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.
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
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.
I love Moleskine notebooks — specifically, medium-sized, kraft paper covered, grid-ruled Moleskine notebooks. As an organizationally-challenged person, these notebooks have, over the last two years, been the only thing standing between me and the entropy abyss. So today I went to the bookstore and purchased this year’s supply. Since I had a lot of work to do, I obviously felt compelled to decorate my new notebooks instead. I opted for a homage to Mondrian, a cube optical illusion and a fibonacci spiral (it’s cool that Moleskine notebooks are almost a perfect golden rectangle). I thought they turned out pretty well and I didn’t have to do any work. Win, win.
This is what my yard looks like — completely brown (likely dead) grass covered with leaves from damaged, dying and dead trees — predominantly post oaks (Quercus stellata), one of the toughest trees on the planet. It makes me really sad to see these trees I grew up playing under dying before my eyes. I know, of course, that they aren’t immortal, but I sure expected them to be around a lot longer than me.