Monday, August 22, 2016

I'm coming me

As I write this, I am laying in bed, my bed. That, to you, may not sound all that unusual. For me, it certainly is. You can ask me why, but I honestly do not have an answer as to the how comes? but I have not slept in my own bed since leaving for Afghanistan in January 2008 and when I redeployed home from Afghanistan in April 2009, I did not "return" to my bed. So, in effect, I've not slept upstairs in my house for eight years and seven months!

So I am sure you're wondering where I have been spending my sleeping hours for all this time. Simple answer. On my sofa. Was it uncomfortable? I'd have to say no otherwise, I probably would not have done that for so long.

I could say it is because the upstairs of my home is ungodly hot in the summer months, but no, I don't think that is it... and that wouldn't explain why I haven't slept upstairs in the cooler months.

I could say it was because my son slept in it for nearly two years, but no, not that either. 

Some weird PTSD thing? Who knows? Like I said, I just do not have an answer.

In the end, I guess I will just have to chalk it up to one of those sweet mysteries of life. So I hope I am able to sleep tonight, my first night home--so to speak.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Stuck in the middle with you

Look, I have long supported both Hillary AND Bernie. In a perfect world, I prefer Bernie. In a perfect world, neither Hillary or Bernie would be the Democratic Party's candidate. In a perfect world, I think Martin O'Malley a far better, likeable candidate than both Clinton and Sanders and one with a lot less baggage...

But the voters seem to want drama. The media does, that is for certain.

Both Clinton and Sanders have their strengths and they both have their own particular crosses to bear.

Likewise, who could have predicted someone as asinine as Donald Trump would be the GOP's candidate?

I have said from word 'go' that Sen. Sanders' stance more closely mirror my beliefs. BUT I have also said, whoever get the Democrats' nomination I will wholeheartedly support. Thus far, the voters have tilted toward Mrs. Clinton which leads to tomorrow.

By all reports, Mrs. Clinton is about to lock up her party's nomination. I am guessing that many of Bernie Sanders' supporters subscribe to Common Core math. Catch my drift?

If the race is over tomorrow, it will be time for both camps to kiss and make up. I admire Sanders' supporters enthusiastic zeal. I also admire their energy.

From the start, Senator Sander and former Sec.of State Clinton have repeatedly said that they both are better, more qualified candidates than any being offered from the Republicans, ESPECIALLY Donald Trump.

The Democrat's campaign started off remarkably sensible, but in the past two months, it has turned into senseless bickering, name calling, baiting, etc. I have to ask, why have the two candidates turned to using GOP tactics?

We are better than that.

What I am saying is this: we have two excellent candidates. In the coming days, it will be important to see how those two interact with one another. Will they mend fences or continue bickering?

In the end, how they treat each other is going set the tone for our party and how we fight a Donald Trump, a candidate we know is going to run a campaign dirtier than any in recent memory.

The Democrats can beat Donald Trump. Heck, he's doing a pretty good job of it himself, but if the Democrats want to win, we must unite and start acting like adults again.

I had a conversation with a good friend last week, someone whose opinion I deeply respect. He is a Bernie supporter and feels the Clintons and the DNC are taking younger voters for granted.

I can appreciate that even if I do not totally agree. I also believe this race is more than just about the Presidency. It is as much about the Supreme Court. 

Right now, we have an evenly divided Supreme Court. Either President Obama OR the next President is going to make the call for which way the courts lean in the foreseeable future.

As a gay man, I am quite fearful the courts could tilt back to the right. A lot of hard fought court battles have been won since President Obama took office. 

For many Democrats, we are wondering where Sanders' supporters are going to lead us if he is not the Democrats' nominee. I've heard the claims "if Sanders loses, I am not voting."

Great. I hope you enjoy a Trump presidency.

I certainly can appreciate Sanders' supporters' ethics and principles but those principles will mean absolutely nothing if they "play" Ralph Nader come November.

It is time for us to come together. As a friend of mine said earlier tonight, if Mrs. Clinton clinches the nomination, this is the time for Senator Sanders to play the role of elder statesman AND work hard to help craft the Democrats' platform. 

He has certainly earned that right. He has and can still make a difference. If he plays his cards right, he can truly help start a revolution--one that can make we Democrats proud.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee

Many many years ago, I was sitting in the Cincinnati International Airport for a layover while on a Navy trip. I sat there reading a book, I glanced up as I became aware someone was standing right in front of me. 

Standing there was none other than Muhammad Ali. He waved at me, I stood up and we shook hands. 

Some little kids came running up to him and he then performed a few simple magic tricks for them. He delighted us all.

He didn't say a word. Didn't need to. I was moved by his friendliness and grace. I've never forgotten this simple moment locked in time. 

There won't be another like him. Rest in  peace, Mr. Ali.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Rebooting our Schools

One of my former students sent me a message on Facebook with a video critical of today's educational system and he asked what I thought.... so, here goes.

First, watch this video before going forward.

The video is an interesting indictment of our education system. I agree with many of the points this young man makes, not all, but many. Maybe even most.

As a teacher, I can say that some of us tried to sneak some of this stuff in into an archaic education system that has not progressed as fast as we have over the course of the past 50 years... nor one that welcomed the changes.

I would counter that some of the things he mentioned that we teach seem unimportant and I would say that they are. I will use this as an example, one you might have even thought of.

When I taught Shakespeare I often heard "why do we need this?" Yes, the language was foo foo and much not used anymore, but the situations were valid. Teach Julius Caesar and you can learn about how people can use government to further their goals. Teach Romeo & Juliet and one can learn about the dangers of young love unchecked.

All this done through a back door. Offer these lessons purely as lessons and a lot of kids just roll their eyes, "yeah, there goes those adults again."

I sure cannot speak to what young teachers are being taught today to address these changes.

I have often said that we don't have enough time to teach all the things youth really need to learn. But the shoe also is on the other foot. How many kids rebel against learning things they really need? How many kids have bought into the attitude that school is a waste of time? Some of it is. The teachers who really care try to get around teaching the dull boring stuff and include the stuff that is anything but.

Until we get school boards and politicians out of the classrooms to let teachers do their jobs, a lot of this is not going to change. Let's face it, there are a lot of people out there whose best interests are not served by raising a smart well-educated population. Dumb people are so much easier to lead (just look at Donald Trump's followers).

Businesses complain that young people today are not coming out of school with the skills necessary to compete in today's world, but I would say that a lot of them are using that excuse to ship jobs overseas where the labor force work for peanuts.

What's the answer (in my humble view, here are ten things)?

One: parents must get more involved in their children's education. The number of parents I saw on a regular basis was pitifully woe, and the parents I didn't see are the ones I needed to see most.

Two: weed out teachers who do not do their jobs (I hate to say it, but there were/are plenty of those at Brandywine... but BPS is not alone. Look at the lax, lazy teachers in one school and multiply it by the thousands of schools in this nation and we have a problem.

Three: PAY teachers a decent wage and let them do their jobs.

Four: modernize our schools and curriculums. Stop "cheaping" out on what it costs to operate schools. Have you heard the old adage, "running schools are expensive?" They are, but raising an uneducated population costs more... welfare and prisons cost more.

Five: we must get past the attitude that once one graduates learning is done. We must be lifelong learners.

Six: stop watering/dumbing down the curriculum.

Seven: stop this insane testing every other day (yes, I exaggerate a little--but not really).

Eight: stop insisting that all children must go to college. Not everyone is cut out for college. Technical schools are great for some kids. Internships often can do more than any classroom can offer. We need to have more schools that cater to different types of students. South Bend's schools have a fine arts school, a business school and one geared towards the sciences. Brandywine tries to do this by permitting students to go part time to the other schools that can better afford teaching some of the other disciplines.

Nine: I hate to say it, but the school year needs to be longer, and I advocate splitting it into three terms, not two. Get rid of three-month long summer vacations and instead break up the school year.

Ten: We keep hearing make teachers accountable, but how about making kids accountable? We need smaller schools with smaller classes. This makes accountability far easier to measure. A teacher walking into a class of 15-18 students is far easier to manage than a class of 25-32.

There's a lot more that needs to be done and I sure am not the end all, be all of what a school should be.

This video does an excellent job of showing what's wrong with today's schools, but I wish it would also address what's right. Still, his point is well taken. 

Sadly, schools, as they currently exist, are designed to cater to the masses and not so well to those who are exceptional and to those who are not. We need to change that.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Be the friend they need

We (my colleagues at our Barnes & Noble) lost a very special young man this week. 20 is too damned young to leave this world. Needless to say, today was a hard day for us all.

Christian was loved by us all. Today we saw a loving community and those of us from our store who was present to say their goodbyes. Our managers worked very hard making sure that all who wanted to go to his viewing be afforded that opportunity. I thank them kindly.

Easily, more than 200 people (I would say, maybe 300) from his life made their way to say farewell.

As we looked at the photos of his life that lined the funeral home, we could see a smile in almost every picture... and I think that is how all of us in our store will remember Christian.

He was always smiling, had a soft ready laugh. He was a talented, funny young man whose presence lit the room... and he seemed to be a man with a bright future ahead of him. I often spoke with him about school and his hopes to join the Peace Corps.

Christian, you will be missed... and on a personal note, one that each of us should carry with us at all times. We are a very special family and if any of you know of someone who is suffering from what his pastor called "inner demons," please make sure your friend, your loved one, your coworker, knows that they are loved and not alone.

If only Christian could have seen all of us who came today. I wonder if it would have been enough.

In loving memory
Christian Turner
June 5, 1995 - March 26, 2106