Tag Archives: America

Toilet Paper:  The Key to Civilization (Including a Brief History)

As we learned recently, the key to our civilization is toilet paper.  With it, we are a civilized world superpower.  Without it, we crumble like a third world country into chaos.  When Americans are faced by a potential tragedy – hurricane, flood, or apocalypse – the first thing they reach for is toilet paper – not guns, potatoes, or the Bible – but toilet paper!  When did you last see panic driven hoarders frantically pushing grocery buggies full of guns, potatoes, or Bibles out of stores in the wake of an impending disaster?  Likely, never, but if you are not careful during an apocalyptic event, you will get run over by buggies piled high with toilet paper.  In America, toilet paper is the anchor that holds common sense in place.  Without toilet paper, Americas react like lemmings rushing over the edge of a cliff.

Some of us might think such behavior is ridiculous and shake our heads and point sadly, even angrily, at the folks who strip store shelves bare of toilet paper with no regard for anyone’s hygiene but their own.  We console ourselves with the delusion civilized people do not act that way; however, that is exactly how civilized people act.  One of the greatest differences between man and animals is the ability to wipe your rear, and in that difference lies the foundation of what we think of as civilization.  People housed in a civilized bubble often speak eloquently of embracing “all for one” and “one for all” as the foundation of civilization, but history bears the truth is actually closer to “all for self-preservation” and protecting the ability to wipe at all costs as the true foundations of civilization.  Therefore, before we get too upset with the actions of hoarders, maybe we should first slow down and realize they are actually doing their part to preserve civilization as we know it.

The number one use of toilet paper is wiping the bottom post-dumping.  There is nothing more civilized or personal.  When anything endangers our ability to wipe, people panic and rightfully so.  Have you ever finished your business in the bathroom and discovered the toilet paper roll was empty?  Unless a person is built in the mold of a saint, when that happens, they would not think twice of taking the last toilet tissue square from the hands of their mama or the saint for that matter.  There is nothing more frightening and uncivilized as getting stuck on the pot with no toilet paper!  Other than eating, wiping your bottom with toilet paper is the most essential task in a home, and frankly in a business, or on a cross country trip as well.  Americans can go days without eating, but a day without toilet paper is an end-of-time pestilence.  We use toilet paper to wipe our rear, blow our nose, line the toilet seat, stuff bras and pants, and roll yards.  No self-respecting teenager in America would dare be caught without at least one twelve pack of toilet paper in the trunk of the car in case of a rolling emergency.  So, let’s get real!  Toilet paper is the foundation of our existence as civilized people.  It is all that keeps us a notch above the animals.  Therefore, are we truly angry at the toilet paper hoarders, or are we simply pissed-off we did not get there first to do our part in saving civilization?

The good thing is eventually hoarding and toilet paper scarcities end and become a distant memory.  Like the origins of wiping, scooping, and washing, the latest chapter in waste management becomes little more than a footnote in history.  Until the next disaster threatens civilization as we know it and shelves of two ply then single ply toilet paper are once again wiped clean, life returns to normal.  Once normalcy is restored, the story of civilization and who first squeezed the Charmin matters only to history:

A Short History of Toilet Paper

  • 1800 B.C. – The Mayans discovered the use of corn cobs as poop removers and their civilization was born.
  • 200 A.D. – The first paper making process was developed in China not for writing but for wrapping and disposing of poo. Prior to that the Chinese used silk gloves to freshen up.
  • 601 A.D. – Paper wrapped poo became a huge disposal issue in China. As a solution, in the 7th century, The Great Wall of China was built using baked bricks of paper wrapped poo as building blocks, which proved to be extremely economical.
  • 1300 A.D. – The Aztecs create the first perfumed corn cobs making it possible for large numbers of people to congregate in one area thereby making large cities more practical and livable.
  • 1391 A.D. – Perfumed paper wipes, the first actual toilet paper, was created for the Chinese Emperor’s family. The resulting heavenly smell of the Emperor and his family gave rise to their status as gods.
  • 1450 A.D. – Paper became widely available in Europe, so newspaper became a popular choice of toilet paper, which gave rise to the term “Yellow Journalism.”
  • 1500 A.D. – The Spanish invaded Central America and with newspapers in short supply in the New World, there was a severe corn cob shortage, which had a dramatic impact on the Aztecs and led to the demise of their civilization.
  • 1587 A.D. – The first commercially packaged toilet paper sheets were created by Joseph C. Gayetty. The toilet paper was medicated with aloe and Gayetty’s name was printed on each sheet.  This was the forerunner of today’s toilet paper with novelty printing.
  • 1879 A.D. – Walter Alcock created perforated toilet paper on a roll instead of flat sheets, and Scott Paper Company sold the first toilet paper rolls. That same year Sargent Dixwell, Headmaster at Boston Latin School in Boston Massachusetts became the first headmaster/principal to have his house rolled with toilet paper.
  • 1935 A.D. – The first splinter free toilet paper was invented by Northern Tissue. This new invention was praised by consumers but frowned on by manufacturers of underwear and tweezers.  Fewer tweezers and underwear were sold!  For the first time in history, there were no splinters when wiping nor did splinters rip and tear holes in undergarments.  Underwear using a thinner fabric that developed holes and tore easily was reintroduced several years later as a Christmas promotion by profit hungry undergarment companies.
  • 1973 A.D. – The United States amid a gas and onion shortage had its first toilet paper shortage. Comedian Johnny Carson joked about toilet paper being the next shortage on The Tonight Show, and the next day shelves in stores across the nation were wiped clean as people went hysterical buying and hoarding toilet paper.  There is no record of people hoarding onions at the time.
  • 2020 A.D. – Faced with the Coronavirus that attacked the respiratory system, Americans panicked and stripped stores of toilet paper. The connection to the respiratory system and the excretory system that led to the run on toilet paper is still being studied, but of course, we know the reason was to save civilization.

The history of toilet paper is a roadmap to man’s journey as a civilized human being.  As stated previously, the greatest difference between man and animals is the ability to wipe, and when that ability is threatened, mankind gives way to panic.  We are human beings, and as such, we will go to great lengths to protect the sanctity of our home and civilization, and if that means hoarding toilet paper at the expense of others, so be it.  We are the protectors of the porcelain throne and toilet paper is our banner flapping from under our skirt, from the heel of our shoe, the lump in our pants, and the swaying branch of a tree.  Take away toilet paper, America’s banner, and bring America to its knees.  Without toilet paper, we like the Aztecs cease to function as a civilized society.

See you in the history books.

©Jack Linton, April 1, 2020

JL

The Trip of a Lifetime:  The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

The third stop of our trip was unbelievable!  We journeyed a couple of miles up the road from The Badlands National Park to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site.  What we found there was one of the most fascinating adventures anyone in our group has ever experienced.  The Site is comprised of a not to be missed visitor center, a missile silo (Launch Facility Delta 09) with a missile still in the silo (It has been defanged), and a command center (Launch Control Facility Delta 01) just down the road.  Although the visitor center and the missile silo are must visits, the highlight of the historic site is the Delta 01 tour.  The tour of the once top secret underground command center, the center from which the fate of the world lay in the hands of twenty something year-old kids (trained young men, but kids nevertheless), was eye opening, frightening, and one of the most remarkable tours I have seen.

The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site tour is a relatively new tour, and it is by reservation only.  People who stop at the site expecting to book a tour on their day of arrival are likely to be turned away.  The tour is usually booked solid for three to four weeks in advance and sometimes longer, so anyone wishing to book the tour should do so weeks, preferably months in advance, to ensure a spot on the tour.  Why is the tour so popular?  First, it takes you thirty feet underground to visit a Minuteman Missile operation center that few people have ever seen; second, you get to enter the small command module buried thirty feet underground where teams of two men worked three-day shifts waiting for coded orders authorizing them to insert their individual keys into the doomsday machine that would have launched Minuteman ballistic missiles and ignited World War III.  It is a little disconcerting to think encased inside eighteen inches of steel and concrete layers designed to survive earthquakes and nuclear blasts you are standing in a place that once held life, as we know it, and the end of time in balance; three, the tour is conducted by veterans who were there and know the inside details; and fourth, the tour is limited to six people per tour, which provides easier access to the guide to clearly hear what he says as well as to ask questions.

Having scheduled our tour three months in advance, we drove straight to the tour site as directed.  The tour began the moment we arrived at the gate of a desolate yellow-tan building hidden in plain sight off South Dakota’s Interstate 90 down a dirt and gravel road.  Surrounded by chain-link fence topped by barbed wire, we found ourselves in the world of a Tom Clancy novel, only this was not fiction.  This highly secret command center was once home to a contingent of eight security and maintenance men above ground, a cook, and two teams of two men who alternated three day shifts thirty feet underground with the fate of the world in their hands.  These two men held the keys to launching up to ten Minuteman missiles, each with a 1.2 megaton thermonuclear warhead anchored to its top.  This one site had the capability to launch its missiles with pin-point accuracy anywhere in the world the moment it received the proper orders, codes, and firing sequences from the President of the United States.  Thank God, such orders were never given although the fabulous exhibits at the Minuteman Missile Historic Site visitor center show how close we were to nuclear war on more than one occasion.  It is chilling to think we were almost never here!

As ordered, we arrived at the tour site at 10:10 a.m., thirty minutes prior to our tour time.  At precisely 10:40 a.m., our military escort/guide appeared at the ten-foot chain-link gate.  Air Force Colonel (retired) Brad Riza, a regular visitor to the site during its heyday in the 1960s to 1990s, was our commanding officer for the tour.  After a brief debriefing outside the gate, Colonel Riza led our party of six, the four in our group and a couple from California, inside the building to tour the facility.

Colonel Riza gave a masterful tour, and his pride in his country and the role he played in the Minuteman Missile era was unquestionable.  He spoke in detail of the Cold War between the United States and Russia (Soviet Union), and how the missiles acted as a line of defense for the nation and as a deterrent to the Soviets or any other aggressor who might threaten a nuclear attack against America or its allies.  The missile field was scattered across the central and northern Great Plains of America next door to ranchers, farmers, and small towns.  Their purpose was to protect the freedoms and posterity of the American people as well as allied nations around the world.

One thousand Minuteman missiles were deployed during the last twenty-five years of the Cold War.  If launched the Minuteman Missile would travel over the North Pole and strike its target in less than thirty seconds.  However, within seconds of the launch, missiles would be incoming in retaliation.  There was only one guarantee if these weapons were used – the aggressor and the target nation would both be destroyed, which made an attack by either side unthinkable.  The greatest deterrent to nuclear war – the only trump card the people on either side of the Cold War could depend – was there would be no winners!  Therefore, why play if nobody could win?

Colonel Riza spoke of the Minuteman missiles as a deterrent not as a weapon of aggression, but primarily he spoke of the rigors and stress the young men (many barely in their twenties) endured while stationed in the missile fields.  They spent long mentally draining hours isolated from family and friends, not knowing if they might have to turn the key that would ultimately destroy the world and all they loved.  These men were forbidden to talk to family and friends about their job with the Air Force.  Faced with protocols that meant strict adherence or immediate court martial, imprisonment, or even death, they lived in a vacuum absent of any normalcy most young men enjoyed.

Part of Colonel Riza’s job was to evaluate the metal condition of the men assigned to the doomsday computers buried deep beneath the yellow-tan building on the surface.  There was no room for error or departure from protocol.  Violate protocol and orders were clear – shoot to kill even if it was the cook, your best friend, or the Colonel.  The survival of the nation was at state; everything else was collateral damage including human life in the bunker or outside the bunker.  There were no second chances!  The fate of the country depended on these young men to execute their orders without hesitation or error.  From 1963 to 1991, the fate of the United States depended on the threat of nuclear retaliation as a deterrent to Soviet Union aggression.  Finally, in 1991, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by President George H.W. Bush and Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev to reduce the number of Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and nuclear warheads effectively ending the Cold War.

Today, there are no active ICBM silos in South Dakota, but 400 Minuteman Missiles are still deployed across the upper Great Plains of the United States.  The Russians have a like number spread across their country.  Even though the Cold War has subsided, nuclear missiles intended as a deterrent remain on alert in the United States and Russia.  The biggest difference is today it is no longer a two-nation dance.  China, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and others have all bought tickets and are clamoring to get on the dance floor.  This escalation means the Minuteman missiles are more important than ever, and they will remain on alert through at least 2050.  Hopefully, by then the world will have come to its senses.

Every American needs to visit The Minuteman Missile National Historic Site!  The story it tells is a story everyone needs to hear.  All of us have one life, one family, and one country; to jeopardize any of the three with nuclear weapons is the sign of a madman.  We have lived as madmen long enough, but unfortunately, the day of the madman does not appear to be over.  Therefore, I take comfort there are men such as Colonel Brad Riza and thousands of young men who give up their youth and innocence in the service of our country to ensure our freedom and way of life.

Thank you, Colonel Riza for your service and for a great tour!  May God continue to bless you, our country, and the young men and women who serve our country 365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours per day.

God bless America!  Americans, if you can, GO visit the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota.  It might scare you, but it will make you proud to be an American.

JL

©Jack Linton, July 23, 2017

Cashing in on Fear:  The Catalyst Behind the Trump/Devos Education Budget?

The current focus on public school improvement is flawed.  Politicians, the public, and even some educators are caught up in a oversimplified mindset that lumps all public schools into one huge cesspool of incompetence.  It is dangerous to generalize anything, and public schools are no different.  It is not public schools in general we need to fix, but what is happening within each individual public school that needs our attention.  Many public schools are doing an excellent job educating children, but unfortunately, they are being dragged down the rabbit hole with those that are doing a poor job.

To say all public schools are bad and in need of improvement is a generalization that is simply not true.  According to education researcher John Hattie, the single biggest variance between a good school and a bad school is the quality of the teacher in the classroom.  Dismantling public schools in favor of charter schools and creating an open-door policy for parents to send their child to the school of their choice will not resolve inconsistent quality issues in the classroom.  Due to the human element, classroom quality issues are as likely to show up in charter schools as they are in public schools.  It is not a public school or charter school that makes the difference in a child’s education.  As Hattie points out, it is the quality of what transpires in the classroom that makes a difference.  Simply being hired by a charter school will not make a person a better teacher.  Enrolling a child in a charter school is not a guarantee of academic success or teacher competence in the classroom.  With the future of public schools in jeopardy and a shrinking teacher pool, it stands to reason today’s public school teachers will be tomorrow’s charter and private school teachers, so unless we resolve the quality issue we are doing little more than transferring the problem from one school to another.   Proponents of charters will argue charter schools will only hire the best teachers and cull the weaker ones.  They may try, but I am afraid they may find as the public schools have found, there are not a lot of master teachers walking around looking for a job.  Pile that problem on top of current hiring practices in many charter schools such as hiring unlicensed and inexperienced teachers and you have a recipe for disaster waiting in the wings.  Unless, charter schools can find the magic teacher formula that has eluded public schools, their savior status will quickly fade.  Unfortunately, at that point, we will have to sleep in the bed we have made due to a misplaced focus.

Some will say I am putting the blame on teachers, and yes, I am, but there is enough blame to go around for everyone including school administrators, school boards, politicians, parents, the public, and the students.  Everyone must share in the blame when students do not learn, but in rank order, teachers, students, parents, and school administrators are the most responsible.  Sorry, educators, but that is the bottom line truth in a nutshell.  Sorry, parents and politicians, but charter schools and private schools will not resolve the issue, especially since those schools have the same problem of finding quality teachers as the public schools.  At least, public schools have minimum standards teachers must meet to teach while most charters and privates schools can and often do hire almost anyone off the street.  Therefore, being called a charter school does not make a school better.  Regardless of what politicians say, and many parents believe, parent choice is nothing more than a distraction that takes away from the real education focus needed to fix schools and ensure students learn.  For any school to be successful – public, charter, or private –  the focus must be on quality, attitudes, and commitment. Promoting dismantling public schools shows a lack of commitment in any of these areas, and that lack of commitment has escalated over the past 16 years mainly for one reason – fear.

Since 9/11/2001, America has been at the mercy of fear.  Fear is the root of our current state of dysfunction in all areas of our lives including education.  We are currently in a state of dysfunction that is more dangerous than maybe anything this country has ever faced; we fear terrorists, we fear immigrants, we fear the Republicans, we fear the Democrats, we fear conservatives, we fear liberals, we fear any belief outside our own, and we fear and mistrust the color of a man’s skin.  This is not the first time in our history we have been in such a state of distress, but it is one of the few times in our history we have allowed fear to rule our lives and distract our focus.   In the 1960s, we feared thermonuclear warfare with the Soviet Union, but instead of allowing that fear to distract us, we used it to sharpen our focus.  Out of that fear, we put a man on the moon, built a national highway system second to none in the world, put greater focus on math and science in our public schools, and created the Internet as part of national defense.  Fear created a constructive response rather than the unconstructive response we are seeing today.  Since 2001, we have used fear as an excuse to fight two wars against terrorism with little to show for the loss of blood of the brave men and women who served our country, used fear to turn our political system and nation upside down, used fear to turn citizen against citizen, used fear to isolate ourselves from the world, and used fear to create a dysfunctional education dialogue that threatens to destroy an institution that helped make America great – our public school system.  In the 1960s, we turned fear into productive action while today we have allowed fear to drag us into uncooperative thinking and inaction.

Over the last 16 years, fear has ruled our lives and governed how we respond to events and issues.  Our answer to just about everything today is to lash out negatively, cast blame, and think in short term solutions.  The current dysfunctional focus on public schools is an excellent example.  In the 1960s, when we were caught up in an arms race with the Soviet Union, we did not scrap our education system or try to improve it with our heads in the sand.  Of course, back then, there was an “us versus them” mentality in America and not the present “us versus us” mentality.  Today, there is a political venom flowing through the veins of our country that no amount of antidote is likely to cure.  We are trapped in pockets of group think where outside views are considered a threat and too often solutions are reactions to distractions rather than the real issues.  Charter schools and vouchers are prime examples of such distractions.  These vehicles of parent choice distract from issues such as teacher quality and child poverty.  Such distractions can easily be seen in the education cuts proposed by President Trump and Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in their 2018 education budget.  Instead of cutting vital education programs that support millions of public school children across the nation, they could have easily used a portion of the $21 trillion saved by dropping out of the Paris Climate Accord to fund their pet charter school and voucher projects, yet they chose to cut public education by over 9 billion dollars or roughly 14 percent.  Why?  Could it be they understand the best time to push a personal agenda is during times of fear?

Any budget is a statement of values, and the Trump/Devos education budget is no exception.  Anyone who looks closely at the suggested budget cuts and to the areas the cuts are redirected can see the ultimate goal is to dismantle public education in favor of parent choice options.  If passed, the Trump/Devos budget will cut the United States Department of Education funding by $9 billion and redirect $1.4 billion of that money to school choice.  The cuts will eliminate at least 22 programs including $1.2 billion for after school programs which will have a negative impact on 1.6 million, primarily poor, children; $2.1 billion for teacher training which is a vital component for developing quality classroom teachers in both charter and public schools; $27 million for arts education; $72 million dollars for international and foreign language programs; and $12 million dollars for Special Olympics programs.

President Trump and Betsy Devos say the federal government does not need to be involved in these programs.  According to them, the programs being cut can be more effectively handled and funded at the state and local level.  Maybe, they can be handled more effectively at the state level, but how can a poor state such as Mississippi fund these programs when it cannot afford to adequately fund the state public school programs it has?  Mississippi can’t, so where does that leave after school programs, arts education, foreign language programs, and the Special Olympics in the state?  It means either the citizens of Mississippi will pay higher taxes to foot the bill, or those programs will be discontinued.  Likely, the programs will be dropped or phased out.

Most people in Mississippi will feel some concern for losing after school programs, arts education, and especially the Special Olympics, but in a state where so many believe English is the only language needed in America, the loss of foreign language will barely be given a passing thought.  That is a shame.  I have a PhD, but by global standards I am illiterate.  I regret to say I speak one language, English, and although that has been good enough for me, it most likely will not be good enough for my grandchildren and especially my great grandchildren.

I recently read over 80% of the world’s population has access to a cell phone or mobile device, and within a year – a couple at the most – that number will grow to 90%.  According to David Rothkopf, author of The Great Questions of Tomorrow, we are possibly only a couple of years from every man, woman, and child in the world being connected for the first time in history through a man-made system.  Companies like Amazon have already gone global, and others will soon follow.  I am not talking about moving companies overseas; I am talking about Internet presence.  Amazon can touch anyone in the world whenever they please.  That is the future for all of us.  Our kids better be able to communicate with the world when that happens.  They will not only need the latest and the greatest technology tools, but they will also need a second language and preferably a third language if they hope to compete in the world market.  Speaking only one language will no longer be good enough even for Mississippi, yet, we have a President and Secretary of Education who want to cut foreign language programs.  Why?  How does that make any sense at all unless we are in such fear of the world that we plan to remain isolated indefinitely.

A contributing factor to fear is the unknown, and since 2001, as a nation we have been grappling with fear of the unknown:  fear of unseen and often unknown terrorists, fear for our livelihoods amid fluctuating markets, fear of leaders who so often put their personal agendas above the good of the people, fear of losing our guaranteed rights as citizens, fear of changing attitudes and values, and fear our public schools are no longer in capable hands.  We have seen our leaders grasp at straws for solutions, and turn against each other in the process.  We have witnessed politicians wage war on science somehow ignorant to the facts that throughout history governments who denounced science often lost.  We have watched as our leaders and our people have grown closed minded to the diversity that made us the greatest country in the world.  And, now rather than focus on the real issues, of teacher quality, academic support systems, and poverty, we are watching helplessly as our leaders slowly dismantle a once proud education system that produced Americans who revolutionized land and air transportation for the world, turned simple farmers into a skilled labor force for industry, and lay the knowledge foundation that led to the world’s first heart transplant, harnessing of nuclear energy, put the first man on the moon, and produced some of the world’s greatest literary giants.  Unfortunately, our leadership is in the market for a new vehicle, and they will not be satisfied until that vehicle is sitting in the garage with or without wheels.  It is sad, they do not understand there is no need to reinvent the wheel; all that is needed is to fix a spoke or two in the old wheel, so we can focus on what really matters – our children’s future.

JL

©Jack Linton, June 18, 2017

Three Ways to Fix America

Dr. Parag Khanna, a leading global strategist, CNN Global Contributor, and author of Technocracy in America: Rise of the Info-State, writes that America needs a change.  He says the American people no longer trust their government and the only way to restore trust is for Americans to learn from countries such as Switzerland.  According to Dr. Khanna, the best form of government for the 21st century is a technocracy, which is a government led by experts and/or panels of experts.  Therefore, he says the United States needs to do three things to fix itself:

  1. The United States needs to move to a seven-member presidency. Instead of having one President, the United States would be governed by a committee of seven presidents;
  2. The United States needs to abolish what Dr. Khanna calls an ineffective Senate and replace it with an Assembly of Governors. Under his plan, each state would have two governors who would jointly govern their state as well as represent their state in Washington; and
  3. The United States needs to build dignity back into civil service jobs by putting quality people – not friends, relatives, and people owed favors – in civil service positions.

Dr. Khanna’s technocracy idea is very similar to Donald Trump’s campaign promises of placing the most qualified people in key government positions.  Unfortunately, with such block headed nominations and confirmations as Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, it is obvious the Trump Administration either has no intention of making good on that campaign promise, or they have yet to get a handle on quality control.  However, to be fair, I seriously doubt Dr. Khanna’s technocracy idea would fair any better.

When it comes to quality control, more people involved in key governing positions and equity in hiring would not necessarily equate to fixing what ails America.  Seven presidents, two governors in each state, and government hiring void of nepotism and political favors might sound good, but would it work in the United States?  It’s doubtful.  Increasing the number of presidents and governors would do little more than guarantee nothing ever got done, and promoting hiring practices void of nepotism and discrimination would send shock waves from Washington, D.C. to Pumpkin Patch, Mississippi.  Simply put, Dr. Khanna’s technocracy idea would not work in the United States!

Technocracy will not work in this country for three basic reasons:

  1. Technocracy Idea #1: Seven presidents govern by committee:

Reason it will not work:  Most everyone knows there is one thing a committee does well – NOTHING!  We can’t get things done with one President, so why would anyone believe seven people with seven separate agendas could possibly make things better?

  1. Technocracy Idea #2: The Governors Assembly:

Reason it will not work:   The reason this will not work is basically the same as #1.  Can you imagine having two Phil Bryants in Jackson, Mississippi? How about a Democrat and Republican governor sharing the governorship?  The Good Lord is struggling to help us with a single Republican governor.  Can you imagine the mess there would be if we had a Democrat and Republican in office at the same time?

  1. Technocracy Idea #3: Do away with nepotism and favors in civil service hiring:

Reason it will not work:   Point #3 makes some sense, but America is a nation of strokers – you stroke mine and I’ll stroke yours, so it is doubtful Dr. Khanna’s third idea would work any better than what we have now.  We are too deep into giving and receiving favors to stop anytime soon!

Whether Dr. Khanna’s ideas would work is something we will probably never know.  Americans are too wrapped up in themselves and personal agendas to risk changing anything before they receive what they feel they are entitled; therefore, the cycle will continue.  However, it is nice to see someone calmly offer solutions rather than screaming for change between obscenities and name calling.

JL

©Jack Linton, March 24, 2017

America’s Dilemma: Too Many People Can’t Handle the Truth

The past eight years America has had an ineffective president, not because he didn’t try, but because so many refused to work with him and give him a chance.  What this country needs now is four more years of ineffective leadership because so many people refuse to give the new guy a chance.  Regardless how you feel about Obama as President or feel about Trump as the President elect, both of these men were elected by the same Electoral College that represented the will of the people.  Some screamed for eight years that Obama was not their President, and now some are screaming Trump is not their President.  The truth is Barack Obama was America’s President and now in a couple of months, Donald Trump will be America’s new President.  That is the truth whether you can handle it or not!

However, I am not sure America really wants the truth.  It has become obvious the only truth America can handle is the truth as each individual sees it.  We are no longer a collective nation of patriots with the common sense to embrace the good of all people.  Today, the collective patriotism of America extends no further than individual agendas.  As a nation, we clamor for the truth, yet we prove over and over we can’t handle the truth that we are one nation made up of many diverse groups and ideas rather than one group’s idea for a nation.

The wisdom of our forefathers gave us America’s truth; it is called the Constitution of the United States.  A Constitution that was never envisioned to be interpreted along the lines of politics, religion, or personal agendas but rather intended to be interpreted with common sense and respect for ALL citizens.  That is the truth, and America needs to relearn how to handle that truth.  Until we do, the division in America will continue unabated.  Anyone who cannot handle that truth is a part of the problem.

The Truth Whether You Can Handle It or Not?

  1. Voting for Donald Trump brings into question a person’s Christianity no more than voting for Hillary Clinton brings into question a person’s integrity;
  2. Regardless who you voted for in the 2016 Presidential election, you had a despicable decision to make. Both candidates clearly represented all that is wrong with America today;
  3. Protesting peacefully is as American as apple pie – so is voting! The contradiction occurs when those protesting do not bother to vote.  By not voting, they are the very problem they protest against;
  4. The way to resolve all the cry babying in future elections is to do what American society normally does to pacify competition – give everybody a participation trophy and send them home;
  5. The primary reason for division in America is we tag everybody. By tagging people as conservative, liberal, Christian, non-Christian, Muslim, gay, etc., we fail to recognize their humanity.  Respect for the humanity of those who disagree with us or believe and live differently is the key ingredient missing from today’s America!

Can you handle the truth?

JL

©Jack Linton, November 21, 2016

9/11: The Day We Drank from the Same Fountain

As we remember the horrors of September 11, 2001, it is important to recognize a similar evangelized hate and belief in superiority once again threatens to destroy us as a nation.  The difference is this time the monster is not external but internal.  We have forgotten how we rallied together as one in the days after the senseless attack on New York.  We have forgotten how for a brief moment we stood together as brothers and sisters and defied evil.  No American was superior to another on that day or in the days that followed; all Americans drank from the same fountain.

As we remember and say a prayer for the lives lost on that tragic day, let us not forget to say a prayer for ourselves.  We should not be a nation divided by conservative/liberal beliefs, religious beliefs, lifestyle beliefs, or racial beliefs; as a nation we are united by a Constitution, philosophy, and common sense and decency that says all men and women are created equal and have the right of expression and personal pursuit of happiness.  In America, to believe otherwise is oppression.  The destruction of the twin towers in New York is a reminder of the destructive power of hate and a warped sense of superiority.  It is a reminder that we are vulnerable to such evil.  Therefore, it is time we drank from the same fountain once again.  It is time we tore the tags, signs, and dialogue of division from the fountain and welcomed all to drink – if not for our sake, for the sake of our children and the future of America.

A child is not born believing in superiority;

Out of fear of inferiority a child is taught,

To believe in superiority by birth right;

To believe in superiority by skin color;

To believe in superiority by religious affiliation;

To believe in the inequality of man;

To believe in equality with God; and

To disguise hate with righteousness.

May God have mercy on the teachers.

May God continue to have mercy on America, and the shining good she represents for all people.

Jl

©Jack Linton, September 11, 2016

Twenty Tips for New Teachers (or Veteran Teachers)

Over the years, I have been asked numerous times for advice or tips I would offer new teachers or veteran teachers.  I always respond by saying the little I know is the result of professional reading (at least thirty minutes daily) and mistakes I made as a teacher and a school administrator.  I think the biggest mistake most teachers make is looking for perfection.  This mistake can cost them their joy as a teacher.  It causes them to lose sight of what teaching is about and why they signed on to teach in the first place.  Sometimes teachers become so blinded by the pursuit of perfection, they lose sight of the good they do, and as a consequence they drum themselves out of the profession.  No matter how badly they want it, there is no such thing as the perfect student, the perfect parent, or the perfect teacher, so my advice to teachers is to STOP looking for perfection, and replace it with an expectation of always “putting forth the best you can do.”  That is the highest expectation, teachers can ever hope to achieve from their students; it is the highest expectation they can ever expect of themselves.  Next, I would advise teachers to MAKE TEACHING A COMMITMENT:  commitment to the teaching journey, commitment to learning from mistakes, commitment to professional learning, and commitment to NEVER giving up on students or themselves.  After that, I would offer the following advice and tips:

  1. You WILL make mistakes – learn not to repeat them – learn to apologize and move on! Making a mistake is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign you are not sitting still;
  2. It’s okay to have fun! Good teachers figure out how to make learning fun!
  3. Use handouts as a teaching tool, not a “keep them busy” tool. Remember, teachers teach and subs give handouts!   Which are you?
  4. Use pre-test to assess your student’s existing knowledge. Pre-assessments will help you make your teaching more relevant and their learning more meaningful;
  5. Communicate with parents often! Nothing can be more unsettling to a teacher’s day than a surprised or angry parent who has been kept in the dark about their child’s progress;
  6. Greet students at the door like you are happy to see them – not like they are the plague;
  7. Be on time for duty! The safety of students and your career is on the line.  Monitoring duty in the cafeteria, in the hall between classes, before school, or after school is a necessity!  It is not a useless punishment your uncaring principal has placed on you;
  8. Make note of teachers who always complain and are unhappy – be nice to them, but stay away, unless you want to be like them;
  9. Be proud to be a teacher! You have the most important job in the world.  You influence young lives every day, so decide every morning if it will be a positive influence or a negative influence;
  10. Assign seats! Especially until you get to know your students.  Assigning seats also makes it easier and faster to take roll;
  11. If you do not plan to discuss and review homework in class the next day, DO NOT assign homework! Homework is only effective if it is used as a formative tool with timely feedback to students;
  12. DO NOT assign work in class that will not be discussed, reviewed, or graded. Like the teacher, students DO NOT need busy work;
  13. Never make an online assignment without first checking the websites, including links to other websites. Ask these questions – Is it active?  Like most everything, websites do not last forever.  Is it blocked by the school filter?  If blocked, seek help from the school technology person to unblock it.  Is it appropriate?  Make sure the content is appropriate for the student age level you teach as well as for the community the school serves;
  14. Always, always, always preview movies to be shown in class. Movies should be used sparingly in class and then only in small clips to support discussion of the lesson.  Showing a movie that takes up one to three days of class time is poor practice and a waste of instructional time.  Showing a movie in its entirety is lazy teaching;
  15. If you assign a book or website that may be controversial to students, their families, or the community do the following: (1) meet with the principal and seek his/her support by explaining why you have chosen the material and its value to the learning process; (2) Send home a notice to parents/guardians that some content may be offensive and explain why you believe it is necessary to use the material in class; (3) offer an alternative assignment for students and/or parents who object to the content (use of offensive language, use of graphic sex, etc.);
  16. Never argue with a student in class! You are the authority in the classroom!  If a student wants to challenge authority let him/her challenge the authority of the assistant principal or the principal;
  17. Teaching for student success:
    1. Pre-assess (pre-test) knowledge;
    2. Provide students learning targets based on pre-assessment needs;
    3. Teach what you want them to know;
    4. Use on-going assessment (formative) throughout the lesson. Check frequently for understanding;
    5. STOP and re-teach if and when necessary;
    6. Assess what you want them to know (summative);
    7. Use summative assessment as a formative tool (feedback) for student learning; and
    8. Re-teach if and when necessary.
  18. Being a TEACHER is NOT about teaching; it is about LEARNING! You may be the greatest presenter of content of all time, but if your students don’t learn, you have failed as a teacher;
  19. Remember, it’s okay to breathe! Teaching is a monstrous responsibility, but if you teach with the same passion and compassion you expect from your children’s teachers, you will be okay; and
  20. Enjoy the teaching journey! You are a part of an awesome group of people.  You are a teacher because you care.

These tips are basic, but if followed, they can serve the new teacher or the veteran teacher well.  Teachers must always maintain high expectations, accept nothing but the best from their students, and never give up on the least of them or themselves.  A tall order, no doubt, but kids will tell you – GOOD TEACHERS CAN DO ANYTHING!

JL

©Jack Linton, August 24, 2016

Are You in Bed with a Conservative or a Liberal?

No matter the venue – television, radio, newspaper, or social media – you will likely hear “conservative” and “liberal” sloshed around like muddy drinking water.  “Conservatives to the right, liberals to the left,” Jimmy Buffet might sing to illustrate the depth of understanding for these overused and abused words.  If you are on the right, you are right, but if you are on the left, you are wrong, or should it be vice versa?  Who knows!  In today’s society, that question is too deep for the majority of people to comprehend.

Most people wouldn’t know a conservative from a liberal if one sat on their face and whistled Dixie.  When it comes to beliefs and values, they simply pick up where grandpa and grandma left off and mama and daddy still reside and dance along blissfully naïve in their footsteps.  They have no idea why they believe a certain way other than, somewhere along the way, they were told how they should think and believe.  Original thought is not well in America.

William Shakespeare said, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.”  It doesn’t get more miserable than the conservative and liberal relationship, nor do bedfellows come any stranger.  Maturity wise, both groups are not too far removed from the backseat “he touched me” whine heard on long risible family vacations.  They are reminders a mature understanding and acceptance of diversity and tolerance is not one of America’s strong points.  However, a major part of the problem, overlooked by so many, is few people are purely conservative or liberal; people tend to fall somewhere in between, which adds confusion to the issue.  To make matters worse, people are often tossed from the ranks of the conservative to the ranks of the liberal and back again with a word, statement, or action.  Membership in either group depends as much on the moment as it does on embedded values.  Like two people caught in a rocky marriage; it is hard to tell who you are in bed with sometimes, and that can indeed produce strange bedfellows.

You Know You Are in bed with. . . .

  1. You know you are in bed with a conservative if there is no foreplay;
  2. You know you are in bed with a liberal if you make love with the lights on;
  3. You know you are in bed with a conservative if your partner considers love making a duty;
  4. You know you are in bed with a liberal if your partner comes back for seconds;
  5. You know you are in bed with a conservative if your partner insists on paying because he/she doesn’t believe in a free ride;
  6. You know you are in bed with a liberal if sex is considered recreational;
  7. You know you are in bed with a conservative if there is a gun under the pillow;
  8. You know you are in bed with a liberal if there is a whip and a jar of honey under the pillow;
  9. You know you are in bed with a conservative if your partner believes the missionary position is the only one way to make love;
  10. You know you are in bed with a liberal if love making is a team sport;
  11. You know you are in bed with a conservative if your partner misses the point and is offended by this blog; and
  12. You know you are in bed with a liberal if your partner misses the point, and thinks the blog is a funny/satirical look at sex education.

So, are you and/or your partner a conservative or a liberal?  More important, who cares!  The truth is conservative and liberal tags are little more than excuses to enable people to express their ignorance about one another.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 7, 2016

America’s Love with Misery: Ten Habits of Miserable People

I just turned off my television in disgust.  This misery fest that has engulfed our nation is getting very old and out of hand.  However, it appears that everyone, including the politicians, the news media, and the people, are having a grand time being miserable!  Why?  Our country in spite of its problems is still, by far, the greatest nation in the world.  No other country can come close to matching the military power, the freedoms, and the opportunities offered to citizens in The United States of America.  Nevertheless, misery seems to be taking over the country.

Whether it is politics, the economy, world events, or simple everyday life, it seems misery is fast becoming a way of life in America.  Every day, more and more people appear to be jumping on the misery bandwagon.  Maybe, it gives them a sense of self-importance or a sense of camaraderie with other miserable people.  Maybe, miserable people sustain one another by providing empathy and encouragement to each other.  I don/t know, but for some reason, the ranks of the miserable are swelling.

In today’s society, miserable people are more likely to be accepted than happy people.  It is unfortunate, but happy people tend to make unhappy people uncomfortable.  The reason is that happy takes effort while misery grows freely like weeds in an unkempt garden.  Like bad habits, the weeds are allowed to fester and grow until the garden as a whole is poisoned and smothered out completely.  To this point, I have listed ten of the most common habits of miserable people below.  As you will see, most of these habits, like common weeds in a garden, occur with little or no effort.

Ten Habits of Miserable People

  1. Stuck in an on-going relationship with a cell phone. People who constantly have a cell phone at their ear or in front of their nose often do so at the expense of family and friends.  Over time they grow more disjointed from those that matter most;
  2. Living your life as an impending funeral rather than a celebration. Yes, the world is a mess, and God may indeed intervene soon, but that doesn’t mean you must be miserable while you wait.  God expects us to be prepared for his return, but in the meantime, he put us on earth to love life, love others, and love ourselves.  He didn’t put us here to worry when the world will end, or to use his return to scare the hell out of people;
  3. Keeping things pent up inside. Sometimes you just need to go into a closet and scream or say a bad word.  Sometimes it is okay to relax and indulge in that second glass or bottle of wine;
  4. Taking yourself too seriously! Every once in a while, it is okay to laugh a little, act silly, read something none political, read something non-religious, read something unromantic, read something not work-related, and indulge in the lighter side!  Turn the news off!  Shred the newspaper!  Listen to children’s songs instead of the radio!  Go to the park and swing from the monkey bars!  Read Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, or Mark Twain!  Fart occasionally!
  5. Having nothing better to do than be bored or engaged in self-pity. Idle time rarely breeds anything worthwhile, and it does nothing to cure boredom or self-pity.  People need face to face human engagement and stimulation that cannot be provided over a cell phone or in front of a computer;
  6. Waking up looking for something to be pissed off about. Getting up on the wrong side of the bed is a personal choice!  Nobody controls your outlook on life and people, but you!
  7. Blaming others and playing the part of the victim! Those who point fingers rather than seek solutions are the problem.  Those who point out blame enjoy the role of the victim;
  8. Glorifying the past! Like the present, the past is no better and no worse than you made it.  You are living tomorrow’s “good old days,” so make the best of it today.
  9. Believing everything seen, heard, or read in the news or social media! Occasionally, tune out the outside world and tune in the inside world of family and friends to discover what really matters.  There is nothing on a TV, cell, tablet, or computer screen more important than family and friends;
  10. Enjoy misery! Miserable people enjoy misery – the misery of others as well as their own.  If they didn’t, they would not let it consume their lives.

Look around!  You will more than likely see people entangled in these habits everywhere.  Turn on your television or sign-in to Facebook or some other social media, and these habits will jump out at you.  Unfortunately, America is in love with misery, but why shouldn’t it be?  Misery is easy; happiness takes work!

Jl

©Jack Linton, July 31, 2016

Warning Shot Fired at State Educators by Mississippi Legislature

After House Bill (HB) 449 in 2015 and HB 49 in 2016 failed to become law and silence state educators, the Mississippi Legislature may have delivered a coup de gras with the recent passage of HB 1643, Section 44.  Section 44 reads . . .

“None of the funds provided herein may be expended to make payments or transfers to the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents. Furthermore, none of the funds provided herein may be expended if any local school district expends any public funds to make payments or transfers to the Association.”

Over the years, the Mississippi Association of School Superintendents (MASS) has been a major education liaison between educators and the Mississippi Legislature.  After July 1, 2016, Section 44 may put an end to that relationship, but as grave as the loss of an association devoted to promoting and improving education may be, the gravest consequence of Section 44 may well be the silencing of educator voices across Mississippi.  By prohibiting payments from public funds to MASS and threatening to withhold state funds to any local district violating Section 44, the legislature fired a warning shot aimed at all state educators.  They sent a strong message that if any educator dares side or speak against them, as some superintendents did during the controversial and heated Initiative 42 campaign in the fall of 2015, there will be consequences to pay.

Bill author, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Herb Frierson, R–Poplarville, made it clear Section 44 of the bill is retaliation for what he called personal attacks against state officials by state school district superintendents during the Initiative 42 campaign.  He said, “When they attack people like that, they’re biting the hand that feeds them, and maybe the next time they need to think about that.”  However, the record supports the problem goes much deeper than Initiative 42.  Prior to the Initiative, House Education Chairman, John L. Moore introduced HB 449 in the 2015 legislative session that threatened to penalize educators $10,000 dollars for exercising their freedom of speech on school related issues.  He renewed his effort to silence educators in the 2016 legislative session when he introduced HB 49, which was basically a repeat of his failed 2015 bill.  The objective of both bills was to silence the voice of educators across the state who spoke in protest against state legislators who refused to honor the law and fully fund education.

Frierson said, “There’s very little trust between the leadership and school administrators and most of it goes back to the 42 campaign.”  He is right; little trust exists between state leadership and educators in general, and the vindictiveness of HB 1643, Section 44 will do nothing to build trust between the two factions.  The distrust between the two, which began long before Initiative 42, will only grow deeper as a result of such pettiness.  This rift began when state legislators repeatedly went back on their word to fully fund MAEP (Mississippi Adequate Education Program), and refused to work and listen to state educators on education issues.  This divide escalated with Initiative 42 when legislators placed an alternative measure on the ballot, which confused the issue and made it difficult at best for the Initiative to pass.  Trust between the two deteriorated further when legislators misled state voters with threats of budget cuts to other agencies if the Initiative passed – cuts that nevertheless became a reality after the Initiative was defeated.

HB 1643, Section 44 was a stroke of political genius.  By taking a less direct route than Moore and embedding the retaliatory action against school superintendents in the appropriations bill, Frierson kept his intentions under the radar as a part of the greater bill.  However, the impact on educators will be everything Moore hoped for, if not more.  Section 44 is most likely a death blow to MASS, and due to fear of reprisals against them, it may likely usher the end of educators speaking out for fairness, integrity, and common sense on education issues.  As Frierson would say, “If it does, it does.”  After all, why should free speech stand in the way of the greater power of the state legislature?

It is ironic some of the exact things the Mississippi leadership detests most about the federal government are forced on Mississippi citizens by the state leadership.  They detest the federal government usurping the power of local government, yet Section 44 tells local school districts how to spend local dollars.  They openly despise Common Core Standards because they argue the federal government bullied schools into using the standards or risk losing federal funds.  Doesn’t Section 44 do the same when it threatens to withhold state funds from local school districts that fail to take part in the legislature’s vendetta against the superintendent’s association?  It appears the Mississippi Legislature may be as power hungry if not more so than the federal government they rail so vehemently against.

Isn’t it also ironic America’s most basic right, free speech, is the right many Mississippi legislators want to strip from state educators?  In the United States of America (Mississippi is a part of the United States), instead of reprisals against free speech, shouldn’t there be reprisals against those who advocate such?  However, retaliation against either side will not resolve this issue.  As Frierson said the issues boil down to trust, and at this time neither the legislature nor state educators trust the other to do their jobs effectively.

After the defeat of Initiative 42, Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves spoke about pulling both sides together as a family.  That has not happened.  All anyone needs to do is examine such bills as HB 49 and Section 44 of HB 1643 to see educators are not regarded as family by the state legislature.  If they were family, legislators would be more inclined to listen to them, and not try to silence them.  However, maybe Mr. Reeves’ words were for show only, and what Frierson, Moore and many others in the legislature really want is for educators to prostrate themselves before them.  If so, who is next – small business owners?  Ministers?   Simply put, Section 44 is nothing less than heavy handed tyranny that should scare all Mississippians into waking up!

JL

©Jack Linton, June 4, 2016