Friday, April 30, 2010

Nothing is certain but death and TAKS

TAKS week is nearing its end! Students across the state took the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills this week in a variety of subject areas. At one of my schools, the third grade hallway was decorated in celebration -- stars and paper chains hanging from the ceiling, glittery good luck wishes from parents prominently displayed, and handmade posters by the students along the lower part of the wall. Though there was a "block party" in the hallway last week, I didn't take a close look at the posters until this week. It's one thing when I rant and rave on the blog about standardized tests; it's another thing to see how the kids really feel about them! Should I notify a psychologist?

The last one reads (or can be translated as), "The TAKS has been terminated! And I got commended." Some students receive "Commended Performance" for very high scores. But it looks like that TAKS got commando-ed!

Making it official

Rice recently opened up a shiny, new gym facility. Thoughts of the upcoming summer caused me to wonder if I, somehow, could have access to such riches. A few e-mails and a few weeks later, Garrett and I found ourselves at the Rice police station, making it official. I am now the proud owner of a Rice Spouse ID card! This means I can access, among other things, the gym and the library at Rice. Woohoo! "Domestic Partner" was the phrase Garrett chose when filling out the form -- it was he who had to sign off on the card and swear that he would assume financial responsibility for any damages or fines I may incur while assuming my Rice identity. Afterwards we tossed around other phrases, such as "Sugar Mama of Garrett Grolemund" or "Personal Servant of Garrett Grolemund." The ID is valid for one year, so we have plenty of time to brainstorm.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Deep thoughts, by Kristin

I like to study language. Whether it's when I'm reading, when I'm listening to NPR, or when I'm having a conversation, I sometimes lose track of what people are saying and begin focusing on how they're saying it. So I've made a decision to write a brief post on it. Or did I take a decision to do so?

Turns out that in Spanish and in French, and in British English and Australian English, people say "to take a decision" instead of "to make a decision." I think this is fascinating. Why the distinction? Does it have a cultural significance? Is it the difference between a more laidback, or passive approach to decisions -- and a more trailblazing, defining, aggressive approach to decisions? "Taking a decision" conjures up an image of an array of choices that are already laid before me on silver platters -- and that it's just a matter of selecting which is the best fit for me. "Making a decision" conjures up an image of a sculptor carving out his destiny -- of seeing something one wants, and going out and seizing it. This seems to me to be a division of temperaments -- European vs. American. Are we as Americans obsessed with creation and progress and the idea of the self-made man? Is making more empowering than taking?

William Safire wrote a column about such "Britishisms" in the New York Times more than 20 years ago. Read it here! I like that he compares "taking a decision," "taking tea," or "taking your point" to accepting a serve in tennis.

What do you make of that? Or, what do you take away?

Saturday, April 10, 2010