Friday, March 31, 2006

I Saw a Black Man Once

I have two sons graduating from University next month. I am proud of their accomplishments and of the futures they will make for themselves. When they were little boys, four and three years old, we lived in Jackson Hole Wyoming. My third son was born while we lived there. Jackson is a great place to visit art galleries, but not extremely diverse racially. In fact, for the two years we lived there, two formative years of my son Lafe’s life, we saw no black people at all, with one notable exception. My boys were big fans of the A Team T.V. show. And their great hero – right up there with He Man, was Mr. T.

Our two year tour in Jackson ended and we headed for Logan and classes at USU. Not long after arriving in the “big city” Lafe and I were standing in line in the Safeway when a big black man pushed his cart up behind us. “Mr. T! Mr. T! squealed Lafe in delight. We all had a good laugh; I think our new friend was a little flattered. I explained to my precocious child that, “there are many kinds of people in the world, some,” I explained, “are black, some are white, but they are all people.” Winter passed, student teaching was completed, a job teaching American history to eighth graders procured, and the family was off for our traditional summer at Scout Camp. We were headed for Camp Bartlett above Liberty, Idaho. The camp director the year before had been less than diligent in putting away the facility. He had not drained the water lines in either the Lodge or the family living quarters. When we charged the lines we discovered broken pipes everywhere.

In those days (as in these) our council was blessed with a truly great man as its “Director of Camping”; the man over all the camps, and the one who always shows up when there is an emergency. His name was Jed Stringham, and he had been my boss or my bosses boss for most of my years in scout camp. When Jed was younger he had had cancer in one ear and the ear had been removed. He had a “glue on” prosthesis which looked fairly close to the real thing, and if you over looked the great scar on to which it was pasted, his head looked quit natural once he got “put together”.

That day Jed and I were under our little cabin cutting breaks and soldering patches into copper pipes. In the cold, wet mud of the crawl space Jed’s ear fell off. He stuffed it in his pocket and we kept right on working; yelling up to wife and kids through the back bedroom window for aid in testing the lines. When everything was water tight we crawled out from under the cabin, Jed stood up directly in front and only inches away from the bedroom window out of which my three beautiful blond boys were leaning. Lafe looked in wonder at Jed’s head and exclaimed, “Grandpa Jed, you have a hole in your head, Grandpa Jed, you only have one ear.” Then with a a profound look on his handsome face he opined philosophically, “Some people have two ears, some people have one. I saw a black man once.”

Lafe had learned this important lesson of his youth very well. All people are people and physical differences just don’t count. There are plenty of hysterical folks right here in the USA who could take a lesson from my wise son. American is a multiethnic state. Our unique nationalism is not based on race, or religion, or customs, or favorite thing to eat. It is based on the acceptance of universal truths that are common to all men. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is this all inclusive creed that binds all Americans together. The truth is that all people in the world are joined by these same Natural Laws. Discord among peoples is generated by the unjust abrogation of any of these tenants of human living.

I am amazed that there are Americans, who, living under the shield of Freedom, and bound to their fellow Americans by these universal precepts, cannot see their universal application. There are those to left and right who seek to exclude and to divide rather than to include and unite. Some examples:

1. Types like Louis Farrakhan and Al Sharpton who benefit from churning up racial separation and hate. Whose wealth and power are based on convincing people that the bigotries of the past entitle them to victim status today.

2. Many anti-war types who believe that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” are American aspirations, shunned by Middle Easterners who prefer living in slavery, repression and fear.

3. “America for Americans” types who cherish the blessing of America for themselves but refuse to share this land of opportunity with those who aspire to the same hope that brought their ancestors across seas and mountains to partake of the miracle that is a land of prosperity, justice, liberty and peace.

4. Those who cannot tell the difference between Islamic terrorism and Islam. Who talk about war with Iraq, or fighting Afghans, when what we are really doing is liberating and bringing the Universal Opportunities enjoyed in America to the courageous people of Iraq and Afghanistan who are our closest allies in the defense of those very values. Selfish political interests that attack Dubai in order to drum up votes, who pray on racist misconceptions of the ignorant to procure power.

5. Old fashioned nation states who define their self interest as more important than the betterment of the world as a whole, whose shortsightedness leads them to take bribes from terrorists and to stand as obstacles to world peace in order to court the favor of terrorists or escape their wrath. Red China, Russia, France, Spain, and a host of other third world nations who are governed by powers engendered by hate for America and hate Bush propaganda. I am encouraged that I have been able to remove Canada and Germany from the list above. It is encouraging that in both of these nations the Pro-Bush, Pro-American parties have come to power.

It will take some real education to prepare a generation of Americans wise enough to see that people are people and to engender and defend the common human values that bring the world toward the day when we can all be one world, under god, with liberty and justice for all.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Right Here Waiting for You

Last week was Jr. Prom week here at the High School and I was asked to give a “Heritage Speech” on our Roman Lancer Mascot. The theme of Prom 2006 was “Right Here Waiting for You”. As I considered the lessons to be learned from this song title it occurred to me that wonderful things in life are waiting for those who will pay the price of excellence. This is not only true in personal accomplishments, but applies directly to the struggle between freedom and terror our nation is facing in today’s world. The speech ran like this:

“Our Lancer Heritage reveals that each Lancer has a wonderful future “Right Here Waiting for You”. The potential for good, for greatness, and success can be found in our legends. Great things often have humble beginnings; it is the mastery of potential that produces excellence.

Rome began as a single boy; one facing troubles and challenges. There was a day when the unwanted baby Romulus, who had been abandoned to die, was Rome. Romulus and his twin brother were conceived by rape, his mother, imprisoned for un-chastity, could not protect him when murderous thugs took him to drown in the flooding river. He was saved from death by a she wolf who nursed the twins until they were discovered and raised in poverty by a swineherd and a prostitute. Romulus grew up tending pigs. He was forced to educate himself. Gangs of bullies and criminals infested the hills around his home. He lived in a land without law.

But as Plutarch explains of Romulus, [in his] very infancy, the size and beauty of his body intimated his natural superiority; and when [he] grew up both [he and Remus] proved fair and manly, attempting all enterprises that seemed hazardous, and showing in them courage altogether undaunted. Romulus seemed rather to act by counsel, and to show the sagacity of a statesman, and in all his dealings with their neighbors, whether relating to feeding of flocks or to hunting, Romulus gave the idea of being born rather to rule than to obey. To their comrades and inferiors they were therefore dear; . . . [Romulus] used honest pastimes and liberal studies, not esteeming sloth and idleness honest and liberal, but rather such exercises as hunting and running, repelling robbers, taking of thieves, and delivering the wronged and oppressed from injury. For doing such things [he] became famous.

It was Romulus’ courage that restores his grandfather to the throne of the city of Alba. When he became a man, Romulus took his many friends and established the city called after his name. He created Rome, not just as walls and buildings, but as a people and a government based on respect for law; a haven for all who value justice and peace.

Romulus was the first Lancer, he built himself and his city to greatness in spite of the challenges of his youth; he overcame his limitations by realizing that success and greatness are just waiting for those who will pay the price of excellence.

Let’s all remember the struggles and triumphs of the first Lancer, of Romulus, whose example of excellence out of hardship reminds us all that what we want most in life is “Right Here Waiting for You”.”

There are always those who are looking for the easy way out. Right now for the Democrats the easy way out is to Bush bash while presenting no plans or policies of their own. The world neighborhood is full of brigands and we have an entire political movement which is hanging its hopes on America’s wanting to take the easy way out. As the life of Romulus demonstrates, the easy way out is death.

Romulus took on the evil doers around the Tiber Hills. His courage made many enemies among those who profited from brute force, and their angry plots nearly ended his life. His willingness to do the difficult thing laid the foundation for 1200 years of Rome, for the civilization that still guides the world today.

The world neighborhood of today is full of evil doers. There are those who council caution; who promise, as Kipling said that – “if we give up our weapons, the wars of the tribes will cease.” But Kipling finishes this stanza in “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” with – “And when we disarmed they took us and led us bound to our foe, and the Gods of the copybook headings said, ‘stick to the devil you know’.”

Saddam was one of the world’s greatest evil doers (he is the devil we know). His removal has dynamically changed the out look in the Middle East. It takes no imagination at all to recognize the nightmare that would be Iraq dominated by Saddam. Romulus was “made famous” by his defeat of the neighborhood thugs. The American people have given their support to President Bush’s courageous removal of the monster Saddam from our world, “The American public was certainly entitled to make up its mind whether or not Bush had made a mistake and to fire him if it felt that he had done so. The electorate chose not to do so, implicitly accepting either the administration’s rationale for invading or the irrelevance of the discussion to the matter at hand.” (Frederick Kagan, American Enterprise Institute, Myths of the Current War; thanks Reach!) The American People have been wise enough to recognize the need to do the difficult thing now so that the bright future waiting for the world can be crafted.

Many challenges lie ahead. There are those who would “cut and run.” The bullies have found support in the likes of John Murtha (D-Pa), who pretend that turning Iraq over to
al Qaeda would be in America’s interest.

A group of brigands is trying to create a base for world-wide terror in Iraq. Some would blame the current insurgency on US led liberation of Iraq. This is like blaming the anger of the brigands defeated by Romulus on the boy hero himself. But this is not true in either case. I further quote from Kagan’s article: “In 2005, a number of insurgent groups decided to prioritize attacking collaborators and members of the Iraqi Security Forces over hitting coalition troops. Insurgent literature regularly distinguishes between civilians, who are not to be targeted, and traitors or collaborators who are legitimate targets. This differentiation and refocusing of targets priorities clearly showed that the presence of coalition forces is by no mans the only – or even the main – catalyst driving the insurgency.”

Romulus’ enemies tried to regain the hold of terror that the twins had broken. Too weak and cowardly to face Romulus in battle, they turned to tricks and lies. President Bush’s enemies must rely on falsehood to weaken his successes. One of the most incredulous lies is that the War in Iraq is a distraction to the War on Terror. Kagan presents some excellent explanation of the flaw in this argument:

“This question, however, is no longer relevant to the problem of determining U.S. strategy in the war on terror. Al Qaeda’s second-in-command? Ayman al-Zawahiri, has repeatedly said that he now sees Iraq as the central front in the struggle with the West.[11] Zarqawi has linked his ideological program with that of Zawahiri and bin Laden to make plain that he has no intention of stopping with success in Iraq, should he attain it. Above all, the key question is: will chaos in Iraq help or hinder al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations in their struggle with the United States and the West? The answer is, of course, that it will help them.” (ibid)

“The real issue about the popularity of American forces is the degree to which their presence fuels the fighting or contains sectarian conflict. As we have already seen, the evidence that the U.S. presence is the key driving force in the insurgency is thin, and the evidence that that presence is an essential precondition for avoiding civil war is strong. Iraqi attitudes about that presence only really matter if they change this calculation in some important way. These attitudes are therefore worth monitoring, but should not be allowed to drive coalition strategy by themselves.” (ibid)

If the President’s enemies have their way all the gains of his Romulen efforts will be lost and the monsters will seize back the gains of our heroes. This cannot be allowed. More from Kagan:

“. . . those who argue for an immediate (or rapid) withdrawal of American forces to ?refocus? those on the war on terror have the burden of showing that such a withdrawal will not lead to the sort of chaos in which terrorist organizations thrive. There can be no question of the inability now and for some time of the Iraqi government to control its territory fully. Nor is there any question of the resources potentially available to terrorists in Iraq--as they were not readily available in impoverished and war-torn Afghanistan. Those resources include not only money and weapons, but access to military specialists, technology, and scientists who had been working on Addams WMD programs. This is a recipe for catastrophe on a greater scale than September 11, and there is every reason to believe that a premature withdrawal of American forces would precipitate such a catastrophe. Whatever the relevance of Iraq in the war on terror in 2003, it is a critical front in that war today.” (ibid)

The people of Iraq want to grab the chance for freedom. Kagan further argues:

“. . . hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have volunteered for the most dangerous duty in their land, fighting insurgents with inadequate training and equipment. Those volunteers have frequently come under attack at recruiting stations and in their barracks, yet their numbers have not flagged. Iraqi units no longer shirk combat or run from battle. They have fought toe-to-toe with insurgents on many occasions, have been badly bloodied, and have returned for duty the next day. Iraqi government officials have persevered despite improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mortar and rocket attacks, kidnappings, and assassination attempts. It is difficult to see how it might be necessary to ?incentivize? people fighting bravely in the face of greater danger to themselves and their families than Americans have faced since the Civil War.” (ibid)

The example of Romulus and the reason and evidence presented by Kagan are further supported by a Washington Post op-ed by Ibramim Al-Fafari, the Prime Minister of Iraq. (Not the “former”, or “want to be” Prime Minister, but the one actually chosen by democratic process by the Iraqi people.)

“My vision for Iraq Includes Overcoming Many Major Challenges” (March 26, 06)

The elections last December in Iraq were a monumental stage in my country’s history and a testament to the courage of its people, who refuse to bow to any dictator or terrorist. . . the war against the terrorists cannot be won by military means alone. It is paramount that all Iraqis work together to build a democratic, free Iraq. . . The other major challenge my government will face is reviving Iraq’s economy. Iraq has been drowned by decades of Baathist socialist policies that have made millions reliant on government handouts. We must encourage entrepreneurship and enterprise, while establishing adequate safety nets for the less privileged. . the reality of a democratic, liberal, peaceful Iraq – a beacon for freedom in the Middle East This is not merely a wish but an article of faith. Having lived in London for the majority of my years in exile, I appreciate the importance of liberty for both guaranteeing democracy and ensuring human development.”

Romulus was not discouraged by the attacks of murderers or by the challenges of founding Rome; and Rome was not built in a day. We must recognize and deal with those who attack the march of freedom in the world today.

The idea that one can gain excellence without struggle, that we can overcome evil without sacrifice is so foolish that no one can honestly claim to believe it. The idea is antithetical to the self-evident and absolute laws of nature that we were born knowing. Therefore I am forced to conclude that those who call for it are motivated by other factors, those who support it are either deceived or deceivers. The good people of the world must put aside their fears, reject the lies, and follow Romulus to the great things that are “Right Here Waiting for You”.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

There Is No Debate

For eleven years I coached high school debate. I took the job to get my position in the history department. I knew nothing about it. It was a long slow learning process, but I feel I reached some small level of mastery before I passed the “torch” to a colleague who was also desperate for a job. Oration and Value Debate, (called Lincoln Douglas) were my favorites. At first I was excited about Policy, (called CX debate); it seemed to be what “debate” should be. It wasn’t. I soon learned that skills in thinking, speaking, research, and reason, were completely superfluous to CX debate.

For those of you who are uninitiated let me explain. Policy debate teams are made up of two speakers, called first and second. Two teams meet to present and debate a policy. Each year the National Forensic League comes up with a topic to be debated in all high schools all year long. I read a lot of books about CX debate, attended seminars and State Training conferences; I talked to some excellent teachers, Kim Birmingham, at Bountiful High, Dave Smith from Hill Crest, and Dennis Hadley from Weber High were among many who were helpful and supportive. I learned that the basic format required each team to prepare a Plan or policy to solve the problem presented in the “resolution” (known as the Affirmative Case), and then Negative briefs and arguments to counter all possible plans that other schools or teams might present, (know as the Negative Case). The Affirmative case was to revolve around such things as Needs and Harms, Workability and Solvency, and such mundane items as funding, and implementation. The Negative case was to attack the above positions and present disadvantages that might outweigh the advantages, there were also legitimate challenges of topicality to prevent the Affirmative from creating far-out plans that had nothing really to do with the resolution and therefore would not be legitimate. In spite of all the possibilities for teaching learning skills, research mastery, and reasoning and speaking skills, I soon found that CX debate was a fraudulent game that revolved around tricks and a bizarre speaking style called spew that had nothing to do with speech or debate. Here is how a typical “round” would go.

The first Affirmative speaker delivers the plan. He drops all the proper words and established topicality; but the truth is it mattered little what he says, neither his opponents, his partner, nor the judges are at all interested in the plan. Once the 8 minute “Plan” speech was presented one of the Negative team stands to ask questions. Most are pointless and redundant, but there was always one killer question, which no matter what answer the unfortunate Affirmative Speaker gives sets off an avalanche of events that become the entire performance. The question is so crafted that it would elicit a yes or no answer, and which ever answer the hapless One Aff. Speaker spoke the entire plan would be forgotten and the rest of the round would be totally devoted to that question and its answer. Let me give an example:

Let’s say the topic is on Global Warming (It doesn’t really matter, the arguments against the Plan has been crafted years ago, most likely at Baylor University, and are generic to be affective in all cases)

Neg. CX question: Will your Plan improve the U. S. economy?

Aff answer: Yes or No – it doesn’t matter, but the second he says it the First Negative Speaker begins frantically digging through his brief boxes pulling pre-written arguments, and piling up an avalanche of attacks, goal – to put out so many that the Second Aff speaker can not possibly answer all of them in his eight minutes.

If the Aff. Speaker says yes, the Neg. response is to read a card by some professor or erstwhile expert to say that an improved U. S, economy will lead to trade war. A shouted tag line is then followed by a “card” claiming that trade war leads to real war then a final card which has an expert claiming that all war’s eventually lead to nuclear war. Then, with a straight face the impassioned negative speaker explains to the judge that such a disadvantage (world destroying atomic war) will outweigh any advantage the Affirmative can present.

If the Aff. Speaker says no, the negative response is to read an “expert” card that “proves” that without substantial improvement the U. S. economy is headed for a recession. Card 2 – recession leads to depression. Card 3 – depression leads to war. Card 4 – all war leads to nuclear war = mutual mass destruction.

I have judged this debate hundreds of times, even after the end of the Cold War unplugged the “nuclear clock”. I always dropped (gave a losing ballot) this ridiculous DA, unless the Aff accepted it and spent the rest of the debate arguing nuclear war. Sometimes I was a member of a three judge panel, in which case I often squired. That means the silly war D.A. actually picked up the two other ballots. I found that college debaters acting as judges always picked up this case. I have come to understand that it was the only one they understood.

President Bush is dealing with a generation of such “debate” trained opponents. They could care less what “plan” the President puts forth, what actions steps he takes, or on what issue he acts. They always have two briefs prepared. Examples:

Let’s say the president takes a stand against terror and brings U. S. military might to bear against terrorists and all who support, shelter, or sucker them. Then the Democrats read the card that has some “expert” claim that America is a bully, invading “innocent” countries, and terrorizing women and children in their homes. Had the president failed to invade Afghanistan the Democrats had their briefs ready. They would have accused him of inaction and cowardice while blaming every Taliban-directed murder, every woman buried alive for wearing fingernail polish, on the President.

Let’s say the President takes the route of diplomacy and international cooperation to stem the development of WMD in Iraq. Then the democrats pull the brief that calls Bush a coward and points to the ever rising threat of developing nuclear weapons. (By the way, they are using this brief right now concerning Iran.) And they blame the rape rooms and the mass murders of the tyrant on Presidential inaction. Let’s say that instead of waiting for Saddam to develop an a-bomb and hand it over to al-Qaeda, Bush sends in an army and frees Iraq from Saddam and puts the mass murdering monster in prison. Then the cards used, read – unjust war without a purpose, lies and miss-calculations, not enough troops. (They have already used the card that he was sending too many.)

Let’s say that the President authorizes NSA wiretapping of known al-Qaeda operatives to prevent a repeat of 9/11, then the card reads – the President is spying on innocent Americans, on his way to becoming a dictator with monarchical power to assassinate any American at will. Let’s say that the President decides not to listen in on known al-Qaeda operatives so he can protect the “civil rights” of American’s who might be plotting with them. Instead he relegates the surveillance to time consuming judicial review process. Then the Democrats read the “just like 9/11” card.

It doesn’t even matter if the cards that are spewed by the Democrat politicos are true or that they are understood by the spectators. It is only the shouted taglines noted by the nightly news shows that matter. Nothing of any value can ever be generated by this “debate game”, but it does weaken the ability of any who try to truly act against the real harms that face the world. The Democrats are not interested in finding solutions to the problems that face the world or our nation. They are not even interested in what is best for America. All they want is a win at the game they mastered in high school, desperate for a ballot from the biased and misguided judges who have been trained in gamesmanship but can’t be expected to put forth the effort necessary to reason or to recognize the truth.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Art History

My career as an “Art History Teacher” is over. The “No Child Left Behind Act” has caught up with me. Not “Highly Qualified” to teach Fine Arts; my class, my students, and my lecture notes and materials will be passed on to another with the proper paperwork. I am now “relegated” to teaching History or Biology. As is always the case, I learned far more from the classes I taught in Art History than from the ones I took at the University. I am inclined to give a last lecture, or if you will, a last discussion, on what a dozen years of teaching Art History taught me.

Twentieth century Art, perhaps all Art, comes down to Rockwell and Picasso. Some summers ago, while prowling a secondhand store in Rexburg Idaho, I found a 1960’s *Life* magazine totally dedicated to Pablo Picasso. I bought it; along with a swivel chair for my desk at camp.

Back at School that fall, my magazine got shared around the Art Department and I had to go fetch in from a colleague. As she handed it back to me she said, “I just love Picasso!”

“No you don’t.” I replied.

She was indignant! “I do too!’’ she insisted, “I know what I like.’

“No, you really don’t.” I explained, “You’ve been told you’re supposed to like Picasso, so you say you do. It’s like a five year old standing at the pulpit at testimony time and saying, “I know the Church is true.” I could practically see her “mother” standing behind her.

She was angry with me for weeks. I finally apologized for hurting her feelings, but it was the truth that hurt!

In 1995, ten year old Alexandra Nechita astounded the world with the “genius” of her painting. She was proclaimed the “Child Picasso”. Nechita pumped out a Picasso every few days and sold them to California decorators for tens of thousands each.

A couple of springs ago *CBS’s 60 Minutes* amused viewers with an even younger Picasso prodigy. A four year old “genius” named Marla Olmstead that smeared out Picassos under the direction of her father. He father was an “artist” who couldn’t sell his own efforts. Again, the frauds were gobbled up as prices as high as $24,000. These young “artists” are more like Picasso than they, or the “art world” which worships them, would care to comprehend.

As one who has spent a life time aspiring to Art, I can understand what happened to Picasso. Picasso’s father painted pigeons and taught Academic Art. Pablo tried to learn the rules, but his malevolent habits and lack to talent presented an insurmountable obstacle to the creation of beauty. Picasso tried, in fits and starts, throughout his life to master the basic rules and techniques that would have made Art, but he never paid the price requisite to be an artist. Instead, Picasso discovered a substitute for mastery, fraud. He stumbled upon a “frantic relativism” that was searching for a physical manifestation; a rebellion against all order, including the natural laws of beauty. Picasso jumped on the bandwagon; he soon found himself in the catbird seat.

Norman Rockwell, in a deliberate choice, left high school to attend the Art Academy. His natural talent and desire to master the principles and elements of art soon enabled him to produce works of quality that were in demand throughout his life. Rockwell was never out of work; his creations captured the truth of human experience and the beauty of the human soul. Rockwell also met the fanatic relativism attacking the laws of art, the rebellion of modernism. His art stood as a massive barricade to the avalanche of rule breaking and denial of truth in beauty. The screaming of the driven mob, the testimonies of children, challenged his resolve but never daunted his genius.

With the Twentieth Century now history, many have been told that “modernism” and Picasso will be the artistic legacy of that age, that Picasso was the great artist of the era. But a careful study of Picasso’s efforts reveals the folly of a century that sought to find foundation in fraud. Norman Rockwell’s works will stand; not only representative of that century but as manifestations of the human spirit; created by a master artist who’s own soul is evident in the soul of his work

Picasso was told throughout his career that he was a master artist but Picasso knew he was a fraud; he lived and died a miserable man. Rockwell was told throughout his career that he was “just an illustrator” not a real artist at all but Rockwell knew he was. He lived a full and happy life.

As humanity matures, the recitations of infants will lose their sparkle, the truth will out. The older but wiser world will look at Picasso’s productions and see the fraud. They will look at Rockwell’s art and see the mastery; mastery of eternal laws and principals that testify to the truth and beauty at the heart of the Twentieth Century and the triumph of the soul of the greatest artist of that century, Norman Rockwell.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Keep off the Grass

I went to BYU; for one semester; then I had had enough of it. All of my experience there can be boiled down into one metaphor, one pervasive dictum: “Keep off the grass!” Broad sidewalks run across that characterless campus and you are expected to stay on them. It wasn’t the signs or the "brown shirts" (campus security) always on the prowl. It was my fellow students who were always condemning me for venturing out onto the green that most pained my rebellious soul. I noticed that, up on the “designated” playing fields dormward, large gangs of tee shirt clad collegians frolicked at football and Frisbee. There the grass seemed to survive, but venture a step onto the lawns between classes and the cries of “keep of the grass” from all quarters from my concrete bound colleagues were instantaneous and merciless. The semester ended and I fled to USU. In Logan, things were different, students went where they chose; teachers encouraged the adventure; grass was a thing for walking on. In winter time, when muddy trails appeared, students tracked else where or slogged through, and the grounds crew brought in sod with the spring. Also with the spring, shirts came off and shorts got shorter. Campus was a beautiful place to be with the grass between your toes. I have often thought back on the difference between the paths students were expected to walk and the way students were expected to think and learn. At BYU, when the Professor spoke, all the thinking had already been done. Minds were herded down concrete walks, preplanned and posted. At USU minds ran everywhere, got muddied up, wondered off, or found the truth on their own. I was happier there, with crumpled grass and sun tanned skin.

I listened with some interest this past week as the lawn protection squads, many of whom pretend to value free speech to the point of dying for it, went berserk over comments made in a High School Geography class by “teacher” Jay Bennish. Bennish’s rant against George Bush was one lie after another. His students knew it; one of them taped him, and revealed his lesson in fiction and spin to the nation. It was the screams from the sidewalk crowd that most concern me. Students whose minds are never allowed to stray from the crafted trails are in danger of losing the lust to striking out on their own. When minds rely only on “established” trails for truth and are never allowed to feel the “grass between their toes”, they are in danger of losing their ability to challenge falsehood when it comes at them masked as the “straight and narrow way”.

Years ago I expressed my frustration about BYU to a friend at Scout Camp. His reply, “You don’t let anyone walk off the trails at camp; afraid you will damage the “beauties” of nature. Why should you so harshly judge the “lawn protection rules” at BYU?” I see a difference. The purpose of imported Kentucky blue is for walking, the purpose of class rooms is for enticing treks into the unknown to craft new trails for others to follow on a journey to truth. Perhaps there are sacred bounds of thought; delicate ways of woodland wonder, forever lost if tread upon. Perhaps there are minds too delicate to face the challenges of bigotry, prejudice, and deceit, of obscenity, anger and hate; but I have not met them in the wide world. At camp, where the green things get one chance to live in a four month summer, I say, “If the trail will get you there, take the trail, but if you want to go beyond trails end, walk softly and wisely on the land.”

I was pleased to see my students, who had heard the President's State of the Union speech, laughed Bennish to derision for his lies. The way to encourage new thoughts, to thicken the grass, is to give minds the truth and let them stand the test of lies.