Posted on May 29th, 2012 No comments
This is another guest posting by James Lynch, my high school English teacher. Feel free to leave comments or you may email him directly at at jimadalynch(at)gmail.com
In their eleven-volume series, “The History of Civilization,” Will and Ariel Durant detail man’s attempts to create stable and secure societies. Throughout recorded history, they recount, nations and empires have striven to replace tribal barbarism with societies in which people can live in peace, harmony and economic self-sufficiency. Along the way, historians, poets, scientists, theologians and philosophers have left records of those attempts.
As a species, human beings have violence and predation built into their DNA. Durant relates that man’s history can be traced back a million years before Christ, but that farming as a means of survival began only 25,000 years before. How did our ancestors survive for 975,000 years prior to raising crops? Brutality and hunting were indelibly imprinted in our evolving humanity during that span. In the relatively paltry 2,000 years of the Christian era, those inbred tendencies and instincts have battled with man’s attempts to tame the beast within. Indeed, Durant characterizes contemporary humans as “trousered apes.”
Throughout modern history, societies have attempted to temper those tendencies, as increasing intellectual ability gave rise to rational thought, scientific discovery, and philosophical investigation of man and his place in the universe. It has been a steep learning curve, as wars, destruction and privation dominated the centuries, with the twentieth century ranking as the bloodiest.
Beginning with Gutenberg, the means of exploring the emerging ideas of scientists, mathematicians, economists and philosophers began to gain wider dissemination, and with them came the gradual understanding that humankind had to recognize and cope with its inherently violent disposition. With burgeoning scientific discovery and increasing economic autonomy, western societies realized that the accumulation and sharing of knowledge held the keys, not just to increased wealth and productivity, but to the possibilities of mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence among peoples and nations as well.
In order to preserve those materials, the great universities of Europe eventually became the repository of the accumulated wisdom of prior ages. The genius of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Homer, Horace, Virgil, Cicero and Aquinas, as well as Shakespeare, Milton, Chaucer, Cervantes, da Vinci, Swift, Hobbes, Descartes, Galileo, Locke, Darwin, Tolstoy, Voltaire and many others provides invaluable insight in our quest to understand the nature of humanity. The ugly as well as beautiful truths they have discovered are the means for continuing intellectual evolution toward a better future.
In his “Idea of a University,” Cardinal Newman indicated that the role of a university was to help students “ . . . reach out toward truth, and grasp it.” Sadly, that purpose has been largely replaced in this country’s institutions of higher learning. A great college and university system has, in the last fifty years, become less concerned with academic pursuits than with physical expansion and sports. Major universities have become de facto minor-league farm teams for the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association. The perversion of what should be the intellectual pursuit of knowledge afforded by such schools is evident when sports announcers interview professional athletes after a televised game. The level of discourse is often cringe-worthy. In the 1980’s, all-pro football player Dexter Manly of the Washington Redskins admitted that he could not read – after graduating from college. More recently, Terrell Owens announced that he is in financial straits, having burned through an estimated one hundred million dollars. It’s a safe bet that any of the college classes he attended did not include economics.
Instead of the core curricula of previous generations, many of today’ schools offer a variety of watered-down courses, as well as a soft grading system. It is striking that even under these circumstances nearly half of enrolled freshmen drop out before getting a degree. The reasons for such a situation are manifold: 1. the rise of self-esteem as the measure of individual worth (“Everybody gets a trophy” and “We don’t keep score”); 2. the fragmentation of family structure; 3. The lack of preparation by elementary and high schools; 4. public education’s mad chase after federal and state dollars attached to flawed assessment, resulting in teaching for the test, and outright cheating in order to meet governmentally-mandated guidelines. Add to that the voracious appetites of colleges and universities for ever-larger student populations to finance expansion, together with mushrooming sports facilities, and you wind up with a perfect storm.
To keep the college education engine purring, schools often provide a pulse and checkbook admissions policy. Consequently, many poorly prepared students require remediation before they can begin to compete. Anyone who believes that a few first semester remedial classes can erase thirteen years of poor education is engaging in wishful thinking. Once on campus, students can choose classes from columns A through Z which do not require much time, effort or thought. Instead of Greek and Roman classics, and masterpieces of Western civilization – all of which contribute to the cultural bedrock of America – students can now choose elective courses in more contemporary classics, such as 1. “The Simpsons and Philosophy” (Cal Berkeley); 2. “The History of Shopping” (Yale); 3. “The Unbearable Whiteness of Barbie” (Occidental College); 4. “Lesbian Novels Since World War II” (Swarthmore), 5. “Nip, Tuck, Perm and Tattoo” (Alfred University); and 6. “Marxist Concepts of Racism” (Harvard).
Shakespeare, et al. are seen as “Dead white European males” who can’t possibly offer a valuable educational experience to students, because of their collective “racism, misogyny and lack of diversity.” As a result of such lowered standards and expectations, many graduates can’t identify the three branches of the federal government, provide the decade in which the Civil War took place, or name the governor of their state. A recent study by professors at New York University and the University of Virginia found that nearly half of students show “no significant learning after two years of college.” Going to college has become a very expensive four-year “booze cruise” for far too many individuals, a good percentage of whom do not need a college degree in the first place.
Unfortunately, guidance counselors have convinced high school students that they need college in order to walk upright without dragging their knuckles. Trade schools for electricians, carpenters, plumbers and masons just don’t carry a sufficient social cachet. College has been oversold as a necessary step to a better life, but the truth is that it is simply not appropriate for everyone. If you’ve got the ideas and ingenuity necessary to build a better mousetrap, you may not need college at all. Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs (drop-outs all) speak to this point.
For those who need a degree – pre-med and pre-law students, engineers, architects, educators, accountants, math and science majors, for example – a core curriculum that includes significant classes should be mandatory. Classes in Greek and Roman classical literature, as well as survey classes in American and Western European history and literature are necessary for a well-rounded doctor, lawyer, teacher or scientist, as are required classes in philosophy, theology and government.
Steeped in the knowledge of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as the wisdom of European masters, the framers were able to provide the world with the freest and most prosperous nation in the history of mankind. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution reflect all that is best in that canon. Proper education of citizens is the only way to insure that their vision continues for posterity. In a society where more people recognize Snooki than the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, we’re truly at a crossroads. Can we keep the trousers on the apes, or do we regress to the forest primeval?
Posted on April 10th, 2012 No comments
This is a guest post by my high school English teacher, Jim Lynch, who I was fortunate to have as a teacher twice, in both my freshman and senior years. He was one of those rare individuals who was doing what he loved and you could tell how much he enjoyed it. We looked forward to his class and I can recall how he made learning fun which was in contrast to a few other teachers I had along the way. As you may have noticed from a lack of recent postings, I have felt a bit of ‘writers block’ when it comes to updating this blog, so it’s with a sense of irony and relief that my English teacher has come to my rescue with something that is truly worth reading. I took the liberty of scanning his photo from my wife’s high school yearbook so the picture of him you see below is from 1978. He attended the ice breaker for our 30th reunion in 2007 and he had not aged at all. In fact, he looked younger than many of us who were his students in the 1970s.
Golden and I Knew It
After a two-year stint as a rookie teacher at a small and new Catholic high school in northern New Jersey, I left the job for economic and personal reasons. The economics reflected starting a family (my wife ceased to work as a new mother). The personal involved doubts about my chosen profession.
Because of a confluence of circumstances, I had been made English Department Chairman. I was given this position simply because I was the first of the new English teachers hired to staff the school, where I taught junior and senior English. Fresh out of college, I felt out of my depth as an educator. I had to design a curriculum, assign classes, and select and order textbooks, all without a veteran teacher or mentor as a sounding board. Lacking any frame of reference, I felt relieved when I had to leave.
After two subsequent years as the world’s worst salesman (tires), I realized that although I was raw and uneven in my teaching, my future lay in education. What I needed, I determined, was further experience in the company of other teachers who could provide answers to questions that mattered in the day-to-day life of an educator.
The opportunity to reenter teaching presented itself in 1972 when an opening occurred at West Side Central Catholic (soon to be renamed Bishop O’Reilly) High School in Kingston, Pennsylvania. I took the position full of doubts and reservations, but determined to learn, once and for all, if time and circumstance could make a difference. It was to be a turning point in my life, both professionally and personally.
My first impression of the students was impressive. They seemed to move through the day with an ease and maturity untypical for teenagers. While they certainly dealt with the universal and eternal concerns of peer acceptance, self-image and increasing autonomy, they nevertheless demonstrated a congenial symbiosis with teachers and administrators, and exhibited a genuine sense of belonging to their school. In general, they looked comfortable and content in their demeanor. There were cliques, for sure, but no real distinct separation. Jocks were in the glee club and in plays, while National Honor Society students played sports and joined homecoming committees. With rare exceptions, they respected their teachers, and looked upon them as professionals who cared about their academic and personal development.
I always considered them as guests in my classroom. As their host, I both extended and received a respect that permeated our discussions and interactions. Even their gentle mockery of the faculty belied a palpable esteem. I remember student-generated and circulated comic books that poked fun at teachers who, they alleged, were hiding in plain sight as superheroes. One history teacher in particular was presented as Captain Coma, who wore a cape with a huge C in its center. Captain Coma once saved children from escaping tigers and lions at a zoo by lecturing them until they fell into comas in mid rampage.
We had our share of miscreants over the years, but they usually didn’t last long in the school’s family ambience. They were looked upon as odd or pitiful by the majority of students, alongside whom they stood out in marked contrast. While my rose-colored glasses of retirement have not obscured the undercurrent of experimentation that colors teenagers of all eras, the reality is that such activity rarely breached the surface of student life in any blatant or consistent fashion. Perhaps strong family bonds were part of that equation. At any rate, a positive student demeanor and deportment evidenced itself in an excellent academic and social environment.
Perhaps the best example of the school’s warmth and vitality can be seen in its addition of an educational program for special-needs students during its later years. Essentially a school within a school, its curriculum was geared to the needs of these students, although there was some overlap in some other courses, such as computer classes. These students also shared the cafeteria, attended pep rallies and frequented sporting events. If the idea was to have such students get used to mainstream society, it accomplished considerably more. As I stood at my classroom door during change of classes, I often witnessed my students making casual conversation with these special adolescents, high-fiving them and asking about their classes. In the final analysis, I don’t know which group learned more about life and love in those interactions.
The teachers were of two types: generally older nuns from several orders (their percentage of the faculty had begun to decline as vocations ebbed after Vatican II), and generally younger lay teachers. Initially, the sisters seemed to tolerate us as unfortunately necessary components of the teaching staff. Over the years I spent at the school, the ratio of sisters to lay teachers tilted quickly. By the end of the school’s existence, one nun was on staff as a librarian. Lay teachers were generally in their twenties in the early 70’s, and graduates of local colleges and residents of surrounding communities.
Because Catholic schools were exempt from state/federal educational policies and regulations, and the religious staff generally left us to our own resources, we were able to pursue teaching in a purely practical and innovative fashion. We weren’t bogged down in a morass of state standards, promulgated by faceless bureaucratic “experts” who couldn’t find the inside of a classroom with a map and a flashlight.
Consequently, we relied upon one another to build and implement teaching methods and strategy. Aside from periodic (and generally inconsequential) teacher meetings conducted by the administration, we discussed our mutual concerns informally – in the faculty lounge, local taverns, at holiday “progressive parties,” and end-of-the-year picnic outings. Because we shared our approaches and discussed our failures and successes, we grew and prospered as a faculty. The result created an exceptional educational experience for teachers and students alike. During the four decades I spent at Central Catholic/Bishop O’Reilly, graduating seniors merited college acceptance in the 90th percentile range and millions of dollars in scholarship offers.
At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, I found teaching at Central/O’Reilly to be almost magical. The work was both hard and time-consuming, but the classroom experience made those considerations more than worthwhile. Very often the change-of-class bell interrupted a class discussion that neither students nor teacher wanted to end. Because many teachers volunteered their time to chaperone after-school activities, we got to know students, and to be known by them, in an added dimension. Teachers in charge of a student club or activity had merely to ask their colleagues to assist at an event. Proms, all-night dance marathons, plays and concerts all provided teacher-student interaction outside the classroom. Weekly free tutoring at the school in multi-disciplinary areas during early evening hours also offered opportunities to foster mutual understanding and respect.
In retrospect, the number of second-generation students whose parents I had taught offers confirmation of the value afforded the school. At report card nights, parents often related their desire to have their children share their high school experience. It is noteworthy that we also taught many students whose parents were public school teachers and administrators. Perhaps the most telling and gratifying indication that we were doing worthwhile work can be seen in the number of graduates who returned to the school as new educators and became valued colleagues of their former teachers.
The time and distance afforded by retirement has deepened my appreciation for being able to participate in such an extraordinary time and place. It is a source of immense satisfaction that the school’s traditions and accomplishments endure in the memories of her graduates and will be passed on to their children and grandchildren. I suppose that line from the Alma Mater had it right: West Side Central Catholic/Bishop O’Reilly will “live on in glory” in the hearts and minds of everyone lucky enough to be associated with that incredibly fulfilling educational institution. Not only is that time a “golden age” in memory, it carried with it a golden aura each day I walked those halls, and for that I will always be grateful.
April 10, 2012
If you’d like to provide any feedback to Mr. Lynch, he can be reached at jimadalynch(at)gmail.com. You’ll need to fix that email to use it, by substituting the @ symbol for the (at) characters.
Posted on October 23rd, 2010 1 comment
I got a MacBook Pro about a year ago and, coming from a background of using Windows, I installed Boot Camp on it so that I could run Windows programs. I find that I actually use Windows most of the time on my Mac computer. However, after a year, the 30 GB Boot Camp partition was reaching its limit. I found that in order to install some new program, I had to uninstall something else. I did a web search on how to expand the Boot Camp partition and was greeted with lots of advice from various forums, much of it conflicting, some of it untested, on whether it was possible and which tools to use. At first I was hoping to just find a utility that allowed me to move a slider bar that would shrink the Mac partition and expand the Boot Camp partition. However, after reading numerous postings and websites on how to perform the task, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. I saw a few recommendations for Camp Tune, which supposedly allows an easy way to resize the Boot Camp partition without deleting it but that program is no longer free and some have reported that it didn’t work all the time.
I dutifully backed up the Boot Camp partition several different ways and then committed to changing it from FAT32 to NTFS. I had set it up as a FAT32 partition initially because that would allow me to write to it with the MacOS. The MacOS can read from but not write to NTFS partitions. However, I found that I never used that feature and the free tool I was going to use (WinClone) didn’t allow you to expand a FAT32 partition. It could back it up and restore it, but it would stay the same size. So I had to convert my Bootcamp partition to NTFS. That’s actually easy to do, but it takes some time. You just need to boot Windows and then go into the DOS prompt and use this command:
convert C: /FS:NTFS
You may have to reboot to get this to work because it may be unable to unmount the partition to convert it. In my case it required two reboots, both of which ran the chkdsk program before the partition converted to NTFS.
Once this was done, I used WinClone to back up the Boot Camp NTFS partition to an external USB drive. According to one of the comments, WinClone may not work with MacOS 10.6 (Snow Leopard). I’m running Leopard (10.5). After backing up the Windows data, I used the BootCamp Assistant in the Utilities to delete the Bootcamp partition, and then to resize it to 120GB. After that I used WinClone to restore the image to the Bootcamp partition.
I followed the directions on this YouTube video:
That video gives you the impression that the steps all take a few seconds. However, some of them can take hours so you need to be patient.
Beware that some people have reported losing data while attempting to perform these steps, so it’s critical to have a backup of all of your important data prior to embarking on any partition resizing project.
Posted on January 31st, 2010 2 comments
By now you’ve no doubt visited at least one website, usually one that appears in page one of Google’s search results, that does a redirect and all of a sudden, what appears to be a virus scanner is now running on your computer screen. It may look something like the window below.
Click on the image for a larger version of it.
Most of the popups are harmless, but the last one is an attempt to get you to download an executable file that, if you open it, invariably will end up taking you to a site where you’ll have to put in your credit card number to pay for the virus scanner to remove the viruses and to ‘keep you safe’.
Downloading an .exe file won’t do anything by itself, but if you open an ‘.exe’ file, then all bets are off, because it can do anything it wants, including installing a real virus, which would not be a stretch for a company that is trying to steal from you already.
The safest place to click on the pop-up windows are on the red X’s in the upper right hand corner to close them, but sometimes you’ll find that you can’t get out of the web page or browser because they keep popping up. If your browser keeps a ‘memory’ of the sites you were on when it closed (like Firefox does), it feels like you can’t get rid of the offending site. But there is a way to safely extract yourself from the clutches of these evil doers.
There are a number of real virus scanners out there, and a popular one is AVG. You can download and install it for free, although it may do some unsavory things such as change your default search engine to Yahoo and install yet another toolbar. These things are easily reversed, of course.
So, you might wonder, how does this happen that a website ends up in page one of Google’s search results and yet is a site that is so obviously evil that it’s trying to extort money from you? It’s usually done by cloaking. When Google’s search bots go looking to index websites, these sites give the search bots a different page filled with keywords that look like an exact match for what you’re searching for so they score high enough to reach page one. However, when the website detects a real browser, it will redirect it to another website that tries to convince you that you have a virus and now must buy some protection. Google and other search engines hate cloaking, but they have a hard time detecting it, since a website can tell whether it’s being visited by a search bot vs. a browser.
If you’ve visited a site like this, you should to do a real virus scan, particularly if you allowed it to download and execute the .exe file. As long as you didn’t open the .exe file, you’re probably OK, but for peace of mind, a scan with AVG or similar virus scanner may help your computer feel just a little less slimy after visiting one of those sites.