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Category Archives: School Days

logical illogical2I remember.

When I started teaching, teachers were able to control a classroom. They had many tools for doing this. The tools ranged from giving a zero for the period to speaking with the child outside the room to detention to calling home to calling the Dean and much more. We had a curriculum and we were responsible for teaching the curriculum. Not only were we rated upon our effectiveness in doing so, but it was important for the kids since the curriculum was cumulative and they needed one semester’s knowledge to be up to speed for the next semester.

When I retired from teaching, all of the tools for keeping order in the classroom were gone. The power had shifted to the children. Some teachers still managed well in this environment, but most were unhappy and ineffective.

So there I was covering a class for an absent teacher, teaching the lesson, and in the midst of the lesson a fourteen year old in the back called out, “I don’t want to learn this s–t, I don’t need to know this s–t, teach me what I want to learn.”

An administrator later told me I should have done just that.

As soon as I was able to, I retired.

Many lessons can be learned from above. There’s lots of literature on the subject, from novels to current studies which show the disintegration of our education system. That disintegration is clear, and its causes are too, but the infusion of big-government and politics has amped up the speed of the descent tremendously.

Let’s go back to the idea that if one feels like a girl today one can use the girl’s bathroom. In high school that’s pretty nefarious. What fifteen year old high school boy hasn’t wanted to peek into the girl’s locker room? Wow! Now they can just go in there and schools lose their Title IX funding if they say no.

It gets better.

If a woman complains about a man in a woman’s dressing room in a department store, she is told to wait until the man is finished. And big business is now involved in asserting pressure on State Legislatures that try to not comply with Federal Regulations and presidential orders regarding these matters. When they attempt to pass legislation to protect the sanctity of the male and female bathrooms, to protect the general gender rights males and females have always enjoyed, big business threatens to leave the state. These, of course, are the same big businesses that do business with countries that   persecute homosexuals, even that put them to death, and that   relegate women to near-slave positions.

It gets even better. There’s a little provision in one of those transgender regulations that says a doctor has to treat a transgender patient according to his/her identity choice as opposed to his/her biology on the day of the visit.

New Rule Requires Doctors To Treat Trans Patients As Their Pretend Sex

I’m not a doctor, so I’m pretty sure I don’t understand what this includes or even understand all the implications. But I am sure it’s ridiculous, even wholly nonsensical, and if I were a doctor, I’d be thinking about quitting or surely restricting my practice. Come to think of it, a lot of doctors have done so in the current medical climate.

Since when does our government have a right to undermine its people’s basic sensibilities? Since when does any big business have a right to use economic pressure to assist the government in doing so? Worse, since when does our government dictate what we can and can’t hear in news reports? What we can believe? What we can believe in?

We have reached the point of absurdity. Without direction and leadership, divided and in chaos, we are sure perish.

As an addendum, today the NBA announced it would not hold its All Star Game next season in  North Carolina because it removed certain anti-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians and bisexuals  from its state legislation. North Carolina requires people to use the bathrooms of their birth gender.

This is a merely a  public showing by the NBA.  Will the NBA move its team there out for the next season or will it continue to do business in North Carolina?  You can’t have it both ways. More than likely, the NBA move today is just another part of their game!

NBA Moves All Star Game for Next Season from North Carolina

 

 

 

 

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spread work ethciSimply put, equalization doesn’t work. The more our studies looking at why things are unfair lay the blame on our institutions or infer that rather than stating it outright, the less we look at individuals and their individual responsibility for the positions they find themselves in. Hence, the further we get from any real solutions to poverty, the wealth gap, education (especially the high school dropout problem), racism, sexism, and any other ism you might want to add.

This isn’t about blame or politics and it isn’t to say that things aren’t unfair or that any of the above doesn’t exist. It is to say, however, that the bulk of our research has gone awry and will never lead toward real solutions for the isms above until we return to looking at what we know works, which in every case begins with individual acceptance of one’s situation, accepting responsibility for one’s self and making individual effort toward changing one’s situation. Or, we will never find solutions if we continue looking away from the role of self, and even then, solutions will not be perfect since there’s no helping anyone who isn’t willing to make an effort on their own behalf and who simply wants freebies.

Honestly, and without doubt, Pediatric Neurosurgeon and former presidential candidate Ben Carson is the paradigm for solutions to the inequality issues in our society. If you don’t know about him, Google him. If you haven’t read what he’s written, or heard him speak, read one of his books and check out his speeches. He came up from the bottom, and in short, he says if he can do it anyone can.

So I taught in the Bronx for twenty-three years, in the ghetto, as they call it, in the combat zone as the NYCDOE used to label it unofficially, where the teachers used to get extra pay unofficially called combat pay, where almost always I was the only Caucasian in the room. Almost every student was from similar circumstances as Ben Carson. Most of the kids were smart. Most of the kids could use their hands to fix things, do hair, etc. None of the minds were any lesser than the minds born into golden-spoon circumstances. Almost all of them were street smart and savvy and could take care of themselves since they lived in a dangerous environment filled with predators of all kinds. All of them were capable of escaping the ghetto if they so chose and were given the right education, mentoring and an opportunity.

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Most of the students where I taught failed for one main reason: absence. They cut school so many times it was statistically impossible to pass. The students who missed for legitimate reasons either made up the work or were offered alternate ways to pass. An education system is not at fault for a student’s failing because s/he didn’t want to go to class. But our society and its education system are at fault for not finding solutions to this issue. And there are many solutions out there.

So first we must own up to the fact that equalization of wealth is not a solution. Take three people, one a hard-working, money-saving  person, one a drinker and one wanting a good time and lots of material things and give them each a thousand dollars then watch them for a few months. Enough said?

Next we must decide if we really want to work on the equal opportunity issue, if we really want to work toward providing opportunity for our peoples here. If after more than 50 years the 23 trillion dollars spent on the war on poverty have not made a noticeable difference in poverty in America, the real question is whether or not we actually want to work on solving the problem.

Finally, we must move away from enabling dependency and compensating lack of effort by making excuses for those who do nothing more than cry out about how unfair life is and how they are owed their own personal happiness and a stipend to support it.

Until we do this, we are locked into a quagmire that goes on indefinitely. Given our history with the issue, one might think our leaders don’t want to solve the problems at hand here. Look at how they benefit while we stay divided. Regardless, equalization doesn’t work and never will. Even if we were a homogeneous society, it wouldn’t work.

 


More BS NationWe all have different life experiences and in America this is both a blessing and a curse. We celebrate who we are, our cultures and our heritages. That’s the blessing. But with such diversity, with such a heterogeneous population, governing this country is a challenge, putting it mildly, more like a nightmare in reality. But so it goes.

Although by the very nature of our population we are not all the same, our leaders would have us believe we all need the same things. In this regard, they would have us believe we all need to go to college. Our leaders have spent a lot of time and money perpetrating and sustaining this narrative, yet it is a myth, a false narrative, one driven in large part by the economic interests of the education industry, and if you don’t believe it’s an industry, check out the dollar-numbers. The revenues of higher education alone exceeded four hundred billion dollars last year. Of course then the education industry has a powerful and wealthy lobby, and whether you like Trump or not, he continually reminds us of how lobbies push for and get things done with our politicians.

Another part of the we-all-need-college myth is that we all are capable of going to college and we all want to go. The second part of that assertion is easily belied by simply asking around. If you are actually in schools, you know the kids who simply can’t wait to be done with it. They’ll tell you straight up. As for the first part of the assertion, that everyone is capable of going to college, that simply is not true although it is the politically correct statement, the right thing to say to parents if you’re a school district leader or if you’re a politician seeking election or reelection. But because it is said does not make it any less of a silly myth perpetuated for the individual and collective interests of those saying it. A simple look at IQs and college fail-out rates will provide a more accurate and realistic picture of who is capable of what.

That last statement is not meant to demean or belittle anyone. With more than thirty years as an educator, one thing I have learned and repeatedly seen is that all kids excel at something and generally their personal interests lean toward what they are good at. My best friend, whom I’ve always used as the example, is a case in point. He could have gone to college. His parents could easily have afforded to send him. He could have “gotten in” since his grades weren’t that bad. But he simply had no interest despite the fact that his sister went to college and set a good example for him to do so and most of his friends went too, including me. What he did have was a great ear, fantastic eye-hand coordination and a keen sense of music, all of which, combined with his personal proclivities, led him to want to be a recording engineer.

As a recording engineer, all his life he’s made a better salary than me, even than me as a teacher at maximum salary with a Doctoral degree. Rather than go to college, he started as an apprentice in a recording studio and went for what he wanted.

That’s the whole point. Many of the myths perpetrated and perpetuated on us are detrimental to us. The reality of education is that career training and apprenticeships are equally viable means to making a living here and so we do not all need college, are not all meant for college, and should not all go to college.  What our educators and politicians owe our kids, each and every one of them, is to provide them with the realm of choices and then provide them with the course of training they desire completely leading to career readiness and job opportunity where applicable.

We live in a BS Nation. Thinking that we should pay for all kids to go to college—look at Hillary and Bernie—is just more of the BS. If you want the proof, look at the collapse of the socialist nations when they run out of other people’s money (OPM), which is the sure end result of socialism. Then look at the Swiss Bank Accounts and other offshore accounts of the leaders of those countries.

 

Don’t forget to pick up a copy of I See My Light, my new novel, here:  I See My Light



hollandaise sauceIn my fist hotel job at the Sheraton On The Square in Cleveland I was the broiler cook for the Falstaff Room, the hotel’s restaurant and cocktail lounge. I’ve written about this hotel before, about the fund raiser banquet we did for Spiro Agnew in the early 1970s, a 5000-plate ballroom banquet complete with Secret Service and machine guns and snipers and all that. I had a good job there. It was easy since generally the restaurant outlet was not too busy. We had little real set up and preparation work and the cocktail waitresses, who were also the food servers, wore French Maid outfits that were more than overtly suggestive, something not unpleasant for a young cook in his early twenties to look at. I worked with Jimmy G. His aunt worked in the pantry, located in its own space behind the open hearth Jimmy and I worked in. Jimmy’s brother was the banquet chef for the hotel.

One of the prep things I had to do was make fresh Hollandaise Sauce every day since it went with one of the vegetables on the menu. I had never made it before this job and Jimmy taught me how to do it, or so I thought. Physically, this work was done in a bain-marie in the main kitchen where I went every day with a cart to pick up all the food needed for the Falstaff Room. Almost everything was made for us in the main kitchen, so I made the Hollandaise, picked up everything we needed and went off the restaurant outlet.

There I was making the sauce. I took the butter, unwrapped it and put it into a bain-marie then set the bain-marie into the steam tank so the butter would melt. While the butter melted I cracked the eggs and separated the yolks from the whites, putting the yolks into the large mixing bowl which, set in the water in the steam tank, was where I would actually make the sauce by whipping in the butter. Voila! Hollandaise Sauce after the lemon juice and the little bit of seasoning was added.

Butter melted and cream separated out of it, yolks ready, I went to work slowly pouring in the butter. As I did this, as he did almost every day, the head chef came by and watched me for a moment. He never said a word. He just watched me as I made the sauce, stood a moment and walked on to do whatever he was about.

Sometimes the sauce broke when I made it, which means that it didn’t thicken or it thickened but then actually separated or thinned; it broke. I didn’t know why, didn’t know what happened. I had to start all over again.

Here’s the point. Jimmy did not teach me the correct way to make the sauce. I doubt he knew the correct way himself. Worse, the head chef, who watched me maybe a few hundred times at different stages of making the sauce, must have known the correct way to make it, but he never took the time to teach me and never even told me I wasn’t doing it right. So what did I think? I thought I was doing it the right way. That chef was either indifferent toward me or simply didn’t care about his kitchen enough to correct me. What he did do, though, was set me up for the failure and embarrassment I was to have later in my cooking career. That was the result of his not taking the appropriate corrective actions for the methodology I was using.

Later on, at the St. Regis Hotel, the head chef told me to make Hollandaise Sauce as part of my tryout for the job. When he saw how I was going about it, he stopped me, told me I didn’t know how to cook, and only by his niceness and because I had been sent to him by someone he knew (that’s another story in itself) did he give me a job, but it was a starting-at-the-bottom-job as a roundsman, a relief cook, where I didn’t actually have to cook anything.

That chef in Cleveland set me up for failure by not teaching me properly, and fail I did, almost not getting the job I so desperately needed at the time.  The school in Stevenson (entry just before this), the NYCDOE and our liberal, politically correct, you-can-do-what-you-want leaders did the same thing to that boy with the 7 bags of pot, and I fear his consequences one day will be a lot worse than mine were.

We are letting our society go to hell in a hand basket. Political correctness and fear of hurting people’s feelings be damned. It is time to simply do the right things and teach the right things when we know what they are.

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Watch for  I See My Light, my new novel coming soon on Amazon. Read  some  about the inner workings of  kitchens  and much, much more than that!


AESStevenson Campus made the TV news a few weeks ago. The story is an interesting one for many reasons. Apparently a young male student was found to have seven bags of marijuana in his book bag. He was issued a warning card which he was to bring home and show to his parents that suggested his parents discuss this matter with him. NY Post Article

The TV show that discussed this issue brought up some points which really need to be considered. First, seven bags of pot is not what you would have for personal consumption and infers intent to sell. Selling is a lot more serious an offense than personal use, though kids using marijuana is bad enough. No matter what the liberal and free-rights advocates claim, drug use is not something good or that should in any way be encouraged. In fact, quite the opposite is true.

Encouraged, here, is the salient word. The net effect of not appropriately disciplining this child is encouraging this child to continue such behavior, and the ramifications of coddling in this issue (and the many more issues like this one) are a thousand times more serious than the actual offense itself. The conclusion that was stated on the TV show was that the system simply does not care about the kids. If it did, it would do its part to teach the child that such behavior is not tolerated inside school or out and that continued behavior would very likely lead to incarceration or worse.

I taught at Stevenson for more than sixteen years. Do I need to tell the story about the student of mine who was shot point blank in the back of the head behind the apartment building across the street from the school because of “a beef?”

This kid could run into rival drug dealers. Consequences from them would be a lot worse than anything the school people or even the police could inflict. This kid could have been robbed, encountered a disgruntled client, you name it, you follow the thread to the end results of any ideas that might pop into your mind for what might happen to this child if efforts are not made to discourage him from continuing in his drug-dealing enterprise.

Clearly several factors are at work here for why the child was not disciplined. One factor is the over-reach of liberalism and the misguided notion that we are all entitled to do whatever we want, the Occupy Wall Street stuff, which when examined for what really occurred gets pretty ugly. A second factor is political correctness, these days in large part illustrated by Eric Holder’s lack-of-Justice Department’s purposefully not enforcing laws against minorities. Follow this thread to its conclusion. Not doing anything in this case is tantamount to not caring about this child and minorities in general, for what is really being done to this child is setting him up for future problems that will affect his life much more negatively than this incident, and that is putting it so mildly that it approaches understatement.

Somewhere down the line everyone has to pay the piper, or we all have to learn that you can’t really do whatever you want to do with disregard for the rules of society. If we aren’t properly taught these lessons in school, what is the purpose of education? Isn’t education supposed to be about preparing us to be productive people who can fare well in our society?

Perhaps, in this particular case, the school, which is not identified, the parents and the police should have had a conference regarding the consequences of such actions in real life, not school life, and surely the student should have been made to do community service. Perhaps he should have been made to do that service in a hospital treating drug addicts.


quill-pen-300x300There was a story the other day about a school district in Chicago where female students spoke out against allowing a transgender student to change in the female locker room. Apparently the school made all sorts of accommodations for this student. The school offered the student her own locker room, gave her full use of girls bathrooms and it allowed her participation on girl’s athletic teams. But she sued the district anyway saying she wanted to feel like a girl in every way and not being able to use the girls’ locker room denied her that feeling. The Federal Government agreed and found the district in violation of Title IX. It then withheld the Federal funds, which turns out to be a considerable sum.  Finally  the school acquiesced and made accommodations inside the locker room.  But in the end, students spoke out against this and so the issue continues.

This one is really a tough one all around. It so fully represents the difficulties our society faces, and on some level that is a tribute to our society. In Russia, this kid and her family would be off to Siberia. In Communist China she would not be allowed to be what she feels she is. In some of the even more harsh totalitarian countries, ones some of our liberal celebrities pay homage to, she would be abused horribly and would then simply disappear one night. In those places she would be forced to suppress what she really feels she is or suffer the ultimate consequence.

In America we try to accommodate this child and in so doing a whole host of issues are created and a whole lot of people are made uncomfortable and even to feel that their personal freedoms and individual beliefs have been violated. And they have, and there’s the rub.

First, I feel for the transgender child. I believe that one can be a female trapped in a male body, or vice versa. And I even believe that these people should be able to be who they feel they are. It’s a really tough one, but that’s part of being free. But I also feel for the females who don’t want to change in a locker room with this child since she still has male body parts. And I don’t think they should be made to do so. No matter what accommodations the school and the school district make, if the females feel uncomfortable, the solution needs reworking and certainly reasonable compromise by both sides.

Some students say that the girls who spoke out have ideological objections to “transgenderism” and that is why they are speaking out. That’s okay too. They are entitled to their beliefs and if here they coincide, so be it. Other female students there say that at their ages, fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, they are uncomfortable changing in front of each other, that that is hard enough. The transgender student just makes it so much worse.

So what’s a school district to do? What’s a school to do? What’s an involved student and an involved parent to do?

For the Federal Government to squeeze the school district financially is wrong. This seems to be one of those political correctness issues for which there is no perfect solution, so to strong-arm a solution is as wrong as the mafia squeezing payoffs. The Feds can’t continue violating citizen’s rights, only selectively enforcing laws and using its power in such personal and private-sensibility issues. Furthermore, the PC police can’t keep upsetting all logic and sensibilities. It is time for the majorities to speak up, talk out and fight for their rights and enforcement of their feelings. So I applaud the students who spoke up here.

Perhaps another type of solution should be offered up. Why not have a transgender student locker room? It would be as equal as a girls locker room and a boys locker room, and as legal as either one under Title IX.  It should be placed right between the girls and boys locker rooms and should be transitional, only for those people in transition who have not completed the journey. If that transgender student is the only one who changes there, so be it. It seems to me that her wanting to be able to feel like a girl in every way, while understandable, is impossible since she is not a girl in every way yet. Her refusal to make any compromise, despite being offered more than one-could-ask for in all other accommodations, moves her into the realm of denying others their one hundred per cent desired feelings. All others accepted the many compromises. Perhaps she should be find it within herself to be compromising too.

Yup, this is a tough one. Clearly though, the Feds should butt out and let the parties concerned find their own solutions.

 

 

 

 

 


no solution2We seem to exist these days within a poverty of solutions, but we surely don’t have a poverty of ideas. Ideas seem plentiful. Unfortunately, however, many of them are reiterations of old ideas we already know don’t work. Solutions, however, those are hard to come by. They’re hard to come by for many reasons. A generally understated one is that our society is complex, the opposite of a homogeneous one. Perhaps in and of itself that says it best.

Still, even within our complex society, one would think we could find solutions to the problems which haunt us. Poverty, inequality, a failing educational system, a dysfunctional government, terrorism, huge national debt, unemployment: oh my. Why that’s like lions and tigers and bears. If only we could click our heels and return to Kansas.

I wonder how many people will not get that reference, and while I hope it’s not a lot, my gut tells me it is a whole generation of people, and maybe more than one generation. Surely the cell phone-video generation is a likely candidate.

In my last year of teaching high school, a fourteen year old freshman student stopped me in the midst of teaching a lesson and told me he didn’t need to learn what I was teaching. He went on to tell me what he wanted to learn. When an administrator not even half my age with not even a tenth of my teaching experience concurred with the youth, I knew it was time to retire, but more important, I knew I’d been clearly presented with a concrete illustration of why we live in the poverty of solutions.

Round about 2003, Mayor Bloomberg set about “reforming” the New York City school system. The idea was based upon sound pedagogical theory, that a smaller class size is preferable since the teacher-to-student ratio is higher. Of course nothing is that simple, but surely the research bears this out for at-risk students. For high achieving students, teacher-student ratio is much less important. A bit more than a decade later, the reform is a failure. They will tell you that the graduation rate is higher and will show you one of their tremendously successful schools every now and then. But they will neglect to remind you that the graduation requirements are much easier or that earning credits is vastly simplified. Moreover, they will rarely show you the many, many failing schools and the ones that have already fallen by the wayside. They won’t tell you that per-student spending is at record levels but we keep falling further and further behind in world standing in education.

The equation kind of goes like this. A bit ago, the powers that be, using another one of those entries from the treasure chest of ideas, decided that the scores on the SATs were too low and would be higher if they changed the scoring system. A really brilliant idea, to be sure. The end result is that now the national average score is 1500 out of 2400. Saying your score is 1500 sure sounds better than saying it’s 900. But what’s the meaning? I was a relatively average student. I got an 1150 out of 1600 on my first try and I never took them again because I knew that was enough for CUNY, which is where I knew I was going to college. Do the math. 1150 out of 1600 is 72% rounded up. 1500 out of 2400 is 63% rounded up. I’d rather have the higher percentage, no matter what the score sounds like.

The two examples above illustrate why we are living within the realm of the poverty of solutions. Appearance weighs more heavily than substance. Changing a school without doing anything with the clientele makes no sense. But it does look better. A 1500 looks better than a 900 or my 1150, but it’s meaningless if it does not represent real gain in overall percentage score. Spending more money per student than any other country sure looks great. So why do we keep slipping in world standings?

Our leaders are scamming us. They are more concerned with making us believe they are solving our problems than they are in actually solving them. This has led us into the era of the poverty of solutions.

Happy New Year everyone. May it be a good one for you all. It certainly looks like it will be an interesting one.