Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Notes From My Knapsack 4-24-14

Notes From My Knapsack 4-24-14

Jeff Gill


What should a graduate know?



Let's start with one basic assumption.


There will never be complete agreement on a list such as what I propose here, nor do I expect to (more on that at the end).


I've posted and published reading lists before, both for college for general knowledge. They can start the most interesting discussions, and also arguments, or discussions that turn into arguments. And I'm sure folks have come to school board meetings with lists in hand, asking for curriculum redesign based on their sense of a sort of list of what's to them non-negotiable.


What I have in mind is more of a "knowing list." And not facts or figures per se (Avogadro's number, Pi to fifteen digits, how far is the Earth from the Sun, when was the Battle of Gettysburg), but certain competencies.


There's a TV ad that shows a very young woman struggling to change a tire in an empty parking lot, and at the end, her dad steps into the frame saying "See, you can do it." That's a good example right there: being able to change a tire. I'd add change the oil, but nowadays, maybe I should settle just for how to add oil.


What else do I think a high school graduate needs to know? How to introduce strangers to each other. A basic skill, that like a parachute you may not use much, but when you need it, it's best to have it on hand. Which fork to use is not so crucial, but how to make a toast, that's necessary. They should know to defrost and roast a frozen turkey, and how to make a roux, plus a few steps from there (breaking eggs one-handed is optional). How to buy in bulk, and store it once you have. How to sharpen knives, how to swing an axe, how to re-wire a lamp or switch. They should know, from excavation up, how a house is built, whether they ever own one or not.


Math: what I would like to see graduates know is how to read a budget, a profit/loss statement, and be able to make sense of five years' worth of financial reports whether of a retail operation or a non-profit. They should be able to format a spreadsheet on a computer, balance accounts on paper, calculate costs for a business operation using invoices and timesheets.


Somewhere between numbers and entertainment is the knowing of how people can use statistics to lie to you. Proportion and median, visual means and numerical measures, weasel words and basic definitions.


They should know, if not how to spell Korzybski, why it is that "the map is not the territory." With William Least Heat-Moon, they should have a sense of what a "deep map" is if not the nature of a PrairyErth itself.


I'd want them to know as many of Shakespeare's 37 plays as possible, some of his 154 sonnets; Isaiah, the twelve minor prophets, and Luke's gospel. They should at minimum know something of the blues, of jazz, and of bluegrass. The Upanishads and Rumi, and at least one language not of their birth. They should know what mass is, in both the Catholic and Newtonian senses.


For those keeping score at home, there's no way this is a curriculum, and that's my point. This is not a list for teachers or administrators, either. It's for parents. For them to edit, to augment, to consider.


What I want my son to know by the time of his maturity into the world on his own? 'Tis my responsibility. School is grand and glorious, but they can't do it all, and shouldn't try . . . or be expected to try. At home, we hope to make sure our child knows certain things. And it's at home that he will learn most of them.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him what you want young people to know before they launch out into the world at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Faith Works 4-19-14

Faith Works 4-19-14

Jeff Gill


A story of no account



No one would consider the word of a single, unattached woman as being worthy of stature in a court case, or even in conversation.


Certainly, Mary of Migdal, the Magdalene, has an interesting story. But alone? Her? With her reputation? Come now.


Apparently there's testimony from not long after. Simon, the Galilean (don't laugh, yes, he's from the Galilee), now known for some reason as "Rocky" or Petros in Greek, this Simon Peter claims to support Mary Magdalene's word.


Come now, though . . . let's think about what's at stake here.


We have a single woman with the hint of prostitution hanging around her shoulders, making outlandish, unearthly claims. Then, at her instigation (I'm just repeating HER version of events), Simon the Petros come to the tomb of this Jesus to see what the evidence of the corpse has to say to him and his people.


A body which they now say is missing.


Supposedly, there are others involved. Some additional women with the "lady" from Migdal, a few other unemployed fishermen from Galilee straggling along with Simon to Petros. All of them as disreputable and questionable characters as are the instigators they follow.


They dig their own trap. With enough hangers-on, you can carry off a body and hide it in another valley, beyond the network of roads leading into the Holy City. Towards Bethany, or down past Ein Kerem.


To be fair, that doesn't explain the Roman guard set by Pilate. Perhaps they fell asleep, and waking up to find their task bungled, they fled rather than face the procurator's wrath. We should ask up at the Antonia if those soldiers have been accounted for, and get their tale. But if they are truly missing, that answers the question well enough for me.


Each time one of these revolutionaries goes missing, there's another furor, but it always dies down. How many have we seen from our perch here in the Sanhedrin? One after another, every third or fourth Passover, the anger and frustration of the people with Rome (and to be perfectly candid, with us) boils over, riots begin, fires are set, arrests are made, certain victims die horribly so that the population does not suffer generally, and everyone quiets down, goes back to work, and forgets.


Never mind you'd shouted that you'd die for that cause or a particular Barabbas or whomever along the dusty margin of a road, screaming your lungs out until a detachment of armored legionaries trots by high up on horseback. Your shout lasts no longer than an echo making its way into the wilderness, fading and forgotten before the minute, let alone an hour is over.


This group of believers seems a bit more persistent. They continue to shop their tale around the marketplace, and some of their number are heading back to Galilee where hapless old Philip can contend with stories in his district of a dying and risen Messiah. Soon enough the labors of fishing and mending and getting by will dull their enthusiasm and fog their memories, or they will latch onto yet another claimant for the throne of Herod.


If I thought a mentor of mine had died, especially died that way, it would cause me to rethink everything they'd taught me, and likely toss it all out of my mind before it contaminated the rest of my logic and learning. Of course, even if one of my wise and insightful teachers died at the hands of Roman justice, but then walked back into my study to face me, and challenge me, that would make me sit up and take notice. It's the kind of proof that would go beyond logic, beyond debate in the assembly or details of learned commentary. Rising from the dead, that would make a statement, it would indeed.


Which, I suppose, could explain the Jesus followers' strange behavior, if only . . . ah, well. Time will tell. Most such ideas have their day, and are forgotten in the night that follows. Let's see what a new sunrise brings.  What remains is what endures.


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County. Tell him a tale at, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.