Alan Russell

Teacher
Simpsonville, SC, United States

About Alan

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Comments & conversations

177602
Alan Russell
Posted over 2 years ago
Should public schools be allowed to teach creation myths in science class?
"If you put faith in scientific ideas, that is nobody's fault but your own. With just a little effort, you could have researched the concepts that you did not understand. You may have put faith in science, but I do not. My confidence and trust in any specific theory is a direct result of my understanding of the evidence presented for it. If I am not convinced, then I have no right to say I believe based on faith or any other ridiculous reason that some people give for their beliefs." It's not a question of fault. It was more a question of adolescent expediency. I learned the theories and the experiments and evidence to support them, but initially I simply had to believe. I don't credit theories simply because I don't understand them or lack the knowledge they require. But as a student, I wanted good grades, so I believed what I was told.
177602
Alan Russell
Posted over 2 years ago
Is Mathematics a pure language, free of the ambiguities and pitfalls present in ordinary language communication?
I am not fluent in math, but it seems to me that math is ultimately useful to describe. I can use words--with their abstractions, paradoxes, limits, and contradictions--to describe what I think or perceive, but math seems better suited to address ultimate reality. My favorite thing about laguage, though, is its ambiguity, which reflects being human better than math does.
177602
Alan Russell
Posted over 2 years ago
Are reality shows good for society?
Reality shows would be more accurately entitled "unscripted shows." No one's reality is the controlled and carefully edited version on television. Perhaps the better question is whether media shapes culture or merely reflects it.
177602
Alan Russell
Posted over 2 years ago
Why do kids create social cliques in high school? Do they hinder the growth of others?
Peter and Aja are right, from what I've seen. We humans seek those we think are similar as a sort of shortcut to self-identity: the group has an identity that we can appropriate. It is not inherently harmful but turns out to be more often than not. Also, for my students, right now is the only time that's real and the only time that matters. If I try to get them to take a longer view, they smile and nod but do not understand or believe. Adults, I think, often forget how incredibly immediate every aspect of life is for young people. The mean thing someone said at lunch can be just as devastating for my kids as getting fired would be for me. Some schools do take steps to de-emphasize cliques, but I don't think one can eliminate the human need to associate and belong. Some teachers do let "Cool Kids" get away with things, so sometimes we are tacitly part of the problem. I do take issue with characterizing the "Cool Kids" as amounting to nothing. It's too individualistic for such a generality to be true. What Peter asserts is true, though, and one of my kids and I were talking about that very thing yesterday. She realized that she had begun to reduce her circle of friends to the handful she actually enjoyed talking to and spending time with. She said it's much better than trying to fit in with a larger group of superficially homogeneous classmates. She has recognized that, in a few months, she and her classmates will scatter to colleges near and far and build new lives. I have run into some of my old kids who defined themselves completely in high school as kings or queens; these folks are neither happy nor well-adjusted because they never figured themselves out as unique individuals. Another old kid, who was a "Cool Kid" and clique leader in high school, teaches down the hall from me and seems quite normal and happy (well, as normal as a teacher can be).