Saturday, March 14, 2009

Parvum Opus 316 ~ An Education Carol

Periodic Table of Typefaces

Son Jude found this very nifty Periodic Table of Typefaces. I haven’t been able to print out the entire page yet; I may need to print it on four pages and tape them together. Meanwhile it’s now the computer desktop background.

An Education Carol

Stave 1, Education Past: I promised (myself, anyway) that I’d write something about the classes I taught in the fall and why I chose not to return this spring. There were quite a few little incidents, but here’s one example of my “insensitivity”. A young Muslim student from Morocco, who had a law degree (though their requirements are less stringent than ours) wrote this little story as an assignment to write a scary folk tale from home (it was around Halloween): A Christian somehow did something wrong ~ I can’t remember the details now ~ and ended up dying because he got water in his ears, because as everyone knows, donkeys die from getting water in their ears and Allah wanted this man to die like a donkey. I questioned the student in class about the story: I’ve read, of course, that the Koran teaches that Jews are dogs and pigs, but hadn’t heard the donkey bit yet. After a consultation with another Muslim student in their language, he said he’d translated a word that can mean Christian, Muslim, or Jew. I don’t buy that. Anyway, this fellow is still in that language program, which has a Facebook entry, where instead of a photo of himself, he used a photo of a black African (he is Arab, not black) child holding a large automatic or semi-automatic weapon. I noticed, though, that he changed the photo the other day ~ to one of a different black African boy holding a very large gun. Some of the students thought I was insensitive ~ though there were a couple of very sweet Muslim girls and black African Muslims who were quite friendly ~ but in fact I think I was getting to be pretty sensitive, not to say raw.

Stave 2, Education Present: I thought I might want to take some courses in a field new to me that would be useful, so I last week I went to talk to an admissions counselor at a small school. After explaining my education and professional background, he said that I’d have to get an associate’s degree and take an entire year of basic courses, including English composition. Couldn’t test out of them, because after all, my degrees were taken long ago and how did they know about me. I thought I seemed literate enough. When he asked what I was reading now, I named four books on the top of the pile: the autobiography of Whittaker Chambers, Chinese poetry, Kingley Amis on drink, and a Sharyn McCrumb mystery. So, I’m not going to take the courses I wanted.

Stave 3, Education Future: $100 billion is to be force-fed into U.S. education to stimulate learning. Do you think students will actually learn more, no matter what they do with the money? Jay Leno’s quiz of voting-age people turns up lack of knowledge of things like what was the Iron Curtain, and what century (let alone what year) Columbus discovered America (don’t bother objecting to the word “discover” ~ it was new to Columbus, just like when you discover a great new restaurant). Maybe Leno’s people had teachers who didn’t “teach to the test” and they were taught to think instead of memorizing irrelevant facts. Right. The Onion says that budget cuts are forcing schools to give up teaching the past tense, but $100 billion should prevent that. Of course journalism has been paving the way for eliminating the past tense for years: “Man Dies Yesterday”.


I keep running into the word snob defined as highbrow (usually in crosswords). Perhaps snobs raise their eyebrows, but highbrow has always meant someone with a high forehead, i.e. someone with a big brain. A lowbrow is someone who resembles a Neanderthal intellectually, with a small brain pan. A middlebrow is the average moderately educated person who reads best sellers. Crossword editors aren’t what they used to be; they too have had cutbacks.


Somewhere I heard that NUBO is a new acronym for “new black overclass”. What happened to buppies (black urban professionals)? And why overclass instead of upperclass? Overclass reminds one too much of Nietsche’s ubermensch (overman or superman). Best not to go there.

Improbable Name

Having a peculiar name doesn’t necessarily guarantee social ignominy and failure. Kyndra Rotunda is a former JAG office in the U.S. Army Individual Ready Reserve, Chapman University School of Law Visiting Assistant Professor, and the author of Honor Bound: Inside the Guantanamo Trials (Dennis Miller Radio, February 27, 2009). I first heard the theory about the danger of unusual names from a man named David, who came to a sad end.


David Rogerson forwarded an amusing piece on the uses of the word “up” which is online in numerous places. You can look it up.


Kathy Taylor of Beason News wrote about the bone-jarring late-winter “holier than thou roads”. I encountered a road that really rises up to meet you, as in the old Irish blessing. In a brick crosswalk, a brick had been knocked loose and was standing up in its bed in the middle of the street. I thought Someone Should Be Notified, but before I could do anything about it, a driver who was stopped at the traffic light jumped out of his car and put it back in place. And here is the Irish blessing for you, in honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, though perhaps the road really shouldn’t rise up:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand.


Bob O. was moved by the Whitman poem Jan G-K sent last week, and sent another one he likes, from which I will quote briefly:

And thou America ,
For the scheme's culmination, its thought and its reality,
For these (not for thyself) thou hast arrived.

Thou too surroundest all,
Embracing carrying welcoming all, thou too by pathways broad and new,
To the ideal tendest.



Read The Wish Book, a novella by Rhonda Keith, free to read online or download as a Word file.

New interview with bluesman Sonny Robertson.


Trivium pursuit ~ rhetoric, grammar, and logic, or reading, writing, and reckoning: Parvum Opus discusses language, education, journalism, culture, and more. Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Editorial input provided by Fred Stephens. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 may be found at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2009. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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