Saturday, May 31, 2008

If you want to be a good archaeologist, you've got to get out of the library.

-Indiana Jones

Or how about the university?

Or this stupid laptop, with which I am cultivating this love-hate relationship day to day. While it is indispensible for writing, storing, and organizing information, more time in front of it than is necessary for these things just represents to me how much I am not doing something else.

On the other hand, what archaeology of human thought can be found as readily as it can be right here on the webpages of abandoned blogs? Do these qualify as artifacts?

I leave that to someone else, because inevitably useful as it is, my life is bent on trying to understand everything outside this box.

Monday, May 26, 2008

grown-ups need playgrounds

"You look like a bat hanging there," a little black girl said to me, no older than 9 or 10 years, as I hung upside down on the monkey bars at the playground today.

I helped Soraya, temporarily in my care on the good faith of her parents a short walk away, as she tried to grab on to the next bar while she hung on the first one. "I can't do it!" She jumped down. The black girl tried after her. After a few bars she also gave up.

"I used to be able to do it," she said. "But now I'm fat."

"Me, too, I'm fat," repeated Soraya.

Where did they learn to say such a thing?

It seemed like the United Nations called a picnic day at Marsh Creek. There were people of all colors, ages, religions, and my white skin was practically a minority. Not really tempered to being around children, it was so refreshing to see how open they were with each other to take turns or help (or ask for help) regardless of any racial or gender differences.

A pat on my leg turned out to be a tiny Asian girl pointing to a low platform that was still too high for her to reach herself. No words. A clear, simple message.

"Is that your daughter? Is that your son?" said the first girl, referring to those knee-highs that had enlisted my help. What a great way to feel useful in a short period of time.

"No. I am only attached to that one." I pointed to Soraya.

I have no idea who these kids are, I wanted to say.

I think grown-ups need playgrounds.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The BA is the most overrated product in America.

- Marty Nemko in his article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

And while I couldn't agree more, along with some other assessments that he makes, I took a slight issue with the overtones of Nemko's rhetoric, which seemed to emphasize the disparity between "college material" and "not college material," or stellar/nonstellar student, without acknowledging other qualities a person might have about himself. This kind of language only perpetuates the problem of kids being ashamed not to attend college.

He also encouraged releasing more accurate statistics on college success and providing certain guarantees as you would any other commodity. One of higher education's greatest flaws is that it has become a commodity, and that is what makes it an overrated one. As Nemko said, colleges are there to make money, but he doesn't tackle this as a problem. His solutions only call for standards which other manufacturers are expected to hold, rather than revamping the whole system as an institution in the service of the public and greater knowledge.

Going to his blog explained my reservations. He is a staunch libertarian who definitely sees one's lot in life as deserved according to the hard work or laziness of the individual. Nemko is dismayed at the idea of a universal healthcare system that would force "people with good health care (because they were good enough of an employee to be hired for a job with health insurance, had saved up enough money to buy their own, or on Medicare) having to give up that good health care and pay for health care for others', including, for example, lazy heroin addicts and illegal aliens."

Now I understand the source of the language and how it may extend to what I heard on NPR. To say "elitist" may still be a gut reaction, but the free market talk struck an appropriately dissonant chord. Libertarians have to see why the free market cannot and will not exist, and in this case, that education should be an investment by the society in itself. People who think that they got to a certain place exclusively due to their own hard work are deluding themselves. No one can make it alone, and no one has absolute control over circumstance.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Outsourcing Thoughts

I must:

Explain what I saw.
Explain what I think about what I saw.
Explain why I think what I think about what I saw.
Use what others think about what they saw to explain why I think what I think about what I saw.

So much for my own interpretations. They are useless without other people's ideas to support them. I thought I should get some credit for having come up with them on my own, but there is apparently no merit in saying something that someone else has already said.

On I go, burrowing deeper into JSTOR to pick up the pieces of my thoughts from other writers.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Pig farming in Morocco

This morning the BBC reported on the growing pork industry in Morocco, despite the Islamic prohibitions of pork consumption. They interviewed a pig farmer outside of Casablanca, who seemed quite satisfied and without qualm with his occupation. Others express their opposition that pork farming is forbidden as well as pork eating.

Pork-serving restaurants are popping up in the big cities like Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakech, although they will certainly meet significantly more resistance outside those boundaries. Demand stems from foreign tourists, expatriates, and, according to the farmer, young Moroccan bourgeouise who are eating more pork. When asked if he thought it was a problem, the farmer said people also drink wine, which of course is also forbidden. The everything-but-pork paradox he alluded to is something to be fathomed, but then again, who is to judge where is the beam or the splinter?

Which one religious leader seemed to echo when he said, "It is up to them," for his thoughts on the pig farmers. They will be held responsible before God.

Assertive enough for the religious side, but there might be a more earthly consequence for cultural identity. This certainly must be one piece of that paradox. Two things I am sure of: One is that a few weeks in a foreign country without pork never killed anyone. The other is that this is one more example of the changes and challenges that tourism brings to Morocco.