Control

I remember, as a kid in Lutheran catechism class, the following conversation:

Bob: “The Lord thy God is a jealous God” – but Reverend, what would God have to be jealous of? How could an all-powerful, all-knowing being be jealous of anything?

Reverend: “You need to memorize the material! So, please stop asking questions and just memorize the answers in the catechism.

I think now that was the moment I began to doubt that the church had anything to offer me. Later on I would learn about the fallacies used to win arguments and to shut off learning. [Check out the fallacies in the side bar.]

This morning I read two newspaper articles that reminded me of that long ago attempt by a figure of authority to shut me up. Both are from the USA. One from Texas. One from Florida. Both attacks on education and freedom.

From Florida:

Any resident in Florida can now challenge what kids learn in public schools, thanks to a new law that science education advocates worry will make it harder to teach evolution and climate change.

From Texas:

But here in Texas, the bigger battle over tree ordinances is whether they represent a form of local government overreach. Gov. Greg Abbott (R), citing grave worries about “socialistic” behavior in the state’s liberal cities, has called on Texas lawmakers to gather this month for a special session that will consider a host of bills aimed at curtailing local power on issues ranging from taxation to collecting union dues.


Censorship, the suppression of words, images, or ideas that are “offensive,” happens whenever some people succeed in imposing their personal political or moral values on others. Censorship can be carried out by the government as well as private pressure groups. 


Birds, Anyone?

Teaching in the Marshes: VIU’s Bird Banding Classroom

Presented by: Eric Demers, Biology

Learning happens everywhere at VIU, not just in the classroom. For faculty member Eric Demers and his volunteer students, learning is happening at West Buttertubs Marsh, early in the morning, before many of us are even out of bed. Eric is a member in VIU’s biology department and a bird bander. His passion for providing learning opportunities for students, along with his passion for birds, has turned into a rich co-curricular opportunity for students and the community.

From April-October, you can find Eric and his volunteers setting up nets, catching and banding songbirds, collecting data, and releasing them back into the sky, all at the break of dawn.

Eric and his students are inviting faculty, staff, students, and anyone else who would like to join to visit his bird banding station on Thursday, May 25th at 9am (map of meeting place to be provided).

This is a fantastic opportunity to come out and see first-hand the inspiring work being done by faculty and students here at VIU, or rather, just off-campus.

Eric and his students want to share this experience with as many people as they can, and contribute to the community’s understanding of birds and the ecosystems that exist right here in Nanaimo.

Wear good outdoor footwear. Bring binoculars if you have them. If you’re lucky, you might be able to release a bird yourself. Find out more about the project at their website: http://wordpress.viu.ca/viubirdbanding/

Date | Thursday, May 25

Time | 9:00 – 10:30 am

Location | Meet location to be sent to participants a few days prior

Questions | Kathleen.Bortolin@viu.ca | Curriculum, Teaching and Learning Specialist | Centre for Innovation and Excellence in Learning

May 25, 2017 – 9:00am to 10:30am

Facts

I hate to break it to you, gentle reader, but fake facts are nothing new. We are designed by evolution to invent fake facts, fervently believe in them, and even defend them to the death. Still, there is something about the current epidemic of fake facts that should scare us into action.

Imagine grading everything you ever said according to two criteria: 1) How well it corresponds to what’s actually out there, and 2) what it causes you and others to do. These can be called factual realism and practical realism, respectively, and they are so familiar that we use the word “realistic” in both senses without needing to think about it. If we’re at an art gallery and I comment on how a portrait is realistic, I mean that it corresponds closely to the person being depicted (factual realism). When you outline your latest get rich quick scheme over lunch and I call it unrealistic, I mean that it probably won’t work out well for you (practical realism). All of us are experts at toggling between factual realism mode and practical realism mode as warranted by the situation.

Read the essay at the source : The Evolution Institute.

SS: Letter from Japan #4

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Dear Bob,

I really love my small town. Paul expressed beautifully what I can’t quite yet; maybe never will here. I just like living in the atmosphere where it’s possible. My small-town love is really about the potential for interconnectedness and the vested interest the people have in getting along (since we’re all we’ve got). Feels like we’re on the same team. Against what? Meaninglessness, I suppose. I’m sure there are miserable, dysfunctional small towns just as there are people, but this pocket of Sasayama feels so cozy and safe to me. Don’t talk to me about dark underbellies right now.

And you know what, I’m done with professional boundaries. Or I’m lucky to be in the setting to be able to be done with them for now. I can’t even tell you what a relief it is to be able to speak to and spend time with my bosses as friends. That’s how it should be. Students and teachers should be friends too, if possible! It works better that way.

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So wholesome. And yes I know I missed an I and a comma and I feel terrible about it.

As a teacher I’m evolving. My standards are higher. Which means it’s harder work than I initially thought. The sheer variety of classes and the sole responsibility. The not really knowing if I’m doing well, so I just keep trying and erring.  At least I have control. There’s just one class I have completely lost control over though – my littlest kids. That I know is a certain hell because I stop breathing and float above my body for the duration. They’re so far gone. But at least they’re contained. And at least they serve the purpose of keeping me from getting too comfortable. Ah, I long for the day when I am both comfortable and not a shit teacher. And don’t have to control. Possible?

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Anyway, I got my first earned break since I arrived, which I made an excellent time of just driving around with a vague sense of direction (the edges), sleeping in my car and following the attraction signs (which were all in English!). Basically how I live my life. No plan = no expectation = surprise!

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Surprise! I rode a camel?!

 

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Surprise!  I got locked in a weird amusement park because no staff would talk to me to tell me they were closing?!

 

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Surprise! To the old man whose house I thought was a coffeeshop. He still made me coffee (spy it)

 

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SURPRISE!

I seriously love Japan. I made careful not to say it until I was sure, but I felt it from the start and it has only been confirmed. It’s surprising how normal everything feels even though each day brings some new sight or situation that is so absurd if I think of it from Canada. It makes me reconsider what normal even is. That which doesn’t provoke a big reaction from the surroundings? So then my presence here is normal. It does indeed seem that way. Besides the amusement park diffusion of responsibility, people don’t avoid engaging with me if they can’t speak English (which is funny), nor do they come up to me to practice (like in Korea…which was funny too).  It’s nice! Until I remember the Japanese tendency to hide their true feelings for the other person’s sake. Well, that’s nice too I guess. For now.

Language learning is slow but sure. It’s interesting to discover two distinct concepts in English that are the same in Japanese. Like “clean” and “beautiful” (kirei) and “early” and “fast” (haiai), “good night” and “break” (oyasumi). And common words that mean opposite things depending on the context.  Like chotto, one of the first ones you pick up on from hearing it all the time and learning chotto matte (“wait a moment”). In most contexts it means “a little” or “a bit” or “slightly”, but in others it means the exact opposite; “fairly” or “very”. It also can mean “indeed” or “inconvenient”. Also very common is betsu ni. The word itself means “in particular”, but it’s used to mean the exact opposite. “Nothing in particular” or “nothing special”, or just “nothing”  The whole reason it’s negative is because it’s abbreviated from betsu ni nani mo – “nani mo” being part that actually means “nothing”. Augh. And there’s yabei which is an exclamation to mean “Super cool” or “crazy/insane”, but in one case my student said it to me while saying an emotional goodbye on her last class, and when I asked why she just said “big feeling”

But it’s it interesting that once you learn the contexts, you get it. Like, I get kirei; something that can be classified as both clean and pretty. Never thought of it before. Never had to! These are not new concepts a foreigner can’t possibly grasp. It’s not that they don’t exist without the language, either. We just don’t think of it. The potential is there and we could understand it if we were shown how.  It’s so interesting! I want to learn faster/earlier!

By the way, the word for “foreigner” was originally gaijin, which means “outside person” but Japanese thought it sounded rude so they changed it to gaikokojin, meaning “outside country person”.  That’s nice!

I’m still working on being alone. Without intimacy, I mean. It’s not that it’s lonely, it’s just kind of neutral. Actual joy is only ever experienced when other people are closely involved (so too along the other end of the continuum – that’s the deal). I often feel like the kid from Into the Wild, except not so stubborn that I have to be dying to come to the conclusion that happiness is only real when shared.

When I left Canada, it was in the midst of some of the best relationships I have ever had. I made sure they connected before I left, and so it was just becoming a network. I was so happy. But here I am so happy in a different way that I’m not sure I can get back there. Best of both worlds, kudesai!