Should evolution be taught in school? Should creationism?

Sam Stern

By Sam Stern: One of my earliest movie memories is being befuddled watching the 1960 screen adaptation of Inherit the Wind, a fictionalized telling of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.”

The movie, based on the trial which resulted in John T. Scopes’ conviction for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to a high school science class, contrary to aTennessee state law, probably aired on television in 1964 when I was 12.

While I missed the parable about McCarthyism, which the country had recently survived, I was familiar with Darwin’s theory of evolution. I could not believe that someone could be criminally prosecuted in 20th century America for teaching science in a public school classroom. My young mind cheered when the character based on William Jennings Bryant became flustered by Clarence Darrow’s cross-examination, caught up by contradictions in “God’s Word.”

By 12, I was an avid reader. I had been attending Hebrew School five days a week and Junior Congregation at our synagogue on Saturday for several years. I understood the concept of faith and the power of Biblical (Five Books of Moses) lessons. Continue reading

Can our lives be works of art?

By Sam Stern: I am not much of a philosopher but days like this one demand some big picture reflection. It occurs to me that I’ve entered a sector in the Circle of Life that is going to involve acknowledging mortality and saying a lot of goodbyes.

Because being upright and in a position to face the emotional challenges of the end-of-life sector is better than the alternative, I need to find, and share, a coping mechanism to serve me and minimize the pain of loss.

Recently I attended the funeral of Joan Mondale, our former Second Lady. I did not know her well, other than from her public persona. But one meeting in particular amounted to more than exchanging pleasantries at mutually attended political functions and I wanted to demonstrate the depth of my appreciation by paying my respects through my attendance at the funeral. Continue reading

What advice would you give to your future grandson?

By Sam Stern:

Dearest Beloved Grandson,

Although you are still in utero, I thought it might be a good time to start sharing life lessons for you to use as guidance in the years to come.

Lesson 1. Read. Learn to read. Love to read. I’m going to be up past my bedtime writing this tonight. If you are going to ignore Lesson 1, there’s no point in my bothering. Your Papa (me) started reading voraciously at a very young age.

As a result, I was able to travel through time and space from the comfort of my home. My vocabulary developed without having to resort to flashcards. My imagination flourished and I developed a moral compass from the stories I devoured rather than from sustaining a lot of negative reinforcement after blindly straying.

As a side benefit, if we think you’re precocious, we’ll give you extra attention. I spent hours playing Scrabble with your great-grandmother Pearl from the age of 8 or so on. I’ll never forget the joy she expressed when I was able to beat her. I look forward to experiencing the same joy sitting across the table from you.

You may be thinking that these benefits are too deferred. After all, I had to pore through some World Books, the Wikipedia of my day, to develop that vocabulary. Here’s a more immediate benefit. We’ll leave you alone while you’re reading and exercising your mind. Continue reading