The Not So Advanced Training Institute

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah The Golden Haggadah, c. 1320

The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah
The Golden Haggadah, c. 1320

Well, when it comes to stanching libidinal urges, in the case of Josh Duggar, the un-spared rod, limited access to secular entertainment, daily devotionals, and home-schooling were to no avail. Despite his family’s full literal embrace of five-thousand-year-old cultural dictates of nomadic sheepherders (no seed-spilling, frontal hugging, uppity females, e.g.), Josh succumbed to, depending on your point of view, Satan’s solicitations and/or the human hard-wired propensity to seek sexual contact.

As Dana Milbank[1] writes in this morning’s Washington Post, it’s somewhat troubling that such a weird ass family (all of the 19 children’s first names begin with J) would receive boot licks from virtually every Republican seeking their party’s nomination for the presidency. As Milbank points out,

A quarter of Americans are evangelical Christians, but only a small fraction of them are like the Duggars. Only 3 percent of American kids are home-schooled, as the Duggars are. Only 7 percent of Americans think using birth control is morally objectionable, as the Duggars do. As for the percentage of Americans who favor arranged-in-all-but-name marriages? The answer is so obvious there’s no need to ask the question.

Josh Duggar and Jeb Bush

Josh Duggar and Jeb Bush

So why the kowtowing?

Republican primary voters tend to be really conservative radical.

Now that I’ve answered Dana’s question, I thought I’d shift to what I find more interesting, the Duggar family’s homeschool curriculum, the Advanced Training Institute, founded by someone called Bill Gothard (not making up the name) who himself is currently on “indefinite administrative leave” because 34 women have accused him of sexual harassment. Be that as it may, thanks to the website Gawker, I have obtained a work sheet from the ATI, which I would like to share for your entertainment.

According to Gawker,

The lessons themselves consist of bizarre, forced attempts at inserting some type of traditional education into biblical passages. Which is where you get questions such as: “How did the ‘Socratic method’ of reasoning come from a sodomite manner of living?” “How can graphs help to visualize the consequences of lust?” And “How do prime numbers illustrate the principle of ‘one flesh’ in marriage?

For example, here are three examples from “Wisdom Worksheet” On Matthew 5:27-28. (Click on Images for larger viewing)

medicine history science

Obviously, photography is also a manifestation of modernism that the institute finds dangerous.

[1] Milbank claims not to “join in the schadenfreude on the left over the latest case of hypocrisy among family-value conservatives,” but I’d love to see the results of a polygraph strapped to him as he was typing that statement. But come to think of it, Denny Hastert has bumped the Duggars from “the latest case of hypocrisy among family-value conservatives.” Remember during Clinton’s impeachment when Hastert was railing against him?

School’s Out for the Summer

helicopter helicopter

Cue Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out for the Summer,” or, if you prefer, that older ditty, “No more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s nasty looks,“ which might be updated from my perspective to “no more laptops, no more iPads, no more helicopter moms and dads.”

In case you older readers don’t know, parents can now go on line to keep track of their darlings’ academic progress via an app called “net classroom.” We teachers must post grades from pop quizzes, written homework assignments, vocabulary quizzes, essays, and oral presentations to a site that parents can log onto to mark the progress (or lack there of) of their progeny.

In my 30 years teaching at a prestigious Independent School, I’ve noticed a significant change in parental ambitions for their sons and daughters, which may reflect a national shift from legacy to meritocracy. Back in ’85, before the curse of instantaneous messaging, back when we wrote progress reports by hand, bearing Bic ballpoints down to insure our “good jobs” made it through the carbons onto the yellow and pink sub-copies, parents, many of them laidback lifelong Charlestonians, took more or less a hands-off approach to their children’s education. They seemed to trust that we knew what we were doing. A “C-” here or a “C+” there wasn’t going to keep Drayton Rhett Ball Rutledge Manigault out of Sewanee.

In fact, in the ‘80s, I can only remember one unpleasant encounter with a parent, and I didn’t even teach her son. She was angry because they had missed a deadline for a trip we were taking to the Soviet Union, an unrectifiable problem given deadlines for procuring visas. The conversation seemed to go on for hours.   It was like breaking up with a lover. We kept saying the same things over and over. My wife kept looking over and giving me the index-finger-across- the-neck slice, the universal sign of cut her off now.

The other parental interaction I remember was much more positive. A father, in fact a board member, came up to me and said, “I saw where you failed the boy on that Moby Dick test. Thank you! I caught him with those goddamned CliffNotes. Good job!”

(By the way, that rapscallion student, despite failing a major test that term, did manage to get accepted to Harvard, go to Northwestern for Medical School, and complete a post-doc at Yale).

Over the years, some parents have lost perspective on the weighting of grades. They seem to think that the tiniest assessment might make the difference between their replicated DNA’s attending Stanford or having to slum it at some state university. They seem to have forgotten that we can learn a great deal from our failures. (For example, you’ll never catch me again climbing an extension ladder with a couple of high-gravity IPAs sloshing around in my bloodstream). Anyway, these overweening parents squander their peace of mind by checking grades every hour (I’m not exaggerating) and probably blanch all of the joy of learning from their children who refuse to take intellectual risks because missing one question might make the difference between a distinguished medical career versus 60-hour shifts as an assistant manager at a suburban Sam’s Club.

When a student complains to me about such a parent, I suggest that she demand to see her parent’s high school report cards, which must be preserved given they had studded with A-pluses. Obviously, this suggestion doesn’t endear me to those parents.

But, hey, like I say, school’s out for the summer, so what the hell? Think I’ll put the top down, lay some rubber as I’m leaving the parking lot, crank up Alice Cooper’s anthem and gun it down Folly Road on my way home to the Edge of America.


A Very Brief Peek at What to Expect in the 2015 Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell Tour


Expect a fairly prompt start. Slated for a 7:30 beginning, the lights went down at 7:41 with Emmylou, Rodney, and the band unceremoniously taking the stage clad in what could be street clothes. For really big shots in the music industry, these two are as unpretentious as you get.

The songs – 20 of them – came in quick succession punctuated occasionally with pleasant banter directed at the audience, comprised of mostly old folks. Last night’s show was part of Charleston’s Spoleto Arts Festival, which may have had something to do with the audience’s advanced age. Several of them stiffly fled as the band took their bows as if they didn’t realize that encores were sure to follow.

The set list sandwiches cuts from their new album of duets — The Traveling Kind – between covers and selections from their previous work. They kicked off with a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “I Just Wanted See You So Bad,” (which actually appears on the new album), then went right into “Grievous Angel.” Highlights from the pre-album phase included “Poncho and Lefty,” “Red Dirt Girl,” and “Love Hurts.”

Before they launched into the new songs, Emmylou remarked that she and Rodney had somehow managed to achieve longevity without getting much radio play. Then she said that she’d rather be on a jukebox than a radio to cheers from the audience.

I may have enjoyed the new stuff even more than lead-in tunes. The band — some of whom are not the musicians performing on the record – consisted of Steuart Smith on pedal steel, John somebody on drums, Michael somebody alternating between stand-up and electric bass, a killer keyboardist who also played accordion on the delightful “La Danse de la Joie,” and impressive Australian lead guitarist Jed Hughes who thrilled the crowd with searing solos.

Emmylou announced that we’d just heard most of the new album and then treated us to five more songs.

The lights came up, some septuagenarians headed for the exits, and then Emmylou came back on the stage alone and said that she only played this song – “Hickory Winds” — in South Carolina, and Rodney and the rest of the band ambled out one by one to join in.

So ultimately, what you can expect is 100 plus minutes of Americana music performed by a couple of national treasures.

Political Correctness Academy

Warning: Through no fault of the author’s, the following fascinating and informative piece contains language that marginalized people may or may not find offensive.

* * *

You’ve no doubt all heard the probably specious story that Eskimos have something like 300 or 600 or 300,600 different words for frozen water whereas we denizens of warmer climes only have a handful – sleet, snow, hail, slush, etc. The idea is that because they spend so much time dealing with frozen water they can distinguish subtle differences in its consistency and so it follows that —

Beep Beep Beep!

Un-oh, a new word processing app I just purchased, Offensive Connotative Terminology (OCT), has just generated a pop-up that informs me that “Eskimo” means “raw meat eater,” a pejorative name given to them by enemy tribes to the south and that E-words would rather we refer to them as Inuits, even though, as it turns out, Inuits do in fact eat raw meat. (No wonder then that there is a paucity of synonyms in the Inuit language for fire).

Fellini's "Little Person" nun from his film "Amarcord"

Fellini’s “Little Person” nun from his film “Amarcord”

I’ve lost my train of thought. Where was I? Oh yeah, that creepy obsession Fellini and David Lynch have with midgets. What’s the scoop on that?

Beep Beep Beep!

The damn thing’s gone off again. Looks like the word “midget” set it off. Let’s see, here’s a link in the pop-up that might offer an explanation.


Midget, denotation, “very small fly.” Popularized by PT Barnum and therefore associated with freak shows. Politically correct alternatives, “little person,” “dwarf,” “person with dwarfism,” or “person of short stature.”

Forget it, no way I’m going to write about Fellini and Lynch now. Try crafting a sonorous sentence with “person of short stature,” and to my sensibility “midget” conjures a less ominous image than “dwarf,” but anyway, I gotta go. I think I used “midgets” instead of “dwarves” in a piece I wrote about Folly Beach’ s freak show of a tavern, the Sand Dollar Social Club, a while back, so I better go back and edit it. [LINK TO SAND DOLLAR PIECE]

Beep! Beep! Beep!

OTC Suggestion: replace “freak show” with “side show.”

Okay, that’s it. I’m out of here.




Imagine your father at seven, at recess, down on one knee

outside the stick scrawled circumference of a marble ring.

In his drawstring bag: clambroths, corkscrews, steelies, crystals.

A cat’s eye rests on his cocked thumb, crocked in the pocket

of a curved index finger catapult. He prepares to shoot,

to run the ring, to gather lootlike handfuls.


Imagine your mother a gum machine. Round

and finite, an array of flavors in strata, waiting for

puberty’s pennies, the shiny orbs, one by one,

patiently waiting their turn

to spin clanging down the chute

battering the hinged door that dispenses.


A Lonely Impulse of Delight

reefer_boyI suspect that I’m approaching the Guinness World Record for the highest number of adolescent behavioral modification assemblies attended by a member of the species homo sapiens sapiens.   I saw my very first around 1970 when I was a high school student myself.  It was an anti recreational drug film with a plot about as believable as Plan 9 from Outer Space’s scenario of ETs resurrecting the Earth’s dead to prevent scientists from producing a doomsday weapon that would destroy the universe.

The high school film featured predatory pushers who give away cannabis so they can hook their victims on “harder stuff,” more lucrative drugs like LSD. They snare two victims, air-traffic controllers.   Of course, eventually in the control tower during the descent of two planes, our acid-addicted protagonists suffer flashbacks featuring vintage psychedelic special effects – woo-WOO-woo-WOO . . .

Note the year, 1970.   Some kids in my high school were not unfamiliar with cannabis when they were herded into the auditorium to watch the film. The idea of people giving it away would have been a fantasy-come-true for them. Not surprisingly, feeding students inaccurate information tends to make them dismiss the entire message, even aspects that are true.

Like that 1970 didactic school assembly, many of the school assemblies I’ve sat through in my 29 years as a high school teacher have been misguided. Over the years, I’ve been bombarded with slides of chancre-encrusted genitalia as the physician describing the abominations reminded us that he didn’t take Medicaid patients, I’ve squirmed in my seat as a highway patrolman walked us through horrific photographs of mangled corpses who would have been lucky to have been pulled over for a DUI, I’ve listened attentively as a paraplegic described the sickening feeling of realizing he had no feeling in his lower body, and perhaps worst of all, I’ve suffered through forty-five minutes of a one-armed woman in a tank top running up and down the aisles of the auditorium to show and tell us just how one “bad decision” had robbed her of not only an arm (thanks to the tank top we could see all too plainly the gnarled stumplet at her armpit) but of a promising volleyball career.

On the other hand, I have also witnessed a very effective anti-recreational drug assembly conducted by a neurologist from MUSC who leveled with the students and admitted that cannabis did not necessarily lead to harder drugs and the odds of their dying from smoking it were negligible. However, she did convincingly portray via x-ray images how recreational drugs can adversely affect the amygdala, that wonderful compact cluster of neurons “up there” that triggers pleasant feelings. She argued that prolonged use of drugs like marijuana essentially destroys a person’s ability to feel joy. In fact, mighty Keith Richards more or less says the same thing in his autobiography. He quit heroin, he says, because he spent almost all of his time figuring out how to score but didn’t even get off anymore. To get off, the abuser needs more frequent and stronger doses and eventually ends up incapable of experiencing pleasure, and even if the abuser were to quit, his ability to experience joy may be forever impaired.

Dean Potter 1972-2016

Dean Potter 1972-2016

I thought of that assembly when I learned Sunday of the death of Dean Potter, a dare devil extraordinaire who got his kicks free-climbing precipitous rock faces, often solo, using only his hands and feet, i.e., unaided by ropes, safety harnesses, etc. He did carry a parachute in case he fell. Once he reached a summit, he might leap off and parachute down or jump off in a suit equipped with Rocky-the Squirrel wings and glide through the air like a superhero until he had to yank the ripcord and parachute to safety. This very extreme sport is called “wingsuit-flying,” and if you’re unfamiliar with it, check out the video below of Potter in action and the next one of someone named Alexander Polli threading the needle so to speak.


Alas, with his friend, fellow wingsuit flyer, Graham Hunt, Mr. Potter died last Saturday trying to replicate a “flight” they had taken earlier. Like the video just above, they attempted to negotiate a notch, and according to news reports, Hunt hit the side of the wall while Potter cleared the notch, but then crashed.  A witness reports hearing “disconcerting, loud sounds in succession that suggested impact.”

I know very little about adrenaline rushes outside of the relatively safe experience of dropping down the face of an overhead wave in a hurricane swell, but to Potter that would be the drug equivalent of a cup of decaf.   Did each accomplished unbelievable feat with its requisite adrenaline rush spur Potter on to attempt even more audacious exploits? Was his thrill-seeking analogous to needing stronger and stronger fixes?

Maybe not. Potter had done the flight before, but whatever the case, he died doing what he loved, and how many of us can claim that?

An Irish Airman Foresees His Death

I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;
Those that I fight I do not hate
Those that I guard I do not love;
My country is Kiltartan Cross,
My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
No likely end could bring them loss
Or leave them happier than before.
Nor law, nor duty bade me fight,
Nor public man, nor cheering crowds,
A lonely impulse of delight
Drove to this tumult in the clouds;
I balanced all, brought all to mind,
The years to come seemed waste of breath,
A waste of breath the years behind
In balance with this life, this death.

~WB Yeats


3:24 A.M. Tuesday and Counting

Alas, Lonnie sliding into second in Game 7 of the '91 Series when he had a clear path home in a 0-0 tie.

Alas, Lonnie sliding into second in Game 7 of the ’91 Series when he had a clear path home in a 0-0 tie.


Another ditty courtesy of my major muse, Insomnia, who brings us those dark hours when ghosts— in this case Lonnie Smith of the 1991 Atlanta Braves — crawl out of their shallow graves to grieve us.


A coon must be prowling round the water garden,
rattling gravel, or else frogs would be drowning out
the barking of that distant dog.

Sometimes with the windows open
I can hear the ocean, but not tonight —
just the whisper of insistent desperate yipping.

Here come the croaks — that’s better,
the hoarse sturm und drang of their desires
seem to trivialize mine.

When’s the last time I let out
a primal scream? Was it in the ’91 Series when
Lonnie Smith failed to round third and score?

Too bad I can’t slam shut my mind
like the lid of a laptop. Too bad Lonnie got deked.
Too bad that was then and now is now.