Wednesday, September 23, 2015

A Poem by Couplets

O wand'ring eyes, on what lips do you dwell,
Whose pouting smile bring thoughts no man can tell?
When I from her have neither sound nor word,
Then all the hues and shapes of life are blurred.
Beneath the grove I sit in contemplation
Of one who is my joy and desolation.
I'd hold her near, when my thoughts are unwinding,
Then tie them up, and make her touch a binding,
For distance is to love no harm nor cure,
Except to swell the bruises we endure.
I'd take her hand, if love is an illusion,
To prove or pacify my soul's confusion.
And underneath her arm, against her breast,
I long to stay, where safely I may rest.
Into ecstatic dreams she'd nurture me
Where I refresh myself with reverie;
We'd only rise when morn is far advanced,
Being so much in one embrace entranced.
Then come to me, O thought most prone to stray,
And be for me the evening and the day.

O wand'ring eyes, on what lips do you dwell,
Whose pouting smile bring thoughts no man can tell?
When I from him have neither sound nor word,
Then all the hues and shapes of life are blurred.
Beneath the grove I sit in contemplation
Of one who is my joy and desolation.
I'd hold him near, when my thoughts are unwinding,
Then tie them up, and make his touch a binding,
For distance is to love no harm nor cure,
Except to swell the bruises we endure.
I'd take his hand, if love is an illusion,
To prove or pacify my soul's confusion.
And underneath his arm, against his breast,
I long to stay, where I may safely rest.
Into ecstatic dreams he'd nurture me
Where I refresh myself with reverie,
We'd only rise when morn is far advanced,
Being so much in one embrace entranced.
Then come to me, O thought most prone to stray,
And be for me the evening and the day.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Ode to My Blanket

The cold wind creeps beneath the sill
And through the curtain breaks,
The morning light now mocks the chill
That o'er my moustache rakes.

Then you pick up from some odd dream
Of pleasant company,
And twirling round my limbs would seem
To be that fantasy.

The warmth of ninety-eight degrees
Of passion on my breast,
Could I be ever more at ease
With such a one to rest?

So finally, I hoarsely call
My waking vision's name,
But you, the living's warmer pall,
Won't answer for the same.

Friday, September 11, 2015

The Waltz (A Sonnet)

Your hair gives a perfume somewhere between
Nectar and autumn spice, and floats in locks
That curl between my hands; and when you lean
On me, the music's steady rhythm mocks
My heart. We step smoothly on cue, but it
Is racing past the orchestra, and I
Wonder how two people can so well fit
Together-hand in hand and thigh to thigh--
But keep it to a waltz. Though this is passion:
To see fulfillment coming, and hold back,
Moving so much as music gives the ration
Of pleasure, till abundance fills the lack.

Yet I can hold you only for so long
As I am held in rapture by the song.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

New Pygmalion

I turn you on a mental wheel,
Where memory and fantasy
Are blended into moving form,
And with my sculpting hands, there feel
Your beauty hidden quietly
Beneath the living flesh, too warm
To call my own. And my desire
For you, some other you, despairs
That I both loathe and love it when
You writhe and squirm with restless fire:
For, Galatea, all my cares
Are vain to make you stone again.

Monday, August 10, 2015

My Proposal for a Party Platform

The Arkansas Populist Party

I. Arkansas -
Arkansas is a unique state in our country, rich in natural resources, traditional values, and a hardworking labor force. It is not state where distant party idealogies in Washington D.C. are accepted at face value, oftentimes at their own detriment. We are a state which strongly resists being quantified and categorized into left or right ideologies, and we believe that the Arkansas people have the right for their unique views to be heard both in local government and in the federal government.

As a party, we strongly support the right of self-determination for the people of Arkansas on the pressing social and economic issues of our day. We commit to the state motto of "Regnat Populus" ("The people reign"), believing that a free and democratic United States relies on free and democratic states.

We commit to working with any of the national parties who are willing to meet our demands as representatives of the Arkansas people, but we are absolutely opposed to caucusing or joining in coalitions which prevent us from holding those major parties accountable.

II. Constitutional Reform
The Arkansas Populist Party believes that the Constitution of the state of Arkansas must be amended to allow proportional representation in the House of Representatives using the open party list voting method or another similar (and transparent) voting formula.

We believe that state delegations to the United States House of Representatives should be elected proportionally by the whole state so that each representative represents the same number of people and that the share of votes earned by smaller parties are duly represented.

We support a national popular vote for the President of the United States using the Instant Runoff Voting (preferential) system.

We support term limits for Senators and Representatives in the United States Congress.

III. Taxation
We believe that the wealthiest should contribute more to the stability of our state and the support of our most vulnerable citizens. The APP supports an increase in the highest marginal income tax rates for federal income taxes.

The APP supports an altered income table for Arkansas state tax brackets, so that no income tax is collected on those who earn less than $12,600 and the tax indexes are increased for those earning higher incomes.

The APP believes that people should have more freedom to spend their money in the way that they see fit. For that reason we support a single, standard sales tax throughout the state at 5%, with no tax on food items.  We believe that tobacco products should be taxed at the same rate as other non-food items.  

The APP believes that the federal government should not use federal funding to force states to accept national policies which fall under state authority. We believe that the Arkansas drinking age should be lowered to 18. In order to replace federal funds lost as a result, Arkansas would increase the alcohol tax.  In the federal government, AUP representatives and Senators will support a general repeal of federal restrictions on local self-determination with regards to alcohol and tobacco consumption.

The APP supports lowering corporate taxes and the tax burden on small businesses.

The APP is opposed to taxing online sales and purchases.

IV. Life Issues
Fundamental to all other freedoms is the right to life. Without this right, secured even for those who are unable to defend or speak for themselves, all other rights become illusory, as it is certain that a person who is not allowed to live will also not have health care, freedom of speech, freedom to pursue a better life, or otherwise enjoy the benefits of a just society.

Populists strongly support the rights of states to regulate and restrict the abortion industry, a right that is currently denied to them by the federal government.

We support the right to life of the unborn as well as the rights of mothers to longer, paid maternity leaves, free prenatal healthcare, and public aid in establishing publicly-funded college savings plans for newborns.

The APP believes that the process for implementing the death penalty should be reformed so that each defendant is given a separate, impartial hearing to confirm both guilt and eligibility for the death penalty. We believe that it should be in the power of local governments to abolish the death penalty for crimes committed in their communities. We welcome members who propose abolition of the death penalty altogether and will support a frank exchange of ideas on this issue.

The APP is opposed to physician-assisted suicide or euthanasia.

The APP is opposed to research using human embryos.

V. Family Issues
The APP strongly supports the right of the people of Arkansas to a fair and democratic process for determining whether to recognize gay marriages under the law, while always maintaining the highest respect for members of the LGBT community.

We support equal treatment of LGBTQ workers in the workplace and are opposed to any prejudice against LGBTQ Arkansas residents.

We support the extension of spousal benefits to domestic partners.

We support a protection of the rights of individuals who oppose same-sex marriage and, for reasons of conscience, refuse to offer services pertaining to it.

We support an increase in deductions permitted for additional children.

VI. Minimum Wage 
We support an increase in the minimum wage to $9 over a year-long period and a law which adjusts the minimum wage for inflation and rising cost of living.

VII. Labor Organization
We support tax incentives for corporations whose workers are members of a legally recognized union.

We believe that every worker should have the right to join a union and that workers should be empowered to form unions by a fair and free democratic process.

We support Right to Work laws which allow any person to hold any job, but believe that individuals should only be able to access health care benefits, retirement funds, and other benfits negotiated by unions if they join the unions themselves.

VII. Health Care
We believe that access to primary care for children is a right that should be guaranteed by universal coverage.

We support a single-payer health care system throughout the United States, administered by state governments, and paid for by general tax revenue.

We support the freedom of individuals to choose their own doctors and determine their level of care with their own money, but we believe that individuals should always have the option of joining an inexpensive public health system.

We support tort reform to restrict lawsuits against doctors for punitive damages.

VIII. Immigration
The APP believes that immigrants are the backbone of a working economy. They support the creation of wealth and ensure that there are enough working, taxpaying people in this country to support our social infrastructure and move Arkansas and the United states forward.

The APP believes that the states should determine the legal status of undocumented immigrants and should be able to create a path to citizenship for any of their residents.

We support cooperation and dialogue with Mexican authorities to create integrated police records that will help us track and apprehend individuals who have committed crimes in the United States and Mexico.

We believe that the immigration process should be simplified and the number of immigrants permitted to live and work in this country should be increased.

We oppose proposals to deport all undocumented workers in this country and believe that a federal legalization process should be created.

IX. Homeland Security
The APP supports the reform or elimination of the Department of Homeland Security.

We believe that states should have access to all federal law-enforcement records collected by federal agencies and should be permitted to disclose them in accordance with their own laws.

We oppose the FISA court and believe that warrants should be obtained for all wiretapping and surveillance through the ordinary court system.

X. Education
The APP believes that every child has the right to an excellent, free education provided for by public funds in cooperation with and under the direction of their parents.

We believe that the best way to achieve this is through community-directed education which seeks to keep children in their own communities rather than through competition between school districts.

We also believe that parents should have the right and ability to remove their students from the public school system and enroll their children in private schools or engage in home education with public assistance.

For this reason, the APP will support the creation of a voucher system for homeschooled parents worth up to 65% of student's equitable share of funding and 85% for parents who enroll their children in private schools. As a condition for accepting public vouchers, private schools will be prohibited from collecting tuition fees.

Populists oppose transferring students to schools outside of their local district through the so-called "school choice" program except for reasons of hardship.

The APP is strongly opposed to further consolidation into larger and larger public schools and believes, where possible, small charter schools utilizing the latest teaching methods should be established in districts which include several smaller communities. Students attending such schools should receive 100% of their public funding.

The APP is committed to ending tuition and fees for students attending two-year community colleges.

The APP supports the creation of a JROTC program in every public high school and an ROTC program in every public university.

XI. The Natural State
Fundamental to the character of Arkansas is its wide diversity of resources and natural beauty. This natural beauty is not only something that gives pleasure, it is a resource, attracting thousands of sportsmen, tourists, and entrepreneurs each year, in addition to helping to supply many Arkansans with essential food and water.

We are committed to protecting water quality and wildlife in Arkansas; the APP believes, however, that it is the people of Arkansas, and not Washington, who should have the most say in protecting our environment.

We support responsible hunting and fishing and will do everything we can to encourage hunters both inside and outside of the state to make use of the diversity of wildlife in this state.

We will support regulations seeking to protect our air from dangerous pollutants.

The APP will support the programs which seek to alleviate the difficulties experienced by Arkansas farmers through a vigorous public safety net. We support reduced taxes on incomes derived from farms as well as on the purchase of farm equipment and supplies. We believe that policies pertaining to Arkansas farms should be made in Arkansas, not Washington.

XII. Public Safety
Individuals have the right to feel safe in their persons and belongings. To that end, we support the efforts of law enforcement and believe that they should be compensated more for their services.

The AUP believes strongly in the right to bear arms, both for personal protection and for hunting. We will oppose any laws to increase regulations on gun ownership in this state.

We recognize that the prison system in this state is overcrowded and underfunded. The source for this problem is largely the over-incarceration of nonviolent offenders for scores of drug-related offenses.

We therefore propose to eliminate prison terms for nonviolent drug and alochol-related offenses (with the exception of  drunk driving laws) and reduce all such crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.
Marijuana use is a hotly debated topic in this state. In order to give people more individual freedom, we will strongly advocate for the federal government to give states authority over regulating the use and prosecution of drugs.

We support the legalization of marijuana production, purchase, and use for individuals over the age of 21.

We will vigorously fight the production of harder drugs and seek to curtail their use by minors, always, however, with the goal of keeping drug offenders out of the prison system and into programs of recovery that help to make them better and more productive citizens.

XIII. Religion and State
Arkansas is a state with strong moral and religious convictions. The APP believes that such a faith in God is a strength and not a weakness for our people.

We support the expression of religious faith by public institutions, provided that such expression does not in any way coerce participation by those of a different faith or of no faith at all.

We believe that the academic study of religion is a key component in a complete education and will seek to give it greater attention in the development of state educational standards.

We are in favor of partnerships with faith-based initiatives to help the poor and vulnerable.

XIV. Social Security
The APP believes that Social Security benefits are the right of individuals who have paid into the system. However, the social security system is in need of reform so that it benefits individuals of all social classes, but especially the poorest, rather than simply providing an additional source of income for wealthy retirees. We support reform, for individuals under the age of 45, that will distribute Social Security benefits on a need-based system.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Aphrodite's Revenge.... (Sonnet)

There were a thousand times when you deserved
To be told that "I love you", and by tacit
Consent I gave up nothing unreserved;
How long was it credible I should mask it--
Fading attachment, a wayward heart? Well,
Now I've found my release--the solitude
I claimed to love more than you--and it's hell.
I wish, though, hell could change my attitude;
I wish that seeing you made me believe
In love once more or its dizzying charms,
But holding you again could not relieve
Me, since I was as lonely in your arms
--As now. Could something so sweet steal away
--Faith in love, or is it my fine to pay?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tower of Babel (A Sonnet)

If I could build a tower of what raises
My spirit at your voice and glue its joints
With memories of you, then all your praises
Would reach the panoply of starry points
And graze the flowing zodiac, and there

Amidst the clouds, where I inhabit, hearing
Your light footfalls approach, my eyes would stare
Down on those left below me, only fearing
To be with them. So you, so I. What we
Experience is far more solid rock,
Standing for ages, while what fleetingly
Some call love falls into rubble and block.

Then let us build a ziggurat of passion
Greater than ancient Babel hands could fashion.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Republic of Arkansas (world-building exercise)

Several months ago, I began conceiving a short story set in an independent Republic of Arkansas. Of course, I am no good at writing novels, but I did have some ideas on how the government of that Republic might take shape. So, I composed this. Enjoy and comment!

The Constitution of the Republic of Arkansas (in outline)
I. The Legislative Department -

A. Legislative power shall be vested in the General Assembly of the Republic of Arkansas and the people of the same, in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution.

B. Popular Initiative and Referendum -
1. Laws, either as statutes or as amendments to the Constitution, may be passed by referendum if petitioned for by 1/10 of the registered voters in the Republic or if initiated by the President of the Republic with the consent of the Senate. These initiatives must be certified as executable by the Attorney-General of the Republic.

2. After a referendum is initiated, the President of the Republic shall designate a day no sooner than one month from the certification of the petition or the consent of the Senate and no later than 6 months afterwards on which voters shall cast ballots on the matter. It may also be placed on the ballot
at the next General Election with the consent of the Senate.

3. In order to pass, it must be approved by a majority of the voters casting ballots in the referendum and by a majority of voters in each of more than half the counties in the Republic. If, however, the referendum is for an amendment to the Constitution then it must be passed by a majority of the voters casting ballots and a majority of voters in each of two-thirds of the counties in the Republic.

C. The General Assembly - The General Assembly shall consist of a House of Representatives and a Senate. 
1. The Senate -

a. Composition-
i.The Senate shall consist of twenty-five Senators each representing one of twenty-five geographical districts of roughly equal population, as determined at the last census, and fifteen Senators representing functional districts. Senators shall serve terms of 4 years.

ii. The functional districts shall consist of multiple-member constituencies, each represented proportionally to the number of electors casting ballots in those constitutuencies in the previous election, provided that each constituency receives at least one seat, and elected in single-seat races at large by preferential ballot. Those functional constituencies shall be as follows: (1) Labor Unions (2) Healthcare Professionals (3) Educational Professionals and Students (4) Business and Finance Professionals (5) Civil Servants (6) Clergy and Charitable Non-Profit Workers (7) Creative Artists and Entertainers (8) Legal Professionals and Law Enforcement Officials (9) Service Professionals (10) Farmers and Agricultural Workers

iii. Each geographic district shall return one Senator, who shall be elected by preferential ballot (Instant Runoff Voting).

iv. Every voter shall be entitled to cast one ballot in a geographic constituency and one in a functional constituency. If a voter is not entitled to vote in a constituency because of unemployment or because his or her primary occupation is domestic, he or she may either vote in the functional constituency pertaining to his last primary occupation or in the functional constituency of his or her spouse.

b. Officers
i. The President of the Senate shall be the Chancellor of the Republic.

ii. Other officers shall be appointed by the Chancellor with the consent of the Senate from the members thereof.

2. The House of Representatives-

a. Composition -
i. The House of Representatives shall consist of fifty Representatives representing fifty geographic districts and an additional number of members appointed from party lists to make the House proportional in the manner described in the Appendix for the Additional Member System as provided for by this Constitution. Representatives shall serve two-year terms.

ii. Each of the geographic districts for the House of Representatives shall be formed by dividing each Senate district into two House districts of equal population by the shortest possible line.

b. Officers - The Speaker of the House and other officers shall be elected by the members thereof.

c. Impeachment - For high crimes or misdemeanors, the House of Representatives may impeach any person holding an office of trust or profit under the Republic. Such impeachments shall be tried in the Senate, with the Vice President presiding or, if the Vice President himself is being tried, with the President of the Republic presiding. In order to be convicted, the accused must be found guilty by a majority of the whole number of members of the Senate, who shall be under oath. Penalties issued by a court of impeachment shall not exceed removal from office and barring from holding public office, but the person so convicted may be held liable in another court for violations of the law.

3. Legislative Process -
a. In order for any bill to become law it must be passed by both houses of the General Assembly.

b. Once a bill has been passed by both houses, it must be presented to the President of the Republic who, if he agrees, shall sign it, but if not, shall return the same to the House in which it originated with his objections, which shall be entered on the journal.

c. If a majority of the whole number of members of that house shall vote again to pass the bill, it shall immediately become law on the signature of the presiding officer of the same, certifying that the law has passed.

II. State Department -

A. Composition -
1. The State Department shall consist of the President, Chancellor, Treasurer of State, Secretary of State, and Attorney-General.

2. Each of the State Department officers shall be elected by the people for a four-year term concurrent with the Senate by preferential ballot.

B. Responsibilities of the President
1. The President shall represent the Republic to foreign powers and at home in a ceremonial manner in accordance with the advice given him by the Executive Department.

2. The President shall be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic, but may not make or declare war except on the advice of the Executive Department and may not appoint officers except in the manner prescribed by law.

3. The President shall have the authority to call for new elections to the Executive Department when the same has lost the confidence of both houses of the General Assembly.

4. The President shall appoint all judges whose appointment is not otherwise provided for in this Constitution with the advice and consent of the Senate.

5. The President shall have power, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to grant pardons and reprieves for violations of the law, except to himself or any of his immediate family.

C. Responsibilities of the Chancellor
1. The Chancellor shall preside over the Chancery Court of Equity, which shall have jurisdiction over all cases pertaining to equity and to those cases delegated to it by law.

2. The Chancellor shall be President of the Senate and shall determine its agenda and appoint the members of all committees within the same.

3. The Chancellor shall act as President in the case of a vacancy, in which case he shall vacate the office of Chancellor and a Vice Chancellor selected by the Senate shall take the office of Chancellor.

D. Responsibilities of the Treasurer of State
1. The Treasurer of State shall maintain all records of the revenue and expenditures of the Republic and shall be responsible for the collection of all taxes.

2. He shall appoint the Directors of the National Bank of Arkansas in accordance with the charter thereof as provided for by law.

3. He shall submit an annual budget for approval by the General Assembly, which may alter no expenditures or statutory requirements as passed by the Assembly.

E. Responsibilities of the Secretary of State
1. He shall maintain all vital records of the state and administer all elections.

2. He shall be responsible for the maintenance of the Capitol grounds.

F. Responsibilities of the Attorney-General
1. The Attorney-General shall prosecute national crimes in accordance with the instructions of the Executive Department and shall represent the state at law.

2. He shall advise the various departments of government on the implementation and interpretation of the Constitution.

III. The Executive Department -
A. Prime Minister
1. Executive power as granted by this Constitution shall be vested in a Prime Minister of the Republic, who shall serve at the pleasure of the General Assembly for a maximum term of twelve years.

2. The Prime Minister shall be elected in the following manner:
i. Upon the vacancy of the office of Prime Minister, the Senate shall convene and cast ballots for the Prime Minister from the members of the House of Representatives.
ii. The two persons having the highest number of votes shall then be presented to the House of Representatives, who shall vote for one of the two candidates. The person having the highest number of votes shall be elected Prime Minister.
iii. The Prime Minister shall serve until either a vote of no-confidence passes both houses or a period of four years has elapsed, at which time another election must be held. No person shall serve as Prime Minister for longer than twelve years.

B. The Prime Minister may delegate executive responsibility to ministers appointed by him in accordance with the provisions of the law.

IV. The Judicial Department -

A. The Supreme Court -
1. Final appellate authority shall be vested in a Supreme Court of the Republic, which shall consist of nine judges elected by the people of Arkansas for twelve year terms.

2. After the first election in consequence of this Constitution, the Supreme Court shall, by lot, be divided into three classes, the first of which shall vacate their seats after four years, the second, after eight, and the third, after twelve, so that every four years one-third of the Supreme Court is elected.

3. Members of the Supreme Court must, in order to stand for election, be nominated by at least 1/5 of the members of the General Assembly from either house.

B. The General Assembly shall, by law, provide for other courts inferior to the Supreme Court having jurisdiction over national crimes and civil cases.

C. Municipal Courts
1. Judges: Each county and special municipal district shall elect a Municipal Judge to hear cases arising from municipal law. He may be assisted by other judges in a manner determined by each municipality.

2. Responsibility for prosecuting cases arising under municipal law shall fall to the Municipal Attorney, who shall be appointed by the executive of the County or Special Municipal District with the consent of the assigned legislative assembly. 

D. Chancery Court - All cases arising from equity shall be heard by the Chancery Court. The Chancellor may be assisted by Vice Chancellors appointed by him with the consent of the President of the Republic as provided for by law.

E. Justice of the Peace Courts -
1. Each county and special municipal district shall be divided into townships, within each of which shall be elected a justice of the peace, who will have jurisdiction over all non-felony traffic offenses, inquests, indictments, and warrants of arrest and search within the township. Justices of the Peace shall be elected for four-year terms.

2. Appeal from a Justice of the Peace Court shall be to the Quorum Court and, after this, to the Supreme Court of the Republic.

V. Municipalities

A. Counties -
1. Territory and Jurisdiction - The Republic is divided into counties, each of which has sole municipal authority over the territory within in it, with the exception of military bases and special municipal districts as designated by law.

2. Legislative Branch -
a. Legislative authority shall be granted to the Quorum Court of each county.

b.Each county is divided into townships, for each of which is elected a Justice of the Peace who shall, in addition to their duties as Justice of the Peace sit on the Quorum Court together with an equal number of County Commissioners, who shall be elected at large in single-seat races by preferential ballot for terms of two years.

c. The President of the Quorum Court shall be the County Vice President, but he shall have no vote unless the Court is equally divided.

3. Executive Branch - 
a. Executive power over the County shall be vested in a County President who shall be elected by the people of the county by preferential ballot.

b. In the case of vacancy, the County Vice President shall assume the office of County President. The County Vice President shall be elected by the people of the county by preferential ballot. When the Vice President assumes the office of President, the Quorum Court shall elect another person as Vice President to serve the remainder of the term.

B. Special Municipal Districts -
1. Territory and Jurisdiction - State law may provide for certain urban areas to be self-governing as Special Municipal Districts having the same authority as Counties and exempted from county control.

2. Legislative Branch -
a. The Legislative Power of a Special Municipal District shall be vested in a City Assembly, which shall consist of 35 members elected proportionally by party list for terms of four years.

b. President of the City Assembly shall be the Mayor of the City, who shall be elected by the people thereof for a term of six years. However, he may not speak on a substantive issue in the Assembly nor vote unless authorized to do so by a majority of the assembly.

c. In order for any ordinance to pass, it must be approved by a majority of the City Assembly and signed by the mayor or, if he objects, then by a 2/3 majority of the City Assembly in a second vote.

2. Executive Branch -  Executive Power shall be vested in a City Executive who shall be appointed by the President of the Republic with the consent of the City Assembly for a term of four years.

Appendix: Additional Member System for elections to the House of Representatives
1. Each party shall nominate a list of candidates. Every geographical district candidate shall subscribe to one of the duly registered lists of candidates, and the leader and name of the party to which that candidate subscribes shall be listed next to him or her on the ballot paper.

2. When casting a vote for one of the geographical candidates by preferential ballot, the first choice of each voter shall be counted as a vote for the party list to which the preferred candidate subscribes. In order for the votes for a list to be tallied in the overall percentage, that list must receive at least 5% of the total number of ballots cast or one geographical district seat.

3. The party whose geographical candidates received the highest number of seats (or, if this tied, then the one which received the highest number of seats and the lowest percentage) receives one candidate from his party list of candidates. This sum (geographical seats + 1) is divided by the percentage of votes won as first-choice preferences received by candidates from that party throughout the Republic.

4. This quotient is then multiplied by the percentage earned by each of the other parties who qualified to have their party votes counted. From this product is subtracted the number of geographical seats won by that party, and the resulting difference is the number of seats allotted to that party from their party list.

5. The seats allotted by party list to each party are filled in an order determined by the party itself according to its by-laws.

6. Each party list is limited to fifty members, but the number of members in House may change from election to election.

CONSERVATIVE      28                    39            1            29
LIBERAL           20                    35            6            26
NATIONALIST       1                     17            12           13
SOCIALIST         1                     9             6            7
                                                                   75 Members

(Here was the flag I came up with for the novel.)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Volcano (A Sonnet)

O silent raging stream of flame which courses
Its way into my heart and fingertips,
Burning to ash all my nerves as it forces
Its way into the light; and where it rips
My parched and cracking flesh, it steals away
Sensation, for I seem to grasp at air;
And next to truly holding you, can they,
Whether the earth, or breeze, or stream compare?
Beside you, they are not; so this desire
Extinguishes their substance into smoke,
A rumor which once warmed, but not a fire.
Existence signifies but to evoke.
 --I only feel through you, if that is feeling,
 --So pity me, in adoration kneeling.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Mary Poppins and Neleus' Father

Mary Poppins Tames the Winds

Aeolus in his island home
Was with his wayward flock,
When his four daughters in a fit,
Began to run amok.

The South Wind rumbled humidly
And made the North turn dark,
The East Wind threatened thunder-clouds,
The West began to bark.

So old Aeolus sore distraught,
Sought counsel from the sea,
And swam to old Poseidon's home
Where he dwelt merrily.

Twas there he saw young Neleus
Keeping a steady guard
And all his sea nymph sisters there
Assisting Neptune's ward.

He marvelled at their family,
Which put his own to shame,
And wondered what was different here,
Or if he was to blame.

"My lord, the warden of the sea,
I come to seek a boon,
For I am cursed with four young nymphs,
Who all blow out of tune.

"But here I see a pretty house
Where all your children stay;
They do not fuss and fume like mine
Nor misbehave at play."

"My liege, the keeper of the winds,
Who trouble my domain,
Do I not know when all your brood,
Have sprung the weather vane?

"But if you wish to know the cause
Of my domestic bliss,
It is a maid which I have hired
As nanny to my kids.

"She's like a god in all her pow'rs,
Were there a nymph so fair,
For she can tame the wildest beast,
And ride the wistful air.

"She's Mary like the merry finch,
And Poppins like herself,
The nanny of divinity,
A spritely, perfect elf.

"But Neleus is nearly grown
And all my nymphs are too,
And I would freely let her go
If she will go with you."

Aelous was beside himself
To be so fortunate,
If only Mary Poppins came
And set his household straight!

He had an awful interview
The strangest he had seen
For Mary questioned him the more
And made the wind come clean.

At last with one most tuneful sigh
And slightly hidden grin
She said, "spit spot" and went to work
Her magic once again.

So now the winds, though wayward still,
At least blow their own way,
And carry Mary Poppins where
She's needed most, they say.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

A Love Poem (A Lantern to Outshine the Moon)

If I had half a dozen smiles like yours,
Trapped in a vase as lucid as your skin,
I'd make a lantern to outshine the moon,
And temples for your light to gather in.

Or if your gaze were trapped in iron doors,
Like tongues of flame against the winter's chill,
Then it would melt the hardest ice as soon
As it would thaw the hardness of my will.

But you have freedom through those lips of rose,
When pressed against my own which give release,
So do not let the stars be thus outshone,
But let my light in yours the more increase,

And with the fire that through my fingers flows,
Though I, in shadow, veil your deity,
Unbind my limbs who, frozen and alone,
Would bend my knees and worship ceaselessly.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

2015 Constitutional Amendment Wishlist

About once a year, I make a list of Constitutional amendments that I would like to see enacted, or would enact if made dictator for a day. Here they are, in outline, written in as simple language as I can manage.

Amendment I - Federal Ballot Initiative
A. Any bill, except one which would raise or create any tax, or amendment to the Constitution may be proposed on the petition of 1/5 of the state legislatures. The bill must clearly state whether it is proposing an amendment to the Constitution or a statute.

B. The bill shall then be presented to all voters in the following general election. If the bill proposes a statute, then it shall be passed if a majority of voters AND a majority of voters in more than half of the states approve it. If the bill proposes an amendment, then it must be approved by a majority of voters in each of 2/3 of the whole number of states and by a majority of those voting in the general election.

C. Any United States citizen over the age of 18, regardless of residency, shall be qualified to vote on referenda pursuant to this amendment, unless prevented by mental disability or incarceration as provided by law.

Amendment II - Election of the President and Vice President and a Federal Election Commission
A. The President shall be elected by the people of the United States directly.

B. If, after the first ballot, no candidate has received a majority of the votes cast, then, 6 weeks after the first election, a runoff election will be held between the candidates who received the two highest numbers of votes, and the person receiving the highest number will be elected. If there is a tie, it shall be decided by a joint session of the U.S. Congress, with each member having one vote.

C. The Vice President shall be elected separately in the same manner as the President.

D. The United States Senate shall appoint a Federal Election Commission, composed of nine members, including a chairman, to supervise Presidential and Vice Presidential elections, federal ballot initiatives, and other matters pertaining to federal elections as provided for by law. They shall serve terms of three years, with three members elected each year.

Amendment III - Proportional Representation in the House of Representatives
A. In each state, those parties or groups of individuals who qualify to nominate candidates for President of the United States shall also nominate a list of candidates, approved by their members, to be elected to the House of Representatives.

B. In casting ballots for President, voters shall simultaneously cast ballots for the persons nominated to the House of Representatives, whose names shall be clearly listed under each Presidential Candidate. The seats to which that state is entitled in the House of Representatives shall be filled proportional to the number of votes received by each Presidential candidate. If there are any remainders, they shall be given to the list of candidates which received the most votes.

C. If more than one list of candidates receives the highest number of votes, the remaining seats shall be given to that list which is favored by the Chief Executive of the state or by another body determined by state law.

D. Representatives shall serve terms of four years concurrent with the President, but shall not serve more than three terms.

(Just to give an example: In the 2012 elections in AR, Obama received 38% of the vote and Romney 60%. This would give the democrats one Representative in the House and the GOP 2, but since there was one remainder, it would go as a bonus to the GOP since they received the most votes, so there would be 3 GOP representatives and 1 Democratic representative. Whereas, in that same election, all four seats went Democrat, meaning that the percentage of seats won by Republicans (100%) was off by 40 Percent relative to their actual support. My proposal would reduce this to fifteen points, which is pretty good by political science standards.)

Amendment IV- Election of Supreme Court Members
A. The Supreme Court shall be composed of nine members elected by the people of the United States for terms of twelve years. No member shall serve more than three full terms.

B. In order for any person to stand as a candidate for the Supreme Court, he must be nominated by at least one-tenth of the Senate and be a licensed attorney in one of the states.

C. After this amendment is adopted, the Supreme Court shall, by lot, choose three of its members to resign their seat, which shall be filled at the next federal general election. After four years, another three shall be chosen by lot to resign their seats, which shall then be filled at the next general election, and finally, the remaining three shall resign their seats after another four years, so that every four years one-third of the Supreme Court is elected.

Amendment V - Jurisdiction of the Supreme CourtA. No federal court inferior to the Supreme Court shall hear a case which would invalidate the laws of any state or agency or municipality of a state.

B. The Supreme Court may not hear any case which would invalidate a state law without the consent of Senate.

Amendment VI - The National Guard and State Militias
A. No state militia or National Guard troops, whether established by state or federal law, may be called into the service of the United States except by the consent of both houses of Congress for a specific time and purpose, nor may they be deployed into any foreign country without the consent of the legislative power of the state from which those troops originate.

Amendment VII -Presidential Veto A. Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approves, he shall sign it, but if not, he shall return it with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration a majority (not two-thirds) of the whole number of members of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by a majority of the whole numberof members of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively.

B. If any bill shall not be returned to the President within seven days (Sundays and federal holidays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not become a law.

Amendment VIII - Repeal of Federal LawsA. In order to repeal any federal law, the agreement of a majority of a whole number of the members in each House of Congress shall be required, but the consent of the President shall not be required or sought.

B. No law adopted by popular referendum may be repealed or amended by federal law within five years after its adoption except the same is effected by the petition of the states and a referendum as provided for by this Constitution.

Amendment IX - Guaranteeing all rights and privileges for citizens who are 18
A. No federal or state law may deny any right or privilege to any citizen who is eighteen years of age or older without due process.

Amendment X - Election of Senators
A. Senators shall be elected for terms of eight years by the people of each state.

B. After the first general election in consequence of this amendment, in which every Senator shall stand for election, the youngest member representing each state shall vacate his seat after four years, while the other Senator shall vacate his seat after eight years, so that every four years one-half of the Senate shall be elected.

C. No Senator may stand for election more than once consecutively.

Amendment XI - Recall of the President or Vice PresidentA. If a majority of both houses of Congress, by a resolution, indicate no-confidence in the President, Vice President, or any other executive officer of the United States, he shall be resign his office, effective when a successor is chosen.

B. If the President or Vice President are removed by a vote of no confidence, then a special election shall be held three months from the date that the resolution has been passed to elect either the President or Vice President (or both) who has been removed.

C. No resolution of no-confidence shall be valid within three months of a general election, either before or after.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Addiction (A Poem)

If I could flee the foot-worn path
Into contemplative retreat,
And shield my heart from Cupid's wrath,
My seeming joys would seem complete;

But all I have to flee the pain
Of love for you, yet unrequited,
Is to be numbed by self-disdain
Through revelry, yet not delighted.

For your embrace is more like wine
Than wine itself, and feeling it
Rush through my veins is form divine
Unmatched by any counterfeit.

Then slay each straying thought, and look
Once more at me, and cast a net
Into my heart, where I mistook
So many things before I set

My thoughts on you. And here I'm bound
To reel on dreams of opium,
Until, with you, at last I've found
Endless store of delirium.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Choirboy's View on Same-Sex Marriage

I want to start off this post with a little backstory on my relationship to homosexuality. From the time that I have been in high school, I have had gays, lesbians, and bisexuals among my closest circle of friends. This isn't surprising since I was in choir and band, and then I spent a good deal of my time after high school discerning for the Catholic priesthood. If you don't think you will run into a lot of homosexuals while discerning for the Catholic priesthood, you are gravely mistaken. ALMOST all of them are celebrating the decision made by the Supreme Court last week, and I have been watching my Facebook feed blow up like a cross between a three year-old with finger paints and a Care Bear stare. It's raining rainbows, and that's not even possible.

Now, among my group of friends, I would say that I am in the absolute minority in opposing the civil recognition of same-sex marriage. I respect their feelings on the matter, and I do not fault them for them, but I am a 1000% certain that most of  them do not have the same respect for mine; many of them don't probably even know that I am opposed to it.

But let's back up. First off, I want to say that I am absolutely against ANY discrimination against a person on the mere basis of their sexual orientation. I am against this because my Catholic faith leads me to believe that every person is in the image of God, that they were made with challenges and talents (sometimes the same thing) just like everyone else, and that they have the right to pursue holiness and happiness just like everyone else. My Catholic faith loudly proclaims:
"They (homosexual persons) must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided." (CCC 2358)

It is for this reason that I generally conceal my opposition to same-sex marriage. If in any way my views or opinions on the matter prevent me from helping or being a friend to someone who identifies as gay, lesbian, trans, bi, or other, I want those to be minimized and to simply be present to that person as a loving Christian. On the other hand, I genuinely believe, and this is based on both faith and experience, that LGBTQ individuals will be happier, healthier, and more integrated if they adopt a lifestyle based on the teachings of Christ in the Catholic faith. That doesn't mean that they must try to "change their orientation", hide their identity, or that they will never fail. It simply means that they will integrate their view of sexuality with that of believing it to be a participation in the creative mystery of God. The Lord knows I fail on this almost constantly myself, so I don't expect anything different from anyone else. That's why, in the Catholic Church, we put Reconciliation and Healing at the center of our worship.

On the other hand, it seems almost ludicrous to me that, at the head of most movements raising the banner of "the sanctity of marriage" are Churches that are full of second, third, and fourth marriages, as if something can truly be sacred which is violated by almost every Christian denomination. As a Catholic, I can't help but think that unions, often even celebrated in Churches, which amount to no more than "I promise to file joint tax returns and have sex (+ contraception) with you until I can't stand you any more" aren't really any better than performing a same-sex marriage at the same altar. Same-sex marriage is rooted on the same philosophical premise as pretty much 85% of the marriages performed in this country, so it shouldn't really surprise anyone that the Supreme Court ruled that they should have the same protections.

I am worried about the effect that this will have on the relationship between religion and public life, particularly in places (like the South) where religion has enjoyed a position of high respect and privilege. In fact, it seems to me that the particular concern the founders (of both the nation and the states) showed to give religion that place of privilege in civic life, preclude us from judging those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds, merely because those objections come from their religion. As the civic life, because of this ruling, takes on more and more of a different flavor from that which most of the populace is seeing and hearing preached in their Churches, we should expect those churches to do one of two things: either dwindle as fewer and fewer people are able to square their experience inside the Church with that outside the church or change their doctrinal stances to accommodate civil society, in which case they will also dwindle as ordinary people begin to see them as meaningless or extraneous. While I cannot agree with the institution of civil marriage as it previously existed in this country, I also can't agree with changing it, as changing it will, in general, lead to irreparable harm to the prevalence of religion in this country. Only if individuals' opinions were changed freely, through a fair and democratic process (not litigation), should an institution as ancient and venerable as marriage have been altered to accommodate those changes in perspective.
St. Aelred of Rievaulx, pray for us!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Confederate Flag: My Story

Lately there have been a lot of rumblings on the news and in social media around the Confederate Battle Flag. Essentially, these hinge on whether this is a symbol of hatred or bigotry and whether it ought to be removed from public spaces or even banned outright. I thought I would add my voice as a (mostly) white, Southern man.

As most of you know, I went to a school whose mascot was the "Rebels". Confederate imagery was everywhere. People brought Confederate flags to the games; the fight song was Dixie; and the school colors were red and grey. You can see a Confederate flag depicted on the sign in front of the school and, in my time at least, it hung proudly in the gymnasium.

That flag basically meant different things for different people in the community. For some of the more history-conscious folks, it represented Southern heritage and pride in our former status as a sovereign nation. It had a lot the same connotation as IRA symbols in Ireland: complicated, but still something that represented regional identity. For others, it was a symbol of rebellion against the "cultured" people up North. It was a statement that we were backwoods, gun-totin' rednecks and we were here to stay--and, perhaps, when we sobered up, "rise again".

For the vast majority of people in my community, neither of those things were the case. It was generally just intended as a symbol of our school, and the people from outside of our area who misappropriated it for nationalistic, racist, or even redneck imagery were seen as strangers who just didn't get it and who were likely to get us all in trouble.

As a young, (mostly) white man in the South, and as someone who had plenty of friends both north and south of the Mason-Dixon line, I was keenly aware of the cultural difference between Southern and Northern states. This difference cannot be reduced, or even characterized, by an increase in racism as you journey to Dixie. In fact, I never heard such racist comments as what I heard out of middle-class white people once I moved to Michigan and then Massachusetts. Where I had come from racism was a--to use a term I wholly disapprove of--"white trash" thing. I openly adopted the Southern banner as something that symbolized my country and my people. I owned one myself and hung it in my dorm room, much to the annoyance of some of my friends at Hope College.

After many highways and byways, I come to the present day. Not too long ago I dated a young African-American lady, and, in sensitivity to her feelings on the matter, removed my Confederate flag from my room. For her, the flag symbolized institutional racism and a history of slavery to others on the basis of her skin, and I felt (and still feel) that I needed to respect that. So, down it went, to be replaced proudly by my Arkansas state flag. (I know some are raising a fuss about that now, but really, it's a DIAMOND. We have diamonds in Arkansas.)

With all that in mind, let's take a look the main issue at stake here. Is the flag a symbol of racism, of states rights, or of Southern heritage? If my story tells you anything, it ought to be that the flag has many different meanings to many different people. Stating that one meaning (because it is negative) ought to preclude all other possible meanings seems simplistic to me.

Certainly, the flag can be used in a hateful, racist way, and it is, in fact, justifiably a complicated symbol due to its history. Yes, the Civil War was fought over slavery, despite what so many people argue. Just compare, side by side, the United States constitution with the Confederate States constitution. There are no additional provisions to maintain state sovereignty. There are only two substantial differences: the Confederate constitution provided for a President elected for one term of seven years instead of a repeatable four-year term (not that big of a deal), and the Bill of Rights therein included a provision that protects slavery as an institution for all time. If the states indeed fought for states' rights, they certainly didn't decide to state it in a legally binding document. Instead, they enshrined the right of people to deny other people their rights.

Again, we can look at the history of the Confederate flag as a symbol in places like South Carolina, where the flag was never flown on state grounds until the Civil Rights movement began in earnest. Here, the flag was definitely being used to intimidate the African-American community, to solidify the unjust system of segregation, and to ally the state with the Dixiecrat movement. It must come down.

All that being said, it seems to me that we also have to believe people when they tell us that the flag is not being used in a racist way. If we are to respect people's freedom of expression, if we are going to accept that individuals have enough sense to vote, to drive cars, to fly planes, and to pay taxes, we ought to at least take them at their word, until their actions prove them false. If a person displays the Confederate flag in a hostile or racist manner, sure, make them take it down; but if, on the other hand, the descendants (black and white) of Confederate veterans, the rednecks, the cultured Southern gentry, want to display it (peacefully) as a symbol of regional unity, then by all means let them, and leave your judgments at the door.

Let's not be naïve, though. In many (if not most) instances, the use of the Confederate flag is inappropriate in a civil context. The South needs to find new symbols, perhaps even ones based on their predominately Christian beliefs, to symbolize regional unity. We need a banner that all of us, black, white, Latino, or other, can unite around, because Washington bureaucrats are waging a war on our key cultural values, and we are going to need every person, regardless of color, creed, orientation, language, etc. to work together to stop them.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Reforming our History Curriculum - A Global Approach

This year, I decided to undertake a project that I had no idea how I would actually complete: teaching a World History course. As someone who loves history and ancient civilizations, I thought it would be a cinch. And, after all, I knew more about recent history in the far-flung corners of the world than the average Joe, or so I thought.

As I have fought my way through the course, I realized that something was fundamentally off about how we teach history in our public school's system. To give an example, looking through the textbook, I realized that, in a single chapter, we were supposed to cover the highlights of African history, a history that, in recent times, affects almost every aspect of foreign policy in which our nation is engaged. We, through the democratic process, are making decisions about countries like the Congo, Rwanda, Egypt, Israel, etc., without really having a thorough understanding of the motivations of the people who live there. And the reason is that we fundamentally misunderstand their history, mostly because we haven't studied it.

Then we got to the Asia chapter, again, confined to about one twenty-page chapter in the book with four lessons. I have to admit, on Chinese ancient history, I am an absolute ignoramus. I was totally lost on how to explain the differences between Manchurian China and the Qing, or what the effects of the Mongolian invasion were, and correspondingly, how to fundamentally improve my students' knowledge of these subjects. And yet, if we consider current events as the standard by which we evaluate our history curriculum, it is Asia, particularly China, whose history and culture are completely changing the conditions under which we live.

We are in a global society now, and yet our history curriculum seems to assume that an American will never encounter or need to encounter businessmen, politicians, or even ordinary folk from countries that are only a mouse-click away. Currently, as I understand it, the basic framework for the secondary history curriculum is this:
7th grade - Geography and World Cultures
8th grade - Civics
9th grade - World History
10th grade - American History
11th grade - American Government
12th grade - Elective (Usually an AP course)

The problem with this system is that each of the courses, at best, offer a scattershot of particular cultures in which we are supposed to interact. The "World History" course, in particular, offers particular challenges because, at best, students will gain a shallow concept of the overall development of their OWN civilization and its global sources, but more realistically, will be reduced to learning a modicum of trivia about this or that far-eastern country. Also, each of these courses is going to be primarily focused on the ANCIENT history, or the "origins" of each of the topics under which they seem to fall, which means that, in my experience of the public school and in teaching World History myself, an inordinate amount of time is spent at the beginning of the year on the distant past, while the transition from antiquity to modernity gets short shrift.

Also, the breadth of these courses tends to result in ideological attempts to focus on one particular "theme" throughout the text. This is a good pedagogical method for the curriculum, but oftentimes those themes are unduly ethnocentric. For example, in my World History textbook, ONE chapter is spent on Indian history, a nation that currently has around a billion citizens and is the driver of economic development throughout the world, while TWO chapters are spent on Scientific and Industrial Revolutions in Europe, respectively.

Some attempts have been made at reforming this process in experimental or "classical" private schools, which have introduced a chronological method for teaching history. The basic premise here is that, in order for students to gain perspective on history, they need to learn things relative to the events that were happening contemporaneously. Also, students learn best from a good story and, as experience teaches us, a good, memorable story starts from the beginning and proceeds in a logical order.

There are some certainly some merits to this approach. In teaching the Renaissance, for example, I had the rather bothersome task of trying to bring a chapter that kept jumping from date to date in a topical, rather than chronological order. My students were completely confused. The only way around this was to have them create a timeline of all the events in a clear, straightforward presentation. When we finished this, we starting seeing relationships between the events that we hadn't seen before in the chapter, such as the observation that the Northern Renaissance didn't really get in full swing until after the Protestant Reformation, and that this definitely influenced the different direction that Northern humanists took the rediscovery of classical learning. You can't have Milton without Calvin, Knox, and Luther.

On the other hand, part of this depends on the continuity of the story that you are telling. Different civilizations develop at different times along different lines, and to tell a chronological history of the world in a single course necessarily involves underemphasizing some cultures and emphasizing others. In my experience, the usual way that World History texts resolve this is by centering on outside sources for the American experience, an "inside looking out" approach. The problem with this is that the American experience of today is fundamentally different from that of yesteryear precisely because multiple cultures are participating IN it: just consider the role of Latin American politics in the modern United States. What a history curriculum needs to do is change the focus from an "inside looking out" perspective to an "outside looking in" perspective, if it is going to be truly educational.

So, while wishing to keep the best of the chronological approach, I tend to think that we need a radical reorganization of our history curriculum along ethnological lines. If we are to teach students the story of humanity, we need to refocus our efforts on helping them gain perspective in detail of the various cultures that are participating in the global culture of the twenty-first century. We also need to change our philosophy from teaching students starting with the most familiar and quotidian experiences to the least, to starting with the most distant culture to the most familiar, taking the history of the human species as our fundamental guide. We all share a common origin, so we can all start at the same spot.

In my ideal world, the history curriculum would focus on specific areas of the areas of the world, and then proceed along a chronological basis. Here is a sample curriculum (very roughly drawn):
7th Grade - Ancient Civilizations (Beginnings to the Fall of Rome)
8th Grade - Middle Eastern and African History
9th Grade - Asian History
10th Grade - European History
11th Grade - American History
12th Grade - Pacific History

Students would cover, in a more integrated manner, all of the topics that are the focus of current social studies curriculum. For example, the development of Christianity and the rise of Islam would cover religious studies and be developed in 8th grade. Students would learn about the development of democracy and the philosophies behind it in 10th grade, while they would then learn about our governmental system in particular in American History, which would also include the history of Latin America considered as an integral part of our own story. They would learn geography more effectively, because they would spend more time on individual regions than they have time for in 7th grade Geography.

The arrangement above is not perfect, I am perfectly willing to admit, and the complexity of these individual topics would require a great deal of care in designing texts. The other challenge would be finding teachers who are qualified to actually teach the particular courses, but in our interconnected world, the possibility of finding experts on particular topics of history, such as Asian or African history and bringing their instruction to the United States is greatly aided through the use of e-learning technology and the ease of transferring money over long distances. A global educational network would, in fact, serve to improve the lives of academics and instructors (and thereby, the people with whom they do business on a daily basis) in developing nations. Imagine a cohort of enthusiastic graduate students from South Africa who are being paid American wages to spread knowledge about their culture in a foreign country. The possibilities are rather mind-boggling.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Worship Aid for the Traditional Latin Mass

This is a "worship aid" for a Traditional Latin Mass on the 3rd Sunday after Easter. It's meant to be a template for possible adoption at a diocesan parish which normally celebrates the Novus Ordo. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions.


(Link below.)

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

To a Friend (A Sonnet)

Were love so rough to me or as unkind
As you are to yourself, or felt disdain
Like you for sycophants, I'd never pined
For you in company, nor felt the pain
Of her attention, but though cruel scars
Mark Cupid's chiding lash, and terrible
Is nature's law, which all indifference bars,
In you she is still kind and merciful.
For by the work of life's vicissitude,
With you, my Bacchus, love has sternly taught
Me to beware of lenient solitude,
Which lasting joy, as friends, has never brought;

But were you free of love's encumbering bands,
Still wound in yours would be my longing hands.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Ambrosial Flower (A Sonnet)

O sweet ambrosial flower, whom the dew
Of morning crowns with Vesta's diadem,
How brightly does your fire shine when few
Have seen its dancing flames! How bright to them
Who shut out noisy day from claustral silence!

My rose of chastity, how dear you've kept
Your garden's purest earth, and wrecked with violence
The creep of tares, and never fondly slept
The night with fantasies of vain indulgence!

Now, if it will not hinder your ascent
To angels' ecstasy, nor shade effulgence
Of such a lofty star, I ask consent

Merely to warm my hands, bitten with sin,
At your enduring hearth, hidden within.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Longest Ride (2015): Movie Reviews from the Sidelines

The Longest Ride (2015) is a cheesy romance movie. You already know this because of the promotional poster saying "from the writer of The Notebook", so that is not going to be a big news story. Now, for those who know anything about me, you know that I HATE writing negative reviews for cheesy romance movies, because, in general, I think that they usually have greater depths than their genre gets credit for. What is revolutionary about a mid-South male giving a negative assessment of a chick flick? Nothing. And that's why I generally won't do it.

So, in order to avoid the cliché, I am going to attempt to make this still a teachable moment. This film has all the makings of a successful and, indeed, radical film subject. The plot may not immediately give this away. A sophisticated, intellectual art student (who can, apparently, make a career out of that because--movies) by the name of Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) falls head over heels for a hunky cowboy (Scott Eastwood) who also happens to be damaged. In the meanwhile, she forms an acquaintance with a World War II veteran, Ira (Alan Alda), with a romantic story to tell, which she uncovers by reading correspondence between himself and his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). What makes this story, which seems trite and disposable, into something potentially countercultural is that what is being objectified here is the cowboy, the male figure. This story is about powerful and overwhelming female desire: WOOHOO! Go girl. Get your man.

Except, this is where the movie fails to live up to those expectations. From the very beginning of the movie, the idea of this being a film about feminine desire and female perspective on men is betrayed by the fact that the central male character is the only one who is, truly, allowed to have any depth. He is the one that surprises her, not the other way around. And despite the fact that there are only two male characters with any real screen time, the hordes of admiring women are visually classified into "costly" and "cheap" women, like they were the cattle being judged on their difficulty levels.

We see this in the very first rodeo scene. Sophia is brought out, rather against her inclinations, by a group of ditsy sorority sisters, for the primary purpose of looking at attractive cowboys. So far, so good. Women are allowed to gawk at men as much as men are allowed to lurk at women. After she receives a little bit of attention from Luke, our main lead, the camera then pans over to a group of more conventionally-attractive, but poorly made-up, girls in cowgirl outfits who were clearly angling at the same catch. These are the grasping 'easy' girls that Luke could master in a second, just like the bull that he rides that day.  The effect is that, while the men are allowed to express their undying love for women and to explore their feelings undividedly, the women are put into separate categories. They are objectified, even in the very act of objectifying men, except that the women are the focus of the camera, while the men are the focus of the women on the camera.

Another basic test to run is called the Bechdel test, a tool for critiquing films on their female representation. Basically, the test asks whether two female characters interact with one another in a meaningful way during the film about something other than a man. The answer, in this movie, is no. Basically, men compete with one another, congratulate one another, comment on one another, while the women in this movie are reduced to the subservient role of talking about men or interacting with men. It's shocking for a movie like this, one which targets women, to basically turn women into the cheering section for men, and not in a Magic Mike sort of way.

And then, on a more basic level, we have to ask, if this movie is targeted towards straight women, why is it the female lead who is always stripping her clothes off first? Sure, there are a few muscles for the ladies here and there, but let's be honest, the most erotic moment in this movie, and also one where the female lead becomes most assertive, is basically her giving into the man's peeping at her in the shower while she, knowingly, continues to remove her clothes for him. If this is a female fantasy, it is also conveniently a large number of men's fantasy as well. Later in the movie, when the two make a run for a nearby swimming hole, it is Sophia who runs first into the water, a bold move, but she also who starts to throw off clothes as soon as she can.

Finally, on this theme, while I am not the type of person to argue that chivalry is essentially misogynist in any way, or that it doesn't have a place in the modern world, I would argue that there are certain realities that ought to be taken into account when looking at how male and female relationships work today. It's not ridiculous for a woman to buy a man a drink after he's won a rodeo. It also isn't ridiculous for the man to be called by a busy woman, who may or may not have time to answer a call during a school-week. Yet these two things are soundly rejected by Luke as "not how we do things" where he's from, whatever that means. The fact is that there is nothing chivalric or traditional about a modern dating relationship, when you consider that less than one hundred years ago all of a couple's meetings would have needed to be chaperoned and rules of chastity strictly maintained. Only recently is the expectation of women's independence and the less-formal social structures represented by dating catching up with prevailing social norms for dating relationships.  It seems ridiculously anachronistic for this movie to try to create expectations that simply should not and no longer can exist.

Now, to turn this review around, I will say that there is one female character who is written much more strongly and assertively than might be expected, and that is Ruth (Oona Chaplin), who is the love interest of Alan Alda's avuncular character, Ira, depicted entirely through flashback and narration. She asserts her desire for Ira in a way that seems very radical for her time, and although their love seems to proceed pretty conventionally for the 1940s, she is nonetheless shown to be a woman of independent means in a time when women were only beginning to take steps outside of the home. It's also worth saying that the portrayal of the young Ruth and Ira by Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston is probably the most effective part of this film, as well as the writing for the flashback sequences, even if the cinematography comes off with more of a made-for-TV movie finish than a mainstream release.

Likewise, credit must be given to Britt Robertson for pulling off a script that only a mother could love. She brings depth and emotion to a character who is basically starving for real lines, and she is absolutely in command of any scene that she's in. She's a better actor than this movie's script allows, but she still makes the ridiculous drip with forced verisimilitude. Good for her.

My strong recommendation is that you skip this Nicholas Sparks movie and rent The Lucky One instead, or better yet, go and see the new Cinderella, both movies that accomplish the goal of enchanted romance without falling into the pitfalls of this throwaway flick. If, however, you do go and see it, you will probably be entertained for 50% of the film while squirming at its awkward dialogue for the remainder.

My Grade: D+ (For DON'T)

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Good Friday (A Sonnet)

I cannot touch the wood, the rusted nails,
Which held my Love until He lived no more
For me, and seeking them in penance fails
To bring me near His side, or to restore
My eyes with cleansing tears; some piety
May make the holy weep their weaknesses,
But I am hoarse from my iniquity
And calloused by the scourge of penances
I've never paid, and I no longer groan
To see those bloody stains; but hide me there
Beside You, Virgin Mother, for Your own
Tears I still comprehend, for none can bear
Your grief unmerited, be he so lost,
Or stand unmoved at your unbloody cost.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Planting Time: An Ozarks Spring (A Sonnet)

'Tis Spring, and dogwood days are finally here
When sunlight drips into the shady hollow,
And sweat runs underneath the farmer's collar;
Then, while young rascals fret with mortal fear
That rain will make the sunlight disappear
They try to flee their elders' looks askance
The which they know could snare them with a glance
To digging in the beds. A strange idea!

But though the days of Spring are heavy-laden
With unrewarding, long-abiding toil,
Still children in the streams are gaily wading
And skinny-dipping in the muddy pool.
And who would want, until the lights are fading,
To go a-digging taters in the soil?

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Strange Vows (A Sonnet)

To look at you, it seems a cruel waste
That you have almost vowed to live apart
And from my pleas withdrawn a cloistered heart.
And this, not for the sake of staying chaste,
For we both know that you have never placed
Your piety in vessels quite so pure.
Instead, because, you say, love is unsure,
Unwieldy for ambition, full of haste
Impractical for one who seeks to climb
The farther summits of her own success.
How strange is this far lofty hermitage
Where contemplating mammon fills your time
And evanescent things, built to excess
Erect a convent shrine of sacrilege.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Springtime (A Sonnet)

Spring days and summer hearts are all in bloom
As we half-rush to quit our cluttered burrow
Like claustrophobes leaving a narrow room;
Outdoors, we open up the hopeful furrow
To make space for the soon-nutritious seed,
Forcing its way to sunlight through black earth.
It seems that freedom is a vital need
For living things to grow from obscure birth. 
And so, our beds, too seldom plowed with leisure,
Are overgrown, and practicalities
Keep love from ripening to lasting pleasure--
For harvests only grow when we're at ease.
 And in our hearts, which have so long lain fallow,
 We've left the seed of love a place too shallow.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Split Personality (A Sonnet)

Sometimes, for lack of seeing you, I dream
That you do not really exist at all,
And when we text all day, I only seem
To share with you my lofty thoughts and small.
Perhaps to you, the other side of me,
I am just solipsistically confessing--
A fairer double personality
Than I have heard of anyone possessing.
And these strange thoughts prompt me to realize
How such close friendships are so rarely found
That they one's life can better summarize
Than eulogies once he is in the ground.
So this Narcissus never runs away
From Echo's voice, always my strength and stay.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Love's Art (A Sonnet)

If just one touch from you can kindle fire
Within my cooling heart, imagine then
How much a thousand more might stoke desire,
Lit by the phosphorus of skin on skin.
And if your laugh seems like a melody
Blown  by the wind into my waiting ear
Then what a song our sighs of love might be
When joined in chorus for the stars to hear;
And if to represent your silhouette,
A single artist could not meet the task,
Then think how many artists would regret
The charge to paint your figure without mask.
-Such beauty, then, we hold back from the world,
-Till intertwined our passion is unfurled.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dangerous Memories (A Sonnet)

The memories of you still linger on,
A morning after bliss, but sans the joy
Of seeing you. I only wish the dawn
Rose on us both, and I were still the boy
That you could not resist. But I am not
The man-barely a man--who cautiously
With kisses and frightened caresses bought
Some rest from conscience. I ungratefully
Walked out on us, on happiness and love,
 As though someday I could come back to you--
The goddess of my guilt--whom years remove
From hope, and all my later lovers rue.
  But if, though all the world should hinder me,
  You asked, I'd be yours unreservedly.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Fragment from High School (A Sonnet)

The first four lines of this sonnet were written in high school. Unfortunately, I threw away my book of sonnets from back then, and I can't, for the life of me, remember the rest of the poem. So, I attempted to reconstruct the poem's theme and finish what I knew. Here it is:

My lady's bosom rose is midnight black,
Its petals brush her cheek as though a pall
For her were gathered from a dying track
Of roses when the leaves whither and fall;
And I beside her bier pretend to mourn
So without company to keep the rite
Of worshipping my goddess, so much torn
Between being bereaved or acolyte;
And next to this unconsecrated fane,
On whose altar her fairest limbs are laid--
No more pale in death than life--in vain
Are libations of tears for prayers unpaid.
   For only now Persephone's embrace
   Has cast aside my fear to ask her grace.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Why I Write Sonnets (A Sonnet)

I don't know how effective that these songs
Will be at their intended end, or whom
Their limping feet will reach; I see no throngs
Clamoring after them; but if the loom
Of my composing helps some young folk burn
With greater passion, I count it a win.
For some enchanted youth, will hardly turn
To notice beauty's arrow, fearing sin;
And there they might be right in part--the part
Of love that offers little hope for us--
For from much lower places than the heart
Are whence come future saints more plenteous.
 But as no saint came from indifference,
 I am a missioner in God's defense.

Can't We Call This Love? (A Sonnet)

My thoughts wander from this to that, from hope
To loneliness without respite, and still
I can't untangle love's unruly rope
And master it to my uncertain will.
So now I start to think, if day and night
My aching flesh and wayward reason find
Their way repeatedly to you, despite
That their inconstancy has made them blind,
Then can't we call this love, and make of it
What joy we have in this brief interval,
When we are not yet angels, celibate
Though caught in raptures far more rational?
  For days without your voice seem like a waste
  Of sunlight, like ripe cherries without taste.

How I would Reform the Arkansas General Assembly

The following is an outline (not in amendment form) of how I would propose reforming the Arkansas General Assembly so that the House of Representatives is elected proportionally. The basic idea is that if 50% of the people voted Republican, 50% of the House would be Republican, and if 20% of the people voted Green, 20% of the House would be Green Party. At the same time, the system I propose allows the party to run local candidates so that local interests are at least represented. The Senate would be elected in much the same manner as today, except that the number seats would be reduced. I also propose that the Lt. Governor, as someone elected by the whole state, have much more power in the Arkansas Senate than he does presently. This would make his position similar to the Lt. Governor position in Texas and balance the power of the Speaker of the House.

I. General Assembly Districts -
The state of Arkansas will be divided into twenty-five General Assembly districts of roughly equal population. These districts will be used for both House and Senate elections.

II. The House of Representatives - 100 Members
  A. Candidates for the House of Representatives must be at least eighteen years old and be nominated by either a party with a registered membership of at least 1/10 of registered voters or else be nominated by a list of candidates petitioned for by at least 1/10 of registered voters, none of whose candidates may be nominated by any other list.
 B. In each General Assembly District, each registered party or independent list shall propose four candidates for the General Assembly.
 C. Electors will cast votes for any four candidates from any of the nominated lists of candidates for their General Assembly district.
 D. The number of seats apportioned to each party or list in the General Assembly shall be equal to the whole percentage of votes received by the candidates nominated by that party or list out of the total number of votes cast. Any remaining seats shall be given to the party or list whose candidates received the highest number of votes. In the case of a tie, the Governor shall determine which party receives the remaining seats.
 E. The seats shall be filled by candidates in order of the number of the votes received, from the greatest number of votes to the least number of votes. Any ties shall be determined by the candidates from the same party or list who have already been seated.
 F. Members of the House of Representatives shall be elected every 2 years and may not serve more four terms in the House of Representatives. 

III. The Senate - 25 Members
 A. Each General Assembly district shall elect one member of the Senate.
 B. Candidates for the Senate must be at least twenty years old and be nominated either by a party with a registered membership of at least 1/5 of registered voters or else be nominated as an independent candidate by at least 1/5 of the registered voters in his/her General Assembly district.
C. In electing Senators, each elector shall have one vote. If any Senator receives a majority of the votes cast, he shall be elected, but if not, a run-off election shall be held between the candidates having the two highest numbers of votes, with the candidate receiving the greatest number of votes being elected. 
 D. Members of the Senate shall be elected for terms of four years, but in the first election held after a re-apportionment, the members shall be divided by lot into two classes as equal as may be, the first of which shall serve a term of two years, after which they shall vacate their seats, and the second which shall serve a term of four years. But when the districts are re-apportioned all seats shall be vacated.
 E. Senators may not run again after having served twenty years in the Senate.  
F. The President of the Senate shall be the Lt. Governor of the State of Arkansas, who shall also appoint all committees and propose the agenda thereof. He may not vote, however, except in the case of a tie. The Lt. Governor shall appoint a Senator as President pro tempore to preside over the Senate in his absence.

III. As it is at present, the General Assembly would be able to override a gubernatorial veto by a majority vote in both houses.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

I Am a Global Conservative: A Creed

The following is not so much a manifesto as a statement of core beliefs that I have formulated in the last few years. I have come up with a term, the Global Conservative, which pretty well summarizes my position. I hope that I can continue to change this list as my level of understanding and knowledge grows and matures.

I am a global conservative.
I believe that religions, families, cultures, and languages share their authority with the state rather than derive their rights from it, and that the state should refrain from altering or interfering with them except to protect human dignity.
I believe that people have the right to enjoy the fruits of the labor and should not have their property rights taken from them or diminished except for the safety of others.
I believe that people should be free to travel, do business, and settle wherever in the world they choose, and that no person should be denied the right to work in a place where products from his home country are sold.
I believe that freedom of trade without freedom of movement is modern-day mercantilism.
I believe that international structures should enforce the rule of law and the protection of human dignity throughout the world, that these international bodies should consist of representatives directly elected by the people, and that violations of peace, human rights, and contract should be treated as criminal, rather than political, offenses.
I believe that environmental protection is a global matter that should be settled by international governing bodies of democratically elected members.
I believe that democracy is the best protection of natural rights, which derive not from the state, but from our Creator.
I believe that labor should be organized to protect the rights of workers and to combine their efforts for mutual benefit.
I believe that scientific knowledge belongs to the whole of humanity, and that all such knowledge should be made available to all people throughout the world.
I believe that consumerism is the greatest threat to public morals and integral human development, and should be counterbalanced by laws which promote public decency, modesty, and self-sufficient lifestyles.
I believe that parents are the primary educators of their children, and that states should seek to support, not control, them as they carry out this task.
I believe that we all have the right to active citizenship at the local, regional, national, and global levels.
I believe that we are all one race: the children of God.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

If I Were First (A Sonnet)

If I were first with you, then you'd turn red,
As blood fouled up your youthful countenance,
And mid the roses of our wedding bed,
Might weep lost days of pious innocence.

It isn't wrong to pick a blossomed rose,
Or to enjoy a summer-ripened fruit,
But sad to trim the bud that springtime blows
Or cut the upstart sapling at its root.

Then you who have endured the spring and thrived,
And given seed entrapped in berries sweet,
Whose pleasant taste the winter has survived,
Know well the flavor that my tongue will greet.

Oh let me fall as drops of golden rain,
Upon your garden hid by lonely pain.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Education Reform (My Personal Platform)

So, as all of you know, I am a teacher. I have taught for the past six years in various private institutions. I also had the great opportunity of teaching in a public school for a little while at the beginning of my career, and I have met and worked with students from both a public and a private background in the context of an online environment. That, admittedly, may not amount to a whole lot of experience professionally next to some of you, but I would submit that the following suggestions are not so much centered on a criticism of the teaching profession or education per se, but on the way that we organize the education system as a whole. In other words, what I am talking about here is the way that we integrate all of the state's learning environments into a coherent whole. And that has way more to do with politics than it does with educational praxis. So this is a sort of outline, in brief, of the various ideas I have collected over the past few years for reforming Arkansas' public educational system.

First, I think it essential that, in order to have a uniform assessment of skills regardless of educational background, we have a fairly objective system for assessing a student's qualifications at the end of his education. It does very little good to have yearly exams (most of which do not prevent a student from passing to the next grade) which are merely intended to assess the ongoing quality of instruction, if the students, at the end of the program, are not prepared to go on to higher studies. There is also the challenge that annual benchmark exams, as we used to call them in Arkansas, are very specific to each grade level and so encourage teachers to merely "teach the exam" to up their qualifications. I think this is an abuse of the whole idea of instruction. What we should be using exams to do is to help parents decide whether their children are getting the best out of their education, and that would imply a high-stakes exam leading out of high school.

So, what I would propose is that we break apart the whole separation between schools, homeschools, and private schools. Students in Arkansas would simply receive an "Arkansas High School Diploma", of which there would be two different categories. The first, taken at the end of tenth grade, would be a "Standard Level Diploma", which would essentially cover most of the material in the GED and ACT. Students who passed it would receive a diploma and could legally discontinue their education, if they chose. The Standard Level Exam would also include a number of sections for elective courses, which a student could decide to take based on his own level of confidence in the subject. It would not matter where they were educated; they would all qualify for the Standard Level Diploma in the same way.

Students who passed the Standard Level Diploma and qualified with above average or excellent scores in particular subject areas could then take courses in those areas to prepare themselves for the Advanced Level Exam, which they would take at the end of the twelfth grade. Provided that they received average or higher scores in a minimum number of subjects and at least one or two electives, they would qualify for the Advanced Level Diploma which, again, they would receive directly from the state with no involvement from the local school or school board.

I believe that this method of qualifying students would ultimately be the most equitable for students. Parents themselves could decide: Is paying money for a private education really worth it in terms of results? Can I educate my child to the qualifications necessary for them to achieve a useful diploma? I believe in freedom and choice in the realm of education, and I think that forcing the parents (and students) to look seriously at the alternatives before them would benefit everyone involved.

The next part of this is where I will probably get myself into trouble. On the one hand, I support school choice, in the sense that I do not believe that parents should have to pay taxes or fees to public schools when they choose to enroll their children in a private institution, unless, of course, those fees are redirected to the schools which parents themselves chose. This, however, I only support in the instance that the schools that parents are enrolling their children in are free of charge, meaning that they do not ask nor require those parents to pay for their children to take classes at the private school. This is because the taxes themselves are collected on an ENTIRE community to guarantee that everyone in that community receives an education, whether they can afford it or not. It is a rudimentary form of wealth redistribution, and I agree with it wholeheartedly. Just because a person can afford a better school, does not mean that funds should be withdrawn from those schools that serve everybody. It would be like letting people bring their own popcorn to the movie theater. On the other hand, if those private schools are doing a good job educating the community as a charitable organization, then of course, we should support the charitable instinct of individuals over the crushing presence of a welfare state. Another option, of course, would be to exempt individuals from paying the school property taxes and instead taxing tuition payments to private schools, but I doubt that would be any more or less popular.

Where I absolutely do not support school choice is in allowing parents whose children live in one school district to send their children to another school district unless, in exceptional circumstances, the student is simply unable to go to their local school. The reason for this is much the same. Many students, particularly those in poor neighborhoods, will be unable to afford to send their children to schools outside of their district due to additional transportation costs; and if they do decide to send their children away, the longer distance will mean less time at home with family, less time for homework, and less connection between the local community and its school. A local school is a center of knowledge and empowerment for a small community, as well as a neighborhood. If we allow students to flock to this or that public school, it will inevitably rip students out of their communities during the most foundational time of their lives and ultimately result in their integration into a general culture-less consumerist society with no morals and no background.

I also believe in small local schools. Oftentimes, small local schools become a target for accusations of waste, poor management, and poor instruction. However, consolidation has not achieved any more financial viability in the long term as unconsolidated schools, and the negative effects (peer pressure, violence, high teacher-student ratios) seem worse than the problems they were trying to fix. Yet, even from a financial and professional point of view, technology has finally caught up to the problem. It is now possible that a small school in, say, Ash Flat, Arkansas could have a course in Mandarin Chinese, taught by an instructor from Hong Kong and supervised in a large multi-level classroom with a paraprofessional supervisor. I know this because I do this job on a regular basis. It has its own challenges, of course, but in general, I have been satisfied with the results. Today, every school in every small town could have any course offered in the state of Arkansas, and qualified professionals could teach from their own hometowns in multiple districts at competitive pay without having to take jobs outside of their field. Who needs a coach to be a history teacher any more?

I also believe that the school day should be significantly shortened or opened up throughout the state. Ideally, students should be free for at least an hour in the day to study, participate in intramural sports, receive religious instruction from clergy of their choosing, or some other profitable recreation. Students do not have enough time to really process what they are learning in the modern school environment, and I think that results in very shallow presentation by the teachers to keep up with the curriculum timetable. What those periods of time set aside for leisure should NOT be used for is work. Work can happen in the classroom or after school: schools should not be in the business of turning their students into so many cogs in the industrial machine.

Finally, I think it is essential that we consider establishing specialty institutions to target boys and girls for fields in which they are underrepresented. This would require some gender segregation, but with the overall goal of making the professional field more diverse in particular areas. For example, Arkansas needs a public school of math and science that is for female students only. Imagine, also, a boys-only arts and humanities school, or an advanced academic institution for students with learning disabilities. Once again, it is essential that these institutions be either free or public (or both) and focus on enlisting students who show particular aptitude for these skills. Merely making them available would lead to a consistent downgrading of expectations to meet parents' demands.

There are, of course, many different areas where we could improve our educational system and methods. I, however, am a teacher, and if I wrote down every possible improvement (additional courses in agriculture and fine arts, people?), I would never have enough time to grade papers. As it is, I think that adopting even a few of these ideas would so radically change people's perspective on education, that a lot of other improvements might simply follow as a natural consequence.