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Posts Tagged ‘students’

Nothing special.

This is probably one of the more inspirational things you could read.  A teacher that tells the students that they are NOT special.  They have to DO excellent to BE excellent. Students may not have gotten a warm fuzzy tummy rub but they got what they needed to hear – let’s hope they heard it.

Wellesley High School (Wellesley, MA) English teacher David McCullough, Jr.’s faculty speech to the Class of 2012:

Dr. Wong, Dr. Keough, Mrs. Novogroski, Ms. Curran, members of the board of education, family and friends of the graduates, ladies and gentlemen of the Wellesley High School class of 2012, for the privilege of speaking to you this afternoon, I am honored and grateful.  Thank you.            So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony.  (And don’t say, “What about weddings?”  Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective.  Weddings are bride-centric pageantry.  Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there.  No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession.  No being given away.  No identity-changing pronouncement.  And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos?  Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy.  Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator.  And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced.  A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East.  The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)

            But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time.  From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school, you and your diploma as one, ‘til death do you part.

            No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism.  Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue.  Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field.  That matters.  That says something.  And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all.  Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same.  And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.

            All of this is as it should be, because none of you is special.

            You are not special.  You are not exceptional.

            Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special. 

            Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped.  Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again.  You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored.  You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie.  Yes, you have.  And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs.  Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet.  Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman!  And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

            But do not get the idea you’re anything special.  Because you’re not.

            The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore.  Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns.  Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools.  That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs.  But why limit ourselves to high school?  After all, you’re leaving it.  So think about this: even if you’re one in a million, on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you.  Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by.  And consider for a moment the bigger picture: your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe.  In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it.  Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although that hair is quite a phenomenon.

            “But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me I’m my own version of perfection!  Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!”  And I don’t disagree.  So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus.  You see, if everyone is special, then no one is.  If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless.  In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality — we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement.  We have come to see them as the point — and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole.  No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it…  Now it’s “So what does this get me?”  As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors, and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans.  It’s an epidemic — and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement.  And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.”  I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition.  But the phrase defies logic.  By definition there can be only one best.  You’re it or you’re not.

            If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for, rather than material advantage, the exhilaration of learning.  You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness.  (Second is ice cream…  just an fyi)  I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning.  It’s where you go from here that matters.

            As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance.  Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison.  Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction.  Be worthy of your advantages.  And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect.  Read as a nourishing staple of life.  Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it.  Dream big.  Work hard.  Think for yourself.  Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might.  And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations, and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.

            The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer.  You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, “pursuit”–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube.  The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life.  Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow.  The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil.  Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem.  The point is the same: get busy, have at it.  Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you.  Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands.  (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life.  Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)

            None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence.  Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct.  It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things.  Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view.  Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you.  Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly.  Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them.  And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.  The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.

            Because everyone is.

            Congratulations.  Good luck.  Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.

                                                                                    David McCullough

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Ferd Limpy turns 18 at the end of this month. While finishing high school and playing Ultimate Pocket Pool on weekends, he’s also suing the federal government in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

The Hellhole Palms, California, teen and four other juvenile plaintiffs want government officials to do more to prevent the risks of climate change — the dangerous storms, heat waves, rising sea levels, and food-supply disruptions that scientists warn will threaten their generation absent a major turnabout in global energy policy. Specifically, the students are demanding that the U.S. government start reducing national emissions of carbon dioxide by at least six percent per year beginning in 2013 and provide immunity from potential punishments for “Senior Skip Day” at HP High.

“I think a lot of young people realize that this is an urgent time, and that we’re not going to solve this problem just by riding our bikes more,” Limpy said between deep swallows from his mother’s breast.

Limpy drifted off to sleep in his mother’s lap, punctuating the moment with a loud fart and a deceptively small burp.  For lack of anything relevant to say, Mrs. Limpy stated that he and she needed some more “bonding time” because her baby was so stressed out by his concern over daily temperature swings.

The interview was cut short when Mrs. Limpy was engrossed in changing Ferd’s Depends™, saying “This is SO much harder to do when he’s got wood.”   A follow-up interview was hastily not arranged.

Ok, seriously though… Nearly the same damn thing really did happen.  Only the nursing and diaper changing likely only happens emotionally.   The kid and his little friends really do care about the environment and are totally committed to it, which is kind of sad since they haven’t got enough real-life experience to even feel passionate about anything for real yet.  These kids are going to have an interesting time when they see the schism between college (basically “high school” extended by four more years at a much higher cost) and the real world, which isn’t going to really give a rat’s ass about the self-centered little brat and his frivolous lawsuits.

Apologies if that seemed a lot cynical.  I’m in a mood.

But this is serious stuff, really.

This Friday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Wilkins, an Obama appointee, will hear arguments on the defendants’ motion to dismiss the complaint.

[ The court is the United States District Court for the District of Columbia in case they didn’t see that important enough to mention, which they didn’t.  – LK ]

While skeptics may view the case as little more than a publicity stunt, its implications have been serious enough to attract the time and resources of major industry leaders. Last month, Judge. Wilkins granted a motion to intervene in the case by the National Association of Manufacturers, joined by Delta Construction Company, Dalton Trucking Inc., Southern California Contractors Association, and the California Dump Truck Owners Association.

“At issue is whether a small group of individuals and environmental organizations can dictate through private tort litigation the economic, energy, and environmental policies of the entire nation,” wrote National Association of Manufacturers spokesman Jeff Ostermeyer in an email. Granting the plaintiffs’ demands, he added, “would carry serious and immediate consequences for industrial and economic productivity — increasing manufacturing and transportation costs and decreasing global competitiveness.” The manufacturers’ legal brief says the restrictions being sought “could substantially eliminate the use of conventional energy in this country.” It also argues that the plaintiffs haven’t proved they have a legal right to sue.

Cruel Wife wondered if someone was *gasp* … using… these kids for their agenda.  Well, that just doesn’t seem right.  Let’s see here…  oh.  Oh.  Oh, ok.  Remember how I said the kids don’t really have enough life experience yet?  Well, apparently some see that as great, because it makes for tools that earnestly believe what they are saying, even if it is bullshit, and that really sells well.

While teenagers serve as the public face of the lawsuit, the idea itself came from Julia Olson, an attorney based in Eugene, Oregon. Olson founded an organization called Our Children’s Trust after watching the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Truth while she was seven months pregnant.

[snip]

Olson and other supporters of the suit believe that having kids as plaintiffs makes a particularly visceral appeal to adults to take action. Indeed, many of the adults involved said that their own children and grandchildren had inspired them. “Becoming a grandfather motivated me to speak out,” said climate scientist James Hansen, the director of the U.S. NASA Goddard Space Institute and the man who first brought Loorz and Olson together. Hansen, in his free time, is a conscientious objector to U.S. energy policy who has been arrested three times at peaceful protests.

In support of the children’s suit, Hansen has drawn up recommendations as to how the U.S. government can meet the greenhouse-gas reduction goals, through cuts in fossil-fuel-powered electricity and reforestation. “My talents are mainly in the sciences,” he said, “but it just became so clear that no one is doing anything to prevent what is becoming scientifically a very clear picture. I didn’t want my grandchildren to say that “Opa” (Dutch for “grandpa”) knew what was happening but didn’t do anything about it.”

There, SOYLENT GREEN, if you haven’t run with that tidbit (Hansen using kids to do his dirty work), would you, please?

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Being born-again linked to more brain atrophy.

Whoa.  Say that again?

Being born-again linked to more brain atrophy.

According to the study, people who said they were a “born-again” Protestant or Catholic, or conversely, those who had no religious affiliation, had more hippocampal shrinkage (or “atrophy”) compared to people who identified themselves as Protestants, but not born-again.

The study is published online in PLoS ONE.

Oh, well, then.  We all know PLoS ONE is a fine upstanding… newspaper?  Magazine?  Proceeding?  Flyer?  Writing on a bathroom wall?

Well it must be valid research because after all, they published it, right?

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NY Times is pretty picky about what they leak.  If it is about global warming, they keep it under wraps.

But if it is about intelligence operatives undercover who are protecting our troops, they publish it, damn the consequences because the public has a right to know.

Global Warming though, that’s serious and can’t be released.

God-damned liberals.

Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard said this LAST YEAR…

This is the position of the New York Times when given the chance to publish sensitive information that might hinder the liberal agenda. Of course, when the choice is between publishing classified information that might endanger the lives of U.S. troops in the field or intelligence programs vital to national security, that information is published without hesitation by the nation’s paper of record. But in this case — the documents were “never intended for the public eye,” so the New York Times will take a pass.

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Looking at stuff on Drudge.  The first one is fascinating.   The item called “Coincidence?”… gee, no kidding?

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Ok, some students got ahold of some documents after a tip that staff were shredding documents.

I don’t mind whistleblowers if two conditions are met:  1) something was done that was wrong/illegal, and 2) they are honest and truthful.

A document fished out of a California state university trash bin last week has prompted a state investigation into the university’s foundation arm and its refusal to disclose details related to Sarah Palin’s upcoming speech at the school.

[snip]Brown’s investigation was prompted, in part, by a group of CSU Stanislaus students who retrieved five pages of the contract from a campus trash bin last Friday after hearing administrators were engaged in shredding documents.

So why hasn’t the AP asked the obvious question?  The obvious question is – how is it that they managed to find (supposedly) damning documents about Sarah Palin’s contract to make a speech there IF THEY WERE TIPPED OFF ABOUT DOCUMENT SHREDDING?  If someone was shredding documents they wouldn’t have put those out there in unshredded form.

Regarding the excerpt of Palin’s contract, [Russell Giambelluca, the university’s vice president of business and finance] said: “I find it interesting that among shredded documents you find one that’s completely intact related to the contract.”

Good observation!

Alicia Lewis, 26, was one of the students who went to investigate. The building was locked and gated, but the students were able to retrieve piles of paperwork, including the contract document, from a nearby trash bin, Lewis said.

[snip]

Lewis and another student, Ashli Briggs, traveled to Sacramento Tuesday to give Brown office material they said had been thrown out, including two boxes of documents and two trash bags filled with shredded files.

“This is our little Watergate in the state of California,” [state Sen. Leland Yee] said Tuesday.

It sure is your little Watergate – except you did the breaking and entering you idiots.  I won’t buy for a second that you found the documents intact in a pile of other shredded documents.

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Pr0n for the blind… surprised it took so long, actually.

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Time to institute punishment such as caning.

Villalobos is accused of repeatedly flashing a green laser light at National Guard Air 1 helicopter, which blinded the pilot causing him difficulty in flying the air craft.

On the ground, a Camden police unit responded to the corner of Alabama Road and Congress Road and located Villalobos sitting inside a red Dodge minivan. Police approached Villalobos, who admitted to being the person flashing the laser light at the helicopter, saying that he thought it had been a news helicopter.

Oh, well that would have been ok, then.

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