September 2, 2014
This column is dedicated to three young women I know: Jessica, Jennifer, and Amanda. They are about to start their school year as teachers. They are an essential cog in today’s society. They are smart as evidenced by Jessica teaching high school chemistry, Jennifer teaching high school biology, and Amanda teaching high school mathematics. All of these gals would have me tied up in knots in their class since these are subjects I have not tackled since high school and college. And to give you an idea of when that was, the computers I used in college are now in the Smithsonian!
For full disclosure, Jess and Jen are daughters and Amanda is a semi-niece. As I look over the educational landscape, I am slightly relieved knowing that there are many good teachers out there like these women. Their stories are also a parable about what is right…and wrong in our schools.
Jennifer and Amanda are starting their first year as full time teachers. Jennifer has spent the past year being a sub while Amanda graduated from college this past spring with her teaching degree. I believe they are entering the school year with excitement, as well as a bit of nervousness. They have subbed and been student teachers, but now they have classes to plan, students to work with throughout the year, and administrators and parents to get to know. They know their subject, will not be boring, and if I can give them one piece of advice, it is this: Show no fear! Kids can sense that. (Actually, I know neither of these two women will take much grief from any student. I feel sorry for the kid that tries to test them.)
Jessica is entering her fifth year of teaching. Two years ago, she was Teacher of the Year. This year she is going back kicking and screaming. At the end of last year, she was becoming disillusioned with the profession, but with one month left she became very ill and could not finish out the year. It took a couple of months for a doctor to figure out what was wrong with her, so the good news is that she is getting her health back. She has a ways to go, but she is healthy enough to go back to teaching.
Health issues aside, Jessica was getting fed up with the non-support she was receiving from the administration and her union in her job. This compounded when the medical issues occurred, and the new administration that came on board was even worse than last years. You see the administration and superintendent were making decisions and assumptions without even talking with Jessica. Yes, I am her father, but it seemed to me that here was another case of empty suits covering their ass instead of doing their job.
I know this is a broad generalization, but we should let teachers teach. The young men and women who are entering the teaching ranks are eager to be good at their jobs. There are also plenty of veteran educators who feel the same way, but who are tired of all the regulations, guidelines, and “new and improved” programs that are constantly handed down. Yes, there are many good administrators out there, but there are also many who would be better suited working at Wal-Mart. As for the politicians who talk about education so much, please think of one thing. For all the money dumped on education, why are we graduating kids from high school who cannot do basic reading, writing, and math? By the way, I am talking about those graduating from so-called “good schools.”
I pray that Amanda and Jennifer have dynamite first years of teaching. I hope they have support in their high schools from the administration and parents, and they do not feel like they always have to look over their shoulder. I pray that Jessica can negotiate her way through this school year and find her mojo again for teaching in whatever is in front of her.
They are great kids. (OK, I am at the point where young people in their 20’s are still kids.) There are many others in the teaching profession just like them. I know from Jessica the time she puts in to teach her students, and Jen and Amanda are going to find out the same thing. There is a lot wrong with our education system right now. Most teachers are not the issue, though. If you think that, please sit down and talk with one. You will be amazed at what they do.
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August 28, 2014
Labor Day in the United States is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.
As with so many national holidays, we like having the day off, but we often forget about what the day is all about. I have to wonder how many people wish they had a good job to take off from on Monday. Or how many have to go to their part-time jobs because that is all they were able to find. And when you have a part-time job, you almost always have to go in when you are told. That is because those employers know they have you by the nape of the neck and you can be easily replaced. There are an awful lot of people out there who need a job who can be fitted into the slot.
And that is the real shame of celebrating Labor Day the past few years. There is not a lot to celebrate. Unions are looked at as the enemy of business instead of a way for workers to be able to band together and work towards having a good work environment and a living wage. It is true that the pendulum swung in the unions favor for many years to the detriment of business. But now it has gone the other way as the rallying cry is for business to make every last penny for the benefit of its stockholders or owners and to hell with the employees. This is a generalization I know, but look at where we are. Relatively speaking, many families aren’t bringing the same amount of income into the home as they were able to do twenty years ago. The unemployment figures given to us every week do not reflect the underemployed and those who have given up looking for a job. Unemployed youth and those over 50 have a hard time finding anything.
I don’t know who we are trying to fool anymore. It seems all of the speeches about creating jobs are just that: talk. We will hear all about jobs and strengthening the middle class as we get near November elections. It will all be forgotten the day after elections as the power brokers in Washington manuever to be on top. President Obama seems so perplexed by international events that I do not think he has paid a lot of attention to the homefront lately.
Employees, unions, and management have to work together to keep the balance in our economic system. And that balance is necessary to give our country a solid foundation to do anything well. That has always been true in our history and I see no reason why that will change in the future. It comes down to a common sense approach to planning for the future by everyone involved – and not driven by immediate gratification or downright greed. Unfortunately, our recent track record of being motivated by cool-headed planning for the future has not been great.
The government is going to be greatly distracted for the next several months as it deals with the Mideast, Russia, elections, etc. Haven’t we seen this movie before? Let’s hope as we limp along to the end of the year that some things actually get accomplished that will set the nation on a positive course. It would be nice if more people can actually enjoy and celebrate Labor Day next year for what it is.
August 27, 2014
According to the latest reports, the House of Representatives will spend at least $350,000 on lawyers to sue President Obama . The House Committee on Administration announced on Monday that it has retained the law firm Baker-Hostetler and appointed attorney David Rivkin to lead the House's lawsuit against President Obama, which Republicans approved on a party-line vote last month. According to a copy of the contract posted on the committee's website, the House (i.e. John Q. Taxpayer) will pay a rate of $500 an hour with a "firm cap" of $350,000 for the lawsuit.
Remember, as outlined by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), the House plans to accuse Obama of exceeding his constitutional authority by delaying the employer mandate in his healthcare law without permission from Congress. Rivkin had argued that House Republicans had a case against Obama, and G.O.P. leaders relied on his legal theory in deciding to pursue a largely unprecedented lawsuit.
I have so many issues with this procedure that I do not even know where to start.
First, let us begin with laziness and not doing their job…and I am talking about Congress here. Do not get me wrong, I believe that President Obama has consistently gone above the proper guidelines of the Constitution with his “executive orders”. He has hit the Affordable Care Act with more adjustments on his say-so than a piñata getting whacked at a children’s party.
But two wrongs never ever make a right. The precedent you want to stop is a President doing things beyond his authority, not bringing lawsuits into the national legislature scene. So many problems we have in America are directly related to our lawsuit happy culture. Do we really want to propagate that as a way of doing business on the national stage? Because the one thing our Republican and Democratic morons, I mean leaders, seem to forget is that sooner or later the shoe is going to be on the other foot. Democrats are not going to want a Republican president changing laws willy-nilly, and Republicans will be up in arms the first time the Democrats sue one of their leaders. What is the end result of this? Nothing getting done – or business as normal as we have been accustomed to for the last several years.
There are enough Constitutional pieces to put into play if you really do not think the President is doing his job. Impeachment is the biggie. Critics argue that impeachment is not doable because of the current Democratic make-up of the Senate. Well, boo-hoo! You cannot bypass the Constitution just because it is convenient! What galls me is that the ones who usually lead with a Constitutional argument are the first ones who want to leapfrog the document.
The chairwoman of the Administration Committee, Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), said in a statement accompanying the release of the contract that the lawsuit was about holding the President "accountable." Well, Ms. Miller, if you cannot play the impeachment card, accountability is decided at every election. President Obama is done being elected (Thank the Lord), but there is a big national election this year. If you are so sure of your case, then bring it to the people. Let us decide if we go with your argument or not. Hiring more bloody lawyers in Washington is like adding to the national debt.
Speaking of which, I am not happy my tax dollars are going to pay for suing the President, even if I am not crazy about him. And if you believe that it is only going to cost $350,000 for this idiotic political ploy, then you probably also believe that President Obama is conducting intelligence briefings on the golf course.
Let Congress pass around the hat (since they are not doing much else in Washington) and have members contribute out of their own pockets for the lawsuit. Nothing can come from deep pocket political donors or from any “special fund” Congress may have – because that just got there from tax money. I will bet you anything that if the politicians had to spend their own bucks, this lawsuit would just fritter away. After all, these people cannot govern, and the only thing that frightens them more than the actions of the opposition, is if they actually have to take a stand for something and be prepared to back it with their own resources.
August 26, 2014
There is a rhythm to the year that is ingrained in many of us from childhood. For those of us who grew up with a conventional school year, it seems that we follow the same pattern in life and business. We mentally throttle back a little between Thanksgiving and New Years as we take a breather at the end of the year. Summer is more of the same with vacation, or at least some days off here and there. You take one final breath as you go through the Labor Day weekend knowing you jump back into life with both feet on the Tuesday after. Even if you work full tilt during the entire summer, the beginning of September is like a renewed kick as you come into the final stretch of a marathon.
Then we have Washington DC. Congress has been on recess forever and President Obama seems to be counting down the days until he can write his memoirs and rake in the bucks on the speaking circuit. This has been a volatile summer both home and abroad. Major problems in the Mideast and the Ukraine scream out for some type of effort from the United States. As war weary as we are…and I certainly am…I cannot help but wonder about the future of our world. You have a thug in charge of the Soviet Union who loves flexing his muscles (shirtless or not) and a very, very grave danger in the evolution of ISIS.
So what can we expect from the President and Congress as they hit the ground running next Tuesday? Nothing!
First, President Obama. Even for him, the lack of decisiveness on the various domestic and international issues is appalling. I did not vote for him either time, but it is so disappointing that he never seems to have gotten the hang of being President. We went through so much “hope and change” and apologizing to the world for our actions, that we are not only seen as being impotent, but that is kind of the country’s level of morale. We are not. We are a mighty nation. It would just help if we started acting like it.
Of course, that impotence impression is easy to sustain when you look at Congress. You know the nice thing about their 5-week break? Not only did they accomplish the same amount of work as if they were in session, but we did not have to listen to as much stupid rhetoric as when they are all in town together. Their focus over the remaining four months of the year will be, first, the November elections. Then it will be the posturing for power, depending on the results of the election. Throw in lawsuits against the President, partisan grandstanding, and a contest to see who can say the most outrageous things and you pretty have the rest of 2014 mapped out.
To other nations, America must look like a bickering family reunion. Meanwhile, we have so many problems that it would take up several columns just listing them. I hope Americans will not only take the elections seriously, but to let the candidates know that we are tired of their crap. I know the extreme left and right think that supporting their party right or wrong is the way to go. Stop fooling yourself. In almost anything, the dangerous and the idiots are on the extremes. Look carefully at who represents you without a vision clouded by party. Then figure out if voting for that man or woman is going to further our impotence, or if we can finally move forward and deal with our issues instead of avoiding them.
August 25, 2014
I am sure you saw the story last week of a high school senior in Tennessee says she was given an in-school suspension for saying "bless you" to a classmate who had sneezed. Kendra Turner, a student at Dyer County High School, told WMC-TV that when her teacher told her she had broken a class rule against invoking religious terms, she complained.
“She said that we’re not going to have godly speaking in her class," Turner said, "and that’s when I said we have a constitutional right. ... It’s all right to defend God and it’s our constitutional right, because we have a freedom of religion and freedom of speech."
Local pastor Becky Winegardner said this was not the first time Turner's teacher had clashed with students over religion. “There were several students that were talking about this particular faculty member there that was very demeaning to them in regard to their faith,” Winegardner told WMC. “This was something that had come up previously in the last few weeks just since the beginning of school, and I shared with all of those students what their rights were.”
I think there are enough problems in education that show priorities are all over the place. We are sending high school graduates to colleges where the first classes a kid is required to take are remedial math and writing classes. This is because kids did not adequately learn the basics during their first 12 years of school. Forget all the other classes a kid can take, if you come out of high school and cannot do reading, writing, and arithmetic – we are in big trouble.
I have seen this first hand. I will not write a college student’s paper, but I will edit them. You cannot believe the garbled English I receive that I have to make sense of. I edited a book for someone with a Masters, and I could not believe how bad it was written. As for math skills, I have had this happen so many times with a young person at a cash register. Say you buy something and it costs you $6.28. The kid sees the $10 bill in your hand and puts that into the register and it shows him or her you get $3.72 in change. But if you quickly pull out 28 cents and hand it to the person, the look on their face is as if you asked them to solve a calculus equation. They cannot figure out that they just have to give you back four one-dollar bills.
What really gets me is the keeping of God out of education. I am not even getting into prayer in school. The fact is that religion is an overwhelming shaper of where the world is today. How can you ignore it? It is a part of life and needs to be understood as much as math and science. I am sure, though, if a teacher was an atheist that it would be perfectly ok for that teacher to share those beliefs with kids.
You cannot expect a child or young person to go to school in the United States and expect them to leave their beliefs outside the door. Some schools and teachers seem so intent on working on a “white bread” mentality, that the entire idea of education is lost. By that, I mean they want every student to be exactly like every other student. Education is more than an assembly line of thoughts. The richness of education is having various people of different backgrounds coming together and sharing their ideas and impressions of what is being taught. It is really disconcerting how some public schools go so far in squashing individual thought and beliefs. Not to mention the kids come out inadequately prepared for life.
I will be writing more about education in the next couple of weeks as school is starting up all over the country. There is a real problem in the USA. We keep throwing tons of money to “improve” education and we seem to keep getting further behind. I think it is time to stop having a “national” cure for a local responsibility. States cannot even get consistency throughout their school districts. Maybe we need to listen to the teachers, students, and parents about what is missing in education, and let the so-called “experts” and school union leaders sit in detention where they cannot cause more trouble.