Entries Tagged 'Ask a Curmudgeon' ↓

Democrat Proclamation

Our side is corrupt, but the other side is more corrupt.

Now that the USPS has become a tool of the White House, Democrats should proclaim this for the next 75 days:

“Under no circumstances will a Democrat concede an election loss in the 2020 election.”

Dear Tom Perez:

Say after me — “Under no circumstances will a Democrat concede an election loss in the 2020 election.” For once, it would get the Democrats ahead of Republican strategists.


Now that Republicans are sponsoring law enforcement at polling places, Democrats should proclaim:

“Under no circumstances will a Democrat concede an election loss in the 2020 election.”

George Orwell on Writing

From “Why I Write” by George Orwell, 1947

When I sit down to write a book, I never say to myself, “I am going to produce a work of art.” I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.  But I could not do the work of writing a book, or even a long magazine article (read Blog), if it were not also an aesthetic experience.

One page later:

Looking back through the last page or two, I see that I have made it appear as though my motives in writing were wholly public-spirited. I don’t want to leave that as the final impression. All writers are vain, selfish, lazy, and at the very bottom of their motives lies a mystery. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

The airlines went too far

The flight attendant bragged that we were flying in one of American Airline’s new A319 aircraft.

Really? We were squashed into three seats, where there should have been two. And when I reclined, the person behind me said I was too far into his space, which I was.

On a recent Delta flight I was on an older A319 — way too little room, again. This aircraft takes profit to a new level of discomfort and indignity.

Capitalism is a good economic system, but not when the owner class treats the lower classes like animal cargo. The best economic systems dignify human experience for everyone, not just the few.

Remember airline deregulation was going to make air travel better and cheaper? “Competition in the market place” was the owner class’s mantra as they joined hands and laughed about what they could do with additional profits. Can you say fascism?

Self-righteousness is not a strategy

More than ten years ago I wrote a newspaper column criticizing writers who attribute motives to others. I am going to violate my own critique here.

When educators say, “We should do what is best for the child,” these words contribute nothing to the decision making process, which leaves the significance of the utterance in the speaker’s motive. Evidently, the speaker wants others to re-set their consciences to what is best for the student, putting aside whatever selfish motives they probably have.

But the reason educators struggle to do what is best for the student is not that they don’t want “what is best for the student.” It is that they don’t know what is best. There is never a sign saying:

→ This path takes you → to what is best for the student →

In fact, the opposite is true. “Best for the student” raises numerous issues:

  • “Best” in the long-term or short-term?
  • What if “best” for one student sets an unacceptable precedent?
  • What if “best” for one student disadvantages others?

The questions go on and on.

Saying you want what is best for the student might make you feel good, but it contributes nothing to the decision making process. Self-righteousness is not a strategy. I love irony.

Ask a Curmudgeon #3

Grandpa, when you were an English teacher, you told students never to put pen to paper until they care deeply about something.  I really care about science, but it’s still hard to write my report.


To write something worth reading, you need to care deeply and “know deeply.” Have you given enough time and effort to “knowing deeply?”


Ask a Curmudgeon #2

Grandpa, you are an old teacher.  Why are old teachers’ lessons on yellow overheads?


The essence of what you need to learn is the same as what I learned at your age — to read, write, imagine, reason, work hard, and give to others. Young teachers change their lessons, trying to find something that will help you learn these life essentials. Good teachers are those who discovered the essence of what to teach, and teach it on overheads that turn yellow with age.

Ask a Curmudgeon #1

Grandpa, you are an old teacher.  Why do old teachers reject new ideas?


Most new ideas in education are old ideas with new names.  Old teachers want progress, not the ideas that did not work 20 years ago. Young teachers like these ideas because they did not experience their failure 20 years ago. In other words, they cannot be 55 when they are 35.

Kick-off for “Ask a Curmudgeon”

As a parent of teenagers, I eventually realized it was futile to want them to act like 25-year-olds. I now remind middle and high school teachers that their students can’t be 25, when they are 15. Furthermore, I remind myself that my graduate students can’t be 55, when they are 35.

Fifty-year-old teachers have a perspective that 35-year-olds don’t. In these blogs I answer a grandson’s questions about older teachers. (Although I am not a grandfather, I play one on the internet.)

“Ask a Curmudgeon” to get a perspective you can’t get from young teachers. Two examples follow.