Chanticleer #18

I do not propose to write an ode to dejection, but to brag as lustily as chanticleer in the morning, standing on his roost, if only to wake my neighbors up. 

Henry David Thoreau


June 18, 2000

Learning and Knowing is NOT Doing

As an athlete growing up, I ‘learned’ the importance of warming-up and stretching (not to even mention “staying in shape”). I ‘know’ that, especially as one’s calendar collection grows, one has to take even greater care to make sure that one adequately warms-up and stretches before engaging in any kind of exercise.

I learned that. I know that.

Monday night a friend called and pleaded with me to play on her co-ed softball team to preclude them from having to forfeit a tournament game. I somewhat reluctantly, somewhat expectantly, agreed. Cutting to the chase …. (or should I say, pulling to the chase?) … I didn’t warm-up, I didn’t stretch. My first at-bat I hit a meek grounder to third. I dug for first, my 26-year-old mind screaming, “Beat it out! Beat it out!”

Halfway to first base, however (or was I still in the batter’s box?), my 46-year-old right hamstring responded, “I don’t think so … DANGER, WILL ROBINSON! DANGER!”. It pulled, popped, strained, sprained, or whatever the technical term is and almost made me fall face first in a humiliated pile.

Six days later I have a purple bruise occupying the back of my right leg from the top of my knee to just below where the sun don’t shine that’s bad enough to induce my daughter to emit an eye-covering, “Ewwwww!!!”

Is anybody getting the irony of this, coming on the Achilles heel of Chanticleer’s last issue relating her (my daughter’s) lack of foresight in getting herself sunburned?

So what do you ‘know’ and what have you ‘learned’ that you’re not ‘doing’? (sigh)

History, Geography … Whatever

After weeks of anticipation (picture the Heinz bottle with Carly singing if you’re old enough – make sure you stretch adequately first) last week I finally got my “high-speed Internet access”. I signed up with the new AT&T fixed wireless service. Two guys worked outside to get the antenna installed, while a computer tech came inside to install a network interface card in my computer and install the software. I talked with him for a few minutes while he was killing time, waiting on the outside guys to finish.

I asked him where their main office was.

He gave me a somewhat puzzled look, and responded, “Redmond? Is there a Redmond? I think it’s Redmond. I don’t know where that is. I don’t really know my history.”

Now, I admit that my first thought upon hearing that (“I don’t really know my history”) was, “Oh, my! Newsletter fodder!” But upon further review, I’ve been thinking about that. And I’m wondering … what if somebody went through their entire life always confusing “history” with “geography”?

On the one hand, that constitutes pretty basic ‘knowledge’ that “everyone ought to know”. On the other hand, if you were in a conversation about where in California you could find the best vineyards and you said, “I don’t know, I was poor in history”, does that really denote any less ‘knowledge’ than just saying, “I don’t know”?

Not knowing his “history” from his “geography” didn’t prevent the guy from properly installing my NIC card, and getting the software up and running, and doing his job to get me high-speed access to the Internet.
[2019 note: as I recall the “high speed” in this case was about 384KB, or about .4MB.]

You Say Verbatim, I Say Verboten

In his excellent, if unconventional, textbook Composing: Writing as a Self-Creating Process, William E. Coles, Jr. relates an anecdote about Charles Edward Garman while a student in the Yale Divinity School, circa 1872:

Early in the session … Professor Fisher asked us to read fifty pages in his book, The Beginnings of Christianity, and the next day called on Garman to recite first. Garman began with the first line and went through to the end of the hour verbatim et literatim.

Think about that. Think about … what if, as a student … you could memorize everything that you read? How well do you think you would do on tests? How well do you think you would do on standardized tests, like the SAT and ACT?

Wouldn’t that capability satisfy most of what we, as parents and tax-paying employers of teachers, expect as evidence of performance, as ‘proof’ of ‘education’? I’d bet you would know your “history” from your “geography”.

And yet … think about the dozens, hundreds or thousands of other means of ‘learning’ we (most of us) employ. We pridefully begin teaching our baby kids “what we know”, and then we ship them off to schools so that other ‘adults’ can teach them “what they know” and “what the books say”, and for the most part we obliviously ignore (or ignorantly remain oblivious to) the fact that kids ‘learn’ so very much more than what they are ‘taught’. And then you reach ‘our’ age (pandering to the first standard deviation of my readership here) and it’s like, “I need to take a course to learn about ME!”

Okay, so you go to Barnes and Noble and you read, and memorize, every book on the Self-Help, Self-Improvement shelves. You can answer any question that anybody can ask about what the authors say in all the books.

And what have you ‘learned’?

Disregarding What We Already ‘Know’

If the world has nearly destroyed itself, it is not from lack of knowledge in the sense that we lack the knowledge to cure cancer or release atomic energy, but is due to the fact that the mass of men have not applied to public policy knowledge which they already possess, which is indeed of almost universal possession, deducible from the facts of everyday life.

If this is true – and it seems inescapable – then no education which consists mainly in the dissemination of “knowledge” can save us. If men can disregard in their policies the facts they already know, they can just as easily disregard new facts which they do not at present know. What is needed is the development in men of that particular type of skill which will enable them to make social use of knowledge already in their possession; enable them to apply simple, sometimes self-evident, truths to the guidance of their common life. – Sir Norman Angell, 1942

Completing a Thought

Driving to work the other day, I passed a shiny new black Volvo station wagon. I first noticed two young (3rd or 4th grade, I imagined) girls sitting in the “way back” seat, facing me as I pulled from behind them into the passing lane. (Okay, this is Texas … the left passing lane.) Pulling alongside, I saw three more girls in the middle seat and one in the front seat. They all looked about the same age, and I noticed they seemed to be wearing school uniforms of the plaid skirt, white blouse variety. The Breck-hair in-between-Junior-League-meetings soccermomchauffeur drove while talking on a cell phone. A picture of surburban private school normality.

Something bothered me about this picture.

The ‘something’ resolved itself a few miles up the road. I remembered meeting a buddy at Balls Hamburgers, near Midway and Northwest Hwy in Dallas, last fall for lunch. This area is somewhat near the Hockaday School, a well-known private ‘old-school’ girls school in Dallas. While we were there, I watched as two late-model cars drove up and parked together – one a BMW, the other a Mercedes. Three girls were in each. I noticed that, instead of getting out of their cars, they continued to sit while they each finished their cigarettes. Then all six sprang out and spritely walked into the restaurant, each almost indistinguishable from the other in their plaid skirts and white blouses.

Fading Away …

While visiting a friend in Houston a few weeks ago, she repeated some words that seemed wise to me. Paraphrasing, “Nothing in nature grows without shedding.

This was said in the context of personal growth and development, the evolution of relationships, etc. But I wonder … if it’s an aphorism appropriate to nature … and if it applies to individuals and relationships … does it also apply to cultures, traditions, societies, institutions, etc.?

The Associated Press recently reported that one of the casualities of the down-sizing of the U.S. Armed Forces is a shortage of buglers to play “Taps” at funerals. The services recently authorized the use of a recorded version played on compact disc players for official military honors ceremonies. “Taps” dates back to the Civil War, and has been officially recognized by the Army since 1874.

The Paiute (Native American) Preschool Language Immersion Program is trying to preserve their tribal language in southwest Utah. Of their 744 members, less than 40 speak the language. With a 1997 Department of Health and Human Services grant, the tribe surveyed its members across the state and discovered that only about 3% of its members used the language on a daily basis. Today, ten 3- and 4-year-olds are enrolled in the preschool program at tribal headquarters in an attempt to stave off elimination of their ‘native’ language. Darryl Kipp of the Piegan Institute in Montana, which works for the preservation of native tongues, predicts, “Out of 185 native languages still viable today, less than 20 will survive in the next 50 years.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Polish government has recently enacted a law which requires that whenever foreign words are used in public business activities or legal documents, translation into Polish words must be provided. “This is really protecting people who don’t know the foreign language,” explains Professor Jadwiga Puzynina, a Warsaw University professor who sits on the Polish Language Council, “the supreme body for deciding what is or is not a Polish word.” Iwona Zaczek, spokeswoman at the Consumer and Competition Protection Office, says, “I think Poles are quite patriotic, and in some sense this law strengthens in them the feeling of the importance of their language.” The law does not affect proper names and does not ban the use of English or other languages. The Council regularly issues new translated words and their correct Polish spellings. (Did that phrase get through everybody’s oxymoron filters?) Some of the ‘new’ Polish words: syskdzokej (disc jockey); fanklub (fan club); dzojstik (joystick); lancz (lunch); and pank (punk).

AND FINALLY – Following up on Internet protection

Fortuitously timed after my last newsletter, the June 11th Dallas Morning News contained an editorial by Bart McKay, “an attoryney in the Internet and e-commerce group of the Dallas-based law firm Hughes & Luce.” McKay informs us that “As part of the Child Online Protection Act of 1998, Congress created the 19-member Commission on Online Child Protection and charged it with studying various methods and technologies to reduce minors’ access to harmful Internet material.”

Among the measures under consideration for inclusion in the commission’s report (due out in November, according to McKay): Making the use of “one-click-away” resources mandatory at “all Internet starting points (such as every Internet service provider’s start page)”. This means that every “starting point” page would be required to provide a link to and/or other such sites which offer “child protection resources”. Adopting an age verification system, in which a user would have to provide an “independent third-party service” with information such as a credit card number to verify age. Once confirmed, the user would be granted some type of electronic certificate or number which would allow her access to “adult sites”. Creating specific “adult domains”.

For example, instead of having a .com or .net address, sites with designated “adult content” would be required to register as .xxx. Or conversely, sites with “kid safe” content could register within the domain .kids. Implementing a labeling, or rating system, and/or filtering system. Filtering systems use text recognition to block access to pages. [For example, if in this newsletter I wrote that, “An example of a word that newspapers won’t print is ‘sh_t'”, your filtering software would probably not let you access this page.] Labeling would require that every (every!) website be ‘rated’ according to some unstated criteria – either ‘voluntarily’ or by a third-party rating process.

[Jun 19th: I’ve already been asked by one regular reader, “What’s up? Is your server down? I couldn’t load your newsletter page.” So I changed what was an “i” to the “_” in the ‘bad’ word above. If you have filtering software installed and want to see if it (your software) finds it (my newsletter reference to the “sh_t” word) objectionable, click here.] What do you think about these measures? Are they reasonable? Would they be effective? Why? Why not?

Readers React

I read with interest the comments on the issue of pornography and the public libraries. When my son was 15, I asked my husband about what goes on with boys sexually at this age. He told me more than I wanted to know. I also religiously read Ann Landers and one day, she addressed the topic in a column. When I found a copy of Playboy Magazine, I almost died. Ann had said, “now if this happens, just put the magazine back where you found it and DO NOT SAY ANYTHING ABOUT IT!” That’s exactly what I did. Case closed. For several days, I could hardly look at my son without experiencing total embarrassment. And then I forgot about the whole thing. One day, my son walked up to me and said, “Mom, I was wondering if it would be okay for me to SUBSCRIBE to Playboy”. My mouth began spewing out these words, “No, son, because you have a little sister and she shouldn’t be seeing such things around this house. She is just not mature enough.” And guess what? IT WORKED. – a Texas mother

As regards children and pornography, the questions asked by the author in the respective article do not adequately address the issue: children have a developing sexuality; subject to imprinting. Many of the fetishes which both positively and negatively impact adult sexuality arise from early, unintentional imprinting.

Interestingly, Japanese culture along with its strict codes of behavior regarding sexuality and pornography also has a long tradition of erotic fetishism. An entire industry has arisen which serves the fetishistic interests of Japanese businessmen in a non-explicit manner. This often involves “theme” bars in which the hostesses wear a costume and behave in ways to excite the fetish of the patrons. This practice rarely involves sexual conduct or explicit sexual behavior. Rather, it fuels the libido which the patron supposedly takes home and expresses in culturally acceptable and personally respectful ways with his spouse.
It seems, whether in a sexually liberal or in a sexually repressive culture, fetishism arises.

Rightfully or wrongfully, productively or counter-productively, consciously or subconsciouly, those who attempt to limit the exposure of children to pornography do so in order to protect their children’s developing sexuality from any confusion which might interfere with sexual happiness as adults. The character of that protection varies from culture to culture, sometimes expressing itself in wonderous and mysterious ways; and still, the intent to regulate developing sexuality seems universal amongst all cultures, including those which tolerate sexual behavior nominally abhorrent to western european sensibilities, such as child prostitution. – in Bend, OR

In reference to your “Yeah ‘RIGHT’!” comment in regards to the story on filtering out Internet pornography in Holland, Michigan [in which a mother claimed that “pornographic pictures started popping up on the screen” while on the library’s Internet] … Actually that just happened to me. I wanted to book a trip to Belize. Often when I don’t have the exact web address, I guess the site name. Type in the address and tell me what you see. – in Plano