Saturday, June 13, 2009

 

Another Week Another Year

My summer vacation started today. I still have to go back to the library salt mine for another week to finish up loose ends and to prep stuff for next year; however, that last week is always a relaxing time because I get a lot of planning done which is always fun. More than that, the end of each school year gives me an opportunity to look at what I do and how I can do it better next year. This year I had an odd thought about that.

Part of my professional development this year was to read more juvenile literature. I've been re-reading "The Count of Monte Christo" simply because I really enjoyed the book as a kid. I am constantly interested to see which books continue to be popular and which sort of fade away. This is one that I would have thought would fade away. It hasn't, students still read it despite its length and complexity if not as often as Harry Potter or Lemony Snicket.

Something struck me and made me think about my role as an educator while reading this book. That something was the prison education of Edmund Dantes. Sure, there are problems with a man living on gruel training himself into a top flight swordsman in a dungeon with only a stick to use as a sword but the other part of the education of Edmond Dantes is entirely believable. The priest had a few books that he used to teach Dantes to read and write. He also gave him a broad understanding of history, philosophy, science, rhetoric, aesthetics and mathematics. This is something that any educated person, with a few basic text should be able to do with a willing pupil and unlimited time. Despite the huge advances in technology since Napoleonic times the knowledge needed for living hasn't really changed that much. I don't need to know exactly how my computer works to use it. I really don't need any more knowledge of mathematics, science, biology or any other subject in my daily life than the average educated person in the 18th century. And, the things that separated a gentleman from a boor in the 18th century still separate polite from boorish company today. I'm not talking about wealth or power but manners, ethics and morality.

That thought made me ask, "What does it mean to be educated?" In a very real sense that is the theme of The Count of Monte Christo. After his escape Dantes has to learn the limits of vengeance, the cost of hatred, the necessity of justice, the power of forgiveness and the strength of love. This moral education was mainly theoretical instruction while he was in prison because to learn these lessons requires interaction with society and he didn't have that in prison. They are a set of lessons that Dantes could not complete until he escaped and almost didn't learn until it was too late.

Yet it was this moral theory taught to him by an imprisoned priest that allowed Dantes to return as more than a pirate and to overcome his lust for vengeance if only just barely.

This made me wonder. Is the essence of education basically intellectual or moral? I'm not sure I have an answer for that question. It is the question that will fill my summer as I prepare for the coming academic year. The answer will help to inform my selection of materials and how I interact with students in the coming years.

Am I a saint or merely a priest? Am I a Count or am I a priest? Do I believe because I know that I am believed in?

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who is a librarian not a priest.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

 

That Day so Long Ago

Today is an infamous day in Chinese history. If you don't know why then you probably live in China. I am not going to write about that event directly today because I don't want there to be any possibility that some knuckle-dragging-aparatchnik can say "See that event which really didn't happen is only a lie to discredit China in the eyes of Westerners. Despite the fact that China is now my country too, this is a fight that needs to be fought by those with bridgeless noses and almond shaped eyes.

HOW MANY TEARS
by Mark Heard.


Gunmetal gray for golden rules
White hot steel for the comfort of fools
Molten wills in iron hands
Forge new sons for the Motherland

How many tears will fall down
How many tears must fall
How much blood will stain this ground
How many tears must fall

Hidden mounds in jungle dust
Youthful voices forever lie hushed
Poets and peasants know the truth
But what in the world can one man do

How many tears will fall down
How many tears must fall
How much blood will stain this ground
How many tears must fall

A mother’s eyes ache with her hatred
Her lips they are crippled with fear
She waits for the news that she don’t want to hear
How many tears
How many tears
How many tears must fall down

Ain’t no funerals
Ain’t no prayers
Ain’t no blood in the Government Square
Reign of terror
True and tried
Dries the eyes before they’ve cried

How many tears will fall down
How many tears must fall
How many tears will stain this ground
How many tears must fall
How many tears
How many tears will fall down

From Dry Bones Dance

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger who saw his wife shed some of those tears

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

 

Staring down the big 50

I have a new blog that is tied to this one.

This is still where I will post my normal thoughts complaints and meditations. However, the Hong Kong to Shanghai on Two Wheels blog is where I will post information about a rather long bicycle tour I am planning for next year. I will cross link all post there to this blog as well

Until Next Time
Fai Mao
The Blogger with multiple interest

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