Magnum Opus

Magnum Opus                                                                                            April 7, 2016           The real voyage of discovery consists not of seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes. – Marcel Proust

This all started in 2012* in response to discussions on a listserv for foreign language teachers regarding the connection between poverty and school performance. That series of posts was titled Weiher Question # – . In June of this past year, the discussion started up again. Here is what Jim Weiher wrote:

“Hi Pat,

I have continued this conversation because I really want to understand your world view, how you came to it and what it means. I do not want to be adversarial. If I am forgive me and try to understand what I should have said.


You may remember that after our discussions a year or more ago, I started to think about the concept of differing world views to explain how intelligent, educated and experienced individuals can have such different points of view on some subjects. A world view develops over time based on our experience and how we interpret it. our personal world view is a window through which we view the world around us and is rather resistant to change, e.g. Einstein had a world view in which the indeterminism of Quantum Mechanics could not be real and in spite of all evidence firmly maintained, Gott würfelt nicht = God does not throw dice.”


That struck me as getting to the bottom of so many looping discussions on not only listservs for teachers (grammar or no grammar or a little grammar? good kids vs bad kids, etc.) but on the many other blogs I am on and in newspaper columns. So several of us on the listserv moretprs began discussing the role of poverty in our education system and, as all things seem to go in our society, the role of race in poverty. After a bit, a number of people asked us to take the discussion off the list (they have a non-functioning delete button), so five of us did. One dropped out due to the demands of teaching but I am sending him this Magnum Opus of mine anyway.

And let me be clear: I don’t expect anyone to read this whole thing. Again, I felt Jim’s comments provoked some real thinking on my part and it fit right in with two categories on my own blog (Pat’s Worldview and Basics) that I’ve been wanting to flesh out more. While some view talk of racial issues as dominating the scene, many of us believe race is not talked about in any useful way, so Jim’s willingness to expose himself to the most divisive issue of our society intrigued me. I am so exercised by the experiences of my last 55 years that containing my outrage is not easy and I hope to excise it from the main body here but will devote a separate section to the bile and vitriol I feel.

And by the way, if anyone wants to throw brickbats at Jim in the name of holy Liberalism, refrain; Jim’s views are extremely common in our society and the nicest people hold these views. That is the purpose, for me, of writing this: to explore how it is that what many of us see, the 800 pound gorilla of race, is invisible to many of our fellow citizens. Throughout the commentariat education gets short shrift sometimes but clearly it is another major issue of our times and for me, race is the factor that accounts for what many see as a decline in education in our country. It must be explored if we are to understand the underpinnings of our educational system, public and private, religious and secular.

My thanks to the five of us who have contributed, especially to Jim for having braved the slings and arrows of a pack of liberals. My thanks also to my wife and to Jim’s wife for both women have put up with our fussing over our e-mail messages for months now. Here’s a clue as to how fraught with change this whole discussion will be, complexifying everything: Jim and I, both elderly, remember a time when “wife” would mean female; now we must declare: my wife is female and I assume Jim’s is, too. And thereby hangs a tale.



*Important note: an asterisk throughout both the Magnum and Parvum Opera refers to specific e-mails in the exchange that I can pass on if the reader would like to see just what was said.

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