Friday, June 29, 2007

And because this is an auspicious day....

My blog must record the debut of this item. My family will not be home during the dinner hour tonight.

And this NYTimes video is worth the 5 minutes plus to view.

Supreme Court Decision: Race should not be a factor

WASHINGTON, June 28 — With competing blocs of justices claiming the mantle of Brown v. Board of Education, a bitterly divided Supreme Court declared Thursday that public school systems cannot seek to achieve or maintain integration through measures that take explicit account of a student’s race.

Voting 5 to 4, the court, in an opinion by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., invalidated programs in Seattle and metropolitan Louisville, Ky., that sought to maintain school-by-school diversity by limiting transfers on the basis of race or using race as a “tiebreaker” for admission to particular schools.

Both programs had been upheld by lower federal courts and were similar to plans in place in hundreds of school districts around the country. Chief Justice Roberts said such programs were “directed only to racial balance, pure and simple,” a goal he said was forbidden by the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” he said. His side of the debate, the chief justice said, was “more faithful to the heritage of Brown,” the landmark 1954 decision that declared school segregation unconstitutional. “When it comes to using race to assign children to schools, history will be heard,” he said.

The decision came on the final day of the court’s 2006-7 term, which showed an energized conservative majority in control across many areas of the court’s jurisprudence.
Read more.

What do you think about this decision? I found the use of Brown v. the Board of Education surprising as a justification for this ruling. My chief concern is the possibility of resegregation (we already have that essentially in Cincinnati through white flight).

On the other hand, I understand a parent's desire to determine where her child goes to school. So what I find difficult is that usually the reason a parent wants a child to transfer from one school to another is based on the quality of the school. While schools vary in their tax bases, you will always have parents who are unhappy with poorly run schools and who want to transfer to better schools. If this leads to a renewed racial split, is that acceptable to us as a society?

Roberts' comment that the way to stop discriminating based on race is to stop discriminating based on race struck me as oddly placed. Discrimination is the deliberate effort to prevent one race from having similar rights, privileges and opportunities as the other race. This ruling (it appears to me) no longer guarantees those to everyone, but allows for a silent, invisible creeping discrimination that comes through accommodating our impulses to stick to our own and to unconsciouly self-select our race when confronted with a choice.

A few years ago, a French woman on pomoxian yahoo list made the point that homeschooling was not democratic. That comment blew me away. What could be more democratic than the freedom to choose any educational style a parent felt suited his or her child? She retorted that if the educational choice I made depended on a certain income level, a mother who could stay at home, and allowed me to withdraw my bright, happy, stable children from the public school system, we were undermining the corporate whole of education in America. We would have better educated children (or worse) and the community would suffer. Democracy (as she described it) did not mean freedom of choice, but equality of opportunity (all citizens deserve the same opportunities wrt education, particularly since children cannot choose for themselves).

I don't know if I agree with her entirely, but her points made me rethink what I understood about *my* choices. Democracy needs to protect me not just from tyranny of the majority or the government, but also the subtle tyrannies of my own prejudices and discomforts in order for a pluralistic society to thrive. It is not democratic, in other words, for us to retreat into tribalism just because we can or want to.... if that is what will happen.

A few weeks ago, the news in our county featured a story that the tax structure for public education is being changed in Ohio so that inner city schools (with broken windows, no computers and no A/C) will get more money and schools out where I live (with state of the art computers, new band equipment for the trip to the Rose Parade, and professional quality theater productions) will get less. One of my friends was outraged. Her comment? "We earned that money and the inner city people are irresponsible. They'll waste it. I know these families. They come into the ER where I work. They wouldn't even know what to do with more money. And our programs will suffer."

All of these thoughts were swirling in my head as I read the Supreme Court's decision this morning.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Thursday Thirteen

Stealing Ampersand's habit for a day.

#13: It rained, poured, deluged yesterday. It all started during final relaxation in yoga. Just as we lowered our stretched and twisted bodies to our mats, a sudden clap of thunder followed by a shudder of the building led to such a gushing of water, I couldn't concentrate on relaxing. All I wanted to do was to run out into the parking lot, dancing in the showers. We've had drought, so rain was welcome. Apparently Jo(e)'s neck of the woods got a similar downpour.

#12: Relaxed yogis all exited the YMCA into shin deep waters, drenching our cute yoga suits and sweatpants up to mid-calf.

#11: Speaking of yoga: My instructor is named Bevvy Sue. She has a Kentucky drawl. Now that's yoga-vangelical success.... all the way from India to the southern hills of Cincinnati.

#10: Last night was a make-up session for yoga. This instructor (Mary) believes. She uses Hindu words and reminds us to use the energy of the room, to send our thoughts out to the universe, to visualize our full creativity or productivity. She leads the room in chants of "Om" (which she tells us we don't have to participate in if it makes us uncomfortable... a midwestern accommodation, I'm certain). I wondered how this teacher came upon yoga at all (this ain't San Diego), and why she had accepted all the various aspects of its promises, and how she did so without having to torture herself with Christian theological arguments (assuming she never was tortured). It occasionally dawns on me that some people will live entire lives utterly unconcerned with the claims of Christianity.

Somehow I missed that chance.

#9: So You Think You Can Dance is the best reality TV show I watch all year, even though it is also the most self-indulgent. What are they up to now? Like fifteen minutes of debriefing and mutual back-scratching in between every rumba and cha cha? Nigel, let the young ones dance! Enough jawing already.

#8: Was Gary Marshall drunk on this week's episode of "On the Lot"? How else to account for his inability to call contestants by their correct names, his assumption that Vietnamese and Korean are the same language, his inappropriate remarks about Adriana's dress and the blond sitting behind him? And don't get me started on Carrie Fisher. She's scary off script. They need a whole new judging crew or that show will tank.

#7: We're painting two bedrooms at once. Ever done it? Here's how it works. You make a mess out of both rooms, then you keep moving stuff from one room to the next while you drip paint on carpet and comforters in between them. Easy.

#6: Tiger's a daddy and I never mentioned it on this blog. :)

#5: The Reds are in last place (good thing I'm not a fan).

#4: I only have 1198 emails in my in-box. I'm a beast. That's down from 2243 only a week ago.

#3: I don't understand why people (that huge mass of everyone else) don't support their assertions with real data. Grad school ruined me. I get really tired of speculation, supposition and the attempt to torque a writer you respect to a position you assume must be found in his text. And can we please stop all the generalizations? All of them.... :)

#2: I went to a church picnic on Sunday. I know. Me. The pastor took a photo and said, "This is to prove that you, Julie Bogart, attended a church picnic." Even more... it was fun. :) We played frisbee golf.

#1: I have so much work to get done that I only want to write blog posts instead.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A quick tally....

We will pay for a total of 20 years of college... over a 12 year period.

Look for hardwood floors in my house in the year 2019.

Can't we just text it out?

I remember the first cell phone commercial that promoted the idea of texting. I had the same reaction to that commercial that I had to the first Apple ad in the 70's promoting personal computers to be used at home. That idea will never fly.

Good thing no one consults me for the technological future.

To me, texting equalled a retreat into darkness. Telephones made people not present, present, through the ease of talking, voice, intonation and all that stuff that makes it feel like you have the person right with you. The only thing missing were visuals, which the Jetsons and Bell telephone assured us were just around the corner.

So what happened to the video phone?

It tumbled into outer "failed idea" darkness and instead, text messaging crawled from the murky depths... the next link in technological evolution.

But the middle aged among us all ask: why would someone go to the trouble of typing on tiny keys (with inscrutable letters), navigating the triple alphabet per button to convey what could be expressed in ten seconds directly, without waiting for a reply?

Apparently the answer to that question is: safe distance.

When we attended Johannah's orientation this last week, the leaders explained that this generation of freshmen is less confrontational than any they can remember. These kids avoid conflict and refuse to express what they need/want in person, directly, eye-to-eye. They've been raised in an era of diversity and tolerance and know that people with character ought not to judge. They know this not as a Sunday school lesson, but as the essential social rule that they must obey, or at least appear to obey.

Instant Messaging (first) and texting after it led to a way to communicate hard things: gossip, insults, praise, flirting, I love you, racism, homophobia, want to go out? and more. You could appear to be courteous, friendly, "not interested" and tolerant in person, but unleash that other side of self through typing. Somehow the dark side of each person's soul had an outlet... an accepted one that didn't tarnish your public reputation.

Addtionally, flirting became a much lower risk endeavor. Saving face, much easier.

Texting also led to communicating with lots of people at once. No more were you forced to keep going with one person on the other end of the phone, enduring the awkward silence, deciphering what that long pause meant. If the IM conversation with one person peetered out, you had four more cooking along to replace it. If the texter suddenly had to climb into that orthodontist's chair, three more conversations were still demanding your attention.

The OSU orientation leaders shared a story of an RA meeting with two disgruntled dorm mates who sat directly across from each other in the same room texting angry messages over roommate problems until the RA shouted: Stop! and required them to put down their phones and learn how to communicate what was bugging them in words, eye-to-eye. That's where it's gone. No one wants to appear angry in person. So they resort to texting instead.

There are rules in texting. When I asked Johannah to call me and closed with a period, she thought I was angry. I thought I was using proper punctuation. According to Johannah, periods mean you're bugged.

A greeting without an exclamation point means that you're in a blue mood.

Typing with misspellings has fallen into disrepute among upperclassmen in high school and college students. Abbreviations like "u r" and "LOL" are shunned because they're so junior high. These "near adults" pride themselves on spelling properly (and all the English teachers cheered!).

College kids will not answer their phones even when they hear them ring and have nothing else to do, but will text you back in the middle of class, a date, during a movie or while driving(!).

And those camera phones! Johannah sends me photos when she shops for clothes to get my advice. Noah sends me photos of things that make him laugh. I send photos of the kids to Noah because he lives away.

I'm about the slowest text-er to ever inhabit a mother's body. But I'm committed. The best thing about texting that I can see is that it's instant and brief. If I need that moment-by-moment touch but haven't got time for a long conversation, texting fills the bill.

Seems the video phone will never emerge.

Texting and camera phones. If you invested way back when, I'll bet your rich. Next time you need technological foresight, ask me what I think, and do the opposite.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Rethinking what it means to homeschool

Jon and I trudged into the dusty parking lot of the mission headquarters in southern Spain in preparation for our week long missionary retreat. We mingled with seasoned missionaries and young families brand new to the field. Jon knew most of them, but I was the newbie... fresh out of college, eager for adventure and already fluent in French. Naturally, the missionary friends Jon had made while in the Peace Corps were eager to meet me, to see if I was "good enough" for Jon.

One of his friends, a good Baptist Reagan-supporter, cornered me before a mid-day meal.

"Julie, will you homeschool—you know, when you get married and have kids?"

I glanced at my left hand. No ring on my finger. I patted my belly. No babies growing inside. I looked up: "What's 'homeschool'?"

He proceeded to tell me about homeschooling which in his vision included pledging allegiance to a flag each morning next to the breakfast nook and filling out PACES (workbooks used by the pioneers of the fundamentalist homeschooling movement whose definition of evolution is "a myth propagated by scientists to disprove the truth of creationism."). By the end of his enthusiastic speech about the benefits of educating kids yourself, I responded: "Sure. I'll do it."

And so began my homeschool commitment, before I'd even said "Sure, I'll do it" to Jon.

We began homeschooling back when most people hadn't heard of it yet. My skeptical pediatrician regularly quizzed our kids during check-ups - random questions like "Spell Mississippi" and "What's 16 + 34 - 12?" After they'd fumble their way through, they'd ask about the posters on the wall showing the ear canal. They regaled him with the names of the various cavities (we studied the ear one year and built our own model) and he'd say, "Well, you're the first kids I've ever treated who even noticed the poster let alone were interested in it. I guess homeschooling must not be all bad." Uh, thanks, doc.

Over the years, more and more homeschoolers have joined the ranks of educational non-conformists. I've honed and refined my philosophy. We never did wear button down shirts nor pledge any allegiance to flags or books or Republican presidents or creationism. The main focus I had was to give my kids a chance to be kids - to explore interests that mattered to them, trusting that as they did, more than sufficient educational opportunities would present themselves. I nurtured those little flames of mania with supplementary materials, I suggested and presented rich, meaty liberal arts curricula and outings, and we spent enough time on math to not tank on the standardized testing.

By high school, we were into a blend of parttime public education, homeschool co-ops, private tutors and moi. Jon joined in to help with literature.

So for me, the real point of home education has been education.

Somehow not everyone got that memo.

There are a surprising number of homeschoolers I know who don't intend to pay for their kids to go to college. They expect them to pay for the whole thing. After all the hard work of educating them K through 12, they abandon them at adulthood expecting these kids to work and study without help. And not surprisingly, many of these smart teens verging on adulthood meander through programs not quite sure how to get it done and then fizzle out. Some of the focused show real tenacity and make it anyway. I have watched kids juggle full time jobs and college having never been to any formal school education! Stunning. I admire those kids a lot. Better people than I might have been in similar circumstances.

There are others for whom college is not even an option. Their parents have discipleship or marriage as an objective for their kids rather than higher education.

Others still, who having been raised in a protected environment away from the dangers of public education and all the teenage temptations of sex, alcohol and drugs, have wound up pregnant anyway, outside of marriage, at far too young ages. I don't know if it's the contaminated water in the Ohio river making it into our taps or what, but I'm surprised by how many homeschooled kids I know who are teen parents (both boys and girls). Early marriages are not atypical in the homeschooling world.

And while it would be tempting to judge these tightly controlled homeschool environments as cause, we know plenty of girls in public school who've become pregnant too. The truth is: teens and young adults are not as easily controlled through our machinations as we hope they will be, no matter where they are educated.

So as I've "rethought" homeschool in the last six months in particular, it occurs to me that it is not only not a panacea for making it through the trenches of teen development, it may also not even be the best educational choice for kids, particularly those who never go on to college. It seems there is merit to the idea of education in classrooms with other adults and teens for the sake of greater exposure to another world beside the coziness of family.

I'm wondering at this end of it if the best reason to homeschool needs to remain: learning and living go hand-in-hand? It doesn't look like (from where I sit) that we can provide the conditions necessary to actually help teens to make good choices even while we try. In the end, a percentage of them will throw off family values for their own experiments with the dangerous adult world. (You'd hope that at least someone would suggest birth control or adoption as a viable option for kids who don't adopt their parents' values...)

I know Jon and I are not exempt from surprises. I find myself daily realizing that my own children hold my future hostage with their choices. If one of them should become pregnant or father a child, I would from that day on be honor-bound to grandparent that child no matter what the conditions of conception are. I don't feel ready, but who's asking me?

And with that sobering thought on a Saturday night, I leave you. Have a great night.

Friday, June 22, 2007

How to kill your blog in six easy steps

1. Don't post

2. Don't post anything worth reading when you do post

3. Post about your family

4. Post about not blogging

5. Post about sports

6. Make your posts so short, they can be skimmed.

Yep... if you do all that, I promise you'll not have to blog ever again. :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Taking interpretation to task

Today's UPI column deals with the task of interpretation, whether looking at this week's movies or ancient texts.

Tiger's pain

We want it for him. He wants it more. The dream of topping Jack Nicklaus's 18 career major wins is the fuel in his tank. I loved the ESPN article this morning about what this second second place means in Tiger's career. What stood out more, however, is the chart that shows a comparison between Tiger and Jack's career through 42 majors:

Wins: (J) 11 (T) 12
Runner-ups: (J) 9 (T) 4
Top 3s: (J) 23 (T) 18
Missed Cuts: (J) 3 (T) 1
Score to Par: (J) +30 (T) -110

The interesting pair of numbers to me is the Score to Par figure. So often we are told that Jack had tougher competition when he played than Tiger. Yet Jack's score to par was not only over par, but 30 over, whereas Tiger's is in triple digits under! Now that's ridiculous! Clearly the courses have had to get tougher every year that Tiger thrashes his way through a course.

We enjoyed the tournament, but hate the loss. All of us are waiting for history and we don't want to miss that moment. Onto the British Open!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day

My dad and I had a great chat on the phone. He's invited me to Pasadena for the October 6 UCLA v. ND game. Of course I shouted YES! The only concession I have to make is that my seat will be in the Fighting Irish section. But don't worry. Light blue and gold will be my colors.

"They" say that the Bruins are going to be a team to contend with this fall which suits me fine. I'm just glad I'll actually see a game given how little coverage the Pac-10 gets out here.

Steve! I'll be in touch for that requisite South Pas visit. :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Tiger is five back

The US Open is underway and all I feel like doing is lying around the house watching, forgetting that I still have fifty essays to grade and oodles of work to do for my business.

Anyone watching?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Sometimes the universe gets my attention

Starbucks, originally uploaded by juliecinci.

Nothing says "prozac" for the suburbanly depressed like Starbucks cinnamon latte...

Monday, June 11, 2007

I've been to three graduation parties this weekend

Graduations are everywhere, originally uploaded by juliecinci.

...hugging my kids' friends, eating the requisite snacks, watching Jon et al play cornholes (total Cincinnati game)...

I taught many of the kids I saw this weekend and all the celebrated graduates. In fact, at one party, an invited guest and student from my online business walked in and said, "Hi Mrs. Bogart. I'm Ben... (last name)? I took your essay class?" I replied: "Sorry I teach so many students, I don't always remember their names." He responded, "My user ID was oldbenkenobi..." And bing! I knew and remembered. :) We had a great time catching up. I always know them by email or user ID.

My business is seven years old so it's just bizarre to be at this point to see these kids I knew as littler kids heading off to college. One of my students (who both took writing and theater from me at our co-op) smiled hugely when I arrived at his party. He said, "I'm not going to college!" I got it. :) He's got a band. He writes music. He gave me their first CD. I felt so happy for him that he is finally relieved of school. It's been this constant source of interference with his musical life (which has been mostly self-taught... bass, drums, piano).

I wonder how all these kids will do. It will be fun to watch.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Knocked Up: Knock it off!

So we went to this movie Tuesday night, you know, the "great" funny film riding high on the directing success of "40 Year Old Virgin."

If you plan to see it, and if you loved "40 Year Old..." then you may find this one amusing too. So please don't read my rant below and ruin it for yourself.

However, comma, if you are the kind of person who is sick of the slide down the crudity slope, then this rant's for you.

First off: I'm flat out sick of story lines that feature dumb, ugly guys getting smart pretty women. Please. The only movie that reversed this trend was "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and the main difference is that at least the female protagonist IS smart and funny. Instead, male fantasy reigns in these sexual slapstick films - smart successful women are able to "see" good in schlubs. Uh, as unlikely as John Corbett falling for Nia Vardalos.

Second-atully: Jokes about masturbation and its, uh, results are just not funny. Period. Speaking of... How about we start a slew of female films that make jokes about tampons and bloody menstrual pads? Egg-zactly.

Thirdfully: Will we never, ever see a film that shows a side of birth I can actually relate to? Not every female in history has screamed for drugs at the moment the head crowns. Can you spell: t-i-r-e-d, t-e-d-i-o-u-s, overdone? Why convince the next generation of mothers-to-be over and over again that birth is the worst experience a woman could ever have? My daughters (who were born naturally at home) already think they want to be knocked out and totally under before they give birth just from Friends reruns. Puh-lease!

Natural birth could be jaw-hanging open funny, you know. Imagine a woman enjoying birth, finding it thrilling, stimulating, sensual, almost to the point of achieving ::gasp:: orgasm as the baby slides out the chute? See, I told you your jaw would hang open. Follow it up with the midwife serving up placenta soup postpartum. Yeah, funny, I swear. And as gross as every other sordid male activity in this weird film.

Fourth up: Bongs are not funny. Drugs are not funny. Schrooms are flat out scary. And no, just because you enjoy getting high every single day of your life doesn't make it acceptable behavior if you're a candidate for the future husband and father of your family.

Pleading the fifth: Clubbing when you're married without your husband is bizarre... and wrong, said the postmodernist.

Sexy six: Porn sites are also not funny.

Seventh: This film couldn't decide if it was a screed on married life or an embrace of conception to birth of an unwanted pregnancy. Marriage looked pretty tough in this film... and I can imagine many arguments about "who was right" in each marital crisis erupted on drives home.

Eight is enough: The redeeming aspect of this film: Pro, pro, pro, pro-life. Totally. Unequivocally. From the splitting cell to the first ultrasound at six weeks to every ultrasound and baby kick thereafter, to the rejection of a grandmother's suggestion to abort, to everyone's celebration of the baby... Yes! That, my friends, was the movie's one triumph.

Oh and the acting by Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann totally entertained me. I like both of them so well as actors.

patooey. I took multiple showers to cleanse myself after this one.

I blame "Something about Mary." Good God! Must I know every detail of male private sexual practices? Is there nothing sacred or secret any more? File this one under "I didn't want to know..."

The end.

Ha, I just found this perfect review of the movie. Fits my thinking to the tee. Amazing when you find someone who understands what you felt and then writes it so well.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Prayer is a waste of time

Today's column shares my reflections on prayer. Don't be intimidated or put off by the title until you read the article. :)

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Graduation wish to my daughter

Getting the grad ready, originally uploaded by juliecinci.

Everybody can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Today I'm proud of my daughter for her academic achievements (to be sure) because they represent a depth of commitment that deserves commendation. Johannah told me yesterday that she never did have senioritis. She worked hard all the way to the end because she cared that much about school, liked the subjects she was studying that well, wanted to finish as she started. She graduated with high honors and joy in what she learned.

But what stands out to me more today is the way she has embraced those who are overlooked, less advantaged. Too much to discuss here, but she "gets" it about what she owes to the world. I know her life will matter because it already has.

It's an emotional day for me. I keep seeing these flashes of the girl she's been and the woman she's becoming.... they aren't those soft focus montages that you see in movies. I don't see clips of her life developing in a neat chronology, showing me her face as it changes from baby cheeks to braces to mature teen. I see fragments of blurred memories, all mixed up with photos and videos and fabrications I call memories. I can't get any of them to sharpen in my mind. Instead, I feel them more than see or remember them.

It's weird how a movie will make you think that the characters live forever in that story, at that age, as though the events in the movie are happening at all times, never growing up.

Life really isn't a movie and there's nothing to repeat or re-experience or see. It marches forward overtaking the memory of yesterday and muddying it so that it never lives as freshly or truly as it did before. Remembering obscures the new memory that needs to be created in that moment. It's get complicated.

Noah was with us today for graduation. There he was--sitting with us at dinner as a guest. Yes, family, but he was "out of our loop" and had to be brought up to speed on things he'd missed. He's getting ready to leave, to have an adventure in California building houses. His girlfriend will go with him. They will be gone all summer.

It's so different now.

I keep trying to see the kids all snuggled up together with me in the family room as I read to them. I see it in fragments. I can feel that memory. But it wasn't ever as rosy as a movie would make it. It was real life, filled with interruptions, babies who needed nursing, hunger, a cold family room because the windows leaked winter air, and Legos spread on the floor that no one liked to pick up. Even in that mixed up life that tried to be a daily routine, I knew that all these little guys were together with me, with us, ours. We were all creating united memories, a story that we could tell together. It was our shared life.

That's what's over. It's not that there aren't new adventures ahead, with weddings and jobs and acts of bravery and service and grandbabies... all of which will inspire and involve Jon and me. It's that our family story that is acted out together in one family room is gone. That cohesion that gave me deep meaning is passing. That's what creates the shortness of breath, the tight chest.

I'm proud of Johannah today. I can't wait to watch her blossom in college. But I miss everything about her right now too, and she's not even gone yet.