Monthly Archives: March 2016

“But, Honey . . . .” and the Off the Grid $300 Chicken Egg

“But, honey, it is so much cheaper if we do it ourselves.”  Those words have sent more good men into bankruptcy, caused them to lose their religion, self-respect, and enthusiasm for life than any words in the history of mankind.  I know; my wife uses those words on me daily!  She is one of those poor souls who believe more than five minutes of idle time is a sin.  Her motor is always running at top speed; whereas, my motor is perpetually disengaged.  I love her, but that does not mean we are compatible.

If we lived on a farm where my wife could work in a garden, raise chickens, make her own soap, milk a cow, and slop a hog, she would be in heaven.  I also like farms, but I like to admire them from a distance.  Farms are hard work!  I have never lived on a farm, but my mama and daddy always had a garden, chickens, and every so often a couple of hogs penned in the back corner of our one acre, so I am acquainted with the constant work required to tend animals and gardens.  It is not that I am lazy, well that may be partly it, but the truth is I am a practical person and for me Corner Market is simply more practical and convenient.  For a fraction of the effort and cost (I’ll get to that later) it takes to be a DIY (do it yourself) person, I can stroll through the local grocery and pick all the peas, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, and squash I please and not break a sweat.  I dare anyone to do that on a farm or a backyard “wanna be” farm!  At the grocery, I can open the cooler and grab a gallon of milk and never get caught fondling a cow, and I if I want eggs, they are stacked neatly in pastel colored cartons not far from the milk.  Why should I reach under a laying hen to retrieve eggs and get blood pecked out of the back of my hand when it is so much easier and painless to pick up a carton of eggs from the local grocer?

I know, I know, my wife says it daily around our house, “There is nothing better than fresh eggs.”  Although I am convinced it is more a personal preference than a statement of fact, there are apparently a lot of people, including the local grocer, who agree with her.  Right next to the Styrofoam cartons of snow white large, medium, and small eggs are brown cartons stamped with “organic” on the lid as if the word organic implies fresh.  If I remember correctly from my high school science classes, all eggs are organic, so I fail to see how eggs packaged in a brown carton are any more organic than eggs packaged in white, pink, and blue cartons, unless, maybe, they are counting the organic fibers in the extra dollar bills spent to purchase eggs in a brown carton.  Of course, you cannot convince my wife that the only difference between a brown organic egg and the spotless white supposedly non-organic egg is the money you pay and little else.  Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with the egg fetched from a sanitized environment where chickens are fed a controlled diet (at least as sanitized as you can get with a pooping machine like a chicken), but my wife insists the brown store bought organic egg or better yet the homegrown farm or backyard chicken egg is better for you and tastes better.  I have to admit backyard eggs do seem to taste better, but someone will have to educate me as to how an egg uprooted from under a backyard or barnyard chicken that scavenges for bugs and worms it finds under decaying wood and chicken poop can be the healthier choice?  Maybe, it’s a higher protein count – who knows, but I don’t get it!

My wife has yet to satisfactorily explain the organic thing to me, and when I get too hung up on that point, she drops into her sweet, honey, you don’t want to fight me too hard on this, voice (Husbands know that voice as “Back off Buster,” “Are you sure you want to go there,” or the dreaded, “Fine” followed by deafening silence).  When she knows or believes she is right, which is always, she draws a line in the chicken poop and dares me to cross it – I know better.  Nevertheless, along with the heart of a true environmentalist, she always has good intentions.

She wants to raise chickens and make her own soap, so we can get as far “off the grid” as possible.  What is the grid?  From my viewpoint, it is any modern convenience that mankind has spent thousands of years inventing to make life worthwhile such as electricity, pizza, and Girl Scout cookies, all of which my loving wife believes we can do without.  Not once, has she ever asked me if I wanted to get off the grid!  If it costs me money and extra work and means giving up my favorite processed foods, I do not, but I am just a husband, so what do I know.

My wife is consumed with the idea that doing something with your own hands is rewarding.  I have tried to be supportive of her in that area and encourage her to pursue whatever she likes or thinks might be fun.  The only thing I have asked in return is to be left out of her fun.  If I wanted to do something with my own hands, I would take up golf, bowling, origami, or throw away my remote and walk to the television to manually change channels.  I am more into rewarding my hands by allowing them to rest calmly and unstressed at my side, and I can do that best on the grid.

“But, honey, just think, we could have fried chicken with no worries about all the chemicals they feed commercial chickens.”  That is well and good, but not once in all the years that I have chopped down on a drumstick from KFC or Popeye’s have I ever worried about what the chicken ate before I ate it.  Besides, let me give you a quick lesson in raising chickens to put meat on the table – DON’T!  Unless you get a thrill from grabbing a living creature by the neck and twirling it violently until the neck snaps, repeatedly chasing the dog away from the flopping carcass, and consoling the children because you just killed Bitsy, my advice is to buy your grilling or frying chicken already packaged from the local grocer.  Also, never give a name to anything you may eat later, including chickens, pet rabbits, and obnoxious children.

“But honey, we could have fresh free eggs every morning for the rest of our lives.”  Fresh, I will concede.  Free?  Not even close!  From the day, my eldest son surprised his mama with two baby chicks for Easter, until now, seven chickens later, my wallet has been open.  “But honey, just think of all the free eggs we are getting.”  Again, I will concede that when our temperamental chickens decide to lay, we do get eggs, but they are not exactly free.  After building a 10 X 10 chicken house and pen, reinforcing it with new wire three times to keep the opossums and raccoons out, buying a trap for the smarter critters, all the accessories for feeding and drinking, a 50 pound sack of chicken feed every other week, flock blocks, etc., I figure I have, over the past three years, dropped the initial cost of $300.00 per dozen eggs down to about $29.95 per dozen.  Now when I hear, “But honey . . . ,” I weep.

Having chickens is a sacrifice, but it is a sacrifice that keeps my wife smiling.  The chickens are part of her master plan to get us “off the grid.”  She has this grand idea that we can grow our own food and eventually drastically reduce our use of electricity.  A lower food bill and electric bill would be nice.  The money saved would make me feel a little better about giving up satellite television.  I have written about the withdrawals I experienced giving up satellite television in a previous article, but for the sake of the chickens and my marriage, I GAVE ALL or I should say, I GAVE UP ALL!  It turned out she was right.  Other than football season, I have not missed the dozen decent channels, thirty-two shopping channels, cutesy animal channels, badminton channel, the radical conservative network, the conservative liberal network, liberal conservative network, rural farming network, eight romance channels all playing the same godforsaken background music, the Pat Boone channel, twenty channels for kids, at least ten news channels, and fifty music stations.  Not only have I not missed them, but the money I have saved has helped pay my chicken mortgage and pay for the new shoes I am constantly buying because we can’t get the chicken poo smell out of the shoes I bought the previous week.

As if chickens were not enough, my wife decided if we were going off the grid, we still had an obligation to each other to be clean, so she learned to make soap.  Also, she reasoned, eventually, we would need an alternate source of light for the evenings, so she learned how to make candles.  I must admit it was fun helping her research how to do those things.  At first we, she, looked at making old time lye soap by extracting lye from the ashes of burnt wood.  After a little study and watching several YouTube videos on the process, she decided we were not ready to get that deep into soap making, so she buys lye for her soap from the hardware store.  She has since learned the mixing temperatures of essential oils, fragrances, dyes, and goat’s milk to the point that she has soap making down to an art.  Her homemade soy candles are also a work of art; I never knew non-commercial candles would smell so nice.  However, the best part is that she sells some of her soap and candles, which is the part that makes me the happiest.  After all, it takes money to keep her chickens in the lifestyle they have become accustomed.

Happy Easter!

JL

©Jack Linton – March 27, 2016

Advertisements

“The Not So Secret, Secret” Revisited: ALEC’s Dismantling of Public Education

In March 2014, I published an article, “The Not So Secret, Secret,” concerning the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) shadowy presence in Mississippi politics.  A few people took notice, but for the most part, the article was ignored.  Two years ago, such an article brought about visions of conspiracies and backroom cloak and dagger meetings that most people felt were more likely to happen in the movies or in some non-democratic third world country, but surely not in Mississippi.  In March 2014, most educators could not imagine in their wildest dreams the extent they would be betrayed by their elected officials in the following months.  After all, this was Mississippi, the state of hospitality, integrity, and a sense of fairness unparalleled anywhere in the nation.  Most Mississippians believed their legislators stood firm against outside interference; they believed there was no way Mississippi state representatives and senators could fall under the spell of an outside organization such as ALEC.  However, by now, Mississippians should know better!

In the past few months, Mississippi educators have witnessed an escalated assault on public education in the state.  This assault has been directly influenced by the ALEC agenda and carried out by ALEC members such as Mississippi Speaker of the House, Phillip Gun.  These assaults will most likely continue until all that is left of Mississippi public schools are holding pens for children discarded by the newly privatized system.  ALEC is not about the good of Mississippi!  It is about power and the men and women who embrace that power.  It is about keeping people in their place, especially if those people do not conform to the same beliefs and attributes as those in power.

Therefore, I am republishing the 2014 article in hopes the message may, this time, be clearer to educators and the Mississippi public.   I hope readers will pause to look at what has happened since March 2014.  I hope they recall the underhanded way the Initiative 42 issue was handled by the state leadership in Jackson!  I hope they will look at the quantity of frivolous and frightening education bills that have been proposed over the past two years.  When they read about the model bills ALEC provides to its members as legislative templates, I hope they will associate those templates with bills that are more interested in silencing public school educators and getting them under the absolute control of the state legislature than improving education.   Finally, this time, before the reader says this is not happening or can’t happen in Mississippi, I hope readers will take a long hard look at what has happened in just the past twenty-four months.

This article is no longer a warning!  ALEC is here, and if left unchallenged, its agenda will eventually destroy public education in Mississippi.  We cannot afford to continue to ignore that possibility or ignore ALEC’s presence and influence in our state.

JL

©Jack Linton   March 25, 2016

The Not So Secret, Secret

[First published March 2014]

Have you ever wondered what is truly behind the anti-teacher and anti-education rhetoric continually flowing out of Jackson?  Have you ever wondered why it seems the state leadership in Jackson has declared war against teachers and education in general across the state?  Have you ever wondered what is truly behind the push to privatize public education?  The answer to these questions is probably one of the best kept non-secrets in Mississippi, but every Mississippian needs to know about this not so secret, secret.  They need to understand that the crusade to link parent choice to privatizing Mississippi public education has not happened by chance nor did it happen overnight.  It is actually a part of an agenda that was put into place a little over forty years ago aimed at privatizing education across the United States; an agenda that has been called radical, dangerous, and a threat to American democracy.  Some people may not believe what I am saying, but if you are an educator, you need to heed what I am about to disclose and understand whether you like it or not, you are at war.  The war I am talking about is a long burning ember that has erupted into a full-scale blaze that threatens the very existence of public school education not only in Mississippi but across the nation.

First, I must admit I was in the dark as much as anyone else until about three years ago.  I was talking to a friend who was a high school principal in Louisiana at the time, and as usual we were discussing the good and bad about education in our states.  We were rocking along nicely exchanging stories when my friend asked me what I thought about ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.  My response was an unknowing, “Who?”  He laughed and said, “Get ready.  They already have a strong foothold in your legislature, so you need to pay attention.  This group is probably the greatest threat to public education in history.”  Despite my friend’s on-the-money warning, I did not pay much attention even when he told me a central theme to ALEC’s education agenda was privatizing public schools.  I just did not believe at the time that privatizing public education in Mississippi held any merit or even if it did, that such a notion had a “snowball’s chance in hades” of taking root here.  I still believe I was right about the lack of merit, but boy, was I ever more wrong about that snowball.

That snowball’s chance has exploded in the face of Mississippi’s public school educators.  ALEC and its Mississippi legislator members are running roughshod over the public schools by ramrodding charter schools, vouchers, tax deductions for private school tuition and home schooling expenses, and special education vouchers down the throats of local school districts by declaring public schools in Mississippi are “educationally bankrupt.”  Claiming their actions are in the best interest of Mississippi children, they are in effect funneling public tax dollars into private schools (vouchers) and into private for profit ventures (charter schools).  To bring this about, ALEC has brought state legislators and corporations together to form an education task force that drafts model bills that are intended to be introduced at the state level.  At the state level, ALEC members or those affiliated with the organization in the house and senate insert applicable state language into the model bill that in effect makes the bill look like original legislation introduced by local politicians.  This is not only happening in Mississippi, but it is happening in state after state across the nation.  A common strategy is to introduce education bills in mass to prevent opponents of the bills from blocking all of them at one time.  If you look back at the number of education bills that have been introduced in Jackson over the past two or three years, it is easy to see that this strategy has been in play in Mississippi for quite some time.  The bottom line is that this organization is undermining public education by draining public education dollars from the public school system to subsidize private schools and private tutoring as well as lining the pockets of for-profit corporate-run charter schools.

What I am about to say may offend some, and cause others to scream party partisanship on my part.  However, I can assure you that I have little regard for the failed political platforms of either the Republican or Democrat parties.  However, be that as it may, simply stated, ALEC is a marriage between large corporations and conservative Republicans in the house and the senate (ALEC membership is overwhelmingly Republican).  These large corporations buy seats on the education task force where they receive tax breaks for donations, privately vote on model legislation, and influence the task force with their corporate agendas.  On the other hand, the conservative Republicans get to flaunt their brilliance for policy innovation without disclosing their bills were first crafted by the corporate world for the purpose of expanding their profit margins at the expense of Mississippi taxpayers (I have listed resources at the conclusion of this blog that provide lists of Mississippi legislators who are or have been affiliated with ALEC).  Renowned education historian, Diane Ravitch, clearly sums up the role ALEC has in the current crusade against public education when she says,

“This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the  work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators.  Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.”

But why would anyone or any organization want to destroy public education?  What is their motivation?  In February 2012, Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead wrote about the dismantling of the public school system in Phi Delta Kappan.  In that article, they said,

“The motivation for dismantling the public education system—creating a system where schools do not provide for everyone—is ideological, and it is motivated by profit. The corporate members on ALEC’s education task force include representatives from the Friedman Foundation, Goldwater Institute, Evergreen Education Group, Washington Policy Center, and corporations providing education services such as Sylvan Learning and K- 12, Inc.  All stand to benefit from public funding sent in their direction.”

If this is indeed true, and current legislation in the Mississippi legislature certainly seems to support that it is, then we can only assume that if corporations stand to profit from privatizing public education, maybe some of their membership stands to profit as well.

When it comes to politics very little ever happens by chance, and the current state of affairs with education politics in Jackson is no different.  The only “chance” in play in Mississippi is the chance that Mississippians are taking by not paying attention to what is happening in the Mississippi senate and house chambers.  I have always been a believer in capitalism, but I never thought I would live to see the day that some in our state legislature would be transformed from serving children to serving private for profit greed.  It is time Mississippians started paying attention and responding with their votes before it is too late.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 2014

 

Resources you may be interested in reviewing:

 

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Mississippi_ALEC_Politicians

 

This is a partial list of Mississippi politicians that are known to be involved in, or             previously involved in, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). It is a             partial list.  You may wish to call your state legislator and ask about ALEC.

 

http://www.alec.org/

 

American Legislative Exchange Council – website.  You may want to look at some of their model education bills.  You might be surprised  see some of the same bills that have been introduced in Mississippi recently.

http://www.alternet.org/story/155257/what_you_need_to_know_about_alec

What You Need To Know About ALEC.  The now embattled organization has been working to destroy public ed for the past forty    years. Here’s   what you need to know about how they’re doing it.

By Diane Ravitch

 

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/01/kappan_underwood.html

 

A Smart ALEC Threatens Public Education:  Coordinated efforts to introduce model             legislation aimed at defunding and dismantling public schools is the signature work of         this conservative organization.

 

By Julie Underwood and Julie F. Mead, Phi Delta Kappan

 

http://alecexposed.org/w/images/7/7b/ALEC_on_Education_2.pdf

Start with the Foundation: How to Improve Public School Education

There are three guarantees in America: taxes, death, and ten years from now the same discussions on how to improve public school education will be taking place. Looking ten years into the future, money will still be needed to fund education; poverty will still be an issue impacting education; students in America will still lag behind the rest of the world in math and reading; and parents, politicians, and educators will still be looking for answers to never ending education issues. Why? The answer is really quite simple: when it comes to improving education we are idiots! We continuously focus on the issues we cannot control and ignore the ones we can control. When it comes to education, we are always polishing the car, but never inflating the tires, or when we come to a seemingly impassable gorge, we spend the majority of our time paying lip service to the gorge and trying to find ways around it rather than building a bridge over it.

It is time we stop worrying about the issues we can’t control and focus on the issues we can control. Year after year, we have the same discussions about education, and year after year, we apply the same old band-aids or invent new ones to stop the bleeding. The result is we are slowly bleeding to death! Although money is definitely needed to fund education, money by itself, like charter schools, vouchers, and privatizing public schools, will not resolve the problems.   Robbing Peter to pay Paul, as charter schools, vouchers, and privatizing schools do, is not a viable long-term solution to what ails public education. Trying to fix education issues the way we currently do is like trying to fix an airplane with a dangling wing in midflight. It can’t be done!

Discussions on how to improve public school education have been on-going for decades. Few of the problems we are facing today are new; they have simply been magnified by time and neglect. Issues such as education funding, classroom discipline, graduation rates, school attendance, parent involvement, and accountability are nothing new. These have always been issues, but not until the 1983 Nation at Risk Report did the public and the politicians truly begin to take notice. Over the years since the report, more attention has been given to graduation rates, teacher preparation and quality, and student accountability, but for the most part, we keep doing the same old same old year after year after year. It is as though we believe if we keep doing something long enough, even if it is wrong, eventually it will fix itself or become the new norm.

We keep trying to fix education by applying fresh paint and adjusting the seat up and down, but when all is said and done, we have done nothing but give a facelift to a sagging foundation! For example, we are constantly trying to improve middle school and high school by addressing the symptoms of a greater problem. With a few adjustments, the majority of the academic problems we see at the middle and high school levels could be resolved by strengthening the foundation these grade levels are built upon. The foundation for every level of education from elementary school through college lies in grades K – 4 reading and math, and unfortunately, that is where the foundation is sagging most in public schools.

This is not a startling revelation; educators have known this for years. However, when it comes to education improvement, the greatest focus is on graduation rates, kids who drop out of high school, and low core scores at the high school level, but the problem does not begin there! Politicians like to tell the public the reason for a dismal education system is poorly qualified teachers. That may be a small part of the problem, but it goes much deeper than that. However, mythical incompetence is something politicians can sink their teeth into without expending energy on research or actually going into schools to see for themselves. It is an easy scapegoat for all the ills that plague education. Politicians know teachers are an easy target that seldom bite back, and the public will believe anything if they are told it often enough. The truth is that most education problems are an extension of a poor reading and math foundation which directly impacts core proficiency, high school dropouts, and graduation rates. Kids with a poor foundation in reading and math are more likely to do poorly on accountability assessments or drop out of school prior to the assessments or graduation. Although this fractured foundation may be partially due to a handful of poor teachers, overall it is the result of how we conduct school, especially at the elementary school level.

It is imperative that we do everything possible to ensure a quality teacher in every classroom, but it is absolutely wrong to brand upper-level teachers as incompetent when children are arriving at their doors not proficient in reading and math. This statement is in no way intended as a condemnation of elementary school teachers; they have, by far, the most difficult and demanding job of any teacher in the school district. The point is that a child must be a reader long before he/she arrives at the middle school or the high school, or be doomed for failure. Therefore, as educators, parents, politicians, and the public we must do whatever it takes to ensure students can read at grade level and perform grave level math prior to being promoted beyond the fourth grade.

The basic foundation pieces for any academic area are reading and math comprehension. In today’s world, a student cannot be successful if deficient in either. Therefore, if we are to truly make an educational difference for children, we should look seriously at changing the way we conduct school at the elementary school level. We should look seriously at adopting the following steps. It is not rocket science; it is simply the science of common sense:

12 Steps to Improving Public Schools

  1. Mississippi’s third-grade reading gate is a step in the right direction. However, grade level reading gates should be established at each grade level in grades K – 4. With yearly reading assessments, students are less likely to slip through the cracks. The earlier a potential problem can be identified the better for the student. Also, a reading gate will only be as effective as the accountability instrument and score used to measure it. If the score is set too low, a disservice will be done to students and their future;
  2. Require grades K – 4 have at least one trained teacher assistant in each classroom. Elementary children require hands-on guidance by an adult. Learning centers are a vital part of an elementary classroom, but children still need hands on adult guidance during this time. For these centers to function as intended a teacher needs to have the freedom to pull individual students for one-on-one instruction; however, that is difficult if there is not an assistant in the classroom to monitor and work with the other children in the centers. Most people struggle to deal effectively with the needs of two or three of their own children at home, yet elementary school teachers are expected to single-handedly handle the needs of 20+ five to eight-year-olds in a classroom. That is simply ridiculous!
  3. Focus on language arts, math, reading, and arts in grades K – 4;
  4. Introduce science as a separate subject in grade 4;
  5. Introduce social studies as a separate subject in grade 5;
  6. All teachers K – 12 are important to the overall academic growth of students, but the teachers with the most responsibility for the academic success of students are elementary teachers in grades K – 4. To make a difference, it is imperative that we beg, borrow, and buy the best teachers for these grades. To entice the best teachers into grades K – 4, the starting base salary for K – 4 elementary teachers should be raised by at least $10,000 over the starting pay for all other teacher positions (Yes, I mean K – 4 teachers should be the highest paid teachers in the school district!). In addition, accountability standards for math and reading in grades K – 4 should be raised, and K – 4 teachers held accountable for their student’s success. Teaching children to read and do math are the two most important responsibilities of a school district; therefore, teachers who teach these areas should be the best minds and the highest paid teachers in the school district, and they should also be held the most accountable for student success. Unless a child has a learning disability, an emotional problem that derails learning, or comes from an educationally dysfunctional family (i.e. excessive absences) there should be no excuse for a child to finish grades K – 4 unable to read or perform grade level math skills;
  7. STOP expecting elementary teachers to be ALL KNOWING wizards of knowledge! Recruit elementary teachers with strong math, writing, and science backgrounds. Allow elementary teachers to specialize in the area of their strength. To give students the best teachers, tie teachers to students rather than classrooms. Rather than move young children all over the building, move teachers to the students. STOP territorial nesting!
  8. Require all public school teachers to take a writing proficiency exam as a requirement for certification. Teachers do not have be master writers, but there is no room in education for teachers who cannot write a coherent sentence with proper subject/verb agreement;
  9. In grades 5 – 12, pay teachers in core areas (math, language arts, science, and social studies) a supplement like that received by coaches with extra responsibilities. In this era of teacher accountability, teachers teaching non-core subjects do not have the same level of accountability as core teachers. It does not make sense to pay the physical education teacher and the dance teacher the same money as the mathematics, language arts, science, and social studies teachers who are held to a higher level of accountability for their students’ success in the classroom. It is also ludicrous to hang onto the notion that to some degree all teachers teach the core subjects, and they are just as accountable as the core teachers and deserve the same pay. That is simply not true!
  10. Set aside job-embedded collaborative professional learning time for all language arts, math, and reading teachers in grades K – 4; language arts, math, reading, and science teachers in grade 5; and language arts, math, reading, science, and social studies teachers in grades 6 – 12. The research is very clear as to the positive impact of teacher collaboration on classroom instruction practices and student achievement;
  11. Settle on a rigorous and challenging curriculum, and when parents or any other adult complains that it is too complicated and they cannot help their children with homework, DO NOT throw the curriculum out! Instead, require the local school district to establish HOMEWORK CENTERS where students can go for help and parents can be tutored so they can help their child at home;
  12. Get rid of grade levels for K – 4 based on age! Allow students to advance to the next level based on reading and math comprehension only. QUIT promoting kids based on a number (age), and promote them based on comprehension and application of the curriculum.

 

Will these steps work? Yes! Will anyone listen to these steps? Maybe a few. Will these steps happen? Not likely. Why not? Adults both in and outside the education profession are too self-centered, jealous, political, territorial, and just plain afraid of change! As a result, we will continue applying band-aids to fix education problems, and ten years from now, we will still be asking the same questions. Without putting some grunt into school improvement and making something happen that focuses on the needs of children and less on the needs and speculative imbalance of politicians, the public, and yes even educators, ten years from now, the debate on how to improve public education will still be raging. That is unless public schools have not been legislated out of existent by then. Yet, even then, most likely ten years down the road the charter and privatized schools will be having the same problems as the public schools, especially, since they are little more than carbon copies of public schools with less restrictions. The only way to make K – 12 education work as it was intended, regardless if it is a public school or charter school, is to focus on the foundation. The only way to move a vehicle with flat tires is to inflate the tires!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     March 18, 2016

Two Chances

The American people are confused, frustrated, and angry. They should be! The American political party system has failed them miserably, and the candidates for the Presidency have given them little reason for hope. Many Americans are throwing up their hands in disgust and turning away, saying they will vote for neither side. Their loathing of what they see in the election campaigns is understandable, but walking away resolves nothing. My father once told me that voting is an important, although sometimes feeble attempt at democracy, that should not be cast aside lightly. He was a firm believer in the right to vote even though he believed a vote or non-vote always resulted in the same two chances. That may sound paradoxical, but I can assure you, he knew what he was talking about.

I remember when I turned eighteen and registered to vote. That was the first and last time, my father asked me who I was voting for in an upcoming election. I tried to play cool and shoot the question back to him, “Who are you voting for?” He was not amused, and pressed me for an answer.  I tried my best, but I was so thoroughly uninformed and ignorant of the candidates and the issues that after about thirty seconds of incoherent rambling, he stopped me.  “You don’t gave a clue do you?” he said.  To him voting was a very serious matter, and for a voter, especially his son, not to take time to familiarize himself with the candidates and the issues severely pissed him off.   Dropping my head, I affirmed his suspicions, and steadied myself for a severe scolding. To my surprise, he didn’t say a word, but turned and walked into the house. My heart sank; I knew I had really messed up. However, a moment later he returned with a copy of The Hattiesburg American, which had recently run a special section on the candidates and the issues. He handed me the newspaper.

In those days, there was no internet, CNN, Fox News, talk radio, or Facebook with its political hearsay and conspiracies to fuel a person’s knowledge about elections. Everything a person knew about an election was learned by reading the newspaper, listening to the black and white television broadcast of the evening news with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, listening in on barber shop conversations, and occasionally being pointed in the right direction by the preacher on Sunday morning. Although my father paid attention to the politics he heard at the barber shop and in Church, he placed very little value on any of it unless it could be confirmed in the newspaper. Other than an occasional Louis L’Amour novel, my father was not an avid reader, but if it was printed in the newspaper, he read it and committed the gist of the story to memory. So, when he handed the newspaper to me, I knew he meant for me to read it and be prepared to continue the conversation in a more knowledgeable fashion at a later time.  I knew the next time he asked who I was voting for I had better know as well as why I was voting for that person.  If I couldn’t do both, he would not be as calm and forgiving.

The next afternoon we were sitting in the den watching an old movie, which we often did when he came home from work, when he asked if I had read the newspaper. On the screen of our 1969 RCA black and white television, Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan was wrestling a lion as his chimpanzee sidekick, Cheetah, threw twigs and pebbles at the beast presumably to help, but more likely to slyly agitate the lion. More interested in watching the movie than listening to what I expected to be a stern lecture on my responsibilities as a new voter, I mumbled I had, and he nodded his approval. “I still don’t know who I want to vote for though,” I said honestly, knowing he expected me to pick up the conversation. He didn’t say a word. “But,” I added, “I am leaning toward . . . .”

“Who you vote for is your business,” he interrupted.

“I thought you wanted to know?”

“All that matters is that you know,” he said.

“But, I don’t really know,” I said truthfully.

“That’s why I gave you the paper to read, so you can make a decision.”

“Yeah, but I’m more confused now.” From the corner of my eye, I saw Tarzan embrace Jane. A flash of female flesh momentarily stopped my breathing as the thin animal skin wrapped around her waist rode up her thigh revealing a purity and whiteness that rivaled the snows of Kilimanjaro that stood at attention above the steaming jungle around them. I don’t know if I would have said it if I had not been so distracted, but I did. I said the unthinkable. “I may not vote.”

“That’s stupid,” he said with unbelievable calmness. Maybe, it was his own orectic thoughts about Jane that kept him unruffled, I don’t know. I expected him to explode from his seat, dig his claws into the ceiling, and hurl crumbling plaster down on my irreverent head. He didn’t move except to sit up slightly and pump his fist when Tarzan released Jane and let fly his famous, distinctive, ululating yell of the victorious bull ape. That yell and Andy Griffith whistling the fishing hole song were two of my father’s favorite TV moments that always solicited a nostalgic “atta boy” sigh or “ATTA BOY!” fist pump. “Why wouldn’t you vote?” he asked, never taking his eyes off Tarzan swinging triumphantly into the distance from tree to tree.

“Because . . . I don’t want to make a mistake,” I said.

“The only mistake you can make is not voting,” he said and sipped his coffee.

“I don’t know,” I began hesitatingly. “I just don’t want to waste my vote.”

“I’m glad to hear that, but the only wasted vote is not voting.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Son,” he said, “it’s like this. Take Tarzan for example. He has two chances. Either the vine he is swinging on is going to break, or it isn’t, but even if it breaks, he still has two chances. Either he breaks his neck, or he doesn’t. But, if he hangs on to the vine and yells loud enough, he increases his chances of making it to the next tree, but if he doesn’t do either, he doesn’t have a chance in hell of making it. He can even decide the vine is too risky, and that is okay because he still has two chances. Maybe, he can yell loud enough to make it to the next tree, and maybe, he can’t. Voting and politics are the same way. When it comes to politics and elections, you have two chances. You have two chances with your vote, and you have exactly the same two chances if you don’t vote. The only difference is by voting you slightly increase the odds things will turn out your way.”

“And, if they don’t,” I asked.

“You still have two chances,” he said. “I might vote for the right one and I might not. And, if I don’t vote right, I still have two chances. Things might turn out okay, and they might not. And, if things don’t turn out okay, I still have two chances. The country may go to hell in a hand basket, and it might not. And, if it does go to hell in a hand basket, I still have two chances. I might lose everything, and I might not. And, if I lose everything, I’ve still got two chances. I have my family and my friends. And, if I lose my family and friends, I still have two chances. I might die, and I might not. And, if I die, I still have two chances. So, what’s the big deal, vote for what you believe is right, and the odds are 50/50 you’ll get it right, and if you don’t, you still have two chances.”

“But, what if I’m wrong,” I asked.

“Then you have two chances,” he shrugged, and kicked back in his recliner as the movie end credits rolled over Johnny Weissmuller playing with Cheetah while Maureen O’Sullivan laughed happily at his side.

So, if there is anybody out there thinking about not voting because of all the political mess and shenanigans, please vote! As my father said, “The odds are 50/50 you’ll get it right, and if you don’t, you still have two chances.”

See you at the polls!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     March 12, 2016

A Political Shipwreck: The Scoop on the Presidential Candidates

I cannot remember a time when our choices for President of the United States have been more interesting or sadder.  What makes these candidates so sad is that none of them have the aptitude, desire, courage, or ability to unite America.  It is sad when the good of a political party outweighs the good of the people.  It is sad when a candidate runs for the Presidency without the experience or credentials to lead any nation much less the the most powerful nation on earth.  It is sad when a candidate runs for the Presidency out of a sense of entitlement and historical first.  It is sad when a candidate runs for the Presidency to impose his vision of conservatism and the agenda of one party on the people rather than representing all people equally.  It is sad when a candidate for the Presidency has nothing to offer the people other than a temporary outlet for their frustrations with a bankrupt political system.  It is sad when high school student council elections have more substance and dignity than a Presidential  campaign.  It is sad when the deck of Presidential candidates is filled with nothing but jokers.  It is sad when candidates are reduced to school boy name calling because they have nothing better to say.  It is sad The United States of America has come to this!

I don’t mean to offend, but this is how I see the campaigns for the Presidency:

Observation #1:          So far, the Presidential campaigns have been little more than a study of egomaniacs with more interest in being The President of the United States of American than being The President of the people of the United States of America.

Observation #2:         If the Presidential debates are an indicator of what is to come, we are in for either four more years of unwavering disconnect, or at best a self-promoting president running the country by the seat of his pants.

Observation #3:          A short synopsis of presidential campaigns:

  1. Hillary Clinton runs a campaign based on entitlement;
  2. Bernie Sanders’ runs a campaign based on eliminating the 1% greedy and creating the 99% greedy;
  3. Donald Trump runs a campaign based on how marvelous and rich he is as well as how tall he will build a wall between the United States and Mexico;
  4. Ted Cruz runs a campaign based on a vision of conservatism built in his image; he has yet to understand that America is comprised of both conservatives and liberals with the vast majority falling somewhere in between;
  5. Marco Rubio runs a campaign based on inexperience and school boy good looks;
  6. Ben Carson runs a campaign based on the legend of “these hands,” which is more suited for a USA feel good movie than practical application to running a nation; and
  7. John Kasich runs a campaign based on some solid ideas that no one will give the time of day.

Observation #4:          Democrats seem confident they cannot lose the election as long as they look and act more civilized and presidential than the Republicans, which is not hard to do.

Observation #5:          It is time someone told Hillary Clinton to unsaddle Barack Obama and leave that dead horse in the ditch, or face the possibility of an elephant squatting on her face come January 2017.

Observation #6:          People continue to fall in love with Donald Trump as their choice for the Republican nomination because he has brought new energy to an otherwise bland and broken political machine. If the Democrats don’t find a way to counter that enthusiasm with some gusto of their own, the Republican, Common Joe, love-in for Trump could very well sweep into the White House in 2017.

Observation #7:          The media frenzy and public enthusiasm generated by Republican showboating, excursions into self-love, and the ridiculous seem to play perfectly into the mindset of today’s society.

Observation #8:          The Democrats have two viable candidates for the Presidency – one that might win and one that most likely can’t win.

Observation #9:          The Republicans have five candidates for the Presidency – all card carrying members of the circus sideshow.

Observation #10:          At some point, the Democratic Party may have to decide if the writing is on the wall for Hillary or for the Democratic Party;

Observation #11:        So far, in the Presidential campaigns the more a candidate confirms his love for himself, the higher his ratings soar, which simply proves that Americans struggle to tell the difference between arrogance and substance

Observation #12:        People dismiss Bernie Sanders as  Socialist, but at least he stands for something.  What do any of the others truly stand for?  The only other candidate who is even close to being steadfast in what he believes is Ted Cruz, and he speaks almost solely for conservatism molded in his image.  Hillary Clinton is riding on the coat tails of her husband and Brack Obama; she has probably never had an original thought in her life.  Donald Trump talks out both sides of his mouth and reverses himself more often than the wind.  Marco Rubio can’t get out of a rut whether it is repetitive talking points or name calling; how far will either get him when he is sitting across the table from Putin or North Korea.  There is no doubt Ben Carson is a smart man, but how much respect can a man who struggles to keep his eyes open,  constantly wrings his hands, and speaks with little authority command in the nation and around world.  Finally, John Kasich may make the best sense of all the candidates, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have the Presudential look and swagger to carry him to the White House.

Of course, these are simply my observations, but I honestly believe most people will agree that the current political climate in the United States reeks of mental disorder and a bad television sitcom.  The dribble the Democrat and Republican candidates are presently feeding the American people is a disgrace to all Americans.  To date, the candidates for the Presidency of the United States have run campaigns that are self-serving at best.  They have effectively turned their parties and the Presidential election into a world wide spectacle of what is wrong with America.  I am sad to think the Presidency has become a joke for late night television and the world.  If that offends anyone, please encourage your favorite candidate to prove me and more likely millions of other Americans who feel the same way, wrong.  Forgive me, if I do not hold my breath while waiting.  I don’t mean to offend, but . . . .

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     February 24, 2017

A Short Blog on Nothing in Particular

Blogs are not literature! Blogging is rarely an attempt at literary greatness. A blog simply conveys information, observations, shares a viewpoint, and may even tell a story. It may range from factual to pure nonsense or from thoughtful to offensive. It is what it is – a device to entertain or give people pause to think about a topic or issue. Most bloggers fall somewhere between a true writer and a hacker. They write because they enjoy writing and enjoy the occasional responses and interactions with readers.

Blogs can be very short or very long. It depends on the topic and the writer’s skill with the economy of words or disregard for the economy of words. Some bloggers like to hear themselves write and carry on about nothing page after page while some bloggers are concise and to the point. However, length should not be an issue; there are excellent short blogs as well as excellent long blogs and when it comes to bad blogs the number of words or pages cannot save a stinker. Sometimes it is more effective to write a shorter blog than creating a long detailed blog. A paragraph or a short list can often convey all that needs to be said. Or, the short blog might simply be the result of one of those evenings when the author started writing while watching “The Blacklist” and woke up several hours later to “Judge Mathis” dealing out justice on late night television. Either way, the short blog saves the writer and his reading audience time, which in some respects may be merciful to both.

Hopefully, this short blog will offer readers a little mercy. Heaven knows, they deserve it! To be honest, I don’t have much to say, but I do have a few general observations that I would like to share. Who knows, one of these observations might be the catalyst that changes the world. Probably not, but I am going to share them just the same. Truthfully, I hope for what I always hope for when I write – someone reads the blog; someone reacts with WTF (What the Frog); someone simply enjoys it; someone nods and thinks, “I never thought of that,” or someone smiles and says, “Bless his heart.” Regardless of the response, I write not because I enjoy inflicting pain on people, but because I enjoy writing. So, if you have a few minutes, I have a few observations to share.

Observations on Nothing in Particular for People with Nothing Better to Think About:

  1. When did giving up become someone else’s fault?
  2. There are two types of people you should never turn your back on – people who think like you do and people who don’t.
  3. Sometimes the best way to cope is not to take yourself so seriously.
  4. Prayer in the South is an artistic marvel of rhetoric steeped in the juice of bread and butter pickles.
  5. In today’s world, you are entitled to everyone’s opinion but your own.

As a writer, I hope something connected, even if the connection was little more than a sigh of relief that the blog was not longer.  Although I am tempted to add another thousand words of explanation and filler, the closing credits are rolling for Judge Mathis, so it’s time to shut the computer down for the night. As always, thank you for reading. At the Oscars, Leonardo DiCaprio said, “I do not take tonight for granted.” Likewise, I do not take readers for granted.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     March 1, 2016