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Sunday, April 03, 2016

Permanent vs. Transient

I've been looking at our society for awhile now-admittedly from a political point of view. But in the larger scale of things it appears that we are not so much warring about political views as we are over the larger scale of permanence versus transience. This war can be easily demonstrated by looking at marriage, housing, employment and other elements.

Marriage has been under fire for awhile now. Earlier and more primitive societies saw the value in permanent relationships, approved of by tribes, families and society as being beneficial as a means to solidify the nature of the culture. It's not that people didn't circumvent the institution of marriage, but more that they sought to establish rules of marriage outside the norm. We saw this with polygamous marriage, with the acceptance of harems and concubines as well as our modern day discussion of same sex marriage. It is interesting that even in the most liberal societies, the official "blessing" of marriage comes not from a house of faith, but from the state. As a result, marriage as an institution has changed from a moral imperative to a social imperative.

The true irony is the institution itself is also under assault, if you will, from those who actively choose not to participate. Many people avoid marriage and even within celebrity circles the action of marriage is either more of a media event if a marriage is broached at all. While many will say the break down of the institution of marriage is harmless, can anyone truly disregard the problems of single mothers raising children in poverty? While most social conservatives oppose same sex marriage on religious grounds, which is their right, if it is the state conferring the marriage upon a couple, perhaps for the stabilization of society it is better to have permanent same sex marriages rather than a transient relationship. I don't claim to be the arbiter of what people think, but I see less harm to society and the individual from a long term permanent official relationship than a string of temporary transient relationships that sometimes result in children who are not supported in the ways children require.

Housing is another area where this permanent vs. transient idea comes into play. Many people choose to avoid the constrictions of buying a home because it would mean they would assume the costs of maintaining a home. Even in this era of rapid increase in real estate, there are people who do not want the aggravation or responsibility of home ownership. If you drive by apartment complexes, you will notice that most of the cars are newer and more expensive than your average middle income housing development. The same folks who avoid ownership in housing frequently do so with transportation as well. It's much less expensive to lease a car on a month to month basis, you never really pay off the debt. Instead one new car is replaced with another. This points to certain internal need to have a facade of affluence even when none is in evidence.

This is further carried out with people who buy homes to the outermost limit of their credit and then partially fill the house with rented furniture. I live near a very expensive housing development. In the special area of the development, homes start in the million dollar range which is high for north Texas. A friend of mine owns a cleaning company which serves many of these homes. She has seen that the ground floors of these house are filled with luxurious, impressive furniture-all with rental stickers. Quite often the bedrooms, especially for the kids, are mattresses on the floor and clothes in plastic laundry baskets. So even though these folks attempt to attain the perception of affluence, they resort to doing so in ways that are transient. It is not unheard of for folks in this affluent area to simply abandon their houses rather than going through the public shame of bankruptcy. So it appears that the need to give the appearance of wealth is more important than doing the heavy lifting and self discipline and denial and allows wealth to develop.

Even in employment, people seem to believe or have been taught that they deserve more than their talents or education merit. This has created a strange sort of situation where uneducated people with connections (think anyone on TMZ who isn't a performer) can get a better paying job than people who have actually gone to college, done hard work and represented themselves in a responsible way. I am not a Sanders supporter, but I understand the bitterness of so many young adults out of college because my children are in that age range. All of them work very hard, some with multiple jobs. They do what they are told, do the best they can and yet see no real traction in terms of economics or promotion. Instead upper jobs are filled by outsiders who haven't been in the company and who haven't been patient after a manager asked them to just wait for raises, etc.

An example of this is one son who works for a well known bike company. He has sold $1.2 MILLION in high end bikes over the last three years. Yet his most recent raise was fifty cents an hour. His salary doesn't even pass five percent of what he has sold. Yet others in the same company who are friends and acquaintances make more. My oldest son has a degree in history and his job pays $12 an hour. My daughter works two jobs, one at a well known national bank, another at a national retail chain. As long as this generation continues to see older people line their pockets and refuse to promote them, the disaffection and disgust will grow.

This is not to say that this generation doesn't share the blame. Many of them bought into the college recruiters false assertions that they should "invest in themselves" buy attending costly private schools and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of college loan debt. Part of this is the issue of pushing the myth that "everyone should go to college" and part of this has to do with the method of helicopter parenting that has led these kids to believe they should be given a safety net for every problem. Of course that goes back to a system of education that is far more interested in controlling outcomes than in education. But then again, they have been raised to believe that there will be unlimited do overs and that good effort trumps good outcomes. Again that lack of dedication to a job or task is the debate over permanence (staying on a job and doing the job) goes up against transience (feigning boredom or simply giving up).

It used to be that someone would train for a job and hold that job moving up the chain for 30 years. Perhaps that model is and was unrealistic. But we currently have companies whose employment needs rise and sink with the tides. This creates a type of cultural anxiety where people feel they cannot count on the future and therefore do not shape their lives for the future. We can see this in the number of educated, employed people who choose not to have children. My own children have said that they don't feel confident enough in the future to have children. Why purchase a home if you will only lose it five years later? Why buy a car when you can abuse a rental and get a new one in two years? Why bother to maintain, develop, or hold onto anything or anyone in this society if the entire culture underlay can be ripped apart on a whim? Are you a permanent person or a transient one? I think it's something people need to consider.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Adventures in Politics

I decided that since I am so disappointed and distressed over our sad choices in this next elections, that I would become more knowledgable and more active in politics in my area. So after the primary I went to the precinct meeting. There I met a few others who were similarly curious and we all became delegates to the senatorial convention.

Today I went to that convention, learning many things. First of all delegates select the nominees, not the voters. Not yet anyway. And since none of the delegates at my precinct and precious few from others in the area have Trump delegates in spite of fairly large numbers of votes, we know that either Trump voters are interested in the full range of politics OR that Trump voters are not by and large Republicans. The agenda included approving a slate of supplementary rules as well as a slate of delegates to the State Convention in May. Everything was hunky dory until Rule 16.

Rule 16 says that in order to be a delegate to a State convention, you have to file an application and turn it in. The applications were online and even mailed to the homes of senatorial delegates weeks before the convention. There was plenty of time to turn in these one page applications. But, like their children, these alleged adults fiddled around and lost the papers, ultimately didn't turn them in on time. So instead of asking for time to do it today, they wanted all applications eliminated as a deciding factor in who gets to go to State.

But that's not the whole story. Early on I had been reading how Trump supporters were going to try to get enough delegates just to get the Rules changed for the national convention so that he could be named the nominee with a plurality of the delegates rather than the majority of the delegates. That being the goal, Trump delegates wanted to pack delegations at every level to get their planks in the platform passed. I reasoned this out on my own, but at lunch I asked my precinct chair-a lady who's been around party politics since Reagan-if I was truly seeing that kind of attempted takeover. She nodded solemnly and said not only that, but the same tactics were being used in senatorial districts across the state. If they can get Trump delegates at the senatorial level, they can push their platform and delegates at state and end up having rules shaped to confirm The Donald's nominations without so much as a whimper.

More such shenanigans went on as various precincts tried to remove some delegates in order to replaced them with alternates that held more Trumptastic views than the rest of the crowd. This event-although at times tedious-was an education in itself. I wish I could go to State, but I have to give an AP exam that day.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Future World?

I am pretty analytical about my politics.
I like to make choices for a reason.
I don't understand how people can latch onto someone who lobs insults and innuendo like snowballs. I know politics is a full contact sport, but I honestly do not understand the popularity of someone like Donald Trump. Or, for that matter, Hillary Clinton.

They are both too old.
They are both products of a different age and carry the biases of those times for good or ill.
They are both thin skinned and vindictive.
They are both vengeful-something Hillary has shown her whole life and something Trump alludes to in his speeches.
Both have legal troubles-Hillary for violation of our nation's security, Trump for fraud.

Honest to God folks, don't we deserve better than this?

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I Am Not a Teacher/I Am a Person Who Teaches

This is an important step. I must move away from being a "Teacher" as an identity. For too long I have put my job before my health, my sanity, my talents and even my family. This is the way the system is set up. It used to be that there was a clear division between one's work life and home life. Education, as practiced today, isn't like that anymore.

Oh sure, you'll have those trolls who chortle "but you have summers off." Define "off." In the past five summers I have attended five AP Summer Institutes, written curriculum twice, attended twenty "trade days"(which are a special torture I will explain later...), taken repetitive and often meaningless professional development (Bring your best lesson plan ad infinitum) which all are spaced just far enough apart to make taking a college course, a vacation or even getting my house clean an impossibility. I don't know of a single teacher who thinks of summer as "off" time. It's catch up on cleaning, fix the bathroom, paint the baby's room or even mow the lawn time. It's time when we get to do or have to do all the things normal people do on weekends during the school year while we're frantically grading into the wee hours hoping to make the gradebook deadline.

I have to learn to be a Person first. I can't just keep being a Teacher Creature who exists on test data, IEP's and has so little time to be an individual that I have no hobbies and few friends. This has to end. I cannot continue on this path. Please don't get me wrong, it's not that I dislike teaching, but like some sort of aggressive mold, teaching has taken over my life sucking out any time from reading or painting or drawing or just taking a walk in the park. I have stories that make me smile. Like the girl who showed up today from U of Arkansas who told me that she was a Graphic Design major. We laughed because she was a mess when she was in my painting class. I celebrate that there are kids out there, some that I may never know about, who chose art and design as a career. But for every story like that there are so many others with kids who don't care, parents who live to crush the spirit of teachers and administrators far more interested in data than people.

I don't know how anyone does this for thirty years. I honestly don't know how I have done it for seventeen years. I didn't plan on staying so long. And unfortunately because of my age, I find I have to stay a few more years just to have some sort of money rolling in during what is laughably called retirement. I've seen retirement. Oh sure there are those who travel to exotic lands, sampling life by the wine glass. But far more often, especially with teachers pensions, I've seen the type of retirement where 80 year old retirees feel compelled to sub three days a week. I don't want to be doing that at 80 or 70 or even 65. I'll work as a Walmart Greeter before I do that.

It would be nice to think that teaching was some sort of shadowy modern version of "Good Bye Mr. Chips", but instead it seems to be a world that is trapped in meaningless trends hinging on test scores and special populations. In the workroom, we older teachers spend some time worrying about the future. We also discuss the past. I have watered down my lessons three different times. As more special populations are parachuted into general education classes, the regular students suffer from neglect and I fear the backlash will be horrible to behold. I look at my five year old grandson, so eager to read and do math and then I look at the tortuous methods they've concocted to teach these concepts which I fear will mess him up as New Math did me fifty years ago. What are we doing? When did teaching become facilitation rather than caring? When did scripting replace common sense? When did administrators become so wobbly that they fear even the most idiotic demands from parents?

This can't end well. But it will end. Education is a very trend conscious endeavor. I've lived through New Math, Open Classroom, Self Contained, Departmentalized, Whole Language and more fashion statements all with their own little zippy promises of higher test scores. In reality, like it or not, some things are better learned by rote.  The alphabet, the multiplication tables, the names of states and such can be learned by heart and probably should be. But the current trend is that rote learning is bad and that it is better for a student to stumble through a hundred other possible solutions before finding an answer. I've never liked estimates. I never believed them. Any contractor who gave me an estimate always ended up costing twice as much. Between this unstable method of answering questions and the electronic distractions of tablets and phones, I fear the next generation will grow up illiterate. And where will that leave us.

I suppose that's why I still teach. Someone has to care about things like deadlines and absolutes and quality. I don't like the philosophy that complete is good enough. I hate it that people, including adults, think all limits and deadlines are more like suggestions than requirements. Sometimes you have to do what you're told to do when you're told to do it. That we currently have a nation where that's not the case for everyone explains why schools are in such disarray. And why I must become a person who teaches instead of a teacher.

Monday, December 14, 2015


It's one a.m.
I am scheduled to return to work after my surgery tomorrow.
I'm also supposed to be observed sometime this week.
So why am I awake?
Because when I lie down I begin coughing. This is a biproduct of my surgery wherein my entire endocrine system is now trying to reboot and consequently acting out in unacceptable ways. Such as:
I will be dead tired for period tomorrow.
I will also be uber hyper for a period.
I will crave food and simultaneously reject all food offered.
I will burst out in emotional responses-I have to really watch that one.

But right now my concern is sleep-how to get it, and when I will get some.
I have tried the following:
Cough medicine
Saline spray
Hot Tea
Any of a number of other remedies BUT NOTHING WORKS.
How long can a person live without decent sleep? It seems I read somewhere that it eventually would cause hallucinations and psychosis.
Well that's something to look forward to.

Right now my ankles and feet are swollen.
My throat is slightly sore-moreso when I cough.
There's an annoying constant tickle...ugh

At least there's no more pressure in my ears and what I thought were my tonsils swelling was evidently the "nodule" which is really just a nice name for tumor. In looking at it (yes they send you a photo now just like the mechanics) I can see where it looks like she took out some lymph nodes and it appears the growth went up my trachea and into parts of what should have been my salivary glands and tonsils. It's very roomy in there now. I would post a photo but I'm afraid Google would freak out at the graphic nature and end up banning me for life.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Argue With Your Doctor

I had surgery yesterday. I've been arguing with doctors for years over my metabolism. They have attributed it to everything from laziness to menopause. I finally found an endocrinologist that actually looked at my thyroid and discovered that basically I don't have one anymore. Instead I had a huge toxic thyroid tumor that was capable of mimicking normal thyroid function while doing nothing.

This was supposed to be a slam dunk in and out. It wasn't. Once the doctor got in, she discovered a connection to a mass next to my aorta(!!!) the size of an apple. She said she didn't understand why it hadn't been detected and that it should have been removed five or more years ago. I have had a variety of doctors-men, women, American trained, foreign trained and the one trait they seem to share is a general disdain for the opinions of the patient. They like to focus on the computer script and do not listen to the concerns offered. In my case I have a very very strong history of thyroid disease with my mother, grandmother, daughter, son and brother all on medication. Heck, even my dog is on it. But in looking at the photos of the tumor (the doctor said the lab would probably faint when they saw it it's that large....) this has been ongoing forever.

So my message is to argue with your doctor even if they don't like it. Right now my throat feels empty. It's possible that a number of issues I've been dealing with from sleep apnea to allergies have been have been the result of this really nasty growth.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

San Bernadino

Nobody wants anyone to be hurt. 
But this was not your typical "lone wolf" shooting in spite of how Hillary and Obama want to frame it. This was a soft target. It's in a state where few have concealed carry licenses. It's also a state where the majority of people are hesitant to point out anyone who stands out as not belonging because of the imposition of PC attitudes on top of gut instincts. It was a hired hall with a group celebrating holidays and the achievements of some of their members. The president's comments are absolutely off base. The shooters hit a soft target with virtually no security in face. This has nothing to do with gun laws. I doubt someone planning such an attack worries very much about the lawfulness of their weapons. 

What should be alarming is that it took San Bernardino Schools over 90 minutes to call for a lockdown. That is way too much time. This comes from the liberal mentality of "don't judge" and the idea that some mantle of protection hovers over the families who vote largely Democrat. I shudder to think what could have happened had they reached a school. And what of the shopping malls? At least they evacuated, finally. But who's to say the shooters didn't shed their Kevlar and vanish into the crowd-a crowd that is unwilling to recognize a person who might stand out because they do not belong.

The gunmen were masked and armed. Some news agencies tried to say they were white. That's now been refuted. A person of interest is a worker at the facility named Farooq Syeed. Call me suspicious but that's probably not an Irish Catholic guy. I have to wonder given the media's willingness to push the White House agenda if they will admit it if the shooters turn out to be from the Middle East. After being so willing to push the #BLM agenda while ignoring situations like the Bunny Friend Playground shooting of 17 in New Orleans by a black male, I'm not so sure the media is our best source for information.

Also, and I hope to God this isn't true, this almost sounds like a practice run for something larger. I know if I was a parent of a child in San Bernardino Schools I would be burning up the lines to chew out whoever it was that didn't think those children's safety was worth upsetting the gods of political correctness to call a lockdown. That superintendent should be fired.

And finally, it sickens me how Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama could not wait to spin this to a gun rights issues without even knowing a single fact. This is from the same sources that called Ft. Hood "workplace violence" and Benghazi "a failed mission". I'd loved to say more, but I don't want to talk to officials. I just wish both of them would shut the hell up.