Monthly Archives: December 2016

Everyone Needs a Little Christmas Magic

Christmas is a time for celebrating family and friends and extending fellowship to all.  It is a time for worship and remembering the sacrifice God made to send his son into the world.  Also, it is a time for reflection on the past year, and boy do we have a year to reflect on!  Beginning with an election campaign filled with calls for disengaging from our love affair with wealth and embracing leveling the playing field for the poor, it is a year to look back on and examine our values.  It was a year that gave support to an isolationist mentality as frustrations grew out of the uncertain impact illegal immigrants had on the economy and rising concern and fears over instability and terrorism in the Middle East.  Sometimes seemingly focused on the disenfranchisement of diversity in America, 2016 was divided by conservative versus liberal, Democrat versus Republican, Christians versus LGBT, and black versus white.  Highlighted by a Presidential election like no other in history, the year gave us reason to question our decency, sense of justice, and even our humanity.  2016 gave us a lot to reflect upon, but unless that reflection leads to lessons learned, it will be just another year to count as a year older, but no wiser.

Hopefully, during this Christmas season, we can slow down enough to realize that in spite of all our problems and differences, we nevertheless work, play, and live in the greatest nation on earth.  We are one people under one flag under God, and regardless of individual stands as conservative, liberal, Democrat, Republican, Christian, LGBT, black, or white, we are one brotherhood sharing the gift of being Americans.  As a Christian nation, we must reflect on our views of the poor, those standing at our door, and the diversity of our brothers.  We must ask ourselves if as Christians we reflect and uphold the views of Christ, who was born poor and never held a job other than as an itinerant preacher, was an immigrant taken by his earthly parents to a foreign land to escape the murderous intentions of Herod, and who as a man of God embraced lepers, prostitutes, and Samaritans.

In 2016, Americans cast enough righteous stones at one another to destroy a lesser nation.  Instead of respecting differences, “I am right; you are wrong” became a recurring battle cry across the nation.  No one was interested in hearing what anyone had to say; Americans only wanted to be heard.  That failure to communicate is still very much alive, but hopefully, the Christmas season will slow things down a bit and allow time to reflect on how we might once again learn to respectfully listen to each.  To do that, we must stop seeing and judging our fellow man as we would have him be and accept each other as who we are.  We must remember during this special season that Jesus was born into the world not to judge us, but to save us, and in turn, to save America, we must stop judging one another.

Hopefully the magic of Christmas will wrap itself around each of us during this Christmas season, and point to a much higher road in 2017 than we traveled in 2016.  If we cross our fingers, wish upon a star, and pray anything is possible.  Until then, I hope this Christmas fulfills all your dreams and brings peace, love, and joy into your life.  This is the time of year everyone needs a little Christmas magic, and I pray you find yours.  Merry Christmas, and God bless us all!

JL

©Jack Linton, December 18, 2016

 

Advertisements

Copy Machines are Responsible for the Demise of Public Schools

Since the beginning of civilization there have been schools to educate citizens with the knowledge and skills needed to be productive in the community.  Most early schools were available only to a select few, but as time passed, the concept of educating everyone became more acceptable, specifically for religious reasons.  For example, in the United States, the first schools were decreed by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1647.  Those early schools were intended to teach all Puritan children to read the Bible and receive basic information about the Calvinist religion.  Since that decree to establish elementary and Latin schools in every town, schools have grown from the one room school houses of the early Colonial days to the mega multi grade complexes of the present day.  Today, there are fancy boarding schools for the affluent, religious schools to ensure the propagation of spiritual doctrine, private academies for those with societal peculiarities, and free public schools intended to provide all citizens an equal opportunity for a quality education.  All have their place, but none more so than free public schools.

Regardless of what some may say, public schools have been the educational mainstay of the United States.  Although under attack lately for a grocery list of ills that encompass about every evil known to man, public schools have nevertheless been an integral force behind the success of the United States.  Few nations provide all citizens the education opportunities the United States provides its citizens, and regardless what the haters say, overall, public schools have been a tremendous success though at times they struggle with change.  However, in fairness, the inability to change has not always entirely been the fault of public schools.  Quite often shortcomings are due to outside forces beyond their control such as politics, an obtuse culture, or an ill-informed public.  Nevertheless, sometimes public schools are to blame.  That is especially true when a good school idea such as copy machines morphs into a bad idea.

Copy machines are ingrained in public schools to the point that the odds of doing anything to jeopardize their existence are slim at best.  Tinkering with them can get a person strung up by his thumbs even though these machines are an example of a logical, well intended solution to a school problem that has mutated into a monster.  Copiers often masquerade as essentials when in reality schools would most likely fare much better without them.  Due to the aura of innocence that surrounds these machines, few people in or outside education recognize the serious negative impact they have on America’s public schools.  However, it is time to expose the monster for what it truly is!

What would you say if I said copy machines are responsible for the demise of public education in the United States and should be outlawed in public schools?  If you are a teacher who is dependent on the copier for copying worksheets and tests, you might think I am crazy!  If you are Joe Public burdened with ever increasing taxes to pay for such 21st Century playthings, you might cry “Hallelujah!”  Whereas, if you are a parent who too often is confronted with volumes of handouts crammed in the bottom of their child’s backpack or inch thick packets of handouts sent home as homework, you might sigh with relief, “It’s about time.”  On the other hand, if you are a politician committed to a never ending war against public education, you might feel a tinge of excitement.

Unfortunately, copy machines are indeed responsible for the demise of public education.  It’s not simply passing out endless homework and busywork packets that canonize copiers as a lethal schoolhouse disease slowly sucking the life blood from public schools, but the fact that copiers directly lead to other school related cancers such as state testing.  From the mimeograph machines of the late 19th century to the super-fast, high efficiency digital duplicators used today, a direct line of decline in public education can be tracked.  From the beginning, copiers generated an unnatural gluttonous need for paper, which in turn created a strain on the timber industry to provide pulp to paper manufacturers at a reasonable cost.  When paper manufacturing costs rise, textbook prices escalate, and as a result, school districts can no longer afford to maintain up to date textbooks .  Without the latest textbooks, teachers are more likely to use copy machines more frequently to provide current materials to their students.

With the decline of textbook sales, textbook publishers were forced to find a viable educational alternative or go out of business.  Therefore, they turned their attention to the test producing business, which required less paper per unit to produce while escalating overall paper volume usage exponentially.  With the help of their lobbyists in Washington, they were able to finagle policies that required all students to take their tests.  Since testing mandates are virtually free of testing exceptions, the publishers basically found a lucrative never ending market for their number one new paper product – state tests!  As a result, today, states divert billions of education dollars each year from public schools to the test publishers, which more than makes up for lost textbook revenue, and they ultimately owe it all to the copy machine.

Copy machines are the catalyst for this cycle, and consequently must shoulder the blame for the current state of public education in the United States.  This cycle greatly benefits paper manufacturers, test publishers, lobbyists, and politicians, but does little for public education in return.  The bottom line is that public schools now spend more money on copiers, paper, and testing than they ever did for textbooks.  So, should there be any question as to why there is not enough money to hire quality teachers or properly maintain school facilities?  As long as there are copy machines in schools, paper manufacturers, test/textbook publishers, lobbyists, and politicians will continue to get richer while public schools fiscally slowly spin down the drain.

When these costs are coupled with the diversion of public tax dollars from public schools to support special interest projects such as charter schools, private schools, and vouchers, it is easy to see why public schools are gasping for life.  Unfortunately, little can be done to keep public school funds from being diverted to such special interest projects, but there is something educators can do to facilitate some relief.  They can GET RID OF COPY MACHINES!  Schools have little control over funding, but they can remove copy machines and hopefully, over time, minimize the damage these monsters cause.  Chain them up, haul them to the dump, or convert them to garden sculptures, but get them out of the school house.  Parents and politicians are always talking about the “good old days” when they were in school, so why not go back to ink wells, mimeograph machines, and numbering a sheet of notebook paper from one to ten before taking a test?  Since apparently no one is to blame for under-funding education or testing the life out of education, why not put the blame where it belongs – on copy machines?  With copy machines, we have a scapegoat everybody can live with at least for now!

JL

©Jack Linton, December 12, 2016

Future School

George Bentley, principal of PS227, stood behind the steel fiber reinforced window in his office and watched the chaos in the hallway.  He didn’t know which was worst, corralling the students into classrooms in the mornings or herding them off campus in the afternoons.  Both were dangerous for him and his faculty.  When the kids were outside their classrooms, school administrators, faculty, and staff remained behind locked doors for their protection.  Supervision duties such as hall duty and cafeteria duty were things of the past.  Such duties were simply too dangerous.  Venturing into the hallways during class breaks or before and after school without an armed escort meant hospital time if not worse.

All public schools were basically the same.  They were little more than holding tanks for the “have nots” and the unwanted.  Public schools in 2049 were the consequence of over thirty years of public school privatization and rampant school choice that literally syphoned the life from public schools.  Left segregated along socioeconomic lines, poor whites and minorities who were no longer the minority wandered the hallways stripped of hope and their value to humanity.  Simply put, public schools symbolized the new segregated America.

Unfortunate teachers not recruited by the Corporate, Arts, and Athletic charters and academies taught from the confines of chain link steel cages bolted to the floor at the front of their classrooms.  School buses were equipped with steel cages to protect the drivers and military-like sweeps through the buildings conducted by loosely trained assault teams known as STAF (School Tactical Advance Forces) were the norm in public schools across the nation.  This was school of the mid-21st century – a cesspool operated under the guise of education – holding pens for throwaway juveniles.

The Corporate Education recruitment poster on Bentley’s wall depicted students studying quietly and listening respectfully to a teacher walking freely about the classroom.  It was a throwback to a time when education held promise not only for the affluent and talented, but for less blessed children as well.  Unfortunately, the promise ended when America washed its hands of public schools, and politically and socially branded them a lost cause.

A book ricocheted off the window sending Bentley recoiling against the wall.  Embarrassed by his reaction, anger and helplessness flooded him.  He jerked around to face the window and slammed a fist against the glass.  The window shook, but thankfully the reinforced glass held.  Outside the window, a tall dark haired boy shouldering a bulky book bag stared at him from the hallway.   Laughing, he motioned for Bentley to join him.  Bentley knew better.  He pushed the purple riot button next to window to call for STAF.

A cute girl with long sandy blonde hair walked up to the boy and began shaking her finger in his face.  Bentley recognized her as a new student.  Her registration had caused quite a stir among the clerical staff and faculty.  Her parents actually accompanied her to register which was unheard of at PS227.  Now just as mysteriously, she was in the face of one of the most feared bullies in the school.  Both fascinated and alarmed, he watched as she continued to shake her finger at the boy who just stared at her blankly as a crowd began to gather around them.  He pounded his fists against the glass until she turned to look at him.  “RUN!” he screamed at the glass, knowing she could not hear him.

As she looked at Bentley and tried to understand what he was saying, the boy slid the bulky book bag from his shoulder and swung the loaded bag in a high ark above his head bringing it down hard against her left cheek.  Her knees buckled, and she dropped face first against the unforgiving floor tiles.  The crowd went wild cheering and giving high-fives.  Laughing and bowing to his audience, the boy stood over his fallen prey and rolled her on her back with the toe of his shoe.  Blood flowed from a deep gash above her right eye where her head hit the floor; her left cheek was red and swollen from the impact of the bag.  Mocking her, pointing and shaking his finger, he spit in her bloodied unconscious face.  Bending over her, he ran his fingers across her face, and then turned to Bentley behind the window and smeared his bloody fingers across the glass.

Behind the safety of the reinforced glass, Bentley clinched his fists in anger.  He took a step toward the door and grabbed the knob before he thought better and released it.  Where was STAF?  Someone had to do something.  The mob outside his window grew wilder.  Several girls stepped from the pulsating mass, looked at the injured girl, and spit on her before returning triumphantly to their cheering friends.

A tall thin Hispanic youth whom Bentley recognized as Roberto Salinto, a ranking member of the Doric Disciples stepped from the crowd.  Salinto spoke to the boy, and when the boy, encouraged by the crowd, said something back, he slapped him hard silencing the crowd.  The dark-haired boy swung his book bag, but Salinto stepped aside easily and drew a heavy silver chain from around his waist.  The chain whistled as it cut the air and slammed into the boy’s jaw dropping him unconscious to the floor next to the girl.

Salinto smiled at the crumpled body and knelt next to the girl.  Running his fingers in a figure eight around her breasts and up the slender slope of her throat, his hand stopped at the gold chain around her neck.  He spoke to her, but there was no response.  He jerked on the chain – breaking it free, and stood as four STAF officers stepped through the crowd waving Tasers.  The officers saw Salinto and froze; their eyes locked with his.  He stared at them coldly, and calmly walked pass them back into the crowd disappearing instantly.

The commanding STAF officer barked a command at the mob, and they took a step back.  “Gentlemen, we have five minutes to get this event under control, and get out of here,” he shouted.  “Check the girl, and see if she can be moved.”

An officer knelt next to her and felt along the back of her neck and along her shoulders.  When he saw her legs move, he snapped an ammonia capsule and shoved it under her nose.  She recoiled against the harsh burn of the chemical, and instinctively pushed his hand away.  “Give me a hand,” he called.  “There doesn’t appear to be any serious injuries.  The quicker she’s on her feet the quicker we get out of here.”

Another officer joined him, and the two of them helped the girl to her feet.  She wavered unsteadily for a moment clinging to both of them for support.  The first officer spoke to her, and she nodded pointing to the boy on the floor.  Concerned by the seconds ticking away, the commander barked orders to four more STAF officers arriving on the scene.  The four grabbed an arm and leg and carried the boy toward the front doors of the school where a black van emblazoned with “STAF” across its sides waited.

An alarm blasted!  At the far end of the hall a red banner could be seen over the heads of a second more organized group moving toward the event.  The commanding officer’s ear radio buzzed to life with the voice of the Advanced Warning Dispatcher, “Sir, the Disciples are on the move.  You have maybe a minute before your current event escalates.”

“Time to move,” the commanding officer snapped at his men.  Immediately, they began to ease back in the direction of the van keeping the crowd, now growing bolder with the advancement of the red banner, at bay with the threat of the Tasers.  “Is the girl hurt badly?” he said to the officers supporting the girl.

“She’s pretty banged up, but I don’t believe there’s anything broken or life threatening,” said the first officer.

“Then leave her,” said the commanding officer, “and get to the van.”

“But sir,” the first officer protested.

“I am not going to allow this event to escalate beyond Tasers, so drop her where she is, or a lot of people are about to get hurt, and hurt bad!  You know the drill!  We’ve got to move and move now!  You know the rules of engagement, so move!”

The two officers looked at the wavering girl for a moment, and sat her gently on the floor before breaking into a full run to the waiting van.  Left reaching, the girl struggled to her knees but collapsed as George Bentley accompanied by two STAF officers stepped from the office door into the hallway.  The Disciples broke into a run toward them.  The officers grabbed the girl and carried her through the door into the office with Bentley fast on their heels.  As he pushed the door closed behind him he met resistance.  A booted foot was wedged in the door preventing it from closing.  Laying the girl on the office floor, the two officers rushed to his aid.  Hands shot through the space between the door and the jam and pushed to open the door.  The space grew wider.  Seeing they were losing the battle, one of the officers stepped back and released the strap holding his rifle to his shoulder.   “Oh, God,” Bentley thought, “please don’t shoot.”

The officer flipped the rifle and slammed the butt end hard against the leather ankle of the boot wedged in the door.  The ankle snapped loudly followed by a scream and the boot vanished from the opening.  Bentley and the second officer drove their shoulders into the door feeling it crunch against the fingers clawing and pushing at the shrinking opening.  Finally, with a final push, the hands withdrew amid screams, and the door slammed shut.  The Disciples went wild rushing and banging on the door, and then as if on cue they stopped, gave each other a few congratulatory back-slaps and high fives, and walked away as if nothing had ever happened.

The STAF commander waited ten minutes for the students to disperse, and then moved his men back into the hallways and herded straggling students to class.  Bentley watched from the safety of his office mentally and physically drained by yet another confrontation, but thankful no one had been seriously injured or killed.  The girl most likely had a concussion along with abrasions and bruises, but given some time, she would recover – at least physically.  STAF’ had once again prevented a minor event from escalating into a major catastrophic event.  Once again they followed the rules of engagement, but it was only a matter of time before there would no longer be rules to play by.  He could only pray he was gone before that day arrived.

JL

©Jack Linton, December 4, 2016