Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tiny Miracle

Today I noticed a flower so meek.
Through the heavy ground it did peek.
I thought of the grueling process it did take,
To show us its gleaming beauty, far from fake.

It pained me to think of all the people,
that find a flower less than a steeple,
And those who cut them to caress,
Ruining the tiny miracles brief but pleasant happiness.

The New Deal

Just a few thoughts on the New Deal after teaching it to my students. In short it was a sham. Roosevelt somehow managed to maintain high approval ratings while the economy continued to suffer. I believe that he was a great man for keeping up moral but for turning the economy around, well he was a failure. In England and Germany the depression was long gone by the time Roosevelt sent the country into a recession in 37, five years after taking charge and turning out law after law. Hoover cut taxes to give people more money to spend, but Roosevelt raised taxes. Hoover was criticized for not giving veterans bonuses from WWI, but Roosevelt cut veteran pensions and reduced military spending, yet was spared criticism. Thank goodness for Japanese imperialism or we might still be in a depression (ok that is a stretch). Let's not forget what Roosevelt did during that engagement. Putting Japanese Americans in camps? Who else imprisoned his own productive loyal citizens? Oh yeah Hitler and Stalin. At the same time too. I'm not saying Roosevelt is equal in evilness to Hitler or Stalin, just similar at the same time. I am just tired of people celebrating men when there is no reason to celebrate. It turns out that the best presidents are probably their own best advocates. It seems that tooting ones own horn is more important than running the country.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Hoover and Roosevelt

As I began teaching the unit on the great depression I decided to try to dispel some of the myths that bother me about this time, but more importantly to present all of the information and let the students to decide for themselves what is truth. For instance, most people (who know anything about the Great Depression) are under the impression that Hoover is largely responsible for the economic crash, and furthermore that he did nothing to help the country as it plunged into despair. In fact Hoover offered federal money to all of the states, but only a few decided to accept it. He created more Federal works projects than any other previous president including the Hoover dam, the Golden Gate Bridge, and work on the Supreme Court building. He tried to stabilize farm prices by asking farmers to leave their fields fallow, but this only softened the fall.

Hoover was a good man, a humanitarian, who was adept at helping people, and worked hard to not only ease the suffering of the American people, but also to maintain the tenets of our government and economy. In contrast Roosevelt was a playboy and a smooth talker. A person who was good at telling people what they wanted to hear. He also opposed women's suffrage and was critical when Harvard accepted its first black students. Nearly everyone he met commented that he seemed intellectually weak. When he took office after promising a "new deal" he made things up as he went, borrowing many of the things that Hoover proposed, including the bank holiday which began the "hundred days."

Roosevelt did some things that I admire as well, but I am critical of him because he is praised for "getting the US out of the depression," while in fact even during his presidency, the unemployment rate only once dropped below 8 million. Not exactly getting the country out of the depression. In fact it is the enormous military industrial complex that is created when the US mobilized for WWII that corrected our economic shortcomings. Roosevelt felt that he was so important that he was the only president to serve more than two terms. Of course he did not survive the forth term and died in office, leaving the country in the hands of Harry Truman. His cousin Teddy Roosevelt is the only other president to run for a third term, although it was as a third party candidate.

You decide who we should praise, and who we should condemn. I will just do what I feel teachers should do and present the facts.

First week

I survived my first week of teaching, but just barely. It is not so much the actual teaching or the kids, it is all the preparing and the work that goes into each lesson that has been challenging. Besides that I have night classes three nights a week which makes for a very long week. I love the kids though. They are amazing. If I can convince them that it is worthwhile to write and read, and express themselves, they seem like they are capable of great things. Several of my students have only been in the US for a couple of years, and yet they all work really hard. I think that it will be a good semester. I hope to learn a lot from them, and also to teach them something.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Back to Work

With the Christmas vacation nearly through I have been writing and reading fairly consistently, although I admit to a bit of Playstation playing. I did not write much though on the various book projects I have been working on, but rather I have been writing lesson plans for my new class. I am going to be teaching American History at Roosevelt High School in Fresno for my final student teaching. It is a state requirement to do “student teaching” which is when a University student in the Teaching program goes into a classroom and takes over a couple of classes from the teacher there. I was so excited about it that I decided to write my own lessons right away despite having the option of using my master teacher’s lessons for the first unit, which is the Great Depression. I have so many ideas about it that I expect I will share some of the things that I am passionate about on this blog, which is quickly becoming more about book reviews and teaching than writing, but that is where I am at right now. Hopefully this spring and then this summer I will get back to writing some of the books that I have been working on.

Besides that I have been reading a bit which is evident by the reviews that I have written for this blog. I have a few more that I think I will do including some from my course work. I must have read about fifty books in 06. I think that maybe I will go back and count them all just because I am amazed that I am capable of reading so much. Right now I am reading Citizen Soldier by Stephen Ambrose. It is a book about WWII on the European front. I was hoping to finish it before I go back to school but that may not happen. Anyways, to all of my fans out there (all three of you) I am going to try to write something interesting every week along with various reviews etc. I am going to post my short story about boot camp, and maybe my essay about the Grapes of Wrath and some more poetry by popular demand (just for you Aunt Mary). Exciting isn’t it? I think so.

Book Review The City in Mind

This book I expected would be very informational because of the subtitle “ notes on the urban condition.” I had hoped that I would learn a lot about urban planning and city development. I have been critical of urban sprawl for a few years because of the rapid rate at which Fresno is expanding, and I hoped to read about some alternatives. The Author examines several cities: Berlin, Atlanta, Paris, Rome, Mexico City, Boston, London, and Las Vegas. I felt as though he spent far too much time discussing the history of a city rather than the actual structure of the city. While I appreciate history as it relates to the present (I am after all a history teacher), I felt that he went into far too much detail to the neglect of the current situation in some instances. In the chapter about Mexico City for instance the bulk of it was about the Aztecs and Cortez, not modern Mexico City. All he had to say about it was basically, it is a mess. Ditto Berlin and London. It also had a strong anti Christian theme which seemed out of place in a book about cities. He took time to criticize the Crusades even though it had only the most minimal contribution to the chapter on Rome, and also pontificated about the Inquisition which as far as I can tell had nothing to add to any chapter. He blasted Gothic architecture and attributed it to Christians rather than simply Europeans, a distinction which is unfairly critical of Christian culture while sparing European culture. I can summarize the book in a sentence: suburbs are a mess, Paris is the best city in the world because of a man who nobody liked, and Boston is the city of the future in the USA. I don’t really recommend it for a study of urban planning because it was difficult at times to wade through the elaborate descriptions of historical events to find the characteristics of city development.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Book Review: The Chronicles of Narnia, The Silver Chair

The Silver Chair might be the best book beside The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe in the Narnia series. I really enjoyed not only the interesting story line, but the way in which Lewis infused a lesson about following God’s directions, and how he does not give up on his plan and will for us even if we go astray. Overall it is a very good story coupled with a very good lesson. The transition between Narnia and the “real world” was smooth but not redundant. I like the way Lewis uses a different means of transporting people between the two worlds in each book. I look forward to reading the final book.