In a step toward becoming, once again, “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” Lady Gaga gave a thrilling performance last night during the Super Bowl LI Halftime Show. She opened by singing a patriotic verse and reciting part of the Pledge of Allegiance from the roof of the NRG Stadium in Houston.

Only conservatives who’ve lived under a rock for three days could have missed the warnings regarding  Gaga’s Super Bowl political messaging. The mainstream media did a great job of keeping the rumor mill turning – so great that they were able to convince many conservatives that Lady Gaga’s performance would be filled with statements regarding immigration and the evil President Trump, and that the famed commercials would be rife with political statements. Of course, this led to a boycott of the halftime show or even the whole game. The media did not fail in their mission to spread false information! At least they are collectively good at something.

When asked prior to the game if her performance would unify the country, Lady Gaga replied, “You’ll have to ask America when it’s over.” This writer says, “It could have, if some people would just allow us to be unified.” While watching the show, I had my hand on the remote control, ready to change at the first spew of vitriol. It never came. Instead I heard just the opposite when she spoke. Not one to be easily impressed by starlets, I was this time. Sadly, not everyone agrees.

I sat disappointed as friends on social media, who did not watch the halftime performance, posted one hateful response after another. Vomiting emojis were in no short supply. None of these conservative friends had bothered to watch the boycotted show, but they were free to express their opinions without having all the information available to them. It was the equivalent of someone writing a movie review of a show they didn’t bother to see.

One of my ultraconservative friends even posted a link to a video regarding Lady Gaga’s adherence to a satanic cult (I’ve not seen the video). This friend explained that because the artist was satanic she would not subject herself to the music or the person. Fair enough. One need not look far for evidence proving Lady Gaga’s explicit loyalty to Satanism. This friend wondered how anyone who called themselves a Christian could then watch Lady Gaga’s performance.

But this blog is not about Lady Gaga’s system of belief or theology. It’s about her performance. It would be easy to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” One could rest firmly in the belief that, because Lady Gaga chooses to worship Satan, he or she should not listen or watch her performance. Again, fair enough.

This writer, however, is taking a different approach. While I’ve watched our nation crumble into a divide during the last eight years, culminating in a very contentious election, I am willing to go into places no conservative has gone before. Another old adage, “you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar,” comes to mind.  So I chose to watch the halftime show. Then I chose to assess the show based on its merits, rather than the performer’s beliefs.

While I’m certain Lady Gaga doesn’t give a flip what one conservative thought of her program, I offer my thanks to her for giving a great show free from any political agenda. I think she made a step toward reaching across the divide in our nation. The very least I can do is to take a step in that direction, too.

If we can remember that there is more that unites us than divides us, we might just be able to pull back from the abyss. This conservative chooses to unite.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

PS – Like so many performers, Lady Gaga has had problems, abused drugs, fallen into pits of despair, and bounced out again to continue her career. For more information regarding Lady Gaga, including her relationship with the great Tony Bennett, read here. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/rockandpopfeatures/11075519/Lady-Gaga-on-Tony-Bennett-Ive-been-controlled-for-years.-He-liberates-me.html

While I understand that, as Christians, we are supposed to abstain from every form of evil, we can’t possibly reach those with the message of Christ who are entrenched in evil if we don’t bother to go where they are. I encourage my fellow believers to reach out to Lady Gaga, and those in her circle, with the love of Christ. Only when she sees that love will she be willing to learn more about it.

Snowflakes and Snowplows

This past weekend, I had the privilege of meeting a medal winning Olympic figure skater. To protect her privacy, I don’t want to reveal too many details about her, so I will call her Lily. After I met her, I did what everyone else does when they meet an Olympian; I searched for a video of her performing on Youtube.  Wow! In the time period she was skating, she was clearly at the top of her field. She took full command of the ice and was a vision of beauty.

During our lengthy conversations, I learned that there was so much more to this woman than just an Olympic athlete. I particularly enjoyed how she relayed information about her sport in comparison to our current education system. Lily is so wise, and you really need to know this story.

For many decades, one of the requirements of all figure skaters was to be able to skate specific patterns on the ice. One of these, for example, is a figure 8 with smaller loops at the top and bottom. There were very strict requirements regarding these compulsory figures. They had to be skated in a very concise and particular manner. During competitions, judges would watch the skater during the figure, and then they would analyze the pattern on the ice to check for the slightest mistake. Even the smallest glitch could cost an athlete greatly.

These figures were the bane of many skaters. While some who entered the sport were very athletic and could skate fast and well, they could not skate smoothly or beautifully enough to develop these compulsory figures on the ice. Many more did not have the work ethic to practice these patterns for 4-6 hours every day. The skaters didn’t think the patterns were important, but the judges and coaches did.

Lily realized the importance of such precision skating early. She knew that if she could do the figures, the skills would translate into her programs. When I watched the video of her performance, I was awestruck. She was stunning! Each motion was fluid and graceful. Lily explained to me that the time spent on the patterns helped her to learn how to skate properly, how to use the edge of her blade, and to strengthen every muscle she needed to skate.

In 1988, those in charge of the sport of figure skating dropped compulsory figures from the requirements. This would, in their minds, allow the athletes to focus more time and energy on performing their musical programs. As the sport shifted from being precise and beautiful, it became more athletic, fast, and powerful. Consequently, athletes began having more injuries that kept them off the ice. Apparently, no one noticed the connection between dropping the figures and an increase in injuries. All they saw was that skaters were faster, leaped higher, and spun more revolutions in the air.

What she said next really got my attention. “This,” she conveyed, “is the same thing we are doing in education today.” To paraphrase her, we no longer require students to learn phonics and the correct pronunciation of letters and syllables. We don’t require them to hand write both manuscript and cursive letters. We don’t require that they carefully construct sentences with a subject and verb in agreement with one another and appropriate modifiers, all spelled correctly.

Instead of teaching the basics of mathematics and the natural truths associated with them (2+2=4 every time), we now teach that they can get partial credit if they are close or they can explain the convoluted means they used to come up with their wrong answer. We’ve removed education in its purest form and have replaced it with “expressing opinions,” and “sharing feelings.” I swear to you, dear reader, in my entire life I’ve never once thought about my opinion or feeling that 2+2 is 4, I just know that it is every single time.

Students left to their own vices now send text messages, Facebook posts, and Tweets with a multitude of abbreviations, emojis, indecipherable grammar, and statements filled with opinion rather than facts. They apparently find great joy when thousands of their closest friends “like” their post regarding their hatred of the new administration in Washington DC. Yet many are simply unable to explain the reasons behind their position. They’ve not been taught to think or reason.

Education should always be about seeking the truth. It should never be about what the learner thinks about that truth. Indeed, one cannot develop opinions until they know the beauty of the truth on which that opinion might be based. If one knows that Hitler is responsible for the overtaking of most of Europe and the killing of six million Jews along the way, then one can develop the opinion that Hitler was evil (or Hitler was good, depending on which viewpoint one takes). But without knowledge of who Hitler was, one has no information to guide that opinion.

Too often in our public schools, students are asked for their opinion, or how they feel about something they have read, seen, or done in class. Again, gentle reader, in the nineteen years that I darkened the halls of academia as a student, I was never once asked how I felt about anything. Come test time, though, I’d better know the truth of the material! And rest assured that I never asked any of my students, even my own children how they felt about something I taught until they knew the truth well.

It’s no wonder then that we have raised a generation of narcissistic snowflakes who have to go to a safe space anytime something doesn’t go their way. We’ve done this by allowing our educational systems to quit educating our children.  Until we can move our schools back into the business of teaching truths, the snowflakes will continue to graduate each year until we are buried in them. Where’s a snowplow when you need one?

 

~Temerity Dowell

One Hypothesis

This week, some of our nation’s Ivy League Universities placated their students in regards to their devastation over the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Cornell held a “Cry-In” in which students were offered Play-doh, posters, markers, and hot cocoa. One professor at Yale University made the mid-term exam optional for students. Several universities cancelled classes altogether allowing students to take the day to grieve and mourn the loss.*

You’ve got to be kidding!

One wonders what these students will do when they actually grow up, get a job, have a family of their own, and an actual crisis hits? I’m certainly not wishing ill will on any one, but any reasonable adult realizes that crises do come along and we really have to handle them without asking the world around us to pause while we cry.

How did these students come to this way of thinking? Since my own sons are about this same age, I did some deductive reasoning (something we adults learned to do in elementary school) and came up with an interesting hypothesis. I believe it began when they were young children and played in the local community sports league.

When my children were young I always served as the Team Mother. It was my responsibility to plan the end-of-the-season team party. During the season it was obvious which children were more acclimated to the sport. My older son quickly advanced from the outfield and became a pitcher. Our younger son didn’t do so well and didn’t want to play after a couple of seasons. However, if you look on their respective dressers in their room, each of them has a trophy to represent each season they played.

I confess that I am like every other parent in the world. I want my children to be recognized for their accomplishments. Like most parents, I often think that my child is better than everyone else’s (Oh, come on, you do it, too!).

After a few years on the baseball field my sons decided they preferred competing in various 4-H activities, most often with beef cattle. There were many times that I thought their project was the best one. The judges and I rarely agreed on this, though. While my sons did receive a trophy for each baseball season, they rarely earned the awards they sought in 4-H. I’m incredibly thankful for this.

I always thought I was making each child on the team realize their worth by presenting them with a trophy. However, my sons show little regard for those trophies today (and some of them look really cool). Instead they are proud to show off the many ribbons, plaques, and pins they earned in 4-H. These prizes were not given, they were earned.

I can’t help but to compare that mindset of earning the reward to being given a prize. The “snowflakes” on college campuses who are crying and holding candlelight vigils over their loss in the presidential election have probably been given most everything they’ve ever had. I know there are exceptions to this, of course. But if my hypothesis is correct, the college parking lots are probably filled with cars purchased by daddy.

When I was growing up (go ahead and roll your eyes), I wasn’t given anything. I also wasn’t especially talented at anything. I worked very hard and earned every bit of what I got, including jobs, grades, degrees, and money. So did each of my family members.

Earlier this week on a social media outlet, I explained that when Barack Obama won in both 2008 and 2012, I was devastated. I could not believe that this nation would elect someone based on the color of his skin rather than the content of his character. On both occasions, though, I got up the next morning, made breakfast, and got my boys started on their school work. I was chastised for my comment and advised that my socioeconomic status was such that I was incapable of understanding what the problem is. Really?

Oh, believe me, I understand the problem.

When Obama was elected, I went through those days angry and disappointed at the outcome, as well as at some of the people who caused that outcome. I certainly prayed for our nation and our newly elected leaders. However, I never had to take a day off to mourn, cry, grieve, or make animal models with Play-doh.

The problem is that I’m willing to work harder than a snowflake. So I win the prize.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*http://www.foxnews.com/us/2016/11/10/canceled-classes-cry-in-and-more-college-campuses-reel-from-trump-win.html