Sharing Essays With your Teen

This is just something I’m working on, and it may not be the one best thing to do, it may not be what your student needs, it may not even be a good idea.  Somebody else probably does this better.  I like reading what other people are doing with their students as it gives me ideas to thinking about with my own student, or myself, so I’m sharing this.


When I ask him to read something as part of school (I use push to kindle for this a lot), and I want a bit more depth than his first off the cuff oral narration, I roughly follow these steps:

1.Read it, and make a list of a few of the author’s main points, representing them as accurately as possible.

2. Look over that list, summarize any supporting points or examples he might give, references, allusions used to support the point.

3. Optional at our house, but that is not ideal: It would be a good idea about now to wait a couple days, and then have your student rewrite the essay or article from his own notes, but we are so busy with planning the Philippines move, college applications, head-butting, work hours, and hanging out with friends I won’t see forever (or for the six months I’ll actually stay with you guys in the Philippines) and doing Khan Academy SAT prep that I haven’t done this.

4. Once the student has demonstrated the ability to actually read and accurately represent the author’s points, then, and only then, ask the student what he thinks about it.

The above process in our case is spread over two to five days, depending on the length of the article in question and depth of material.

I think this works with some current events articles as well.

Some of my reasons:

“The person who says he knows what he thinks but cannot express it usually does not know what he thinks.”
“To agree without understanding is inane. To disagree without understanding is impudent.”

Mortimer Adler, How to Read a Book

These, of course, are not the only way to read an essay or article.  Other things I might do would be to ask about the persuasion techniques used, word choices made, structural decisions in building the article.

You don’t need to do this excessively and squeeze a thing dry and lifeless to the point that it is always ever and after a thing of repugnance to your students.  One of the most influential lessons on this sort of thing I ever had was walking through a single essay with Mr. Schmidt, my favourite English teacher.  The essay was on poverty, and in the first paragraph the author claimed not to be asking for our sympathy.  The next paragraph had a beautifully evocative paragraph on the smells of poverty.  I particularly recall being completely emotionally overtaken by her description of the smell of onions and cabbage in hallways of apartment buildings where impoverished families live.  There were not really any facts about living in poverty, just emotional statements and moving descriptions done so well you could almost smell the onions.  And why cabbage and onions anyway?  In America do most poor families (or any other families) really cook from scratch, or do they rely on tv dinners and frozen pizza?

After discussing the skillful use of words in that second paragraph, Mr. Schmidt returned our attention to the first paragraph and asked us to consider again, in view of the onions and cabbage paragraph, what did we make of her claim about not asking for sympathy.  What was she asking for, then, asked Mr. Schmidt.  We looked at each other, and we knew.  She was lying.  She was asking for sympathy.  That is precisely what she wished to engage, our emotions, and only our emotions, in her article.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.  It was her job, her goal, to persuade. But as readers, it is our goal to first understand, and then to sift, assess, critique, and be clear about what we are accepting and rejecting and why.  And as parents, and teachers, it is our privilege and responsibility to help our students learn to do that, without unduly coming between them and the text.  It is a delicate balance.

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Technology And Us

You need to read these, and in this order:

About Friday’s DNS attack:

The fact is that we’ve embedded internet technology in every aspect of modern existence. And while advances continue at a breakneck pace, it’s always easier to destroy than create. (That’s a rule as old as civilization.) People wishing to attack the web infrastructure remain able to do so with abandon if they have a few folks with the brains and some surprisingly easy to acquire resources. And we’re not just talking about the timely and accurate reporting of election results here. You might think that our banking institutions and defense facilities are more safe than the ones being cracked into this week but that’s only true to a point.

The above article references the Internet of Things, but links to an MIT page or something, at anyrate, it was distinctly unhelpful.  Try this:

“What’s the buzz? The Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”

But here’s what I mean when I say people don’t think big enough. So much of the chatter has been focused on machine-to-machine communication (M2M): devices talking to like devices. But a machine is an instrument, it’s a tool, it’s something that’s physically doing something. When we talk about making machines “smart,” we’re not referring strictly to M2M. We’re talking about sensors.

A sensor is not a machine. It doesn’t do anything in the same sense that a machine does. It measures, it evaluates; in short, it gathers data. The Internet of Things really comes together with the connection of sensors and machines. That is to say, the real value that the Internet of Things creates is at the intersection of gathering data and leveraging it. All the information gathered by all the sensors in the world isn’t worth very much if there isn’t an infrastructure in place to analyze it in real time.

Cloud-based applications are the key to using leveraged data. The Internet of Things doesn’t function without cloud-based applications to interpret and transmit the data coming from all these sensors. The cloud is what enables the apps to go to work for you anytime, anywhere.”

Wrap it up by reading (or re-reading) Wendell Berry’s essay on why he is not buying a computer.

You may want to share these articles with your teen.  I do this occasionally by using Push to Kindle.  You need to plug in your kindle email address,  you get at Amazon in your Kindle management area.  Copy and paste the link in the handy text box at PushtoKindle, click preview, see if it has what you want, and then click send.  Sometimes a title doesn’t come out right, and you can change the title in the preview box.  I appreciate this feature as it makes it easier for me to find and categorize the articles I send to Kindle.

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The Long History of Hillary Hiding Emails

March 7, 2015, Josh Schwerin emails Jennifer Palmieri, Kristina Schake, Nick Merrill, and JesseFerguson, saying:

Jen you probably have more on this but it looks like POTUS just said he
found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news.and says,

Jen you probably have more on this but it looks like POTUS just said he
found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news.

Within six minutes, Nick had forwarded it to Philippe Reines, Heather Samuelson and Cheryl Mills.

A few hours later Cheryl Mills forwards it all to Podesta, saying:

we need to clean this up – he has emails from her – they do not say

On March 13th there was another exchange concerning a planned release of a public statement about the Benghazi emails, calling on Trey Gowdy to do a better job, and Hillary making a statement about testifying (which Podesta called bravado, and he didn’t like it). Mills says she is not on board, she does not want to poke the bear (I assume Gowdy is meant). Podesta explains:

“My perspective is that we want the fight to be about Benghazi, not about servers in her basement.”
FBI investigation (page 93) shows the FBI knew Obama had emailed her at her private, non-governmental server. It shows more than that.

Notice the dates- March, 2015.

Here’s Cheryl ‘We need to clean this up’ acting again:

According to the FBI documents, in December 2014, former chief of staff Cheryl Mills told a Platte River employee that Clinton no longer needed access to e-mails older than 60 days. She also instructed the person modify the e-mail retention policy on Clinton’s server to reflect this change. An unknown Clinton staff member said “sh/e did not want the .PST file after the export and wanted it removed from the PRN server.” But the Platte River employee didn’t delete the files or make the retention-policy change until four months later.

After a March 2, 2015, New York Times story “Hillary Clinton Used Personal Email Account at State Dept., Possibly Breaking Rules,” Mills sent an e-mail to Platte River Network “referencing the preservation request from the Committee on Benghazi.”

Sometime between March 25 and 31, 2015, the Platte River employee had an “Oh expletive moment” that the files weren’t deleted. He told the FBI that he then “deleted the Clinton archive mailbox from the PRN server and used BleachBit to delete the exported .PST files he had created on the server system containing Clinton’s e-mails,” according to the FBI report.

We know the FBI investigation was badly compromised or Clinton would have been charged. We know that the Platte River Employee is Paul Combetta, who took the 5th in his testimony, and who, in July of 2014 was already asking on Reddit for advice on how to go through emails which had already been sent and strip out the ‘VIP’s email address, or delete the emails altogether so they could never be recovered. And two weeks after Cheryl said ‘we need to clean this up,’ the emails were scoured clean with bleachbit.

In this email case, Hillary deleted over 50,000 emails (that we know about- nobody really knows, according to Podesta, how many there were, and he doesn’t want that fact mentioned). But Mills was also involved in the cover up when almost 2 million secret White House emails were hidden.

“Cheryl Mills’ handling of a now-forgotten email scandal that unfolded during the Bill Clinton White House era was “loathsome” and “totally inadequate,” a federal judge wrote in a scathing opinion in a 2008 lawsuit.

Mills’ involvement in a previous Clinton email scandal — and her alleged stonewalling and foot-dragging in response to questions about it — has taken on new significance in light of her recent deposition in a lawsuit filed by Judicial Watch.”

In fact, Hilary Clinton has been hiding emails from the public and those who should have access to them since 1999, and Cheryl Mills is one of her key ‘fixers’ when it comes to this stuff.

They wanted to get away with it,” says a member of Hillary’s own staff, complaining about how this latest email scandal has been handled.

Read more:

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Even Democrat Lawyers, Otherwise Friendly, Didn’t Buy Her Email Excuses

From the podestaemails:

This is an email from Erika Rottenberg, who is discussing, from what I can tell, a help the campaign out, intimate little gathering of around 50 people presumed friendly who they want to recruit for support.  There will be a bit of a question and answer, and a discussion of the campaign and a few specific issues.  The crowd is handpicked, all guests presumed to be warm and likely to respond favorably. And even here, they are not all buying Hillary’s excuses for the email scandal (emphasis added)

” 1. you’re obviously amongst friends, but here’s the one i referred to (can’t remember which of you i talked about it with, if not both). It’s from someone that wasn’t goign to come, and i encouraged him to come. he comes at the issue slightly differnetly than what I’ve dsicussed with both of you (Ok, one thing to use personal email, but why the “twisted truth” (not my words) on why – with the two problematic areas being (a) emails to bill (when they were to bill’s staff) and (b) i only used one device — BB, when 2 weeks earlier, it was an iphone, BB and ipad. As Ann and I discussed, hopefully that’s a timing issue and whilst in state, she only used one. 🙂

*For my question*, it’s basically some variation of [not quite phrased right yet]: I know when I talk to my friends who are attorneys we are all struggling with what happened to the emails and aren’t satisfied with answers to date. While we all know of the occasional use of personal email addresses for business, none of my friends circle can understand how it was viewed as ok/secure/appropriate to use a private server for secure documents AND why further Hillary took it upon herself to review them and delete documents without providing anyone outside her circle a chance to weigh in. It smacks of acting above the law and it smacks of the type of thing I’ve either gotten discovery sanctions for, fired people for, etc.”

I do not know how the Clinton campaign answered, or whether their reply satisfied Ms Rottenberg.  So far, I’ve seen no answers, and the FBI investigation was a complete sham.

Hillary claimed all she had deleted was personal stuff: “Emails about planning Chelsea’s wedding or my mother’s funeral arrangements, condolence notes to friends as well as yoga routines, family vacations, the other things you typically find in inboxes…”

But among others, we know she also deleted “an email chain containing sensitive information about conversations with UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed.”

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Beginning Botany for Amateurs

The following excerpt is taken from a public domain biography or memoir about an influential British botanist John Stevens Henslow, rector at Hitcham, and later Professor of Botany at Cambridge.  It is not only an interesting account of a remarkable man, but also an introduction to how and why one might pursue a study of botany on an amateur basis:

“Whether viewed as a Professor at the University, or as occupying the more humble position of a parish priest, we find one aim and object always before him. We see the same thirst for science, the same untiring zeal to win others over to a love of the pursuits he so keenly relished himself, the same delight taken in training the young to appreciate and cultivate all truth, and in getting them to take an equal interest in the works and in the Word of God, as forming different parts only of the great volume put into our hands to read, and alike calculated to afford lessons for our growth in virtue and happiness.


[He combined his duties as parish priest with teaching in the village school]

Without omitting other branches of knowledge, some no doubt of more importance, he thought that Botany might, to a certain extent, be conveniently employed “for strengthening the observant faculties, and expanding the reasoning powers, of children in all classes of society.” Independently of the value of botanical knowledge abstractedly considered, the study of it leads to further advantages, and may be service able in many ways. It gives children a habit of observing nature, teaches them what kind of facts to notice, and how to observe correctly, so as to render their observations of avail to themselves or others. Even in the case of the children of the lower orders, it tends to make them more useful in the several callings they are likely to exercise in after-life. Young women in service, who often have the care of the children of the rich, — lads employed either in the farm or garden, — still more, those who may be engaged as pupil-teachers in other schools, — all these have the opportunity, more or less, of turning such knowledge to account. It furnishes them also with innocent and rational amusement in those leisure hours, which so many servants and poor idly throw away when their required work is done. Above all, it tends to raise their thoughts to the contemplation of the Creator, and to make them mindful, as well as observant, of that infinite wisdom and goodness, of which they see everywhere around them such abundant proofs.

But in order to obtain these beneficial results, botanical lessons must not be confined to telling the children the names and properties of plants, or how they may be artificially grouped, but must be directed to teaching them their structure, and their true affinities as dependent upon that structure. This was what ties as dependent upon that structure. This was what Professor Henslow strongly insisted upon, and made the groundwork of the lessons given in his school. Nor can it be effectually carried out without employing ” certain technical expressions,” which alone convey ” scientifically accurate ideas.” Accordingly, his first step was to get the children thoroughly to master these necessary terms, and to understand their meaning.

His habit was to attend the school regularly every Monday afternoon, for the purpose of giving a lesson in Botany, from an hour and a half to two hours in length. The botanical pupils were all volunteers, and limited in number to forty-two. They varied in age from eight to eighteen, and mostly entered with great spirit into the work set them, seeming thoroughly to enjoy it. They were divided into three classes.

A certain number of words, however, expressive of the characters of some of the leading divisions under which plants are arranged, were given them to spell correctly, before they were allowed to enter even the lowest of these classes. When they had gained their place in the third class, other words, designating the different floral organs of plants, were given them to spell in like manner. There was also put into their hands what was called the ” Floral Schedule’ a portion of which they were required to fill up. When able to do both these things correctly, they were raised to the second class. Higher lessons of a similar character were then set them, which they were equally to master before being raised to the first.

All this, however, will be rendered much more intelligible by an inspection of ” The Printed Scheme for Monday Lessons,” a copy of which is given on the annexed Table. A copy of the same scheme was ” given to every child, however young, who was ambitious of being classed as a volunteer botanist.” It will be seen that the first thing mentioned in the Monday Lesson is the ” inspection of a few species, consecutively, in the order on the plant-list.” This refers to a printed list, drawn up by Professor Henslow, of all the plants growing wild in the parish of Hitcham, with the addition of a few common trees in plantations. The numbering of the orders, genera, and species in this list agrees with ” Hooker and Arnott’s British Flora,” the orders having ” been Anglicised by changing the terminations of the genitive cases of their typical genera into ‘ anths ‘ (flowers) ; as Ranunculi, Ranunculanths, &c.” A copy of this Plant-list was ” given to every child who had fought its way into the third class, and could write down from memory the thirteen words of the five exercises at the top of the printed scheme.”





Above taken from Memoir of the Rev. John Stevens Henslow, M.A., F.L.S., F.G.S., F.C.P.S.: Late Rector of Hitcham and Professor of Botany in the University of Cambridge, by Leonard Jenkyns

If the floral schedule is confusing, I found the following summary of it in another book (but I misplaced the title of that book):

The ‘floral schedule’ is pictured above. To summarize it:
The botanical lesson included:—
1st—Inspection of specimens, anything special noticed and explained.
2nd—”Hard word” exercises. Two or three words (botanical terms) given to be correctly spelt on the next Monday.
3rd—Specimens examined and dissected and floral schedules, traced on slates, to be filled up. Marks allowed for accuracy, etc.
4th—Questions on the plant “organs.”
published by John Van Voorst, 1862

Most of us trying to learn the local plants choose flowering plants, and on focus on identifying the wildflowers by the colour of the blossom.  This is okay in the beginning stages, but we really need to learn to look beyond the colour of the bloom.  Not only can it vary (between plants, based on where they are growing and the time of year), but of course, much of the time the plant isn’t in flower. We should be able to identify it when it isn’t blooming as well.  It seems difficult at first, but it’s doable with a bit of time, steady attention and effort on our part.  Here are some tools to help, if you have others, please do share.

Learning to identify leaves and the terms for them– these are page images from an 1918 book so some terms are dated, but the images are useful for helping to identify the distinctive differences between types of leaves.

How to Identify Plants in the Field
This slideshow tutorial on tree I.D. is helpful. It’s even more helpful if you slow down, focus, look at the pictures and look again, from one to the other, and compare what you are seeing, what is the difference you should be noticing? It’s also available as a PDF file

Here’s another key

Here’s a tip. Sometimes the keys will contain terms that we don’t know, and some of them may seem scary.  But don’t run screaming and hide your head in a romance novel determined never to confuse yourself with such brain-breaking words again. Slow down, take a deep breath, and google the terms, one a time.  Here a little, there a little.  Do this on a regular basis, fifteen minutes one day, ten another, but at least once a week, and by this time next year you will be astonished at what you have learned.

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