22 February 2007

Practice Running with Sneetches

The Sneetches By Dr. Seuss (Bio).
Re-titled as: How the Plain-Bellies allow themselves to be excluded, setting themselves and Star-Bellies up to get suckered.

The Plain-Belly Sneetches are depressed because they don't get to go to the beach parties hosted by the Star-Bellies. The Star-Bellies are a caricature of your garden variety snob-bully: You're not like me because of X (in this case, starts on thars), so I'm not going to play with you (or invite you to the frankfurter roasts & marshmallow toasts). Dr. Seuss paints a very sad picture of the plight of the poor, picked on Plain-Bellies:

They left them out in the cold, in the dark of the beaches.
They kept them away. Never let them come near.
And that's how they treated them year after year.

So, what keeps the Plain-Bellies from throwing their own parties? Why don't they gather up their own pile of wood and light their own fires? Had they done so, it is likely that eventually the distinction between Plain-Bellies & Star-Bellies would have, at the very least, diminished. After all, a good party is a powerful draw. And even if it didn't, it might or might not be important to the Plain-Bellies anymore. Nothing takes the wind out of a bully's sails so effectively as a victim's disinterest.

However, the Plain-Bellies aren't that smart. So they're ripe for the picking, and sure enough, there's someone willing to separate every fool from his money. This time, the con-man's name is Sylverster Mcmonkey McBean. $3 for a star-on, $10 for a star-off. McBean spends all day taking money from all the Sneetches.

They kept paying money. They pet running through
Until neither the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew
Whether this one was that one... or that one was this one
Or which one is what one... or what one was who.

McBean drives off with all the money, congratulating himself on a scam well done, "They never will learn. No. You can't teach a Sneetch."

The book ends with a Utopian scene:

But McBean was quite wrong. I'm quite happy to say
That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day.
The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches
And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches.

It sounds great. It's nice for a thirty-second lecture against bullying. But I seriously doubt that such an over-simplified solution would work for your average kindergartner, much less for any kind of group of adults. The fact of the matter is that the Star-Bellies and Plain-Bellies are groups, but each group is made of individuals who would each have names and families. It wouldn't take long for the individuals to sort themselves. They would either find a new method of marking the Haves and Have-nots, or there would be a falling out among those who began as Star-Bellies, and any without stars would be ejected from the group.

The Sneetches was - and remains - one of my all-time favorite of Dr. Seuss's titles. But the allegory is just so over-simplified that it breaks down and is really quite unconvincing.

12 February 2007

Thoughts on our Book List

So, I'm just thinking out loud here, but I'm thinking that biographies & autobiographies and maybe some histories sound like the most interesting thing to read right now. As nobody seemed opposed to this idea when I talked to ya'll offline, anyone care to help me brainstorm a list of folks that might be interesting to read about? We can narrow the list later.

Betsy Ross
the Prophets
Abraham Lincoln
Richard I, the Lionheart
Henry III (had to deal with the Magna Carta)
Henry VIII or his wives: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard & Catherine Parr
Albert Einstein
Thomas Edison
Martin Luther
Wilbur & Orville Wright
Porter Rockwell
Murasaki Shikibu (Ancient Japan, wrote the "Tale of Genji")
Minamoto no Yoritomo (founder & first shogun of Kamakura Shogunate)
Nicholas Romanov the II (Anistasia's father)
Martin Luther King Jr.
the Founding Fathers

I guess that ought to keep us busy in the biography department for a while. Especially if we stick to the 3-4 a year that we originallt talked about.

Of course, there's also regular histories that could be added to this, and maybe even historical fiction? That might be getting too broad. I don't know. Anyone else have any ideas?

09 February 2007


Well, I'm game. I think it'll be fun to read what this Susan has to say and experiment with implementing it and everything. Bring it on.

05 February 2007

The Idea

So. The plan is to use this blog as a sort of family "Commonplace Book", and discuss books we read. Pick them apart together and learn about the books, about ourselves, and about each other. Starting with Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Educated Mind, since she's got directions on how to do this and a couple of lists of suggested books. It's an ambitious and exciting plan.

We haven't really talked about what to read after The Well-Educated Mind, but here's what I'm thinking: Why don't we pick one of Bauer's lists (my vote is for either novels or biographies), and alternate that with church books? We can make up a list of church literature we'd like to tackle. Maybe get recommendations on which biographies are good ones from Dad, or tackle Brigham Young's Journal of Discourses or something like that. Or, if we did the biographies list from the book, we could just look at adding the prophets (and anyone else we felt like looking at) where they would belong, historically. Personally, I would also be interested in adding some other folks from church history as well. Not that anyone comes to mind right this second, except for Porter Rockwell. I think that was his name, anyway. We've got some time to figure it out.

I can't wait to get started! C'mon guys - let's play!