Notes from the Sub Terrain: Drafting class

May 18, 2007

[Another in an occasional series of stories from a substitute teacher.]

In the days prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (and for many years after, really), in our district every 7th grade male took wood shop, and every female took home economics.  The wood shop course included a half year of drafting.   Shop courses continued annually after that for anyone so inclined, and a lot of people were. 

In our not-yet-suburban community, the skills of using high power tools were highly prized.  Every male was expected to know how to bend metal, use a torch or electric welder.  Farm kids were expected to know how to castrate sheep, turn a calf that started down the birth canal the wrong way, put crude shoe on a horse in an emergency when the farrier was too far away. 

Houses came with as few as two bedrooms.  Every man was expected to be able to plan out the additions as the babies came, and build the things – laying out the plans, getting the permits, calculating the lumber required, laying the foundation, wiring and plumbing as necessary, putting up the lath and plaster, or later, dry wall, making the trim, laying carpet or tile, painting and finishing.

Kids in Texas can take a shop course or two in high school, but especially under the scheme of the No Child Left Behind Act, the skills of drawing up plans for a room or a chest of drawers, and executing the plans, are skills of little regard. 

Drafting was always fun, though.  The architect’s rule, protractor and S-curve were exotic tools, and we took great pride in mastering their use.  Shop instructors usually had  story or two about George Washington as a surveyor, and Thomas Jefferson as inventor. 

Drafting is still fun, but it’s a different course completely.  The course is all electronic.  The drafting room is cool to keep the computers cool, and the software is fantastic.  Drawings are printed out on 3-foot-wide sheets of paper by large ink-jet printers that make a graphic display-oriented teacher salivate.  When I lamented the lack of the tools we had used, the kids said that they had spent several weeks using them at the start of the year – and then they switched to computers.  They said it was the difference between horse and buggy and jet airplanes. 

About half-way through the first block, a student came in with a note from another class.  His teacher said he’d finished his work there, and he was free to do drafting.  He booted up a machine, spent about 20 minutes in furious action completing a blueprint for a building.  With about 15 minutes left in the class, he hollered to another student across the room that the student had pulled a dirty move.  Immediately five or six others commented on it – and it became clear they were deep into a group role play game.  Hard work, then hard play.

As with the basketball class, discipline was no problem.  The students, with savvy that  made it look easy, took care of the class details.  Their own discipline got them through work they claimed to be fun, and then they moved on to what would be distracting frivolity, had they not completed everything else first. 

A lesson in motivation is buried there, somewhere.

News blackout on Gonzales?

May 18, 2007

Gonzalez gone? Who noticed?

U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, the subject of the lead editorial in the New York Times Thursday morning and on the front pages of newspapers nationwide, was the keynote speaker at a luncheon honoring civil rights leader Whitney Young, for the Boy Scouts, in Dallas, Wednesday, May 17.

But who knew? News media did not cover the speech – were they barred? – nor did anyone involved make any fuss. There was no press release from the Justice Department, no press release from the Circle 10 Council, B.S.A., no speech text . . .

One would think it would be news simply that the nation’s attorney general was speaking at an event honoring Whitney Young. One would think that any speech by Alberto Gonzales would get coverage by at least the major local news outlets. Heck, the luncheon was MCed by a local television weather guy – his own station didn’t bother to cover it?

If an embattled attorney general speaks up for civil rights and youth development, but no one is there to listen, does it matter?

Did I miss the coverage of the speech? Why the news blackout, and who asked for it?

New information, May 19:  One of the purposes of Gonzales’ trip to Texas was the annual meeting with U.S. attorneys, in San Antonio.  That meeting was off-the-record, private, etc., etc.  See this report at Think Progress.

Green light bulbs, and World Net Daily trying to make a hoax

May 18, 2007

World Net Daily’s inaccuracies and blatant, fact-bending bias would be the source of much great humor, if so many gullible conservatives did not take the thing seriously.

Recently WND featured a story about the impossibility of changing light bulbs to save energy, alleging that doing so might turn one’s home into a toxic waste dump that costs $2,000 per bulb to clean up. Was anyone suckered in by the story?

According to, both Fox News and the Financial Post also got suckered, probably from the WND story.

Chiefly, that these news outlets got suckered is evidence they need better copy editors and fact checkers. Time for such news organizations to raise the pay of their “morgue” keepers and librarians, to get the facts straight. Read the rest of this entry »

Honor the Texas flag . . .

May 18, 2007

. . . by flying it correctly.


What other state flag has a website dedicated to its proper display? S.P.P.D.F.T. is one more indication of the unique nature of Texas, and Texans.

The California flag, for example, is virtually impossible to get wrong. Where’s the fun in that?

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