Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Student Called Me the 'Child of the Devil' Yesterday...

In class the other day a student, a sixth grader, was frustrated by her work in my Technology course. It was challenging, and my on-going propensity for assigning challenging work led to the following, off-hand comment:

"Mr. Dillon, you're the child of the Devil."

The kid had a smile on her face - it wasn't said in fuming, Holier-Than-Thou hatred. So I decided, to take her mind of the frustrations with her computer work, to redirect and diffuse.

"I don't believe in the devil."

"Do you believe in God?"

"No - I've no reason to."

A couple of students sitting nearby now perked up.

"Wait, Mr. Dillon, you don't believe in God?"


"You're an [some concoction of syllables]?"

"The term is 'atheist'. And why do you believe in God?"

This left them a little stunned (maybe confused?) except the original girl who now thought she could take out her anger towards me in a new way:

"You can't teach me your beliefs! I could sue you!"

I'm thinking 'you're, like, ten, kid...' but I respond cooly, gently pointing out their fallacious reasoning.

"Well, if it's illegal to teach my beliefs then I'm fine. Mentioning that I'm an atheist is a statement that I have no such beliefs."

"I could sue you."

"No. You couldn't. I don't believe in anything! How can you sue me for teaching you my beliefs when I don't believe anything?"

"You believe in atheism!"

"Atheism is not a belief. Atheism says I don't believe in God. It doesn't tell you to believe anything."

At that point something else distracted me in the room and I went to attend to it.

Later in the day the kid came to my classroom and said she felt I had picked on her, and treated her meanly and differently from others. I told her I'd no intention of such a mean thing, and that I was unaware of having treated her any more meanly than the rest of my students. Meanwhile in my mind I'm thinking: "Classic apologist approach - when you have no argument, play the hurt feelings and offense card."

And, once again, this all started when the kid called me "the child of the Devil." I'm the one who should be offended. And now the kid takes umbrage to my mentioning I don't believe in their God who supposedly teaches us to be kind, and not, you know, accuse your teacher of being the spawn of Satan? This after threatening to sue me. It was a disgusting, hypocritical self-righteousness display. From a ten year-old.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Let's Update American Currency

A friend and I were discussing American currency this evening, and the unusualness of our currency as compared to other countries. Notably, in England for example, they have famous people who aren’t political, such as Darwin and Elizabeth Fry, and this is true of many countries.

The conversation had originated with a query as to why Teddy Roosevelt is the only one of the four on Mount Rushmore who isn’t on a coin or bill, and never has been (the others being, as a reminder, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln all of whom are on two: Lincoln – 1¢, $5; Jefferson – 5¢, $2; Washington – 25¢, $1).

Some Presidents have been on American currency, but are no longer (the Eisenhower dollar, for example, is long since discontinued being minted). However, after the successful State and National Park quarters program, they are now running all of the Presidents on dollar coins, so that's going to change, I suppose.

As we all know, not only Presidents are on our money. Alexander Hamilton ($10) and Benjamin Franklin ($100) both show that’s not a requisite. But why not spread the love to others? Susan B. Anthony or Sacagawea are the only women we've included, an iterestingly, they are also the only two ever on our currency who didn't served the federal government in an official capacity.

So here’s who I’d put on our currency, if we had a clean slate and said “Thank you Founders, but you’ve had a run that’s long enough.” To be totally fair, if they’d ever been on coins or bills they are disqualified from my new list.

Finally, there is a law that living persons may not be depicted on American currency. This is true even for the Presidential coin series (so it will be a while until we get an Obama dollar, since they have to have been dead two years before a coin in that series will be issued). Also, to keep it fair, I’m keeping the currency denominations the same as what is currently printed and lawful tender no  $15, or 20¢ in my series. Like the British system, it’d rotate every 15 years or so, so I’ve gone ahead and provided two different sets that could be mixed and matched into one superior printing.


1¢ Ida B. Wells, front; eagle, back. (I think it would be nice to keep one eagle, commemoratively.)

5¢ Margaret Sanger, front; Statue of Liberty, back.

10¢ Juliette Gordon Low, front; Girl Scouts symbol, back.

25¢ Cesar Chavez, front; American farmland, back.

50¢ Chief Justice Earl Warren, front; US Supreme Court, back.

$1 – coin Nikolai Tesla, front; Menlo Park, back.

$1Theodore Roosevelt, front; Mesa Verde National Park, back.

$2 Rachel Carson, front; Papahanamoukoukea, back.

$5 Frank Lloyd Wright, front; Fallingwater, back.

$10 Martin Luther King Jr, front; March on Washington, back.

$20 Martha Graham, front; Appalachian Spring scene, back.

$50 Jane Addams, front; Hull House, back.

$100 Mark Twain, front; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by E.W. Kemble, back.


1¢ Horace Mann, front; eagle, back.

5¢ Philo Farnsworth, front; CBS News studio with Cronkite, back.

10¢ Billie Holiday, front; Strange Fruit sheet music, back.

25¢ Jeanette Rankin, front; Columbia, back.

50¢ Maria Sanford, front; schoolroom pledge of allegiance, back.

$1 – coin Ralph Waldo Emerson, front; Walden, back.

$1 Edwin Hubble, front; Mount Wilson Observatory, back.

$2 Shirley Jackson, front; Jennings Hall, back.

$5 Wright Brothers, front; Kittyhawk flight, back.
$10 August Saint-Gaudens, front; Robert Gould Shaw Memorial, back.

$20 Sequoyah, front; Cherokee syllabary, back.

$50 Ralph Bunche, front; United Nations Headquarters, back.

$100 Alice Paul, front; “Silent Sentinels” , back.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Even More Interesting Ones

As of just last year (that is 2013), there were 39 countries that still didn't have at least one UNESCO World Heritage site. (The United States also gained a site.) Since 2013, the number has dropped to 35, with four new inclusions. Here are the new members of the club, listed below. Congratulations, and good luck to the remaining 35 countries.


In 2011 I suggested: Great Astrolabe Reef. One of the worlds largest barrier reefs, important ray habitat.

UNESCO went with: Levuka Historical Port Town. Very nice example of a Pacific port town for American and British interests in the 1800s.


In 2011 I suggested: Sehlabathebe National Park. A remote plateau ecosystem, on the UNESCO tentative list.

UNESCO: did it! Sehlabathebe is part of the new Maloti-Drakensberg Park, shared with South Africa. 
© Koos van der Lende 


In 2011 I suggested: Bagan. A collection of 11-13 century Theravada Buddhist temples.

UNESCO went with: Pyu Ancient Cities. Lasting for 1,000 years from 200 BCE to 900 CE, Pyu was very important to the region.


In 2011 I suggested: Khor Al-Adaid. This is an inland sea, on the UNESCO tentative list.

UNESCO went with:  Al Zubhara Archaeological Site. A historically important pearling and trading center.