1) In Pictures

a) Me

Just to prove I did once have hair this is my high school year book picture, 1961

b) Religion

Shanghai, China: People burn incense sticks at a temple during Chinese new year celebrations for the year of the rabbit (Guardian)

Greek Orthodox Syrian women prays inside chapel in the Christian neighboorhood of Bob Tuma (LA Times)

Santiago de Las Vegas, Cuba: A man drinks rum while lying in a coffin during the Funerals of Pachencho festival near Havana (Guardian)

2) Education

At what age should children be told that the world, and life, is not all sugarplums and faeries.

a. Writer Giles Milton’s seven year old daughter Madeleine was given a school project to design a heraldic shield that represented the most important elements in her family background.

An article in the Guardian tells what happened next:

“Aware that one set of grandparents was German, she proudly decorated her shield with the only German symbol she knew: a giant swastika. My wife was horrified and swiftly suggested she change it. But this left Madeleine perplexed. She was proud of her German roots and wanted to celebrate the fact in her heraldic shield. She knew nothing of the swastika’s evil associations. To her innocent eyes, it meant nothing bad.”

“I had always wondered what, exactly, my German father-in-law did during the war. I had never dared ask because he is a deeply private person. And he had certainly never volunteered any information. Even my wife, Alexandra, knew very little. “He never talks about it,” she said. “It was a bad time of his life.”

“The swastika incident led me to ask Wolfram – now 87 and a distinguished artist – all the questions I had never dared to put to him. His family, he told me, had been against Hitler from the outset. His father, Erwin, was a bohemian animal artist who kept a large menagerie in the garden. He was also a freemason, who counted many intellectual Jews among his clients and friends.

Wolfram’s mother, Marie Charlotte, was equally idiosyncratic: highly cultivated, she was deeply involved in the Rudolf Steiner movement, with its emphasis on the freedom of individual thought. The family lived in a rambling villa just outside the town of Pforzheim, in southern Germany. One of Wolfram’s earliest memories is of spying on the maid as she took her bath. Her naked body was not the only attraction. She always bathed with her pet snake coiled around her neck.

The family’s interests and eccentricities were to put them on the wrong side of the Third Reich. The momentous political transformation of Germany had its first direct effect on the family within weeks of Hitler becoming chancellor in January 1933. Erwin’s freemasonry lodge was closed and banned.”

“The biggest impact on family life came in 1942 when 17-year-old Wolfram was conscripted into the Reich Labour Service, the first step into the military. He learned that he was to be sent to Russia.”

“After eight weeks of training, Wolfram boarded a train for the Crimea. It was during this journey through the occupied east that he got his first inkling of crimes being committed in Germany’s name. His first shock came when the train drew into the Belorussian frontier town of BrestLitovsk. Scores of Jewish women, all wearing yellow stars, were cleaning dirt from between the tracks. They were in a pitiful condition – their famished frames a visible testimony to long months of hunger. Another group of Jews were engaged in a desperate brawl over empty food tins thrown out of the train by German soldiers. They were wiping the insides of the tins with their fingers in the hope of finding some nourishment.

In the town itself, Wolfram witnessed a German guard smashing a Soviet prisoner-of-war around the head with a spade – his first direct experience of the brutality taking place in the occupied lands. Little did he know that these prisoners-of-war were actually among the more fortunate. Most of the 950,000 Soviet soldiers taken prisoner were starved to death or imprisoned without shelter in the cruel months of midwinter.”

You can read the whole article here – http://tinyurl.com/6hne6br

Giles Milton has written a book about his father-in-laws war time experiences – Wolfram: The Boy Who Went to War .

b. The Tennesse Tea Party wants school texbooks to portary an ideolized version of our founding fathers.

I am quoting from an article in the Huffington Post, I could not find a source for the original Tea Party proposal – http://tinyurl.com/4vrxxyy

“Hal Rounds, spokesman for the group, recently claimed at news conference that there was “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the Founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

As a result, the Tea Party organizations argue, there should be “no portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.”

“The thing we need to focus on about the Founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn’t existed, to everybody — not all equally instantly — and it was their progress that we need to look at,” Rounds explained of his interpretation of the legacy of the Founding Fathers.”

I also don’t know what age group this proposal text book revision is directed at.

Aside from the fact that Mr. Rounds doesn’t know American history very well, at what level should our school children be taught American history warts and all? Grade School? High School?