Anakin Skywalker: “I’d much rather dream of Padme. Just being around her again is… intoxicating.”
Obi-Wan Kenobi: ”Be mindful of your thoughts, Anakin, they betray you.”
Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones
So this update that is long too over-due.
Padawan Learner had a fabulous time on Cataline Island despite – I am told – wanting to kill off many of the people in his group on a regular basis. What can I say, he’s not much of a group tour kind of guy. Apparently not shutting your trap even occassionally is a guaranteed excellent way to get on his Dark Side. I don’t know where he gets that from. The island itself was fairly amazing I’m told with dark, dark skies perfect for star-gazing, crystal-clear lagoons for snorkeling, and complete hillsides just begging for some invasive species removal. He was such a monster at this task that he earned a special badge for his efforts. And to think he used to argue with me about pulling weeds back in our Michigan flower beds.
View from camp. Rough, huh?
An invasive species' worst nightmare
The ropes course
The class was also privy to a behind the scenes Physics of Roller Coasters program at DisneyLand the day before their return home. I am told it was fascinating and also that it also reinforced his previous memory of NOT being a fan of roller coasters in general.
A fun end to a great week
Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.
Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.
Luke: Then my father is truly dead.
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
So this weekend we didn’t hide eggs for Padawan Learner like we usually do. We didn’t get together with family like we have in the past – that whole distance thing. We didn’t gork out in a sugar-induced coma from dawn to dusk, like could reasonably have been expected. (A bit of chocolate and jelly beans – courtesy of my mother – did make its way into our bellies though.)
Instead, we went to a conference. A really good conference. A conference right here in downtown Des Moines. We went to the American Atheist national conference, and it was great. There were a few protesters, but not many, and it didn’t get nasty. No one was converted, on either side. A few dribbled inside to drill the people sitting at informational booths during the lecture periods, but they leaked away when their arguments failed to impress and no ire was raised.
Speakers of all stripes talked about some specifically religious issues, some legal issues regarding separation of church and state cases, the hidden diversity of atheists and why some people have a harder time “coming out” as an atheist (hint: fear of losing jobs, friends, and family), a science biography for a theoretical physicist, a discussion of “The Family” on C-Street in Washington, D.C. that had Dad Windu shaking when it was over, and much more. It was, perhaps, a bit of an unexpected weekend but, as always, it was nice to meet other like-minded people and spend some time together as a couple. (PL spent much of the weekend hanging out in the audience with a blob of other teens that attended.)
What does the quote up there have to do with it? That’s what atheists are often accused of: “hating” a god, religion, the religious – of being in general hateful. I can’t speak for every atheist, but that isn’t what it is for me or my family. Yes, we are angry at times about things that are done in the name of a deity, for the way that people look down on us for not believing in their or even just “some” higher power, and that we are statistically the most despised and mistrusted group of people in America (who wouldn’t be a little ticked about that?), but really it’s just about us trying – like everyone else – to make sense of this world and our place in it. We believe that life, meaning, purpose, and all the rest can be explained – yes, even best explained – without invoking the role of the supernatural. Hate me for it if you will, but that’s part of who we are.
Princess Leia: “Han!”
Han Solo: “Yes, Your Highnessness?”
Princess Leia: “I thought you decided to stay.”
Han Solo: “Well, the bounty hunter we ran into on Ord Mantell changed my mind.”
Star Wars V: The Empire Strikes Back
With apologies to the people who have already seen this on Facebook…
I did it. I signed Padawan Learner up for classes at a local high school last week.
Despite the fact that he had – for years – said that he never wanted to set foot inside a school again, PL decided that classes on environmental sustainability and Italian sounded too good not to attend. Despite the fact that he’s a confirmed night owl, he chose to take a class that starts at 7:55 am. Choice makes all the difference in the end, doesn’t it?
On days that he has school, his day will end at 2:15 pm - those will be every other school day – with a 2 hr study/lunch period in between the two classes. He also wanted to take an intro art class, but it had a waiting list of 40 students so he couldn’t add it this time – maybe next year. So I guess we’re about to join the ranks of tied-to-the-school-year families now. (We’ve even bought a few school supplies to get him through his first few days: a 1″ binder for each class, an insulated lunch box, a water bottle, and mechanical pencils. We already have a ton of paper and pens.)
About two hours after I signed him up, I had to point out the inconsistency of taking a class in environmental sustainability and leaving the deck slider door open when it is about a billion degrees outside and the AC is running.
“I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.” – Luke Skywalker, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
Fellow homeschooler M-T’s Mom and I are taking a van full of kids to a science and engineering career expo today. This is a huge expo, with kids coming from around the state; last year over 15,000 kids showed up. Our group is pretty excited about seeing all the displays and the demonstrations. I’m sure it’ll be worth the five hours that we’re going to be trapped in a moving box. Thankfully, I won’t be the one driving.
One of the big draws for me is that Dad Windu’s alma mater is putting it on and they don’t do anything halfway. The careers that they’ll be emphasizing are robotics, space exploration and travel, and special effects for the movie industry because, let’s be honest, those are the fields that are sexiest to most 13-18 year olds. But there’ll be a good number of “regular” science and engineering careers represented as well. I’m looking forward to seeing if anyone tries to make the waste water treatment process hip and exciting.
“I have something here for you. Your father wanted you to have this when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it. He feared you might follow old Obi-Wan on some damn fool idealistic crusade like your father did.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
So, to avoid any confusion about the real purpose of an education, Chancellor Michelle Rhee, the Mayor of D.C. and (no surprise here) an economist from show.me.the.money Harvard… The schools of Washington, D.C. have replaced the idea of education being its own reward with a paycheck. “Here, kid, here’s a dollar. Now shut up and learn.”
A little background music before you call me elitist: I grew up poor. Sometimes quite seriously poor. Didn’t always know if we were going to be eating tonight poor. So, no, I didn’t grow up financially “privileged”. I did, however, grow up knowing what real education was – inquisitive, ever present, alive, essential. It was shown daily in my equally poor school district from grades K-9 and from my mom. (Grades 10-12 were at a different school district and were absolutely dismal.) So, yes, I was privileged in that sense. I had the chance to learn early on that learning is what gives the world color, meaning and joy. Money, of which few of us had any, was considered nice, even admitted to be essential for the basics, but limiting. Yes, limiting. Trapping. Confining. Unless put under your own firm control, so as not to begin controlling you and your own desires.
I went on to a good state university and earned (and simultaneously earned the money to pay for) two advanced degrees. After a decade or so in the rehabilitation world, I currently earn $0 an hour. I teach for no paycheck, but the fringe benefits are fabulous. I still, decades later, absolutely love to learn: about everything, all the time. I live for the moments that I see Padawan Learner really digging into something, lapping up details and waking up talking about books he wants to get from the library. Mythbusters, the History Channel, and Wallace and Grommit have all been springboards into new worlds. Timelines, geometry and even diagraming sentences have all spilled over into new understanding and growth. These are not things he learns because of the dollar value attached to them. The three of us are considered middle class. Dad Windu has a profession and makes a fair wage, but money is still considered a tool, not a goal, to me.
Education is, ultimately, never about our earning potential, but about OUR learning potential.
HT to Chris at Odonnell Web for putting this up today.