Saturday, December 21, 2013

A problem with the traditional Christmas Story

How really wise were the Wise Men? I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t want to be wandering around in the Middle East carrying fancy looking containers full of gold, frankincense and myrrh. That’s a problem waiting to happen, no matter how big and well-armed your retinue is. The goodies would be better spent feeding the camels and lackeys.

Lackey: Oh Wise Ones, lunch will be delayed a bit. We have to send somebody into that town over there for some olive oil, parsley, and thyme. Due to the haboob last week, we lost a couple traveling days hunkering down in those caves, and supplies are short. Can I have an advance on next week’s food budget? Here’s your box of gold, oh Kings from Afar.

WM 1: Sure, Lackey, but don’t spend it all in one place. We still need to pay someone to do the laundry. Hunkering down in a cave with camels
for two days put a strain on the wardrobe. 

WM 2: Plus we need to find an inn pretty soon. The tents are full of drifting sand. They need a thorough cleaning up and some repair. We really can’t use them as is.

Lackey: All the inns here are full. There is a census going on and people from near and far have come back to their ancestral home town. It’s like a huge family reunion. 

WM 3: And what was I hearing all last night? It sounded like singing. Was there a concert we missed?

Lackey: No, Oh Exalted Magi. It was Angels from On High.

WM 3: I’ve never heard of them. Are they a group from around here?

Lackey: I don’t believe their home base is in this area. They rarely make a local appearance. 

WM 2: Well, they sounded great, and the lighting effect from that star hovering overhead set off their gossamer wings to the best advantage. 

WM 1: Well, let’s go into town and see what’s up.  (They set off to town.)

A while later:

WM 2: This place is packed. At least we managed to get provisions. After lunch, we better head into the next town down the road. The innkeeper said there’s a Hilton Garden there. The oasis is pretty big, and they have great facilities for the camels. 

WM 1: I’m glad we stopped at the stable to find out that information. Best of all we found that couple with the baby boy. He’s a very special lad. I predict He’ll do great things.

WM 3: He did have a way about him, even for a newborn. Giving Mom and Dad the rest of the gold 
we brought into town today should help them out with baby expenses. And applying some frankincense 
and myrrh 
mixed up with a little olive oil is great for curing diaper rash. It makes an effective poultice, too, in case He gets asthma or a cold. 

Lackey: If your Eminences are ready, we can depart forthwith. I suggest we return home by a different route. 

Follow all the news about Green Living, American Made, Pets, Education, and Child Health by subscribing to my articles. Click on the "Subscribe" button, or here:

More information about sounds and the human body than you want to know

I couldn’t sleep the other night, so I went downstairs to read for a bit. Reading in bed wasn’t helping my eyes close, so I thought a change of setting would work. My tummy was upset so I popped open a 7 Up and snuggled under my cozy blanket on the couch with book in hand. I rarely drink soda, and if I do, 7 Up is the go-to choice. The effervescent bubbles quickly send tummy problems upward with unladylike belches that rattle the walls.

I took a sip and held it in my mouth for a second before swallowing. Suddenly I heard the toilet flushing. Who else was here? Was one of the cats practicing a new skill? I swallowed and cocked an ear, only to hear nothing. Weird, but maybe I was imagining something in my half-conscious state. I took a second swig and heard the toilet again. Hmmm… 

After a couple more mouthfuls, I came to the conclusion that when 7 Up is gently swirled in the mouth, it sounds like toilet water
gurgling into the mysterious dark depths of the underworld. I probably won’t pass this advertising revelation on to the 7 Up parent company, Dr Pepper Snapple Group, Inc., but I was soon tummy-happy and headed back to bed.

Many sound loving Americans are quite patriotic. Every kid knows how to make annoying squeaking sounds on school hallway floors with their sneakers. One enterprising and talented young man I once taught combined this creative talent with his obvious love of country. He rushed into my classroom one day.

“Ms. M- you gotta come here, quick,” he burst out.

Thinking there was an emergency; I grabbed my keys and class list and headed after him. 

He stood in the hall, foot poised, “Listen!” he commanded.

In a series of stutter steps, toe swirls, twists, heel wiggles, full circle turns, and stomps, the young man rendered a squealing, squeaking and hauntingly accurate performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.” 

Amidst the gathering crowd he finished and bowed to applause. He spent several hours afterward cleaning scuff marks off the linoleum.

In perhaps one of the more unusual public displays of patriotism, I recall a scene from a short entry at an underground film festival. Today this would have generated a million hits on Youtube, but back in the ancient times of audio-visual capture, primitive displays of performance art had different means of gaining an audience.

In the clip, the cinematographer was strolling down a beach amid buxom beauties and muscled jocks asking them if they had any particular talent he could record. After endless moons, flashes and wiggle/jiggle scenes, he centered on one average young man who said he had a talent the producer probably had never seen before. 

Up to the challenge, producer gave him the go ahead.

The kid dropped his bathing suit, lay on his back with knees tight to chest, and aimed his naked posterior at the camera.

 He then performed the flatulent version of “The Star Spangled Banner”, rendered with realistic close ups by the creative camera operator. Corporate material? I bet he owns a multi squillion dollar business today.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Why are American students so dumb?

This post is from an article I wrote for I cover education and other toics, listed below. Please share it with friends, Facebook, etc. Thanks.

American students do not place in the top 10  compared to the rest of the world. American kids rank about 23rd in math, 14th in reading, and 17th in science, according to 2010 statistics. Why are American kids such lousy students? A New York Times Editorial (and this writer) suggest the reasons below.

The top performing students now come primarily from Asia, Scandinavia, and Europe. In general, these countries took a cold, hard look at education after the devastation of World War II. Their infrastructure, industry, earning potential, and land had been largely destroyed by the war, and a few wise individuals foresaw the path needed for a future century. 

While the American government helped returning GI’s buy houses, get some education, get jobs, and support families in the short run, they failed to ensure that, in the long run, the baby boomers’ children and grandchildren would be educated to compete in a future world. US education focused on sorting and selecting sheep and goats through the SAT process, an outmoded dinosaur still used in today’s nontraditional higher education world.  

Education “experts” pushed inquiring minds into preselected career pathways by gender (guys had the brains for engineering, corporate control, and “good old boy” industry that would allow politics and wealth to play nice together), while girls were only smart enough to become teachers, nurses and librarians, and of course, stay home and have babies. Now, over 70 years and two generations later, American education is waking up to the fact that females have brains and pushing STEM education.

No lessons were apparently learned from thousands of years ofhistory, when men were away at war applying their own sorting and selecting process, and women were back home running successful for-profit corporations composed of fiefdoms, plantations, cities, kingdoms, and countries, while also raising families. 

What are other countries doing?

Teacher training

Forward thinking counyeies took steps to ensure their citizens’ future security in the modern world with cutting edge knowledge and skills.  The US had no direct continental land or industry destruction through WW II bombings (Pearl Harbor the exception), and perhaps false pride or lack of imagination took the place of nationalism, stubborn resistance, and underdog scrappiness other countries employed to rebuild better than before. 

Eliminating the favoritism of wealth bias is one big step Finland takes. Finns first began to consider creating comprehensive schools that would provide a quality, high-level education for poor and wealthy alike. These schools stand out in several ways, providing daily hot meals; health and dental services; psychological counseling; and an array of services for families and children in need. None of the services are means tested. Moreover, all high school students must take one of the most rigorous required curriculums in the world, including physics, chemistry, biology, philosophy, music and at least two foreign languages.

But the most important effort has been in the training of teachers. In 1979 the country decided to move preparation out of teachers’ colleges and into the universities, where it became more rigorous. By professionalizing the teacher corps and raising its value in society, the Finns have made teaching the country’s most popular occupation for the young. These programs recruit from the top quarter of the graduating high school class, demonstrating that such training has a prestige lacking in the United States.

In the US, low entry standards for teacher training programs ensure dumbing down of education by placing teachers in classrooms who have been held to standards so low, one could step over the bar, not reach for it. I have scored teacher candidate essays for many years and can attest to lack of skills in GUM (grammar, usage, and mechanics) that should have been drilled into elementary students’ minds. Teachers can’t write, so they can’t teach kids to write. Admissionrequirements for teaching programs at the State University of New York were raised in September, but only a handful of other states have taken similar steps.

Funding equity

Canadian education differs strikingly from American programs in funding methods. American school districts rely far too heavily on property taxes, which means districts in wealthy areas bring in more money than those in poor ones. State tax money to make up the gap usually falls far short of the need in districts where poverty and other challenges are greatest.

Three of Canada’s largest and best-performing provinces — Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario — have each addressed the inequity issue by moving to province-level funding formulas. As a recent report by the Center for American Progress notes, these formulas allow the provinces to determine how much money each district will receive, based on each district’s size and needs. The systems even out the tax base and help ensure that resources are distributed equitably, not clustered in wealthy districts. It is working, while American school districts trap urban kids in “concentrated student poverty.”

Eliminating elitism

China’s educational system was largely destroyed during Mao Zedong’s “cultural revolution,” which devalued intellectual pursuits and demonized academics. Since his 1976 death the country has been rebuilding its education system at lightning speed. The flagship site is Shanghai, where its students were first in the world in math, science and literacy on last year’s international exams.

One of its strengths is that the city has mainly moved away from an elitist system in which greater resources and elite instructors were given to favored schools, and toward a more egalitarian, neighborhood attendance system in which students of diverse backgrounds and abilities are educated under the same roof. The city has focused on bringing the once-shunned children of migrant workers into the school system. In the words of the O.E.C.D, Shanghai has embraced the notion that migrant children are also “our children” — meaning that city’s future depends in part on them and that they, too, should be included in the educational process. Funding was also redistributed to equate need to product.

Do I believe American education is hopeless? No, but it needs some realistic fixing. APPR is  a joke, tenure should be eliminated, and teachers need equitable pay and benefits comparable to industry education and promotion standards. 

Politics has no place in the future of children. Nepotism in education placement is abominable. Jobs should be given on what one knows, not who one knows. The Common Core isn't common and its purveyors haven't set foot in classrooms to know what is realistic teaching. 

Parents need to go back to being parents, not excuses for caregivers. A child's overall upbringing is the parents' responsibility, not a school's. Teachers have enough to do. They shouldn't be counselors, sex educators, moral arbiters, and have to do their job with no ability to discipline brats whose parents have abdicated their roles as responsible adults.

Follow all the news about Green Living, American Made, Pets, Education, and Child Health by subscribing to my articles. Click on the "Subscribe" button, or here:

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Merry Toddler Christmas

A Merry Toddler Christmas
A recent conversation was overheard at a neighborhood restaurant. A Mom, Grandmother and a young boy were sharing a meal.

Grandmother (GM): I had forgotten how large and cumbersome toddler toys and accessories are. It’s been a while since I have had to Christmas wrap some for a young child.

The Mom: What did you get him? He just turned 2 and really isn’t aware of the latest trends in preschool playthings or electronics.

Young Boy (YB): iPho, iPho

GM: Well- I got him a
Mr. Potato Head. They have changed since you were little. Those had plastic potatoes. You just inserted the facial features into small holes. I had the prehistoric version when I was a girl. It was much more fun. We used real potatoes and jabbed the eyes, nose, ears, and all the other pieces into the potato wherever we wanted. It was much more imaginative play. 

The Mom: And your generation also ingested copious amounts of LSD.

GM: Well, I do remember my mother serving mashed potatoes frequently. She probably kept Idaho in the black just from our own kitchen.

The Mom: Ewww… She actually cooked those drippy, blobs full of holes oozing white goo? That explains a lot.

GM: She told us it was glue. It did stick paper together pretty well. That was before white school glue in bottles. The only alternative we had was a bottle of the brown, smelly stuff. It congealed in the slit that looked like a vag… 

The Mom: I don’t believe we are having this conversation in a public place.

GM: So the Mr. PH I got him is 2 feet tall. They were out of the life size ones, and… 

YB: P? H? E? A? Wheel!!

The Mom: Here’s your applesauce, child. Eat up, now.

GM: At least the potty chair is in a manageable box. I am considering using a spare set of sheets to wrap some items. The easel, for example, and the mini 4 wheeler.

YB: PeePee, PeePee

The Mom: OK- a potty chair is perfect, as long as it doesn’t play music whenever he uses it. 

GM: No, dear. You know that they play only those insipid kiddie songs. Now, if there was one with a solo by Garth Brooks or Roger Waters.

The Mom: Mother! You have such an old lady sense of humor – potty, brooks, waters- what’s next? You are regressing to the mindset of a 12 year old boy.

GM: Well, then I would have something in common with your husband.

YB: Appo. Want appo.

GM: He still loves applesauce. Hm... I think we are missing a money making opportunity here. We could change his name to Mott and give a couple ad firms a call. It's never too early to set up a college fund.

The Mom: Wasn’t there a rock group from the olden days called Mott the Hoople? It was just about when they invented the radio. That was when you were a teen, right?

YB: Hoople, Hoople

GM: They just did a reunion tour in November throughout the UK. They were a late 60’s, early 70’s band with moderate success. 

YB: Bunny Na Na Naaaa 

The Mom: Now listen to him. He’s repeating everything. 

GM: His language is developmentally appropriate. He’s putting 2-3 words together. 

The Mom: At least he didn’t learn to say,

"Pope Francis” despite your best effort. 

YB: Francis Hoople. 

GM: Check please!