Thursday, June 7, 2007

This Year's Baby Bluebirds

Baby Bluebird on June 6, 2007The bluebirds were spared the devastation of our recent hailstorm. Their nest is in a box on a fence post, so they fared better than the orioles. This is the third time in four years that we've had a pair of bluebirds in this house. There was a screaming match about a month ago when the swallows that occupied it one year showed back up and decided to try and claim it after the bluebirds had built a nest. The swallows lost. Momma bluebird laid five eggs. I can't decide from this picture whether there are five babies or not. We had a hard frost after the eggs were laid...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Immigration: The flaws in the “Let's say I break into your house” analogy...

The flaws in the “Let's say I break into your house” analogy are numerous.

A lady wrote the best letter in the Editorials in ages!!! It explains things better than all the baloney you hear on TV. Her point: Recently large demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration. Certain people are angry that the US might protect its own borders, might make it harder to sneak into this country and, once here, to stay indefinitely.

Let me see if I correctly understand the thinking behind these protests. Let's say I break into your house. Let's say that when you discover me in your house, you insist that I leave. But I say, ‘I've made all the beds and washed the dishes and did the laundry and swept the floors. I've done all the things you don't like to do. I'm hard-working and honest (except for when I broke into your house).

According to the protesters:
You are Required to let me stay in your house
You are Required to add me to your family's insurance plan
You are Required to Educate my kids
You are Required to Provide other benefits to me & to my family (my husband will do all of your yard work because he is also hard-working and honest, except for that breaking in part).

If you try to call the police or force me out, I will call my friends who will picket your house carrying signs that proclaim my RIGHT to be there.

It's only fair, after all, because you have a nicer house than I do, and I'm just trying to better myself. I'm a hard-working and honest, person, except for well, you know, I did break into your house.

And what a deal it is for me!!! I live in your house, contributing only a fraction of the cost of my keep, and there is nothing you can do about it without being accused of cold, uncaring, selfish, prejudiced, and bigoted behavior.

Oh yeah, I DEMAND that you to learn MY LANGUAGE!!! so you can communicate with me.

Why can't people see how ridiculous this is?! Only in America . If you agree, pass it on (in English ). Share it if you see the value of it. If not blow it off.........along with your future Social Security funds, and a lot of other things.
In the box to the right is a copy of an email I received recently. It's making the rounds, posted on lots of blogs. And here are the problems with it...

First and foremost, this analogy uses the very simple “straw man” rhetorical device. The idea is to put words into your opponent’s mouth (words they didn’t actually say) and then beat them up for it. I don’t think there are many Americans who are “angry that the US might protect its own borders.” (And it’s not as if we aren’t making some effort at such protection already.) I also don’t think that “demonstrations have taken place across the country protesting the fact that Congress is finally addressing the issue of illegal immigration.” Almost everyone wants Congress to address the issue, they just can’t agree on what a good way to address it would be.

The second flaw is that the woman's effort to make her private residence comparable or analogous to her country should be seen by intelligent readers as a failure. The woman who wrote this doesn’t own America in the same way that she owns her house. There are other stakeholders in America and we have Congress and the President making laws for us for precisely that reason. Sometimes, after Congress and the President have done their job, the courts step in because the will of the majority is not always what matters in America. And in America, people have rights long before they become citizens because they are, after all, people.

The comparison of America to this woman’s private residence is almost humorous. By her logic, most of us should get out and give the place back to the Cherokee and the Iroquois – no matter how trite and worn out that line of argument seems. The concept of the nation-state is a relatively new one in human history and not everyone on earth is even aware of it; immigration, on the other hand, has been around since before Abraham. America has always had immigration. Managing it has always been a challenge. It was hard to keep Ireland from drowning the cities of America in illiterate, dirty, mostly Catholic Micks - like the Kennedy’s, the Reagan’s, and Henry Ford’s people. But we’ve always incorporated new waves of immigration into our society and become a greater society as a result.

That leads into the next flaw I’d like to point out in this woman’s argument. She repeatedly characterizes undocumented immigrants in general as dishonest because they “broke in” to “her” country. Okay yes, there are laws designed to regulate immigration. I understand that ignorance of the law is no excuse. What we mean by that is that even if you are truly ignorant of a law, that doesn’t keep you from suffering some penalty if you disobey it. This woman is arguing that undocumented immigrants are all always aware of America’s immigration laws when they enter this country; many of them, of course, are not. She’s also arguing that immigrants from other countries understand the concept of the rule of law, when in fact they often come from rural, undeveloped areas where might makes right and the powerful people of a town or region do as they please. Many of the people who cross our southern border, I suspect, view efforts to keep them from living and working here in the same light that they viewed efforts to control their lives back in El Salvador or Mexico. Crossing our border to better their own lot in life makes the self-interested (like the author), but not necessarily dishonest. Comparing that act to breaking and entering is a rhetorical tool designed to simplify the issues involved and (given the sweeping generalizations) engender bigotry.

meFinally, the author’s goal seems to be to make you see this issue in an artificially moral light. She says, basically, “I don’t like this, so it must be wrong.” That seems fair, doesn’t it? If it wasn’t “wrong” (immoral, sinful, wicked), she wouldn’t be so against it. The truth is that immigration has lots of gray areas. And she uses the “it’s just wrong” approach because it’s easy. If she wanted to put forward a real argument on immigration, she’d have to have brains and she’s have to use them.

While we can bicker about the size of our moral obligations to the rest of the world, few people in America are willing to stand up and say that we just have no moral obligation to the rest of the world.

I don’t really know what the solution to the immigration question is. This woman’s approach (“They’re all bad people and we should send them back – even the 12-year-olds who only speak English and have been here since they were two years old.”) is not one I see as productive.

Many undocumented immigrants have been here for years (or even decades), have provided meaningful services to their communities, and have paid in to Social Security, etc. Their presence has been tolerated by government policy; now on a whim we want to uproot them and send the “home” to a place they haven’t seen in a couple of decades – and when we send them off we want to keep what they paid into Social Security for ourselves.

That last part in particular I suspect God will frown on.

If you agree with me, leave a comment (I don't care what language it's in) and send a link to this blog to your friends. If you don't agree with me - hey, I'm used to that...

The Storm

The remains of our willow tree.We had a major storm come through about 7pm tonight. We'd been home from dinner at Big Daddy's for about an hour. I was in the shower when I heard thunder the first time. I got out and dried off, and about the time I opened the bathroom door it started to rain. Within a minute or two something that sounded like rocks began hitting the house.

A tomato plant.I suspect it rained two or three inches in the next 15 minutes. The wind was extreme. And the old willow tree in our backyard finally came down completely (see the photo).

I was especially sad to see the willow tree go because there was a nest of Baltimore Orioles in it. The three babies didn't survive. Their featherless bodies were covered with melting hailstones when I found them. Momma oriole was flitting around in the branches near the nest. Papa oriole flew around for a while with a worm in his mouth and no one to feed it to...

My footprint in the hail on the deck.My tomato plants are ruined. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be able to find a few leftover plants at Walmart or the local Farm Bureau.

Someone is coming tomorrow to look at the willow tree and tell us that they'd charge to cut it up and haul it off. At the moment it is lying across the fence that separates our yard from the neighbor's yard.

Hopefully the storms are over for tonight...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Orton-Gillingham Training

Today Cheryl and I started a week of Orton-Gillingham (O-G) training. Our school system is paying for the training, which is being presented by The Institute for Multi-Sensory Education.

The training is based on an approach to reading developed by Dr. Samuel Torrey Orton. Orton was a medical doctor who did pioneering work in the study of learning disabilities, particularly dyslexia. The five day training provides classroom resources and instruction in how to use them for one of the more popular applications of Orton's approach in the classroom today.

There are a number of Orton-Gillingham based approaches to the teaching of reading. All share a couple of common characteristics. They tend to be more highly structured than non-O-G based reading instruction. They place more emphasis on the sequential and cumulative nature of reading instruction. And they emphasize a multisensory approach that involves sight, hearing, and touching in the process of learning to read.

Our county is sending kindergarten teachers, reading specialists (like Cheryl), and elementary grade special education teachers (like me) to the training. The material is not difficult, but it does require that you implement it more or less systematically in a classroom.

The training is pleasant because it provides Cheryl and me an opportunity to spend time together at work - including the ride over there and back. Okay, she drove today and I slept about half of the way home. But we were still at least in the same car.

This is our last full week of school. We both go back to our schools on June 11 to pack up and check out. Then, summer...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Places I've Been... Langkawi

Langkawi, MalaysiaOne of Southeast Asia's most beautiful (and overlooked) locations is Langkawi, a little cluster of islands in the Andaman Sea off Malaysia's west coast. You can lounge on the white sand beaches. But not that long ago when Langkawi was populated by pirates who roamed the surrounding sea in search of ships to plunder. The 104 mostly tiny islands provide a ocean playground for international guests instead of hiding places for pirates today.

The Attraction is simple. The Langkawi Island group has been compared to the Bahamas on a number of levels - starting with the history of pirates. The thin strips of inviting beach -- some on completely unpopulated islands -- provide a refuge today for sunseekers and snorkelers.

Langkawi, MalaysiaThe islands are just north of the Penang, Malaysia. I spent a week on Langkawi Island (the chain's largest land mass) once. It was time well spent. A few moments stand out, but none more clearly than sitting at a nameless little Italian beachfront restaurant (complete with red and white checkered table clothes) drinking marguerites served in a carafe' while the sun sank into the Indian Ocean.

Langkawi is also shrouded in legend. The most popular of these tells of a young woman who was executed after being wrongly accused of adultery. She is supposed to have cursed the island for seven generations, and the Malays of the island were attacked soon thereafter by the Thais. The island was severely plundered, according to the legend.

Langkawi, MalaysiaParts of the movie "Anna and the King" were filmed on Langkawi and the 20th Century Fox movie set is among the island's newest attractions. There are a number of good beaches, including the black sand Pantai Pasir Hitam beach. Fishing is popular (though I didn't do any) and chartered fishing boats are easy to contract with. And you can rent a car on the island and tour the interior to see the Malay villages and rubber plantations. Langkawi also has a number of beautiful bird species and some butterfly species that only exit on the island.

For more on Langkawi, check out the island's web site.