Archive | September, 2012

Pop Quiz!

30 Sep

Pop Quiz

Are You a Capitalist or a Socialist?


Drinks water from the tap after

It has been filtered, sanitized and

Delivered by a Gov. Agency


Pays extra to buy that same water

In a carcinogenic, plastic bottle.


Realizes that talking or texting on

Your cell phone while driving in

Your car is a detriment to your

Safety and the safety of others


Couldn’t care less. You bought it

And since you’re paying good money

For it  you’ll use it when you damn

Well please!



Votes yes for the school budget

When your kids are in public

School and continues to vote yes

Even after they have graduated

Because all children need a

Proper education.


Votes no on the school budget

Because you don’t have kids

In the system.


You pay your fair share of taxes

On what you earn according to the

Federal tax code.


You never declare what you

Actually earn and love to

Get paid in cash.


You donate to charities because

The cause is good


You donate to charities

Because the write-off

Is necessary.


You support the military and serve

In the armed forces if and when

Drafted, or enlist when needed.


You support the military

And avoid service under

Every circumstance.


You wear your pants at the waist

Because its where pants are worn.


You wear your pants below

The waist because it’s



You wear shorts

when it’s hot out.


Your shorts are as

long as your pants.


You don’t litter


Litter is for kitties


You recycle


You litter


You conserve energy


You never turn anything off


You eat until you are full


You eat until it hurts


Your car gets good gas mileage


Your car has a second job as a boat


Too much is too much


Too much is not enough


You believe in savings with interest


You believe in the 401K


You are concerned that

Everyone should have access

To affordable healthcare


You are concerned that

YOU have healthcare


You believe that

The best worker is the

Hardest worker


You believe that the

Best worker is the

Cheapest worker

SCORING: If keeping score is that important to you then you’re probably a NY Jets fan so why bother… You’re a Romanticist!      

Is “Adult” Really Just Another Word for XXX?

29 Sep

Adults and Responsibilities

When I was a child way back in the late 1950s and 60s I remember being aware of a distinct difference between the adult world and the world of the child. We kids were always running around and playing or falling down and getting hurt or doing the wrong things and getting into trouble or having to sit still and behave or being made to take showers and baths and go to school and church etc., and adults were not.

 Adults were always in charge and they always seemed to be on the same page in just about everything they did. One adult was pretty much like the other. If you went to a friend’s house to play and you met your friend’s parents it was like meeting your own parents… All over again! They said the same things, had the same rules, wore the same clothes and did the same things. We never saw them running or jumping or playing or falling or getting into trouble… or anything for that matter! They lived in another dimension: The adult zone. They lived in other rooms that we couldn’t go in and seemed to disappear only to reappear when we did something wrong or had to go somewhere we didn’t want to go or wash something we didn’t want to wash.

It was weird and kind of creepy but it was the adult world and it was a place where we were all heading and would find ourselves someday and had to get ready for because someday we would be adults and have to live where they lived…in the adult world!

Kids played with other kids and adults never showed any interest in participating with us and it was pretty hard to even get them involved if we wanted to.

“Hey dad! We were thinking about going to the store!” hoping that maybe my dad would take the hint and offer us a ride. “Yeah? He’d always say, How ya gonna get there?” That was always the end of any conversation with my dad. “How ya gonna get there?” We couldn’t drive. We were just kids! Parents back in those days would always know just how to cut to the chase. We were just kids and we couldn’t get anywhere and we didn’t have any money so we went to school, did our own things and minded our own kid business and waited until we could become adults.

But today those divisions between the kid and the adult world have been all but obliterated. Adults today won’t leave kids alone! And instead of kids trying to grow up and become adults it’s the adults who are trying to behave more like kids. Now it’s the adults who are involved in all of the running and the jumping and the falling and the misbehaving and the partying and the troublemaking too. Who’s providing that stable adult world environment for the kids to aspire to? Some adults are, for sure, but not enough anymore to provide that iconic adult realm that kids would look expectantly forward to where they knew their lives would someday be filled with stability and sameness and calming boredom.

Today’s world is a free-for-all where it seems everyone is careening towards the same age. Mom’s on Facebook! Dad’s on the internet pretending to be a teenage girl! Your daughter has breasts at 9 years old and is hoping to someday become a successful pole dancing stripper like that grown up old lady, Miley Cyrus who she saw on video! (And she’s already practicing her primping, prancing and teasing in Advanced, Junior, Midget. Pee Wee Cheerleading!)  Your 10 year old son is already a veteran of World War III…in Cyberspace! Wherever that is! Experienced teachers are dating 5th graders while inexperienced 5th graders instruct adults on Television!

Where are the grown ups? Who’s minding the store? Has the golden age of television replaced the classics as a reference source for the civilized world? Will this unstoppable new virus called modern technology turn us all into same-age juvenile delinquents? Because everywhere we look now-a-days we can see and hear adults bemoaning, “They have to have it! We have to buy it! I don’t see how we can live without it no matter how much it costs! How can we keep them from going there and doing that and behaving like this and eating that and buying what they want…” How can we control them? We can’t control ourselves?!

Parents used to do it. I remember when. I was there. I’m not sure how they did it but I’m pretty sure it had to do with growing up and maintaining self control and taking on responsibility and well, acting like an adult and taking charge. I do know however, that we can’t go back to that time in the past or make the world be like it was then, nor should we want to. But parents had something back then that is lacking in many parents today. Even now I can still hear what my dad’s solution would be…

“Hey dad! We want to go to the internet!”

“Great! How ya gonna get there?!”

Back then parents were adults and ADULTS OWNED EVERYTHING, including access. Adult’s don’t own crap now-a-days and access is everywhere and access has become excess and it’s triple x all day long 24hrs a day.  One of the lessons that we need to learn or perhaps re-learn is that ownership, in the sense of taking responsibility for our actions and owning up to what our responsibilities are toward each other and our children, is everything and the public, us, everyone, must own the public schools together.


Vowels and Vulgarity

28 Sep

One Day in Class…

A student raised his hand and said, “Hey Mr. Picone, why is that bitch in the front row so ugly?”

One of the things that can make being a teacher so difficult is that on most days you just never see it coming.

I must warn you. Life in the public schools is not that easy…There is vulgarity there!

! I’ve never been to sea and I’ve never been a pirate but I’ve often heard that sailors and pirates are famous for their salty talk and off color language however, I have spent 50 years in the public schools and I can tell you that the vulgarity and profanity that can be found within our halls of education is a match for any profession legal or ill. And oddly enough in education it’s the kids who lead the way and blaze new pathways in obscenity not the adults. Adults have to watch what we say or it’s the highway for us. Some punk will rat us out to the administration and the next thing you know you’re being reprimanded for not setting a good enough example for the children. Good grief!

Every unutterable syllable of perverse, offensive and sexually explicit language that I’ve ever learned, I’ve learned in school from some classmate or student of mine. (well at least until the invention of HBO) I was never in the military nor did I work in construction so I will admit to leading somewhat of a sheltered life and I will also admit to being a little behind the curve when I was a student in high school as I often had no clue as to what other students or adults were talking about or referring to when they spoke about sex or used profanity. I had no idea what a douche bag was just that I didn’t want to be one and I thought that Pussy Galore was just a cute name for a girl that James Bond liked. Back in those days (when I was a kid) adults could use double entendre and innuendo to make inside adult jokes that were secretly shared between other worldly adults… and only the savviest and most corrupted children might be in on the secret, but naive kids like me still had no clue. Heck, I only just recently realized that Miss Kitty of Gunsmoke fame on TV was a prostitute who ran a whorehouse! How did I miss that? They called her Kitty which rather than just another cute nickname for Katherine was undoubtedly another inside joke that Ms. Galore would have clearly been in on.

Anyway, as I got older I picked up more carnal word play by listening more closely in the hallowed hallways of high school, college and beyond until suddenly in the late 70’s,  I found myself right back where I started; In high school again! Only this time there was a new generation in town and the walls of double entendre and innuendo had all but crumbled and disappeared. So much so that not many people even know what those two words mean anymore. And I was shocked to hear what I was hearing. The adults no longer owned profanity. The kids did! How did that happen???…I certainly know that teachers did not teach it in school, that’s for sure.  The Great Vowel Shift in the English language which changed the way we speak and pronounce and even spell words began sometime during the 14th century for reasons still not sure to linguists…but who or what was responsible for this great vulgarity shift in civilization that has changed the actual civility of our civilization? Any thoughts or guesses? Discuss! (nicely)

Feed Your Head: Playing Games

27 Sep

Fine Arts Project!

Educational researchers have found that if you learn something from a musical or theatrical game or through an artistic process you can still access that knowledge when answering conventional test questions. This type of learning works great with students who often struggle in more typical instruction and verbal based settings.

Project: Play games!

 Play with your children and with your friends and play games that involve academic and learning skills like:

Hangman, Scrabble, Sidoku, Mad-libs, Upwords, Rook, Royalty, Quiddler, Boggle, crossword puzzles, word searches, charades, Trivial Pursuit, What would you do?, Password, Name that tune, puzzles, Pictionary, Jeopardy, Who Am I?, Concentration…

Feed Your Head: Singing

27 Sep

Fine Arts Project!

Educational research reveals that the best start for developing the infant’s brain is to sing songs. Singing can help elevate their powers of understanding, and they will be more likely to show astounding speed in learning math and languages.


Project: Sing to your babies! Sing with your babies! Teach your babies to sing along with you and make singing and song a regular part of your day every day.


Remember; don’t sing too loud or raucously. You still want to protect your baby’s head from damaging decibels that could do more harm than good. Sing gently and quietly while they are sleeping and even play soft music in their rooms while they are asleep. And skip taking your children to the rock concerts and arenas or any concert where the music is amplified and potentially damaging to the young (and older) ears alike. Let them grow to be old enough (and sane enough) to decide on their own how best to damage themselves!

Feed Your Head: Music

26 Sep

Fine Arts Project!

Educational research has shown that involving art processes when teaching academic subjects will help to improve the student’s understanding of that subject. Additional studies have found that skills from the arts do transfer to other areas of learning and even student behaviors such as cooperating; solving problems, taking initiative and being prepared will improve when arts related projects are integrated into regular subject areas. In other words, getting involved in the arts is good for you and will improve your general well being. You’ll become a better learner, feel more confident, and be a better friend, partner and companion to others!

Project Assignment: Music!

Learn to play an instrument…listen to music…listen to hear the individual instruments… attend a professional concert …attend a concert at your child’s school…attend a concert with your entire family…listen to a style of music that you would not usually listen to…or have never listened to…listen to the music that your children listen to…listen to the music that your parents listen to… sing out loud…join a choir…go caroling with your family or friends…listen to the words of a song carefully…discuss what they mean with someone else…write your own song…learn to whistle…whistle while you work…write your own words to a favorite tune…sing in the shower…sing with your children…encourage other family members to play instruments…form a family band for fun…sing karaoke…

Everyone listens to and enjoys music of one form or another but the key to improving your brain through music is to make your relationship more participatory. Don’t relegate music to the sound track of your life. Create your own music!


Art Imitating Life?

25 Sep

                                                      Just Some Gambling Advice

Did anyone feel like they were watching Leslie Neilsen as  Frank Drebin in a scene from The Naked Gun last night when the NFL referee walked onto the field at the end of the game to announce whether the infamous (and wrong) Touchdown call was going to be upheld in front of thousands of screaming Seattle fans? Did he have any other choice? He even had that sheepish look on his face that said, “I’m sorry that we’re getting it wrong but you hometown fans are really going to love me for this!”

If the NFL Bigwigs decide to keep these amateur officials on the field in the weeks ahead I think we should all start betting heavily on the home teams!

Feed Your Head: The Arts

25 Sep

Fine Arts Project!

art/ɑrt/ [ahrt] –noun 1. The quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Art, by allowing us to individually express our own feelings, experiences and realities helps each of us to answer the question, why? If we are honest about life then we know that there is always a why to be asked. And if there is always a why to be asked, there must also be the ability to imagine what we might yet know.

Setting our children, our students and ourselves on a lifelong journey with the arts, will encourage us to develop our own perceptions, appreciation and relationship with the world. I believe that nothing is more important than this. Even though people require relationships with others in order to lead a happy and healthy life, we are all still very solitary creatures immersed in our own self interests and we need to develop a relationship with our world as we see it and feel it and experience it during those times when we are alone. That’s what art is for!

It’s no accident that the arts have existed since the beginning of recorded time and undoubtedly since before that. We as artists have the ability to create that, which did not exist before, do we not? So then are not artists creators? Is a creationist then an artist too? Is, was, God an artist? That might explain a lot about what befuddles us in this world don’t you think? Discuss with yourself or whoever’s handy!

Kill the Umpire?!

25 Sep

                                                                NFL Imitating Life?

As I sat and watched possibly the worst NFL game in the history of the world I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what life has become and why we just can’t seem to get along and fix anything anymore. Have we all gone crazy? First I thought that the NFL referees were on strike but my son set me straight last week and informed me that they were being locked out of their jobs by the NFL owners. The referees have a contract and it is valid for this year!

Who cries foul louder than an NFL owner when one of their players refuses to honor their contract and demands a renegotiation before, during or after their contract has legally expired? A contract is a contract they say and must be honored by all honorable men. Negotiations can take place when a contract is fulfilled! And yet here are the owners refusing to honor a valid contract by locking out the referees.

And all of the fuss is over about 40 million dollars worth of additional compensation that the two parties are disagreeing over. That sounds like quite a lot to you and me but when you consider that each NFL franchise is worth an average of 1.04 billion dollars then the extra amount that they would have to pay to the officials when compared to their total annual revenue is about 0.2 percent! Not 2 percent but point 2 percent. That’s 2 tenths of one percent!

Do you think that anyone in the NFL (owners, coaches, players, trainers, anyone???) will have to downsize their lives should the referees receive the extra compensation they are asking for in a new contract? I’ll bet most of you who are reading this know all about downsizing one’s life in this difficult economy. We NFL lovers have even had to downsize our expectations when it comes to watching the games! But will the owners suffer? Do they ever? So what’s it all about? And why is there no one with any power or outrage or sense to do anything about it?

It’s just a game I know but All the fans would have to do is skip one game to make their feelings known and solve the problem but of course they’ve not only invested in a seat license for every game already but have also already been sold all of their tickets (clever owners). How about the NFL players association? They have one of the richest unions in the world. Why aren’t they supporting their union brethren and refusing to take the field? That would solve this problem in a heartbeat. Or how about the networks who have invested 27 billion dollars for the TV rights to the games. They could black the games out for one Sunday (probably for just 1 minute!) and demand that the owners put the complete product that was paid for on the field. At the very least I would think that the gamblers and bookies and odds makers of this country would be tearing off their own arms in solidarity, demanding an end to this fiasco so they could place a proper bet for crying out loud.

But no! And perhaps the most puzzling phenomenon of all is that here in a free country none of the players or coaches or networks or gamblers or anyone even seems to want to talk about the lock out or its unfairness publicly for fear of what? Is the money that everyone has invested in the NFL that important? So important that reason and sanity have to be shoved aside for fear of losing one lousy buck or .2 percent of our bucks? And Is what we are seeing in the NFL, in this silly game that was once a simple recreational college pastime, a mirror image of what life has become in the richest country in the world? Paralysis by wealth? Too much much? Too much desire for a silly thing that we like to do to care about why something else is happening?

Is that why we can’t seem to do anything sensible around here any more? We just love our money and our things and our petty entertainments too much to put them aside for a few minutes and restore some sanity? How can we not have proper healthcare and food distribution and housing and education and human services for everyone in our country when we spend hundreds of billions of dollars on football?… And not even football is happy!!!!!

Feed Your Head!

24 Sep

Feed Your Head: Try the Arts!

Hopefully some of the stuff you’ve read in this blog will provide you with answers to many of the questions that you might have about education. I also hope that they will raise many questions that will lead you to great conversations and further debates and hopefully more answers and then still more questions that you haven’t even thought about yet. That’s how the process works! And it all gets done in the brain and hence, my advocacy for helmets. We must protect the head, but protection is not just about what goes on the outside to keep the inside intact and secure. It’s also about what we input or feed that most marvelous collaboration of neurons and synapses and dark gray matter, to keep it going and running smoothly like a fine tuned well oiled…thinking machine.

I’m sure All of us would agree that if you want to keep your body in shape you need to exercise regularly, so then wouldn’t it make perfectly good sense that if you want to keep your mind in good shape you need to exercise your brain regularly? Of course it does! (My apologies for answering my own question for you but I promise you’re on your own from here on in)

One thing that I would often do in class would be to ask my students to raise their hands if they thought or suspected that their brains were broken. Usually (Never say always in a school) no one would raise their hand. In fact usually the students would feel insulted and would get angry with me for suggesting that something might be wrong with their brains.

“So then, I would continue, if your brains are fine and work just as well as everyone else’s why are you always complaining that you don’t understand this, or can’t remember that, or can’t figure out what to do, or this is too much reading, or that takes too much thinking? If you all believe that your brains work perfectly well then what’s your problem?” And of course they would each individually reply, “I dunno.”

Just like the person who lies around the house too often or stays in bed too long and then doesn’t want to get up and do something because they feel “tired”, many students have “tired” brains from a lack of use or stimulation. Certainly our brains are always “on” and taking care of the basic functions of day to day living but many of us simply don’t challenge or exercise our brains on a regular basis with higher order thinking and problem solving. Then when we are put into a situation like school where we are faced with higher order mental challenges and thinking situations many of us are more apt to simply say, “My brain is tired. It needs to stay in its bed and do its usual thing and not be bothered so please leave me alone.” Or rather we say, “I can’t do that or I don’t understand that or that makes no sense to me” We are just trying to get our brain back under the covers and turn off the alarm and go back to where it’s nice and warm and safe and comfortable that’s all. That’s why watching movies or television or videos and listening to music is so popular. The videos and the music do all of the work for our brains all we have to do is work our eyes and ears and we don’t even really have to work them, they work themselves don’t they?

Writing and reading and creating music take so much more effort because they require a much more active brain state. We have to think for ourselves and take our brains off automatic pilot and fly the brain ourselves. That’s more difficult. That’s work! And that is also brain exercise!

Little children love exercising their brains. Have you ever watched how little kids take everything in and how they are always eager to ask questions and learn new answers that create more questions for them, so much so that adults will try to wear them out by giving them so much to do or think about in the hopes that they will finally just overload and go to sleep so that they, the adults, can finally get some rest. When we are little we are very aware of how much we need to exercise both our body and our brain. They are developing, they need input…and lots of it!

Somewhere along the line we forget that and slow down and lead ourselves to believe that we need more rest than we do but it’s actually just the opposite of what we need. We now know that the brain is constantly developing and devising new ways to utilize and wire itself for its continued development. That is if we are using it! Just like our bodies need regular exercise in order to continue building muscle and functioning at peak performance, our brains need regular exercise to continue to develop and function at optimum levels.

We need to stay busy! We need to provide input. We need to keep thinking! Humans need to do and see and look and talk and sing and dance and read and write and draw and paint and create! And that’s where the arts come in. The arts are what distinguish us from other living creatures. Human Beings have the ability to use the brain to create that which would otherwise be useless to other animals so what function could the arts possibly serve?

They exercise our brain! They stimulate our thought processes and our ability to expand our thinking. While other animals’ brain’s mostly fill their days occupied with the maintenance and operation of everyday bodily functions our brains can actually engage in the very real immaculate conceptions of the thoughts, ideas and abstractions that only human beings, Homo sapiens, can create! It’s what we do…but also unfortunately what most of us often forget that we can do. That’s why the arts are so important and that’s why they should always be included, in one form or another, in our schools and our family lives and our everyday routines on a regular basis.  To be truly well educated one must not only learn to appreciate the arts, but must have rich opportunities to actively participate in creative work. The arts are languages that all people, child and adult, speak, cutting through individual differences in culture, educational background, and ability and they can help our brains turn abstractions into concrete reality.

Study after study has shown that students who become involved in art and music or who had participated in acting, play production, music performance and appreciation, drama appreciation, and art history will score higher on aptitude and standardized tests and students with long-term arts study (four years or more) tend to score significantly higher on the SAT than those with less coursework in the arts. What this means is that one very simple, easy and even fun way to exercise our brains is by tapping into our natural childlike sense of artistic wonder throughout our lifetimes to help make them work more efficiently and productively and even more happily! How easy is that?!

So another way to protect your child’s head and your head too while you’re at it, is by feeding it properly. Don’t just cover it up with protective gear and keep it away from blunt force trauma, make sure it’s getting healthy and nutritious inputs too. So get with it and take your brains out for a ride!

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