Archive | October, 2012

Weird Science?

15 Oct



Weird Science

One day in class we were reading a passage from a novel about one apocalypse or another and a student said,

“I can’t wait for a nuclear war!”

I looked up from our reading rather surprised and said, “Really? Why is that?”

“Because then, she answered with a big smile on her face, Jesus will come back!”

One of the things that can make being a teacher so difficult is that eventually you realize the tremendous influence that powerful teaching and learning can have on children and then you realize the frightening permanence it can have also.

There is an old saying that goes: “Any fool can learn but it takes a wise man to unlearn!”

Learning is a powerful activity and sometimes we can decide what we will learn and at other times someone else may decide for us. It often depends upon our age and our curiosities and our abilities to absorb and process information at the time it is being presented to our brains. Hopefully the input that reaches our brains will raise many questions that will lead us to great conversations and further debates and hopefully more answers and then still more questions that we haven’t even thought about yet. That’s how the process works! Or at least should work. And there’s the rub. For example:

Evolution, embryology and the Big Bang theory are major underpinnings of mainstream science. And Georgia Republican Rep. Paul Broun, a physician who sits on the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, says they are “lies straight from the pit of hell.”

Here are some of his remarks:

“God’s word is true. I’ve come to understand that. All that stuff I was taught about evolution, embryology, Big Bang theory, all that is lies straight from the pit of hell. It’s lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior. There’s a lot of scientific data that I found out as a scientist that actually show that this is really a young Earth. I believe that the Earth is about 9,000 years old. I believe that it was created in six days as we know them. That’s what the Bible says. And what I’ve come to learn is that it’s the manufacturer’s handbook, is what I call it. It teaches us how to run our lives individually. How to run our families, how to run our churches. But it teaches us how to run all our public policy and everything in society. And that’s the reason, as your congressman, I hold the Holy Bible as being the major directions to me of how I vote in Washington, D.C., and I’ll continue to do that.”

This, for me, is why we endeavor to separate our churches from our state and consequently from our public schools.

First of all no matter what faith our founding fathers were they recognized that we have a lot of different religions in the world. And even if we want to give the many Christians in this country their due and acknowledge that many if not most of our founding fathers were Christian in their faith and beliefs those founding fathers also recognized that there are an awful lot of different Christian faiths in the world. And even though they may all share the same basic tenets they sure have a lot of basic differences too: Just reference the last 2,000 years of war and strife in the world many of which pitted Christians against other Christians. Hence, I believe our founding fathers were not being anti-religious, they were simply being practical. Why give future politicians something else to fight over and about. All they had to do was look at history. Adding religion to state politics and institutions was like adding oil to water or nitro to glycerin or… science to faith.

They saw that future governments needed to be flexible and to invite change and inquiry. Governments would need to grow and adapt to an ever increasing and diversifying population of free people. Religions weren’t good at that. Whenever a religion wants to change it has to make another religion. That wouldn’t work well in a republic of various and different states that they were hoping to unite against a common cause there in their present and hopefully on into a distant future. And they were right!

We’ve made many changes in our government over the last 200+ years and we have managed to remain united and together.

And here’s another reason why we need to continue that way.

     On another day in class my students and I were reading The Crucible by Arthur Miller when one of my students asked why or how people could have ever believed in witches. “Well, I replied, one possible reason is that the Puritans who settled Massachusetts were very religious and there is a passage in the bible which states:  “Thou shalt not suffer awitch to live.”And so perhaps that’s why they so fervently believed in witches.” It’s from Exodus 22:18 of the King James Version.

     Another student then raised her hand and said. “What are you talking about? That’s not in my bible!” And she was quite upset about it. And quite right!… as I discovered the next day when she brought in her bible and we compared our two versions. Sure enough, her bible wasn’t the same as my bible and had no mention of witches!

     Now let’s get back to Congressman Broun who actually does sit on the Congressional Committee for Science and Technology (If you can believe it!) and by his own admission, he believes in neither! Is this good government?! Should the pope be Catholic?!

     But in Congressman Broun’s  thinking, he just wants government to be governed by “The Word” of god. Use the “manufacturer’s handbook” he says, which of course unequivocally tells us all that we need to know about science and such separate state nonsense like that.

     But aren’t there many different “Words”?  As my student pointed out to me so many years ago, there are so many different bibles. Which one has the real words? Which one has the first “unedited by man” words? Imagine men having the utter audacity to edit the word of god? But they have. So who has the correct book of words? That’s my question! And one that I do believe would be of utmost importance to answer before we decided it would be a good idea to set aside our founding fathers’ advice and meld church and state and govern ourselves under one set of words, laws, commandments (even those are different depending on which book you read) Go ahead and check it out with this list of authentic, unadulterated, authorized bibles.

Douay-Rheims (RHE)

English Standard Version (ESV)

GOD’S WORD Translation (GW)

Good News Translation (GNT)

Holman Christian Standard (CSB)

King James Version (KJV)

Lexham English Bible (LEB)

New American Standard (NAS)

New International Version (NIV)

New King James Version (NKJV)

New Living Translation (NLT)

New Revised Standard (NRS)

Revised Standard Version (RSV)

The Message (MSG)

American Standard Version (ASV)

Common English Bible (CEB)

Audio Bible

Bible in Basic English (BBE)

Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

Hebrew Names Version (HNV)

New Century Version (NCV)

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV)

Third Millennium Bible (TMB)

Today’s New International Version (TNIV)

World English Bible (WEB)

Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

Weymouth New Testament (WNT)

The Darby Translation (DBY)

The Latin Vulgate (VUL)

The Webster Bible (WBT)

Wycliffe (WYC)

La Biblia de las Américas (BLA)

La Biblia Reina-Valera (RVR)

Sagradas Escrituras (1569) (SEV)

Louis Segond 1910 (French) (LSG)

Ostervald (French) (OST)

Elberfelder 1905 (German) (ELB)

Luther Bible 1912 (German) (LUT)

Giovanni Diodati 1649 (Italian) (GDB)

Riveduta 1927 (Italian) (RIV)

Statenvertaling (Dutch) (SVV

I think our founding fathers were way ahead of us. They knew what they were doing… so until someone can tell me which word is the word and prove it, I think we should just let all of the churches and religions remain separate from all of the other churches and religions just like they are now (How in the hell did that happen?) and just leave the states and the public schools alone.

Children of the Porn

13 Oct

Children of the Porn?

Porn. noun – creative activity (writing or pictures or films etc.) of no literary or artistic value other than to stimulate sexual desire

One day I was working on my computer in class when I discovered that one of the websites that I often use for information and research was blocked by our school’s security system. Ever since our school became wired for the internet our school’s security system was often being modified by our computer systems supervisor in an attempt to keep students from accessing certain internet sites that were deemed inappropriate by either members of the Board of education or the supervisor himself. This however was one site that I had found very useful and I was becoming extremely frustrated at my no longer being allowed access.

Within a few minutes, a student who must have been sensing my frustration, came to my aid and said, “Here Mr. P. let me help.” Now this was not a student that I would have characterized as a computer genius by any stretch of the imagination. In fact I wouldn’t even have guessed that he had an imagination, let alone one that could be stretched. And to be perfectly honest with you, although I hate to admit it, I thought he was an idiot. And in my defense, I say this only because he acted like an idiot all day, every day, in class. So you can imagine my surprise when he sat down at my computer and with the dexterity of a seasoned executive secretary worked my keyboard like Bill Gates on crack until with a point and a click he was on the internet and accessing my website. “There ya go Mr. Picone. You’re all set.” And off he went. I was amazed. Here was a student who showed no particular propensity for learning anything from reading to writing to covering his nose when he sneezed or keeping his hands to himself when girls walked by, and yet he had broken through our school’s crack security system in seconds flat.

From that day on I began to take more time noticing what my students were up to when they weren’t focusing on class work. And these were students who were considered lower level, lower track students. Students who were unlikely to do well on the basic skills test or who demonstrated little or no success with any kind of school work whatsoever. So what were these students doing with their free time? They were accessing and utilizing any and all forms of 21st century technology with the greatest of ease! They were using computers. They were surfing the internet. They were programming iPods and using cell phones and accessing complicated menus. (At least I thought of them as complicated) They were reading directions, or listening to others who were tutoring them, on how to use these devises and then remembering what they had learned and putting that knowledge to practical use. Imagine that?! They were texting each other with lightning speed in a shorthand language that resembled ancient hieroglyphics more than it did modern day English.

It was obvious that my underachieving students had skills, intelligence and problem solving abilities. They had everything that any student needs to be successful in school. So why did they behave like cretins, idiots and morons when they were in class? Apparently the world had changed and no one told school!

These students were learning all of the skills they would need in grammar school and by the time they’d reached middle school and their teenage years education was passé. It served no purpose for them to do more of the same mundane work over and over again at a slightly higher level. They had all of the skills necessary and needed to access and use the technology of the future by the time they were 10 or 11 years old…maybe even sooner. And they are being called to enter a brave new world by a Pied Piper that many adults just aren’t hearing and where they are becoming the new and improved children of the porn.

I call them this because what is it that they are doing with their skills of the future? Are they using them to create new and better technology? Do many of them even understand how the technology works? No, they are simply accessing and using the technology. And boy do they know how to access and use!  They are texting and blogging and tweeting mindless gossip and sarcasm and rumor. They are shopping on-line and perusing merchandise, accessing social networks like My Space and Facebook where they post photos and comment on photos and look at more photos. They visit porn sites and create their own porn, download music, watch videos, check sports scores, place bets. They are doing just about everything there is to do of “NO LITERARY OR ARTISTIC VALUE OTHER THAN TO STIMULATE DESIRE” and it sure beats what we have to offer in school doesn’t it: Pencils and paper, books and chalkboards, writing and penmanship? And constant testing to prove that you can use these archaic tools. Schools are still so 1950. They represent the 20th century where by 20th century I mean 1950! Schools are so 5 minutes ago that I should have ended this sentence 5 minutes ago and moved on to something new.

We as a society have created a new generation of young consumers who we begin marketing to and for, almost literally at birth. We want children to buy and want and desire and spend and go into debt or plunge their parents into debt as soon as they possibly can. And all this in the endless hope of “stimulating the economy”.

Their minds are sharp and they learn well, perhaps even better than any generation that has come before them, but they are not learning what we have to teach them in our public schools. They are learning what we have to teach them in cyberspace and on the internet and through the medium of commercials and advertisements and they can even do it all on their cell phones. Their indoctrination is portable!

Schools aren’t. Children are learning the commerce of desire, broadcast and beamed and googled and texted to them with the speed and brilliance of modern technology. Most of which is not available to them in public schools, especially the poorer ones of which there are many. My school still had film strips available for teacher use in 2010! And you’d thought they’d all melted in the projector back in the 70s!

Perhaps I’m sounding a little old and out of touch, after all I have been referencing the title to a book and movie from the 1980s…but sadly, I have friends, and I certainly know older adults as I’m sure you do too, who cannot grasp today’s technology and who don’t want to. Yet many of these same people are up in arms because so many of today’s children can’t pass a 3 hour exam about algebra, geometry,  English grammar and sentence construction, while using a #2 pencil, scratch paper and 30 year old calculators. (apparently using computers, touch screens and modern calculators would be cheating)

So let me reference another source from my past, The great philosopher, Yogi Berra, who once said,

“It’s getting late early out there!”

Parents used to complain and worry about television and its potential to affect the thoughts and ideas and attention spans of the young people who were growing up watching it. And once upon a time rock music and radio were the culprits that were corrupting America’s youth. But if those two mediums were affecting children at the speeds of sound and light then the internet is operating on today’s youthful brains at warp speed and beyond. Schools can’t compete with that. Our schools, especially at the middle and secondary levels are becoming the silent movies of our time and if we are not inclined to modernize them at the same rate with which we are modernizing our society then soon we might find that the children of the porn will have no use for them at all, nor I’m afraid will the sequel, “The Grandchildren of the Porn!”


The Nouveau Poor

11 Oct

The Nouveau Poor

Being poor in America just doesn’t seem to be what it used to be. Today a public school district is considered “poor” or classified as a Title I district when a certain percentage (40%) of its children qualify for a free or reduced lunch. Once any school or district reaches a point where over half of its students qualify for free or reduced lunches (in other words they are living in poverty) they’ve reached what’s become commonly known as their “tipping point” and those schools begin to spiral downward into the abyss of failure, almost never to return to successful stature again. Poverty really does equal failure in America. If you are poor then you can bet (if you have any money) that you will be hounded throughout your life by failure of one kind or another.

But whose fault is poverty? Does it have a fault? And what do I mean by the Nouveau poor? Isn’t poor, poor? To be poor means to be without money, right? That’s what I always thought but throughout my years teaching in a poor, Title I school district I have noticed some subtle changes in poverty.

Many of today’s “poor kids” (at least in my school) wear expensive clothes and they wear expensive sneakers and shoes (often several pair of various colors to match their various outfits) They carry cell phones which means they have monthly fees to pay just for the privilege of texting (they don’t even call) their friends who are sitting only a few feet or classrooms away. (Remember writing notes?) They drink 2 dollar bottles of water when water from the tap is virtually free. They are all wired with headphones and MP3 players. And many if not most even have regular jobs. Today’s poor kids just don’t have that one thing that would qualify them as NOT being poor…money! And it’s not just the poor who are poor anymore!

What family saves these days? What family pools all of its economic resources to pay for the important family bills like food and heat and housing and then skimps on the luxuries? It seems as though luxuries come first these days. Non essential first, then we eat. I’ll use my cell phone to text home, “I’m hungry!”

I’ve had students tell me that food is something they can steal if they need to, but not electronics or clothes etc. “They guard that shit!” Say the kids. Kids need to pay to have those things.

Think about it: Those stores have security measures and employ security guards while most food or grocery stores do not.

I’m not advocating being poor, nor am I saying that poverty doesn’t exist. Nor am I trying to blame poverty on the poor as many well off and no doubt well meaning people do. It just seems as though poor ain’t what it used to be. And poor isn’t just for poor people anymore either. Everybody wants to get in on the action…Today poor is when after you’ve spent your money on what you don’t need, you don’t have enough left for what you do need…like food and as the kids would say, “dumb crap like that.” I’ve even had friends tell me from time to time that they don’t know if they will be able to meet their month’s rent on their apartment or home. And they tell me this at the restaurant, just after having come from their health club, while checking the internet on their phone, and before producing a credit card to pay for their tab!

Many of today’s families are sliding down the socioeconomic ladder in the pursuit and the acquisition of goods or luxuries that were previously unobtainable but are now made tantalizingly affordable through  mass marketing and mass production in places like China and India where sadly, the real poor live. Here in America many of our young people are learning about their new found poverty the hard way, by spending their way into the ranks of what I call the Nouveau Poor. They may be poor but at least they have the clothes, and the technology and the sneakers and the stuff that says, “We’ve earned it!”

What today’s public schools need is a better public: One that both collectively and individually pools its resources to spend on that which is essential and important before its wastes those same resources on what is frivolous and unnecessary. We need to tone down the marketing frenzy that tempts and lures our citizens, from their cradles to their graves, to behave in opposition to their better natures and encourages them to spend their hard earned money (In many cases before they’ve earned it!) on things they don’t really need or can get elsewhere for free. What we need to do is to start leading and encouraging our students and citizens to put their money where their mouth is, meaning to start spending it on their proper nutrition and diet and personal health, education and welfare where it will most directly contribute towards enhancing their chances of improving their lot in life. That is the true pursuit of happiness that Thomas Jefferson was speaking of in the Declaration of Independence and that George Mason had previously penned in the earlier Virginia Declaration of Rights to which he added “and obtaining.” (Curiously Jefferson borrowed Mason’s idea but dropped “and obtaining” from the end of “and the pursuit of happiness” when penning the Declaration. Hmmmmm…foreshadowing perhaps?)

America’s students need to be taught that they not only have the right to pursue their happiness but also the right to catch up to it and hang on and that it’s not only a right guaranteed by their government but also a responsibility expected and required of them and every other citizen of the United States. We won’t be able to keep whining about money spent and taxes levied, as long as we know that it is being spent on that which benefits the greater good of us all.

It would help of course if our politicians would chime in by showing some responsibilities of their own. One (1) predator drone, excuse me, Unmanned combat air vehicle, costs as much as 5 Sesame streets! The entire program of (let’s face it) “killer robots” costs 11.8 billion dollars! That’s 26.2 PBS stations! Call me a socialist but is it really better to kill than to receive? Which one of the above mentioned programs is for people and which one is for anti-people? Which would be the best way and the cheapest way and the most sensible way for our government to help keep us from going broke and becoming the Nouveau-est poor country in the world? By cutting 2 trillion dollars in additional defense spending or that other crap like housing, food and educational spending? Yes, I’m a socialist! Up with societies! Down with blowing up societies!

When will we learn that we cannot keep pursuing the “YouDaMan!” tactics of selfish capitalism? Instead we must seek the “Eudemonia” of a free society for all. And I’m not going to help you with that one. You’re going to have to look that word up on your own!

Hey,  I’m a teacher! I know the odds of you looking it up…

eudemonia: happiness as the result of an active life governed by reason.

Share the Wealth?

9 Oct

A few weeks ago in my blog I asked this question…

Have we reached the end of the game?

We apparently are now lending just about ALL of our money to the leading players in the game (the richest 1% of Americans) rather than to the losing players (the poorest 90% of Americans). Does this not mean that we are hastening the endgame just as would happen in a game of Monopoly? 

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…

Last Wednesday night Mr. Willard Romney said that although he loves Big Bird and Sesame Street, he would cut PBS funding from the federal budget because it is just too expensive. And that we shouldn’t borrow money from China to pay for such things. And all the while he was wearing a big smile on his face as though to say. I’m sorry children but we just can’t pay for these expensive toys anymore.

Then Mr. Romney says that giving big oil and gas companies 4 billion dollars in subsidies is not all that much. What’s 4 billion? Not as much as 450 million right? 450 is a whole lot more than 4 isn’t it? At least that’s how it sounds to a little child I guess.

Sesame Street costs the federal government about 8 million dollars. PBS and the arts about 450 million dollars. Compared to 5 trillion dollars in deficit spending that would be like asking your dad for 8 cents when he had 50 thousand dollars in his pocket!

But dad smiles and says, no son that’s too expensive. We all have to learn how to be careful with our money… and then he drives away in his Mercedes Benz to pick up his girlfriend and a pound of heroine!

But the really sad thing is that President Obama never challenged Mr. Romney and his numbers. He just stood and listened like another loyal member of the club who was on the same page…just another dead beat dad.

I am afraid that the rich are going to get richer and the not so rich are going to get not so richer and the poor won’t even be able to throw Big Bird in a pot and make soup.

But as long as we can’t do math and we’re all on the same page…it will all work out in the end.

Still More Fun with math…again!

8 Oct

Here we go…again!

More exciting news is on hand for the mathematically challenged and for teachers everywhere should Mr. Willard Romney be elected as president of the United States!

No doubt standardized tests will have to be updated and recalculated to accommodate the new math. Here are just a few examples of what our students and teachers will have to look forward to.


“The president’s put it in place as much public debt — almost as much debt held by the public as all prior presidents combined.” When President Obama took office, the national debt stood at $10.626 trillion. Now the national debt is over $16 trillion or a $5.374 trillion increase.


RomneyMath:  5.374 = 10.626


“My — my number-one principal is, there will be no tax cut that adds to the deficit. I want to underline that: no tax cut that adds to the deficit.” A Tax Policy Center analysis of Romney’s proposal for a 20 percent across-the-board tax cut in all federal income tax rates, eliminating the Alternative Minimum Tax, eliminating the estate tax and other tax reductions, would reduce federal revenue by $480 billion in 2015.


RomneyMath:  X – 480,000,000,000 = X


In one year, you provided $90 billion in breaks to the green energy world. Now, I like green energy as well, but that’s about 50 years’ worth of what oil and gas receives.” The $90 billion was given out over several years and $23 billion of the $90 billion “went toward “clean coal,” energy-efficiency upgrades, updating the electricity grid and environmental clean-up of nuclear waste. Oil and Gas tax breaks equal about 2.4 billion dollars a year.


RomneyMath:  90-23 = 50 X 2.4 …OR 67 = 120


I think about half of [the green firms Obama invested in have gone out of business.” As of late last year, only “three out of the 26 recipients of 1705 loan guarantees have filed for bankruptcy.


RomneyMath:  3 = 26/2 …OR 3 = 13


No matter who one votes for, I think that facts should matter. If we really care about education then we have to care about facts. Remember your vote counts! Unless of course we change counting too.

Why War Is Stupid: Part Deux

7 Oct

Why War Is Stupid: Part Deux


During Desert Storm, the first war in Iraq, a student in my class raised his hand and asked me a question.

“Hey, Mr. Picone, did you see that general on TV who was showing the video where a cruise missile tracks down an Iraqi truck and blows it up right there on a bridge?”

“Yes, I replied. I did.”

“Well, continued the student, how much do you think that old Iraqi truck was worth?”

“Oh about 20 to 30 thousand dollars,” I guessed

“And that bomb with the camera inside that tracked it down and blew it up. That cost a few hundred million didn’t it?”

“Yes, I think you’re right.” I said.

“So my question is, said the student who was about to give me something very interesting to think about, If our country is Spending 200 million dollars to blow up a 20,000 dollar truck how long can we keep that up before going broke?”

He asked me that question in 1992 and although I had no answer for him then, apparently my answer should have been, “Oh, I’d say about 16 years!” War is stupid because eventually we all go broke. You can bet money on it! Just ask Egypt and Greece and Rome and Persia and Spain and England and France and the Soviet Union and…US.!

All civilizations eventually either spend all of their money on feeding the wealthy’s appetite for more wealth or on war, neither of which is an ingredient in any recipe for the prosperity and growth of a civilization and its people. Education however, no matter how expensive it may be for a civilization’s inhabitants to fund, sustain and expand never leads to the end of anyone’s civilization. When will we ever learn that?


Parents, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to be Cowboys

5 Oct

The Military, The Deficit and Sanity…

While I’m on the subject of dreams and our pursuit of them, here is one American dream that was a big time favorite when I was little but by now really should have run its course. Whenever adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up I would always say “I want to be an army man!” That was back in the 50s and early 60s when playing soldier was a common pastime among young children. Once my father, a WWII veteran, explained to me that war involved fighting and possibly dieing, I soon changed my mind and as the Vietnam War loomed in my teenage future I wondered if perhaps my childhood boasting of wanting to be an army man would become an inevitable and now unwanted reality. Fortunately for me the draft and then the war ended and the country’s views toward wars and fighting them seemed to change for the better but now here in the 21st century we seem to have turned back towards war as a viable alternative to peace or perhaps even more insanely as a partner of peace!

Remember when you would get into a fight and your school principal or your teacher would tell you that fighting is wrong and that no matter who started it, it still was wrong to fight? When did we ever stop teaching and learning that lesson? We should no longer be encouraging any of our children to aspire to fighting or war. When will we ever learn that war is counterproductive to life? It seems like such a simple lesson to learn.

In my New Jersey high school we have a JROTC program. That stands for Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and it is a class or series of classes and after school activities that help prepare high school children for a career in the military. Some believe that this is a good idea and I have seen many students proudly enroll in the program, graduate and continue on in a successful military career. However, that was back in the days when the United States was not actively involved in any wars and the graduating JROTC students went on to enjoy careers in a peacetime military. Today, most of these students are being groomed and prepared for active military duty in a wartime military and  many if not most of these young adults actually believe that they are preparing for something that will be fun and rewarding and once they develop their military skills they become eager to actually test themselves under real combat conditions. They look forward to becoming the new modern day cowboys of America.

This is something that I find very disturbing because these students are still children and we who work in the public schools are not just responsible for educating children. We are also responsible for protecting children. And part of what it means to protect our children involves making sure that they understand what it is that fighting and going off to war really means. And so as educators and citizens and community members we should all know better, and here’s why…

I took my own children shopping at Old Navy one day. You know that great American clothing store that sells the kind of clothes that young Americans just love to wear and have to have. As they were browsing I began browsing also and noticed that all of the clothes were made, not in America, (Gasp! Who else has an old navy?) But rather in Vietnam! Vietnam was the communist country America had fought over 40 years ago where we desperately tried to fend off communism and save democracy from the falling red dominoes that would crush us all one by one. And here today were my children happily sorting through the latest fashions in American clothes made by one of our most recent enemies, the Vietnamese! And then it dawned on me…apparently this is what our soldiers had fought for. 56,000 Americans fought and died and countless others were injured and forever scarred to ensure that someday a cheap labor source would be available to help put Americans out of work. Young adults of my generation studied hard, graduated high school, were randomly selected by our government in a lottery and sent halfway around the world in order to kill their own future jobs! Ain’t that a kick in the cargo pants?!

Is this possible? Am I remembering history incorrectly? The United States invaded Vietnam to stem the tide of communism. The war escalated. American teenagers were then drafted to bolster the armed forces desperate fight. The war continued for 10 years. Vietnam was devastated. 56,000 Americans were killed. Millions of Vietnamese citizens were killed. We eventually evacuated our forces in 1972. The communists prevailed and took over the country…and soon they began happily making clothes for Americans to wear! How did that happen? And what does this all have to do with your high school children and cowboys? Well, let’s see…

Back in the 1960s, when I was a teenager in high school, we all worried about the draft. During the year when a boy turned 18 he officially became a man, at least in the government’s eyes, and was required to register for selective service in the armed forces which meant that if your number came up in the subsequent draft lottery you would soon be headed to the war in Vietnam where your life would almost certainly be changed forever. As the casualties in Vietnam mounted, so did the public opposition to the draft. To randomly select recent high school graduates and send them off to war no longer seemed fair and although we all knew that it was all about fighting communism, and keeping the world safe for democracy, and serving God and our country and doing our duty etc., the prospects of going off to war no longer seemed exciting, just frightening. We probably have television to thank for this change in public opinion because that same medium that was bombarding us with advertisements and images of sex and violence that was surely going to rot our young brains was also showing us the truth about real violence and the real horrors of war. It was television and its pervasive sounds and images of real death and violence, along with the undeniable unfairness of a draft that could randomly pluck your children out of your home and end their lives at a moment’s notice, which brought about the end of the draft and the end of the Vietnam War.

So, what does that have to do with buying clothes made in Vietnam? Well, its 40 years later and we still have wars but now however, with an all volunteer army, it is harder to complain about those wars and how we as a country use our military because the government can always say, “They volunteered. No one made them join. They’re patriots proudly doing their duty.” That is a position that is very hard to argue with but still I am going to try to make my point and my point is this.

As teachers we need to present to our students all of the facts about history and especially the facts about the affects of war on the people who fight them, namely our children who become our soldiers, and who we send off to foreign lands to inevitably end the lives of someone else’s children. So here are some facts to consider…

In 1776 we fought the hated British for our liberty and freedom and the right to establish our own government. Then they invaded our new country again in 1812 and burned down Washington D.C. Later that century in 1863 they even considered aiding the Confederate states during our civil war to help divide our nation forever, but they decided not to so we eventually became friends again, saved their asses with massive invasion forces during two world wars and today we’re BFF!

In 1844 we invaded Mexico and fought the hated Mexicans who massacred Davey Crockett at the Alamo. Today, it’s the Mexican army (or so it seems) who shows up to fix my roof or cut my lawn or patch my sidewalks or trim my trees whenever I hire an American contractor to do the work. In 1898 we fought the hated Spanish in the Spanish-American war, remember that? Or rather remember the Maine?! Today, Spanish is the fastest growing language spoken in the U.S.A.

In 1918 and 1945 we fought the hated Germans who wanted to take over the world and kill us all, and yet by the 1960s every family in America it seemed owned at least one Volkswagen Beetle, the most affordable car of its time, made in Germany.

Who hated the Japanese more than us in 1941? If you had told my father and his WWII buddies in 1945 that someday a Japanese man nicknamed “Godzilla” would play the beloved Joe DiMaggio’s position in centerfield for the New York Yankees and win the World Series MVP while doing it, they would have plotzed! Right there in their pants! Right after their heads exploded!

And did I forget to mention the Russians? Our newest friends, the Russians?!?!!

My point is this. War isn’t hell. It’s stupidity! The people we kill today will tomorrow make our clothes and take our jobs. Why not just cut to the chase and just all be friends and go shopping? We need to teach our children to stop volunteering and to stop thinking that war is going to be fun. We need to teach them to stop believing that we’ve got to go over there to keep them from coming over here. They’re here already! And if not they’ll be here eventually and either with our soldiers help or because we simply invited them! Do you seriously doubt that “Made in Iraq” will be seen somewhere in your house in the near future or that a 7ft. something Afghani will be starting at center for the NY Knicks this decade and making 10 million dollars a year? I don’t.

We need to teach our children that going off to war today will only mean that if and when they come home it will most likely be with a shattered body and a rattled mind and the inability to enjoy as adults what they were sent off as children to protect in the first place.

So parents, don’t let your babies dream or grow up to be cowboys, unless they’re the kind who play in Dallas and get paid big bucks to wear their helmets and protect their heads when they do…although unfortunately that’s another story all together.

More Quiz Stats and Info

4 Oct

Someone who read my quiz asked me to post how other countries compared to the United States and who was first in each of the categories that I listed so here is the leader in each category and our closest competitors…One thing I’ve learned from looking at these statistics is that I really don’t know much about the world outside of the United States.

These stats come from The 2012 Global Competitiveness Report which is a yearly report published by the World Economic Forum.


Life Expectancy:   __30__

1. Andorra (Isn’t this a planet on Star Trek?) 29. Bosnia (How can Bosnia beat us in anything? That’s like losing to the Mets!)


Internet Speed:      ___15__ 1. Japan (figures!) 14. Germany


Education:              ___35__ 1. Taiwan 34. Russia (Didn’t we beat them in the cold war?)


# of people who believe in Angels: __1__

Hard to find other statistics on angel belief around the world but what studies have been done seem to indicate that angel belief is on the rise and more people believe in angels than global warming.


Mobile Phones per Capita: __16__ 1. Germany (who are the Germans calling? Very interesting…15. Algeria (Algeria? Who are they calling?)


Renewable Energy Use: __27__

1. Iceland (They live on a volcano. No fair!) 26. Australia (There on an island…but come to think of it, aren’t we all?)


Defense Spending: __1___

We spend More than the next 14 countries combined! (Why???? And then I have to ask, who are we defending ourselves from?)


Scientific Literacy: __33__ 1. Iceland (They live on a volcano!) 32. Cyprus (Cyprus has science?)


Quality of Healthcare: __37__

1. France (Mais oui!) 36. Costa Rica (You’ve got to be kidding???)


Prison Population: __1__

# of inmates As of 2009 (International Center for Prison Studies) US 2,193,798: China 1,548,498: Russia 874,161: Brazil 371,482: India 332,112 (Does more freedom mean more trouble?)


Infant Survival rate: __31__ 1. Japan 30. Slovakia (We have got to be able to do better than this!)

     When one considers the tremendous amount of wealth that we have in this country and our standings in these categories internationally, it seems to me that we must also have a tremendous amount of poverty in this country that we ignore. We must also have a great deal of waste and misspending and… judging by our increasing belief in angels, we might also conclude that we as a country hope it will all just magically get better?





Just Some Quiz Facts…

3 Oct

Just some facts to go along with the recent quiz I posted: I imagine that the United States must be #1 in some other categories also but we definitely lead in these 3…


Over the last 40 years, America’s inmate population has quadrupled, from 500,000 to 2.3 million, giving the U.S. 5 percent of the world’s population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. The country now spends $70 billion a year ($50 billion of it at the state level) locking up all of these people.

Since the war on drugs began in the early 1980s, (Remember “Just say no?”) spending on prisons has grown at six times the rate of spending on higher education.

Our military budget which covers defense spending and anything else related to funding the military of the U.S. comprises about 24% of our total federal budget. (About 4% of the federal budget is spent on Education)

The recent invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan were largely funded through supplementary spending bills outside the Federal Budget, so they were not included in the military budget figures until the 2010 budget. Now the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are categorized as “Overseas Contingency Operations” and included in the budget.

And according to a 2011 AP-GfK poll, 77% of adults in the United States think angels are real. 88% of Christians and 94% of those who attend weekly religious services believe in the existence of angels, and a majority of non-Christians and 4 in 10 of those who never attend religious services believe as well. And those of us who are over 30 are more likely than younger adults to think they exist.

No judgments here just some facts, but researching  this and then thinking about angels reminded me of a quote from Abraham Lincoln that I had heard. Here is his final paragraph from his first inaugural address delivered in March of 1861…

“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”



Rate the States! Quiz Answers

2 Oct

      Here are the answers! You get to score yourself.

      Be honest! No cheating! (Tip: Don’t try this in a real classroom)

      In this quiz you were given the following numbers and had to place them in the boxes next to the appropriate category rating the United States’ standing in the world compared to other countries. Here are your numbers.

(15, 16, 27, 30, 31, 33, 35, 37, and three 1’s)

So, where does the United States stand in the world when it comes to?

These stats come from The 2012 Global Competitiveness Report which is a yearly report published by the World Economic Forum.



Life Expectancy:   __30__ Think of how much we’re saving in Social Security and Medicaid!


Internet Speed:      ___15__ who wants to watch fast porn?


Education:              ___35__ I hear 35 is the new 15!


# of people who believe in Angels: __1__of course! They play in Anaheim don’t they???


Mobile Phones per Capita: __16__Hey, I only need 1!


Renewable Energy Use: __27__There’s always Redbull!


Defense Spending: __1___ The best defense is a good offense?


Scientific Literacy: __33__We’re 33rd by intelligent design!


Quality of Healthcare: __37__who needs healthcare when you’re 30th in life expectancy!


Prison Population: __1__How many times do we have to tell everyone? Freedom is not free!


Infant Survival rate: __31__absolutely nothing funny about this…


Hope you scored better than the U.S. did. I already know you scored better than the Jets!




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