Friday, June 19, 2009


My previous blog was about children making accurate musical discernments. I have another story about their abilities to be more judicious and Scripturally wiser than many adults in matters of theology.

When I was a child growing up in the 1950's, I was raised in Catholicism. That meant Pope Pius XII was my theological superior, as were all his minions, including all the priests, nuns, and laity, which I was a minor member. I did not know the meaning of a heretic, but I was warned about them and knew they were dangerous and up to no good. They weren't going to Heaven. That was bad. Still is.

Down the street from our Catholic church was another church where heretics did whatever it is they did. What a shame. It was such a beautiful building and looked like a church, but what went on inside was heretical, and though I didn't know what that meant, I was to avoid it like the plague. The people inside that church were not going to Heaven. That was bad. Still is.

An interesting family lived two houses down from our childhood home. There was the lovely girl and her older brothers. The older brothers did stuff like build and fly homemade model airplanes whose propellers could take off your finger if you weren't careful starting it. They put an airplane motor on a handmade basal wood boat that literally did fast, huge "donuts" on the little pond by the bayou, and they built go-carts that went thirty miles per hour and always started. They blew up firecrakers and built firecracker cannons that fired rocks that stuck into tree trunks. It was reported that the oldest had climbed up the outside of the church tower down the street by using a corner of the building. This family was cool, and my siblings and I liked and respected them.

Then we found out they went to the Lutheran church. They were heretics and were going to Hell! That's bad. Still is.

I'll always remember a conversation my older sister Carolyn, 16, my older brother, William, 14, my younger brother Jack, 4, and I (9) had in the oyster shell driveway of our home.

Carolyn: "I think the Pope is wrong. Joe and Bill aren't going to Hell. How could God send good people like that to Hell?"

William: "They're going to Heaven. They've got to! It wouldn't be fair!"

Me: "Mary Ann is going to Hell? No way!"

Jack: "The Pope is wrong!"

William: "That means the priests are wrong too!"

Me: "That means all the nuns are wrong too!"

Carolyn: "I think that they are going to Heaven. I'm sure of it!"

Jack: "Good!"

Me: "So they're not going to Hell?"

William: "That's right. The Pope is wrong."

After a few more years of living and growing in my theological wisdom, I discovered that Lutherans worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, minus the judgemental influence of Rome and the Holy See.

Recently Pope Benedict revived the old, nasty claim that Catholicism was the One, True Church, and you had to be Catholic to get to Heaven. Shame on him! I knew four children who were theologically wiser than the present, well-educated leader of millions of Christians. Our only mistake was in judging that we knew they were going to go to Heaven. How could we possibly know?

"Judge not lest you be judged."

Thursday, June 18, 2009


This blog isn't about kids, but it is about my childhood opinions on rock-n-roll.

Elvis Presley is considered the "King" of rock-n-roll. This wasn't the case when rock-n-roll was King. I was there. I was a fan when it came into being, when the first rockers started rolling. I listened to rock-n-roll when parents feared it.

I remember my brother and sister arguing who was the greatest rock-n-roller. My sister Carolyn believed it was Chuck Berry, and she would rattle off all his great hits and talk about his guitar playing. Then my older brother William would pipe up about Little Richard being so out-there, so wild, so crazy, so fresh and inventive. I sided with Carolyn at the time and still do. The thing I remember the most is what wasn't said. To the kids in our household, Elvis wasn't the King.

My cousins talked about Elvis, but it wasn't about the music. It was about the sexuality, the handsomeness, the whiteness. At their house, it was either Elvis or Pat Boone. At our house, Ricky Nelson was the better musician, and upon reflection, one of the most underrated rock-n-rollers ever.

Looking back on it, I am proud of my brother and sister for being so passionate about music and so open-minded and non-judgemental about who was great. Nothing against Elvis, but the King of rock-n-roll is Chuck Berry, unless Little Richard is around. All Elvis fans can make nasty comments, but it won't change my mind. I made up my mind as a child, and after decades of reflection, I believe I was correct from the start.

It's funny how the King of rock-n-roll is an ornery black man, and the greatest rock group was four British guys who were singing with an American accent, thus topping Americans in their own creation.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Human nature, left unchecked, can lead one to be sure of oneself far beyond what is reasonable.
Case in point:

Me (Mr. R.): "Does anyone know what is the definition of a smuggler?"

(Student raises his hand immediately.)

Mr. R.: "Now be careful. We've had a lot of kids guessing the wrong definition lately. We have talked about this. You have to learn how your brain works, and recognize what is the difference between something that you tell yourself you know and something you really do know."

(Student begins frantically windshieldwipering their hand.)

Mr. R.: "Some of you may think you know what a smuggler is, but you are only telling yourself that you know. You don't really know. It's a word that children won't run into very often, so don't raise your hand unless you have learned about smugglers and studied them. What is a smuggler?"

(Student begins to wave their hand like a castaway shipwrecked on a desert island for seven years and now sees an airplane.)

Mr. R.: "I'll call on you if you are not just guessing. Please. No guessing."

(Student begins rising out of their chair and making noises. Loud ones.)

Mr. R.: "O--K. I'll call on you, Mario, if you are absolutely positive you know the definition of a smuggler."

Mario: "I am sure, Mr. R."

Mr. R.: "O--K, Mario. What is a smuggler?

Mario: "A smuggler is a guy who dresses up in white and goes into beehives and smokes the bees with a smoking machine so that the bees will get sleepy."

As my wife, Peggy, would say, "There is a reason this child is in your classroom."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


The school year is over, and like I have blogged before, I am not thrilled as is commonly perceived to be a teacher's reaction to be when beginning the summer vacation. I'll miss my students, those children who have made a huge impact on me for a whole school year. Suddenly they are gone, some never to be seen again.

I was thinking of something one of them wrote in their New Mexico Report that was due at the end of the year. I thought I'd write the quote exactly as written:

"Los Alamos National Laboratory was made in 1948 by President Harriet Tubman."

I'll miss those little things they say, but not as much as the kids themselves.