Monthly Archives: February 2017

Such are the Stupid Things We Do

I don’t know what it is about our society, but it seems somebody somewhere is always doing something stupid.   Whether it is by design, by chance, or out of our penchant for convenience, there is never a shortage of the ridiculous.   Some of it we create and some of it is created for us, but either way as Forrest Gump said, “Stupid is as stupid does.”  That is even truer today.  Maybe, it is because, in today’s world, we have more opportunities to face stupidity, or maybe, we are just smarter today and can better identify stupid when we see it.

One of the stupidest things I have seen lately was a isign in a local PETCO store. First, I must explain, I am an animal lover (for the most part), but I have this unique ability to recognize animals are not human. Yes, I am one of those rare throwbacks who believe people are people and animals are animals. I am one of those horrible people who thinks there is nothing wrong with giving a dog or cat a biscuit or bone from the table. My wife and I make sure our pets are up to date on necessary shots and go to the vet when they are truly ill, but I do not buy into bi-annual doggy dental cleanings, doggy colonoscopies, or doggy birthing rooms, and the same goes for cats, hamsters, rabbits and pigs. For heaven’s sake, five minutes after a dog gets his teeth cleaned it is sniffing and licking anything nasty that comes within sniffing distance of its nose and tongue.  Therefore, are doggy dental cleanings really worth the effort?  Probably not, yet, such are the stupid things we do!

I have yet to see the value in flossing for my dog, but my wife insists dogs should have good manners, so we took our six month old, sweet as sin, hell on four legs, lab mix to PETCO for obedience training. While waiting for the instructor, I noticed a sign outlining guidelines for pet adoptions. I could not believe what I read! In addition to screening individuals for pet compatibility, anyone wishing to adopt a pet was subject to a polygraph and required to release their tax records for the past seven years to prove they were financially stable and could  provide a good home for the adopted pet. The adopting family had to agree to a criminal and psychiatric background check as well as an on-site home inspection and evaluation.  It was also recommended the new pet be provided private space with a written schedule for when human/pet interaction was permissible.  In a side note, there was a recommendation, though not required, the private space be a separate room with its own pooh facilities. I told my wife the guidelines went way too far, but she calmly assured me the guidelines were intended to match the pet with caring adults.  She said the requirements and suggestions were not a personal conspiracy against me or others like me.  I was not sure how to take “others like me,” but I accepted her explanation. Besides, it was obvious the whole thing was written by a liberal. I could even accept that, but when I read the last guideline that said pet counseling may be required, I fell to the floor laughing.

Pet counseling! I could see Simon, our lab mix, reclining on a shrink’s sofa, one paw lying across his eyes, the other holding a cigarette from which he took an occasional long draw. A female shrink sat across from him, legs crossed, an old time yellow legal pad and pencil in hand, asking questions. “Tell me about your parents,” she said.

Simon took a long draw on the cigarette and thought for a moment. “I only knew my mama for a few short weeks,” he said. “I didn’t know my daddy at all.”

How do you feel about that?” she asked.

Haven’t really given it much thought,” Simon said.

You ever feel depressed because of it?” the shrink asked.

Nothing that a little licking can’t cheer up,” Simon replied.

“Have you ever thought licking might be a sign of a deeper issue?” the female shrink asked.

No mam, when it comes to licking, I like it, so I do it.” Simon said and ground the cigarette into a cat shaped ashtray.  “If it feels good, I pretty much do it without much thought.” 

I believe Simon has life figured out better than any of us.  If it itches, scratch it; if it smells, sniff it; if it feels good, lick it, but whatever you do, don’t over think it.  I am most likely over thinking this pet counseling business, but in my opinion, pet counseling is one of the coolest stupid things people do. It is up there with paying a professional pooper scooper to clean your backyard. It’s true, some folks pay to have someone come to their house once a week and pick up dog and cat pooh.  In fact, pooper scoopers have their own organization, the Association of Professional Animal Waste Specialists.   It’s true – look it up!  Can you think of anything stupider?  I am not talking about the guy who makes money picking up pet pooh; I admire him for his ingenuity. I am talking about the nitwits who pay him, but such are the stupid things we do!

JL

©ack Linton, February 28, 2017

Teachers and Administrators don’t Enforce Rules:   A Case against School Dress Codes!

 

Teachers who do not consistently enforce school rules are not always bad teachers or irresponsible individuals; sometimes some of the best most dedicated teachers in a school do not follow the rules.  Some teachers, like some school administrators, hate confrontation, and enforcing rules means confrontation with the student, confrontation with parents, possible confrontation with the administration, and often negative vibes from students as well as other teachers.  For some, enforcing rules makes their lives messy, uncool, or even unpopular.  Others don’t enforce the rules because they feel they have more important things to do, and then there are those teachers who do not agree with the rule, so they simply ignore it.

So, why have rules in school?  If so many teachers look the other way rather than enforce the rules, why should schools bother with rules in the first place?  The textbook answer is that rules ensure a safe and orderly learning and teaching environment, but do they really?  It can be argued that rules provide a fighting chance to bring order to the chaos; however, is that what educators really want?  No!  What teachers really want is for kids, parents, and school administrators to leave them alone.  For many teachers, rules are tools of convenience frowned upon as an inconvenience and waste of time that creates negative confrontations.  They see teachers and administrators who dodge the rules as the smart ones.  Maybe, they are right, and if so, maybe, rules are not needed in schools!

However, regardless of what some may think, there must be rules!  Rules are necessary to enable teachers to teach and students to learn.  Unfortunately, like all things, there are good rules and rules that are questionable or make little or no sense.  For example, rules dealing with dress codes most definitely fall into the questionable category.  As a former teacher and school administrator, I believe dress codes are necessary, but it has been my experience few teachers agree with me.  Very few teachers really care what students wear to class.  I say this because very few teachers write up students for dress code violations, and the ones that do are often ridiculed by their colleagues.  So why have rules, especially a dress code?  Why hold a student accountable for a dress code that five out of six teachers in the school day ignore?  What is the school administrator to do when the sixth-period teacher turns a student into the office for coming to class naked when that student attended five previous classes in the buff and not a word was said by previous teachers about exposed wingydings in class?  The only option the administrator has at the end of the day is to give the kid a hat and send him home.  Now, I am slightly exaggerating, but when it comes to dress codes, it is truly almost that bad.  I realize correcting a student for a dress code violation shaves precious seconds off teaching the test, especially when there is not a single question on the state assessment that deals with student nudity, unless, maybe, someone slips in a liberal writing prompt.

Over the years, as a school administrator, I developed and enforced more than my fair share of school rules including rules governing dress codes.  To this day, I have forty year old former students walk by me in the mall and intentionally pull their tucked shirttail from their pants with a wink (tucking shirttails was probably the most despised rule I ever implemented as a principal).  I was a stickler for rules, and maybe too much so, but I believed then, and I believe now if you have a rule it should be enforced.  I also believe using a rule for any reason other than its original intent (i.e., allowing students to break the rule as a reward) is counter-productive and sends a mixed message to students, parents, and the community.

Therein lies my issue with current dress codes in schools.  Instead of teaching a lesson or addressing a safety issue, dress code rules in many schools today have become a part of the school reward system.  If students exhibit good behavior for the month, if there is a big district game, if a student collects the most Popsicle sticks, if a student brings a dollar to school, and the list goes on and on, they are allowed to break the dress code rule on a specified day such as Friday.  For example, they are allowed to wear clothing such as jeans or apparel outside of school colors.  That may sound innocent, but if the rule was important enough to be created, it should be important enough to be enforced consistently five days a week.  If it is okay to excuse students from the dress code on a game day, as a fund raiser reward, or for any other excuse, why have the rule?  It is counterproductive to the intent and purpose of a rule to permit students or adults to break a rule as a reward.  I am not against rewarding students, but don’t reward them by allowing them to break school rules!  Schools always talk about teaching kids to be good citizens; how can teaching them it is okay to break rules be good citizenship?  We have enough rule breakers in our society without training more.  If it is okay to reward students by letting them break a rule, maybe that rule is not relevant and should be done away with for every day of the week and not just on special occasions.   If eliminating the rule for one day is not a problem, the odds are good it would not be a problem if eliminated completely.

When it comes to school rules, it is fairly simple.  If a school is going to have a rule, it should be enforced consistently across the calendar.  If a teacher signs a contract to work for a school district, the teacher should be up to the task of enforcing the rules of the district or look elsewhere for employment, preferably in another profession.  Enforcing rules is not a fun job for administrators or teachers, but it is a necessary job made more difficult when a rule is used contrary to its intent.  If a school ever finds it okay to allow students to break a rule, it is time the school re-evaluated that rule.  If wearing jeans to school is okay on certain days as a reward, then it is ludicrous to ban them on all other days since it is obvious jeans do not pose a threat to a safe and orderly school environment.

If a school rule can be suspended as a whole or in part as a reward, then the rule has little if any bearing on the orderly function of the school and should be eliminated from the student handbook altogether.  The purpose of a school dress code is not to teach kids that rules are made to be broken or to provide a cash cow for local clothing vendors.  The purpose of the code is to enhance school safety and student learning five days a week.  Giving students permission to break a rule periodically sends the message to adults and students alike that the rule has little to do with safety and learning – at least not every day of the school year.  The bottom line is enforcement of rules must go beyond convenience; teachers and administrators should enforce the rules (dress code or any other rule) or dump the rules!

JL

©Jack Linton, February 12, 2017

Public School Educators should follow Trump’s Example

The title of this article is probably one of the stranger things I have said, but it is true.  If public education is to survive, it is imperative public school educators take lessons from Donald Trump.  They must study the way he orchestrated his speeches into repetitive “trumpet” calls to action that ultimately sent him to the White House.  They must pay close attention to how a man who is intentionally simple and self-promoting could get inside the heads of a nation and become the most powerful man in the world.  Public school educators must learn to play Donald Trump’s “trumpet game!”  Their survival most likely depends on it.

If public school educators learned to use Trump’s “trumpet” formula, there is no reason why it shouldn’t work for them as well.  What Trump did was not magic or sleight of hand.  It was not even complicated, but it was brilliant.  His speeches were nothing more than self-marketing at its most flamboyant and magnificent.  Of course, most educators are not as ostentatious as Trump, but they could still learn from him by studying his rise to power.  When it comes to marketing, educators have a lot to learn, and there is not a better teacher than the current President of the United States.

If people hear something often enough, they begin to believe it – good or bad.  If people hear whimpering, whining, and apologies often enough they begin to believe something is wrong.  Therefore, it’s time educators stopped whining and being apologetic!  Educators need to learn from the President to be more aggressive and self-promoting.  They need to start telling the public what they want them to know, and they must keep preaching that message until the public believes it.  The days of the sweet little timid unassuming school teacher are over.  If public schools are to survive, confident self-promoters, not afraid to toot their own horn, are needed, and Trump’s formula is the vehicle to enable teachers to market themselves successfully.  For instance, look at the following example of how a teacher might sound using the Trump “Trumpet” Formula:

How Teachers Might Express themselves using the “Trumpet” Formula

Hello America.  I am a public school teacher – a great teacher.  My friends tell me I am a great great teacher.  People I don’t even know call me and tell me how very very great I am.  Believe me I am a great teacher.   But, my profession is under attack by a misinformed public and politicians.  Politicians are total scum bags.  They have fought against me and other great public school teachers for many many years, but they can’t beat us.  Can’t do it.  Total losers.

Teaching is the best profession in the world – not the oldest, but the best.  Public schools have all the best teachers – the best tile on the floors – the best ringers in the bells.  Other schools fail in comparison.  Look at charter schools – total disaster.  They are not even real schools.  They’re fake.  They’re fake schools.  Public schools are real.  Tremendous schools!  Public schools have cafeterias.  They serve the best government commodity food in the world.  It’s true.  The cafeterias are the best, they are.  You can eat “pig-in-a-blanket” with syrup for breakfast.  The ladies in the cafeterias serve the best cheesy cheese over rice in the world for lunch.  You can even grab and squeeze their biscuits, it’s fantastic.

Public schools are the safest schools.  They have the best walls around them – chain link walls, walls of iron and steel.  Great walls that can be seen from Mars – so far away they look like tiny Ninja fortresses.   And, think, the parents of ELL students – non-English speakers – paid for it.   It’s true.  Public schools have the best arts and sports programs in America – in the world.  They’re great – tremendous!  Unlike some schools, public schools even make time for academics.  People tell us, very very important people, tremendous people, that America has the greatest underfunded education system in the world.  It’s unbelievable.  It really is.

Support public schools.  Tell your sons and daughters to support public schools.  America has a great great dependency on public schools.  It’s huge.  Tremendous!  Friday night football in the fall, Prom – backseat romps in the spring, and baby’s first holiday onesie at Christmas.  Traditions we will lose unless America stands tall for public schools.  If Americans allow politicians to screw public schools, traditions will die and societal problems will grow.  Believe me, they will become huge!  They will be enormous!  It’s true. Please don’t.

Last but not least, public school teachers totally understand it’s gonna be politicians first – Republicans first, Democrats second.  But, can we just say, “Public School Education,” third?  Is that okay?  It would be tremendous.  Huge!  Friday night football would remain king!  People, great great people, special people, people I don’t even know, will call it huge.  Tremendous!  Together we will make public schools great again big time.  Thank you.  You’re great – the best.  It’s true.

[End Teacher Example]

Hey, this worked for Donald Trump!  Verbally repeat or publish something often enough in social media and people will eventually start to believe it.  How else could a billionaire with no political experience and little in common with the masses get enough votes to become President of the United States?  His looks are not that appealing, and he doesn’t come across as overly smart, so what made him interesting enough to win the confidence and trust of the people?  The answer is simple.  Although his message was rarely clear and to the point, he kept to the point.  His message, “We will make America great again,” never wavered.

Though simplistic, he was never uncertain about where he stood.  He never backed down.  He got inside America’s head and he stayed there with a simple combination of telling people what he wanted them to hear and what they wanted to hear over and over and over again.  Throughout the election campaign, he was the dominating aggressor to the point of being rightfully labeled a bully, but he never strayed from his message nor was he ever boring.  Americans love to be entertained, and he delivered big time!

Educators can learn a lot from Donald Trump.  To change attitudes toward public education, educators need to take his lessons to heart.  Like Trump, to win, educators must get inside people’s heads.   They must develop a message of simple, but aggressive repetition.  For example, if teachers had maintained a unified repetitive stand that Common Core Standards were GREAT, TREMENDOUS, and WOULD MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, instead of becoming boring unsure defenders of the standards, the negative hoopla, most likely, would have, in a very short time, faded away without the need to drop the standards, change the name of the standards, or any other such nonsense.  Educators must learn to say what they want people to know and remember, and like Donald Trump, they must say it often.

However, probably the greatest lesson educators can take from Trump is simplicity.  According to a report by Evan Puschak, founder of NerdWriter, Donald Trump favors simple sentences when he speaks.  He rarely uses complex or compound sentences.  Puschak stated 78% of Trump’s words are one syllable with only about 5% of his words having three to four syllables.  In a separate report by Matt Viser of the Boston Globe, Viser used a Flesch-Kincaid analysis of answers Presidential candidates gave to debate questions to determine Trump’s responses were consistently on a fourth grade level – simple and easy for anyone in the audience to comprehend.  In the world of communication, simplicity is power.

Unfortunately, unlike Donald Trump, educators like to put their “smarts” on show when they speak, especially in front of the public.  As a result, they often speak over the heads of their listeners or down to their listeners.  They hit them with professional jargon and acronyms until they put them to sleep or turn them off completely to what is said.  Therefore, when it comes to communicating with parents and the public in general, educators would do well to forget their diplomas and the fancy cute acronyms, and speak the language of the people.  When it comes to communication, the old adage, “keep it simple stupid” (KISS) is by far the best strategy.  If you don’t believe it, ask Donald Trump; his “trumpet” call took him all the way to the White House.

JL

©Jack Linton, February 4, 2017