Tom McLaughlin

A former history teacher, Tom is a columnist who lives in Lovell, Maine. His column is published in Maine and New Hampshire newspapers and on numerous web sites. Email: tomthemick@gmail.com

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Finding Balance



Burping Luke
There are ways of knowing beyond the logical and empirical. We can know things in our hearts with certainty. Most of you probably understand this already, but I’m just getting used to it, having overused my brain and underused my heart for most of my sixty-two years. I’m striving for more balance during my final years on this side of the turf and my grandchildren are helping me in that effort.

Young children operate mostly on a feeling level and I’ve been spending lots of time with four of them - all under four years old. They require close supervision until their judgement develops and this will come about largely by making mistakes. My job as their grandfather is to let them do so, but not hurt themselves too much while they’re at it - then encourage them to think about their experience. I help them think and they help me feel as I watch them become completely absorbed in their play with each other. We also dance a lot.
Claire catching snowflakes

My grandchildren are out of balance too, but they’re supposed to be at their age. Much of their play is fantasy and quite magical. I’d mostly forgotten that realm and it’s nice to be reminded of how it feels as they involve me in their world of make-believe. It’s a balm for the soul. They pretend to shop for groceries and pretend to cook dinner. They help me when I cook for real too. It takes longer, but I like it better. They can’t chop vegetables yet, but they can put them into the saucepan after I do. Note to self: buy more string beans so they can snap them.
Luke and Henry

The twins will be a month old this Friday and they’re all feelings. They nurse and sleep mostly, but lately they’re capable of sustained eye contact. Henry, the younger by 32 minutes, smiled last week while we were looking intensely into each other’s eyes. It wasn’t a gas pain either; it was a genuine smile. It’s going to be interesting to observe their development while we’re living under the same roof, especially from a nature/nurture perspective if the obstetrician who delivered them is correct and they are identical twins - but there I go again being analytical. They look similar but are not difficult to tell apart. Luke has a narrower face and thicker hair than Henry. The obstetrician said they shared one placenta and are therefore identical, but Annie said two placentas can fuse sometimes and maybe that happened in this case. Time will reveal the truth.
Introvert Claire at her third birthday

The girls are verbal and quite different from one another. Claire, the three-year-old, is a thoughtful introvert, not unlike this writer. Her two-year-old sister, Lila, is outgoing and more playful - and determined to do whatever her older sister does. They quarrel over dolls and other toys and I sometimes function as referee, even pulling them apart physically occastionally. There’s a lot of dancing, picking up toys, wiping bums and emptying the potty chair, reading “Little Golden Books” and Berenstain Bears,” watching “Dora the Explorer” and “Winnie The Pooh,” coloring, going for walks and to play-group, and doing crafts. I even learned to brush hair and make pony tails that stay put for hours in their very fine hair.
Claire and Lila out with the dollies

With the boys, it’s wiping their smaller bums, burping them, keeping them awake to establish a sleeping schedule, and assuring my daughter, Annie, that it will eventually get easier as she nurses the two of them simultaneously. Then, realizing there are good reasons we have children when we’re young, I have little trouble falling asleep at the end of the day.
On the potty chair

Three days and two nights, paternal grandparents Roger and Chris come over and spell my wife and me and we go to our city house for a rest. They put in as much time as we do and thank God for them. Other extended family come when they can - a day here and a day there. Many of Annie’s friends have been sending suppers for all of us and I’m tasting some very creative cooking.

When the time comes for all of them to move back into their own home I’ll miss them - and I’ll be a better man, or more balanced at least. It’s happening already.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Genius And Schools

Did I need college to become a teacher? Yes and no. Yes, because college degrees were required for a teaching license. No, because it took time to unlearn university thought patterns that inhibited good teaching.

Colleges in the late 20th century and early 21st can be stultifying, especially for highly-intelligent and imaginative people. I do not claim to be such a person, but I’m smart enough to recognize that some brilliant Americans kept themselves unencumbered by formal education and the rest of us benefited. Two well-known examples are Thomas Edison and Bill Gates, but a couple of local examples are illustrative as well: Philo Farnsworth and Rufus Porter.

Bill Gates
Edison and Gates need no introduction, nor any description of what resulted from their genius. Philo Farnsworth and Rufus Porter are less well-known and both have connections here in western Maine where I live: Farnsworth invented the electronic television and held over 300 patents. Porter is best known as a painter of portraits and murals, but he was a prolific inventor as well. His inventions include the revolving rifle, the rights to which he sold to Samuel Colt who then became famous for producing the first revolver handguns. He designed, built, and flew an airship 240 feet long and founded Scientific American magazine.

Philo Farnsworth
Philo Farnsworth was born near Beaver Creek, Utah in 1906, but later in life lived for several years in Brownfield, Maine. He invested in his property there and in a business venture in Fryeburg. He was burned out in 1947 by the devastating fire that destroyed most the the town and moved on. His son, nick-named “Skee,” still uses the property.

Rufus Porter was born in Boxford, Massachusetts in 1792, but his family moved to a part of Denmark, Maine that is now part of Bridgton, Maine when Porter was a boy.

Rufus Porter
My contention here is that because all four lacked formal education, they weren’t encumbered by contemporary thought patterns. They weren’t burdened by notions of how they were supposed to think. They weren’t fitted with intellectual blinders by the academy. They didn’t have to complete a rigid course of study and, consequently, weren’t bound to think along a rigid course. They didn’t know how they weren’t supposed to think, so they let their thoughts go wheresoever they would. The rest of us are beneficiaries of their lack of formal schooling.

Rufus Porter Mural

Thomas Edison had three months. Rufus Porter had six months (at our local Fryeburg Academy). Philo Farnsworth went to high school, was accepted at Annapolis but didn’t attend. Bill Gates had a couple of years at Harvard before he dropped out.

Another Rufus Porter Mural

From his biography on the Rufus Porter Museum site we learn: “[Rufus’s] sole teacher was the Rev. Amos Cook [at Fryeburg Academy which he attended for six months at age 12], and he never had formal instruction thereafter. He profited from independence of the self-taught, though lacking disciplines of scholars. The narrow prejudices and conventions escaped him and he became the most progressive American of the 19th Century as he developed his ideas from within.”

Rufus Porter Airship Design

From Wikipedia, we learn: “When [Bill Gates] was in the eighth grade, the Mothers Club at the school used proceeds from Lakeside School's rummage sale to buy a Teletype Model 33 ASR terminal and a block of computer time on a General Electric (GE) computer for the school's students. Gates took an interest in programming the GE system in BASIC, and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. He wrote his first computer program on this machine: an implementation of tic-tac-toe that allowed users to play games against the computer.”

Harry Truman
Opinions vary as to who were America’s greatest presidents, but most lists would include Abraham Lincoln and Harry Truman - neither of whom went to college.

No schools at any level have a monopoly on learning. As their control by unions and government increase, costs go up and effectiveness goes down. Nowhere is this more true than New York City where they spend more than $20,000 per student per year but, according to CBS New York, 80% of high school graduates are illiterate. Taxpayers should insist on educational vouchers to smash the government/union monopoly.

As an educator for thirty-six years, I believe the US Department of Education should be eliminated but for one function: it should decide on a minimum set of skills for each grade level and develop tests to measure them. The tests should be voluntary for each school district. If people don’t want to know how their community schools measure up, it would be useless to pour   state or federal money into them. They have to want to fix themselves before they’ll be any progress.

As long as their children can pass tests of basic skills appropriate to their age level, give parents vouchers for ½ to ¾ of local per-pupil costs to use on any educational strategy they wish. If parents want to home-school, fine. If they want to pool that money and form independent schools, let them.

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

The Women's Medical Society

“The Women’s Medical Society.” That’s what Dr. Kermit Gosnell called his Philadelphia “House of Horrors.” Jury selection for his murder trial began last Monday and we have to wonder how much attention it will get from the Mainstream Media (MSM).

My guess is little or none. Abortion is sacrosanct for liberals in control of what we see on network news - and of what we don’t see. Abortion is foremost in the pantheon of “women’s rights” and must be protected from public scrutiny. Gosnell is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder after a police raid three years ago on his “Women’s Medical Society.” He’s charged with killing babies, but isn’t that what all abortionists do? Why single him out?

We would never have known about the horrors Dr. Gosnell was perpetrating on women and their babies unless Philadelphia police had raided Gosnell’s “clinic” looking for evidence that he was selling prescriptions for oxycontin. What they found was a charnel house. The Report of the Grand Jury states:

When the team members entered the clinic, they were appalled, describing it to the Grand Jury as ‘filthy,’ ‘deplorable,’ ‘disgusting,’ ‘very unsanitary,’ ‘very outdated,’ ‘horrendous,’ and ‘by far, the worst’ that these experienced investigators had ever encountered.

 Then it gets worse:

There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets.  . . . The search team discovered fetal [human] remains haphazardly stored throughout the clinic – in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers. Some fetal [human] remains were in a refrigerator, others were frozen. Gosnell admitted to Detective Wood that at least 10 to 20 percent of the fetuses [babies] were probably older than 24 weeks in gestation – even though Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks. In some instances, surgical incisions had been made at the base of the fetal [baby] skulls. The investigators found a row of jars containing just the severed feet of fetuses [babies].

The DA’s office estimates that Dr. Gosnell “took in as much as $10,000-$15,000 a night, mostly in cash, for a few hours of work performing abortions [killing babies]. And this amount does not include the money he made as one of the top Oxycontin prescribers in the state.” At Dr. Gosnell’s house “they found $240,000 in cash and a gun.”
Gosnell wasn’t a skilled doctor - a product of Affirmative Action? He lacked the surgical expertise to legally perform partial-birth abortions in which the baby is delivered but for its head which remains inside its mother. He was supposed to puncture the lower back of the baby’s skull and insert a tube to suck out its brains before it was fully delivered. Instead, he just delivered the baby alive and then killed it, which is illegal. That’s first degree murder as the Report states: “ . . . [Dr. Gosnell] killed live, viable, moving, breathing, crying babies. He killed them by cutting their spinal cords after their mothers had delivered them . . .”
But really, what’s the difference between what Gosnell did and what many other abortionists do around the country? Planned Parenthood clinics have sanitary facilities and licensed staff but are they not also houses of horror? Perhaps their doctors have the skills to suck baby brains out the way the law requires, but does that make them any less horrific? For low-information voters who may be reading this column, abortion law dictates that a baby lacks human rights so long as its head is still inside its mother, so it’s not murder to kill it at that point. It’s a “women’s health” issue. But it’s first degree murder to do it the way Dr. Gosnell did it. Is one more gruesome than the other? Not to this writer.
When President Obama was in the Illinois State Senate, he repeatedly voted against bills that would protect the lives of babies born alive after failed abortions. He believed they should be left to die without medical assistance. That’s the prevailing view of the “Pro-Choice” community and those in the MSM as well. So let’s ask ourselves: should these babies be left alone to slowly die as Senator Obama wanted, or should they be put out of their misery more quickly by snipping their spines as Dr. Gosnell did?
As graphic testimony and pictures of dead babies are presented at the murder trial, what will the MSM do? Will they repeatedly showcase it on evening news broadcasts the way they did the Trayvon Martin case? The Newtown Connecticut shootings? Not likely. If it did, the horror of the abortion industry would be rubbed in America’s face.

So? Not gonna happen. You’ll have to Google it to know what’s going on.

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