focus in on Critical Thinking skills in all classes. To me...who graduated college the first time 20 years ago, it seems like a no-brainer. Isn't that what college is all about?

I remember a professor of mine at Agnes Scott used to say he wasn't teaching us
facts and ideas, he was teaching us how to think. He said you never needed to memorize much if you just learned to reason, because in the modern world, the data was always available to you..but learning to interpret it was everything.

My current Anatomy professor says the same thing all the time. At Brenau, I'm not really sure what the statistics would be, but I think we are a pretty darn bright group. But I do sometimes see a lack of logical progression in people's thinking.

The speaker treated it as a failure of the colleges- colleges as a whole- that accreditation boards are trying to address. He said members of "Generation Next" are coming out into the workforce and viewed as unprepared to figure out things for themselves. Not undereducated at all, just needing to be lead to an unacceptable degree. I'm not sure, as I am not employing anyone, and I am Generation X. But either way...are you ready for my usual rant???

I don't blame the colleges...I blame the high schools. From what I have experienced being heavily involved with my sons schools throughout their school careers, at many different school in different states- the middle school and elementary levels are still doing a great job. I know, you've heard me go off on this before. I just can't keep my mouth shut. Our high schools are failing our kids.

From the second the idea of AP courses came into the high schools, I think they were sunk. I have so many legitimate reasons why I think this, and not the time to really detail them. Let me just say that 1. I believe my opinion is valid and based in factual evidence of the decline of college preparedness across all high schools.
2. I have spoken with about 15 college recruiters, and they all have echoed a similar stance that success in AP courses does not predict success in college. (sure, you get that credit, but it isn't the same thing) 3. While colleges like to see a rigorous curriculum pursued in high school by candidates, they all admit that it is more the willingness to take on challenges than any specific course or grade, and indeed, some say they would actually Prefer! students not take too many AP courses.

AP courses are, in essence, college material. Many high school students are academically ready for that material. What they are not (there are exceptions, naturally) is emotionally and conceptually ready for college material. AP in high school is artificially pumped up with difficulty; cramming knowledge down their tender young throats and pointing virtuously to the rigor of the curriculum.

I think it is a mistake and a disaster. Students have little choice for an academic curriculum of any difficulty in high school BESIDES AP classes. You've created binomial education. You are either in or you are out. A student may be extremely bright, even gifted, and not ready for college yet. That is why they are still in high school!! If the majority of college bound students are taking AP courses, which is college credit, and it is felt that they are ready for this, then what the hell is the purpose of high school at all??

They are given no other options but to be placed with " currently academically inferior" (no offense intended) students should they choose not to take AP classes. They are told repeatedly that they can't get into college if they don't take these classes- they are mislead about how many AP classes colleges want to see...I honestly can't follow the trail of benefit in this scenario. Someone must be benefiting, and I am wholly unconvinced that it is the students.

I feel it creates a college freshman class of already burned-out kids, who have learned on pain of failure that the way to survive these pseudo college classes is to memorize, cram, cheat, pull all-nighters, and swim in a sea of semester-long
despair just waiting for the lifeboat of term's end. Inevitably, a purge must come...of all the information they just crammed in, in order to make room for the impending whirlpool of "information" they know is coming next. And the poor things...all the really bright, adorable teenagers...just swim unto exhaustion and beach themselves too often on an island of "I really don't have time to really learn anything." If they are lucky, they can turn it around in actual college...

I know it was an extended metaphor, and let's acknowledge that some high school teachers are simply superior, and saints to boot. I am speaking here of an overarching concept.

High school has stopped being a place to finish maturing before being thrown in with the sharks. After ninth grade it seems largely a pointless exercise, and a really entertaining social experiment. You've heard me say it before...Bill Gates said the American High School system is irretrievably broken.

My position in a nutshell? (insert your favorite nut joke here)
College curriculum is for College.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Leave Out All the Rest

I had a terrific day in anatomy lab today. I've said it before and I'll likely say it again...I am so grateful that we have a cadaver to study. I literally had my hands deep inside this nice gentleman to feel the spleen. It didn't feel at all like I expected, and I was so surprised to see that the preserved stomach looked nothing like I thought it would; I'm not sure I could have identified it by myself.

Back in anatomy lab, while other groups worked in the cadaver lab, another group of girls asked me a couple of quick questions, which turned into about 30 minutes of my helping them and answering questions on what we were learning. They were so gracious with their compliments on my "tutoring."  Dr. Roberson encourages us to teach each other. It is extraordinary how much better you retain the material when you explain it to someone else. It has been a long time since I was a teacher in Arizona...and I never took all those education classes that would be required for me to teach again. I'm sure there is some important stuff to learn in those classes, but I learned from the best teachers I ever knew, yeah, you know who. My mom and dad. Skill at teaching is really a gift. And I love to regift that.

I was asking Dr. Roberson about my vocal cords... wondering if there was something unusual about those of us who sing with great range.
Probably now I have about a three and a half octave range. It used to be four. I am really out of vocal shape.
But honestly, those lowest lows and highest highs aren't really necessary for me. It was just a vanity. I read my darling "daughter" Ali's blog and she was talking about missing her hair she cut off, saying it was vanity, but she didn't feel the same. I feel that way somewhat, having moved away and cut myself off from my dear Ali, Christin and Lura.... but everything changes.
Twilight opening night, ladies? I bet that guy is still available...the one with the drugs and the rowboat...LOL!

This is for you! I love all my girls so much....Sherry, Mary, April, Julie, Kristin, Abby, Laura, Stephanie, Ashley, Brittany, Mary Eileen, Celeste, Darneisha, and of course Di, Christin, Ali and Lura. You make the world worth being in.

Friday, February 11, 2011


Mysteries exist in solution,
exerting an osmotic pressure 
on all those who have to swim 
in the same sea
with the sharks
and the dead.

What happens to the man who
believes his own hype,
it isn't good, I can promise you at least 
that much if nothing else.
I am Welsh, but I don't go back on
promises, or back down
the same road I just came up.
One step differently placed makes it a new path.

This cosmic bracelet I wear
dangles the planets in charming succession,
linked to every mystery
past and present,
through the panes and frames as I name them.
The cat is dead this time, I swear.
I looked in the box.

T. Sylace 2-12-11

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Nightingale

I have neglected my blog, but like the prodigal son, I have returned. Now where is my fatted calf and feast, I ask? Ok, I'll settle for this box of flax granola here.

Since I left off with The Firebird, I think I will follow up with The Nightingale. This one an actual Hans Christian Anderson tale. Wouldn't it be odd to go back in time and tell Mr. Anderson of the impact his tales have had on the world? How we are all still familiar with them? What would he think of Disney World??

The Nightingale tells the tale of a Chinese Emperor,very rich and very spoiled, who hears that in his forest lives a nightingale, whose song is matchless and divine. He sends courtiers out to find the nightingale and invite her to the palace. She doesn't wish to go, saying her song is best in the quiet solitude of the forest. But she wishes to honor the emperor, so she goes. Everyone is stunned by her beautiful song, and her fame spreads. The Japanese Emperor hears of this, and sends a gift to the Chinese Emperor of a stunningly bejeweled gold mechanical nightingale which winds with a key and never tires.

The real nightingale is asked to sing along with the mechanical one, but she declines.  In the excitement over the perfection and regularity of the golden nightingale, the real nightingale flies away. All the courtiers exclaim how the mechanical one is much better, as she can be made to perform on demand, and her song is always just as expected. The poor fishermen who hear of this shake their heads, because they love the unique and original song of the real nightingale who sings for them in the forest, each time slightly different.

Time passes, and the golden nightingale becomes worn, and it's mechanical springs and gears are becoming worn. It can only be played once a year. The emperor becomes sad and sick. One night Death is so close that he is sitting on the emperor's chest. The emperor is in despair, and he calls for the golden bird to play. But it no longer works at all.
He is so close to death that a new emperor has already been chosen.

credit:Edward DuLac
The real nightingale hears of the emperors illness and flies to his bedside, where she charms Death so well, that he goes away, and the emperor recovers. After that, she agrees to sing at his windowsill  each morning and night, but only if she can sing what nature inspires her to sing, and only if he never tries to put her on display for the palace again. He agrees, and lives many more happy years.


What are we to make of this story. We could see the obvious statements about industrialist societies valuing the mechanical over the human. We could talk about job outsourcing, and moving factories to Mexico and India. We could talk about our disdain for nature and the
effects of our endless pursuit of bigger and better, leaving a trail of garbage and destruction in our wakes. Our key-turning, overwinding obsession with forcing all things to fit or desires and lifestyles has us raping the Earth for less and less nutritious produce, and working the poor honeybees to death. All of these things are valid applications of the moral of this tale.

I'd like to posit another. To me this story speaks to pornography. I've come to think that pornography probably has its place, or even a few places, and ways that it serves. It has been around as long as man has, I'm sure. Here is who it does not serve...women. I've thought and thought, and I cannot come up with one creditable argument as to how pornography honors or advances women. It seems to me that pornography used to be rather hidden. It was there, people knew it, it served its purpose. But by and large, it was kept away from those it harms most: women and children. Maybe those women who had to participate did benefit in surviving one more day on the money they earned, but I'm not sure that is really a life. But maybe they broke free, or had a child who went on to do something great.

But no woman's life was ever improved by loving or giving herself to a "drug" addicted porn user. If you think it isn't a drug, you should see the brain scans. If you asked me would I rather be in a relationship with a man who had had sex with 75 women, or a man who looks at/ uses porn beyond the occasional novelty aspect, I would pick the 75 guy every time (with a condom, of course). In the absence of other information, I would assume that those 75 women were at least real. I'm being simplistic...I know there are shades and subtleties here. But aside from disease issues..How Many women do you think Mr. Porn Guy has been with??

This isn't really a diatribe. I said yesterday to a dear new friend that I have everything in the world to give, but that I am not a wind-up toy. I was being illustrative...not in response to any issue. I think he knew just what I meant.  My commenting on ways I have been treated at times in life. Those who are malleable and willing will often be taken advantage of. I don't want to be less willing. I do want to be less willing to be taken advantage of. Much like our little nightingale.

The moral of my own story:
My song is my own, and it is free. But you can't take it from me. It must be gifted to you, and indeed, it does have the power to pacify Death.

Love you all!  T. Sylace