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Wednesday
Apr292015

Saying the Pledge or not?

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. And to the republic for which it stands indivisible, with liberty and justice for all (who can afford it).

I enjoy poking sacred cows now and then, and when the question came up on LM_Net, "Does your school have kids say the Pledge of Allegiance?" I (purposefully) interpreted the question to read "Should your school ask kids to say the Pledge?"

And I suggested that as long as the words "under God" remained in the Pledge, asking kids to say it violated their rights. Atheists and kids who might worship Allah, Budda, or woodland spirits may feel pressured to conform.

And just for a little snark, I also suggested adding the words "who can afford it" to the end of the pledge.

I got some push back from LM_Netters. No surprise there. Most of those disagreeing with me or giving me flack about even talking about a "political" topic in the LM_Net forum did so publicly. But also received quite a number of private e-mails those who agreed with me.  One has to wonder why the critics are usually public and the supporters private? Hmmmmmm.

There were a couple public comments that were great:

In NY, schools recite the pledge every morning.  However, students are not required to say the pledge.  I helpfully pointed this out to my homeroom teacher back when I was in high school (and then to the school administrators), and I put up with a lot of harassment from students AND my teachers for my refusal to say the pledge.  (I vividly remember my homeroom teacher saying every morning, "Those of us who are real Americans will now say the Pledge of Allegiance.")

I've always thought reciting the pledge smacked of the kind of indoctrination we despise in places like North Korea or Nazi Germany. We can love or be disappointed in our country as we see fit but mechanically reciting a daily pledge doesn't magically transform someone into some sort of patriot.

In as much as that we as librarians should be the guardians of intellectual freedom, and support all beliefs in public school systems, the comment was not just proper, but absolutely relevant. Avoiding these kinds of issues is in itself a "political" statement.  Whether to say the pledge should be contingent on which version of the pledge we are asking kids to say. "Under God" impinges on the rights of my atheist students and they should not be pressured to repeat it. 

If we as a profession don't take stands on these kinds of issues, they may as well just replace us all with technicians.

 

Tuesday
Apr282015

Head for the Edge - last column

Twenty is a nice round number and it is the number of years on which I’ve landed to retire from writing this column.


“Head for the Edge” first appeared in Linworth’s Technology Connection magazine, a predecessor to Library Media Connection, in February of 1995. The title of the first column was “Making Change Work for You.” It was about 800 words - one page - in length. I’ve written nearly 125,000 more words in the 156 columns since then. My high school English teacher would be impressed, I’m sure.

 

My last column in LMC (Library Media Connection) came in yesterday's mail. To say it was a bittersweet experience is an understatement. And it may well be that I am the only person for whom this end has much meaning.

Writing the column has truly been a labor of love - except for those occasional months when I seemed devoid of any ideas to share. This did not happen often, thankfully. I enjoyed a good relationship with everyone I worked with at Linworth, I felt. I love a light-handed editor! At Linworth's urging, I revised, organized and compiled my earlier columns in the book, School Libraries Head for the Edge: Rants, Raves and Reflections. Linworth, 2009. 

 

To those who read the column and especially to those who responded to it - favorably or unfavorably - my most sincere thanks.

Hoping LMC hires a young, smart, thoughtful and funny replacement!

Saturday
Apr252015

Preparing for Teyuna: Anticipation or anxiety?

The hike is, by and large, uphill, as you reach an elevation of 1,100 meters (3,600 feet). There are nearly 20 river crossings to be made. Towards the end of the third day, you will climb about 1,200 often treacherously slippery stone steps until you reach the spectacular terraces of Ciudad Perdida. For many this sight makes all the sweat, fatigue, and mosquito bites worthwhile. Moon Travel Guides

  

I have made my list and am starting to pack for my own Ciudad Perdida (Teyuna) hike coming up the first week of May.

And I am asking myself why I am doing this.

My "bucket list" includes doing as many world class hikes as possible. I've done the Inca Trail, Grand Canyon Rim to Rim, Havasupai Canyon, Kilimanjaro, and the Abel Tasman coast. There is a shelf of about a dozen books with titles like Fifty Places to Hike Before You Die that call out to me each time I pass by them. The Milford Track, Torres del Paines, and Camino de Santiago are haunting me. A buddy and I have pledged that the day after we retire we will through-hike the Superior Hiking Trail.

I suspect a psychiatrist would quickly analyze that these adventures are simply my way of dealing with aging, with accepting my own mortality. Or more likely, that I am in some form of denial. Could be. My father died when he was only a couple years older than I am now and I do think about that more often, I suppose, than I should.

I also feel the aches and pains of being in my 60s. Muscles and joints take time to warm up in the morning. It takes a little longer, it seems, to catch my breath after walking up a few flights of stairs. The 3-4 mile daily walks feel like exercise. I see an old man's hollowed chest when I look in the mirror and suspect the bald spot (thankfully) on the back of my head is growing.

About this time next week, the first day of hiking in Colombia, I will asking myself what the hell I was thinking signing up. I will be asking myself if I will be able to keep up, be able to complete the trek. I will be asking if this is the hike where I have the heart attack, fall off the cliff, drown in the river, or be bitten by a snake. Why am I doing this when I could just as easily be sitting by a pool in a resort, lounging on the deck of a cruise ship, or staring out the window of a tour bus?

But then I ask myself, "If you wanted comfort, why would you even leave the recliner in your living room?" We leave our homes, we leave our cities, we leave our countries to engage with the new. We want to see new sights, smell new smells, taste new tastes. Yet too often we stay in resorts that shield us from the barrios. We eat at KFCs instead of the street vendor. We drink Heinekens instead of Tuskers. We keep the windows of the bus between us and those whose wealth may be in cattle or in their back muscles or who may have no wealth at all.

I have two kinds of bug spray, hiking socks, quick-dry t-shirts, and my hat packed. I am anxious, but excited as well. Someone once said that the smaller the likelihood of survival, the greater the adventure. Hoping to strike a good balance.