A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 18, 2009

Ambivalence….if you care…or don’t….

Filed under: blogging,General — avoiceofreason @ 3:38 am

A great deal of ambivalence in my life right now, and there shouldn’t be.

I am on the very of  a capstone achievement in my education.  My disseration is at long last finished; all 285 pages – which caused my committee quite a bit of discomfort at times.  I have been told I have a lifetime of work ahead of me investigating or furthering this study.  I’m happy, but not as much as I should be with this achievement.

I resigned from my job in December as it just wasn’t working out.  I leave it at the end of June.  I don’t have a job waiting for me, but I do have a few interviews lined up.  I’m concerned about the job situation, but am dissatisfied with my career in many ways.  I don’t see what I do making much of a difference.  I guess it’s hard to be motivated when you know you’re on the way out.

I have a game I play too much as a hobby.  Lately, it’s been more of a job managing events and dealing with personalities.  It’s an OL game and no, I won’t tell you what it is.  It used to be a lot of fun…not so much fun nowadays.

I see what is happening in the world of politics on a national level, and am not overly happy with it, but also, just don’t care anymore.  What’s the point.   No reason to be a spoil sport or to be a nervous Nellie.  But mainly, I really don’t care too much about it anymore.  At least for now.

I guess I can tell I’m bored to go back to blogging.  I doubt I will stoke up enough motivation to care, and figure these posts will be rare and random.  Who can tell.  I know I can’t.

Just right now…things are so blase…that I don’t feel too much of anything.

Other than ambivalence.

November 8, 2008

Quote of the Day

 Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for yourself.

Viewed on a bumper sticker.

November 6, 2008

Reg Day is November 8

Filed under: Adoption,blogging,Culture,General,Politics — avoiceofreason @ 7:22 pm

Remember that Reg Day is November 8.

Reg Day is sponsored by volunteers who work to help people (mostly adopted) gather information about their birth origin. I am not an adoptee, nor have I adopted, but I am married to an adoptee. Imagine my surprise when I have found out about the difficulty she has in obtaining “her” birth certificate and other vital information which directly impact upon her ability to learn about her health background, apply for Social Security benefits, obtain a passport, and in some states obtain a legal driver’s license.

Shouldn’t a person have the right to know and have access to the information regarding “their own birth”?

Consider that court cases have granted Dog Owners the right to the records concerning the birth details of a canine to people, but states routinely deny human beings access to knowledge about their own birth details.

My wife will be sponsoring a Reg Day site, which I am “not” including to protect her blogging anonymity (she has a major league blog and doesn’t wish for these blogs to be entwined). However, if you are a person who is interested in participating or supporting in Reg Day please go to this link, http://www.isrr.net for more information.

And remember, people should have access to their birth information if a dog has that right.
What a country.

Quote of the Day

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.”

I enjoy reflecting about these random thoughts. I am constantly trying to give this type of sentiment to those I work with, the student I interact with and of course to myself. I have demanded of myself anew, a commitment to excellence in my work, in my interactions, and in my areas of personal life. Join me.

June 9, 2007

The Formation of Cultural Icons: A Critical Analysis Pt. II

Filed under: blogging,children,Culture,Education,History,PoliticalScience,Politics — avoiceofreason @ 2:17 am

Second in a series.  This is from a paper I presented.  This segment deals with an analysis of a study of the formation of a cultural identity in the text book covers found in the US in the 18th and 19th century.

The second article analyzed wished to examine the use of visual metaphor in the front covers in popular textbooks published in the United States in the late 18th and early to mid 19th century.  In this study (Provenzo, 1984) the argument posed is that by use of traditional and symbolic metaphors a distinct patriotic iconography emerged in the United States.  In declaring independence from England, it was important for the United States had also declared a rejection of England’s social traditions and the need was to find a replacement for the new republic.

Typically found on the textbooks from this era are symbols from the ancient world, typically found in the ancient Roman Republic.  Ultimately, these symbols would become identifiable with the new republic being formed. The author’s asserts, a patriotic iconography or symbolism emerged, drawing upon the collective history of the nation. 

In early editions of textbooks used in the United States images of the Founding Fathers are seen.  However, by the end of the 18th century the figure of Minerva or Athena is seen acting as a guide for young children.  It was a common practice in England to put the ruling monarch on the cover of children’s texts, yet after only a short period publishers had rejected this practice in America.

The use of these characters from antiquity is not unusual, and emerged consistently.  As time progressed, the image of Minerva went through slight changes.  Light is seen as coming from her head, she holds a staff, and other symbols from antiquity appear.  Interestingly, Minerva is the Roman equivalent of Athena, the safeguard of Athens, so long as her image remained within the walls of the city.  The symbolic parallel is clear, and was over a period of time was brought to the focus of the new nation’s children daily. 

In later editions of texts the Roman Goddess of Liberty is represented.  She also goes through minor transformations through the year, each having symbolic value.  By the year 1841 she is seen wearing a Phrygian cap – which in ancient Rome would be given to slaves who had been emancipated.  In another widely used series of texts, Minerva and Liberty appear together, with Minerva ascending into the heavens, while Liberty remains on the earth – which the author insinuates as the coming to maturity of the ideals of the new nation.  By the middle of the century the figure of Liberty is seen atop the national capitol and by 1886 The Statue of Liberty arguably becomes the most recognizable icon for the values and principals of the American Republic. 

The suggestion of the study is that educational materials reflect an emergence and are part of the evolution of a culture.  It is clear that development of a cultural identification with ancient Rome was paramount in the formation of a national identity for the United States, and the educational system was at the front and center of this formation of a collective sense of historical identity.

June 8, 2007

The Formation of Cultural Icons: A Critical Analysis Pt. I

This is a paper I am presenting and thought it might generate some interest here.

Icons are a part of any culture. However, they often serve a role which detracts from a role which would be more fitting. In the sense of this report, an icon is an object which takes upon mythical meaning beyond the symbolism which it attempts to represent. Three areas of society which could easily be identified as icons are elaborated upon in this analysis of three historical studies.

How common beliefs become part of a cultural curriculum – or in a sense an icon – was the topic of a study (Wineburg, Mosborg, Porat, Duncan; 2004) performed concerning generational perceptions of the Vietnam War. The study posed to answer the question how historical knowledge is transmitted across generations. Over a thirty month period the authors interviewed fifteen families, drawn from three different communities. The author’s purpose was to ascertain how two generations defined moments of history, and whether the history represented by the generations formed a “collective memory” with regard to a historical event.

Over a course of 30 months, 30 members of 15 families were interviewed about how their conceptualization of the past may form a collective concept about a historical era. The sample families represented Evangelical Christians, lapsed Roman Catholics, Buddhists, and Jews. Four of the families consisted of members who had been born outside of the United States; twelve families were Caucasian and one each as African American, Native American and Asian American. One parent and one child from each family were interviewed about their knowledge and conceptual framework concerning American involvement in Vietnam. Each member participating in the study was also asked to provide their interpretation of well known photographs taken from the Vietnam Era, which could easily be identified as icons of the era.

Prior to the interviewing the student’s perceptions of the Vietnam War and the instruction offered concerning the topic were analyzed by the researchers. Despite the detailed instruction concerning the issues at stake in the Vietnam War by the schools of the students, as a group, had a similar perception of the Vietnam War – “a war without a reason”.

During the interview process both parent and child were asked to write down their reactions to the pictures shown by answering open ended questions, such as, “What do you see in this picture?” and “What associations does this picture bring up?” Both participants would then be asked to respond to the photo and their corresponding interpretation, with the child. This was done in order to protect against parental input having an impact upon the child’s answer.

Later on the responses elicited by each respondent was coded with a graphic textual spreadsheet in order to develop emergent themes from the interview process. Various combinations of grouping students with other students, students and parents from one subset being compared to other students and parents from other subsets, and then groupings based on conceptual agreement were formed.

The first photo used was a picture of a veteran of the Vietnam War looking upon the names etched on the wall while his hand gingerly touches the wall. Of all the photos presented, this one image was the most identifiable picture. All of the teens and all but one of the parents (who had been born in the former Soviet Union) were able to recognize the memorial. Every student also knew what the man was attempting to do – search for a name on the wall and then etch it into a piece of paper he held in his right hand. For the parents, the picture brought back memories of loved ones or friends who had served in the Vietnam War, and the veteran took on a symbolic identification of long remembered people from their past. However, the students’ answers were more general, with the man depicted in the photo not taking any symbolic meaning at all. The experience for the adults in the study also reflected their own personal opinions concerning America’s involvement in Vietnam. Words and phrases such as “resolution”, “respect that was deserved” appeared in the responses in the adults. Interestingly, the man portrayed in the picture is seen by all as a victim of the war, and not as a perpetrator of war, who is worthy of respect and pity, not hatred.

The second photo is also an icon of the Vietnam War era, a photo of a young man placing flowers in the barrels of guns of soldiers in the 1967 March on the Pentagon. The adults surveyed instantly identified the clash between the flower and the guns as a symbolic clash of war opposed to peace. Terms used to qualify the event express the antithetical symbolism the picture displays, “Blocking soldiers with flowers”; Peace, not power”; and “a divided country”. For the students there was a significant disconnect with the interpretation of the picture. Only eight of the fifteen could identify the basic concept of peace versus might. The symbolic elements of the picture were even less easily discerned by the youngsters. One student thought the soldiers were North Vietnamese, another felt the incident was meant to mourn the dead. Interestingly, for the adults, the first photo brought about feelings of the nation coming to reconciliation about the war, the second photo brought the sharp divide felt by their generation back to the forefront. One parent spoke warmly of the camaraderie felt by members of the anti-war movement towards each other; another contemptuously replied, “He’s a slime-bucket”. Part of the student’s problems with this photo was their failure to identify the clean cut youth as a “hippie”. His appearance does not align with their perception of the prototypical hippie of the 1960’s.

The third photo, a “hard-hat” rally drew strong responses and identification by the adults in the group, and almost universal misunderstanding by the younger generation. The rally, which was a pro-war response by blue collar workers in New York City in support of the war in 1970, elicited two polarized replies. One reply stated that “although there was confusion about the issues in the war, these guys, typical working men, were going to support the government”. This picture also drew a rather strong comment by an opponent of the war, “These men are a bunch of assholes, guided by their penises”. On the other hand, the majority of students were unable to interpret the photo. One person identified the type of people represented, “blue collar workers”, but had no idea what the purpose of the rally served. One thought that a sign, which referred to “Building America”, was an anti-war sentiment, as it contrasted the destruction which was going on in Vietnam.

Many of the students were surprised to learn that people actually protested in favor of the Vietnam War. More than one of the students cited the movie Forrest Gump, which had framed their perception that all of America was against the war, when in reality as late as 1972 a Gallup Poll showed that 70% of the nation felt a renewed confidence in the prosecution of the war.

The findings of this study concluded that the younger people perception of the war had not been formed by instruction or by a true understanding of the concepts involved, but had been formed images found in media such as movies about the Vietnam War, and that despite various ethnic and cultural variance, a consistent perception about the war had been formed by these young people, and their perception about the war was remarkably similar than their parents who had experienced the war from a more personal vantage point. The young people’s perception allowed no room for pro-war demonstrations and “the silent majority” that supported the Vietnam War. In the eyes of this generation, removed by the war from time, the Vietnam War was one fought without supporters. In a real sense cultural occlusion has come about with regard to this historical event, and in effect, the icons of the Vietnam War have been selectively used or occluded to create a historical construct.

It’s Been Awhile

Filed under: blogging — avoiceofreason @ 3:10 am

I know it has been awhile, but work and classes – doctoral programs suck – have kept me rather busy.

May 28, 2007

Skeleton in the Closet

Filed under: Adoption,blogging,children,Culture,Family — avoiceofreason @ 6:36 am

I’ve been away from blogging for a bit.  There are a few reasons for this.  I tend to run in streaks and I think that the reality of bloggins is coming to me.

I’m not likely going to change and frame public opinion out there.  All I can probably hope to do is to figure things out for myself and maybe open up a debate about issues.  Lately, I’ve not been in the mood for a debate.  I’ve been a bit preoccupied with my own sort of vision quest.

As regular readers of this blog know, my wife is an adoptee.  I understand a bit of her pain, but will never fully get it as I am a “normal kid” and she’s one of the others.  However, her quest for finding her family has lead me to also shake around in the hidden and closed closets of my own life.  There were a few alleged skeltons lurking around in my own family background, and  I guess I ventured into that world.

The past week or so I’ve been living in the past, my families past.  I wanted to find out about my families’ past and managed to do just that, finding out a good deal more than I probably thought I’d know.  I also rattled the skeltons, and probably have upset a few lives. I don’t know if that was good, but I had to do something, and I’m going to blame my wife on this one, even though what I did ends up hurting her a bit.

Okay, time to open up the closet and let you all know my families’ dirty little secret.  Secrets suck, and we usually put them in closets because we don’t like looking at them everyday.  We just figure that they’ll die and go away.  Here’s my family’s dirty little secret; my father never really knew his father.

The story that he was told by his mother and her family was that his father was a dirty rotten so and so that upped and left one day leaving him and my grandmother high and dry.  The reality is that one day my grandmother – and I still love her – but I will confess this makes it a bit hard – took my dad for a walk from their home in one part of Queens to her mother’s house in another part of Queens.  So what you may think, a walk in the spring.  Hardly.  She never went back to the other part of Queens and wouldn’t allow my grandfather to see his son again.  That’s when the lies came in to hide the dirty little secret.  In the end it hurt everyone involved, but mostly my dad, and I am sure my grandfather.

My dad was wounded by this.  I can’t even begin to think what he went through, but the concept must have been, “What’s wrong with me that you would leave me and not come back”.  Funny how we let lies made by others to rule our lives.  He also had to deal with the anger of being abandoned, not once, but then later on when my grandmother remarried, my dad was packed up again, back to his grandmother’s house where he spent the rest of his youth while my grandmother and her new husband lived together, soon joined by their own child.  Like I said, Grandma, I love you, but that was pretty F’d up x 2.

However, I found my father’s family.  My grandfather died in 1992 at the age of 82.  All of his brothers died, and all of their wives.  But I’ve found my father’s generation.

Many emotions.  I’ve opened up a closet, and it had skeletons in it.  This won’t be over, but it’s 2:30 AM, so I have to get some sleep.  We have a family reunion, and while my digging has opened up skeletons, it’s also opened up wounds.

May 22, 2007

Another Busy Weekend, and Another Chance to Cross My Fingers

Filed under: blogging,children,Culture,Education,Family,Schools — avoiceofreason @ 2:26 am

Well, two daughters down the graduation from college route, and three to go!  Although the over/unders ar on the 15 year old managing to graduate from college before her 18 year old siblings!

We spent a good weekend watching my daughter graduate from college.  The whole family sans my son who is a Gears of War addict, but who was good enough to somewhat watch the cats between games, were there.  At the restaurant afterwards it was myself, my wife, my ex, and my three girls.  When we have these combined family meetings – at least the last three – they are really interesting.  We really have a good time, laughing, joking and usually my ex wife and I are telling all sorts of funny stories to our children – four from that marriage – about a lot of the excapades that we shared as a family.  If you had a picture of it and were to step back say eight or nine years ago, heck maybe even five, I don’t think that any would have predicted that.  The biggest hat tip to all goes to my wife, who has grace and and is not affronted by myself and my children’s mother from truly having fun talking about our time together.  Time may not heal all wounds, but I think it gives perspective.

That is the reason for the lack of posts, and there is another reason.  Another shot at a job, and this one, well it may be too good to be true, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  It is a position as a K-12 Director of Social Studies in a school that is very needy.  For those who are regular readers here, you know how my heart goes out to schools in need, and this one could be a poster child for that description.  Where I live, you can have very affluent towns and then towns which are under a blanket of poverty – the school where I work is one of the more affluent in the state, and the one where I am interviewing is markedly different.  However, in the past when I coached and we had games/matches against this district, I always got along well with their players.  I also am very good friends with about four teachers and am acquainted with a few high level administrators.  Please keep your fingers crossed, as this would be a unique opportunity, and the best part it is only ten to fifteen minutes from my house – about five miles!

We’ll keep everyone informed!

May 11, 2007

Teacher Appreciation Week

Filed under: blogging,children,Family,Humor,Schools,Teaching — avoiceofreason @ 12:03 am

This week was National Teacher Appreciation Week. I actually received a few gestures of thanks, that I wasn’t expecting but am thankful for (particularly the candy bars on Monday). However, I think that my cats must have been reading the letter that I brought home from the PTA because when I woke up today there were messages from them to me.

I was so impressed that I decided to share my cats attempts at haiku in honor of National Teacher Appreciation Week. However, I think they just were trying to rationalize their rancid behavior towards me. My dog, Liesel, sadly can’t write haiku, but she’d express similar sentiments if she could. I guess there is only so much a teacher can do!


Sorry I am mean
to you. It’s just that you smell
like the dog. Sorry.

Sorry I chewed your
important note from the
school. But it was fun.

Thank you for your school-
bag. It’s a nice place to sit.
Sorry for the fur.


Sorry I peed on
your agenda, old boy. I
couldn’t help myself.


Sorry I puked on
your tie. But you left it on
the table. Fair game.


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