My Daughter is a Smrt-ss

Der Reder,

I cn’t use the letter. It’s mking me relly upset. So now your job is to find…

Yesterday my daughter participated in Vanderbilt’s WAVU program. She took a creative writing course. One of the exercises she was assigned was to write a brief letter, but she could not use any words that contained the letter “A.” So naturally she wrote this: Evernote Snapshot 20170304 193239.png

Der Reder,

I cn’t use the letter. It’s mking me relly upset. So now your job is to find out wht letter I’m not using. It should be reltively esy. nywho, I’m smrtlic so of course I was [sic] gonn do something like this. I’m lwys finding loopholes. Who sid it had to be rel words.

This is what I’m up against people.

Every. Dy.

Reflections on the Wise Words of Cartman


Last summer a friend of mine from work laminated this for me. It sits behind my office desk now, and I try to look at it everyday. It’s been nearly a decade since I watched South Park. (I have less of a stomach for raunchiness now.) But the episode from which this quotation was taken has stuck with me. Cartman decides he will take it upon himself to enforce traffic laws, and when he feels people are not showing him proper deference, he starts hitting them in the shins with his nightstick.

Why do I keep this poster by my desk? To remind me of this… Continue reading “Reflections on the Wise Words of Cartman”

Freelance Educational Consulting

The other morning I got up to write, but I ended up spending 90 minutes helping a friend write instructions to his students for a class project. It was a complicated game he brilliantly called Leviathan. We had been hashing out parts of it over the past few weeks. He wanted a kind of simulation that would help his students think more critically about the writings of Thomas Hobbes (the war of all against all, and all that). The idea we worked out riffed on a popular camp game called “Assassins,” but with lots of complicated rules intended to keep the students engaged and the professor (my friend) out of trouble (rules that involved not making university officials ask questions). I ended up having a lot of fun thinking about this thing off and on over the past few weeks, and then in the 90 minutes it took me to try to make the rules of a pedagogical LARP into something his students could understand easily.  Continue reading “Freelance Educational Consulting”

Rescinding Letters of Recommendation

I came across an article in Inside Hire Ed that tells of a teacher who was suspended for revoking a letter of recommendation she had written for a student. The young man in question had displayed a swastika in his school. The article deals with the ethics of rescinding a recommendation from the perspective of its impact on the student. This seems wrongheaded to me. What they need to be thinking about is the impact that recommendation would have on the teacher.  Continue reading “Rescinding Letters of Recommendation”

What the Hell is Happening???

I woke up this morning to find that the Trump administration had fired Sally Yates, the acting Attorney General, because she refused to defend his refugee ban in court. Screw the independent judiciary.

Two days ago I learned that the Department of Homeland security was defying court stays of Trump’s executive order banning refugees.

A few days before that I saw a rich white woman talk about the threat of bear attacks in schools, and today she is poised to be approved by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions later today.

Oh! And did I mention that a white nationalist with no experience in national security is now sitting in on every National Security Council meeting?

The past few days have convinced me more than ever before of two things.

  1. Americans desperately need to revive a liberal arts education. Focusing on education as a means to earn an income has left us bereft of critical thinking skills or the kind of historical knowledge that would help more people to recognize the serious danger Trump poses to democracy.
  2. American Christianity is bankrupt. The fact that many good, church-going people voted for this man, even though they had serious misgivings about him, proves that far too many Christians do not know the difference between being a disciple of Jesus Christ and being a Republican.

I have never felt closer to principled conservatives than I do today. I desperately need them to step up, which they are beginning to do. The conservative public needs their leadership.

I have hope for Bob Corker, my senator from Tennessee, if for no other reason than that he has always struck me as a decent and reasonable human being.

There is political opportunity to be had here as well. The first Republican senator to hold a news conference denouncing Trump’s demagoguery will be the next GOP presidential frontrunner. Assuming we make it that long.

#NoBanNoWall Protest

This afternoon I took two of my three children to the protest outside senator Bob Corker’s office. If you’ve been living under a rock, Trump recently blocked refugees and legal residents from five mostly Muslim countries (where he does not hold business interests) from entering the country.

I honestly did not expect Trump to make such a bigoted move so quickly. Nor did I think he would pull it off as badly as he did. Especially worrisome is that he now appears to be snubbing his nose at a court stay of the president’s executive order. That is a serious danger to democracy, folks.

So I turned out to protest. It is one thing I could do. I know enough history to know that first a dictator gets democratically elected and then he dismantles the checks against his power. Of course, this has been underway for years. Greater power has shifted to the executive branch over the past few decades. No leader should be capable of something like this without congressional approval.

I brought my kids because it is important for them to understand what we value as a family. Today was a history lesson. It was a lesson in the past and an expression of our conviction never to repeat it. It is a cliché, but it is true, that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Well, in our family, nothing is not an option.

Vladimir Solovyov on the Tower of Babel

I have been working through Vladimir Solovyov’s Justification of the Good and wanted to get your thoughts on an interesting passage. Solovyov is great at making clever arguments, and this one about the Tower of Babel struck me as particularly clever.  Continue reading “Vladimir Solovyov on the Tower of Babel”