Never Name Your Quarry

It was just before Christmas, as I was out working in my garage one evening, that a little mouse surprised me by coming out to see what I was doing. We chatted briefly, but he seemed rather shy and scurried back under one of the storage cabinets.

For the rest of that evening and the next several as well, I would see him darting about the garage perimeter doing whatever it is mice do. I hadn’t noticed any box chewing or other mouse related damage, and wondered aloud during out frequent “chats” if he was living alone or whether he had plans to start a family. He wasn’t very forthcoming. Somewhere along in here I also had the questionable sense to begin referring to him as Wilbur.

Two evenings ago I told Wilbur that it was high time that he packed up and went back outside. I just didn’t feel I could trust him to live alone and not go and die someplace inaccessible and stink the place up. But I suspected he really wasn’t listening to me.

Yesterday, I set the traps, hoping to nip the mouse-fest in the bud. An hour later, Wilbur was lured by the irresistible power of peanut butter to his untimely demise. A full day later, the reset traps remain empty. Good news in that I really don’t have a mouse issue, but I’m now feeling bad that I killed Wilbur. After all, he lived up to his end and was living harmlessly alone. I just couldn’t bring myself to trust him. His silence just wasn’t convincing.

So I offer this advice as we head into the new year. Communication really is important to relationships. Oh, and never name the thing you intend to hunt – especially if you have a marshmallow interior.

What’s Left Behind…

Suzanne Fields makes a point here that we are behind other countries in Math and Science and it is just a disgrace. I agree. I also think this is a logical outcome of our current pedagogical philosophy coupled with recent government plans to “fix things”.

In the study Fields references, the U.S. is performing in the top 10 for science and the top 20 for math. That is clearly not a shabby performance. That still puts us in the 90% percentile of nations on the planet. Yet she laments that we didn’t “win”. Well frankly, we’re not trying to. Current trends in education are focusing on the philosophy of “No Child Left Behind”. The federal program aside, the idea is clear, we don’t want anyone to fail. But what we seem to be losing site of is that not losing is a very different strategy than winning. Looked at statistically, raising the average is not the same as minimizing the deviation. The tools you employ to achieve those goals are different – especially in an arena where resources are finite. And yes, the resources we can pour into education are finite.

There is a Darwinian aspect to life that modern U.S. culture seems unwilling to acknowledge. Life, by it’s very nature exists across the full spectrum. And while everyone is created equal under the law, that does not make them equal in ability.

I’m not suggesting that we abandon the intellectually challenged, but in the same spirit that not all kids will be varsity athletes, a start would be to acknowledge that all kids are not great scholars. In the same way that gangly kids still take gym class and play youth soccer, opportunities and encouragement should continue to exist for all students. But does it make sense as a coach to focus on getting the kid picking grass in the goal to play at an average level, or to focus on training your best athletes and hope to inspire some grass pickers along the way?

Until scholarship in general is seen as a good thing; until we elevate exceptional students to the level of exceptional athletes; we will not win the battle for global scholarship excellence. We are a long way from that world. We focus most of our energy on getting the grass pickers to engage. Meanwhile, our stars get ignored and even ostracized for having the audacity to play better than their peers. This is not a strategy to win.

"Stoopid" Shines All the Way to the Dark Continent

It’s one thing to do something stupid in the privacy of your own home, but living in the white house and inviting the press to watch means that your stoopid action gets you coverage all the way to Africa.

What exactly is Bush’s message in awarding medals to Bremer, Tennet, and Franks? That loyalty trumps results? This was more than a “recognition of service” award. This was the highest civilian honor Bush could offer. What the hell is he going to do for someone who actually delivers useful results? (It’s ironically fortunate that he’s unlikely to face that conundrum.)

On the other hand, this is very much in line with how he’s positioned his incoming Cabinet. They are fiercely loyal to him above all else. So there is consistency in his giving out these medals. He knows what he likes, and he’s rewarding that. But that should make the rest of us afraid.

At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, I feel this is one of the inherent dangers of true evangelicals in leadership positions. Evangelicals, by definition, are followers. Their faith is based on blind trust. They are taught not to question, but to accept. And I think that translates to a tendency to confuse faith and loyalty. If you are loyal to a leader, then you must have faith in him. And that transposes pretty quickly to the blind trust thing.

As an evangelical, results are not really the measure of a person. Intention is, faith is, but not results. You can be a fairly hideous person, but if your faith is strong and your intentions are good, then you will have been saved. And while this can be a spiritually uplifting message to deliver to the great unwashed on a Sunday morning, it’s a damn poor foundation for leadership. And I think this is where poor addle-brained Mr. Bush gets so gosh darned confused.