Visceral Reactions

Teachers feel defensive. People readily blame schools for society’s ills and balk at increasing taxes for education when they feel they have no say. It’s increasingly popular in American culture to point fingers, shift blame, and vilify whomever is in the crosshairs of accusation at the moment. 

As a constitutionally conservative educator with over 13 years experience in both private and public schools, I react viscerally to both the culturally Marxist inculcation and virulently self-protective political lobbying of the NEA, and the chest-thumping crass attacks of the self-appointed defenders of tradition who are tired of feeling silenced and marginalized. I live in both worlds. 

This is what I think. 

​1. The fault doesn’t lie necessarily with the teachers. Many of us are fair, balanced, logical, fact-based and aware. I blame the teacher and administrative education programs steeped in “progressive” language and indoctrination, shifting schools from educating individuals with facts to indoctrinating students into “social justice” warriors to fight everything traditional, conservative, faith-based and factual. In other words, most teachers are churned out to be very good little soldiers for the cause: that which has been determined important by Marxist “progressive” elitests. They feel good about what they teach. They feel it’s important to continue moral (socialist) indoctrination. The end (government manipulated utopia) justifies the means. Those of us who don’t fall into the jackbooted line either remain silent with our heads down or risk ostracization and retaliation. Recent surprising comments about inclusion from the new OEA president are heartening, but naturally suspect. 

2. The media, both mainstream and social, should be blamed for hyping every little pet peeve of Minority Group of the Day that feels its needs aren’t being met, and feeding the frenzy that follows. We aren’t interested in listening calmly and discussing logically anymore. The MO now is to label grievances as oppression, and then silence with vilification anyone who disagrees. Attorneys should be ashamed of themselves for willingly participating in this increasingly litigious behavior. 

Media also touts rankings every couple years from some questionable international test given to some kids somewhere that ranks our kids 39th in the world, without accounting for test reliability or vast differences in cultural and educational expectations and outcomes. Until we compare only countries of equal size with equal borders with equal immigration numbers with equal cultural expectations with equal diversity with equal policies regarding who we educate and to what level, it isn’t equal! Stop already with comparisons to Finland and Norway and China. Until we acknowledge how and whom other countries choose to educate and grant citizenship, it’s a moot point. 

3. Parents who raise their kids to feel entitled to do whatever they want without consequence are a problem. Countless excuses run the gamut from how Sally never misbehaves at home so it must be the teacher’s fault or Fred was at his dad’s house and didn’t know about the assignment or Lola is experiencing anxiety about school and can’t do any work or George never gets anything lower than a B, so if he has a C it’s the teacher’s fault. 

Parents who take vacation in the middle of the school year instead of during the summer or scheduled break are a problem. Maybe we can get away with that in elementary schools where, arguably, grades don’t “count,” but pulling kids from high school in the middle of a Shakespeare (biology, chemistry) unit and requesting a packet ahead of time to finish over two weeks in Cabo or Disneyland as if all we do is worksheets and expecting no grade repercussions is irresponsible and selfish. 

Parents who continuously bring forgotten lunches, basketball shoes, homework, permission slips and insist on calling and texting during class, flouting school and classroom policies are a problem. Those computers in their hands take children to places no parent wants to admit, but teachers see the huddled embarrassed giggles over a screen at lunch, the tears as a result of texting fights between couples and hurtful unfriending and destructive rumors. We see the kids who sit alone in the corners of the hallways to eat with unknown individuals across the net, plugged in to whatever they listen to these days, and we see the rampant cheating via test pictures and plagiarism. It’s okay to tell your kids no. They don’t need smart phones, believe it or not. We somehow made it through high school without being constantly connected to mom and dad. 
Of course every child deserves to be heard and worked with individually and there are always anomalies in each situation, but until we decide to set strong expectations, persevere and follow through without enabling irresponsibility, stop insulating our kids from failure and consequences, and start monitoring their activities instead of telling ourselves they are mature enough to handle it, we continue to instill entitlement and bad behavior. 

4. I blame social promotion that allows little Sally to move to third grade when she has missed half of second or hasn’t learned to read, and Fred who hasn’t turned in a single assignment for five years, but still goes on to high school. I blame lenient attendance policies that don’t hold kids or parents accountable, and discipline policies that merely tap the hand. Popular now is the suggestion that minority students ought not be disciplined at all

There are great teachers with brilliant minds in our education system who love students and give far beyond their paycheck. Parents continue to want the best for their kids. We should all agree that what we’re doing isn’t working if what we want in the end is to graduate determined, individual thinkers. If, in the end, we really just want workers who viscerally feel good about themselves because government entities like their perceived morality and celebrate every little thing they do for the Collective, then we are succeeding. 


Melodramatic Oozings

Writing has always been cathartic to me. Arguably, my  “best” stuff oozed from poetic angst (By “best,”  I mean most over-emotional and eye-rolling) .

My early college years were incredibly difficult. On a track scholarship at a very expensive private school, I struggled to make friends, didn’t really like my classes, didn’t have a clue what I wanted to major in, didn’t wear the right clothes and didn’t have any money. I had a couple boyfriends who were, well, boys. They broke my ohsotender heart, and I wrote volumes about it.

As silly as most of my poems are,  they gave the young me a sense of control and peace, a voice when I felt no one listened. Purpose.

Today they give me smiles, memories, thankfulness that I got through that very long phase, and motivation to encourage my students to cathartically “dump their brains on the paper” to find their own voices and take the edge off their emotions.

My favorite poem from my youth slimes sentimental angst. And that’s okay.

(Apologies to my husband and men everywhere):

Men are Slime

Enticing  us with their tantalizing lies

they take hold of our hearts with

crushing grips

and squeeze out every ounce of life.

Leaving us dangling limply in the cold,

they proceed to burrow deep

under our skin

and through our innards

like maggots,

taking advantage of our still warm bodies

to prolong their own

twisted lives.

When the nourishment for their

bloated egos is depleted

they become beautifully sculpted

once again

to snare another trusting female.

Men are slime.


Credit: Rick Fienberg / TravelQuest International / Wilderness Travel

7He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing.

8He bindeth up the waters in his thick clouds; and the cloud is not rent under them.

9He holdeth back the face of his throne, and spreadeth his cloud upon it.

10He hath compassed the waters with bounds, until the day and night come to an end.

11The pillars of heaven tremble and are astonished at his reproof.

12He divideth the sea with his power, and by his understanding he smiteth through the proud.

13By his spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent.

14Lo, these are parts of his ways: but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?

Job 26

In a Trance

Trying to have a conversation with the politically passionate in America today is like running your fingers through a meat grinder. We don’t talk anymore. We scream. We don’t argue; we vilify. We can’t ever agree on any point because then the other side doesn’t lose, and then we can’t be the winners. It’s become a collectivist super bowl of bashing heads, silencing the other with violent rhetoric and, increasingly, physical attacks.

Your political beliefs and your skin color define your individual character. If you don’t agree with my assessment of current events, then you are hateful and I will attack your character until you shut up. I’ll declare that you should be fired and hanged as a warning to others of your ilk. In fact, if I’m a Hillary “progressive,”  I’ll go even further. I’ll stalk you online, post demeaning pictures or information about you, find out where you live and work, send emails to your boss and maybe drive by your house. If I’m a diehard Trumpkin, I’ll yell louder, belittle you and label you a Leftist, regardless your voting record.

White supremacists have garnered press and attention this week. They are, by all accounts, a miniscule number in the American population, and politically right-leaning groups purposely and vehemently disassociate from them. Supremacists are not conservative, not republican, but they are easy to hate, so it’s popular for left-leaning groups to label all “right wing” voters racists.

It’s unthinking. It’s dogs in the red zone. It’s trance-like loyalty to blanket ideology and rumor. Truth doesn’t matter; we create our own. For example, Antifa groups and sympathizers scoured pictures and footage of the rally in Charlottesville, trying to identify participants. When they thought they found a match – or they found one close enough – they “outed” him and began a deliberate attack to destroy his credibility. He works in a university research lab and had nothing to do with the rally. Fortunately for him, the university backed him up and changed the online narrative, but this should terrify us all. What happens when the target is just one of us who doesn’t have the same resources? What happens when the ignorami erroneously identify one of us, track us home, and violently attack? Even if they identify an actual participant, is mob mentality the answer? Vigilante justice has historically terrorized communities. Victims are identified guilty without any due process.

We cannot afford to ignore this precipitous slide into bedlam. We must tell the truth, listen to ideas that we don’t like, know why we believe what we believe, and be able to vocalize it without resorting to ad hominem. Of course we should disagree; diversity of thought is the harbinger of freedom. But logic should always trump emotion.  If we attack and silence and vilify the “other” then what have we accomplished beyond polarization and divisiveness? Wake from the ideological trance and be better humans.

I run because.

At my age there isn’t much to compete in athletically, except an occasional basketball or softball game ,  unless you consider golf athletic. As the years pass, it becomes less appealing to risk another pulled hamstring or lower back emergency.

Also, on the social scale my meter reads: hermit. I’d rather snuggle in with my Words with Friends (mindless escape from reality), British dramas (mindful escape from reality), and Facebook (passionate posting about reality) than make small talk about nonsense with people I don’t like. Team sports were great as a kid, but I prefer working out alone now.

So the beauty of running is this: I choose the time, the weather, the day, the clothing, the pace, the distance, the music, the ruminations. I do my best thinking while I sweat. I’m not particularly fast. I breathe heavy. I spit a lot. I forget to charge my headphones, so Zac Brown and Kidd Rock float along in my wake. I run with my rottweiler/doberman mix who has vitiligo alopecia, so she looks like a cross between an Australian sheepdog and an appaloosa gun dog. A few years ago I occasionally heard cat calls from passing cars. Now I get, “Hey, that’s a beautiful dog!”

It’s all good. I’m certainly not out to impress anyone. The point is that I get out. Running is refreshing exercise for both of us. I run to reduce stress, and so that I can eat cake and hamburgers and prime rib and cocktails. Every month or so I sign up for a local road race to keep me forcing myself out into the sun, cold, rain or, last winter, snow. Last year I began to run 5ks and 10ks. Then, on a whim, my daughter convinced me to run a half marathon with her. I found a training app that tells me exactly when to run and when to walk to build up endurance. I finished my first 13.1 last October in 2 hours 38 minutes, and I wasn’t the last to cross the finish line. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly tired and slow and heavy, I want to yell into the wind, “Hey, whaddya want from me, I’m 50!” and then I get passed by runners in their 70’s. I’ll keep plodding along; I see a slice of German chocolate on the horizon.