September Day — a poem

September Day

Today I try to work,

but I’m pulled away again and again,

not by irritant or worry,

but by the sheer pleasure

of sun and breeze and the song of the flicker.

September, unmoored by Julius and Augustus,

is made dearer than April

by momento mori making their way lazily to the earth.

And this month, defamed by the small and the lost,

is made bittersweet

because it whispers just how much we will lose.

But today, even my thoughts of departing

and leaving this behind make me glad

because I know I got to be alive

and see this one, perfect September day.

WDS 9/9/2012

Wendell Berry quote — human beings…

Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.

― Wendell Berry

photo by Sergey Yeliseev, used under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (Flickr) license

Sergey Yeliseev’s Flickr photostream

the other half of the book

I am going to reveal a little-known trade secret about the modern high school Biology class — we no longer do most of the things that defined the experience for last hundred years or so.

1. We only teach half of the textbook (more about this in a minute).

2. We don’t do dissection — no frogs, no grasshoppers, no earthworms. I blame the usual suspects — time, cost, delicate sensibilities. It’s too bad — we probably shouldn’t underestimate how many scientists and doctors were initially drawn to the macabre thrill of peering into the innards of various critters.

3. We don’t go on field trips. Again the usual suspects — time, cost, delicate sensibilities.

4. We don’t study zoology or botany. Really. This one is harder to parse — maybe it’s just a logistical issue (one needs lots of stuff to do this properly), but frankly, classroom management of students who never learned good habits of working in the lab also comes into play. I strongly suspect, but cannot prove, that today’s students who grew up in schools saturated with the dogma of “collaborative learning” (aka “group work”) work less effectively than students from previous eras who primarily learned to work by themselves, and then later had opportunities to work together in a lab setting.

This year, I’m determined to begin to walk my way back toward a more balanced approach. My Honors Biology classes are going to rediscover the second half of our biology textbook — the chapters dealing with prokaryote, protist, animal and plant characteristics. Without real plants and critters I’m going to have to find interesting pictures and videos to supplement our text. It won’t be anywhere near ideal, but I hope it begins a process of moving back toward biology as a living, breathing thing — the very thing that captivated me (and so many others) when I was a young student.