"No hats on the bed!" A woman screams at a visitor. "Get that hat off the bed! Now!"
"OK," says the man. "But, by the way, why? Why must I take my hat off the bed?"
"Hats on the bed are bad luck! Terrible bad luck! Years and years of bad luck! Get that hat off the bed!"
"OK," says the man. And walks out of our scenario to appear in another blog post somewhere else.
"My mother taught me that hats on the bed are bad luck just as her mother taught her. Everyone knows that hats on the bed are bad luck!" The woman shouts at the retreating figure.
Ignoring for a moment the silliness of all superstitions in general, why this particularly silly superstition--no hats on the bed--in particular? Some religious traditions--don't eat pork--are said to originate in an evolutionary adaptive imperative--trichinosis is unpleasant. Could there be a REASON why this woman is hysterical about a hat on the bed?
A buddy of mine explained the likelihood of getting a book of poems published. Consider all money spent in entertainment industry. Movies make up the vast percentage of expenditures; books are almost an afterthought. Of all the books that are published each year, most are non-fiction--calendars, cooks books, political biographies. Fiction is a tiny part of a publisher's list. NEW fiction books have to compete with perennial best sellers like _The Hobbit_ and _Tom Sawyer_. Poetry is the smallest percentage of fiction and poetry by new authors is the smallest percentage of poetry. In short, the odds against a new author getting a book of poetry published are enormous.
If all the books that have been published were lined up on one shelf and you picked one book at random, the chance that you would pick a book of new poems is effectively zero.
Bob Blitzer wasn't just a great math teacher; he was a good man: my first openly gay professor--and this was the early 70s--he was a force of nature in the classroom. He drew an inverted parabola on the board. "'Y equals negative X squared' looks like a missile," he began. "No, it doesn't. 'Y equals negative X squared' looks like a breast."
Can YOU think of a better way to engage adolescents in the subtleties of curve sketching?
Bob was a tireless advocate for struggling students. His office hours weren't Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 10:00 to 11:00 am. His office hours were any time he was awake. He taught like a mad dog. As long as you were willing to learn, he was willing to teach. No problem was too simple. From what I could tell, no problem was too complex either.
1) My six year-old daughter is having a birthday. What should I do?
2) My 14 year-old daughter loves animals, wants to see a bear in the wild. What should I do?
3) My 16 year-old son is the third chair out of three trumpet players in the school orchestra. What should I do?
Which of the following responses is more likely to facilitate children who grow up to be competent and content?
1) My six year-old daughter is having a birthday.
1A) I'll call the party planner and have them set up a bounce house, a train track, pony rides, and a petting zoo. We'll have Cinderella and a dozen other princess characters in costume. They'll perform several original skits. We'll invite all the first graders from all the classes in the school, about a hundred children. The caterer will focus on finger food for the kids and, of course, a full buffet and mimosas for the adults. My daughter will spend most of the day being photographed.
I've never asked Dennis and Joanie for money. But I could if I had to. If I couldn't make a mortgage payment, I'd ask them for a couple thousand to tide me over and they'd say, "You're sure you don't need more?" That's how close we are. That's the kind of people they are.
So when Joanie was griping at me this morning about how I just "don't get it" when it comes to video games and what a zealot I am and how I'm living in the dark ages and do I want to go back to prohibition, I realized that I must not have expressed myself well in our previous conversations and in this forum. Joanie is my good friend: I know she reads my blog. If she doesn't understand my position, it's me. Clearly, I need to be more clear. (Obviously, I need to be more obvious?)
Here's a controversial sentence I bet you didn't think you'd read in a column written by a person who studied developmental psychology in graduate school, has dedicated his life to education, and makes his living giving advice to parents about how to bring up healthy kids.
For many neurotypical kids, it doesn't make a whole lot of difference what you do as parents.
Pretty much everybody needs a little help deconstructing texts. It could be argued that the point of college is to learn how to read and understand Chaucer, Milton, Pope, and Shakespeare. Of course non-English majors learn how to understand different authors and ideas--Machiavelli for economics majors, Watson and Crick for biochemistry students. My favorite professor at the University of Wisconsin--Richard Knowles--spent a semester helping me to understand--among others--these lines from "Hamlet."
"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter"
means that Hamlet is depressed but won't commit suicide because he believes that God forbids it.
Why don't your children listen? Here’s one possible answer: Maybe your kids are bad. Why not? It’s possible. Maybe deep down, they are just plain and simple, intrinsically B-A-D, bad, budding little rotten to the core psychopaths who, left to their own devices, would deliberately with malice of forethought, just refuse to listen because--stop me if I've mentioned this earlier in this paragraph--they are bad.
Maybe, to begin with mom, you should admit to your husband that you also dated a space alien with a red cape and a pointy tail nine months before your B-A-D son was born.
OK, I’m kidding. Not about who you may or may not have dated or what color cape he wore, but about the suggestion that your kids were born bad and are not listening because they are bad. Your kids aren’t bad.
So if they're not just bad, why don’t they listen?
There's a story about Abraham Lincoln growing up dirt poor--wanting to study but not having enough money to buy candles which would allow him to read after the sun went down. Gas lamps were also out of the budget and Mr. Edison's electric lights were a generation away. So instead of waking up at six o'clock in the morning to chop fire wood, milk cows, and plow fields, Lincoln would get up at five a.m. so he could read for an hour by morning light. It is my understanding that Lincoln did not enroll in an SAT preparation seminar.
Do any of the following monologues sound even remotely plausible? Is there a syllable of truth in any of them? The speakers are men aged 70, 10, and 40 respectively.
1) "I know what I'll do. I'll wake up this morning and pretend that I can't hear. That way, my wife of 40 years will yell at me and treat me like I have cognitive impairments or am a deranged psychopath.