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If You Stopped Learning After College, You’re Uneducated

It’s a common enough claim in online debates: “I majored in such-and-such….” and therefore their opinion matters more than yours.

First off, that is a logical fallacy known as appeal to authority.  A position of authority is no guarantee of the truthfulness of the claim.  But equally importantly, the longer ago your college years were, the less relevant your major is.  If you’ve been out of college for a few years (or a few decades, like the last person I heard this claim from), your opinion isn’t necessarily any more valid than that of someone who majored in something else.

The truth is, that if you ended your education when you received your college diploma, you are uneducated.  A college degree is not the be all end all of education.  There is a lot more than can be learned in four years.  The whole point of college isn’t to learn everything there is to know on a given subject.  The point of college is to gain a solid foundation in a subject and to learn how to learn.

I have learned far more since I graduated from college than I learned while in college.

There are so many options for continuing your education independently.  Reading books comes to mind.  There are numerous videos, podcasts, and websites dedicated to spreading knowledge on a vast array of subjects.  There’s really no excuse for ignorance.

Some of the things I have studied in since college are:

  • Pedagogy (especially language arts and STEAM)
  • Linguistics
  • Vocabulary
  • Politics
  • American history
  • History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
  • Early Christian history
  • Ancient civilizations
  • Classics
  • Spanish
  • Music
  • Biology
  • Physics

In the future, I plan to continue to learn more history, from all parts of the world, read more classics, and learn more about various sciences.  I also hope to learn to play the piano, get better at sight reading music, and find the courage to try speaking Spanish to real people.

To study these topics, I read a lot, listen to educational podcasts on my commute, sing in my church choir, research topics that interest me, and play with educational apps on my phone.  One of my daily goals is to do a learning activity besides reading.

I’m not an expert in all the areas I’ve studied, but I can say with certainty that you don’t need a college degree in a subject in order to be educated in it.  If you do have a college degree in a subject, you have to continue to study it to really count yourself as knowledgeable.  If you don’t, people who do will soon pass you by.

Happy learning!

 

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If You Can’t Find Kid’s Books with Strong, Female Protagonists, You Aren’t Looking Very Hard

Every now and them I come across posts claiming that there is a dearth of kids’ books with strong female protagonists.  This is absurd.  If anything, there is a glut of kids’ books with strong female protagonists.  And to prove it, I have put together this list.

This list is not meant to be exhaustive.  Rather, it is meant to be representative of how many options there are of quality books with strong female role models for young readers.  I have subdivided the list by genre for the convenience of the reader.  Books or series that are split between a male and female protagonist are marked with an asterisk (*).  The emphasis is on series, but there is also a section of stand-alone novels that I particularly recommend.  When books fall into multiple categories, I’ve chosen the one I think fits best.  Without further ado:

Picture Books

  • Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans
  • Pinkalicious, by Victoria & Elizabeth Kann
  • Fancy Nancy, by Jane O’Connor
  • Eloise, by Kay Thompson
  • The Berenstain Bears*, by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • Mouse books* by Kevin Henkes

Early Readers

  • Amelia Bedelia, by Peggy Parish
  • Annie and Snowball, by Cynthia Rylant

Classics

  • The Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  • Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maude Montgomery
  • Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren
  • Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers

Mysteries

  • Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene
  • Cam Jansen, by David A. Adler
  • Trixie Belden, by Julie Campbell
  • The Boxcar Children*, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
  • The Happy Hollisters*, by Jerry West

Realistic Fiction

  • Ramona Quimby, by Beverly Cleary
  • Babysitter’s Club, by Ann M. Martin
  • Junie B. Jones, by Barbara Park
  • Judy Moody, by Megan McDonald
  • Amber Brown, by Paula Danziger
  • Billie B Brown, by Sally Rippin

Historical Fiction

  • American Girl, various authors
  • Dear America, various authors
  • Magic Tree House* (with fantasy elements), by Mary Pope Osburn

Fantasy

  • Tiffany Aching, by Terry Pratchett
  • His Dark Materials, by Phillip Pullman
  • Magic Tree House: Merlin Missions* (though some of these are also historical fiction), by Mary Pope Osburn
  • Animorphs*, by Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant
  • Chronicles of Narnia*, by C.S. Lewis

Stand Alone Novels

  • Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O’Dell
  • Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry
  • Because of Winn-Dixie, by Kate DiCamillo
  • Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan
  • A Lion to Guard Us, by Clyde Robert Bulla
  • Running out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • Matilda, by Roald Dahl
  • Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
  • Charlotte’s Web*, by E.B. White
  • Bridge to Terabithia*, by Katherine Paterson

That should be enough to get you started.  There are many, many other series out there, I’m sure, and, as earlier noted, I only listed stand-alone novels that I personally enjoyed and would recommend.  By the way, I’d love to see your recommendations in the comments!

 

Judge Not, That Ye Be Not Judged

We are told all the time to “not judge” others.  President Uchtdorf gave a memorable address on the subject in general conference.  He said:

“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!”

He said a lot more than that, but I’ll come back to that in a bit.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where sin is becoming increasingly accepted and even popular.  Morality seems to be increasingly unpopular.  People who hold to morals that the world considers “old-fashioned” are often told to stop judging others for things like sexual immorality and immodest dress.  Just living by God’s laws and encouraging others to do so is enough to get labeled “judgmental.”

Matthew 7:1 gets thrown around a lot: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

That would seem to be pretty clear.  We’re not supposed to judge other people.  This is usually interpreted to mean that we should blithely let everyone else do their own thing.  “You do you” is a common saying.  But really, it gets more complicated than that.

Because, we are also commanded to be our brother’s keepers.

2 Chronicles 19:10 says: “…ye shall even warn them that they trespass not against the Lord, and so wrath come upon you, and upon your brethren: this do, and ye shall not trespass.”  It says right there that telling someone else to not break the commandments is not a trespass, i.e., sin.

D&C 81:88 says: “Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.”

From Old Testament times to the latter days, God’s people have been charged with the responsibility of warning our neighbors against sin.  We have the fullness of the gospel.  It is our responsibility to share that fullness with others.  That includes telling others the right way to live. But how do we do that without telling them that what they are doing is wrong?  We can’t.  But isn’t that a type of judging?  The commandments to not judge and to warn our neighbors seem to contradict one another.  This is a question I have also struggled with.

But if you keep reading Matthew 7, past verse 1, you’ll find: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

So, however we judge others is the way we will be judged.  It sounds a lot like the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

John 7:24 is also enlightening: “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.”

By reading more of the scriptures, we can see that we aren’t really being told not to judge.  After all, we have to make judgments every day.  We choose what to wear, what to say, what to do, where to go, and plenty more.  A lot of those choices involve other people, such as how to respond when we know someone is doing something wrong or even wants us to do something we know is wrong.  The key is to respond with righteous judgment.  The next question, of course, is to figure out what exactly constitutes “righteous judgment.”

President Uchtdorf didn’t tell us to stop standing up for what is right.  That’s part of living the gospel.  He said to stop “hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm.”  Those things are clearly not in keeping with the gospel or the love of Christ.  Christ and his prophets have taught us to respond to others with love.

Love is the key.  President Uchtdorf explained:

“The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions—the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ. As we open our hearts to the glowing dawn of the love of God, the darkness and cold of animosity and envy will eventually fade.

When our hearts are filled with the love of God, we become “kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving [each other], even as God for Christ’s sake [forgave us].”

I love how President Uchtdorf talks about allowing ourselves to feel the love of God.  If we don’t feel loved, it’s near impossible to show love.  I know this from personal experience.  When I feel depressed and down on myself, it’s hard to be kind to others.  I’m much more likely to snap at others and say unkind things when I feel unhappy and sorry for myself.  When I feel God’s love for me, and know I am a child of God, it’s much easier to extend that love to others.  In fact, I want to share that love with other people so they can feel it, too.

If we are truly disciples of Christ, we will be kind to one another.  If we really need to correct someone else, it needs to be from a place of love and kindness.  We need to help and uplift instead of condemn.  It’s easy to condemn.  It can be much harder to extend love and help.

I was on Facebook the other day, and I came across this post in my newsfeed.  It really touched me, and I immediately knew it was perfect for my talk today:

“A couple of women were walking around Temple Square this week and said something like, “I thought these gardens were supposed to be breathtaking.” I realized that they were in a part of the grounds that — while USUALLY overflowing with flowers and beautiful plants — is currently all torn up. They are visiting between seasons, when some planters are bare. (That stage doesn’t last long here, cuz the grounds crew is really on the ball. But it exists.)

These overheard comments and ensuing realization made me ask myself: Do I ever judge people based on a single snapshot of their lives — maybe at a time when they are “torn up” somehow — and wonder why they’re not more breathtaking? Or am I patient and willing to focus on the parts of their landscape that are thriving?

Do we forgive OURSELVES for needing time to replant? Or are we embarrassed by the times when our metaphoric planters are bare as we transition to new growth?

Sometimes it’s easy to understand the need for patience when we are working with soil and seeds. I hope we can have at least as much, and hopefully much more, patience as we work with fellow human beings. (Including ourselves!) We are each on a journey through many different seasons.”

This adds another dimension to the question of judging or warning our neighbors.  We don’t know everything that’s going on in someone else’s mind or in their life.  Someone could be going through a difficult experience or just be having a bad day, and we all have experiences like that.

For example, a few years ago, my grandma on my dad’s side passed away.  I took it really hard.  For the next three days at work, until my days off for bereavement, I was basically a zombie.  I struggled through the lessons I absolutely had to teach, and for pretty good sized chunks of each day for those three days I showed my students videos on Netflix while I huddled behind my computer, incapable of doing much else.

If anyone had been watching me for those three days and only those three days, and didn’t know the reason behind what I was doing, they probably would have come to the conclusion that I’m a terrible teacher who should be fired.  They wouldn’t have seen all the activities I normally do with my kids and how I’m on my feet almost all day, constantly active in their learning.  So, we shouldn’t judge how good someone else is at keeping the commandments when we only know a small part of their story.

On the flip side, it can also be pretty easy to appear the model Latter Day Saint for short periods of time.  Someone who only sees me for three hours a week might think I have it all together and totally have this living the gospel thing totally down.  It’s easy to measure ourselves against what we perceive of others and find ourselves wanting. (By the way, if anyone thinks this about me, thank you; it’s very flattering, and, you’re wrong.)

We also might think other people are judging us, when, really, they’re not.  If people don’t say hi and smile at us, for example, it’s easy to feel like we’re being excluded.  I’ll admit that a lot of times, if you’re older than 12, I forget to smile and say hi to people.  It’s not because I don’t like you, or am judging you; it’s just that I’m wrapped up in trying to remember all the things I need to get done that day and wondering if I’m good enough at any of them.  So, smile and say hi to me, and I’ll smile and say hi back.

We’re all in this together.

Luke 22:32 says, “…and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”

If someone we know is struggling with keeping the commandments, let’s find ways to help them.  It’s not for us to judge their worthiness.  Our job is to help each other stay on the straight and narrow, through service and love.

The prophet Joseph Smith showed us many examples of service and love.  I would like to share a story from his life.  Mary Frost Adams wrote this account for the LDS magazine of the late 1880s, the Young Women’s Journal.  At the time, the saints were living in Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith was the mayor.

“While he was acting as mayor of the city, a colored man named Anthony was arrested for selling liquor on Sunday, contrary to law. He pleaded that the reason he had done so was that he might raise the money to purchase the liberty of a dear child held as a slave in a Southern State. He had been able to purchase the liberty of himself and his wife and now wished to bring his little child to their new home. Joseph said, ‘I am sorry, Anthony, but the law must be observed and we will have to impose a fine.’ The next day Brother Joseph presented Anthony with a fine horse, directing him to sell it, and use the money obtained for the purchase of the child.”

As mayor, Joseph had the responsibility to uphold the law.  Anthony broke the law, and the penalty was a fine.  So, Joseph upheld the law, by imposing the fine on Anthony.  This was justice.  But, Joseph didn’t just care about the law.  He cared about the people.  He knew that Anthony was struggling with an important issue of getting his child free from slavery.  He looked at the whole situation, and not just one incident.  Joseph showed compassion to Anthony by giving him the horse, to enable Anthony to both pay the fine and free his child.  This was mercy.

Joseph was following the example of the Savior, who suffered for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to.

We are unlikely to face a situation as extraordinary as Joseph and Anthony’s, but there are many other times when we have a choice between condemning someone and helping them.

For example, if we see parents struggling with their children who have a hard time being still and quiet in Sacrament, we can offer to sit with their kids and help them color.  If someone doesn’t want to come to church, we can offer them a ride.  If we are part of a conversation that starts leaning towards gossiping about someone, we can say something positive about that person instead.  Through actions like these, we encourage others to keep trying to do what is right.

I’d like to go back to President Uchtdorf’s talk, which was so beautiful and eloquent.  I quote:

“Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.

We are not perfect.

The people around us are not perfect. People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.

Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.

Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.

Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.

The merciful will obtain mercy.”

In closing, I would like to remind us of John 13:34, a scripture verse that has also become a beautiful song: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

 

 

Stargirl Discussion Questions

Do you have a book club?  Are you reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli?  If so, I have the perfect post for you!  Here is a list of some questions you can ask your book club to get the discussion going:

What did you think of the book?  Likes/dislikes

How would your school/you have reacted in high school to someone like Stargirl?

What makes Stargirl strange?  What “rules” is she breaking?  What are the consequences of breaking rules in society?

Why did the students at Mica High start to love Stargirl?  Why did they start to hate her?

How does Leo change because of Stargirl?

Why does Leo ultimately choose the group instead of Stargirl?

What does this story say about individuality?

How are you like/unlike Stargirl?  (Where are you on the conformity-individualism continuum?)

What crazy non-conformist thing do you want to do but have been too embarrassed to try?

What did you think of the ending?  How would you change it?

Pride and Prejudice Discussion Questions

Have a book club?  Reading Pride and Prejudice and need some great thought-provoking discussion questions?  Look no further!  Here is a list to provide for all your discussion question needs!

What did you think of Pride and Prejudice?  What did you like/dislike?

Which character do you most sympathize with?

In 1814 Mary Russell Mitford wrote: “It is impossible not to feel in every line of Pride and Prejudice…the entire want of taste which could produce so pert, so worldly a heroine as the beloved of such a man as Darcy…. Darcy should have married Jane.”

  • Do you agree or disagree with Mitford?
  • Would you have liked the book as well if Jane were its heroine?

Lydia and Wickham pose a danger to the Bennet family as long as they are unmarried and unchecked. But as a married couple, with little improvement in their behavior, this danger vanishes.  In Pride and Prejudice marriage serves many functions. It is a romantic union, a financial merger, and a vehicle for social regulation. Scholar and writer Mary Poovey said that Austen’s goal “is to make propriety and romantic desire absolutely congruent.”

  • What kinds of marriages do we see in the novel?
  • Do we still see that in today’s society?
  • Was Charlotte Lucas right to marry Reverend Collins?

What social commentary do we see in Pride and Prejudice?

“One element, the initial mutual dislike of two people destined to love each other, has become a cliché of the Hollywood romance.”  What examples of this do you think are particularly memorable?

Did Elizabeth and Darcy change or was it just their perceptions that changed?

A Star Wars Musical Revue

May 2015 145

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my husband and I put together a Star Wars dinner and a show for a ward party.  We had games for the kids, then dinner, then the show.  After we chose the main acts, I wrote the narration to go in between.  The links are to YouTube videos, and not our performances, but they’re almost as good as we were.  (By the way, if you want to use this narration, go for it!  Tell me about it in the comments!)

Narrator: Good evening!  I’d like to wish a warm welcome to all you Jedi, padawans, younglings, moisture farmers, scruffy looking nerf herders, and wretched scum.  I’d like to give a big thanks to everyone who helped with the food, decorations, and games for our aspiring Jedi.

Few franchises have been as powerful as Star Wars.  You probably remember your first experience of watching a Star Wars movie.  Star Wars has become a tradition, passed down from parents to children.  And now you are all invited to Bayside ward’s next installment in the Star Wars tradition.

How does it begin?  How does Star Wars ever begin?

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

 Star Wars theme on piano

Narrator: In the late 1970s, movies featured popular songs of the day, rather than original scores.  George Lucas knew this would not do for Star Wars.  Imagine Star Wars set to disco.  (shivers)  Instead, he enlisted the help of one John Williams.

Lucas had a big job ahead of him.  One day, dejected and discouraged because nothing was coming together, he sat in the studio and listened to John Williams’ score for Star Wars.  It exceeded all his expectations.

We are again in a period of musical confusion.  Rebel musicians, stealing from classic movies, have won their first victory against the evil galactic Tinsel Town.

During the rehearsal, rebel singers managed to steal scores to six different movies, with enough musical power to destroy an entire Justin Bieber album.

Pursued by Tinsel town’s sinister agents, our four singers race to the end of the song, custodians of the scores that can save the movies and restore harmony to the cinema.

John Williams is the Man

Narrator: Star Wars reinvigorated the hero’s journey.  Lucas tapped into the power of myth to create villains and heroes who stir the imagination.  Every child who watches Star Wars dreams of being a hero and saving the galaxy.

But now Luke Skywalker has vanished.  In his absence…hey, what are you doing here?

Rey: I need to find Luke Skywalker

Narrator: Funny, that’s what I was just talking about.  I have a lot of fans here who want to thank him.

Rey: Thank him?

Narrator: That’s right.  For all the great stuff he did.  Look, there’s Luke over there!  Hey Luke, come over here!

Rey: No, you don’t understand.  The galaxy has all kinds of problems.  (Speaking to Luke, who has approached).  Luke Skywalker, Jedi Knight and apprentice of the great Yoda…

Luke: And… Hero of the Galaxy. Once more, from the top, and GO!

Rey: Hero of the Galaxy? Wait, it’s your fault that…

Luke : I believe what you are trying to say, is “thank you.”

Rey: (angrily) Thank you?

Luke: You’re welcome.

You’re Welcome Parody

Narrator: Everyone has their favorite parts of Star Wars.  For some, it’s the epic space battles.  For others, it’s the romance.  Scratch that, definitely not the romance.  I think we can all agree that one of the coolest parts of the Star Wars franchise is the lightsaber duels.  Who can forget a dramatic showdown between Sith lord and Jedi knight?

Sith: Jedi!

Narrator: No, wait, I’m just the narrator!

Sith: It matters not who you are, narrator!

Now you die!

Narrator: (gasping) A little help here!

Jedi: (force pushes Sith away.  Jedi and Sith duel and narrator escapes.  Jedi defeats Sith.)

Duel of the Fates

 

Vibranium is Magic, Not Science

10 Directors We'd Like To See Take On Marvel's Black Panther | The Mary Sue

The latest Marvel movie, Black Panther, is out, and fans and critics are raving.  I saw the movie yesterday, and I also really enjoyed it.  The protagonists are likeable, and I cared about what happened to them.  The action was fun and exciting.  The villain was clearly a psychopath, but still sympathetic.  I’d been worried that the cgi would be too over the top, but it struck just the right balance.

I do take issue, however, with the claim that all the wonder-tech of Wakanda is “science.”  I’ll believe that vibranium is stronger than any other metal on Earth and yet still light.  I’ll even believe you can somehow make it into clothing.  But it ruins all suspension of disbelief to claim all the amazing creations of Wakanda are based on vibranium and is still science.  Vibranium is, after all, still just a metal.  If it really can do all the things Black Panther says it can, then it is not science.  It is magic.  I’m willing to believe vibranium really can do all these things as long as we’re being honest.

In case you aren’t convinced, here is a list of all the amazing things vibranium can do and is used to create according to Black Panther:

  • Deflect bullets
  • Absorb energy and unleash it later
  • Materialize a full suit out of a necklace
  • Spears that are basically hand-held energy cannons
  • Cloak a ship
  • Project illusions (after all, when people fly over Wakanda, they see a relatively barren landscape and shepherds)
  • Communication devices with perfect reception and unlimited range
  • Hovercraft technology
  • Holographic computers like Tony Stark’s
  • A device that can be attached to any vehicle that allows it to be controlled by remote from halfway across the world
  • Stabilize a dying person by sticking a ball of it into the wound
  • Fast healing.  Like, really fast.  As in, a bullet wound that should have been fatal, healed overnight.

I don’t care what you say, metal can not create fast healing.

Vibranium is magic.