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

25 May

As Memorial Day arrives we take time to reflect on the liberties and freedom we all share due to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for us. My father served during World War II, My grandfather during World War I, and my great grandfather during the Civil War. They all saw action and survived while others did not and we can say today without any doubt that those who gave their lives in service to their country did so in valiant efforts to preserve what we so cherish here in the United States today…

But which of those wars was the war to end all wars? And will that war ever be fought? When I was young one American dream that was a big time favorite but by now really should have run its course was that of being a soldier. 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!

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…

It’s All In the Head!

19 May

My best advice for education reform now and in the future is to take care of the children and simply this…”Parents and children of the world! Protect the head!

Forget about mandatory seat belts and car seats and bicycle helmets for young children. It’s too late by then. I say mandatory helmets for all newborns, not to be removed until the age of ten! We’ll have to develop some new age material that will be form fitting and fashionable of course and impervious to assault from small animals, siblings and adults who like to shake, shake, shake… shake their kids silly, but we can do it!

How did I arrive at this startling realization that the head is our most important teaching and learning tool? One day during class it occurred to me to ask one of my lower track freshmen classes, after a particularly hard day of trying to get them to understand the concept of sitting still, if perhaps any of them had ever suffered from head trauma as a young child? Blank stares filled the room and not one hand was raised. Briefly confused myself, I quickly realized my mistake and explained that trauma meant getting smacked upside the head.

That’s when every hand shot up into the air.

“Oh sure, said one boy, my brother hit me in the head with a baseball bat!”

“When did that happen?” I asked.

“Everyday when I was 6!” came his answer.

“Me too!” Said another boy, but it was my dad who hit me. Mom tried to protect me though. She said, hit him in the ass you idiot.”

“I fell down the stairs! Lots!” said a young girl.

“I fell out of the car.”

“I ran through the sliding door window!”

“I liked to hit myself with my shoes! Said another girl. That’s when I got my first pair of sneakers and went to the “Little Genius Academy”. I used to be a genius you know.”

And that’s when I knew I was on to something. All of my poorly performing, low achieving, attention demanding students had all suffered head trauma at an early age and some consistently! In every class, when I asked my students this question, almost always, all hands went up. It was their one common bond (besides being scatterbrained).

So I say this to all parents and children everywhere. Protect the head! At all times!  It’s the only one you’ve got and you’re going to need it every day!

The Unbearable Lightness of Knowing

1 Mar

Isn’t it ironic that for the past two decades, the trend in local, state and federal education policies has been to require more and more standardized tests as a way to establish common benchmarks of achievement and to hold public schools accountable for their student’s progress, while at the same time our nation’s politicians have become more and more ill informed and moronic when it comes to matters of common sense and common knowledge?

All of this testing ad nauseam to try and create a more informed and well educated populace and yet we now have a veritable gaggle of political leaders and representatives…Congressmen and state officials… who quite literally don’t know their asses from their elbows.

In Idaho a lawmaker thinks that if a woman swallows a pill it might end up in her vagina!

In Nevada an Assemblywoman believes that cancer is a fungus that can be flushed away with salt water and baking soda and wants to change federal law so this procedure can finally be made available to Americans!

There was a former Congressman who believes in “legitimate rape” and a woman’s natural ability to stop pregnancy while being “legitimately raped”!

How about the US Representative from Illinois who said that reducing our nation’s carbon dioxide output would be a bad thing because it would take plant food from the air!

We have Governors and Senators who believe that vaccinations may not be such a good thing when it comes to the future of the public’s health and well being!

Or there was the Texas Representative who thinks that wind is God’s way of balancing heat and that wind farms would only serve to “use up” all of that wind and make the Earth hotter!

Or our current Speaker of the House, who said that carbon dioxide can’t be a bad thing because every time we exhale we make more, just like cows do!

Or a Vice Presidential candidate who came very close to being elected, who proudly asserted that she could see Russia from her house in Alaska!

Or the Senate committee member who wanted to know what all the fuss was about the polar ice cap melting, because when the ice in his glass of water melts it never overflows!

And no longer can basic scientific principles that were taught in the public schools when I was a youngster 50 years ago be taken for granted in today’s hallowed halls of government. They must now be open for debate with these morons mentioned above and other political mental midgets, as though their resurgent medieval beliefs that were once and for all, finally and forever discredited as superstitions, myths and old wives’ tales, are now possible legitimate alternatives to actual learning!

So why bother testing America’s public school students on everything when we don’t test America’s leaders on anything? The only qualifications for public office in this country are citizenship and age!

Idiocy, ignorance and inanity disqualify no one from holding public office! They won’t even get you removed from public office. Try threatening to shut down your place of business every few months while accomplishing absolutely nothing in between and see how long you stay employed…but in our government that is absolutely no problem.

Why study and pass tests in school when all you have to do after graduation is suck up to one of our corporate overlords, take their money and promise to do their bidding? You can be as foolish, inept and irresponsible as you please!

So children of America: stop studying and stop taking those ridiculous tests! Rather you should emulate your country’s esteemed leaders and take a bribe from whoever is offering one then go shoot hoops or cheer-lead…

for knowledge no longer seems to represent power in America…All knowledge seems to represent today is an alternative way of thinking.

If we are not going to hold our politicians and potential leaders up to higher standards, and if they also believe that as American leaders and role models they need not exude intelligence, nor radiate knowledge about that which they have been elected to oversee in front of an electorate, before whom they are constantly expected to speak, then why should they be allowed to demand higher standards of our children?

Just When You Thought We Couldn’t Get Any Dumber…or…Don’t Worry, Be Happy!

21 Nov

In just one year, the percentage of Americans who don’t believe in climate change has actually gone up 7%! Now almost 1 in 4 Americans thinks that climate change is just a big hoax… even though over 97% of all scientists who have written about global warming and its causes agree that its human caused.  And The other 3% don’t deny it, they simply haven’t stated their position as to its cause one way or the other.

So 23% of Americans (laymen) still don’t believe in climate change despite what facts and statements scientists (the experts) show and tell them… But if you’ve ever been a teacher you know that this is nothing new and why testing is a big waste of time. If all of these scientists, who completely agree on the facts, were teachers in today’s public schools, they would be facing pay cuts and possible unemployment because their students (in this case 23% of the public) just don’t listen to them and/or believe in what they have to say…no matter how hard they try…and as a result wouldn’t be able to pass a test on the facts…leaving a passing rate of 77% …or in public school terminology…total failure!

So do we need better trained scientists? Higher science standards? Free market Charter science academies? More rigor in our de ri·gueur?… In order to get more people to learn and accept the truth? Research (the polls) have shown that if you’re one of the 23% who does not believe in global warming then you’re not very likely to change your mind no matter what evidence you are confronted with, or how many times you are polled…It still gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer and that’s about all of the science and data on climate change you need to know.

Hey teachers! Does this ring any bells?

A 2012 poll from the Pew Research Center found that even though 97% of all scientists agree that humans are causing the spike in global warming, less than half of all Americans thought scientists agreed so completely. And why do So many Americans think that the scientists are still split about what’s causing all of this warming?

Well, The media has assisted in this public misconception, because most of their climate stories are always “balanced” with a “skeptic” perspective making those few scientists who might be in disagreement seem like half! So by trying to balance their stories by showing both sides of the debate (even though there is really only one side and no debate at all) the media has actually created a completely unbalanced perception of reality. As a result, people believe scientists are still split about what’s causing global warming.

So why can’t people learn? Duh…it’s the television! That damn stupid TV!

But then again, any teacher (let alone scientist) could have told you that!

Moral of the story? Take a day when you can and just Call in sick and go to the beach, cause this old world is still gonna blow a gasket…whether you or those other 23% believe in the facts or not…(which of course you won’t)

And that’s the fact Jack!

Happiness IS a warm gun

21 Oct

Well, the gun advocates were right! If you allow people to have more guns and more freedom to use them in public places, the world will become a safer place.

Case in point: Prominent feminist video game critic Anita Sarkeesian, was planning on appearing at a speaking engagement at Utah State University last Wednesday to discuss the portrayal of women in video games, but the University received an anonymous Email that threatened “The deadliest school shooting in American History” if her appearance and speech were not canceled.

The Email even went on to describe the nature of the attack and stated:

“If you do not cancel her talk, a Montreal Massacre style attack will be carried out against the attendees, as well as students and staff at the nearby Women’s Center. I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs.”

Ms. Sarkeesian however had decided to go ahead with her presentation because she always receives similar threats whenever she plans a speaking engagement… that is until she was informed by Utah University’s campus security that Utah’s concealed carry laws meant it would be possible for guns to be present at the University’s speaking event.

Utah has an Open Carry law and permits the concealed carry of loaded weapons with a permit and in Utah a person may carry firearms into banks, bars, public universities, and state parks… and with a permit, a person may also carry those weapons into public schools…but Utah does not require concealed carry permit holders to notify police officers of their permit or possession of firearms…even when stopped by police officers.

So how would anyone know if there were a person or persons in the audience with concealed weapons who might be potential mass murders as opposed to law abiding avengers in waiting? In light of that simple dilemma, Ms. Sarkeesian decided not to try and find out and so she canceled her speaking engagement and everyone stayed home…where they were safe and at least knew who had the guns.

Sounds like a perfect solution wouldn’t you say?

What’s In a Name?

9 Sep

The High School in which I was a teacher for 31 years always offered a course in the study of The Holocaust. The town in which the high school was located had a long and rich history that included many Jewish residents and visitors and so this particular course touched upon a subject that was both near and dear to the hearts of those who lived and worked and taught within the town.

But of course the importance of teaching such a course was to instruct all of the students and residents of the town that such a horrible atrocity could never be forgotten and that this monstrous injustice could occur somewhere else and at some other time to any group of people and anywhere within our world where people did not remain vigilant or were willing to forget or disbelieve that humans could ever treat other humans with such cold cruelty.

And of course the corner stone of the course, if you will, was always the phrase: “Never forget”. We must never forget what happened in the Germany of WWII lest an atrocity of similar horror happen again.

And so over the years the course was taught, and as fate would have it, over the years our classes, students and public school community gradually changed complexion until one day I was listening in when a young African American student, looking a bit bored with the lecture, raised his hand and said, “Who cares about this. What about slavery?” as many of the other students of color began to mutter their agreement.

And I will never forget what the teacher’s response was…and this is going to sound like I’m making it up although I swear to you, on my honor, that I am not…

The teacher’s response was: “Son, that was a long time ago. You’re going to have to forget about that and move on with your life or you’ll end up going nowhere.”

And that is why The Washington Redskins need to change their name! And Daniel Snyder, the Washington team’s owner, should know better…especially than to say to USA Today and the world…”We’ll never change the name. It’s that simple. NEVER — you can use caps.”

Because Never is a word you use…when you forget.

 

We Won’t Get Fooled Again…We Hope

2 Apr

When you’re a teacher, the hardest day of the year is always the first day of school…but the second most difficult day of the year, as far as I was concerned, was always April Fools Day. That was always the day when your students seemed to feel that they would be immune from punishment for whatever ridiculous and silly prank they could think up, so you always had to be on the lookout for your April fools. Woe to the teacher who did not keep track of the day and date and know what day it was!

I would always check ahead on the calendar and hope that April first fell on a Saturday or Sunday or perhaps even Spring break…but of course there was always the “sick day” that hopefully one had available just in case your particular pool of students that year was more fool-ish than friendly…

So here’s to all of you teachers out there and hoping that your day today was a good one…and also fool free!

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