The Road Forward

One of the cornerstones of Pres. Biden’s infrastructure plan involves massive expansions of the availability of charging stations for electric vehicles. I understand why: our automobile emissions account for approximately 25% of our greenhouse gases. Reducing those will have a quick, beneficial, and verifiable impact on the environment.

Unfortunately, mining the lithium needed to make batteries for our new electric vehicles has terrible impacts, too: ground water close to mines could be contaminated for more than 300 years. There are responsible ways to mine lithium, but they can’t keep up with the needs that we have for the material if we’re going to quadruple the number of electric vehicles on American roads in ten years.

So: what should we do?

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments

PSA: Blog Deadline

A quick reminder: the blog closes down before finals week. The last day to blog for credit will be May 14. I look forward to seeing your responses to posts before then.

Posted in Education | 3 Comments

2020 Census

Last year’s census results haven’t been fully disaggregated, but we know this much: Mississippi is one of just three states whose populations shrank during the previous decade. Plenty of potential culprits will show up on lists of explanations for this: brain drain amongst younger folks; less than robust opportunities for education, entertainment, and employment; the state’s politics; the state’s history.

The state will not lose a congressional seat this time, but it might if the trend continues–especially if neighboring states continue to grow. Some point to a silver lining: that the state has become more diverse. Nonetheless, what must be done to make Mississippi a state where more people want to live?

Posted in Environment, Politics | 15 Comments

George Floyd’s Legacy

When Minneapolis jurors convicted Derek Chauvin of murdering George Floyd yesterday, I gave thanks that justice, in this case, had been served. Darnella Frazier’s video of Chauvin’s calloused disregard for the life of the person he sought to arrest might have been the only evidence the prosecution needed.

As Pres. Biden put it in his address yesterday, it’s time to bring an end to systemic racism in America. More particularly, it’s time to figure out how to police our nation in a manner that protects those who obey the law and respects the humanity of those who don’t.

What reforms can we pursue to make this happen? What must be done if we want to live in a country where Black and brown parents don’t have to have “the talk” with their kids?

Posted in Ethics, Politics | 13 Comments

The Lost Cause: Still Winning in Mississippi

Gavin Stevens, Yoknapatawpha’s learned attorney and most articulate southern apologist, quipped in Requiem for a Nun that “The past isn’t dead. It isn’t even past.” For Stevens, this means that the glory and the terror of antebellum Mississippi lived on in the hearts and minds of people who never fought in the Civil War. Those days became mythologized as being as pure as moonlight and magnolias. Every true Mississippi boy, Stevens believed, imagined he would join Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg to raise the high water mark of the Confederacy: love Mississippi and the South, death be damned.

Faulkner’s best work shows the absolute depravity involved in mythologizing antebellum Mississippi. In 2021, it seems surreal that Faulkner’s characters embrace an institution as vile as slavery, or as wicked as the government that enabled it.

That’s the thing about Faulkner: he was a realist, not a surrealist. Witness Gov. Tate Reeves’ April 7 executive proclamation that this month is “Confederate Heritage Month.” The proclamation aims to “honor those who served in the Confederacy” and “gain insight from our [nation’s] mistakes and successes.” The proclamation was given to the Rankin County Sons of Confederate Veterans chapter and shared on its social media.

Gov. Reeves made no hubbub about signing the proclamation. If his goal actually celebrated the idea of learning from history, he should have put his signature on this proclamation during a press conference. He should have explained the need to lionize those who fought for the south–and, by extension, for slavery. (Let there be no doubt: Mississippi seceded to protect the right of one person to own another.)

Why do you think Gov. Reeves proclaimed April “Confederate History Month”? Why do you think he issued the proclamation the way he did?

Posted in Politics, Race in Mississippi | 16 Comments

Mannerly Mississippi

Mississippians scold their children from toddlerhood forward for anything perceived as rude. Say sir and ma’am. Sit up straight. Don’t speak unless spoken to. Don’t say anything that might hurt somebody’s feelings, or about politics, or about church–unless it’s to claim how much you love your own.

Suppression comes naturally to us. Sometimes I wonder if we can fully articulate what we feel.

Our cult of mannerly behavior also makes it far more difficult to stand up for the truths embraced by a minority. We have a long history of using manners to shun those influenced by outside agitators and woke college professors. Mississippi isn’t a state, it’s a social club. Want to put an end to dissent? Don’t invite the dissenters to the party. Don’t let their bills out of committee and onto the open floor of the legislature.

Would Mississippi be a better place if we worried less about mannerly behavior and more about truth? Or should we continue to embrace manners, lest we find it impossible to get along without them?

Posted in Education, Ethics | 15 Comments

Pressing Ahead

Congratulations. You’ve made it more than three-quarters of the way through a year in pandemic education.

We’ve already used the blog to discuss the use (or non-use) of virtual teaching measures next year. Here’s a more fundamental question: what has this year taught you about the way you learn?

Posted in Education | 13 Comments

Good Intentions Gone Awry

Here I sit in an empty classroom: after administrators listened to meteorological reports last night, they decided to make instruction virtual. I appreciate that administrators prioritize safety over quality of instruction. However, it sometimes feels like we’ve slipped down the slippery slope of weather-born silliness. We’re not talking about staying in Gulfport for a category five hurricane. We’re talking about staying away from Hooper because there’s a chance of strong weather. It rains. People get wet on the way to campus and class. If there’s a tornado, we have safe places to go while we’re here.

On the upside: it isn’t like classes have been canceled while they’re taking place. That’s good!

I suppose I am revealing an old and curmudgeonly side, but I have grown so weary of virtual instruction that I would happily drive through weather of all sorts to teach in classrooms of actual (rather than virtual) students.

Another good intention: yesterday, Gov. Reeves signed into law House Bill 633, which requires the state Department of Education to include computer science in its college and career readiness curriculum. That’s a lovely idea. However, the reality is that very few people who qualified to teach computer science will be in Mississippi classrooms. Instead we’ll have coaches throwing powerpoints on the screen and calling it instruction in computer science.

We can’t really blame coaches–or any other teachers–for being asked to teach content they don’t know. The broader issue involves the divergent expectations that parents, schools, and legislators have for the children they want to educate.

Posted in Education, Ethics, Politics | 10 Comments

My Snow Day…

…was better than yours!

This almost makes up for all the times I’ve biked or jogged up that hill to ward off the middle aged spread.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Zooming into the Future

This morning, while most high school students in Mississippi slept in because of the weather, MSMS students filed into their Zoom rooms and stayed on track. Technology can seem like a blessing in situations like these, but I am curious: what will be the appropriate role for this kind of technology at MSMS next year?

Our infrastructure allowed us to offer a wealth of remote content and instruction for 240 students this year, so why not open MSMS classes up to students from around the state every year–why lock ourselves into a residential model when we can touch so many more lives remotely? Wouldn’t it be more equitable? If MSMS does more distance learning, what would happen to students’ college placement? The quality of their writing? Their standardized test scores? Conversely, assuming MSMS returns to its traditional, residential model next year, should teachers continue to record classes and conduct assessments on Canvas instead of paper? Now that the technology is embedded, will we continue to use it once we can return to traditional methods of instruction?

Posted in Education, Science | 11 Comments