Category Archives: Nathan’s Essays

Book Banning and Educational Freedom

Nathan Powell submitting his latest essay for English at Trenton College dual credit course.

Censorship is a topic often associated with totalitarian governments and repressive regimes, yet, in our own United States, many books, including such classics as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, and Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, have been banned from public libraries at one time or another for various kinds of objectionable material.  Massive changes in the way society and individuals view once-uncouth topics have drawn the debate over where the line between free speech and dangerous expression lies into sharp focus.  In their article “Counterpoint: Book Censorship can be[sic] Justified in Some Cases,” authors Christina Healey and Tracey M. DiLascio eloquently and convincingly argue for the use of censorship as a precise tool to protect children from concepts and ideas that could negatively affect the child’s development.

Healey and DiLascio emphasize the power of books to influence a culture and the need for parents to be able to choose what books their children read.  They say, “[books] can be used to educate, to inculcate values and transmit ideology, and to stimulate the imagination.  They can instruct in civic virtues or contain instructions to build a bomb” (Healey and DiLascio par. 5).  By this, the authors mean to inform the reader of the importance of the debate over whether books can severely influence those who read them.  The authors state that “ … it is important that parents be given information about the books that are being made available to their children” (Healey and DiLascio par. 9).  Healey and DiLascio believe parents armed with this information would be better able to make wise decisions about what their children are exposed to, and thus, better able to challenge what books should be purchased with public funds and what books should be removed from public libraries.

To establish a framework for their paper, Healey and DiLascio give a brief overview on the history of book banning in the United States, stating, “Book banning in schools or public libraries generally begins when a concerned parent or group of parents takes issue with a literary text on (usually) moral grounds …” (Healey and DiLascio par. 1).  They list several examples of books which have been banned and the reasons why, ranging from inappropriate language to depressing content.  This context they provide is vital for a realistic discussion of a hot-button topic such as censorship, as it allows the reader to understand that the form of censorship in question is not repression of divergent ideologies, but rather is the careful consideration of what topics young minds are prepared to understand, for which there is a strong precedent here in the United States.  This list also demonstrates the variety of reasons that could cause a book to be considered worthy of a ban, and shows that we must not take the power of censorship lightly for fear of overextending across the boundary between protecting our children and oppressing free expression.

Next, Healey and DiLascio discuss some of the issues surrounding young adult (YA) literature, a highly controversial genre, that make the censorship of these books from public libraries seem sensible to some parents.  As they explain, “One is that many books targeted at or assigned to the teen audience have increasingly graphic violence, sexual content, drug and alcohol content, and obscene language” (Healey and DiLascio par. 8).  This dark turn in YA books can be seen simply by investigating the youth adult section of one’s local library.  From post-apocalyptic gladiators to fantasy settings shrouded in shadows, the literature gracing the shelves may capture the imagination, but it no longer does so through inspiration and encouragement, but rather through visceral shock value.  Proponents of these books say that discussing topics that are normally considered taboo can increase awareness of persons in these situations.  However, critics, myself included, contend that books such as these glorify lifestyles and actions which are dangerous and that these concepts should not be perpetuated by public funding in school and public libraries.

Finally, the authors emphasize the importance of parental engagement in their children’s literary pursuits, advocating, “Just as parents monitor the music, video games, and movies to which their children are exposed, parents should be aware of what books their children are reading” (Healey and DiLascio par. 4).  Healey and DiLascio contend that the parental right to educate one’s children in the way one sees fit supersedes the right of free expression where public funding is concerned, so parents should have the right to petition for books to be removed from school and public libraries.  While some might see this as suppression and exclusion, I think the reality is that restricting books that convey negative messages with which a parent disagrees allows parents to better impart their sense of morals to their children.  Rather than relying on the permissive morals of the collective masses to decide when a child is ready to learn about a certain topic, the parent can make an informed decision on a child-by-child basis, which encourages greater diversity of ethics.  In other words, giving the parents the right to control what their children are exposed to can create greater expression instead of repressing it.

The perfect balance between censorship and expression will probably never be struck, but the fact that we have this conversation gives me hope that as a society we will continue to search for it.  In “Counterpoint: Book Banning can be[sic] Justified,” Healey and DiLascio offer a compelling line of reasoning to support parental censorship of children’s reading material and in this specific scenario, I find myself in support of their argument for replacement and restriction to introduce children to difficult concepts in due time.

Works Cited

Healey, Christina and DiLascio, Tracey M. “Counterpoint: Book Banning can be Justified in Some Cases.” Points of View: Banning Books 2015: 3. Web.

Shetland Bus

Hey guys!  Once again, it’s Nathan, guest writing here as I’m too lazy to make my own blog.  Today we have an effect essay I wrote analyzing the effect of the Shetland Bus on the Norwegian Campaign in WWII (roll credits).  With just one more paper to write and one sitting in the queue, we have nearly reached the end of my planned contributions to the blog, but never fear, I plan to continue writing throughout the summer, though less frequently.  As always, enjoy, and please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.  Thanks!

On June 9, 1940, after 62 days of fighting, Norwegian forces surrendered to their German invaders and the Norwegian monarchy was forced into exile in Great Britain.  This was only the beginning of the resistance in Norway as the remaining armed forces, with Allied support, carried out a guerrilla campaign against the German occupation for the next 5 years.  In December of 1940, the Secret Intelligence Service and the Special Operations Executive sent Major L.H. Mitchell to the Shetland Islands to arrange a system to deliver supplies and men to the Norwegian resistance.  Named Operation Shetland Bus, this system’s brave volunteers had a strong effect on the Norwegian campaign by shuttling refugees, spies, and munitions between the Shetland Islands and the resistance forces in Norway, and serving as a symbol of hope to the Norwegians still under Nazi rule.

Aksel, one of the first fishing boats used during Operation Shetland Bus
Aksel, one of the first fishing boats used during Operation Shetland Bus

One of the ways in which Operation Shetland Bus affected the campaign was by helping fugitives running from German arrest escape to safety in Great Britain.  Many Norwegians had already fled for Great Britain by the time their government capitulated, and as author Brenda Ralph Lewis notes, “These refugee Norwegians proved an ideal source of recruiting for the arduous undertakings Operation Shetland Bus was going to involve” (Lewis 20).   The ships of Operation Shetland Bus would often sail at night in the winter, braving choppy seas to deliver their precious cargoes, Norwegian citizens fleeing the Gestapo, and the experience of these Norwegian fishermen proved invaluable in navigating the dangerous waters.  Despite tremendous odds and the ever-present danger of being intercepted by German warships, over the course of the war more than 350 refugees would be rescued and transplanted in Shetland, many of whom would find a way to contribute back to the war effort.

Operation Shetland Bus also affected the campaign by aiding Allied espionage in the region, establishing radio transmitters, and landing agents in Norway.  In fact, on August 30, 1941, the operation’s first mission was completed by the Aksel, a fishing ship recruited for the service, when they successfully landed an agent carrying information for the local resistance corps in Bergen, Norway (Lewis 20).  These agents relayed information which allowed for large-scale coordination of resistance activities throughout Norway, and by ferrying these agents back and forth across the stormy North Sea, Operation Shetland Bus served as a vital link between the resistance forces and their exiled monarchy.  Operation Shetland Bus would eventually deliver 60 radio transmitters and nearly 200 agents who would establish a network that sent a continuous flow of information about German movements back to Great Britain.

The most obvious effect Operation Shetland Bus had was the way in which the munitions they delivered were used.  According to Lewis, by the end of the war, almost 400 tons of munitions had been landed, much of which was carried in the holds of the so-called “buses”(fishing ships requisitioned by the operation for their ability to blend in with common fishermen) which could carry as much as 10 tons of explosives at a time (Lewis 20).  With these munitions, resistance forces were able to raid strategic targets and sabotage German efforts, such as the strike on the heavy water plant at Vemork, in which Norwegian commandos were able to destroy both the facility and the entire stockpile of heavy water, which is used in the creation of atomic weapons.  Although there were no major battles during the conflict, Allied and Norwegian commandos and saboteurs also raided German installations along the vast Norwegian coastline and destroyed German ships and supplies throughout the war.

Perhaps, however, the most important effect of Operation Shetland Bus was the hope it inspired in the Norwegian citizens.  It was a beacon for partisans and patriots, giving them a cause to which they could rally, and rally they did.  From circulating an underground newspaper filled with transcribed Allied radio broadcasts to wearing paper clips to show that they were bound together, the entire Norwegian people flocked to the cause of their nation’s freedom and that of their exiled government, and in the process, they denied the legitimacy of the puppet government established by Vidkun Quisling.  The Germans issued severe reprisals for the action of the resistance, but the limited number of Norwegian collaborators hampered these efforts to break the spirit of the Norwegian citizenry.

Operation Shetland Bus ran until May of 1945 and its ships sailed 90,000 miles over the course of their service (Lewis 20).  Despite brutal odds, Norwegian sailors and Shetland civilians continued to contribute to the war and eventually, on June 7, 1945, King Haakon VII of Norway landed in Oslo, five years to the day since the German invasion forced him from his throne.  Thanks to the efforts of the brave individuals involved with Operation Shetland Bus, the Norwegian resistance was never repressed, and their rightful government never deposed.

Works Cited

. “Operation Shetland Bus ferried spies, supplies and refugees to and from Norway under the Germans’ noses.” World War II Jul. 99: 20. Print.

Shetland Bus Memorial.  These pictures were kindly sent to be by David W. Earl, who took the pics himself. The long, narrow plaque says "The Shetland Bus 1940-1945". The small plaques have the inscription "Alt for Norge" (All for Norway), with some names of casualties underneath. I'm unable to read the names on the picture on the left (see external link below), but the picture on the right has the following: Harald Dye, Arthur Byrknes, Nils Horgen, Olav. L. Kinn, Olav Melkevik, Ole Strandkleiv, Kåre Støbakvik (all from Sandøy I), Bård O. Grotle, Schander Berg, Ivar L. Brekke, and Tore Frøysa (boat's name for the latter 4 was Aksel). The oldest was 27, while most of them were in their early to mid 20's, except for O. Strandkleiv, who was 19. All of them died in 1942. The plaque next to it has 12 more names, for whom the boat also looks like Aksel.
Shetland Bus Memorial. Photo by David W. Earl.  The long, narrow plaque says “The Shetland Bus 1940-1945”. The small plaques have the inscription “Alt for Norge” (All for Norway), with some names of casualties underneath.  Harald Dye, Arthur Byrknes, Nils Horgen, Olav. L. Kinn, Olav Melkevik, Ole Strandkleiv, Kåre Støbakvik (all from Sandøy I), Bård O. Grotle, Schander Berg, Ivar L. Brekke, and Tore Frøysa (boat’s name for the latter 4 was Aksel). The oldest was 27, while most of them were in their early to mid 20’s, except for O. Strandkleiv, who was 19. All of them died in 1942. The plaque next to it has 12 more names, for whom the boat also looks like Aksel.

Blog note: We learnt about the Shetland Bus whilst visiting the Scalloway Museum in Scalloway, Shetland Islands, Scotland.  We highly recommend this first rate museum!

More information at the Shetland Bus website.

Help from America:  In the autumn of 1943 the Shetland bus operation received a major boost in the form of the arrival of three small American ‘sub-chasers’ (submarine chasers). They were named the HESSA, HITRA and VIGRA and were under the command of Petter Saelen, Ingvald Eidsheim and Leif Larsen. Each boat had a crew of 26 men, of whom three were officers. They were fast and efficient.

The Look

Hey!  It’s Nathan guest writing once again.  I wrote this piece as a contrast essay for my English class earlier this month.  Thanks for reading!

It’s an unconscious reaction.  Strangers just can’t help but do a double take when they first discover that my siblings and I were home educated.  They describe us as “surprisingly normal and social.”  Their reaction reveals an underlying notion that homeschoolers are supposed to be strange, that they are somehow supposed to be different from their public school peers.  These experiences have taught me that although public and home educated students are actually quite similar, there exist major differences in how their respective education systems approach social exposure, academic scheduling, and athletic opportunity.

The first difference is in the way students learn social skills.  In public schools, the students learn through inoculation, adapting social skills in a largely untampered environment.  Most social interaction occurs between the student and his peers, then the skills learned in these interactions are extrapolated to interactions between the student and his elders.  The student must also adapt to certain social norms to fit in with what’s popular, or else risk being ostracized from the general pool of his fellows and suffering the ultimate social humiliation: being labeled “weird.”  This fear leads the student to shun people and ideas that could be considered strange and stifles the development of a unique sense of self in favor of a character that better fits with what is the norm.

In contrast, many forms of home education seek to teach students to interact with their elders first.  Once the student understands how to address his elders, he is well equipped to interact with his peers by extrapolating the respect with which he addresses his elders to his relationships with his peers.  This respect causes the student to take every concept at face value and choose the ones which best reflect his own tastes, rather than selecting friends and activities based on social enforcement.  The student is thus able to find his niche while at the same time respecting other viewpoints.

Another difference between these education systems is their respective flexibility.  In public schooling, the students live by a consistent schedule, much like they will in life after school.  This is necessary in a system where there are many students enrolled, as it would be impossible to account for the individual needs of each student.  Although there is an inherent rigidity to this, it allows the school to organize events and classes which require large groups to work together regularly, such as dramatic productions or fundraisers for trips.

Conversely, in home education there is a great deal of flexibility, with the academic schedule often being adjusted to fit the needs of the family.  In addition to this, since the home educators are in charge of the curriculum, they can tailor the academic experience of the student to his specific needs or interests.  Since the curriculum can travel with the family, home educators and their families are able to take trips during the school year that they would not be able to otherwise, increasing opportunity for the student to be exposed to other cultures and foreign ideas.  While it offers many advantages, this flexibility requires the student to learn to keep his own schedule and stay on pace if he wishes to succeed after graduation.  It also makes coordination between home education families difficult, limiting their ability to create clubs and other organizations.

A final difference between  public schooling and home education is athletic opportunity.  In public schools there are many different sports teams with which the student can be involved and there is often a focus on athletic ability, with those students who are athletically gifted being treated differently by their peers and their teachers, though this treatment is not always favorable.  Since schools often offer several different sports, the student can choose the ones that best suit his talents, whether football, basketball, soccer, or another.  Even those students who are not involved in competitive sports can take advantage of PE classes and club sports.  These teams and clubs help foster fitness, sportsmanship, and teamwork in the students and can help students receive scholarships to colleges they would have otherwise been unable to attend.

Home educated students, on the other hand, do not have these same opportunities.  Unless one of their parents has an athletic background, homeschoolers often do not learn to play sports, and unless they are part of a cooperative home education group, many families replace physical education with practical arts.  These homeschoolers learn trade skills instead of sportsmanship, workmanship instead of teamwork, working fitness instead of athleticism.  Unfortunately, this effect makes it difficult for home educated students to receive athletic scholarships, making it that much more difficult for low-income students to achieve higher-level educations.

These are just a few of the differences that exist between public and home education.  While public schooling offers greater peer interaction, more school based activities, and more opportunity for athletic advancement, home education allows the student to learn from his elders, travel more due to academic flexibility, and study his environment, creating a young adult who is arguably better-equipped for life than his public school peer.  I would argue that while both systems have their advantages, the reality is that good students will succeed in either system, and poor students will fail in either system.  Perhaps, then, we can remove the stigma associated with being home educated, and realize that the only true difference between homeschoolers and their public school peers is the system in which they were educated.

A Star Is Born?

Nathan here, guest writing once more!  This is the narrative essay I wrote for my dual credit Composition class at NCMC.  I had forgotten to release this story a couple weeks ago, but now I can claim that my blunder was simply a calculated step to save this tale for the one-year-anniversary of opening night for Les Miz.  So anyway, to the story!  Enjoy. My hands were shaking as the emcee finished his opening remarks, so I took a deep breath to slow my pulse as the orchestra began to play.  The line in front of me had begun shuffling forward onto the stage, mallets in hand, moving in time with the music.  Despite every instinct screaming for me to turn and run, I gripped my own mallet tightly and fell into step at the end of the line.  Two measures and four steps later, the hardwood floor of the wings gave way to large square sections of plywood and for the first time in my life, I stepped onto the stage as an actor.  Working for this moment had taught me perseverance far beyond any I had ever known, and now it was about to pay off. The entire saga had begun eight months earlier, when my music teacher, Olivia Coon, suggested I audition for a role in the upcoming production of Les Misérables being staged by Carousel Productions in Macon, Missouri.  The words “Les Misérables” had hardly left her mouth before I was asking when auditions would be held.  It had always been my dream to perform Les Miz, as it’s known to its fans, and besides, how hard could an audition possibly be? It turns out the audition was much harder than I could have imagined.  On a cold November evening, I walked into the Royal Theatre for the first time, at once supremely confident and extraordinarily nervous.  People continued to trickle in until the whole lobby was full; by the time I was called into the audition hall there were at least 50 people, and with every competent-looking individual who had entered, my confidence had taken a hit.  Suffice it to say, a bad case of nerves and a shattered confidence did not serve me well during my audition.  Little more needs to be said except to explain that I was assigned spoken lines in a musical. In spite of my setback, I was determined to carve a role for myself; so when rehearsals began in January, I decided that if I still failed, it would not be for a lack of effort.  I made sure to arrive on time, if not early, for every rehearsal.  I practiced every chorus and every minor solo.  I leapt at any opportunity to fill in lines if someone was absent and to accept whatever part was available.  By the time the cast was finalized at the end of the month, I was rehearsing as Courfeyrac, one of the students; Constable #1; and as a convict in the chain gang. February was a hard month; whereas January had been very fluid and relaxed, with most of our rehearsal time being spent solely on the music, in February we moved into the theatre and discovered the challenge of fitting 60 people into a space designed for a much smaller cast.  I think the cast’s first realization that this was real— that our community theatre truly was performing Les Miz— came in this first week of February, as we quieted our jokes, shortened our conversations, and extended our rehearsals.  We no longer had time to sit and chat, especially those of us with multiple roles.  It was not uncommon to see fellow actors run from one wing, down the stairs, and into the dressing room to change, all before racing back to the other staircase to be in position for the next scene.  Because of these challenges, it was in this month that the bonds amongst our cast were forged.  Whether it was reminding someone of their position or helping a friend tie his ascot, we realized that we must support one another for the show to succeed. With just three weeks until the show a sense of urgency developed in the cast.  We were now able to run through the entire show consecutively, but we still were not close to having a stage worthy performance.  Despite any worry this may have caused our directors, though, we never panicked.  Much of why we were able to stay calm and focused can be attributed to the efforts of the principals; those people who held lead roles and helped lighten the mood while never being distracting.  Our Jean Valjean, Joel Vincent, was especially supportive of our motley assortment of revolutionary students, and even when we completely botched a scene, he would always be there with a silent high-five and congratulations. Finally, with a week to go, we were ready.  All the patience on our director’s behalf, all the determination of the actors, and all the tolerance of our families had come to this point— now there was nothing to do but wait. The tension in the air was palpable on opening night.  The audience’s, the cast’s, my own, it all washed together as we, the chain gang, entered stage right.  An expectant hush fell over the crowd as the two lines of convicts opened the show, our footsteps in time with our rhythmic chant as we reached our positions on stage.  I took my spot in the front corner of the stage, dropped to my knees, mallet held ready, and waited for the cue to start work. Our mallets kept the rhythm throughout the scene, but the crowd didn’t notice; they were enthralled by the energy sparking between Javert and Valjean.  “Do not forget me,” you could almost hear the audience as they took a breath in anticipation of Javert’s final line, “2-4-6-0-1!”  The rest of the chain gang and I stood, turned, and exited the way we had entered, and as we left, we echoed the ominous words of the chain gang’s lullaby: “Look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave, look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave.”  The thundering applause that escorted us from the stage didn’t make me feel like a slave, however: as I raced down the stairs to change for the next scene, I felt as though I could fly.

Lonely Statues

My son, Nathan, is guest writing today!

Lonely Statues

Standing on a faded red and white thirty foot tall tower, the white Charolais bull statue at the junction of Highways 5 & 36 in Laclede, Missouri, is a local legend.  Erected in 1972, the statue has for many years informed passersby of the location of Lamme Farms, the now-defunct ranch once run by June Lamme and her late husband, Bill.  Despite the statue’s landmark status, many people have forgotten that Lamme and her husband were instrumental in the introduction of Charolais cattle into the region.  Lamme Farm Charolais sign

Initially, Lamme’s husband raised Charbray cattle, a Charolais-Brahma cross developed in Mexico, but Lamme says, “They were really touchy.  They wouldn’t let us pet them, we couldn’t get close to them.”  Their experience with the Charbray taught Lamme and her husband they would prefer to work with a breed that was more approachable.

Finally, in the early 1950s, her husband made the decision to “breed up” to full-blood Charolais, which was a tamer, gentler animal.  He then bought full-blood Charolais from the Wrigley family in California.  When asked if she meant the family that founded Wrigley Company, Lamme exclaimed, “Yes, and Bill always said it like that, ‘Wrigley Chewing Gum people is where we got our start!’ ”  With this choice, Lamme Farms became one of the first breeders to introduce pureblood Charolais into Missouri, along with the McGinnis brothers of Lathrop, Missouri, and the Litton Charolais Ranch of Chillicothe, Missouri.

Lamme and her husband then joined the American-International Charolais Association, or AICA, a registry designed to prove the pureblood pedigree of Charolais cattle.  This required them to send in paperwork and documentation for every animal to the headquarters of the AICA, which at the time was in Houston, Texas, but was later moved to Kansas City, Missouri.  She remembers travelling with her husband to the international meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.  Lamme tells how one year she and her husband were invited by their hosts to dinner at their host’s home in the mountains, “We could look down and see Phoenix, and see all the lights.  This was quite an experience for me.”  She sweeps her arms apart as she speaks, to symbolize the magnitude of the view, and her eyes sparkle as she stares into the distance.

The Lammes also worked to promote the Charolais breed as a whole, and in 1963 they helped found the Missouri Charolais Breeders Association, or MCBA, an organization devoted to the promotion of Charolais cattle.  Lamme laughs as she passes on the wisdom of her husband, “Bill always said it’s easier to sell someone else’s cow.  You can brag on it and it doesn’t sound like you’re the one bragging.”  Mr. Lamme would be elected to the first board of the MCBA, and would later serve as president of the organization.

When asked about her role in the group Lamme says, “They’d give anybody a job.  One time, they asked me to be in charge of decorations at our Charolais Congress in Kansas City at the Muehlebach Hotel.”  The Charolais Congress was an educational event on the promotion of Charolais, which preceded a “Red Carpet sale,” held in conjunction with the American Royal livestock show.  “For the first time [the Charolais Congress] met, I had these beautiful flowers for the head table, then I would move them to…wherever there would be a meeting.”  Lamme smiles as she reminisces about the splendor of the event, “Then we moved, on a Sunday, to the Red Carpet sale… We used the same flowers all around where the red carpet was and the cattle were brought out on the red carpet to be introduced to the crowd, who would then start buying… Who’d ever heard of going to a cow auction and have flowers there?  But the Charolais people did it up right.”

Despite all that, in the mid-1970s the Lammes decided to sell their herd, after Mrs. Lamme began leading tours.  “In 1970, I planned my first tour to Europe.  It was 21 days long and it cost $750… We had enough [people] that we did two tours.”  Mr. Lamme had planned to join her for the first tour, but one of his bulls injured him and he was unable to travel.  The next year, however, was different.  “Bill got to go this time, and he realized what a wonderful trip it was, and I enjoyed it so much more when I could share it with him.”  A fond smile tinged with sadness crosses her lips as she describes travelling with him, “I’ve had a wonderful life, and gone on wonderful trips, but those years when Bill and I went together, those were the best years, looking back on it now.”

Shortly after those first trips, Mr. Lamme began contacting other ranches, looking to sell his herd.  Lamme sighs wistfully before completing the story of their herd,  “He had been writing this ‘special report,’ as he called it, a list of every Charolais breeder that advertised in any magazine…he knew quite a few people through that, so he talked to somebody up in Canada, and they came down and bought all of [the Charolais].”

Lamme Charolais cattle 1990

The Lammes sold their herd, and after everything they had done to promote Charolais, they were now out of the business.  Mr. and Mrs. Lamme would go on to start the Green Hills Travel Center and would lead tours around the world together until Mr. Lamme’s passing in 1991.  Now, many people have forgotten the history of Lamme Farms, and this story ends where it began, a lonely white statue atop his tower, watching over pastures long void of his kin.

Lamme, June.  Personal Interview. 2/9/2015