“. . . the freedom to choose or reject ideas, to read books of one’s choice, and to publish freely is the very bedrock of our free society.  . . .  No book placed in a public library should be forcibly removed.  No textbook should be burned.”  –Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

 

 

  1. I Am the Cheese: Robert Cormier, 1977.
  2. Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury, 1971.
  3. Anthem: Ayn Rand, 1975.
  4. 1984: George Orwell, 1975.
  5. Native Son: Richard Wright, 1940.
  6. The Catcher in the Rye: J. D. Salinger, 1951.
  7. Slaughterhouse-Five: Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1969.
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird: Harper Lee, 1960.
  9. Forever: Judy Blume, 1975.
  10. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Mark Twain, 1884.

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“Rather than dictating information as absolutes, teachers should try to inspire their students to think for themselves.  We cannot focus on the teaching of facts alone, but rather, on the teaching of content as a means to the process of critical thought.”  –Joan F. Kaywell, U of South Florida, 1987. 

“All students have the right to be happy and productive citizens.

“The primary purpose of English is to provide each student with the reading, writing, listening, speaking, and viewing skills necessary for effective communication.

“Learning experiences must deal with current concerns of the students, bear some relationship to life outside the school…

“The study of literature provides vicarious experiences where direct experiences are impossible or undesirable.  Students may be prepared for various experiences through their reading…: teen relationships, death, injustice, prejudice, war, drugs and alcohol, crime, suicide.  It doesn’t matter how many facts our students know if the final choice is drug addiction, imprisonment, or the taking of their own lives.

“…it is far more important that students know HOW to find, use, and apply content to their lives rather than be able to ‘bubble-in’ WHAT they learn on any given day.

“An English teacher has the capability of offering students the skills necessary to learn anything (assuming there is motivation and confidence).

“No other subject can compete with English in the integration of school with everyday life.

“If a person cannot read, write, and communicate effectively, many doors to a successful future are closed for that person.

“There is no way we can teach all the facts in 17 years; there is no way we will ever agree on what facts must be learned….  But there are ways to teach students to think critically and creatively about the world in which they live.”

“The teacher’s task is not simply to implant facts but to place the material to be learned in front of the learner and through sympathy, emotion, imagination, and patience to awaken in the learner the restless drive for answers and insights which enlarges the individual’s life and gives it meaning.”

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Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

 

“Religious man experiences two kinds of time: profane and sacred.  The one is an evanescent duration, the other a ‘succession of eternities,’ periodically recoverable during the festivals that made up the sacred calendar.  The liturgical time of the calendar flows in a closed circle; it is the cosmic time of the year, sanctified by the works of the gods.”  Mircea Eliade,   The Sacred and the Profane

“There is a time for everything, and for everything there is a season and a purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to harvest what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.  A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time not to embrace.  A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to throw away; a time to tear, and a time to sew, and a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.  And there is a time to love, yet a time to hate; a time for war, but also a time for peace.”  –Ecclesiastes 3.1-8.

 …And I’m not alone,
While my love is near me,
And I know, it will be so, till it’s time to go…
So come the storms of winter,
and then the birds in spring again.
I do not fear the time.
Who knows how my love grows?
Who knows where the time goes?  –Sandy Denny / Judy Collins

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Stop all the clocks,…
He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;…–W. H. Auden

* * *

EXPERT: One who usually has advanced knowledge AND skills in a field and who UNDERSTANDS technical language and information in that field.  (He or she handles THEORY and practical applications with ease.)

PROFESSIONAL (non-expert): One who has the education and the ability to read and to understand difficult and technical information in a field.  (She or he is able to handle practical information and applications with some ease.)

GENERALIST:  A person with a broad general knowledge, especially one with more than superficial knowledge in several areas and the ability to combine ideas from diverse fields.

HUMANIST: Someone trained in the humane letters of the ancient classics, who uses those skills, or studies the humanities as opposed to the sciences.

SOCIALIST: A socialist is one who believes in “socialism” yet finds it difficult to define “socialism.”  (There are “socialists,” and then there are “socialists.”)  (One who collects monthly Social [-ist] Security income checks and complains only about the amount.) 

THEORIST: One who formulates principles or assumptions into some kind of system for understanding, whether scientific or not, or who attempts to provide explanations for “wonderosities” or “events.”

REALIST: One who deals with objective data, “just the facts”; one who “sees” practicalities, using the past and the present to extrapolate for the future.

IDEALIST: One who is not usually a pragmatist/realist, but is one who cherishes noble, often “ideal” principles.  Sometimes the idealist is seen as a visionary reformer, optimist, dreamer, perfectionist, and “romantic” with lofty goals–often impracticalities. 

PLAGIARIST:  One who dishonestly presents words or thoughts of another as if they were those of the writer or the speaker himself or herself.

OPTIMIST:  Someone who always seems to believe that good things will happen, seeing the brightness of the half-full glass, most often taking a favorable view of dire situations while predicting positive outcomes. 

* * *

In 1989, at Stockholm, the 18th Congress of the Socialist International adopted a new Declaration of Principles, saying: Democratic socialism is an international movement for freedom, social justice, and solidarity.  Its goal is to achieve a peaceful world where these basic values can be enhanced and where each individual can live a meaningful life with the full development of his or her personality and talents, and with the guarantee of human and civil rights in a democratic framework of society.”  [–Wikipedia]

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“We become human only on leaving Eden, mature only in realizing that childhood is over.  We come home to the fullness of our humanity only in owning and taking responsibility for present awareness as well as for the full measure of our memories and dreams.  Graceful existence integrates present, past, and future.”  –Sam Keen, To a Dancing God [1970]

Sam Keen (born 1931) is an American author, professor, and philosopher best known for his exploration of questions regarding love, life, religion, and being a man in contemporary society.  He also co-produced Faces of the Enemy, an award-winning PBS documentary; was the subject of a Bill Moyers’ television special in the early 1990s; and for 20 years served as a contributing editor at Psychology Today magazine.  [He completed his undergraduate studies at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, and later completed graduate degrees at Harvard University and Princeton University.–Wikipedia]

“The story is the basic tool for the formation of identity.

“A large part of our self-concept consists of the narrative by means of which we remember and relate our past experiences.

“Human life is rendered ultimately meaningful by being incorporated into a story.

“Telling stories is functionally equivalent to belief in God.  **

“Once the individual recovers his or her history, she or he finds it is the story of every man.

“The more I know of myself, the more I recognize that nothing human is foreign to me.  In the depth of each person’s biography lies the story of all man.”

Actually, telling our story strengthens our ego:  “The very process leads the teller to become aware that he or she is a person with a unique history of triumph and tragedy, with as yet unfulfilled hopes and projects.” 

**“In exploring the significance of the metaphor of the story, I will suggest that telling stories is functionally equivalent to belief in God, and, therefore, ‘the death of God’ is best understood as modern man’s inability to believe that human life is rendered ultimately meaningful by being incorporated into a story.”  —To a Dancing God

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“The sense that our nation represents a progressive rupture with the past breeds complacency about dispensing with the serious study of history, which sinks into a bog called ‘social studies.’”  –George F.  Will, “Learning from the Giants,” Newsweek (14 Sept. 1987).

George Frederick Will:  Pulitzer Prize–winning conservative political commentator.  In 1986, The Wall Street Journal called him “perhaps the most powerful journalist in America.”  He studied philosophy, politics, and economics at Magdalen College, Oxford, (BA, MA), and received MA and PhD degrees in politics from Princeton University.  He has taught at the James Madison College of Michigan State University, the University of Toronto, and at Harvard University (in 1995 and again in 1998).  He has served as editor for National Review, has written for the Washington Post, and from 1976 until 2011 he became a contributing editor for Newsweek.  (“Often combining factual reporting with conservative commentary, Will’s columns are known for their erudite vocabulary, allusions to political philosophers, and frequent references to baseball.”)  [from Wikipedia]

In 1987, the best-seller list included E.D. Hirsch Jr.’s Cultural Literacy (What Every American Needs to Know), “ a daunting assortment of information Hirsch says must be mastered before true literacy can be claimed” (says Will), and Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind, “an analysis of the damage done by higher education today.”

The chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities (Lynne Cheney) argued then that “inadequate teaching of history in public schools is putting at risk our national character, dissolving the sense of nationhood that is our civic glue, and threatening to condemn our nation to perpetual infancy.”

[In 1987] 2/3rds of America’s 17-year-olds could not locate the Civil War in the correct half century…  We can teach children how to think [and] “to learn things worth thinking about,” to teach them “how to understand their world [and] the events and ideas that brought it into being.”

“…the serious teaching of history and literature…the core of the liberal arts curriculum.”

“Liberal education” is “intensely useful,” but “a certain elevation above utilitarian concerns, [with] …glimpses of the good … [and] rich in examples of noble human types.”

“History [should be] properly taught, not as a smattering of dates but as a spectacle of human striving…”

“…education should be first and primarily the transmission of treasures [implying] that some things are clearly and permanently more precious than others.  …there are discoverable and teachable standards.”

“The real hubris is in thinking we can dispense with the transmission of the achievements of the giants of other generations, on whose shoulders we stand.”

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BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL

“Just lather, that’s all.  You are an executioner and I am only a barber.  Each person has his own place in the scheme of things.  That’s right.  His own place.”  — from the short story  “Just Lather, That’s All” by Hernando Téllez (1908 – 1966)

Possibly the most famous work by Hernando Téllez was his short story Espuma y nada más (“Just Lather, That’s All”), a story widely read amongst American high school Spanish students.  It depicts the inner conflict of a barber who is shaving the captain of a military unit who has tracked, imprisoned, and killed some of the barber’s comrades.  The barber vacillates between thoughts of slitting the captain’s throat with his razor or giving him the expert shave for which he is known.  In the end, the barber decides he does not want to be stained in blood, but only in soap lather or “espuma y nada más.”  As the captain leaves, he reveals that he heard the barber would kill him; his visit was to see if this was true.  [Summary by Wikipedia]

I first heard about this story when I was teaching 10th grade English in Florida.  I knew nothing of it except it was a film available through the A-V Department.  “Anything I could use to keep them entertained,” I said to myself one day while I was shaving.  The 10th graders and I were having some difficulties with literature “appreciation.”  So I ordered the film.  They and I were mesmerized.  What a great film–and I had to find and read the story.  I did–again and again.

Yet aside from the literary effects of the story or the history of my classroom use of the film, the memories that audio-visual production (real film with projector!) conjured up took me back to my beginning experiences with face hair and shaving, images of laughter and love affairs with razors and shaving; remembrances of questionable pedagogical actions.  Gillette, single edge, blue blades, double edge, Mach 3 Turbo; Merkur, Wilkinson.  Words, words, words.  And Remington, not shotgun, but a 1959 Electric Roll-a Matic electric razor.

As men get older, they don’t shave as often.  If they do, it’s out of habit, not of necessity.  “Don’t hafta go ta work.”  Or when they look shaggy, or out of self-esteem–or, perhaps, guilt.  Or, possibly, old military-like discipline.  I’m one of those who don’t shave much anymore, certainly not every day, as before.  “In the day,” I used to look forward to Saturdays, for a day off–especially from shaving.  Yet how excited and eager we were “once upon a time” to be able to shave like our dads, brothers, or uncles.  Then.

Today, shaving and all it entails is such big-money business, in stores and in advertising.  Reggie Perrin was the consummate Razor Man, from reggie-perrin-bbc-martin-clunesBBC-UK: from the company always trying to out-blade the multi-blade blade.  Reggie was British comedy.  More important, who would ever have thought of a sit-com about a razor blade engineer-salesman, and his company’s Quest for the Perfect Razor Blade.  The elusive “Perfect Razor Blade”–or even The Perfect Shave, like the search for The Holy Grail or the secret of alchemy.  We men (mostly) continue our Quest, as the mythics tell us “from the beginning” (ab initio) until… 

Which brings me up to my story.  (My “beginning” early memories of collecting “stuff” includes digging through garbage in the neighborhood alleys of Chicago to find used razor blades.  Whatever possessed me to do such a thing?  [I had quite a collection of Gillette Blue Blades.  I related some of this story of collection/addiction previously: https://memoriesofatime.com/2013/10/25/confessions-of-an-addict-reflections-on-collecting/].)

During my puberty and adolescence, peach fuzz came, sprouted in the pores on my face where zits did not thrive.  As I aged, I found razor blades not kind to my bumpy face.  My Uncle Bill gave me the Remington electric in 1959 that I used through my senior year of high school, then took to college. 

remington-electric-razor-my-first

JIMMY O’NEIL’S FIRST RAZOR

(Any memory images of college shaving are non-existent, more than a blur.)  My Electric Days have included Norelco products and mini-portables–and Braun Mobile units, battery-powered, for quick touch up works, at home or office.  These have been delightful.  Thomas Edison notwithstanding, I always have come back to the lather and the razor.  I have been on the receiving end of the lather and the blade: in college, a classmate who did haircutting offered to give me a shave.  My first and last with a straight edge, though older barbers still do neck trims with straight razors, and around the ears. 

For our first Christmas after our wedding, my new bride learned–perhaps from hints I had made, or from her reading–that The Perfect Shave Tool was a Merkur (German) razor wedded to a Wilkinson Sword Blade blade (made in England).  These, with a genuine badger bristle brush and a bar of Williams Shaving Soap were my gifts under the tree in 1963. 

merkur-razor-by-toecutter1967-photobucket

MERKUR RAZOR (by photobucket)

Brushes later, shaving mugs later, then Burma Shave canned lather, or Barbasol Thick and Rich (with aloe, of course)–to say nothing of a cup of Old Spice in a mug–have been used, tried, sampled (gels never were a success), and discarded.  I am a fickle shaver with lather, even trying shaving using messy (non-foaming) greasy-like cream or Noxzema.  Messy application, messy shaving, messy clean up.  (But, incidentally, a clean shave.  In spite of that, not worth the mess.)

In the past years, I have tried different razors and a combination of blades.  No Reggie Perrin blades (six or seven?), but single, twin, triple, with Atra razors, various Gillette models, the Merkur, and the Mach3 Turbo (current).  Harry’s in New York sent me a trial sample kit.  Harry’s is becoming popular, with good products and mailing.  But I just could not maneuver the blade under my nose…and around my nostril…  So No to their beautiful razor and handle and shaving cream and Blade-of-the-Month Club.  And I also do not need any Gillette Fusion!

So this story ends.  Not quite.  That film for the 10th graders.  Whatever possessed me (another possession) to bring brush and soap and razor to class and ask for a volunteer.  Was I sure of what I was doing?  (Did I care?)  I was certain that many of the peach-fuzzed boys had not yet shaved; many of the girls (I assumed then) had never seen any boy shave, or watched anyone shave, for real or in the movies (and certainly not as done in the Lather film).  Up stands Jerry Cohee, and comes to the front of the room.  “Gather round, kids,” I might have said, putting a towel around him.  I had the water and the soap ready.  In the cup, I “began to stir with the brush…and whipped up the soap” and just lathered.  I took my razor, and off they came, the hairs on his chinny, chin, chin.  Voila!  Done!  “Next?”  No Next.  Time for the bell. 

That was the end.  The last time I showed that film.  The last time I demonstrated expert shaving in the classroom.  The last time I taught 10th grade, and high school classes (moving on into a community college setting).  After all, though, it was one of those memoriesofatime never to be dismissed as trivial or insignificant.  So much surrounds it making it a great story.  And that’s it.

Telling stories about shaving isn’t as glamorous as writing about food in the movies, diets, exercise plans, building muscles in a gym, or travels to Paris, or babies’ first walkings–perhaps.  But I enjoy telling my stories about shaving.  At the same time, I have been thankful, at times, that I did not have to worry about cutting or nicking an ankle or taking a chunk out of my knee or calf, or messing with a razor in a bathtub.  I just need some hot water, a sink, a good razor and blade, and Just Lather, that’s all.

 

© James F. O’Neil  2016

shaving-bowl-and-colonel-shaving-brush

SHAVING BOWL AND BRUSH

 

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