Thursday, April 28, 2005

"Professor Stokes". I'm teaching a four session course this week entitled "Ethical and Practical Aspects of Estate Planning" in the Graduate Program of Estate Planning at the University of Miami Law School. Back in the early 90s I taught a course called "The Estate Planning Process" in this program, and this is my first time back to the program since then. The students are all graduates of law school who are taking one more year to prepare for the specialty in which I practice. (UM will confer a "Master of Laws" on them.) About a third of the 23 students in the class went right from law school into this program; the rest have been practicing for some period of time, some only a few years, others for over twenty.

Over the last two decades, "ethics" has become a big item in both law school curricula and in the "continuing legal education" (CLE) aspect of the practice of law. There was no ethics course when I went to law school and the topic did not appear in CLE courses during the first decade of my practice. There were, however, "Canons of Ethics" that the state bars published at the time I started practicing, and they had been around for quite a long time. When we were sworn in as lawyers, we pledged to be faithful to the Canons. The bar always had a mechanism for enforcing compliance. Yet it did not seem to be a big item when I began. I think most of the principles that the Canons reflected were thought to be fairly well internalized anyway.

But things began to shake apart as we over indulged baby boomers, the Woodstock, Playboy philosophy, Vietnam generation, moved into the profession. This generation treated the law differently. If something was not expressly forbidden, then it was probably permitted, even required. And even if something were forbidden, could we narrow the scope of its prohibition, could we test the thin ice and not break through, could we get away with it? As a result, the profession felt the need to raise the profile of the Canons, to bulk up enforcement, to inject ethics into law school curricula, and to make ethics courses a required part of CLE.

Now there is an ethics industry in the law profession. There are specialists in the law schools who teach and publish text books; there is a chattering and writing class among the practitioners for which there is a subclass of ethics experts; there is a subspecialty of lawyers who defend other lawyers charged with ethics violations, a subclass of prosecutors employed by the bar to bring those cases; there is a growing body of legal malpractice plaintiff's lawyers who seek to make an ethical violation the basis of liability, and so there are insurance defense lawyers who defend the alleged ethics violator. Thus, there is this course I am teaching.

I am using the materials that the "real" professor employed for this course over the last several years developed. He is one of the specialists and the program flew him in from the University of Washington every year for this particular week. I'm a lot cheaper, so there I am. His materials have a set of 16 hypotheticals, and I am using them as the backbone of the course.

The students are strangely (to me) passive. I talk and talk, ask questions, try to get them to respond, and mostly they sit there. Only last night (the third night) did I start to get some feed back. (My strategy is to make more and more outrageous statements until someone just has to raise his hand and argue with me.) As I listened to the feedback and argued with the students, yes, I see that there is a need for this course.

I have more things to say about this experience, but let me close this lengthy post with one interesting point. Its about one of the "Model Rules of Professional Conduct", which are a set of rules that the ABA publishes as a model for states to adopt as their Canons of Ethics. The rule to which I refer is Rule 4.1, entitled "Truthfulness in Statements to Others." In pertinent part it provides: "In the course of representing a client a lawyer shall not knowingly . . . make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person . . . "

In other words, Lawyer, tell the truth.

Wow! Interesting! Novel! Let's study that idea for a week. What does that really mean? How can we use that in our practice to advance our client's cause? What are its limits and exceptions? How can we work that rule to get where we want to go? How can we use that as a lever to move our little piece of the world?
Under the Circumstances, Maybe not so Bad.

"The Christian tradition to which Davidson remains committed recognizes God as the source of all truth, and believes that Jesus Christ is the revelation of that God, a God bound by no church or creed. The loyalty of the college thus extends beyond the Christian community to the whole of humanity and necessarily includes openness to and respect for the world’s various religious traditions. Davidson dedicates itself to the quest for truth and encourages teachers and students to explore the whole of reality, whether physical or spiritual, with unlimited employment of their intellectual powers. At Davidson, faith and reason work together in mutual respect and benefit toward growth in learning, understanding, and wisdom."

-From the Statement of Purpose as recently amended. (See link below in the "Standard Equivocation" post at "Christian Tradition".)

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

“Give me my leg!” I'm reading Good Country People with the kids these days--a Flannery O'Connor classic. If you haven't read it, you really should. The characters' names are especially fun in this one.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sunday, April 24, 2005

"The Standard Equivocation." Davidson College these days is careful not to describe itself as "Christian" or "Presbyterian". Rather, it prefers to describe itself as a place of learning within "the Christian tradition" or "the Reformed tradition".

Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, in the May 2005 issue of First Things, writes of two colleges in New York, St. John Fisher College and Nazareth College, founded by Roman Catholics, but which the Diocese of Rochester no longer recognizes as Catholic. They were "decertified by the Church" at some point. Lately the two schools sponsored a performance of The Vagina Monologues, something Davidson College foisted on its students last year. Proceeds from the performance at St. John Fisher went to Planned Parenthood, Neuhaus writes. Apparently, the colleges are among those that misrepresent their religious affiliation. Quoting Neuhaus:

"The standard equivocation employed by dubiously Catholic or definitely not Catholic schools is 'in the Catholic Tradition' or 'in the Jesuit tradition'."

Leave it to Neuhaus to come up with just the right phrase that we can borrow to describe Davidson's religous sense of itself: the standard equivocation.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Roaming in Kansas

I'm holding down the fort in Dodge City, Kansas this weekend. Morgan and I arrived here at the Dodge House this afternoon. The Dodge House is no longer a Day's Inn apparently. The Day's Inn sign is leaning up against the side of the building.

Not much to do here in old Dodge City. Not so much a killer spot anymore.

We drove around for a little bit (didn't take long) looking for Boot Hill but couldn't find it. I found the Boot Hill visitor's center, Boot Hill museum ($7 a pop), Boot Hill barber, both Doc Holliday's and Wyatt Earp's Liquors, but no decrepit gravestones.

I couldn't find the OK Corral, either. This better be a good wedding.
Amazing Story

I just read the most amazing story about 4 undocumented Mexican high school students from Phoenix who beat out a team from MIT to win an underwater robotics competition. Be sure to read about it! (By the way, I think this post will say it's from Paul, but it's really from Carol.) This was linked on InstaPundit.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Attention Shoppers! The Daily Business Review reports today that IKEA will be building a store and distribution center in Broward, possibly across the street from Sawgrass Mills. (I would link you to the article, except that the Review charges for access.) As a result of this news, our rental rates for the spare bedrooms are increasing by 15%.
They're just bad people.
From Dre, Period 3: "Miss Stokes, did you know they made a pope coin? But they haven't done anything for Johnny Cochran. That's messed up."

Monday, April 18, 2005

Dare I ask again...

First period is probably my weakest class--with 17 boys, a majority of them country (read redneck), and only 3 girls, the odds were already favoring a slower class (you've read all the studies about girls generally being better students, I'm sure). The time in the morning and the late bus issue just compound the tendencies. Add to this that I'm teaching things for the first time and haven't worked out the kinks in the lesson.

Anyway, I do have some good kids in the class, and even the bad ones have won my sympathy and concern. Two of them have particulalry earned that this past week.

Students generally come in just before or well after the bell and we begin class promplty, so there's not much time for casual chatter before school begins. Occassionally, though, a tired student wanders in a few minutes before the classmates, and I'll ask how things are going.

Last week Mike came in early and sat in his front row seat. Mike was a C student first semester, but failed third quarter and is on his way to doing that again this last quarter. I asked Mike why this had happened, and he answered, "Do you really want to know?" I offered a tentative yes, with some idea of what was to come. My suspicions were confirmed: "Drugs," he replied. "Nothing worse than marijuana, I hope," I hopefully offered; "Nah, and I got caught by my parents last week, too, so I've got to stop." We discussed for a bit the problems with this habit and the bad effect it has had on him. I think he gets it; whether he actually quits remains to be seen. He was suspended today, I'm not sure why.

This morning Elaine arrived early, looking a bit down. I asked how her weekend was, she said it sucked, then I asked why. I was not expecting her reply, which she offered accross the room as she sat down (there was one other boy in the class, sitting two seats down from her, trying to do some homework, I think). "Well, when I got my birth control shot on Friday they didn't know I was pregnant and they killed the baby." Huh. I didn't know what to say. "Well, are you OK?" "Yeah, I'm fine." OK. "I'm really sorry, Elaine, that's really, really terrible." The bell rings, students trickle in, conversation ends.

So pray for these two. They're hurting.
Compassion, Not Compulsion
Want to fight a war on poverty? A volunteer army will do a better job than conscripts.
By John Fund.

From the WSJ's Opinion Journal. Marvin Olasky, contributor to World, is quoted.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Avian Flu Blog. Avian flu is 70% lethal in humans! Instapundit points us to an Avian Flu Blog. I'm thinking this is important enough to create a permanent link here at K&K.
Go Ted! Real Hard Core.
Why is NY shrinking and FL and TX are growing? A kind of friendship, actually.
Stacks: a retrospective

My stacks of CDs have been growing for years now, though I haven't cared to document their precise composition until recently. Each new CD introduced to a stack should not be considered in isolation from the CDs below it. How much is the new, irresistable CD determined by its predecessors and how much by all of the outside, social influences? I cannot say.

Toward a better knowledge of myself and my collection's/society's influence on me, I've put together a list of some of those albums that affected me a great deal.

(Note: I did not purchase all of these albums, and those that I did purchase, not necessarily did I purchase them in the same year their influence came to bear on me.)


Petra - On Fire
Petra - This Means War
Skid Row - S/T
Bon Jovi - New Jersey
Warrant - Dirty, Rotten, Filthy, Stinking Rich

"listen to this!" Macon so introduced distortion into my life in 1989. Our paths diverged in '89, also. I never was a fan of White Lion.


Deliverance - Weapons of our Warfare
Cinderella - Long Cold Winter
Living Colour - Vivid
Faith No More - The Real Thing
Petra - Beyond Belief

Thanks to Darren Lee via Macon for the Deliverance tip.


Queensryche - Empire
Holy Soldier - S/T


Sacrament - Testimony of the Apocalypse
The Lead - Burn This Record
Megadeth - Rust In Peace

Thanks to Darryl Nelson for the Megadeth hookup on the bus to Night of Joy.


Bride - Kinetic Faith
Bride - Snakes in the Playground
Deliverance - Stay of Execution
Mortal - Fathom
The Crucified - Pillars of Humanity


Circle of Dust - S/T
Tourniquet - Pathogenic Ocular Dissonance
Focused - Bow
The Crucified - S/T
Veni Domine - Fall Babylon Fall
P.O.D. - Snuff the Punk
Mortal - Wake
Precious Death - Southpaw
Randy Rose - Healing
Dakoda Motor Co. - Into The Son


The Prayer Chain - Mercury
Circle of Dust - S/T
Circle of Dust - Brainchild
Strongarm - Atonement
Six Feet Deep - Struggle
Crashdog - Cashists, Fascists, and other Fungus
Havalina Rail Co. - S/T
Luxury - Amazing and Thank you
Poor Old Lu - Sin
Stavesacre - Demo


Focused - The Hope That Lies Within
Unashamed - Reflection
Bloodshed - S/T
The Blamed - Frail
P.O.D. - Brown
Strife - One Truth
Stavesacre - Friction
Orange 9mm - Driver Not Included
Sunny Day Real Estate - Diary

Mary purchased the S/T Havalina tape for me back in '95 after I sat through 3 hours of unairconditioned exhibition of DCPS's finer middle school science projects; her project came up somewhere around hour 2.5, I think. My folks had fled town and left the duty to me.
Nothing could be finer.
I went for a 10-mile jog yesterday through the streets of Winston-Salem, which are currently canopied with a beautiful array of spring foliage. The temperature hovered near 60, there was not a cloud in the sky, the i-pod provided an excellent was perfect. I went back out on my bike later in the day to take some photos of the route to share with you all. Enjoy.

"Why Me?" Indeed. Here's a story from the Miami Herald (to which you may have to register) about the son of a lawyer who works in the firm across the hall from where we office. I never knew about this situation until I read about it in the Herald this morning. I have had a friendly acquaintance relationship with the father for many years, and knew nothing about this. What does this say about modern (post-modern?) relationships? In any event, here is a family to pray for.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Blueprint vs. Warfare Theology. Just saw a program on the PAX network that featured a debate between a Southern Baptist seminary professor and Gregory Boyd, a minister at Woodland Hills Church in St. Paul, over the question of God's sovereignty. Boyd, who has written a book entitled Is God to Blame published by IVP, believes that the future is partially open and that men and angels have a sort of free will that can change the future. As I understand what little I heard, God has a contingency plan for every possibility so that, in the end, he will achieve what he wants. But there are infinite "meanwhiles" that are affected by our prayers and decisions. I must say that I found what he said to be intelligent and attractive. The seminary professor was overmatched.

Update. Tom's comment prompts me to find the link to this article from CT. To read more articles on this theological issue, go to the CT website and search under "Pinnock" and/or "Sanders".

The PAX program to which I refer is Faith under Fire, hosted by Lee Strobel of "The Case for . . . " series of books.

And how about IVP publshing into this issue?! That takes courage.
Free Book. Girls Only. Carol recently finished leading a Bible Study for which the study guide was Cynthia Head's Becoming a Woman of Freedom. NavPress is the publisher. She has two copies left over, so let us know if you would like to have one, and we'll send it to you. Carol recommends it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Sin City

hopeful and life-affirming
This is good.
Given the audience, I'm surprised no one identified my Karl Barth Church Dogmatics: A Selection in one of the stacks; but it was there. And for your further edification, here's a selection from it:
No sentence is more dangerous or revolutionary than that God is One and there is no other like Him. All the permanencies of the world draw their life from ideologies and mythologies, from open or disguised religions, and to this extent from all possible forms of deity and divinity. It was on the truth of the sentence that God is One that the "Third Reich" of Adolf Hitler made shipwreck. Let this sentence be uttered in such a way that it is heard and grasped, and at once 450 prophets of Baal are always in fear of their lives. There is no room now for what the recent past has called toleration. Beside God there are only His creatures or false gods, and beside faith in Him there are religions only as religions of superstition, error and finally irreligion.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Because I can't sleep and it's so great and really is the winner, and for Tom, too.
The Hollow Men
Thomas Stearns Eliot

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer --

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Stacks Mix

I'm working on my mix for those who identified cds in the stacks I posted a couple of weeks ago. (i.e. mary and sean)

Right now, in no particular order, I've got

"Lost Ones" - Lauryn Hill
"Underneath" - Starflyer 59
"Zero" - Smashing Pumpkins
"Rocky Racoon" - The Beatles
"Blinded" - Focused
"Violence of Love" - Crashdog
"Waiting Room" - Poor Old Lu
"Which Side Are You On" - Dropkick Murphys
"The Needle Lies" - Queensryche
"The Rookie Year" - Brandtson
"Struggleville" - V.O.L.
"Get On" - Third Day
"Vial" - Mortal
"Everything Goes To Hell" - Tom Waits
"Another Morning Stoner" - ...Trail of Dead
"Po' Boy" - Bob Dylan
"Heaven Sent" - Cush
"Bendy Line" - The Prayer Chain
"The Ballad of The Blamed" - The Blamed

I'll send a copy to whoever might want one. Let me know.

The organizing principle here is one song per cd. A band may only appear once. (some bands, though identified correctly, failed to pass muster with me this Sunday afternoon) First priority given to those cds correctly identified, 2nd priority given to those that should have been identified, 3rd given to those that would have been identified had I posted a higher-res photo.

I've published the final order above. In honor of Tom's stellar performance tonight, I've included The Ballad of The Blamed as the closing track. Unfortunately, I needed room and removed Bill Mallonee's "High...and Lonesome". My thinking is that Bill is already representing on the VOL track, and if you really want that track, then you should support him and buy his new album. Not to mention that Greg Minier plays my all time favorite guitar solo on TBOTB.

Latino and proud.
When I was home in Miami several weeks ago, and was out driving the bullet, I discovered that the face of Miami's airwaves had changed significantly since my last visit at Christmas. The third or fourth pre-set station, somewhere behind WMCU, NPR, and maybe Y-100, had always been Zeta--Miami's Rock station. That has all changed. Now, 94.9 is Mega Miami--Miami's voice for Latin hip-hop and reggaeton. Perhaps you can envision what is Latin hip-hop: just take the latest hip-hop hits, anything from Ludacris to Jay-z, and then mix it with some samples of latin beats. I can't explain reggaeton quite as well, so I recommend that everyone just start listening; For those of us who are currently displaced and living outside of Miami, this is our chance to get up on the latest, greatest beats before the reggaeton craze sweeps the nation and the world and all the rock and roll stations get switched. You heard it here first.

Friday, April 08, 2005

And the winner is...
I am sure you have all been waiting with bated breath for the results of the career center poetry tournament. I apologize for the delay. Your wait is over.

In both first and third periods, it came down to Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" and Shel Silverstein's "Sick"; "Sick" proved to be the stronger competitor in both matches, though "Still I Rise" played a tough game. Students had to write a 1-page response to their choice for winner, and most students seemed to prefer "Sick" because of first-hand experience with what it relates. The students who got behind "Still I Rise" fought hard to the end, and wrote good responses in defense of their position; for the most part, they found the poem inspiring, with good rhythm and a clear message.

Fourth period is a bit more mature than the morning classes, and "Sick" actually fell out of the tournament in the first round. The poems which made it the furthest were "Still I Rise" and Langston Hughes' "Theme for English B" (which has a line that says "Born in Winston-Salem," which pulls the kids in from the start). It was very close, but "Still I Rise" edged out the competition to rise to the top. A few students elected to write reponses for some contenders that washed out early, including Plath's "Daddy" and Robinson's "Richard Cory". I did play the Simon and Garfunkel rendition of that latter poem, which garnered it a few extra points in the end, I believe. Perhaps that wasn't entirely fair, since I did not have songs to go with every poem; however, I felt that Richard needed a little help and didn't think that it would significantly alter the course of the tournament.

In sixth period, the championship game was interesting: the familiar "Still I Rise" had predictably made it; but we had a surprise appearance by Arlene Tribbia's "Sure"--a new face to the eleventh grade poetry world for many. It did not finally pull the upset, though, and "Still I Rise" once again pulled out on top.

Here are some highlights from the tournament:
from Tiffany: "'Still I Rise' to me was the best. There was no competition with this poem. It was something that I could relate to because you are always confronted with so much jealousy and hatred most of the time for no reason."
From Jess: "'Still I Rise' was an awesomely good poem."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


I just deleted a post about the Maynard James Keenan (singer for Tool) becoming a Christian. It can't be true. That's too crazy. It must be a practical joke to hype a new album.

thanks to Tom for the tip

April fools. Who's the tool now? Thanks again to Tom.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Collateral. Saw this movie last night on DVD. It stars Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. Michael Mann directed it, so it had to be distinctive, and it is. Violent, surreal, smart. A guy movie. Cruise is the devil himself. He pushes Foxx to an act of self-sacrifice in which Foxx finds redemption, emerging from the tomb-like wreck of his cab to become a new man, ready to save the damsel in distress and destroy the personification of evil who, up to that point, seemed omnipotent. Maybe that's what Satan is here for - to push us out of our tendency to safety, push us to make risky choices for the good of others.

Toward the end, when Cruise is chasing Foxx and damsel, the sound track explodes with drum beats - straight from the Last of the Mohicans. A fascinating movie, even with a certified Hollywood ending.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

A Modern Tracker Pipe Organ. I found this website for Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, MN, that describes its modern tracker organ. I was pretty close on the general description of a tracker.
Organs and their Music. Walter sent me the program from an organ concert given on March 16, by Elaine Dykstra at West Hills Presbyterian Church. I wish I could have been there to hear it!

As I grew up at Central Baptist Church in Downtown Miami, I heard its wonderful pipe organ at least twice a week. I thought it natural that when you went to church, there was a pipe organ. Off I went to Duke in 1964, but in the early 1970s, when we moved back to Miami, we attended Central for awhile, and about that time they were installing a new one and raising the money for it. (The old one had several ranks of wooden pipes, and the termites had done their vandalist work.)

Duke Chapel had a huge pipe organ, a "tracker" organ. That means that it used old technology to connect the keys to the mechanism that opened the airways to a particular pipe to make the sound. That old technology was mechanical - the key on the organ console was somehow mechanically connected all the way to the box where the airway was opened. Among other things, it meant a delay between the piont where the organist pressed the key and the time when the music rang out. So, when the choir was singing and the director gave a down beat, the organist, anticipating because of the tracker delay, had already pressed the keys.

(The Duke Chapel organist's name was Mildred Hendrix. Two weeks ago, a group from John Thatcher's prep school, Darlington School at Rome, GA, came down to see him and they met at my office. The group included the president of the school, Jim Hendrix, a Davidson grad who had been raised in Durham and whose mother was Mildred Hendrix. She was a marvelous artist, and Jim told me she had been a pianist early in her life and one day had been asked to fill in on the Duke Organ. She taught herself the instrument, and there she was about 30 years later when I showed up.)

Another feature of the tracker organ is the initial sound it makes when the air is first released into the pipe. It makes a "shoosh" sound or so I was told at a lecture I heard at Duke given by the organistE.Power Biggs. He said that the "shoosh" differs from the initial sound that the electronically actuated pipe organs make at that point. Biggs said that this initial, almost imperceptible sound, makes a significant difference in the beauty of the music that follows it. (I think I hear that "shoosh" when I hear a tracker.)

He saw the tracker organ not as just beautiful but as a sort of metaphor for beauty.

I would be interested in knowing whether the WHPC organ is a tracker. (If it were not, it would not mean that it is not a beautfiul organ. I have heard it, and it is beautiful.) Has any of you heard a tracker?

Saturday, April 02, 2005

"Court-imposed Homicide." That's what Ralph Nader calls the Schiavo death in this interview worth reading.
"Odd Felos". Michael's strange lawyer.
Where is Judge Sirica when we sorely need him? Too bad the judge who accepted the Sandy Berger plea bargain lacked the will, intelligence, integrity or whatever to refuse it and require a full disclosure of what in the world was going on.
Diversity on Campus?

Instapundit had a link on Thursday to some thoughts by Todd Zywicki on "Why Campus Intellectual Diversity Matters." I think it's well worth reading his analysis.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Poetry Tournament
March Madness comes on strong here in North Carolina. To capitalize on the energy, I planned a tournament of sorts for my four eleventh grade English classes. Rather than basketball teams competing, however, we've got modern American poems playing games. We skipped ahead in the tournament to the sweet-sixteen round (I don't think my students could handle 64 poems all at once). Over spring break last week, I selected the lucky 16, some by well known poets, others by poets I had never heard of but found on a website called "Poetry 180", complied by former poet-laureate Billy Collins. I tried to get a good mix of poems to appeal to a diverse group of students. The sixteen poems, in no particular order, are as follows:
1. "Out, Out--" by Robert Frost
2. "I Rise" by Maya Angelou
3. "Hate Poem" by Julie Sheehan
4. "Ballplayer" by Evie Shockley
5. "Fastbreak" by Edward Hirsch
6. "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes
7. "Death of Santa Claus" by Charles Webb
8. "The Grammar Lesson" by Steve Kowit
9. "somerewhere I have never travelled" by ee cummings
10. "Wheels" by Jim Daniels
11. "What I Would Do" by Marc Peterson
12. "Sick" by Shel Silverstein
13. "Sure" by Adriana Tribia
14. "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath
15. "Richard Cory" by Edward Arlington Robinson
16. "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke

We've made it through round 1, and will complete round 2 on Monday.

Some observations:
  • I picked "Out, Out--" by Frost thinking that my students would like the story of a boy getting his hand chopped off by a saw and then dying. I was wrong. They did, however, like Richard Cory shooting himself in the head and the whiskey on papa's breath.
  • "Daddy" got mixed reviews--some students were engaged by the longish poem; some students only looked up when I got to the end and said "Daddy, you bastard." Many took the poem literally--as in her dad really was a nazi. Most became more interested when I told them that Plath really was crazy, and she killed herself at the age of 30.
  • Everyone liked "Sick" by Silverstein. So much for trying to teach a little literary sophistication.
  • No one liked "The Grammar Lesson". They never do.
  • My African-American students (as well as quite a few others) really liked "Still I Rise" and "Theme for English B". My redneck country boys, however, did not. I am hoping that things will not turn ugly come the championship game.
  • Students were generally not impressed by ee cummings, even when I explained that like many of them, he did not use capital letters or traditional punctuation.
  • Both "Ballplayer" and "Fastbreak" were about basketball, but only students who liked basketball gave them high scores, so they didn't last too long. The more universal the poem's appeal, the better it fared.

    I'll let you know which poem wins.