Showing posts from September, 2012

Won't Watch Won't Back Down

I don't need four bad reviews in order to skip watching a movie, but in the case of the recently-released Won't Back Down, I would point to this, this, this and this as prime reasons to boycott this new piece of claptrap at the theater. Even the trailer is difficult to watch: The very first lines in it are classic demonization propaganda, saying "that school" and "those teachers" just "don't care about the children." I will make this post brief, considering that within a few days this movie will be totally out of the news. Suffice it to say, however, that I am SICK and TIRED of the teacher demonization and public school demonization that have become such a national obsession.

Alaska Without Anchorage

They say Alaska is a "state of villages" - or at least they say something like that.

This would be completely true, except for one big problem - Anchorage.

Quick Alternate Histories: A Post-Beringia Pre-Columbian Migration

The single most important element in the modern history of the American landmass is that Europeans and Africans brought to it a host of horrific diseases that repeatedly slaughtered indigenous populations from the late 15th century onward. Here's an alternate history for you: What if a large migration from the Afro-Eurasian disease pool had gone to the Americas centuries before? If America's populations had developed immunities to such diseases much earlier, the entire history of the modern world would have turned out much differently.

In the best alternate histories, the "hinge factor" - or the agent that changes everything - is relatively small and easy to accept as plausible. For this situation, I'll admit it's a little more difficult to imagine - but we're going to do it anyway.

Senior Honors Thesis Topic Statement

Back in February I was thinking about potential topics for writing a senior thesis, and wrote this post about how I could do something relating to education. Then in April I predicted I would write a thesis, but through most of the summer I thought I probably wouldn't. As I revealed here, however, I finally did decide to stay at Georgetown until May and take advantage of the opportunity to write a senior honors thesis in history. So far, I have not revealed on this blog what the subject of that thesis will be—until now.

Generational Accents: An Underappreciated Phenomenon

Usually when we think about accents, geographic distinctions will come to mind. In the United States, for example, people often refer to a Southern accent, although of course there are countless accents that originate in the historic South, ranging from Cajun accents to Texas drawl to the upperclass talk of those old plantation houses. There are many other stereotypically "accented" geographic areas as well, like New York City, Boston, the northern Great Plains, or even the San Fernando Valley.

Of course, our perceptions of these places' accents do have a basis in reality. However, I think that geography and place, while still important, are becoming less relevant to the way Americans speak. I believe another type of distinction deserves a greater amount of attention - generational accents.

Replacing the Word "Freshman"

Just the other day I asked a group of girls if they were freshmen - and they responded yes. There was nothing abnormal about the conversation at the time, but later I remembered what I'd said and realized how weird it really was: Why would I call these girls a word that had "men" in it?

Now, maybe this seems like a silly issue, but I really think we ought to replace the word "freshman" with something appropriate for both sexes.

Nicholas Kristof Supports the Decline of American Teaching

Teaching in the United States is really on the decline. By this, I don't mean to say teachers are getting worse at their jobs. Rather, I mean that American teachers are being increasingly bullied, demeaned, disrespected, misunderstood and mistreated. Within the last few years, the national discourse on education has been filled to overflowing with misinformation and myths, (as in Waiting for Superman), as well as huge campaigns for misguided and counterproductive "reforms" in the school system.

An opinion piece by Nicholas Kristof published in the New York Times yesterday is merely another example of how badly off-track policymakers and the media have gotten. Now, Kristof is not a bad guy: My girlfriend and I enjoyed the book Half the Sky, which Kristof co-wrote with his wife, and I've seen pieces of his in the Times before that I entirely agreed with. In this instance, however, Kristof is very much promoting and participating in the decline of American teaching. Let…

New Home, New Classes

I never could have predicted this, but I am now a resident of Virginia! Well, I officially maintain Alaska residency, but Virginia is now where I physically live. This year at Georgetown I'll be renting an apartment (with three friends) on the other side of the river, in Rosslyn, a neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia. It's a nice place - very green, though kind of loud - and I've quite enjoyed settling in. I also have a set of four new classes, and I'll tell you about those as well.

Visiting 'Ksan in Hazelton, British Columbia

Back on August 26th  - the first day of my family's roadtrip to Seattle, as I mentioned here - we stopped at Hazelton, British Columbia, by my request. While being a tour guide at the Totem Heritage Center, many visitors (principally Canadian ones) had told me about their visits to Hazelton and mentioned the totem poles they had seen there. Naturally I was curious, and this place was added to my mental list of places with totem poles I had never visited before (like Haida Gwaii, the UBC museum, the Alaska State Museum and so on). As soon as I found out I'd be going on this BC roadtrip, I knew we should go to Hazelton.

A New Metro Plan to Pursue

If you were looking at this blog about a year ago, you may have noticed my maps of the Strasbourg tram system - here, here, here and here. I took a map of the system and then edited it using the "Paintbrush" program on my computer in order to make a record of the stops I'd visited. Eventually I went through all of them! Now I've decided to do the same thing again, this time with the Washington, D.C. Metro system.