Norm (of the infamous vickyandnorm clan), defends his Ph.D. thesis tomorrow, and then graduates from UConn on Saturday.
Not to belittle the professions (doctors, dentists, and lawyers), but a Ph.D. is the highest academic agree awarded for original research. (True, M.D.s spend years in school, but it is technical training, and usually does not involve original research.) We’ve already got one Ph.D in the group, Doctor rmstraus, and I am exceedingly eager to welcome our second, when this weekend, Norm will officially change his first name from “Norm” to “Doctor Norm”.
I must be perfectly honest and admit that I am fearfully envious of both Norm and Ryane. I have often dreamed about going back to school and getting a Ph.D. in some subject that fascinates me. Alas, there are too many subjects to choose from (astronomy, computer science, history, and physics to name just a few), and too little time. And besides, I have grown use to my lifestyle and it would be incredibly difficult to change things now. I’ve had some achievements of which I have been proud (graduating from college, getting my pilot’s license, selling a science fiction story) but getting a Ph.D. makes these achievements pale in comparison in my mind. I am exceedingly lucky to have such hyper-talented friends and I am thrilled for Norm and I wish him the best of luck on his defense tomorrow, although I’m certain he doesn’t need it.
I don’t follow the gossips shows much, but I came across this item this morning, regarding Sherri Shepherd of the TV gossip program, The View. Apparently, earlier in the year, Ms. Shepherd created quiet a stir when she said she didn’t know if the earth was round or flat. Earlier this week, she created another stir when she argued that nothing predated Christians, insisting there were Christians around in ancient Athens.
Anyone who has ever watched a sailboat sink over the horizon has a pretty good idea that the earth is not flat–to say nothing of the millions of people who have satellite TV.
Is our education system really failing us so much that someone can be uncertain of the shape of the earth and not realize that the ancient Greeks were around before the Romans and they in turn were around long before Jesus was born?
UPDATE: I was curious as to what people were saying about Sherri’s comments so I checked out her website. If your bored, take a look at this discussion.
Yes, I am referring to our nation. Anyone who says that our freedoms are not shrinking daily is either deranged or so completely out of touch with reality that they might as well be deranged. It’s always the little things that bug me the most because they are insipid. When seemingly harmless activities are banned, you know big trouble is just around the corner.
Take for example, the ban on hugging at an Illinois middle school.
Yes, you read that right. A ban on hugging.
Why? Two reasons are given: (1) hug lines were forming outside hallways and students were late to class; (2) hugging students are sometimes too close to one another and it can be deemed inappropriate.
So it seems that we really are a nation of cowards, when something as innocuous as 6th graders hugging scares us so badly that we ban it. Consider what’s been banned from schools since I was in middle school: many schools have uniforms because teachers and parents are afraid of students whose clothing stands outs. Schools have banned baseball caps because they are afraid of gang affiliations. Schools have banned cell phone use because, like China and Myanmar, they are afraid of what might happen to students if they are influenced by the outside world. Some schools still ban books because they are afraid of what students might read. I say this without any hyperbole: schools will soon be banning thought.
There is a solution to all of this and that is to teach. Teach students about appropriate behavior and where to draw the line. Teach students about respect for others. Teach students why some books are deemed more risque than others. Teach students about sex and take the mystery away. Teach students about drugs and why they are bad. Teach, teach, teach. There is a reason why teaching is one of the noblest professions. Teachers who teach are brave.
But we live in a nation of cowards. Cowardly principals, cowardly school boards, cowardly parents, and yes, cowardly students.
And it damn near breaks my heart.
For those who follow these things, there has been much chatter about s.f. writer Charles Stross‘s blog essay in which argues why he thinks we will never colonize space. He has some good arguments, but I’ve been somewhat disappointed that no one has taken up the other side of the debate. And then I saw today’s Washington Post Parade magazine which contained an essay by Neil deGrasse Tyson called “Why America Needs to Explore Space“. It’s not exactly a rebuttal of Stross’s essay, but it is a good, well-thought argument for why we need to continue exploring space. The most frequently made argument against this is that we have too many problems to solve down here; here is where we should be spending our money. As Tyson points out, we do. 99 cents out of every tax dollar goes to programs other than the space program. Less than a penny goes to space. Even at the height of the Apollo missions, American’s were paying 4 cents of every tax dollar to the space program.
Education columnist Jay Mathews has a novel idea to eliminate homework in grade school in place of an hour of reading each day. Apparently, studies show that prior to junior high school, homework assignments in grade school do little to improve learning or test scores. Attempting to make reading a habit–rather than a chore–during these early years might just lead to other improvements in education down the road. I like the idea, but apparently, there are some parents that would be unhappy with this. I would mean that they would actually have to read to their children.
So much for what I said I was going to do today. I didn’t go downtown, didn’t even do much reading. I sat at home, ordered a pizza (bad idea!), watched a movie, did some quick grocery shopping, and then eventually, watched more TV. Ugh! I feel lazy!
As my Grandpa would say, Oh boy!