Bloggers as light at the end of the tunnel?

Well, I think so. After years of having to put up with unbalanced, sometimes dishonest, and just untrustworthy sources for news, I’ve found some of the best political blogs to be as refreshing as opening up all the windows in a smoke-filled room.

But Phil Boas says blogs are the light at the end of the tunnel for the media. I think he’s got a point. He says:

If you listen closely, tuning in to the conversation beyond the oft-expressed contempt for mainstream media, you’ll find the blogosphere actually needs mainstream media. We provide most of the coverage that starts the conversation. And by carrying the conversation further than we do, the blogosphere makes mass media vital.

This is a point every one of my favorite Poli Blogs has made- they don’t wish to, and indeed cannot, replace MSM- they just want to be able to rely on it to at least care about getting its facts straight. An untrustworthy MSM is harmful to all of us in the long run, and bloggers really do understand that and want to see improvement.

Boas goes on to say,

The bloggers are demanding better standards and less bias-not unreasonable demands given journalism’s current track record. But they’re also creating stimulating and often irresistible discussion around the news we produce.

Journalism tomorrow, thanks to forces like the blogosphere, will grow more competitive. The best journalists will flourish. The mediocre will be exposed and washed out.

That’s not something to lament. That’s progress. We are living in the Information Age, when government and business are increasingly dependent on knowledge. It was inevitable that a knowledge-based culture would demand better, faster, more reliable information.

Good article. Read it all. Go on, you know you want to.

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The Gaps

Ever have one of those moments when something your child says brings you up short and you realize that there’s something important you somehow neglected to teach? A friend of mine once realized that somehow her 7 y.o. had never learned (or more likely, had forgotten) what to call his heel. Isn’t that embarrassing! JennyAnyDots asked me an immigration related question yesterday that made it glaringly obvious I’d neglected to expose her to some information every citizen ought to have. Sometimes one of the Common Room Scholars will mention a wonderful, classic children’s book, and one of her siblings will say, “Oh, I should read that sometime.” And the DHM will raise her eyebrows and calmly say, “What? You haven’t read that? How did I miss that? Why haven’t you read that? I have failed, failed, failed as a mother, educator, and human-being if you haven’t read that book! How could that have slipped? Where did I go wrong?”

Not too long ago one of the Common Room Scholars old enough to know better identified a picture of some kid in a basketball uniform as a football player. We’re not really into sports around here, but that one caught even the utterly sports illiterate (and proud of it) DHM up short.

Whenever something like this happens (and on many other occasions- we don’t need much provocation to bring out our insecurities), we all begin to worry and wonder, “What else isn’t being covered?”

And my guess is, plenty. But my guess is that this is true of all forms of education, public, private, and home. The DHM spent the first three years of public school in another country- and when our family returned to the U.S.A., the DHM embarrassed her mother by pointing to the Stars and Stripes and asking, “What’s that funny flag with the stripes?”
The mother of the young person who didn’t remember what to call his heel graduated in the top echelons of her class in a very upscale school, but when she was all grown up, it was the DHM who taught her how to use a library.

Many homeschoolers begin homeschooling out of reaction to something the public schools did or did not do. Reaction is good; it’s part of responsible parenting. But reaction will not sustain us for the long term commitment. The fact that the public school did not teach your child to add properly will not long be enough to motivate your homeschooling- especially when you note some area that you have missed as well.

So Public Schools, do, in my experience, leave far too much uncovered, but that doesn’t mean that a homeschool will be able to do it all, either. Trying to do it all is a sure way to burn out, for either public school or homeschool teachers.

So we do what we can. We teach, we learn, we study together. Christian parents pray and attempt to discern what God’s purpose for this child (and He has one for every single life on earth) is so that we can support it rather than hinder it. We learn to homeschool proactively rather than reactively- what the public school does or does not do no longer has any bearing on why we homeschool or even how we homeschool. After all, the menu at the local hospital cafeteria has no bearing on what or how we cook for our family meals, because the two institutions of hospital cafeteria and family mealtime have little in common in regard to goals, mission, or circumstances.

So we make our homes centers of learning and we help our children learn and grow, and we understand that nobody can do everything. There will always be gaps no matter how one was educated. Most importantly in our home, we keep alive a thirst for learning more so that our children ever will be learning, ever will be growing, ever will be *alive,* not merely existing.

This is not the same thing as the tired old mantra about how schools need to teach kids ‘how’ to learn instead of teaching them so many facts. Charlotte Mason said this more elegantly, but a rough paraphrase of her thought would be that it’s kind of silly to talk a lot about teaching *how* to learn without ever giving the kidlets anything worthy to learn- sort of like mucking about teaching how to eat without ever actually giving them any food. That’s not to say that learning how to use educational tools to discover information isn’t important. It is, just as it’s important to learn how to use a fork and knife. However, if a child gets hours of practice in the proper use of utensils without actually being given any food to work with, he will die. A child educated in the process of discovering information (how to use a websearch, an encyclopedia, the library), but never given any worthwhile, nutritious ideas to feed upon will die intellectually, or at least badly stunt his growth. A child taught to properly identify a list of foods, eating utensils, and place settings has learned something worth knowing- but unless he actually takes in some food, that knowledge will do him little long-term good. A child taught lists of facts all through school (home or public school) is in a similar condition- he knows many facts, but he understands little about the connections between those facts and he has but a distant acquaintance with ideas.

Most important is keeping alive the desire and taste for discovering new information. As Charlotte Mason says, it’s not just how much he knows, but how much he cares about what he knows.

So relax. There just isn’t enough time to cover it all, to teach all the facts you will ever want your child to know. We are all sometimes chagrined when we come across something we have failed to teach our children, but if we introduce them to a wide and generous curriculum based on ideas, we will more often be delighted when they teach us something we never learned. The more they read good books, the more ideas they meet, and the more ideas they meet, the more connections they are able to make, and the more connections they make, the more they are able to fill in their own gaps- and ours.

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The HeadGirl just told a complete stranger on the phone that her brains were mush. The Equuschick, full of wisdom, said, “I wouldn’t do that.”

The HeadGirl doesn’t care. She was being honest with the poor stranger who was trying to get coherent information out of her.

Coherent Information does not come easily the HeadGirl at the moment. Indeed, the only information that *does* come easily is the number of days until semester’s end. There are too many of them, last time she counted.

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Catch the Equuschick telling a complete stranger her brain is mush. =P

This is what the Headgirl just did, over the telephone to some survey taker or other. “My brain is mush, so I can’t help you right now.”

No dignity. No dignity at all. Besides, it isn’t true. Her brain isn’t mush, its only a sort of gluten, at the moment. When she wakes up it will be bett-
No, wait. The Equuschick forgets. The Headgirl goes to school tomorrow, which means she will wake up at 6:30 am and her brain will have ceased even to be glutenous, and will have become quite definitely mush.

The Equuschick apologizes, it wasn’t very kind of her to use her sister as comical fodder in this fashion. But she was instructed to be funny, and was searching for inspiration. The Headgirl fell in her lap from above, as it were.

Where was she?

Ah, yes. She was going to play Intellectual again. She must find her hat.

She returns, wearing her Intellectual Hat.

Check this out, attributed to Boniface VII:

“We declare, state, define and pronounce that for every human creature to be subject to the Roman pope is altogether necessary for salvation.”

I’ve heard some rather suspicious things about Boniface VII, but that’s really not the point. What catches my attention is the fact that, just today, I saw one particular person argue quite sincerely that the largest factor in the failure of the church to view this statement as one of ex cathedra is that it has no scriptural basis. The Equuschick is confused. Had said person simply argued that it wasn’t ex cathedra because this particular pope was deposed, the Equuschick could see the line of reasoning, though she’s always wondered how in the world one man may be presumed to speak ex cathedra and, at the same time, be in a position to be deposed. All that aside, the Equuschick finds it difficult to understand how the statement of a man called “Holy Father” in direct opposition to the scriptures can be undermined by its lack of scriptural authority.

Who knows. Maybe her brain is just mush.

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A quote from Gandalf

This is one of my favorite quotes from LOTR:

Many that live deserve death. And many that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. For not even the wise can see all ends.
Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

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