Please Come Back, Patrick K. Thornton

IMG_0541Dear Pat,

This time last year Alison let me come over and we sat in your den, under your beautiful Christmas tree in Sugar Land, and we talked for three hours. Our boys played outside with Nerf guns.  It was gray outside, but not too cold.  I will always be grateful to her for this–you had that hat covering your head after the radiation had been applied to your brain, you were a little tired, but wanted to talk.  It was almost Christmas.  I did not believe that it would be the last time I would see you.  I did not believe that you would only have one more Christmas. I did not believe your funeral would happen in January.  I just could not believe that you would leave us.

I was wrong. Continue reading

Scarlet Letters, Waking Up, and Social Engineering


“Don’t Worry. It’s just a fake baby.”

A version of this essay also appears today in the Gray Matters section of The Houston Chronicle, 5 February 2015.  You can read it here:

This essay was also published on 23 December 2013 in The Imaginative Conservative.

I have a friend, let’s call her Tancy, since that is her name, and she has a child attending school in Magnolia, Texas.  Now I cannot think of a more idyllic name for a Texas town, and it is absolutely beautiful and tree laden, but apparently small towns have their problems too.

They have rejected Rousseau and have public schools.

Anyway, her child has the following assignment: she can either carry a fake baby around for a few weeks, thus experiencing the perils of parenthood (it is hard to replicate the joys of parenthood with a fake baby), or, she can write a three page paper about a similar topic.

I kid you not. Continue reading

Gamification and the Classroom

I’m just old enough to remember video gaming in its infancy, and just young enough not to be mired in nostalgia for the good old days. I still play the new stuff (and some of it is quite good). There is a special kind of fun discovering a hidden level, beating the final boss, and watching a digital protagonist “level up.” It’s so fun, there is now a cottage industry focused on using the unique rewards and punishments employed in the game world to solve real world problems. Reworking an activity as a game is now called “gamification.”

As a professional educator, I am always looking for a new edge for my classes. Next semester, I’m gamifying my Logic class.

Continue reading