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Happy Give Your Loved Ones Chocolate Day
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Happy Valentine's Day! If you need something to read, go on over and read Marissa's story, Speed Dating. It made me smile. And I swear, I think my sister actually met those guys the one time she tried speed dating. (Stephanie can tell dating stories that will stand your hair on end.)

We're having a very low key holiday today. Daniel's trying to finish up a short story, and I'm trying to get the study organized. So far I've got my filing cabinet set up, and I'm cleaning out my old files and making new ones. I'm managing to curb my packrat nature sufficiently to throw out quite a bit of stuff, though I'm still keeping some fairly odd things. (I've kept all the service records for my totalled car. I can't think of a single reason why these would ever be useful, but they're not taking up a lot of space, or getting in the way of my being able to find other stuff, so I'm keeping them.)

I also came across a few sheets of scrawled notes and things from back when I was doing career research, trying to decide what I wanted to do after grad school. I had a page of scribbled notes on technical writing, noting that the major downsides of the job were:

  • Risk of repetitive stress injuries

  • Deadline stress

  • ISO 9000 paperwork

I had to laugh, because on the one hand, having just done a bunch of ISO 9000 paperwork last week, I can attest that it does suck. (Mostly because you never seem to have all the forms you need. I joked to a coworker that it's called ISO because you're constantly In Search Of another damn piece of paper.) On the other hand, if that's the worst I'm likely to encounter...

I've been meaning to answer Marissa's question a couple of days ago about omissions and outright lies in one's education, but honestly, I hardly know where to begin. Like most people, I was allowed to reach an unconscionably late age still believeing that most people thought the Earth was flat prior to Columbus. (A particularly irritating falsehood, because it's so easy to disprove - just go and read Dante's Inferno, and you'll see that though Dante had a great many misconceptions about geography, he placed all of them on a spherical Earth.)

The worst subject for most of my pre-college school years seems to have been history. This is maybe understandable -- there's a lot of history, and almost none of it is simple, and the temptation to reach for easy half truths is strong. The curriculum was also tremendously spotty - thanks to my moving from one side of the country to the other halfway through high school, I learned virtually nothing about anything that happened in Europe between 1500 and 1914, and very little about what happened in America after the Civil War. (These are gaps that I'm still slowly remedying with independent reading.)

I had a particularly bad history teacher in 9th grade - he was trying, but his real job was as the swim coach, and he really didn't have the background. He was, in retrospect, a remarkably good sport about all the times I was forced to correct him. Some examples: he asserted that all Catholics were supposed to complete all seven sacraments in their lives (I pointed out that two of them, marriage and holy orders, were generally considered to be mutually exclusive), he confused crossbows with trebuchets, and he was completely unable to pronounce "L'etat, c'est moi." Actually, those really quite minor, but my point is that he did that kind of thing all the time.

For the most part, I had quite good mathematics and English instruction. (Though in 10th grade English, we were encouraged far too much to think that literary analysis consisted primarily of identifying which character was "a Christ figure" -- and when you're reading The Red Badge of Courage and The Grapes of Wrath, this is like shooting fish in a barrell. On the whole, though, I really liked my 10th grade English teacher. She pushed me into reading Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury for one of my term papers, and after that I wasn't afraid of anything that I came across in later literature classes.)

After 10th grade, I moved to California, and found that I was hopelessly out of sync - the 11th grade English class I was placed in was going to be reading all the books I'd done in 10th grade English. They let me do an independent study that year - I got to pick books off a reading list, and read them and write essays about them. That was probably the best English class I ever had.

I still think most high school English classes do a really poor job of teaching most people to write well. I was lucky, in that I got to do more writing in my English classes than most people get to do, and I still think that if it hadn't been for my extensive reading, and for all the writing instruction my father gave me (he essentially critiqued every paper I turned in from 5th-9th grade), I'd be a much poorer writer.

As far as science education goes, middle school was a wasteland of poorly written text books, and more teachers who were really swimming coaches. (My "favorite" memory: reading in my 6th grade chemistry textbook that "polar substances dissolve polar substances, and non-polar substances dissolve non-polar substances." Okay, fine, but I looked through the entire book, and couldn't find any explanation of what a "polar" substance was. So I asked the teacher. He didn't know either, and had to go get the 10th grade chemistry teacher to give me an explanation. ) My high school science classes were pretty rockin', though, especially 9th grade biology, and 10th grade chemistry (where I had the same teacher who'd had to come to my 6th grade class to explain polar substances to me).

I dunno. I know I ought to be able to come up with more examples of appallingly stupid things that I was taught, particularly in middle school, but I seem to be suppressing those memories.

Ah, well. I think it's time to go putter around more with my files. Talk to ya later!

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