Sunday Funnies, Carrying On

I said yesterday that not all that much happened this week, which is true. That, however, is not to say that a lot was said, a lot of it, especially on the left, that is very snark-worthy, not to say stupid. So here we go.

Promises, Promises!

Not the worst proposal I’ve seen.

I’m already missing Doris Day

 

 

 

Heroes

A fairly quiet week for a change, so let’s back off a bit today and look around. A while back Gene Simmons of Kiss was visiting the Pentagon. He has some things to say. They are worth remembering. From Breitbart.

A remarkable story isn’t it? And yet it is not, that view of America is fairly common all around the world. Something to remember, and something to live up to.


I grew up in Northwest Indiana, and this man was on the news a lot in those strangely calm although noisy days. From Front Page Magazine.

I was checking the new releases in a local theater when I saw the title HesburghSounds like a Dracula spin-off, I thought. I had never heard the name before and I knew nothing about the movie. [ How sad is that, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh is, arguably one of the greatest men of the last 100 years. Neo] Curious, I did a quick Google search and discovered that Hesburgh is a documentary about a Catholic priest. A documentary about a Catholic priest running in a suburban multiplex? I had to see it.

Father Theodore Hesburgh was president of Notre Dame for thirty-five years, 1952–1987. He also played a role in the Civil Rights Movement, the effort to limit nuclear arms, and immigration reform. He had close, personal relationships with Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Clinton, and Obama, Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, Martin Luther King Jr and Ann Landers. Much of the film consists of grainy, decades-old film footage of the Space Race, The Civil Rights Movement, and the Vietnam War. A few scenes are reenactments of key moments in Hesburgh’s life. There are also contemporary interviews with people who knew Hesburgh, including Leon Panetta and Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson. Speakers at Hesburgh’s memorial service included Mike Pence and Condoleezza Rice.

Hesburgh sounds like a priestly Kardashian, no? Listen, I walked into the theater knowing nothing about Theodore Hesburgh and by the end of the film my face was sloppy with tears. I cry no tears for Kardashians. Why did this film move me so much?

The film depicts Hesburgh as a remarkably humble man. As a man who, yes, wined and dined with the rich and powerful, but who never lost the personal touch, and who was almost supernaturally humble, and relentlessly committed to his priestly vocation. In every scene I can remember, from the time he took his vows to his 2015 death at age 97, Hesburgh is wearing the exact same clothing: the unadorned, dark suit and white collar of a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross. Selecting personal dress and adornment is a fundamental human choice. Hesburgh surrendered that choice at 18 and never took it back. In a clip from an interview, TV host Phil Donahue presses Hesburgh. How have you lived your life alone, without a wife? Hesburgh’s visage is severe but calm. “I made that choice at 18.” It’s remarkable to witness a man of his word.

Pope Paul VI presented Hesburgh with his own emerald ring as a gift. The implication was that the pope hoped to elevate Hesburgh to cardinal. Hesburgh put the ring in a drawer. His vocation was as a priest, not a “prince of the church.” Former students from Notre Dame testify on camera that Hesburgh was like a father to them. Journalist Robert Sam Anson, a Notre Dame alum, was taken prisoner in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Hesburgh phoned the Vatican to help broker his release. Anson is visibly moved when discussing Hesburgh.

Hesburgh’s most sustained effort in public affairs, at least as depicted in the film, was in the field of Civil Rights. In one of the most famous images of Hesburgh, he is linking arms with Martin Luther King Jr. at Soldier Field in Chicago in 1964, as they sing together “We Shall Overcome.” Hesburgh was no mere fellow traveler. When Civil Rights Commission members were stonewalling each other, the Northerners against the Southerners, Hesburgh kept his eye on the individual human soul. His faith taught him that each Commission member, no matter how obstructionist, was made in the image and likeness of God. With that perspective, Hesburgh recognized that one thing all these diverse combatants had in common was a love of fishing. He arranged for a Notre Dame donor’s private jet to transport them to a secluded lake. There they could connect as human beings, and make progress. Hesburgh was willing to stick his neck out even when the presidents who counted him among their friends dropped the ball. The Kennedy administration had concluded that pushing Civil Rights would cost Kennedy votes in the South, and, thus, the election. They decided to “slow walk” progress. Hesburgh at this instance, and at other key moments as well, took it upon himself to press for an end to Jim Crow. Sorry, Hollywood and film critics cum social justice warriors, but yes Hesburgh was one of many white allies without whom the Civil Rights Movement would have been an historical blip that reached the same dead-end of a thousand other liberation movements in societies without conscience.

Like any serious Catholic, Hesburgh faced criticism from the right and the left. The Catholic Church opposes abortion, and, thus, gains approval and allies on the right. Other stances on poverty and immigration earn approval and allies on the left.

He faced more than criticism really, it was more like vilification as we see it today, and yes from both the right and the left. And the author is right, it was because he was a Catholic, an authentic and dare I say orthodox one. That may be one of the most difficult things to be in the world today.

The author found another interesting movie:

Franciszka Halamajowa died in obscurity. Few outside her immediate family had any idea of her heroism. She never rubbed elbows with the rich or the powerful. When Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia invaded Poland in 1939, Halamajowa was a 54 year old Polish, Catholic farm woman, her gray hair brushed back into a simple bun. She was plump, with apple cheeks and kind eyes. She wore simple, loose, cotton dresses. She lived on a small plot of land with fruit trees and pigs in the small town of Sokal. Sokal was then in Eastern Poland; it is now in Ukraine. In 1939, it had a mixed population of Poles, Ukrainians, and 5,200 Jews. Only thirty Jews survived the war. Sixteen Jews were sheltered by Franciszka Halamajowa. The documentary No. 4 Street of Our Lady tells the almost unbelievable story of Halamajowa’s heroism. This ninety-minute, 2009 documentary is currently available on Vimeo.

One can’t begin to understand Halamajowa’s feat without understanding the Nazi and Soviet approach to Poland. Both were genocidal, and their hostility to the continued existence of Poland had begun centuries before. Under German and Russian occupation beginning in the eighteenth century, at times and in places, Poles could not build permanent dwellings on their own land, could not speak their own language in school, and were subject to mass deportations to Siberia, where many died. The Nazi Generalplan Ost called for the genocide and occupation of Slavic nations. In his infamous August, 1939 “Armenian speech,” Hitler said, “I have placed my death-head formation in readiness … with orders to them to send to death mercilessly and without compassion, men, women, and children of Polish derivation and language. Only thus shall we gain the living space (Lebensraum) which we need.”

Soviet Russians, Sokal’s first World-War-Two-era occupiers, deported between 500,000 and 1.7 million Poles to Siberia. Soviet Russians arrested and imprisoned hundreds of thousands of other Poles. Many were tortured and executed, including 22,000 Polish Army officers shot in the Katyn Massacre. Soviet propaganda depicted Poles as enemies of the people. Polish land was seized and redistributed, most to collective farms. An estimated 150,000 – 500,000 Polish citizens died during the Soviet occupation.

In June, 1941, as part of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazis arrived. Scarred by the 1932-33 Soviet-orchestrated Ukrainian famine, interwar Polish rule, and Soviet occupation, some Ukrainians collaborated with the Nazis. In addition to persecuting Jews, Ukrainians tortured, mutilated, and massacred Polish Catholics. Historians estimate that approximately 100,000 Poles were murdered by Ukrainians.

All this bloody history swirled around Franciszka Halamajowa as she tended her fruit trees, chickens and pigs. Ukrainians knocked on her door and told her to leave. Sokal was now Ukrainian territory, and no longer safe for a Polish woman alone with a young daughter. Nazis could kill Poles for infractions so minor as owning a radio. Poles were regularly rounded up and sent to slave labor or concentration camps. Any aid given to any Jew, even something so simple as offering a drink of water, was a capital crime, not just for the one giving the aid, but for her entire family. This punishment was unique to Poland. Miep Gies, who aided Anne Frank in Holland, for example, survived betrayal and discovery. One list of Poles killed for helping Jews includes 704 names. No doubt many more were killed but their accounts cannot be documented.

Jews escaping a Nazi aktion asked Halamajowa for help. Yad Vashem reports that Halamajowa and her daughter Helena “believed that it was G-d who had brought the Jewish refugees to their door to test their faith. They considered it their religious duty to protect the Jewish refugees, and never demanded payment of any kind.” It was not until after the war that the Jews Halamajowa was hiding in a pigsty discovered that she had another Jewish family hiding in a specially built dugout under her kitchen floor. Indeed, Halamajowa was also hiding a renegade German soldier in her attic. He did not want to participate in Nazi killing.

This post is already ridiculously long, so I’m not going to comment on it other than to say that this is what the left is trying to destroy when the attempt to destroy Christianity, for Gene Simmons’ story is not really that different, except in outcome to millions of others. If not for Christianity, and in a sense the last gasp of European culture, America, it may well have been lost by now, and very likely would be.

Sunday Funnies: the Memes Continue

Sort of a silly week, the Mother of Parliaments is senile at best, every Democrat is at least crazy with some tending towards evil and running for President. Central America is invading. None of that is new, but we did find new pictures for you

Are you bored of Biden yet? I am, but the memes are funny.

Must be a gun and knife free zone, too!

And, of course

Double your pleasure, double your fun, Philip Wrigley used to tell us.

Debunking Education

Over at Chicago Boyz, the Assistant Village Idiot (How I admire that nom de Internet!) Has some thoughts about education, and they do not involve much handwringing at all. I approve.

I don’t think we argue quite enough around here. Perhaps there have been good arguments in the posts I don’t read the comments of, but it seems too much of “Yeah, and let me tell you another thing about that!” lately. So I will go after a conservative favorite, of how much better education was in the Good Old Days, which I think is bosh. I don’t defend much of what I read about education today, but neither do I think it was any better then. Since 2011, I have increasngly concluded that schools don’t matter quite as much anyway. The worst 20%, where it is dangerous to even go and hard to concentrate – that’s bad. The rest, it doesn’t make much difference. Never did. It’s all right to disagree with me about that, it won’t hurt me. I have seen lots of schools, old days and new; I know lots of teachers, old and new. I have read some of the real research, not the media-driven crap where they still can’t tell causation from correlation, and I have discussed this widely for decades. I know what the disagreements are (though I do get an occasional surprise). Have fun with it.

I am leading with this as a teaser, for its entertainment value, and because it introduces some concepts I’ll be bringing in later. I have edited it only a little from 2011. With the recent elite school admission scandals, parts of this are wryly humorous now.

THAT 1869 HARVARD ENTRANCE EXAM

An anonymous commenter linked to the 1869 Harvard entrance exam that was dug up by a NYTimes writer and made the rounds last year.  It looks pretty intimidating at first glance, and the commenter used it as evidence that Billy Sidis’s entrance into Harvard in 1909 was a pretty solid accomplishment in itself.  Interestingly, the boy’s getting in was probably even better than the exam would indicate.  Harvard was no great shakes in 1869, but had improved considerably by 1909, and was one of the world’s best by then.  I will note that it was still not what we think of today.  Competitive university admission is mostly a post WWII, or even post 1960 phenomenon.  Many of the brightest did indeed go to the Ivies, the Little Ivies, or the Seven Sisters,* but you simply couldn’t count on it.  The rich and the alums got their kids in, and nationally, people stayed closer to home and many of the brightest went to other schools, far more than, say, in 1990.

The gap exactly covers the period of Charles William Eliot’s presidency of Harvard, if you want more background than I will give here.

Read the headings over each section. See how few questions were required.

Also – it doesn’t say what a passing score was, does it?

185 out of 215 applicants got into Harvard that year.

But the test.  That Latin and Greek look awfully impressive right out of the gate. If you are older, and/or a reader of history, and/or a traditionalist, you may still have Latin Envy, believing that a “proper” education must include it, and Greek!  Why, that just seals it.  A different alphabet and everything.  Weren’t they smart, then?

No, not especially. They had had six years of Latin and four of Greek by then, whether by tutor or at academy.  If you took any languages at all in late 20th C, and make the mental comparison of what, exactly, they were being asked to do after six years, it looks much less impressive.  Note also, there was a standard set of works studied in those languages, which these questions are drawn from. There was frequent drill in grammar. Even if you had Latin yourself, you should note that the primary authors studied now are not quite the same as studied then, nor in quite the same way. These exam questions are essentially “Did you have proper teachers, are you reasonably bright, and did you make a moderate effort these last few years?” Nothing more.

Before I get into the math, let me note a major difference, then and now, in the test as a whole.  Look at what is missing in this exam.  There is no biology, no chemistry, no physics, and certainly no other sciences such as geology or economics.  There are no questions on English Literature – no Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton – and certainly no American literature (Horrors!  To even imagine such a thing!).

A lot of what is being said here is, in my opinion, is that teaching to the test is what happened then and happens now, and will happen in 2230. Teachers’, and schools’. reputation is based on how students do on tests, so not teaching to the test is professional suicide, and that ain’t gonna happen.

Could schools be better? Of course, they could. That’s true now, that was true in the ’60s when I went, a hundred years ago when my parents went, a hundred years before that when Abe Lincoln did his semester, and when Socrates taught Plato, who taught Aristotle, who taught Alexander the Great. It just is. Schools run on a logarithmic curve like anything else. Some few are amazingly good, some few are terribly bad. Most cluster around average (because that is what defines average). School improvement is based on raising the average infinitesimally.

Always remember half of the kids in school, like half of the teachers, and half of the schools themselves, are below average.

You know what makes the most difference in education? The kid’s parents’ attitude. If a kid is taught to be curious, to attempt to learn, instead of to shut up and do what he’s told, he’ll learn, in school, or not. Vice versa is true too.

Almost all the rest, the theories, the books, the lecturers, the bureaucrats, are a scam, to make a living, often a good living, off of the fact that half of everything is below average. Some may help, many will probably hurt, all will cost you (or you as the taxpayer) money. Caveat emptor.

Long ago it was declared that education was the parents’ responsibility. It still is. Schools are a tool, but only a tool, whether it is Oxbridge, or an Ivy, or Podunk Central Junior High. You get out what you put in.

Nothing more and nothing less.

The Dance Begins

And so, last night the Big Dance started as the first 13 games of the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament were played. As far as I am concerned this is the greatest tournament in sports. 64 of the greatest teams playing the greatest game, single elimination, no second chances. Like the game itself, it’s a very American format.

Actually, it’s a very Hoosier thing. The NCAA didn’t invent this, the IHSAA did. Who? you ask. The Indiana High Scholl Athletic Association is who. This until just a few years ago, is how Indiana found the best basketball team in Hoosierland, who taught the world to play. Dr. Naismith himself watching an Indiana high school game remarked that Indiana had recreated a much-improved game to what he invented.

That tournament still exists although in a mutilated form. Some years ago, the age of all must have prizes reared its ugly head and they divided it into classes, and now it’s no big deal. Well, it still is, which is why the Purdue blog I read, carries the brackets and scores for the HS tourney. That’s great for us expats, but it’s not the same.

No room anymore for a Milan to beat South Bend Central, the true back story to the movie Hoosiers. Can’t happen now, and so they took away a dream, to give a few more trophies, which have far less significance now. As I’ve said before, when you watch Hickory walk into the Butler Fieldhouse in Hoosiers, that’s a venue that Hoosier Hysteria built.

No more every February, us guys in the small schools wondering how far Cloverdale, the smallest school in the state, will get. No more wondering if this is the year when we will beat Michigan City Elston, the largest school in the state. We never did, we lost every year, in the sectional finals, usually not by all that much.

But so is the NCAA, and in truth the NBA. Back in World War II, the Hoosiers involved taught the world to play a pretty simple game, and to play it our way, and to win.

Remember the UCLA Bruins when we were young, winning the NCAA 8 out of 10 years, coached by an Indiana high school and Purdue legend, John Wooden. They’re still trying to make it happen again, they just fired Steve Alford, from New Castle and an Indiana Mr. Basketball in high school, before playing at IU under the great Bobby Knight. Who was a bit mercurial though, throwing a chair across Purdue’s court is frowned upon. Now there are rumors they are trying to poach Purdue’s Matt Painter, nobody seems overly worried though.

If your curious IU won last night, and my Boilers will play later this week, showing off their record 24th Big Ten championship, although they didn’t manage to win the tournament.

But my favorite memory of the tournament remains Indiana State versus Michigan State, Larry Bird from French Lick against Magic Johnson.

And so the dance cards are filled out and the music has begun  And after the last dance on April 8th, only one will remain standing.

Meanwhile, how about the trailer from Hoosiers, the original March Madness.

Sunday Funnies: Late but Hating Hate

Well, I refused to give up an hours sleep last night, so I’m rather late this morning, since they changed the clocks anyway. But a busy week.

In other news: Turkeys vote for Christmas

Or not replacing it!

 

And, of course, and still more double trouble

 

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