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EDUCATION MATTERS:

I asked my students, as I do each Halloween, what scares them these days, and I got the usual answers, with this year’s movie “Paranormal Activity” heading the list. (Most of you 18 or older might want to skip this one).

The kids asked me, “What scares you, Mr. Kimber?” and I had a rather different list having long ago conquered my fear of creatures in the dark. It’s more likely, though, that I’ve only substituted different, albeit more tangible, fears for the ones of my youth. Here’s just a sampling:

I’ve been reading the obituaries lately instead of just glancing at them in my daily read of the newspaper, and that’s beginning to scare me. The “old codgers” that dominate the obits are now more my contemporaries, and a certain clock seems to be ticking just a little louder these days.

It scares me that we teach more about our human diversity than we do our common humanity. I know that this is a recurring theme for me in this column, but I can’t help but think that the stakes get higher with each passing year, and with people all over this world of ours retreating behind national and cultural and religious emblems to define themselves.

Religious fundamentalists especially worry me, and none of the major world religions is free of their pernicious influence. They will kill or be killed in the belief that God is on their side.

Infidels and heretics and pagans (Oh my!) are the intended targets of “true believers” looking to make righteous war in God’s name. Whether that involves blowing up people or consigning nonbelievers to eternal damnation, it’s all part of the same delusional insanity that infects organized religions the world over.

Plastic scares me. It has become the most ubiquitous product in the world and quite likely the most destructive of our environment. Hundreds of billions of pounds of plastic are produced each year, all of it resistant to degradation.

Global warming scares me. I’m afraid not for me, but for my grandchildren. I’m afraid that they will not enjoy their lives to the extent that I have. It pains me that an issue involving the health of our planet has become politicized and taken over by the extremists on both sides of the issue.

On the one hand, we have environmentalists, and the other, powerful corporate interests. The first group doesn’t scare me, but the second one does.

The first group is, at worst, alarmist and possibly injurious to our economy. The second, at worst, will cooperate in the gradual destruction of our planet for the sake of profit.

Offshore drilling for oil brings back fears of disastrous spills and fouled beaches. Our state’s “never again” resolve after the oil spills in the late ’60s has been worn away in deference to our continued and growing appetite for the stuff. We postpone the more difficult and long-term goals involving alternative energy sources, and it seems to me that if we had gone down that road back in the ’70s, Iraq would probably not have seen one American soldier on its soil 30 years later.

Insurance companies getting richer/more powerful should scare us all. That’s what will happen regardless of what national plan is ultimately adopted, and what really scares me are the great number of people who prefer this to a government option that would take the profit motive out of health care, or at least make it competitive.

WhocanIsue.com — these people are frightening. It’s an actual website that weds lazy lawyers with lazy people who can choose from a long list of complaints they have or might invent. A match is made with a legal entity that operates under a business model of “bring in as many cases as you can and we’ll settle them for you.”

A few weeks back I wrote about lawyers joining forces with parents of special-needs students. One local attorney responded to that article with the following:

“California has too many lawyers, and some of them are marginal, desperate and lazy and are always looking for an easy way to make money that doesn’t require research or writing.”

Perhaps down the road we will witness an explosion of these kinds of lawsuits filed against school districts on behalf of kids who aren’t as smart as their parents think they should be, creating a whole new class of victims entitled to compensation.

I can’t decide which are scarier, these lawyers or their clients.

Maybe we all need a good scare toward the end of the year to bring out into the open the things that lurk in the darkness and cause us to fear for our well being. And perhaps what follows in the final two months of each year is the perfect complement where we set aside our fears, count our blessings, celebrate peace and promote good will.

Even if that doesn’t erase our deep-seated fears, it’s a welcome respite and, if we do it right, a renewed hope for a better world.


 DAN KIMBER is a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District, where he has taught for more than 30 years. He may be reached at DKimb8@ sbcglobal.net.


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