Archive | September, 2012

Protect the Head! Follow up…

23 Sep

Follow Up Lesson:

Always Protect the Head!

While sitting here on an NFL football Sunday watching the games I thought it might be a good time to…

Remember my motto: Always protect the head! Good head protection however, (if I were in class the kids would be giggling now) doesn’t just happen on the outside. You must also protect your head on the inside too. Which means being careful about what you put in your head like drugs and alcohol because just as sure as a smack upside the head with a baseball bat will rattle your brain from the outside in, drugs, cigarettes and alcohol will be rattling your brain from the inside out. It’s true. The smack isn’t felt as immediately and the impact isn’t as sudden but the damage is still being done, slowly, inexorably and irrevocably.

            So here’s where I am supposed to tell you to just say no. Don’t do drugs. Don’t drink alcohol and don’t smoke anything! But, let’s be honest. Even if you try to resist, you’ll probably say yes anyway, somewhere, someday and at some point in your life. Crap! The entire world will be marshaling its forces against you: peer pressure, troubled youth, parental insanity, depression, anxiety, advertisements, curiosity…let’s face it. You’ll do it! (probably)

            Will you be able to handle drugs and alcohol and use them moderately or will you be one of the many who fall victim to a lifetime of dependency and abuse? There’s no way of knowing until you use them. That’s why drugs and alcohol suck. They look like fun and often times are, but then WHACK! Suddenly you’re the ex heavyweight champion of the world chewing on some guys earlobe in front of 50 million people. How did that happen? Or worse, suddenly you’re nobody and you’re nowhere and NOOOOOOOObody cares.

 It happens. And it happens because we forget to protect the head! The brain is our most valuable asset. It is who we are. Why the world pumps billions of more dollars into trying to get us to use substances that will ruin our potential rather than into schools and programs and education that will enhance our potentials is mankind’s original sin. Unfortunately it is what we do.

So be careful! Protect the head! Do the best you can and try your absolute hardest to protect your brain before you begin to abuse your brain. Help each other. Help yourself. And above all, DON”T DO DRUGS…much.

Endgame?

22 Sep

                                                             Endgame?

Have you ever played the game Monopoly? I think most everyone has at sometime or another in their lives. If you have, then you know that everyone begins the game with an equal amount of money and that the game involves moving around the board and buying land on which you can then place houses and hotels and charge rent to the other players who land there etc… until one of the players has all of the money that the other players used to have thereby ending the game. There is a point however, during the game when all of the players realize who the winner is going to be. Once it becomes obvious who owns the most expensive properties and who has the most cash to out purchase the other players, when it comes to buying houses and hotels that demand the highest rents, the outcome is inevitable. Usually that’s when everyone decides to go home because what’s the use in playing a game whose outcome is already known?

Perhaps you remember the winning player offering to return some money to the losing players so you all could keep playing because you were having so much fun and did not want to go home yet. Do you remember doing that? Or maybe you would just distribute more money from the bank to the losing players so they could stay in the game a little longer? But one thing that never did was change the inevitable outcome of that game and you certainly never offered to give more money to the leading player at any point during the game because then he would just win faster, right? He’d just use the extra money to but more houses and hotels to hasten your demise. And even if the player with most of the money kept you in the game he never ever helped you to the point where he actually changed the outcome and lost, right? So usually once that “tipping point” was reached, where everyone but the person with the most money became dependent on that leader to keep everyone else in the game, everyone just sort of lost their passion for playing and packed up and went home. But did you know that that was the original intent of the game when it was invented back in the early 20th century?: to illustrate the negative aspects of concentrating land (or money) in private monopolies.

This brings me to my next question…

Who said?

“There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. There are 47 percent who are with him, (150 million people) who are dependent upon government, (150 million people) who believe that they are victims, (150 million people) who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, (150 million people) who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it, (150 million people) that that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them.

These are people who pay no income tax. (150 million people) My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” (150 million people)

The numbers in parenthesis are mine but 47% of the U.S.A. is just about 150 million people!

Anyway…One of the numbers that I have constantly heard over the past few years is 700,000,000, as in 700 billion, as in dollars returned or no longer collected from the richest 2% of Americans since the tax cuts under President Bush went into effect during his tenure as president and now having continued during President Obama’s term. Coincidentally that figure ($700 billion) is almost the exact amount that all of the Americans who are living under the poverty line in this country are worth if you were to pool their collective assets.

So, during a time of two wars costing trillions of dollars, our government decided that the patriotic thing to do would be to return, or rather not collect, 700 billion dollars from the wealthiest Americans by cutting their taxes. That sounds like an insane idea to me.

What if instead we had taken the 700 billion dollars (that we said we didn’t need…during a time of 2 wars) and had simply distributed it among those living under the poverty line (since apparently we didn’t need or want the money anyway) thereby doubling their collective net worth. Then the richest Americans would still be the richest Americans just as they were before the tax cuts but the poorest of Americans would no longer be poor because we would have doubled their worth…and I might add made them all ineligible for welfare or those other “government handouts” that so many Americans seem to despise! Thereby ending government handouts and poverty! That sounds like a sane and awfully nice thing to do.

Of course doubling the poor’s net worth with 700 billion dollars would have been a very big government handout that somehow I feel would have pissed most of us other Americans off, yet not collecting 700 billion dollars from those who had been already paying it and who were all still quite wealthy anyway seems somehow like the lesser of two evils and not a “government handout” at all.

So why did our government choose door #1? The Rich get richer and the poor stay poor.

Rather than door #2? The Rich stay rich and the poor are no longer poor.

Why do we as humans always seem to feel angry or upset when someone else who has little or nothing gets something for nothing, yet when someone who has everything gets something more it just seems not as bad? One is called socialism and the other is called…capitalism is it not?

Now consider this true but almost never reported news. Have you seen this anywhere?

In 2011 The first top-to-bottom audit of the Federal Reserve uncovered details about how the United States government provided $16 trillion in secret loans to bail out American and foreign banks and businesses during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. An amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont to the Wall Street reform law passed in 2010 directed the Government Accountability Office to conduct the study. “As a result of this audit, we now know that the Federal Reserve provided more than $16 trillion in total financial assistance to some of the largest financial institutions and corporations in the United States and throughout the world,” said Sanders. “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

According to the GAO report, among the investigation’s key findings is that the Fed unilaterally provided trillions of dollars in financial assistance to foreign banks and corporations from South Korea to Scotland.

“No agency of the United States government should be allowed to bailout a foreign bank or corporation without the direct approval of Congress and the president,” Sanders said.

But they did. You can check out Senator Sanders’ website if you don’t believe it. (And we have always been told that it was only 1 trillion dollars) And if you add to the 16 trillion dollars the potential 3 trillion more dollars (also misreported as being much less) that we have spent on 2 wars in the last 10 years then any amount of money that is paid to the imagined 47% of Americans who are supposedly on “welfare” would be trivial at best! What would 1 trillion dollars more for healthcare for all of our citizens matter in the face of these expenditures, or another trillion dollars to save Medicare and Social Security???

And now according to 2012 Federal Reserve data, the wealthiest 1% of Americans have a greater net worth than the bottom 90% of Americans combined.

And this brings me to my last question:

Have we reached the end of the game?

We apparently are now lending just about ALL of the money to the leading players in the game (the 1%) rather than to the losing players (the 90%). Does this not mean that we are hastening the endgame just as would happen in a game of Monopoly? When the banker steals money from the bank he literally cannot lose! Our leaders must be aware of this. So to what end are they hastening? They know we can’t leave the game because it’s not a game. We can’t get up and go home because we are home. And they apparently are aware that here in America so many of us hate what we think of as socialism and sharing and giving away what we think is ours, so much so, that we would rather fight amongst ourselves and play the game to its inevitable conclusion, all the while continuing to lose rather than…

My final question: Do what?

Teachers and Tenure

21 Sep

Dollars and Sense

One day in class a colleague took a sip from her coffee cup that she had on her desk and immediately spat it back out. Someone had put cleaning chemicals into her coffee. Two students were later apprehended and confessed to the “prank”. They said that they did it because the teacher had failed them for the marking period.

Needless to say, the teacher was extremely upset by what the students had done. One can only imagine what might have gone through her mind afterwards. Was this a “prank” by two angry students who were trying to make her sick or momentarily uncomfortable by spiking her coffee or was this attempted murder by two deranged young adults who just didn’t know the potency or taste of the poison they were using?

That teacher never returned to school but not because of what those two students had done. We later learned that it was because of what the other students in her class had not done. Before the teacher entered the classroom that day they had all sat there quietly and watched while the two students added the extra fluid to her coffee cup and they then continued to sit there quietly and watch while the teacher entered the classroom and took a sip. That’s why she never returned. The banality of evil is as commonplace as it is trivial.

One of the things that can make being a teacher difficult is that some day just might be your last day. You just never know…

            Many people believe that being a teacher is one of the easiest jobs there is. After all, don’t you get the summers off? Many of the current efforts to improve public education in this country begin with the assumption that the basic problem is teacher performance. This attitude of “blame the teacher” has supposed that teachers are no longer held accountable for what they do in the classroom and that somehow schools across the country have been invaded by uncaring, unprofessional and incompetent teachers, which of course means that as a teacher I could go nuts tomorrow and they’ll still give me a raise every year until I retire. It’s called tenure. Isn’t it great?

That of course is the view that most non-teachers have about what it means to be a tenured public school teacher. What it really means is that we have a union and with that comes a collective bargaining agreement that provides us with assurances and safe guards to protect our jobs and to protect us from being fired or terminated without a valid reason or just cause. All unions have these same protections and that’s why employers dislike unions. Employers like to be able to fire their employees whenever they feel the need or desire to, for whatever reasons they might have. Unfortunately those reasons may often be arbitrary and unfair and might include reasons like age, race, sex, gender; my uncle’s cousin needs your job, or whatever. Unions protect workers and the teacher’s union protects teachers. It’s that simple.

During a teacher’s first three years we have almost no protections at all. We can be terminated and sent home on a moments notice for whatever reasons our employers may have. And during those three years we are observed and scrutinized and tested and the principals and superintendent and the Board of Education have ample time to decide if we are good, dedicated and knowledgeable teachers, who work well with children and who will be a welcome addition to the district’s faculty.

Also during those first three years a teacher has the chance to decide and determine if teaching is something that he or she really wants to do. Believe me, it’s not for everybody and you can’t know for sure if teaching children is something that you can and want to do unless you have tried it, because if you don’t like spending the better half of every day with anywhere from 30 to 130 young children and teenagers (depending upon whether you work in a grammar, middle or high school) then there is no summer vacation long enough to make you want to get up and go to work during the winter, spring and fall.

So what is really so bad about offering tenure to teachers? You’ve found someone who wants to do the job, who is capable of doing the job, who shows up for work prepared and on time and who’s willing to work for lower wages than most college graduates can expect to be paid in the private sector. Why not lock these three year rookies into their positions and get on with the game? Do you really think that the average 22 year old college graduate dreams about having studied, practiced and worked hard at a teaching position for three long years only so that on the first day of their fourth year they can put their sinister plan into action by becoming the lazy unprepared, child molesting scoundrel that they always wanted to be? If you do then perhaps you haven’t taken your anti-depressants today?

Providing a teacher with tenure isn’t just a teacher benefit, it also helps a school district hold onto good teachers. Tenure which is practically tantamount to guaranteed job security isn’t easy to give up. It’s nice to know that one’s job is secure and that a regular paycheck can be counted on, but let’s be completely honest…a teacher with tenure can’t become a criminal or break laws on a regular basis and still expect to remain on the job, like say a United States Senator or Congressman can. Tenured teachers can and do get fired. Their positions can be eliminated. The board of education just has to have a very good reason to do so, not some arbitrary one. Isn’t that what you would like to expect from an employer of yours regardless of what job you had? Of course it is. This is why teachers have tenure provisions in the first place and why it is written into our contracts and why is it so important to teachers…

Teachers are not public workers who drain town, city, state and federal budgets. Our low starting salaries and long salary guides with slow and steady step increments place all of our earning potential at the end of our careers. Teachers don’t step into a job; make a lot of money and then move on to more lucrative positions. We have to establish a long and healthy professional career and demonstrate our competency and loyalty to our communities before we reap any great financial benefits. At the same time we are also living in communities where we buy homes, raise families and pay taxes for public services, including schools and public employees and yes, other teacher’s salaries. In 1979 during my first year as a full time teacher in the state of New Jersey I filled out an application for rent at a garden apartment complex in the town where I was teaching. My application was denied because I didn’t make enough money! I actually was told that I couldn’t afford to live in the town that just hired me to work as a teacher in their public schools! How’s that for a welcome to the neighborhood?

Why do teachers have such a graduated pay scale that allows a disparity in pay over time between colleagues who are essentially doing the same job? I don’t have the answer to that but I do know that if tenure is to be abolished in the future then teacher’s salaries need to be equalized and balanced with a raise in starting salaries and then incremental raises balanced by seniority, longevity and job performance to close the gap in the salary range between teachers, all of whom are required to do the same job anyway. If tenure were to be abolished and the disparities in salary allowed to remain then teaching will become a high risk profession without the necessary incentives needed to attract teachers and make them want to stay.

In the state of New Jersey during my lifetime the government in Trenton has established an income tax, installed a sales tax, raised the sales tax, raised it again, established a lottery, approved gambling casinos, raised tolls on its highways, raised them again…and again, stopped contributing billions of promised dollars to the public teacher’s retirement fund and still after all of that says that it is not only broke but billions of dollars in debt! And the money went where? Into the pockets of public employees like me? Really???

One, 1! Lawyer hired by my board of education for one, 1! Year can be paid almost, ALMOST as much money from the public coffers as a school teacher (who is retiring in 2012) has  earned during most of his or her entire career as a public school teacher! Do you really think that laying off and eliminating public school teachers and other public employees in the state of New Jersey will make a dent in the amount of property taxes you pay when raising Income taxes, sales taxes, tolls, lotteries and gambling casinos made none?

According to the New Jersey public schools fact sheet for 2010/11 there are 112,933 public school teachers in NJ who earn a median salary of 59,670 dollars per year. That means that the total cost for teachers in the state of NJ for one year would be 6.738 billion dollars. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? But according to the same site, the state of NJ sends out 7.9 billion dollars worth of state aid to school districts each year. That would cover all of the teacher salaries in NJ and leave 1.2 billion dollars left over!

The United States Department of Education’s website says that in 2008 the state of New Jersey spent 26 billion dollars on its public schools which by the way, is 14 billion dollars more than the U.S. state average. The USDOE also contributed about 1 billion dollars in state aid to New Jersey so with 8.8 billion dollars worth of state and federal aid and teacher’s costing 6.9 billion dollars in salaries that leaves 1.9 billion dollars in surplus to apply to the 19 billion dollars in education costs that don’t include teachers. That means that if you take away the teachers and exclude us completely from the budget process, New Jersey still pays approximately 17 billion dollars for its public schools! That’s more than twice what it costs to pay for the teachers!

If you want to save money in the public schools then you are going to have to look to where the money really goes…Electricity, Heating and fuel costs, Telecommunications providers, Food services, Medical expenses, Health care providers, Insurances, Legal expenses, Attorney’s fees, Administrative costs, Privatized contractors, Debt services, Mortgage interest…in other words, all of the same expenses that you pay for at home and that you have no control over because the people and corporations who command those fees have no interest in lowering their fees or reducing their profit margins for you.

Having fewer schools and fewer teachers and fewer public servants will NOT solve our problems. Eliminating teacher tenure will not either. Teachers, the well educated, dedicated, experienced, professional, hard working, tax paying men and women who are just like you and who get up every morning to spend time with your children, are NOT the problem and eliminating them or paying them less will not reduce your taxes or save you money or solve any of the problems that we face when it comes to property taxes and education. Would eliminating your job or asking you to take a pay cut help you solve any of your problems? When has creating more unemployment ever been the solution to any economic problem? The peace of mind that teachers enjoy once they have achieved tenure for their job well done is what keeps them working at a profession that does not compensate them with salaries commensurate to other college educated professionals. That is why tenure is important to teachers and that is also why it is so important to our public schools

Stopping the Trickle

20 Sep

Stopping the Trickle or “Depends Economics 101”

Here’s how we put an end to that trickle down theory once and for all and solve our political woes in America and cut government spending and costs to the bone, and save education. Just two words: Senior Citizens!

Why do we always elect people who already have jobs like attorney and lawyer and barrister and attorney etc…, and who are already rich and then pay them more money to do another job which is that of running our government when at the same time our towns and cities are filling with an ever growing population of retired senior citizens, from all walks of life? We have retired engineers and accountants and astronauts and retired you name its. (Even retired lawyers if that’s something you just can’t get enough of) If somebody once worked at it then you can bet there’s somebody who’s retired at it too.

And what do all of these retired citizens have in common? They’re all bored and looking for something to do to keep then busy, and they’re getting paid already! Some with good pensions and everyone with good old homegrown, American Social Security benefits! And they just love to volunteer for things!

What better way to utilize this growing population of bored, lonely, experienced government paid citizens, who are looking for something to keep them busy, than as politicians!! They’re already on the public payroll! They’ve been there, done that. They’re eager. They’re experienced! They’re bored. And did I mention that they already get paid?! Besides, most would work for nothing anyway, and since they are old and have already “been there and done that” and are retired, they have no need for greed and power and excess. They’ve had a 30 -40 year career. They most likely know what it means to work hard and get ahead, pay bills, raise a family, And even if they do succumb to greed, they’ll most likely die soon anyway and we can replace them in no time flat!

Then we can tell those rich, fat cat, Senators, Congressman, comptrollers, state senators, governors…those “I had to be rich to be a politician in the first place” double dippers who are just getting richer and who can never seem to solve our problems and who are (Let’s face it) the REALLY EXPENSIVE government employees…”You’re FIRED!”

Now watch us save money! Did you ever try to borrow money from a retired person?

So let’s amend the constitution which, if you’ve read it, was meant to be a living document and amended on a regular basis, to say:

“To run for political office one must be an American Senior Citizen who is retired, and having already proved their competency in the workplace and who is already on the government payroll, can receive no other remuneration for their service to America!

 (And as part of their benefit package which already includes Medicare, they get free Depends… just in case of trickling)

And how will this help save education? Well I’m hoping that by getting senior citizens up and about and active and feeling better about themselves again they’ll stop voting against young people and the public schools they attend..couldn’t hurt.

 

 

 

Why Do We Elect Rich People?

20 Sep

                         So Why Are All of Our Politicians Rich People?

Why do we always put rich people in charge of everything? Have you ever spoken to a person who was richer than you about problems you might have, only to receive that thousand yard stare in return that says, “What in gods name are you talking about?” And their response to just about anything is always, “I just pay the guy!” Need health care? Pay the guy! Need a new car? Pay the guy! Home needs repair? Pay the guy! Need drugs? Pay the guy! Trouble with the law? Pay the guy! Looking for sex? Pay the guy! Accidentally chopped up the wife and her boyfriend in a fit of rage??? Pay the guy!

How can we possibly expect these folks to fix our problems when they really can’t even comprehend what our problems are and when they don’t live under the same conditions that average Americans live under (namely that we don’t have enough money to pay all the guys!)

And the irony is that when we put these rich folks in charge they always look out at their constituents and invariable say, “Well, I’ll tell you one thing. You can’t throw money at the problem!” WHAT?! WHAT?! WHAAAAAT?! That’s what they do isn’t it? They throw money at everything! And it works pretty well for them too doesn’t it? And like idiots we always look back at them and agree. “Yep, Can’t throw money at problems…and the reason that is, is because folks without money wouldn’t throw their money at their problems because they don’t have any money, and if they did, they certainly wouldn’t throw it anywhere. They’d keep it! And folks with money only throw it at their problems. Why would they throw it at you? Then you’d have the money for crying out loud…and they wouldn’t. How would that make any sense? And why in the name of all that is holy are we giving rich people, who already have jobs and money, another job that comes with more money that they obviously don’t need in the first place and which will only make them less likely to want to help us in the second place?! I’m getting tired how about you?

So, the only answer is…Senior Citizens!

And how will this help education? (You thought I forgot the whole point didn’t you?)

to be continued…

Club Country?

19 Sep

I understand that a lot of wealthy folks have had it with poor folks! They are at their wits end trying to figure out ways to stop spending all of their money on entitlement programs for poor people who are lazy, shiftless and lets face it, just not hard workers like they are. So much money is being spent on Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security and unemployment insurance and welfare and food stamps and who knows what all and it is just crippling the rich in America. Why I have heard that some women out there get pregnant just so they can have their government pay for the abortion. (which apparently is a lot of fun for women) Then they get pregnant again and have the baby for the government welfare. Then it’s abortion, baby, abortion, baby etc. etc. etc. until; pretty soon most of this country will be pregnant ladies and babies and everyone of them illegal aliens too!

Have you heard about this? Apparently it’s the poor who are getting all of the money! Well, the poor and THEIR government! The government used to be run by wealthy people but somehow they lost control and now the teaming irresponsible masses have taken over and socialized everything. (Damned that Statue of Liberty and her beckoning light) OK let’s not go crazy. I know it’s not ALL of the money but it is MOST of it, or soon will be. What is a wealthy person in America to do now that the poor have taken control? It’s getting so it’s no fun at all to be rich anymore.

Have you heard about this too? It makes me glad that I’m not wealthy. Boy would I be mad then! I mean really, rich people must be getting pretty fed up because where have all of the wealthy people gone? I can tell you that they all moved out of my neighborhood! Where did they go?

I suspect they are about to form their own private country club that will be so big they are going to call it Club Country; with their own flag and government and everything. But since only wealthy people will be allowed into the new country, they will have no need for a government (why would they need one?) because they will need no entitlement programs! Everyone will just pay for themselves for whatever they need. No taxes, no police (why would there be any crime in Club Country?) no government workers on an ever growing and endless payroll…just wealthy people for as far as the eye can see.

I hear that Club Country will be on an island because poor people will of course try to get in. And if the poor folks try to swim or sail or organize flotillas to get to the island (looking all poor and destitute and hungry blah, blah, blah) there will be no bleeding heart liberal socialist government force to rescue their sorry asses and bring them to the island and then shower them with government services against their will! Nope, because club country is for rich, hard working, upper class, well to do folks who know how to work hard and take care of themselves through their own initiative, self sacrifice and did I mention hard work?!

It will be paradise! What could go wrong? And without the poor around to sap all of their wealth away the citizens of Club Country will remain wealthy and free forever!

Imagine being able to live in a country without the poor?! Wouldn’t it be great!?

Education and Spending

19 Sep

Why We Have so Much Trouble Trying to Cut Spending.

So what’s all the fuss over the public schools and teachers being too expensive to afford any longer? It’s nonsense! When I began teaching in the state of New Jersey in 1977 I was substituting at 25 dollars a day or roughly $4.00/hr. In 1978 I was hired to teach English in a Title I program for 35 dollars a day or about $6.00/hr. Then in 1979 I was finally hired to a full time teaching position at $10,490.00/yr which was the equivalent of approximately 5 dollars an hour. I actually took a pay cut in order to teach full time at a high school in Central New Jersey, having moved from northern New Jersey that summer in search of a full time position.

Back in 1979 the average lawyer in the state was probably earning about 200 dollars an hour or 40 times more than I was, but of course I was just a high school teacher and I wasn’t complaining either.

Now fast forward 31 years to the year 2010 when I was earning about $76,000.00/yr., but let’s just say $80,000 to round it off. That would be approximately 40 dollars an hour and in the meantime that lawyer was up to $400/hr. So, if we want to work those pesky percentages we can say that my salary increased 8 times over those 31 years of teaching while the lawyer’s salary only increased 2 times! And as an hourly wage the lawyer was earning 40 times more per hour than I was in 1979 but now in 2010 he’s earning only 10 times more than me per hour. So my question is: How long would I have to work until I was finally making more money than that lawyer?!

See how easy it is to play with statistics and percentages and numbers and make plausible arguments with absolutely ridiculous and misleading conclusions? My point is, or rather the reality is, that the lawyer in 2010 earns as much money in 2 8 hour days as a teacher earns in 1 month! The lawyer will earn up to $64,000.00 in that one month, almost my entire yearly salary, and in 4 more days he will have earned my entire salary. So if we both started work on September 1st he’d have earned my entire teacher’s salary by the second week of October. But on the bright side, I’d have Columbus Day off.

So now that lawyer becomes Governor and decides that the reason New Jersey is in such dire fiscal difficulty is because teachers like me make too much money! And so do policemen and firemen and other public workers. But really, is it our salaries that make us so expensive to the state? How is it possible that what would otherwise be a lawyer’s chump change can make a full time employee too expensive to remain employed?

In reality it’s our benefits, (i.e.: pensions and health and dental care) that make us too expensive, but those are benefits that were negotiated with and had approved by the state, so what’s the real story here? It’s because those costs, namely health and dental care, can’t be controlled by the state because doctors and dentists, like lawyers and politicians, don’t take pay cuts. They don’t cut their prices… ever. Their costs forever spiral upward making health and dental care ever more unaffordable to the middle class workers. Without insurance who can afford the prices they charge? Even doctors, dentists and lawyers don’t want to pay doctors, dentists and lawyers! But their prices keep going up. Have you ever heard of the wealthy taking price cuts or rolling back prices? Of course not. The rich get richer don’t they? In fact the definition and the expectation of what it means to be wealthy are to have everything you want and to always be able to get more of it. It’s what every self respecting and imaginative, poor and middle class worker dreams about in that future when they get wealthy and come into money. Excess! It’s the carrot at the end of the stick of Capitalism.

So, who do we cut? We cut those who are used to having less, who are used to not having everything they want, who get paid with a paycheck that can so easily be reduced: The poor and middle classes. We always cut the lean and not the fat! That’s the problem…

And how do the rich always plan to salve our monetary wounds? Through the promise of their benevolent largess. They will trickle down their excess money to us. Isn’t that nice? That sounds like such a benign and friendly phrase doesn’t it? But any English teacher with a love of vocabulary will recognize the euphemistic properties of that word “trickle”. A trickle is unintentional. It’s a leak, not intended largess! It’s what you get after you take a piss, (excuse my legalese) the leftovers, the spill…the trickle. No doubt some sarcastic, practical joking, rich, political “Prick” (pun intended) had some fun coming up with that phrase. “What do the rich do to the working classes? They piss on em!” So you see, “trickle down economics” is an insult not a financial strategy. It’s an inside joke. “Don’t get on that ship! The secret ingredient is people!”

Just a Thought…

16 Sep

Revelation? 

            Will people ever solve their problems?

People are ego driven. We want…and we all “want” to different degrees. I think that people who want way more than is healthy for them are most likely to do harm to others. I think that people who want way less than is healthy for them are most likely to do harm to themselves. So I wonder if perhaps God committed suicide or worse yet, he’ll someday kill us all!

Sometimes in class I would ask my students if they thought they would go to heaven and usually all of their hands would go straight up. I know that not everyone believes in heaven but I think that we all believe that IF there really were such a place we’d get an invitation, or would “wake up” there after…you know. It’s not something that we often think about or dwell upon but I think that no mater who you are you probably feel that you’re a pretty good person and/or have pretty good excuses for anything bad that you may have done anyway.

So then I ask my students to imagine that when they get to Heaven they meet someone else there who they really didn’t like back on Earth and who they really didn’t think belonged there in Heaven with all of the good people and quickly their responses would be, “That would suck!”  Or, “I’d be pissed”  Or, “No way! I’d have to go talk to God!”

Then I would point out to them that if they were going to go to Heaven and still have the ability to be upset with things, people, places and events, wouldn’t that mean they would still be back on Earth right where they started? What kind of Heaven would it be if they could still get angry or frustrated?  What kind of heaven would that be? Are there emotions in heaven? Or just one emotion? And wouldn’t that mean the absence of emotions…if there were only one?

I think that if we are ever going to solve our problems here on Earth, in education, finance, poverty, health…whatever it may be, we’re going to have to get over ourselves first.

The Education Diet

16 Sep

How to Lose Weight and Stay Healthy and Fit

The Education Diet

Objective: The student will lose weight and remain healthy and fit (and perhaps help the world?)

Procedure:

  1. Eat less
  2. Exercise more

I was at the grocery store today and they were selling hot dogs to help raise money for the hungry. People couldn’t get enough of them. And Years ago my wife’s church held a spaghetti dinner to also raise money for the hungry. I’m all for raising money and seeking donations to help those who are in need, especially those who do not have enough to eat but something about the concept of eating as much as you can to help others who have nothing to eat at all is very disturbing to me. Especially since these types of fundraisers actually promote over eating to raise money which will then (hopefully) be spent on food to be doled out (sparingly I assume) to those who are hungry. I understand that it’s well intentioned but doesn’t it also kind of highlight what must be that flaw in our collective DNA that just seems to always keep us from getting things right?

Teachers Need to be Comedians!

15 Sep

Teachers need to be Comedians too!

Sometimes in school teacher’s just need to be entertaining.

One day in class my students started complaining about me and my teaching style. They said that I was too boring and uninteresting in general. So I stopped my lesson and asked who they thought would make a good teacher. A boy in the back raised his hand and said, “Eddie Murphy!”

“Eddie Murphy?” I said. “Why Eddie Murphy?”

“Because, the student replied, he’d tell us jokes and make us laugh.”  The other students all agreed.

Then they all failed my surprise quiz.

One of the things that can make teaching so difficult, and learning for that matter, is that you always have to be ready for disappointment and you have to know your audience. Even comedians face this daunting task of playing to their audience and giving them what they want. Teachers face this every day and in every class a teacher finds a different audience that needs to not only be taught but also to be entertained. It’s hard to keep someone on task if they are bored and disinterested and the public school teacher is constantly faced with this daunting task; different students, different levels of ability, different levels of understanding, different cultures, different subject matter and all in one day! It’s like doing 5 stand-up shows in front of 5 different audiences every day, 5 days a week. Unfortunately teachers by their very definition are boring, frumpy and unfunny and unfortunately there is only one way to guarantee that your teenage audience, no matter who, what, where or on what level will be entertained. And here it is…

Just think! You could be a comedian. Well, a teenage comedian anyway or rather a comedian who can make teenagers laugh. Although I’m pretty sure adults would enjoy this act too. Here’s the routine, guaranteed to leave any teenager rolling in the aisles.

You walk in front of the class, look at the crowd and then…FART…a nice big loud one. That should keep them laughing for a good 10 minutes. When the laughter subsides you rip off another loud one…Brrrrrrrraaat! To which you cleverly add: “Shit! Was that me?”

Now you’ve really got them going! (Plus you used a naughty word. They love that!)

Ten minutes later as they’re wiping the tears from their eyes and are just beginning to regain control of their abdominal muscles, you hit them with the big finish…

You rip off another big one and say, “Aw Crap! I gotta go!” (For a teacher, using the word crap in front of students is equivalent to using the F word. Don’t ask me why but trust me it just is)

You see, they don’t know if you’ve gotta go or if you’ve gotta go!

It’s brilliant! A twenty minute routine and you didn’t even break a sweat. Man, it’s all in the words. You could be a teacher and a comedian! The trick is working your subject matter in between all of the farting but with a little practice you can master the technique. Morning coffee (And lots of it) helps too.

Who da man?!

GRACEFIFTEENTEN

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