The Pedagogue’s Lament Tuesday, Oct 25 2011 

The Pedagogue’s Lament

By David L. Pulling

 Composed in December 1994

 Oh, Socrates!  Can you teach the torch to burn bright?

I gasp for sustenance in pestilent air.

Hour to hour the prison bell sounds as regular as Granny-on-ex-lax.

Disaffection files out,

Disaffection files in–

the ebb and flow of meaninglessness.

 

The passive lecture hall, where dispassionate learners take note (if they remain awake?)

Before me stretch imposing rows of glossy acrylic crisply arrayed in linear rank,

molded in the accommodating shape of human posteriors

(one size fits all);

I am stripped of sovereignty, yoked with stratified, codified, deified curricular guide

passed down from high bureaucratic places, putting objects to learn in proper places

(one behavioral objective fits all).

Save me, ere I perish,

choking on this foul blight!

 

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Calling for an apologetic for a pedagogy of “place”…. Wednesday, Oct 19 2011 

(The following is recycled content from 2008, a post that grew out of a conversation with colleagues in the National Writing Project about the importance of place for rural educators.)

I grew up next to a pasture with the family milk cow mooing right outside my bedroom window, and while I’ve lived mainly in towns most of the rest of my life, they’re small towns, those Main Street slices of rural Americana that are vanishing from the national landscape.

A lot of us are sentimental at the loss of this part of our culture, because we grew up with this incredible sense of place connected to those small farms, towns, and communities. In fact, I consider service within the Rural Sites Network of the National Writing Project partly as a mission to preserve and even perpetuate the nobler aspects of these rural values and traditions. (I admit some of our values and traditions are less noble than others, and vice versa! lol?)

Anyway, several months ago I, along with several other rural colleagues, engaged one of our urban colleagues in an earnest conversation on this topic after he more or less challenged our assumptions about our “rural selves” by asking, “Why is place more of a big deal for you rural people than it is for urban people?”

I am rarely at a loss of words, but at the moment he posed that shocking question, I was temporarily dumbfounded. I began to blurt out all of our traditional assertions: “Rural people are place bound,” “Rural people are culturally isolated and thus deprived,” “Rural people are this and that and so on and so forth,” the same as we always suppose about ourselves.

But at every point, my earnest urban colleague confronted me with an example from the urban setting that showed comparable issues for the city folks, only their issues about place were dressed in different garb or came from a different direction. But they were similar issues and often grave issues.

That fascinating exchange caused me to realize that this is a conversation we apparently need to have among ourselves. We easily grow so accustomed to our assumptions and even stereotypes about ourselves as rural people that we run the danger of growing mindless, which is the precursor of growing meaningless. saucisse

Yikes! Do we need an apologetic?

I believe the answer is “yes.” Not that we need to apologize, mind you, but we do need to be able to articulate our raison d’etre so that urban folks understand us the same as we understand ourselves. This discussion forum is a good place to tackle that apologetic.

So here’s the question: Why is rural “place” so important to rural people, and how do we relate that importance to urban friends . . .

who have never trod barefoot through a dairy barnyard?

or sat in church on a summer Sunday morning with the windows flung open to that penned-up donkey across the gravel road braying along with the hynn singing?

or pulled a well-shaped tumble-weed from the fence row and into the living room to be flocked and decorated for Christmas?

or smelled the fragrace of freshly-turned earth at planting time?

In our hearts, we know the answer to those questions. But how do we explain ourselves?  How do we celebrate the values?  How do we hold on to the good of those Romantic notions and preserve them when the rest of our national culture is hell-bent in another direction?

Friday Impromptu: Chez Cafe des Amis Friday, Oct 14 2011 

A landmark in downtown Breaux Bridge, just past the Bayou crossing

I left the leave form on my assistant’s desk before lunch with a design set for an afternoon trip to Lafayette for recreational shopping.   Not quite halfway to town, Ann calls Mom with an invitation to spend the afternoon with her shopping in Baton Rouge.  For me at the time, on the spur of the moment, Baton Rouge seemed a road 40 miles too far.

We ended up striking a compromise–Ann would meet us about halfway at the Louisiana Avenue shopping center east of Lafayette, where we’d shop and then eat.

Where to eat?  I noticed a Subway at the shopping center when we arrived, which seemed sensible and healthy.  But some impulse deeper within rejected that idea.  I thought of the Cafe des Amis just down I-10 in picturesque downtown Breaux Bridge.  I had eaten there years ago at a professional meeting, and I knew the girls would like it.  So my proposal to drive down I-10 to the next exit for supper was met with enthusiasm by the girls.

Sarah and I both enjoyed the Barbeque Shrimp Pont Breaux, which I compared to the New Orleans style barbequed shrimp that I have known over the years.  Although the jumbo shrimp were a little tough to peel this evening, the taste was scrumptious.  I preferred the Pont Breaux Cajun sauce that accompanied the dish, in fact, to the New Orleans sauce I’ve eaten off and on over the years.  The dishes were similar, but the Cajun adjustment to the recipe, as usual, distinguishes the rural dish from its big city cousin.

After supper, Mom and daughter watch Bayou Teche's muddy current swirl along.

After supper, we walked down the block to take a look at the fabled Bayou Teche–the bayou of Longfellow’s Evangeline— that courses through Breax Bridge.

We watched the muddy current pirouette below in swirling eddies for a few moments before resuming our respective journeys home.

A rich time–and a rich meal–was had by all.  On va se retourner chez Cafe des Amis un autre jour!

Dizzy in the Press Box: An Old Pro versus Old Farts Tuesday, Oct 11 2011 

Hall of Fame pitcher/broadcaster Dizzzy Dean, the original "old pro"

As a youngster in the early 1960’s, I remember the Saturday baseball Game of the Week. Former Cardinals pitcher Dizzy Dean presided over the play-by-play with his sidekick Pee Wee Reese.  Dizzy’s folksy manner, his fried chicken ‘n grits drawl that comically disregarded conventions of Standard English, and his inimitable homespun eloquence made him a colorful press box personality.

Furthermore, Dizzy’s reputation as an accomplished retired player lent credibility to his understanding of the game, while at the same time he demonstrated deeper understanding qualifying him to offer insightful commentary on matters of life in general.  He rendered all of his wisdom with the flair of a natural entertainer.  Truly, Dizzy was an old pro in the press box.

Coming to the present as a sports spectator, since last season I’ve been particularly irritated listening to and watching three particular veteran press box “hanger-onner’s” whom I cannot dignify as “old pros.”  No, I must categorize them as old farts.

My list comprises a triumvirate: Vern Lundquist, Brent Musberger, and Lou Holtz.   How do I compare and contrast an old timer to an old fart?

Musberger, a tired cliche'

Dizzy spouted commentary with down-home aplomb; the old farts spout sure enough, but their tone is bellicose.  Dizzy was colorful; these guys are drab.  Dizzy was fresh; these guys are stale.  Dizzy was “what you see is what you got”; these guys are “what you see is what you wish you didn’t.”  Dizzy was brash and interesting; these guys are painfully dull.  Dizzy stepped down from the press box before he needed to; these guys needed to step down years ago, but they keep showing up as the networks rehire them from season to season.

Sometime, I wonder if maybe there’s just something wrong with me that makes me wish the old farts would finally recognize that

Holtz the relic

their sun has set, but whenever I compare notes with my friends and family, all share the same perspective.  Surely, the networks do consumer and ratings research, so if I feel this way toward the old farts the same as my friends and family do, why are these codgers still on the air, season after weary season?

Lundquist the bellicose

Anyway, I’ve offered my piece and no one should wonder how I feel about Lundquist, Musberger, and Holtz.  Maybe some network exec from CBS or ABC or ESPN will come across this post and fall under the conviction of my writing that something needs to be done.

May we all covet the hope for this end: Down with old farts in network broadcast booths!

Iconic LSU: Electrified Tiger Stadium Thursday, Oct 6 2011 

Death Valley? Don’t mess with LSU!

No matter how many times I drive through LSU’s campus,  Tiger Stadium ever stands, seeming as stunning and breath-taking as the first time I saw it.   The Stadium’s imposing structure towers over the landscape, three national champion banners waving gallantly atop the rim.

But sometimes a photo saves the need for explanation or description.

Case in point here?

The unique moment in time this snapshot captures drips with surreal imagery,  its effect soaring to an exotic realm, larger-than-life.

Double click on the picture to appreciate the full effect.

Geaux, LSU!

Nostalgia: Recalling simpler days at Pontchartrain Beach Tuesday, Oct 4 2011 

The childhood site of happy family outings: Pontchartrain Beach, New Orleans

This picture is iconic New Orleans from the early 60’s.  I recall the jingle we heard on TV ads back in the early 60’s, inviting families to recreational outings at New Orleans’s premiere amusement park of the day, Pontchartrain Beach.

At the beach, at the beach, at the wonderful beach

You’ll have fun, you’ll have fun, every day of the week.

Laugh till you split sides, You’ll love the thrilling rides

At the beach, Pontchartrain Beach!

Daddy took the family every year, at least once.  I remember riding out West End Boulevard in the back of the family 57 Ford station wagon on those balmy summer days, finally arriving at “the Beach” where the imposing roller coaster ride, The Zephyr, towered above the parking lot as we drove in.  I got up the nerve to ride The Zephyr only once, and that was enough to satisfy my curiosity about roller coasters, a satisfaction that has lasted to the present.