Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Are YOU One of the "Good Germans?"

I saw this video this morning, and just couldn't go without posting it.  It's worth a LONG, hard period of self-examination:

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Perfect Love

It's schmaltzy and tear-jerking, but this video showed me something this morning. We're all missing a few "parts,"  all a little short of perfection, and all subject to bad hair days from time to time, but all of us are worthy of being loved.  Not to mention that none of us should be treated as humans treated these animals, and millions of others every day.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Square Inside and Brown

I've been reading the book by John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education.  You can read it for free, online, and if you have children or grandchildren, or nieces or nephews, or if you think you have an opinion about public school education, you should.  I've been reading more about education since the fall, when I brought my younger daughter home to school.

We're not the "traditional" homeschoolers.  We don't worry too much about the "liberal media."  We don't lament the absence of God in the classroom, since our God is a lot different one than the one who would be there, and I'm not at all interested in what students wear, as long as it's something.  We brought my daughter home because I realized that I had been sending her to be educated by mindless zombie automatons, more interested in a paycheck, conformity, and "good order" than in my child, or any other.

The incident that brought this realization was that our public schools began to drug test all kids in supposed "extracurricular activities."  I have a bit of a problem with this.  The first problem is the Fourth Amendment, which guarantees that the government can't search us without probable cause.  As it's pretty long-established that a drug test is a "search," I was a bit unclear how a public school, which is clearly the government, could get away with such a thing unless they had some reason to believe that you used drugs.  I read the Supreme Court decision on the subject, and then I was REALLY confused.  Suffice it to say that, from a legal and logical standpoint, their decision was horse puckey.  But they are the Supremes, and they're letting it happen.  Big surprise.

The second problem I had with the drug testing is that it's useless and ineffective.  Study after study, e.g., here, has shown that random drug testing does not keep school kids from using drugs--period. And even if it did work, the kids who are in extracurriculars are the least likely to be the ones with drug problems, so it seems exactly ass-backward in practical application. And it seems like if people are going to give up their rights for something, it ought to at least be for something that works and makes a modicum of sense.

The third problem I had with the drug testing was that, while it said that that it only applied to extracurricular activities, when my daughter refused to "consent" to the "voluntary" testing program by signing an agreement, she was expelled from a CLASS.  Now, I don't know about you, but I always thought that "extracurricular" was stuff outside of class. And dictionaries agree with me. Classes are "curricular".  I, being a logical sort, went to the school and pointed out to them how the policy said only extracurricular, how it said there would be "no loss of instructional time" because of the policy, how a class taught as part of the school day, by a teacher on regular salary is the very definition of "curricular."  Alas, I was rebuffed.

The fourth problem I had was how I was rebuffed.  While none of the three "gentlemen" who pass for school administration at my daughter's school had any prior knowledge of my daughter--not even her name--I was told my kid was a drug user, because only a drug user would refuse to take drug tests.  I was mocked and laughed at when I told them that no, there was no evidence of drug use by my daughter, but there was evidence that they were overreaching the Constitutional rights of my kid and many thousands of others.  Later, when one of these "gentlemen" knew my daughter was outside waiting for a meeting with him, he loudly mocked us to other administrators in his office.  And, later that day, my daughter saw and heard the same "gentleman" grilling her teachers, trying to dig up dirt on her, apparently in an attempt to discredit her, and me.

So, we brought her home.  She's studying independently, working at the local university in the chemistry lab, and doing well.  After getting some publicity in local media, the school board revised their policy to make clear that I was right and the the "gentlemen" at my daughter's school were not supposed to do what they did .   I did a mental and flourishing flying o' the bird at the school administrators who had mocked me even though I realized that the Board didn't seem too concerned about it all until it was in the paper and I was on the phone daily to the state department of education.  So that was probably exactly what the "gentlemen" were supposed to do, right up until it looked like someone was going to make a big stink or sue them.

In any event, that brings us to the last problem I have.  After bringing the kid home, I realize what a ridiculous excuse for education public school really is.  My daughter is an exceedingly bright girl.  She's a sophomore and has scored in the 95th percentile on the ACT, as a freshman against kids one and two years more advanced in school.  She's not just straight As--she's always been straight A+.   The kid ain't no dummy.  And since she's been in public school, she's never been allowed to learn.  She's been required to memorize--pablum-like, bumper sticker suited, pat answers for life, the universe, and everything--and spit it back up like a baby with gastrointestinal issues, only on demand.  But as far as learning by answering questions for yourself, through research and consideration of the problem--well, not so much.

So, I've been looking into education, and began reading The Underground History, which is an absolutely scathing account of public schools that, unfortunately, seems to describe to a T exactly what I've been seeing.  And in the process, I found this.  In the Prologue, part of the following poem appears, attributed to a high school senior in Alton, Illinois, written two weeks before his death by suicide.  I found the rest of it to include here.  It was probably written a while ago, judging by the references to ties and rocketships, but other than that, it sounds just like what's happening in schools everywhere, right now.

It made me think how, every day,  we send our kids off, just like everyone else, to act just like everyone else, to dress just like everyone else, to think just like everyone else.  We don't care if they don't feel like everyone else.  We sure as hell don't want them to see anything in a way different than everyone else--people who do that are "crazy,"  even though to do so is the real meaning of genius.

And so, every day we send them off.  And when they come home, every afternoon, we've killed another little piece of what they were meant to be, replaced it with a piece of "everyone else," and made them square inside and brown. God help us.


He always wanted to explain things
But no one cared
So he drew
Sometimes he would draw and it wasn't anything
He wanted to carve it in stone
Or write it in the sky
He would lie out on the grass
And look up at the sky
And it would be only the sky and him that needed saying

And it was after that
He drew the picture
It was a beautiful picture
He kept it under his pillow
And would let no one see it
And he would look at it every night
And think about it
And when it was dark
And his eyes were closed
He could still see it
And it was all of him
And he loved it

When he started school he brought it with him
Not to show anyone but just to have it with him
Like a friend
It was funny about school
He sat in a square brown desk
Like all the other square brown desks
And he thought it should be red
And his room was a square brown room
Like all the other rooms
And it was tight and close
And stiff'

He hated to hold the pencil and chalk
With his arms stiff and his feet flat on the floor
With the teacher watching
And watching
The teacher came and smiled at him
She told him to wear a tie
Like all the other boys
He said he didn't like them
And she said it didn't matter

After that they drew
And he drew all yellow
And it was the way he felt about morning
And it was beautiful
The teacher came and smiled at him
"What's this?" she said
"Why don't you draw something like Ken's drawing?"
"Isn't that beautiful?"
After that his mother bought him a tie
And he always drew airplanes and rocket ships
Like everyone else
And he threw the old picture away

And when he lay out alone and looked out at the sky
It was big and blue and all of everything
 But he wasn't anymore
He was square inside and brown
And his hands were stiff
And he was like everyone else
And the things inside him that needed saying
Didn't need it anymore
It had stopped pushing
It was crushed
Like everything else.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Simply Heartwarming

Everyone loves a good story about a kid.  When we lived in Iowa, my younger daughter was in the paper constantly, owing to the slow news occurrences in the rural midwest, and to the fact that she was always up to something.  She was the lead in the school play, the youngest seller at the local farmers' market, a darn good entrepreneur by the time she was 8, and she took a pretty cute picture.  Everyone loves a good story about a kid.

That explains this story about a young Illinois entrepreneur with a talent for cupcake making.  Cute kid, good product, happy customers.  Easy to explain.

So what explains this?  Apparently, the Madison County, Illinois, health department has stepped in and shut down the 11-year old cupcaker because she doesn't have a permit or a "licensed kitchen."  Yup.  Even though just about every last one of us eats food every day from our own "unlicensed kitchen," and the incredibly vast majority of us don't die, or even get sick from it.   Even though many many states have "cottage food" laws that regularly allow the sales of such foods as baked goods and jams and the like, without licensing of the kitchen or health permits--and the world is still standing after that kind of anarcho-crazy liberality.  Even though there are virtually NO known cases of people getting sick from it.

You know what I think explains it?  Fear.  Every time we turn around, we read about some horror story of something that supposedly caused someone to get sick or die.  Spinach with e coli.  Peanut butter.  Bad meat.  Raw milk.  Mosquitoes.  Oh-freaking-no!  Right on cue, spurred on by ridiculously overblown media coverage that always makes it sound like the whole world has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel (even if it's eleven people who got a belly ache), people begin to clamor--"something MUST be done!" or "there ought to be a law!"

And, right on cue, spurred on by people scared of boogeymen and peanut butter, someone makes that law and someone shuts down a cute kid doing something useful, that people used to do all the time, without anyone dying.  So keep that in mind next time you're tempted to have some "authority" make you safe from cupcakes or something else that you could easily just decide not to buy if you're concerned about it.  So my thought for today: Live dangerously--eat a damn cupcake.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Divide and Conquer

Once again, James Corbett, of the Corbett Report and Boiling Frogs Post, has hit the nail on the head.  Want to know why you always feel like you're getting whipsawed back and forth while little changes?  You're being played.  But on the bright side, there are 23 flavors of bagels!  Watch.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Truth About the Media

This short video pretty much tells us everything we need to know about watching TV news.  WARNING:  Colorful Language!

Will you turn it off now?

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Things I Cannot Change

When you're in a twelve-step program, you become very familiar with a little ditty called The Serenity Prayer.  It's made its way into common parlance, so you're probably familiar with it:

Lord, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change, 
the courage to change the things I can, 
and the wisdom to know the difference.

I can't even begin to count how many times I heard that prayer, thought about it, and said it in a big circle of  people in dingy rooms full of styrofoam coffee cups, cigarette smoke, and pain.  And yet, until just a moment ago in my comfortable kitchen, talking to my husband, I really never once focused on what I now think is the true meaning of those words.

You see, most people think that prayer tells you to get determined and change yourself for the better  and to accept "how stuff is" with grace.  

We can't change the past.  That's an easy one--water under the bridge, spilled milk,  and all that.  So, as they tell you in the programs, just "Let go and let God."  That's a great relief to people whose past doesn't really flatter them too much, and it's pretty welcome to grab onto that one.

Much more difficult to appreciate is that we can't change the future.  We love to believe that we can change the future.  If we plan and plot, worry and manipulate, diet and exercise, make everyone get spied on and patted down and disarmed, try to make everyone think and act the same, we can ensure that we have the outcome we want--a long and happy life, good health, the love of people, and most likely, a pretty boring time of things.  That's what we want:  peaceful, quiet, "happy," and bland.

When you start really thinking about it, though, you quickly discover that we can't change the future because there are just too many variables going into it that we have no input in--other people's behavior, unseen consequences that we can't know about, "the facts" being different than we currently suppose they are, and on and on. 

So,  the "things I cannot change" pretty well encompasses everything past and future, doesn't it?  It leaves one thing, and one thing only.  The very next thing that I do.  

Not the next thing that someone else does:  that's up to them. I can have my life all planned out, from what we're having for dinner to where we'll live in retirement, and my spouse could walk in and say, "Honey, I'm sorry, but I'm not happy and I'm leaving.  Now."  

Not the thing I do after the next thing, because something else can intervene, and the whole landscape changes.  I can be dressed and ready to go somewhere, with the whole day written out for myself, and if I walk out the door to find my car doesn't start, the whole plan evaporates.

And so that leaves Just One Thing.  The only thing.  The one very next thing that I do, think, or say.  From inside the little universe that is "me," that and that alone is "reality."   And that should be the one thing that we all pay the most attention to.  Oddly enough, it seems to be the one thing most of us pay the least attention to. 

Yikes.  I've got some work to do.