Tag Archives: opinion

20 Life Tips all Graduates Should Remember

The end of another school year, and a new batch of graduates are ready to take on the world.  Ready or not, they are about to collide with reality.  The biggest collision for most graduates will occur in accepting responsibility.  For most graduates, during thirteen years of K-12 school, responsibility has primarily floated precariously on the backs of family, friends, and teachers, who enabled them to taste and play at responsibility, but never really commit to it.  That will change dramatically after graduation.  Graduates will learn quickly the world is big, robust, and wonderful, but contrary to high school lore, it does not revolve around them.  Unlike high school, they will learn they are not the center of the universe.  They will come to understand that responsibility is not optional, but a prerequisite for everything of worth in life.  Along with learning to love and respect one another, it is the center piece that provides balance to the world in which they live.

Keeping life in balance is a full time job; therefore, to all graduates, I have a few tips I would like to offer.  Tips from an old guy who has been there is about as fair as it gets in life, so listen up:

20 Life Tips all Graduates Should Remember. . . .

  1. Life isn’t always fair, but it is still good;
  2. Don’t take yourself so seriously; no one else does;
  3. Make peace with your past, or it will screw up your present;
  4. If a relationship must be secret, you shouldn’t be in it;
  5. You are either living, or you are dying; the choice is yours;
  6. If you want to be a writer, write! Don’t talk about it;
  7. Don’t save the good stuff for a special tomorrow; today is special;
  8. Responsibility for your happiness begins with you;
  9. What other people think of you is none of your business, so leave it alone;
  10. Believe in Santa Claus and miracles;
  11. All that really matters in the end is that you loved;
  12. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up, and show up;
  13. If you don’t ask, you don’t get; if you don’t play, you don’t win;
  14. Life is not tied with a bow, but it is still a gift;
  15. Try as hard as you like, but the past cannot be changed – move on;
  16. A good cry is okay if you move on after it is over;
  17. The opinions of others do not define your reality;
  18. You miss every shot you don’t take;
  19. Surround yourself with people smarter than you; and
  20. Your most valuable asset is you; invest in yourself.

Congratulations graduates!  Your greatest journey is just beginning.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 21, 2017

100 Days of Madness

Over the past eight years, many people blamed President Obama for the growing divide in the United States, and there is little doubt he was a party to the problem.  However, he has been gone for over 100 days, and we are more divided than ever.  In the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s madness, the nation has been besieged with riots in the streets, claims of fake news, outright lies and twists on the truth, growing threats of nuclear war, continuous Presidential tweets that reek of schoolboy bullying and narcissism, and White House jockeying that appears cloaked in scandal and coverup.  As a nation, we have watched as a once proud political party jerked the power of the Presidency from the hands of their political adversary only to become mired in madness and drown in its own vomit.

This past week, President Trump continued to pile coals on an already blazing fire when he fired FBI Director James Comey.  Whether the firing was justified or not is debatable, but the timing and how it was handled was amateurish.  In what seems to be the norm with this President, he makes decisions on the fly, loosely coordinates a cover story with his staff, and later kicks their feet out from under them when the story begins to unravel.  For example, in an interview after firing the FBI director, he acknowledged his people had not been one-hundred percent accurate in their initial portrayal of the events surrounding the dismissal.  He said he is such an active President that there is no way his people can keep one-hundred percent up to date on everything going on with his Presidency.  If that is true, he has serious communication and logistical problems with his staff; however, it is more likely his staff cannot keep up because the President’s stories keep changing.

Look at the the story behind James Comey’s firing as originally reported by the President’s spokespeople to the news media.  They initially reported the Russian investigation had no bearing on the firing whatsoever.  However, the President later contradicted them when he admitted Director Comey’s investigation into Russian interference in the Presidential election and possible White House collusion played a key role in his decision to fire the director.  We also learned the President took issue with Director Comey’s refusal to pledge his loyalty to him.  Bravo for Director Comey!  Such a request was not only unethical, but in direct conflict with the Constitution of the United States.  Like the President’s oath of office, the FBI Director takes an oath of loyalty to the Constitution of the United States and not to any individual, including the President of the United States.

The White House madness has now escalated from Russians to pledges to possible taped conversations with President Trump’s tweet to ex-Director Comey threatening the possible existence of secret tapes made of their conversations.  Maybe the President needs to study history!  In 1973, President Richard Nixon got into a hell of mess with secretly taped conversations, which led ultimately to his resignation in 1974.  Maybe the tweet was simply the President making up garbage once again – who knows!  Made up garbage certainly fits the bill for the madness surrounding a President who says whatever he feels his supporters what to hear regardless of authenticity, shrugs it off when called to task, and moves on without an ounce of accountability.  That is madness!

Some people say such madness would have never occurred under a Hillary Clinton Presidency, but I am not so sure.  If she had been elected President, I believe things in Washington would be much quieter, but I don’t believe she would have accomplished any more in her first 100 days than President Trump.  I am afraid, she would have consumed her first 100 days sitting in front of the mirror admiring the new President of the United States.  That would be madness of a different kind, but nevertheless madness.  Of course, everyone knew when Clinton and Trump became nominees for the Presidency we were in for a long maddening four years regardless of which one was elected.

JL

©Jack Linton, May 15, 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

Conservative Tribune: Real or Propaganda?

Over the past few months, I have seen several articles posted on Facebook from www.ConservativeTribune.com.  That is not surprising since the majority of the people I know are devout, card carrying conservatives.  However, it is surprising that a website that claims to be a legitimate news source often fails to report the whole story – facts are sometimes glossed over in favor of the conservative views of the writer.  The website is an online conservative magazine, so a certain amount of bias is expected, but when an article serves no purpose but to agitate and prey on threadbare emotions, the reporting turns from legitimate journalism to yellow journalism (journalism based upon sensationalism, exaggeration, and eye-catching headlines).  I realize bias free news is almost unheard of these days; reporters, especially on the national level, tend to be opinionated celebrities rather than non-biased journalists.  They have forgotten that the purpose of reporting the news is to provide information not to agitate and entertain.  News should be about the facts and only the facts, and when it is not, it becomes a tool for deception and lies.  Presenting news – conservative or liberal – based on missing or misleading information and sensationalism is not news but propaganda.

Is Conservative Tribune propaganda?  Maybe, maybe not, but to be fair and get a clearer picture, I spent several days researching the website to find out.  I traced it back to its beginning in 2009, read articles, and looked at the people writing those articles.   What I found was very interesting.

Origins and History:

Based on web domain records, in January 2009, the website was founded as Conservative and Republican Party Blog:  America’s Newspaper.  The website changed names in May 2009 to Conservative news, views and commentary. By September 2009, the name changed to Conservative Tribune, but the website became inactive and was suspended in February 2010.  In October 2013, under the ownership and leadership of Shaun Connell, an Arkansas web product designer and businessman, the website resurfaced as Conservative Tribune: Defending Our Conservative Values.  In January 2014, the website changed names once again to Conservative Tribune: Small Government, Free Markets, and Traditional Values.  Another partial name change occurred in August 2014, this time the website became known as Conservative Tribune:  In Defense of Western Civilization.  The website became known simply as Conservative Tribune in 2015 when Connell sold it to Liftable Media, a company owned by Floyd Brown, co-founder of the advocacy group Citizens United.

Writing for Conservative Tribune:

By the website’s own admission, individuals do not need experience as a writer or a degree of any kind.  If a person can write a coherent sentence and is willing to write what the management tells them to write, they qualify to write for the Tribune.  Here are the credentials needed to write for Conservative Tribune as outlined by the website:

“Details for our writers:

  1. We pick the topics for you.
  2. We write the headlines for you.
  3. We pick the sources you’ll link to.
  4. You just have to write articles with 250 – 400 words of original content to explain the news story from an ultra-conservative viewpoint.”

News printed in Conservative Tribune is “ultra-conservative” biased, and they are very open about it.  In other words, nothing that contradicts the website’s “ultra conservative” view will be allowed on the website regardless of the facts.  Therefore, readers can expect to receive only the information that supports and promotes a conservative viewpoint.

Writers for the Conservative Tribune:

Over the years Conservative Tribune has published writers from Brutus, of Shakespeare fame, to staff writers using pseudonyms, and to freelance writers with legitimate writing credits.  A few writers who have contributed to the Tribune include:

Beasley
Shaun Connell
Publius
Brutus
Centinel
Valerius
Publicola
Ben Marquis
Ben Franklin
Katrina
Wilmot Proviso
V Saxena

Some of these names have historical significance such as Wilmot Proviso, which was an 1846 proposal to ban slavery in land acquired from Mexico in the Mexican War. However, regardless of historical significance, news journalists using any name but their own should raise a red flag for readers.  If a journalist is telling the truth or presenting all the facts, why is there a need for an alias?  It is fairly common for a fiction writer to use a pseudonym or alias, but a news journalists should not need an alias unless, maybe, he/she is writing fiction rather than truth.  For an online magazine that claims to tell the truth, this practice raises questions of credibility.

Articles Published by Conservative Tribune:

Articles written for Conservative Tribune are, as the guidelines state, “ultra-conservative.”  The site, by its own admission, may contain copyrighted material but not necessarily with the copyright owner’s permission.  The management for the site claims the use of such unauthorized copyrighted material constitutes “fair use” as provided under the Copyright Law of the United States.  This claim of “fair use” may be a contributing factor as to why so many authors writing for the website utilize a pseudonym/alias, or it may simply be a sign of lazy journalism.  Either way it is a questionable and possibly illegal use of other journalists’ work.

As for being a real news magazine, the site is indeed real, but that doesn’t mean the reader will get all the facts in the news reported on the website.  In other words, the website reports newsworthy and marginally newsworthy stories, but if the reader is a discerning individual who likes to make up his/her own mind, it would be wise to consult other sources to validate the stories first.  Using misleading, emotionally charged, headlines that fall short of alignment to the content of an article is also common (Remember the guidelines for writers: “We write the headlines for you).  Readers of Conservative Tribune need to understand they are not going to read anything on the website that may be damaging to the conservative cause.  Articles are “ultra-conservative” biased!

Conservative Tribune Bottom Line:

There is nothing new or shocking about conservative or liberal media pushing their own agendas even if it means ignoring certain parts of a story.  Both will tell their readers they exist to set the record straight or to tell the whole truth.  Both prey on reader emotions and fears; they tell readers only want they want them to know and nothing more.  In that respect, both are propaganda tools that are not above using bias and misleading information to publicize and promote their political cause or views.

George Upper, managing editor of Conservative Tribune, says it best, “We’ll tell you the truth as we see it.”  Like children, they never lie – they simply tell only the part of the story they want readers to hear and know.  Their job is to influence readers to think as they do, and keep readers emotionally engaged in their ideology.  Their biggest enemy is a reader who thinks for himself!  Conservatives and liberals alike are looking for followers, not leaders; they will tell you who should lead.  Therefore, a word to the wise – always question any and everything you read online, especially if it screams conservative or liberal – both are in the propaganda business.

JL

©Jack Linton, August 21, 2016

A Short Blog on Nothing in Particular

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

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

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

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

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

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

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     March 1, 2016

Senate Bill 2006: Death of the Mississippi High School Activities Association

Every legislative session has hundreds of bills introduced in the Mississippi House and Senate, and although some bills have merit, there are many others that are pointless, clueless, frivolous, and even retaliatory. Such a bill is Senate Bill 2006, which is a direct assault on the Mississippi High School Activities Association (MHSAA). To some people that may not be such a big deal, but it is a big deal! It is a big deal because this bill represents another power play in the state legislature. In a state that regularly rants and raves about too much federal government overreach, there is no shortage of bills introduced each year in the state legislature that embrace state government overreach.

SB 2006 calls for a three member committee to be established by the State Board of Education from its membership to study the regulation and oversight of high school athletics and activities as presently conducted by the MHSAA. There is nothing wrong with the state looking into the management of organizations operating as not-for-profit, but SB 2006 goes beyond conducting a study and making recommendations. Under Senator Gollott’s bill, the committee has final authority over policies regulating high school sports and activities as well as choosing a not-for-profit corporation such as the MHSAA to regulate athletics and activities in public schools.  The bill gives the committee the authority to keep the MHSAA as the regulating organization or choose another not-for-profit organization to take its place.  By mandate of the bill, the chosen not-for-profit organization must consent to being governed by a committee consisting of two members of the State Board of Education and three public members not associated with the administration of any school, school district, or athletic program. This governing committee would have veto power of any policy, rule, regulation or any other pronouncement the chosen regulatory organization made in regard to the regulation of school athletics or activities. In other words, the regulating corporation would be a puppet of the committee with no authority of its own other than what the committee extends to it.

Although there have been times as a coach and school administrator that I have disagreed with an interpretation ruling made by the MHSAA, I nevertheless have always found the organization’s decisions favored the student and the rules its members agreed to follow. Overall, I believe the MHSAA has done an excellent job of being as fair and consistent as humanly possible. Also, I have always found the organization to be very transparent in all financial matters regarding the organization. I shudder to think of the chaos that would have existed without this organization to mediate in disputes and misunderstandings between schools and school districts.  Therefore, I am at a loss to understand why Senator Gollott would propose such a bill.  Maybe, a disgruntled parent got to him or maybe, it is, as I suspect, about control and power. I don’t know for sure, but I am inclined to believe it is most likely a combination of the two.

To venture a guess as to what is behind SB 2006, I would say vouchers, recruiting, and parents.  All three are plausible excuses for undermining the MHSAA:

  • Vouchers!  Taking control of the MHSAA would promote the use of vouchers. Under current MHSAA guidelines, there are strict eligibility regulations governing students moving between schools and participating in athletics. Such regulations are a deterrent to parents using vouchers since they do not want their child to risk losing a year of eligibility when transferring to a new school. If the state controlled the organization regulating eligibility, special exemptions could be allowed for students using vouchers to transfer between schools. With such exemptions in place, a major concern for parents using vouchers would be removed;
  • Open recruiting! By forcing the MHSAA or some other regulatory organization to bow under the thumb of a controlling committee, open season recruiting across the state would become the norm. There would be nothing to prevent unscrupulous coaches or directors (of course, they would no longer be unscrupulous if there were no regulations against recruiting) from encouraging and enabling students in smaller or poorer schools to take their vouchers and come play for them; and
  • Parents! If a parent disagreed with a ruling by the regulatory organization (MHSAA), they could simply go above the regulatory organization straight to the committee established by SB 2006. The organization would actually be little more than a “grunt work” entity; so ultimately, all major decisions would be made by the committee, so why waste time haggling with the second string.

The reason behind SB 2006 may be none of these, but there is one thing for sure, SB 2006 is state government overreach.  Conducting a study is one thing, but passing a law that strips authority without just cause or due process and sets up an all powerful watchdog committee is Orwellian.  If the MHSAA was profiting from funds that flow through it from schools, there might be a problem warranting a takeover. However, the organization is a not-for-profit corporation that in return for membership and participation fees provides a valuable service in the form of coordinating interscholastic activities such as rule interpretation and enforcement, scholarship, training, competitions, and promoting sportsmanship and citizenship. As a not-for-profit organization, the MHSAA maintains up-to-date documentation of all money flowing in and out its doors and reports annually to its members with financial statements; therefore, financial transparency is also not an issue. If the organization was non-responsive to its members or to parents that would most likely be grounds for going in another direction, but the MHSAA has always been responsive to its members and especially to parents. The decisions the organization has made over the years may not have always been the most popular, but their decisions have always followed the rules and guidelines as established in the MHSAA Handbook and supported by its members. There is a vast difference between non-responsive and responding with a disagreeable decision.  So, what is the problem?  That is a question that only Senator Gollott can answer, but his solution to whatever the problem may be is likely to open a brand new can of chaos.

SB 2006 makes little sense unless something unethical or illegal is taking place within the MHSAA.  However, if that was true, the story would have been plastered all over the news by now, but that has not happened. Most likely a disgruntled parent is behind this bill, or considering recent events, promotion of parental choice is a likely motive, but regardless of what Senator Gollott was thinking when he penned SB 2006, there is one thing that stands out loud and clear, and that is he is clueless as to the good the MHSAA does for Mississippi students, coaches, directors, administrators, and parents. Hopefully, the members of the House Education Committee will recognize the merits of the MHSAA, or at least recognize that this bill is another shallow attempt for state government to tread where it does not belong. With a bit of luck and common sense, SB 2006 will be one of those bills that fail to make it out of committee.

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD     February 6, 2016

Entry Level Camping: It’s Okay to be Cheap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go camping!

JL

©Jack Linton, PhD January 15, 2016