Amazon.com Widgets The Good Place (Michael L. Umphrey on gardening, teaching, and writing)

"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice. - Benedict Spinoza."

Beyond newspapers
     A changing narrative environment

Over the past couple of centuries, the morning paper has mostly replaced morning prayer as a way to get oriented at the start of a new day. Now, it appears, newspapers are themselves being abandoned, especially by young people.

“Life is not what one has lived, but what one remembers and how one chooses to tell it.” Gabriel García Márquez

Over the past couple of centuries, the morning paper has mostly replaced morning prayer as a way to get oriented at the start of a new day. Now, it appears, newspapers are themselves being abandoned, especially by young people.

Lots of reasons have been given by lots of people, but one that gets repeated often is that more and more people just don’t trust what they read in newspapers. According Jospeh Epstein writing in Commentary:

According to most studies of the question, journalists tend more and more to be regarded by Americans as unaccountable kibitzers whose self-appointed job is to spread dissension, increase pressure on everyone, make trouble—and preach the gospel of present-day liberalism.

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The Founders’ Constitution
     Text and background sources

The Founders’ Constitution includes the text of the Constitution with extensive links below each phrase or section that take you to full text sources for the ideas encoded or important commentary about them. Sources include such luminaries as John Locke and John Adams and James Kent.

This sort of website is important, and its greatest importance may not be for people in America or in this generation.


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Communications
     Chaos, anarchy and noise

A system is defined by the character of its communications. It might be fair to say it is its communications, which is one reason that within human systems bosses so often try to monitor and control what gets said.

The old game for people who wanted to make things better--the nation or the company or the town--was to publish whatever hypocrisy or dishonesty on the part of the leaders that could be ferreted out. It wasn’t rare for the bosses to pretend everything was fine when everything wasn’t. The people in charge too often ran things for their own benefit, so it seemed important to get more accurate and more timely information out there. Watergate.

Now in the age of talk radio, cable news and blogging we might more readily see the charms of slower and more decorous communication. We need to learn, I think, what to pay no attention to. What to forget. What not to say.


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Where is the public?
     Losing ownership of community schools

DeHavilland Associates reviews the The Public and Public Schools, by David Mathews. The book tells the story of how American communities lost control of their schools, and how this led to a loss of engagement in what goes on there.

According to Mathews, the rise of “scientific management” late in the 19th century led towns to delegate the management of their schools to professional administrators:

Unfortunately, as communities began to delegate responsibility for decisions about their schools, two things happened: first, communities became less engaged; and second, this new class of education administrators followed the course of any scientific profession. They began to develop their own thinking, their own jargon, etc. – their own community, in effect – and discouraged input from those (ie, the communities) that didn’t know as much as them.

This process has been advanced, not entirely intentionally, by advocates of reform through standards and accountability. Through NCLB and state programs triggered by it, more and more crucial decisions about school governance are made in state and national capitals, leaving local townspeople free mostly to react or comply.

It’s hardly surprising that all around us we now see grassroots attempts to find new ways of working that grow from real engagement between teachers and community members. 

On the one side I see long-faced functionaries with white papers, and on the other I see the passion and joy of getting somewhere.


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Sunday walk
     Getting on in the Mission Valley

Stepping outside under the night sky or walking within sight of the mountains always tinges my thoughts with a sense of liberation. There is so much more going on than my daily cares. Mircea Eliade argued that archaic people lived on two different planes: the sacred and the profane. Eliade believed that primitive peoples downplayed the chaotic and shifting plane of the ordinary things of the world and concerned themselves more with the transcendent, the sphere of order where things are eternal and full of reality. . .

image  imageThe Mission Valley is a beautiful place. Growing up at the foot of the Mission Range might bias one toward big thoughts, surrounded by natural imagery that furnishes the mind with ways to think about such concepts as “majesty” and “grandeur.”

I wonder what we are making of it. 

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