Monthly Archives: January 2016

Future School – Darcy’s Ashes

“Imagine with me a Mississippi where schools compete for students.”
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, 2016

“Bull S#$@!” Selena Smith, parent, 2036.

6:30 a.m. Thursday, May 22, 2036

A small unfinished oak box held Darcy’s ashes. Mica wiped a tear and placed her hand on the box. “Today is for you,” she said.

“Mica!” a voice called from the bedroom. “Get in here, now! You know we can’t be late.”

“Yes, Mama,” Mica answered. She kissed her fingers and touched them to the box, and ran to the bedroom.

Selena carefully brushed Mica’s hair. She dare not miss a single smoothing stroke. Her daughter’s future depended on perfection – not only her preparation for the interview, but her hair, and clothes as well. The Primary Interview Committee would be extremely meticulous; they would choose only the best of the best. “Are you nervous?” she asked.

“No,” Mica said. “Miss Brighterstar says I am ready.”

“Your teacher should know,” Selena agreed. Mica’s year one Observatory teacher raved about her academics and felt her chances for selection were better than good. It was the other factors beyond her daughter’s academics that bothered her. Factors such as raised by a single parent with a GED education and their family’s lack of standing in the community would weigh heavily in the Committee’s decision. It wasn’t right, but that was the way it was – right or wrong. She stopped combing and fought back tears. Why didn’t somebody stop them before it came to this? Near sighted politicians, old white men, grandstanding to ignorance had done this to her child. Lies too beautiful not to trust that spoke eloquently about choice and turning education over to the private sector had led America down a path of insanity and betrayal. Where was her choice as a parent now? What had involving the private sector in public education done for her child other than convert her humanity to a commodity?

Mica admired her dress in the mirror. It had been Darcy’s interview dress, which made it extra special even though the dress hem and sleeves were a little worn at the edges. The committee would never see the worn edges though; her mama hand sewed pink ribbons with neatly tied bows along the sleeves and dress hemline. She looked at the picture on the night stand next to the bed of Darcy wearing the dress minus the pick ribbons. Mama said she and Darcy could have been twins; she liked that, but she did not like the worry in her mama’s eyes.

Mama worried about the interview. Mica was not worried at all. She had been reading since age four, and although she struggled with the math introduced in year one Observatory School, she was confident she would be selected. In a class of forty students, she was the best reader and the sorting wall ranked her number two overall academically, fifth artistically, and twelfth athletically. Her best friend, Mijou, ranked number one in athletics, told her she ran like a girl. Mica was rather proud of that. She worried a little that they would most likely be sent to separate schools for their second learning cycle, but at least, they lived close enough to see each other on weekends and during holidays.

“Quit fidgeting,” her mama scolded.

Mica stood straight, and did her best to control her excitement. She could not wait to stand before the Committee. Today, she would make Mama and Darcy proud.

Selena looked at her daughter in the mirror – so brave and innocent. Darcy had also been full of bouncing confidence and innocence for her first interview. Like Mica, she was a strong student confident the Primary Interview Committee would select her. They did not. Quieter and withdrawn afterwards, she continued for six more learning cycles to prepare herself for the next interview, but she never regained the same energy and excitement she had shown for the first one. Selena did not realize the depth of her depression until a month before the Interview of Intermediates when she found her lifeless on the floor next to her bed, clutching the crumbled and worn non-selection letter from The Primary Interview Committee.

Selena blamed herself. A few months before Darcy’s interview, she learned many parents provided a dowry on behalf of their child to the committee. The dowry was not mandatory, but it was highly suggested. Her family and friends begged her to find a way to provide a dowry on Darcy’s behalf to the committee. They argued such a gift, certainly a sizable one, could make a difference who the committee selected or did not select, especially if the competition was close. Darcy’s teacher also recommended a dowry. However, at the time her meager salary barely payed the rent and utilities and put food on the table. Besides, based on her daughter’s grades and sorting rankings, she believed she was a shoo-in for selection. She would not repeat the same mistake. For the past two years, she had worked double shifts, borrowed from friends and family, and did whatever she needed to do to raise the money she prayed would make a difference for Mica. After losing Darcy, she would sell her soul to get Mica into one of the public subsidized charter schools.

Unlike public schools, the corporate charters and specialized academy charters had the best of everything – the best technology, the best facilities, the best resources, the best teachers, and the best students. These schools were the culminating victory of the Republican leadership who had pushed to privatize public school education for years. Privatization became complete in 2022 when private schools merged with charter schools to form Corporate Charters, Sports Academy Charters, and Art Academy Charters. These charters operated under private management and with private dollars subsidized by corporations and organizations such as Apple, HP, Chevron, Walmart, Disney, CNN, Fox News, NFL, NBL, MLB, Creative Artists, Paradigm Talent, and many others. With the newly merged charters on firm financial ground, the states rushed to slash public education spending. States also moved quickly to institutionalize charters as part of their publicly funded K–12 state systems. Next, they passed new laws to create equity funding formulas weighed in favor of the charters. In addition, the charters also continued to benefit from an open voucher system that originally allowed parents to redirect public school funds to the charter of their choice and then later to the charter that selected their child. Charters had every financial advantage, and they were free to develop and follow their own standards and guidelines as well, including overseeing their own accountability. All but bankrupt, public schools remained shackled by state and federal accountability as well as the double standards handed down by charter friendly state legislatures.

While the charters prospered, the public schools descended into chaos as their funding was cut by as much as half, their best teachers were recruited away, and the best students were swept up by the charters in state mandated year one and year seven selection interviews. Under a system originally established as parental choice and hailed as a potential free-market competition for students among schools, competition had ceased. In its place, a systematic means of suppression and entrapment of the poor, minorities, special needs children, and the unlucky had materialized. The American idea that “all men are created equal” lay buried under the exclusiveness of the publicly funded charter system.

Selena understood very little of this, but she understood the system had turned its back on her and her children. Education choice and selection had led to a system that catered to the white middle and upper class; a system that created a new segregated nation. The result was her children, whose only fault lay not in the color of their skin but being born poor, were relegated to second class citizens. The states may as well have posted the “Colored” signs from the mid twentieth century above public school doors. The only difference was this time such signs would read “Not Good Enough,” “Inferior,” or “Rejects.” Through the sorting process, the new American Reich culled the poor, blemished, flawed, and damaged children. The new segregation in America embraced and tolerated only perfection.

Public schools were left with the children the charter schools did not want. As a result, dropout rates soared, teachers taught from behind wire cages, and pre-teen and teen suicide increased dramatically in public schools. Instead of living the American dream of prosperity, public school children were doomed to a life of the “have nots.” For the sake of choice for a few and segregation for all, the only choice and hope for a better future for many was trampled and buried forever. The legacy of a free public education for all children, a legacy that was once the foundation of America’s greatest, lay smoldering. The ashes of children like Darcy spread across America like a cancerous sore. The epitome of political and social malpractice, K-12 public education lay in ruins.

8:30 a.m. Thursday, May 22, 2036

Mica stood before the Committee. She stood with her shoulders back and looked directly into the eyes of each committee member as her mama had schooled her. This was her day! She could feel it.

The chair of the committee smiled and said, “There’s no need to be nervous.”

“I’m not,” Mica said almost too bluntly. Catching herself, she added, “I am proud and excited to be here.” Mama would be pleased; all the committee members smiled and nodded. She grew more confident this was her day.

Selena nervously paced the corridor outside the interview hall. Every few minutes she sat in one of the folding chairs set up outside the door for anxious parents. Each time she sat, she dropped her face in her hands and cried and prayed, and then composing herself, she rose and paced some more. Exactly thirty minutes from the time she entered the interview hall, Mica stepped back into the corridor. Selena had never seen such light in her eyes.

“Mama!” she cried happily. “Mama, Mama, Mama! I did it! I know I made it!”

Selena wiped back tears and embraced her. “I am sure you did,” she said.

Mica was so excited she could hardly say everything she wanted to say quickly enough. “The people on the committee were so nice. They laughed and joked with me just like you do sometimes. One of them even said she liked my dress. They were so nice, and even funny. I had such a nice time.”

“I am so pleased,” Selena said hugging her close. “How did you do on the interview questions?”

“They didn’t ask any of the questions you and Miss Brighterstar rehearsed with me.”

Selena’s heart sank. “You were not asked any questions?”

“No,” Mica smiled. “They said they just wanted to visit.”

Selena squeezed her tighter. Tears flowed.

Mica felt her tenseness, and gently pushed back and looked at her. “Mama, what’s wrong?”

“I’m just happy,” Selena said wiping a tear from her cheek. “I love you so much, and I am so proud of you.”

Sunday, June 1, 2036

Mica did not eat for two days after the letter arrived in the mail. She stayed in her room, refusing to go out or talk to friends. When she spoke, it was only to say, “I’m sorry.” She did not cry, but blankly stared at the stack of books on the floor next to her bed. Books she had read preparing for her interview. She opened the letter and read it for at least the hundredth time.

Selena stayed vigilant refusing to leave her daughter alone for more than a few minutes at a time. She could still see her girls tearing madly into their letters when they arrived in the mail. “Thank you for such a wonderful interview,” the letters began. Selena saw the light flash in Darcy and Mica’s eyes. “We are excited to invite you . . . .” the letters continued. Tears flowed uncontrollably, as she saw her girls jumping and dancing around the room. “. . . to the Interview of Intermediates at the conclusion of your seventh learning cycle” the letters concluded.  Selena had watched helplessly as first Darcy and now Mica’s hopes and dreams collapsed and burned to ashes.

 

Give me one more chance before we crash and burn, give me one more chance before we reach the point of no return. Unknown

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD January 31, 2016

I fought the Wife, and the Wife Won

I rarely think about exercise, but when I do, I can usually lie down and clear my mind with a few minutes of rest. For me, the thought of exercise is intrusive and stressful. It is an assault on what I enjoy most – FOOD, and it is a prerequisite for what I detest most – SWEAT. My idea of exercise is to slowly chew and savor the food I eat unless it is exceptionally good, then I forego the preliminaries and gulp it down whole. My idea of sweating is not sweating. Sweat triggers memories of the stench of my high school football locker room – a mixture of dirty underwear, urine, and perspiration, which ruins my appetite for lunch and supper, or if you are not from the South, dinner.   I see exercise as a ploy to deny me and like-thinking Americans our inalienable rights to be fluffy and content.

However, exercise is the hottest buzz craze around these days. Everybody is doing it! People are raiding their savings and mortgaging their homes to join fitness clubs! They are buying millions of workout DVDs featuring twenty something year old darlings who haven’t the foggiest idea about stretch marks or stress related bloating. They are buying into six-pack abs, bouncing pecks, and softball size biceps of twenty year old guys who live in the gym and have never worked a legitimate eight-hour day in their lives. People have gone bonkers over the “mirror worshippers” with no end to the insanity in sight. I even thought about joining their ranks, but a much needed nap restored my sanity, and all was good. Yet, my wife thought otherwise.

When it comes to exercise and diet, I have always lived by four life sustaining rules. Rule one, when it comes to exercise, leave me alone! I will get off the couch and stand up for your right to exercise, but standing is as far as I will go. I might bend to scratch, but bending to touch my toes for exercise is not going to happen, so don’t try to motivate me, shame me, or disown me. It ain’t going to happen! Rule two is the foundation of everything I believe about exercise. I developed it after Jim Fixx, author of The Complete Book of Running and the person credited with making jogging popular in America, dropped dead from a heart attack while jogging in 1984. He might still be around today if he had not worn out his heart running. If a running machine like Fixx was not immune to heart failure while exercising, why should an out of shape table hugger like me think my chances of surviving exercise are any better? Therefore, my rule two states there are only so many ticks in the old ticker, so don’t waste any exercising.  The third rule I have embraced is to carefully watch what I eat. To enjoy life, it is important to pay close attention to the food you consume. Over the years, I have found the best way to watch what I eat is to place my plate in front of me, stick the food with a fork, hoist it eyeball level, admire it, and insert it into my mouth. My philosophy is simple; if it looks good and smells good, it must be good, so eat it. Doctors and funeral home directors love people who don’t eat, so eat often my friend. As important to a hefty go lucky lifestyle as these three rules are, rule four, cleanse your system with fried foods, is the most important rule of all!  The greasier the food the faster it slides through your system. As a result, you are less likely to feel bloated or constipated if you stick to a diet of fried foods. Face it, you can eat fried chicken, fried catfish, and French fried potatoes and die happy, or you can swear off fried foods and maintain a clean colon, which in the end will only serve to make your undertaker happy. Over the years, these four rules have served me well. The only negative has been my wife’s constant rants that I am slowly killing myself, but the way I see it is her nagging will kill me long before I eat something tainted, my arteries clog, or I roll off the couch and hurt myself.

For the past forty years, these four rules have been my mantra. Because of these rules, personal vanity is not a condition I suffer from, I am unaccustomed to the roving eyes of amorous females as attested to by forty-two hefty years of marriage, and I have never ever been a patient in a hospital (knock on wood!). Yet, although I am satisfied with these results, my wife is not. A prolific connoisseur of keeping fit, she has for years prodded me to get off the couch, but I have successfully fought her efforts until this past week. I am not sure if it is a collision of vanities, if she is experiencing an amorous shift in her libido, or she is ready to collect the insurance, but whatever the case, she put an abrupt end to my resistance to exercise. Rudely stating my rules were for overweight imbeciles, she put her foot down and signed me up for a membership at an exercise gym. I fought with her over this issue, but ultimately, she gave me that “Shut up and do as I say, or else” look. I have always been too much of a coward to press the “or else,” so I fought the wife and the wife won.

This past Monday, she dragged my whimpering body to the gym. At the gym, I pretended I had forgotten my membership number in hopes the girl at the desk would send me home, but my scheming wife had memorized not only her number but mine as well. Once in the workout area, she pointed me to a treadmill, and told me I was not to get off without her permission. She warned me she would be watching me closely as she went through her circuit training routine. I attempted to protest, but she cut me short with her patented “or else” look. I shuffled obediently to the treadmill.

As I stepped on the machine, I felt as though all eyes in the place were on me. The feeling grew stronger as I stood there looking blankly at the control panel not knowing what to do to start the blasted machine moving. I hated to admit it, but I needed help. I knew better than to interrupt my wife’s workout with such a mundane problem, and I was not about to approach some stranger for help. I looked to the front desk where the young girl stood talking to a co-worker, and briefly thought about dismounting and seeking her assistance. I was not going to do it! I refused to ask a female for help! It was a female who put me in this embarrassing position, and I was not about to ask another female to help get me out of it. Since my wife had successfully gutted my manhood, my defiant resolve was closer to pig-headed than pride, but for the moment it sustained what little dignity I had left.

As I stood helplessly on the treadmill, I feigned interest in the news program on the overhead television. I sensed movement to my left, but I purposefully kept my eyes glued to the television screen. A sweet fragrance drifted from my left, and I heard a voice ask, “Are you ready?” I turned to see a young woman on the treadmill next to me. “Are you ready to start?” she asked. Before I could say NO, she reached over and pushed the “GO” button. The machine lurched to life, forcing me to grab the side rails to keep from falling face-first on the conveyor belt turning under my feet. Laughing, she turned to her friend on the treadmill to her left and said, “Beginner.” I hated her!

From that point, I dared not let go of the machine’s support handles as I sped along at a rousing two miles per hour gait on level terrain. The young woman set her treadmill at a forty-five degree incline and zipped along at seven miles per hour, maybe twenty, never missing a stride or a word with her friend. In the following minutes of exercise hell, those young women introduced me to the ins and outs of an irregular menstrual cycle, and the pros and cons of a “C section.” That was the first time in my life I had ever heard anything other than moans and groans come through the lips of someone exercising. I was in awe!

Since that first experience, I have been back two times, and I am contemplating a third visit soon, but today, since my wife is not home, I am taking a much needed break from physical activity. However, I have to admit that so far, it has not been half as bad as I expected. Despite some soreness, I can still feed myself, and I have yet to need new clothes to outfit by newly sculpted and buffed body. The top of my belly is still a nice place to sit my coffee cup when reclining in my favorite chair and my abs will still house a six pack nicely if I was so inclined. I am not sure what results my wife hopes to see, but so far, I am pleased with my transformation.

The best part of going to the gym though is all the neat little things you learn. I learn something new about the gym lifestyle every time I go. One of the first lessons I learned was that with practice it is easy to stand and slowly move your legs while watching television. I also learned there is no way to turn off those non-flattering mirrors hanging on gym walls! And, did you know it is okay to fart loudly if the people around you have on their headphones? Most people are so busy breathing through their mouths that not only do they not hear it, they don’t smell it either. You cannot imagine the satisfaction that brings me! Another tidbit a newbie to the gym might not know is that it is always wise to cool down and catch your breath before going to the restroom. It is creepy hearing heavy breathing while at the urinal or in a stall. Finally, a lesson I learned that made going to the gym easier was that the gym was not just a place for sculpted people to show off their bodies; actually, fluffy dad and granddad bods are the lifeblood of a gym. In today’s world of Krispy Kreme donuts, large five dollar pizzas, and six pound double burgers, there are not enough pretty people to populate all the gyms, so without us portly folks most gyms would quickly go out of business.

Oh, there is one other thing I have learned about going to the gym – SMILE, if your wife thinks you enjoy working out, it makes life at home easier. Besides, anytime you come out of a gym still breathing that is reason enough to smile and celebrate.

Happy exercising!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD January 23, 2016

Entry Level Camping: It’s Okay to be Cheap

I love camping, so from time to time, I will visit a RV (recreational vehicle) dealership to look at the new popup campers, fifth-wheel campers, and travel trailers. I go primarily to look and dream a little, and I prefer to look on my own without being bothered by a sales person. However, during a recent visit to a RV dealer, I was met by a very energetic and aggressive young salesman who would not leave me alone, but hey, he was doing his job. The guy was very friendly and helpful and provided a lot of useful information about the different camper models on display. Everything was going smoothly until he asked me if I owned a camper and what kind it was. My present camper, a twenty-six foot travel trailer is a year old, and although it is rather plain, my wife and I are very proud of it, so I quickly spouted out the manufacturer, model, and dimensions. I wasn’t expecting the salesman’s jaw to drop in awe, but I certainly wasn’t expecting him to be totally unimpressed either. Unimpressed is an understatement, he sadly shook his head and said, “Yeah, that is a good entry level model.” I am sure he did not intend his “entry level” comment to be a put down, but for me, the only way his words could have been a bigger insult and turn-off would have been for him to begin or end his comment with “bless your heart.” As a salesman, he probably knew a lot about campers, but it was apparent, he knew very little about camping. I have been an “entry level” camper for over forty years, and I am not ashamed to say so!

Anyone who camps is at some point an “entry level” camper. They start camping with something that is affordable such as a tent, so they can see if they like camping before they drop a lot of money into it. That makes perfect sense, and that is exactly how I would encourage anyone to start as a camper. My “entry level” into camping was with the Boy Scouts when I was eleven years old. The old military tent my Scoutmaster borrowed from Camp Shelby did not have a floor, and the roof leaked profusely when it rained that first night at Camp TIAK. In spite of the rain, I was hooked on camping. Years later, I was lucky enough to marry a lady who enjoyed camping as much as I did, or at least she was willing to give it a try. We went on family vacations and weekend trips to the lake with our three children in a tent for years. My wife would have preferred a little more comfort, but she never complained. My daughter went camping because she had no choice, and my two boys would eventually become Eagle Scouts, so they enjoyed tent camping as much if not more than I did. When the boys and I went camping on Boy Scout outings, we often slept under nothing more than a tarp stretched to form an “A” frame between two trees or between a walking staff at one end and a tent stake hammered into the ground at the other end. We spent many nights during the heat of summer and the frigid cold of winter under nothing more than a blue polyethylene tarp shelter. Although I now find the ground more compacted and harder than it was when I was younger, sleeping under a tarp in the open air is still my favorite style of camping. Other than lying on the ground naked under the stars, you can’t get much more “entry level” than a tarp shelter. In fact, there was a time in my life when I looked at tent camping as an unnecessary luxury.

Now, I am not going to lie to you, tent camping is a robust style of “entry level” camping that is not for everyone. During those early years, my wife would have preferred to walk through a real door than crawl through a tent door, and she would have rather crawled into a bed than wiggle into a sleeping bag. Sweating and suffocating in a tent during the summer because the door flap could not be tied open to let in a cool breeze due to swarming mosquitoes was not her idea of having fun, nor was stumbling in the dark to get to the bathhouse toilet something she looked forward to in the middle of the night. My daughter never bought into the romance of camping. Spending time with “yucky” bugs, no air conditioning, no mirrors, sharing a bathhouse with strangers, and the absence of a telephone (there were no cell phones in the early 90s) did not equate to a good time for her. So why did we tent camp? Was it because it was “the man thing to do” or that I was a male chauvinist and the guys ruled the roost? Nope, not at all! We tent camped because I was cheap, and the only reason I got away with it was because my wife was even cheaper.

After twenty-two years of marriage and tent camping, we finally upgraded to a popup camper, which is considered to be “entry level” to travel trailers. We loved that popup camper (Note: Any time I say “we loved,” please understand I am excluding my daughter). For the first time in our camping lives, we had air conditioning, running water, light that did not come from a flame, and although it was not much softer than the ground we had slept on for years, we had a bed off the ground. For the first time, we did not have to worry about a squirrel or skunk gnawing a hole in the side of the tent to get at the potato chips one of the kids had left on the tent floor. We actually had a place we could plug in a small heater during colder months without fear of waking up in flames in the middle of the night. There was still no indoor bathroom, but by this time in our camping careers, we were accustomed to the community spirit and camaraderie of showering and dressing in the presence of strangers in spider web infested bath houses, so all was good. That is until Hurricane Katrina came along and sucked the life out of our beautiful little Coleman popup camper. After that it was back to tent camping, or so I thought. Unfortunately, my wife had been spoiled by the good life in the popup camper and laid down the law that she would never ever set foot in a tent again in her lifetime. My daughter was so proud of her mom, but she had sworn off camping forever a couple of years earlier, so I didn’t think she should have anything to say about the matter – she and her mom proved me wrong. Even the boys, my camping buddies, were more into music, sports, friends, and girls by this time, so the decision to return to tent camping was decided between me and my wife with undue influence from my meddling daughter – I lost.

Over time, bad or unpleasant memories can often be replaced by the romance of nostalgia, so after three, maybe four years, I was able to nurse my wife’s feelings about camping back to health. On Sunday afternoons, we would go for a drive and as luck would have it, we almost always found a campground to drive through. Driving around the campsites, we saw campers riding bicycles, cooking burgers on the grill, taking leisurely walks, or reclining in a lounge chair reading. The sight of this easy-going lifestyle began to beacon to my wife once again. By this time, she was far enough removed from camping that her memories of mosquitoes as big as a quarter, food blanketed by flies, sweat burning our eyes as we set up camp during a summer heat wave, and me losing my religion trying to back a camper onto a camping pad were cloaked by the passion of the moment. When it became her idea to take leisurely Sunday drives through nearby campgrounds, I started looking at tents in Walmart. I should have known better. There was not enough time left in the universe to heal my wife’s aversion to tent camping, so she gave me a choice – upgrade to our first “entry level” travel trailer or forget camping ever again.

We bought a small travel trailer thinking it would be perfect for just the two of us when we retired. It was perfect! It had a full kitchen, a queen size bed, a dinette table that dropped down to make an extra bed if needed, and a full bath with a shower that had hot water. However, we quickly learned that rarely would it be just the two of us camping. All six grandchildren decided they wanted to go camping! As much as we were thrilled the grandkids wanted to camp with us, we realized two things quickly: first, there was barely enough room in our small travel trailer for us, much less six extra little energetic bodies, and second, there was no way in Hades that we were going to be trapped in a tin can with six wild Indians. We upgraded again! Because we were still cheap, we bought another “entry level” travel trailer, but at least this time it was longer and had bunk beds. We also decided for our sanity that we would take no more than two grandchildren on any camping trip. However, shortly after getting the new camper, we caved in and took three of the mud-slugs with us camping, and thereby, shot that resolution to hell. But, that’s really a good thing. Camping is a lot like Disney World; it’s the smile on children’s faces that make it so special, especially if the faces belong to your grandchildren.

This past weekend, with the possibility of another upgrade in mind, I went camper gawking again. I looked at a few fifth-wheel campers and some travel trailers longer than my house. Compared to my house, the interiors of these mammoth beasts were slicker than a Persian harem. They had everything: central heat and air, a vacuum system built into the walls, refrigerators bigger than my truck, the latest sound and television systems complete with satellite cable and Internet, Lazy Boy recliners and sofas, full luxury bathrooms, and master bedrooms that made the master bedroom in my house look like Hotel 6. Basically, when you drove or pulled one of these beauties down the highway, you were pulling a luxury condo on wheels. It would have been nice to experience such comfort and luxury, but the condo like price tag that accompanied these RVs placed them way out of my league. However, I gained a new respect for the folks who own such monsters. I walked away with the same awe and admiration for them that I feel for professional truck drivers driving and maneuvering their huge rigs down the interstate. I can’t imagine how a normal person can possibly feel comfortable driving or pulling a forty to sixty foot RV down a crowded highway much less maneuver it through narrow campgrounds. To be honest, I would probably wet my pants if I knew I had to drive something that big out the dealer’s front gate much less in traffic. Since I don’t wish to embarrass myself or wear adult diapers, I left those mega-beasts sitting at the dealership for someone a lot braver than I am. I walked away without upgrading, but I have never felt so at peace or thankful that my wife and I are both cheap.

My wife and I are comfortable being cheap, and our grandchildren could care less what kind of camper we have as long as we invite them to go camping. Besides, I did not buy a camper to sit inside in a Lazy Boy recliner and watch television; if that is what I wanted to do, I would stay at home. We bought our camper to have a place to comfortably sleep at night, so we can rest and be ready the next day to get outdoors and enjoy nature, reading, hiking, visiting, and playing with the grandkids. That is the beauty of camping; you can go “entry level” or you can bring your own condo if you prefer; it’s really a personal preference. In all our years of camping, we have never met another camper who looked down on us because our tent, popup, or travel trailer was less expensive or less luxurious than their RV. That is not what camping is about. With camping, the main thing is to get out of the house and enjoy life. The television and telephone will be there when you get back, so turn them off and disconnect yourself from the world and reconnect with family and friends. Like camping, every family and friendship begin at the “entry level” with room to upgrade. To upgrade your connection with those you love, all you need is more quality time together, and camping is the perfect place to find and nurture that quality time.

Let’s go camping!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD January 15, 2016

Mississippi’s Next Best Chance to Adequately Fund Public Schools

The defeat of Initiative 42, Mississippi’s best hope to adequately fund K-12 public school education, was devastating to Mississippi public school educators and their many supporters. Since the defeat, the question has been, “What do we do next?” Like so many others, I questioned if there was any need to even try to fight the system any longer. However, after a lot of thought and soul searching, I am convinced that it is now more important than ever before to continue the fight. In fact, I have a plan of action that may sound far-fetched on the surface, but it just might work. The plan is at least a step to rekindle the flame that educators and parents must keep burning on this issue.

This week, the Powerball lottery is estimated to be at least 1.3 billion dollars! Since Governor Bryant seems adamant in his quest to reduce or completely eliminate state taxes, why not swap state taxes for a two dollar lottery tax? Such a tax would assess every family in the state an additional two dollars per family member to buy lottery tickets. (Okay, so the lottery plan is not exactly new, but I believe buying lottery tickets with state money rather than implementing a state lottery may be new, so please continue reading.) By buying over 2.94 million tickets and mathematically picking 2.94 million different number combinations, the chances of winning a Powerball lottery would increase dramatically.

Of course, there are people who might take issue with this plan as gambling, but isn’t any state funding a gamble lately? Governor Phil Bryant and House Speaker Phillip Gunn advocate reducing or eliminating state income taxes because apparently the state does not need the money, so it’s not like the money collected for lottery tickets would be needed elsewhere. The lottery ticket money would be an investment in K-12 public school education, and any money won through the lottery would be earmarked for education. Of course, earmarking anything in Mississippi might be considered a gamble, but heck, it’s only money, and if we listen to Bryant and Gunn, Mississippi has plenty of that, so why sweat spending a couple of dollars for each state citizen to play the lottery?  When it comes to funding education, it’s all fun and games in Mississippi anyway.

Everyone knows funding K-12 education is a game the state leadership in Jackson has played for years, so why not play the lottery game as well? Year after year they gamble with the future of our children, so why not play the lottery and give public schools at least a mathematical chance for adequate funding? The odds of winning the lottery if a lottery ticket is bought on behalf of every Mississippi citizen would be equal to or better than the odds to adequately fund K-12 education through the state legislature. When it comes to adequately funding education, Mississippi Republican leaders have shown where they stand on the issue. They not only stand on the issue; they stomp on it with both feet. Their campaign of misinformation and outright deceit during the Initiative 42 debate and vote showed their lack of concern for education and integrity, as well as their willingness to dupe the people. Initiative 42 should have made it clear that a Republican led state legislature is not about to support anything short of privatization of K-12 education. So, since money spent on a lottery would essentially be filling the pockets of someone in the private sector, state legislators should readily accept the lottery plan.

The only practical solution to the education funding issue in Mississippi is to participate in some way in a lottery. It is the only education funding game that state public school educators and their students have a chance of winning. The plan to assess a two dollar education investment tax on every man, woman, and child in the state to be used by the state to buy lottery tickets, may at first appear to be frivolous and pie-in-the-sky dreaming, but is it really? Mississippi educators have put their dreams and trust for a better tomorrow for the state’s children in the hands of the Mississippi Legislature for years with little to show for it. With a lottery ticket, although the odds would still be stacked against adequate funding, at least there would be a “snowball’s chance in hell” for adequate education funding in the future. Putting our trust and dreams in the state legislature has failed us miserably, so why not buy a ticket for the lottery where there is actually a mathematical chance for Mississippi’s teachers and children to win?

It is still early in the 2016 legislative session, so there is always hope for improved education funding, but past experiences tell us not to get our hopes up. With hair brain schemes to eliminate state taxes and make more public school dollars available to private schools, anything close to adequate funding is not looking good for public schools. The only hope and prayer for K-12 education is for an outlier Republican legislator (not sure if such a creature exists) or a Democrat legislator who has yet to give up the ghost (such a creature is definitely mythical in Mississippi) embraces the wisdom behind the state purchasing massive blocks of Powerball tickets from Louisiana to bolster education funding. However, even if enough support could be garnered for such a plan, and the legislature designated lottery winnings go to K-12 public school education, everybody knows there is no guarantee the state Legislature would stand by such a commitment.

Commitments to education funding are arbitrary in Mississippi. As long as state legislators are not bound by the commitments of preceding legislatures or by their own laws, it will remain so. Presently, any device or action orchestrated by legislative action to boost education funding can be argued in subsequent years as nonbinding. Legislators can and have successfully argued that the current legislature cannot be fiscally bound to the fiscal commitment of a previous legislature (i.e. MAEP funding). In the case of a lottery, that would mean if a Mississippi ticket won the lottery, state legislators would most likely rescind all or part of their commitment to education and place 50% of the winnings in the state rainy day fund, give 35% of the winnings to the corporate world, keep 10% of the winnings for legislative expenses to organize and implement the lottery plan, and send the remaining 5% of the winnings to the public school districts. Afterwards legislators would brag about the financial windfall they had engineered for the good of Mississippi’s children and teachers. Sadly, the public would buy it. Educators would meekly take their windfall and continue to do the best they could with what they have. However, on the positive, Mississippi might jump from 50th in per student education expenditure to 48th in the nation, so bring on the lottery! After the defeat of Initiative 42, at least a lottery might once again give Mississippi educators and their supporters some hope for a better future for Mississippi’s children. Under our present leadership, a lottery is by far our greatest mathematical chance for adequately funding education in Mississippi.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD  January 12, 2016

12 Things Only Retiring Teachers Can Say to Parents

For the most part teachers are lay low and go with the flow people. Even when they are abused and misused, they tend to keep their mouths shut and go quietly about their business. It’s not that they are spineless or apathetic; it’s about survival. In a world that regards teachers as a “dime a dozen,” teachers have learned staying under the radar helps ensure job security. Most teachers have a spouse and children at home who like having a roof over their heads, food on the table, and Walmart clothes on their backs, so teachers are reluctant to cause trouble since keeping their job is a must. Also, for the majority of teachers, teaching is not just a job. It is a profession they enjoy immensely and would like to continue until they retire, so they do whatever they need to do or roll with whatever they need to roll with to make it to retirement.

However, even people who need job security and love their profession can be pushed to a breaking point and snap like an over-wound rubber band.   Fortunately, patience is a key teacher characteristic, so although they may go home and cry themselves to sleep and drive their family crazy with uncontrollable hysterical ravings, teachers seldom snap, and when they do, they rarely go postal. They are more likely to push back by showing up at school one day decked out in tennis shoes, jeans, and a V-neck tie-dyed t-shirt that displays ample cleavage.  If they snap with a parent, they might get really bold and say something like, “You’re right, we wouldn’t want to do anything to over stress your sweet baby, so I am going to tear up that old nasty assignment and give him an A,” or “I don’t know what I was thinking with such overly high expectations. That was really inconsiderate of your child and your family on my part.” Such patronizingly simple jabs tend to slide over the heads of many parents or flow unobstructed through one ear and out the other, which for teachers is frustrating and job saving at the same time. Teachers would really like to say, “If you would make your child get off his butt and study, neither one of you would be so stressed,” or “Obviously, my expectations have exceeded you and your child’s functional intellectual capacity.” But, after years of practiced constraint and civility, teachers don’t say what they really would like to say because they like and need their teaching job.

Teachers might be brave and rebellious enough to openly “dis” the faculty dress code, but telling a parent what is actually on their minds would be a stretch even for a teacher who has snapped. Teachers might think it, but they are not geared to be directly confrontational, so they bite their lip and walk away. They are very selective about the battles they fight, which are generally very few. They are much more likely to unload at home than they are on the job. However, God in his infinite wisdom provided teachers the perfect opportunity to unload on the job – RETIREMENT! Retirement is the emancipation of a teacher’s soul and spirit. Once they say the magic words, “I am retiring,” IT IS ON! At that point, it becomes their choice whether they remain docile and polite or let their hair down and go for the jugular. What can the establishment or parents do if a retiring teacher speaks his/her mind – FIRE them? Well, maybe, but it is not likely. However, after years of engineered submissiveness, few retiring teachers exercise the freedom to tell parents what is really on their minds, but if they did, it might not be strange to hear them say . . . .

  1. Yes, I need volunteers in my classroom, but not you;
  2. Your child is at a stage of his life where he must decide on a career or prison;
  3. Your child needs me more than I need him;
  4. Sure, your child can take the test over if he does poorly. How about this time next year?
  5. What is the best way for you to help your child with her classwork? How about stop texting her during class?
  6. I agree your child is not a bully. He’s a predator;
  7. Why did I give your child an F on his test? Well, instead of grading on a traditional Bell Curve, I decided to grade on a Color Curve, and your child was wearing the wrong color that day;
  8. Your child’s inability to pass is not a teaching problem. It’s a DNA problem;
  9. Like you, I want what is best for your child, and it is best for you to take your child home and never bring him back here again;
  10. I believe homeschool is the best option for you and your child since I don’t believe I have ever heard of anyone failing homeschool;
  11. I was very impressed with your coloring on your child’s project; and
  12. Go ahead and call the superintendent. He and I had a great discussion about you and your child last night over at couple of beers at Chili’s.

Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on the side of the creek where you stand, retiring teachers are not likely to utter any of these. They might be able to get away with saying such things, but a teacher who has spent twenty-five plus years doing what is right for kids is not likely to display such an acid tongue. With very few exceptions, retiring teachers will continue to bite their tongues and talk with kids and parents as they always have – with compassion, understanding, and class. Why? That is how teachers are made.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD   January 9, 2016

Weird Thoughts and Strippers

Have you ever wondered how or why Virgin American Airlines screen for virgins or where manufacturers of Virgin Olive Oil find virgins named Olive and what part of Olive they squeeze to get virgin oil? Such thoughts may seem abnormal, but believe it or not, they are very normal. Sometimes strikingly odd or bizarre thoughts that range from tame to inflammatory take shape in our heads. It is as if a couple of poorly wired electrodes, conductors, or cathodes misfire in the brain, and rationality is cast to the wind. BAM! It’s weird thought time, and little can be done about it! But, such thoughts happen, and people should not worry about them. As long as you don’t go out of your way to book your teenage daughter’s next flight on Virgin Airlines to gain access to their screening process or search the aisles of your local grocery for “used olive oil,” there is little reason to fear you have entered the world of looney-tunes, lunatics or the psychotic. The world of weird thoughts is a mysterious place everyone visits occasionally.

Weird thoughts have their origins in our perceptions and observations of our surroundings, and though they can be off the wall, they can also embody cloaked truths hidden deep within the subconscious. Sometimes they are observations of reality as seen out the mind’s backdoor with a wink from behind the curtains – realities we may be reluctant to admit exist. One notch above flatlining, these baubles of sanity are often the only link to reality in an otherwise politically correct brain dead society. They are the brain’s attempt to make sense of a convoluted and nonsensical world. Much like indulging in too much red-beans and rice, too many bean burritos, watching Fox News, or sitting through the Democratic and Republican debates, weird thoughts work as laxatives for the mind.

Personally, I believe weird thoughts are healthy. Such thoughts mean the brain is working. In a world of brain dead impulsiveness, anything that stimulates and cultivates common sense and independent thinking, even if it is a weird thought, should be embraced and cultivated. If inadvertent thoughts of Uncle Cecil cross dressing get the brain juices flowing, it doesn’t mean a person is crazy; it means there has been a thought transaction. In todays over connected yet impersonal society of texting, gaming, apps, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, any form of thinking should be celebrated. For many people, weird thoughts may be the only exercise their brain gets.

Like politicians who have been found to be theoretically honest, weird thoughts have been found to be marginally insightful and enlightening. However, unlike political integrity, weird thoughts carry the power to be reflectively honest without the restrictions often placed on the truth by society and the political system. Consequently, such reflective thoughts can lead to a deeper appreciation or understanding of the world. In today’s world of entitlement and “me-ness,” that is huge! If weird thoughts can help us better appreciate and understand our world, it would serve us well to pay closer attention to the bizarre but sometimes intuitive thoughts dancing around inside our heads. In a world where thought, especially creative or independent thinking, is a shunned chore, it doesn’t hurt to give audience to such flatulent ideas. The only negative consequence is maybe a headache or a clueless blank stare from those poor souls disengaged from the living by an electronic device stuck in their ears and glued to their noses.  On the positive side, by paying attention, you just might connect to a kindred soul just as weird as you – someone who will happily share in your innermost bizarreness. With a little luck, you might find that unique special someone who will appreciate and understand your enthusiasm for the truth behind such universal observations as . . .

  1. If you believe in evolution, why are there still monkeys?
  2. Why does homophobia often come across as self-denial and jealously?
  3. Zombies are brain eaters, so they attack the head, but some of the shorter ones have been known to attack below the belt, so should people be required by law to wear helmets and a good sports cup when around zombies?
  4. Is “butt cleavage” a fashion statement, wardrobe malfunction, or a professional calling card?
  5. If teachers were perfect, would politicians be out of a job?
  6. If you get laser eye surgery, can you be arrested for looking at airplanes flying above you?
  7. When a person dies, do they bury that person with clean underwear?
  8. If a person takes their nose ring out and sneezes, is that called a snot geyser, and would that be grounds for consideration as a National Park?
  9. If a man goes missing, do they put his picture on beer cans?
  10. If a woman goes missing, do they put her before or after picture on yogurt?

These questions should be savored as part of the human experience. They are rhetorical, current in their relevance, and steeped in a truth so agonizingly real that we dare not store them anywhere but in our heads. These are the questions of a healthy non-manipulated mind. These are weird thoughts that proclaim the proprietor is just crazy enough to be human. So, the next time you have a weird thought, savor the moment! Weird thoughts are proof you are human and have not yet flatlined.

I wonder, does the hemisphere where a stripper lives impact the direction she spins on her pole?

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD January 2, 2016