Sunday, December 18, 2011

Ode to You, ASU - NLM 160!

Dear Students of NLM 160 Voluntary Action and Community Leadership:

FINALS ARE GRADED.  I left comments about your individual exams in the Bb gradebook.

I'm very proud of this class.  There were 13 perfect 100 point exams! If we were together, I'd make you give a standing ovation to these students.

The graph above shows the spread of your scores. Although there are a couple of very low scores, you will see that they are quite skewed toward the high end of the scale.  Only seven of you earned less than a B.  

Some might say, "Well duh, you gave us the exact selection of text where we could "look" for the answers." Well, yes I did list the readings I wanted you to refer to for each question.  However, that's not really what we're seeing. 

By asking you to find an organization online and apply the information in the readings to that organization's situation, you demonstrate that you can use the information in a real life situation.  I want to know whether you can apply what you've learned, not whether you can memorize and spit information back to me.

If you can't take what you learned in class and apply it, then I've only done half my job. 

The amount of work involved in reading 60 exams is well worth the trouble, because it gives me an opportunity to see exactly what you've learned this semester and what didn't work. Here are the two biggest mistakes, both of which I consider minor because they are definitional, not substantive:

(1) About two-thirds of you wrongly identified an organization as fitting the community building model. There were two common mistakes, (a) the organization fit the civic model but worked inside a geographically bound location, or (b) the organization were "support" organizations for community building organizations, but were not, themselves, community building organizations. 

(3) About a third of you do not realize that "framing" means the way we craft language - rather than tactics - to create powerful messages that express an ideology (Lakoff). 


The beauty of this exam was that I got to see that you are capable of figuring out what these organizations were doing right, and what wasn't working for them.  You were able to identify the assets they bring to their endeavors, and suggest other resources that might improve their work.  You had thoughtful suggestions about better strategies to further their causes.   

You noticed where their framing was successfully pulling others into their work, and where their framing was frightening potential allies away.  

You were able to trouble-shoot, innovate, and suggest ways that very diverse organizations could work together. I marveled over and over again at your brilliant solutions for thinking about how diametrically opposed organizations could find a way to come together. 

A couple of you rose to challenges like joining Westboro Baptist Church or Pro-Life organizations with LGBT groups, or "out there" protest groups like PETA or Rolling Thunder with quiet cultural centers or youth education organizations! Do you realize that if you employ these skills in real life, you will bridge gaps that have stymied older generations? 

One of the most impressive things you showed me was that you know that if two groups are not ready to work together, there are still preliminary places they can meet and engage. They can pair off for conversation and get to know each other as individuals. They can convene to simply tell their stories, without any future obligation at all. There is always a starting point for trust-building.  

I don't believe in grading on a curve. I believe in making sure you walk out of my class with solid knowledge. You guys did a marvelous job and should pat yourselves on the back. 

Oh yeah, and my other favorite thing about this exam: Those who skated without reading the assignments during the semester have surely read them by now. No getting these excellent grades without reading the material! 

You were a great class. I learned as much from you as you did from me! 

Enjoy your holiday break, and when you do really amazing things in your future, which I know you all will, please let me know about it!


Sandy Price

Friday, December 9, 2011

So Many Fishies, So Little Time

"One guy could be the driest man in the universe, giving practical birthday gifts - think paying for a window washer so I don't have to get out the ladder.  The other guy could take me to the moon, turn life into something beautifully, romantically surreal. Of course, he might be poor as a dog, spending all that time writing poetry."  

In a world where most people are paired by my age, and I don't meet that many single Jewish guys in the course of my normal day, I have found a place on the online dating sites.  One such site, Plenty of Fish, has as many Jewish guys as JDate, and because the service is free, why not?  That also means I am approached by non-Jewish guys in about the proportion that non-Jews are represented in the overall population.  The interaction on these sites can be so amusing, such a study of human thought and longing, that friends have urged me to save the responses I get and write.  I've never wanted to do that until today.  Today I got two such diametrically opposed letters that I couldn't help but share.

So, to begin, I actually got more than two letters.  This morning was typical.  I received several emails - maybe eight or ten.  The majority of them started and finished with something like, "You're beautiful [hot, pretty, sexy, just what I'm looking for, etc].  When can we meet?"  This is flattering, but it is also indicative that the fellow is flipping through profiles looking for someone he can sleep with without putting a bag over her head.  If I'm up to testing this theory, I can simply check his profile, and "yup, he's not Jewish."  That is a sure signal that he didn't read my profile, in which I have three paragraphs of explanation about why - I mean it - I am only dating Jewish men.  I don't even respond to these bag men.  There are simply too many.  

What, you ask, if he's a Jewish bag man?  LOL.  I wish.  

To be fair here, we are all animals and physical attraction is worth something.  The few times I've been tempted to break my own rule about dating Jewish guys, it's because I have a strong physical attraction to someone's picture, then read into the profile and see that they're interesting too.  I have to fight those urges down, so I get it.

There's a more intelligent variation on the above tactic.  These guys say, "I loved your profile.  Check mine and tell me if you're interested."  While it purports to be interested in what I wrote, it's a no-brainer that he's secretly interested in the photo.  You can tell because he doesn't mention a single thing I actually wrote about myself.   Again, I can check my theory, and as soon as I read something like, "Good Christian, loves Jesus," or just plain "Episcopalian" in the Religion box, I am confirmed. 

Today, for example, I got a note from one Javier that said this, "You have a very sincere and open profile.  Really tells alot about yourself.  My name is Javier and I would like to get to know you better and hopefully go out and have dinner."  Javier, it turns out, is Catholic - and 32 years old.

I usually answer these, because it humors me to be honest, with something like, "You didn't really read my profile, did you?  LOL."  

I hope the "LOL" tells them that I get that he's being, as Bill Engval would say, "just a guy."  I'm not really being too snarky.  

Sometimes they come back with, "Well, you're right, I didn't read your profile, and now that I have, I apologize.  I'm not Jewish and I wish you well."  Answer:  "Thank you."

Other times they come back with, "You are limiting yourself.  You don't know where love will show up.  Please reconsider."  Answer:  "We all limit ourselves.  Some won't date someone with an opposing political view.  Others limit by body type. If you were attracted to me, I bet you passed right by all those well-rounded mamas you saw.  I have a few rounder girlfriends, and you know what, they're every bit as interesting, loving, sexual - as I am.  You're really limiting yourself."  

But my favorite is, "I didn't realize you were a prejudiced bitch.  Glad I don't have to meet you."  Answer:  [none].  Or, occasionally, if they didn't call me a bitch - just prejudiced - I tell them that my first husband wasn't Jewish, and that, although we used the same words, our underlying value system was different.  That I want someone who shares my nostalgia for my holidays and rituals.  But mostly, why talk to a wall?

Not to mention, the old saying, "Yes means yes, maybe means yes, and no means maybe to a man."  If I even continue the conversation, I'm apparently letting the man know that I'm open to talk - and hence reconsider.  So, I don't respond more often than a polite Kansas girl thinks in her heart is correct.

But getting back to my typical day.  I got two very interesting emails this morning, in that they are very different.  I don't usually write about this stuff, but these two approaches were so distinct, that they warranted a blog post.  The first writer is obviously a left-brained fella, and he's using reason and evidence to convince me that I'm lucky to have his attention.  The bottom line:  "There aren't that many men in the barrel, and if one comes along, I should grab him up."  I should tell you that this man has been pursuing me for months, AND is Jewish, and I've turned him down repeatedly on the grounds that he's ten years younger than I am.  I will date someone 5 or 6 years on either side, but I confess to a bit of insecurity about what happens when my looks take their last breath, and the man in my bed wakes up one morning to find Granny Clampet laying next to him.  Is he out the door, or does "In sickness and in health, in beauty and in decline..." mean anything to him?  Will we have enough money to keep me in botox?   

I experienced this fear, whether or not irrational, when I dated a man 9 years my junior for three years.  He was fine with it, but his friends were his age, and their wives and girlfriends were 15 years younger than I.  I have always been satisfied with myself.  I don't see myself as a great beauty - more like the girl next door.  Very happy with that.  I've learned over time that I'm not for some men, and others will like how I look very much.  But hanging around women who are 15 years younger than you can be intimidating.  You immediately start realizing all the ways you're aging.  Your skin texture is different.  They can still eat everything under the sun without effect.  Their thighs haven't started leaning on their knee caps yet.  Whatever it all is, it's like having the fact that you age - yes, I know it's inevitable - thrown into your face.  Nobody likes to look aging in the face.  

Anyway, the first writer is 10 years my junior.  Otherwise I'm sure we would have met by now.  Here's his latest argument - and as a teacher, I do have to credit him for doing his research! 

"There are 80 men for every 100 woman in the United States. Over age 40 that number becomes about 77 men to every 100 women.

30 % of the population in Arizona is considered Obese  47% of the population is considered overweight.

The number off single men over 35 as compared to single women is 2 women to every guy 2-1 which means if a guys is attractive enough for you there is at least 1 other person he could be dating. 10% of the population is unemployeed. 70 % of the men over 40 have been married at least once and have children. Which means the odds of finding a single in shape man over 40 with a job no kids is 1 out of five. Which make me feel very good about me.. Oh due to the current mortgage crissis a home owner you don't want to know..I feel even better. 

46 of the adult population is not married using the ratio 100 million unmarried males and females.

The median male income in Arizona was 33000.00 per year. So a single guy who makes 3-5 times that a year and is not married well let's just say it's about 1 in 22. I believe ever one deserves the best it's just how we define it."  

It's hard to argue with him by these statistics.  He's a catch!  And age difference or no, I should realize my good luck.  He's persistent too.  I'll give him that.

The second writer, obviously, has either been schooled in how to appeal to the romantic side of a woman, or is a romantic himself.  You never really know.  But he wrote a poem. Or he lifted someone else's poem without crediting the author.   But you have to give him credit, whether he wrote it or lifted it, for choosing it.  I assume he did not write this poem for me personally, and that he uses it with any woman he approaches. 

"i want to touch you... yes your flesh 
but more than this i want to handle 
bright glorious fabric of your soul 
with gentle hands of my heart 
let it slide though fingers 
of patient understanding 
like colorful fine silk 
leaving behind it 
indelible sense 
of your true 
i want to know you, every part of you 
all your heights of obstinate courage 
and darkest depths of fervent fear 
each wild fantasy you entertain 
and gloomy reality you face 
i want to hold you close 
and kiss you so deeply 
soul to soul with lips 
flaming imagination 
on fire with desire 
for me alone"

One of these guys could be a rock.  Stable and realistic and there for you when you need someone to be there for you.  The other guy could spend his days in flights of fancy, his feet never really touching the earth.  Or one guy could be the driest man in the universe, giving practical birthday gifts - think paying for a window washer so I don't have to get out the ladder.  The other guy could take me to the moon, turn life into something beautifully, romantically surreal. Of course, he might be poor as a dog, spending all that time writing poetry.  Can we eat poetry?

I know there are stories just like this on the other side - the male side - of this gender gap.  I have heard stories about the women who ask you right up front how much money you make, or try to move in after the very first date.  

So, these are the choices we singles get to make every day.  The mating ritual can be so interesting.

Oh, and if you know any nice, intelligent, single Jewish guys between the ages of say, 48 and 58, be so kind as to introduce me!