Holding

Dru’s first day of Kindergarten was today.  He’s been excited for a while, and woke up this morning bright and cheerful and excited about the day.  He was very helpful and ready to go 10 minutes early.  We were so excited for him, and (of course) a little sad, but mostly excited.  And very happy that he has an internal drive and love of learning which many people (young and old) have lost somewhere along the way.

Of course it was emotional…my little boy is hitting a big milestone, but I promised myself not to be the mom holding him back, passing on any anxiety or worry.  I wouldn’t cry and upset him.  And I didn’t.  He cried a bit, mostly nerves I think, since he couldn’t stop talking about his day once we picked him up.  Yet it made me think, as parents, what are we imparting to our children.  We want to hold on to them as long as possible, but those parents who hover and interfere constantly make me angry and sad all at once.  I’m angry that as a society we encourage a culture of fear that makes parents feel a visceral desire to constantly be alert for any and all dangers.  When Dru is at a playground, I’m the mom sitting on a bench, chatting or reading while he plays.  Other parents are walking their (same age) kids over bridges and encouraging them to come down slides, because they have no innate sense that they can do it themselves.  If Mom or Dad is always there ready to catch them, why should they learn to take the leap?  Now, that’s not to say that I think my 4.5 year old should be allowed to jump into the pool unattended (let’s be reasonable here folks), but we need to let our kids build their self-esteem.  And the only way to do that is themselves…we can’t do it for them by always making sure they succeed.  Kids are smart, they can feel the difference between when they accomplish something – opening the cereal box…even if it gets all over the kitchen – and when someone else does it for them, and then tells them they’ve done a good job.  Self-esteem is aptly labeled…it needs to come from inside yourself.  I’m sad for these kids (and parents) because where are they going to be in 5, 10, 20 years?  What happens when that child is an adult, and they go in for a job interview and don’t get the job?  Mom or Dad can’t come to the rescue then…and we’re seeing the effects of this already.

I saw it in the schools, and I see it in the kids that are around everywhere…”I’m awesome/smart/pretty/etc. so I DESERVE this.”  NO.

When I worked as a trainer in a restaurant in New Orleans, one of our managers always used to tell us to hold a 10 over every trainee’s head.  We used to laugh, and make fun of it (still sometimes it’ll come up as a joke), but thinking about it now, I see it.  We should hold that high standard over everyone…strive for excellence.  Instead, we’re saying, as a culture, that since not everyone can reach a 10 – let’s bring that standard down to a 7, or give people a boost to start from a 4.

We’re only hurting ourselves.  As a culture, and a nation, we used to be the leader in education and STEM industries.  We’re nowhere near that now.  Some people want to blame the teachers, some want to blame the politicians.  We need to hold ourselves responsible.  Teachers and politicians aren’t in our homes or raising our kids (though unfortunately, in some cases, teachers are given that task as well).  We blame them when something horrible happens, or we fail to meet a standard, but we never look at what we’re saying as a culture.  As a culture, we glorify and idolize celebrities who do nothing more than make fools of themselves.  We ridicule those who seek to improve themselves as “stuck-up” or elitist.  Yet we still want to claim that we’re the greatest in the world.

If we’re not striving for and pursuing excellence in everything we do, what right do we have to claim excellence?  NONE.  As a nation, as parents, as individuals, we need to be holding 10’s over everyone.  Yes, some people will fall short.  Not everyone is good at everything.  I SUCK at higher math and yard work.  I know this about myself.  Hold yourself and those around you to a higher standard.  Hold your elected officials to a higher standard.  If everyone does that, we’ll meet it – we’ll have no choice but to do that.

Judging

So, Kris is currently away in North Carolina for work, as well as to apartment hunt for the move in early August.  Of course, for me, not only does this mean getting the bed all to myself, but it also means that I can watch all those movies that Kris hates when I watch.  Whenever I watch movies that make me blubber like an idiot, or sputter with rage, poor Kris always has to bring me back to normal, so I try and watch those movies only when he’s not around, sparing him from having to deal with me.

In this vein, I recently watched :”Snow Falling on Cedars” for the first time in years.  I had watched it when it first came out, and remembered being upset over the way that things were handled (not by the film, but in a historical sense), but looking back as an adult with everything that has been going on politically in the past decade or so, it made me even more ragey (yes, that’s now a word).  There are a number of wonderful bits in this movie.  One of my favorites is the closing arguments delivered by the defense attorney.

Here’s my rant…we, as Americans, pride ourselves on being the bastion of democracy and equality in the world. I’m not going to go off on my tangent about the fact that we’re not really a democracy at all right now.  Someone remind me of that later, please.  Anyway, despite this blaring contention of equality, we have a really crappy history of inequality.  Everyone knows about the race issues that arose from slavery and the Civil Right’s Movement, but very few people talk about or seem to remember our other atrocities.

As much as I am not a fan of Bill Clinton in many ways, he was the first member of our government to apologize for what we did to Japanese Americans during World War II.  The FIRST.  In 1993, half a century after the fact.  That is deplorable.  We took citizens and their property, placed them in “internment camps” based solely on the fact that they were different.  All the while, we were fighting against the Third Reich, claiming to be fighting for freedom.  And guess what guys, internment camps was simply a different way of saying concentration camps (but no, we couldn’t, and still can’t, use that term, because that’s what the Nazis did, and the Nazis were BAD).  Well, sorry to hit you with the ugly truth, but America we were BAD too.*

I realize that there were people at the time (and since) who spoke out against this as unjust, un-American, and whatnot, but unfortunately, they were hugely overborne by the silent masses who stood by.  Or by the vocal and horrible masses who pushed for and encouraged these acts.

We did it to the Native Americans, we did it to the Japanese, we went on a psychotic hunt for Communists in the 1950s.  And now we’re doing it to Muslims, Middle Eastern people, and anyone who seems to disagree with the government.

Why is it that we, as a people who supposedly value truth, freedom, and equality, are constantly letting fear and hatred form national policy?

The saying “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” (whatever its provenance) holds true here.  If we consider our hypocrisy throughout our entire history, we must start to consider how other countries (both allies and not) view us.  We are a country that proclaims equality and freedom, and yet was the last Western country to outlaw slavery.  We are a country that flaunts its freedoms in the faces of others, yet continually reelect politicians who take away our freedoms.

Who are we as a nation?  Shouldn’t we be judging ourselves first, instead of other countries for their issues?  Let’s fix ourselves before we try to fix others.  Let’s stop doing nothing, and actively start making the world a better place for our children.  A more compassionate and open-minded place.

 

*Note, I just looked this up, and apparently the process was started with the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, but no formal public apology was made at that time.  Also, that act specifically excluded any foreign-born Japanese prisoners from receiving any restitution.  So the process was formalized and concluded in 1993.  But still.

Changing

Today, a number of my friends, and other people across the country, changed their Facebook profile photos and statuses to reflect their support of equal marriage rights.

I am all for equal rights for everything, marriage or otherwise.

Here’s my issue however…how many of you who are posting these kinds of activism messages on Facebook actually get out there and do your part in your community?  I know a number of you do, and that’s awesome, but for those of you who don’t, why not?  Facebook is a wonderful way to share your feelings, lives, and photos with friends, but for the most part, the people you are friends with are going to have a similar life outlook to you.  So it’s not surprising to me that many of my friends support equal rights, because they are my friends, and I like to associate with people who support similar issues.

But, in the real world, off the internet, and off of Facebook, are you proudly touting that same message?  Did you vote this past election season?  If you did, did you research your candidates fully, or just choose based on what party you thought you supported?  Do you write to your elected officials when a vote is approaching?  I’ve been writing to my elected officials for years.  I still remember a while back writing to our State Rep when we were still in Massachusetts.  The State House had recently begun to consider a breed ban, and I thought it was a bad idea.  So I wrote to our local Rep.  I had no idea where he stood on breed specific legislation (BSL), because it wasn’t something that had come up during his campaign, but I felt strongly about the issue.  Well, shortly thereafter, I received a letter back from his office (maybe it was even from him personally, I can’t remember) stating that he also was against BSL and would not support any legislation along those lines.  That added a point in his favor when the next election came around in my book.  I’ve done it for other issues as well.  I don’t usually get a response to my letters, but I know that I feel more active that I’ve sent them.  Because I know that my voice is being sent to my elected official.  And then I pay attention to how they vote on the issues that are important to me.  Any politician can say they’re pro- or anti- an issue, but they can’t deny a voting record.  So if an issue is truly important to you, educate yourself!

Know your local, state and federal laws on any subject you deem important enough to stand up for.  And then do it more than on the internet.  If you feel that gay rights is a hugely important issue, donate your time to a local group that supports gay rights.  If you feel that gun rights are important, go to a demonstration.  Whatever your issue, put your body where your mouth is.

Your physical presence (monetary as well, though I know that’s not always possible) is infinitely more effective than your Facebook presence.  If you want to change the world, don’t just sit behind your keyboard and talk about it, do it.

And yes, I know this blog seems to be doing just that, but at least I can say I’m actively involved in supporting issues important to me. :-p

Testing

So here comes another political rant…

So we were just sitting around and discussing Nancy Pelosi’s most recent foul up regarding the Constitution.  Apparently, over the weekend, she gave an interview where she confused the first and second Amendments.  And this is not the first time she’s shown a complete lack of knowledge of the basics of our system.

Unfortunately, she’s not the only one who is so woefully ignorant.  And even scarier, many of those people are in positions of power within the government.  Part of the oath all members of Congress swear is to uphold and defend the Constitution.  How can we expect, or trust them to do that if they don’t know what it is?

So here’s my newest proposal…all elected officials have to pass the citizenship test that we expect others to pass to become citizens.  If it’s important enough for new citizens to have to know the information contained in the test, I would think it would be even more important for anyone directly affecting the policies under the Constitution to also have to know what is involved in it. And I think it should be an ongoing thing…like a driver’s exam.  Every other term, they have to pass the citizenship test to be eligible to make the ballot.  We already require them to submit a sufficient numbers of signatures, so why not submit a passing grade on a citizenship test as well?

I think it would make for more responsible and educated representatives, as well as for avoiding looking like complete morons to the rest of the world when the House Minority Leader can’t even make coherent arguments using the Amendments as backup.  It’s disgraceful and she (and we) should be embarrassed.

Spending

Dear federal government:

In re the fiscal cliff…I have a suggestion.  Cut all your salaries.  You barely get anything done and make more money than the average citizen that you supposedly represent.  Instead of making 6 figure salaries, how about only making the average salary for a citizen in the area you represent?  This would cut a huge amount from federal spending.

Also, while freedom of religion is important, that doesn’t mean that religious institutions should be tax exempt, unless they can meet the non-profit standards that non religious entities have to meet.

If anyone or there is actually listening within the government, let me know, I have more suggestions.

Sincerely,
Rachael

Banning

So I know I haven’t blogged in a while, despite my attempt to pick it back up earlier this year.  I’ll try and do an update post later.  But Kris just saw this article, and it got my blood boiling

NYC schools are moving to ban 50 words from standardized testing for their students because they’re too “loaded” and can cause distress, etc.

I pulled the complete list of words from here, but I’ll list them again with my reactions:

  • Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological) – This is counterproductive.  This is just going to make abuse victims think it’s something to be ashamed of, and make getting them to come forward even harder.  
  • Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs – Good luck mentioning the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.  Or Prohibition.
  • Birthday celebrations (and birthdays) – This one is just silly.  Birthdays happen.  While some religions (Jehovah’s Witness comes to mind immediately) don’t celebrate them, it doesn’t mean that they’re offensive.
  • Bodily functions – Hope they don’t plan on asking any biology or anatomy questions on standardized tests.  I can see it now: “Please name the part of your body that allows you to see: A. eyes   B. nose   C. ears   D. throat”  NYC schools – NO, THAT QUESTION IS OFFENSIVE!
  • Cancer (and other diseases) – Cancer sucks.  It’s probably affected someone in almost everyone’s life.  My grandpa died from cancer, both grandmas had cancer and multiple other people in my life have had cancer.  It’s a fact of life.  It’s not going to go away just because it’s not on the NYC approved word list.  Same with other diseases.
  • Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes) – Good luck testing on current events, history, or literature.  Kris and I made it through Katrina, and I don’t have a conniption if natural disasters are mentioned.  
  • Celebrities – In general, I kind of agree with this one.  There’s not usually a reason to discuss celebrities on a standardized test.  I’m sure there are exceptions.  But I also don’t really see the issue with having mention of them.  If people can’t handle that other are more famous or richer than they are, they need to grow up.
  • Children dealing with serious issues – This cuts out a large amount of classic literature which EVERYONE in the country reads.  Secret Garden, Number the Stars, and other books like them were written specifically to show children/young adults that you can live THROUGH traumatic situations.  By cutting mention of these out of standardized testing your HARMING their emotional and social development.
  • Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia) – Again, literature is rife with references to smoking.  I can’t believe that there isn’t a kid left out there that hasn’t gotten the message that smoking is bad for you.  Guess what, people do things that are bad for them.  WE CAN’T and SHOULDN’T mandate that they stop.  So talking about it isn’t going to make a difference.
  • Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting) – Kids know that life isn’t fair – especially those who can’t afford luxuries.  Being patronizing by implying that they can’t handle the mention that other people are well-off is just, well, patronizing.  And rude.  And counterproductive.
  • Crime – REALLY?!  REALLY?!  Are you kidding?  Does anyone really believe that kids in NYC don’t know that crime exists, and have their own coping mechanisms.  Do we really want to be teaching them that denial is a POSITIVE coping mechanism?  I THINK NOT.
  • Death and disease – See cancer, crime, et al
  • Divorce – See above.  Do not treat children/young adults as if they’re fragile.  They’re not, and it’s rude and patronizing to do so.
  • Evolution – Seeing as every public school is required to teach evolution as science, this is a dumb idea.  There is nothing else to even say to this one.
  • Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes – See my response to the computer item.
  • Gambling involving money – I’m not sure I even understand this one.  How does talking about gambling involving money harm anyone?  And it’s going to seriously put a damper on literature and history as well.
  • Halloween – Seeing as the current celebration has NOTHING to do with religion anymore, this is silly.  It’s a commercialized candy grab.  Now, I love me some candy, so I’m not knocking Halloween, but the argument that it celebrates paganism is tossed about so much that most people don’t actually even know what the roots of the holiday are.  So unless those opposed don’t participate in ANY form of the holiday, including All Saint’s Day at their local church, they need to shut up.
  • Homelessness – Counter-productive.  Not talking about social issues does not make them go away – just like cancer.
  • Homes with swimming pools – See computers, et al
  • Hunting – People eat animals.  Meat may be murder, but it’s tasty tasty murder.  It’s how we made it to the top of the food-chain.
  • Junk food – It’s yummy – see cigarettes.
  • In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge – DUMB.  I have rarely ever seen a in-depth discussion of any sport on a standardized test – much less one that requires prior knowledge (unless that knowledge is that the sport exists).  “Regarding the trajectory of a baseball traveling from 1st to 2nd base.  If the length of the baseline is 30 ft, and it takes 7.2 seconds to travel that distance, how fast is the ball traveling.”  THIS IS NOT BASEBALL TALK.  IT’S MATH!  
  • Loss of employment – Yes, being unemployed sucks.  But again, like homelessness and cancer, it won’t go away if you ignore it.
  • Nuclear weapons – Uh oh, sorry WWII, you didn’t actually end in the Pacific Theater, because we CAN’T TALK ABOUT NUCLEAR WEAPONS.  Oh, invasion of Iraq over WMDs?  NOPE, can’t talk about you either.  COLD WAR – BWAH HAHAHAHHAHA, get out of here.
  • Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling) – Bye-bye literature, exposure to other cultures, and general open-mindedness.  Hello McCarthy.  (Oh wait, can we talk about him?  NOPE POLITICS)
  • Parapsychology – Does this REALLY come up often on standardized tests?  REALLY?
  • Politics – Well…so…history…stuff happened…because of…well…stuff.  And then…oh wait, nope, can’t mention that either…
  • Pornography – Well, there goes certain discussions of history and laws.  Oh wait, politics already killed history.  Why not take the icing too?
  • Poverty – See homelessness et al
  • Rap Music – Again, I can’t imagine how often this is really an issue.
  • Religion – Bye-bye what’s left of history.  Religion and politics are going to go hang themselves in a corner now.
  • Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan) – As long as the test isn’t promoting that one holiday is better/more important/shinier/whatever, it’s not that big of a deal.  Why are we trying to shelter kids from things that they are going to experience in the real world.  THIS IS NOT HELPING CHILDREN!
  • Rock-and-Roll music – Wait, did we just time travel to Footloose?  I know they just remade it…but wow…
  • Running away – In general, I think running away can be a good thing.  Especially if there’s a jaguar chasing you.  And I’m sorry Maniac Magee, but you are no longer classic literature.
  • Sex – If there was anything left of history after removing politics and religion, it’s gone now.  Sex, please join the other two in the corner.
  • Slavery – “Please list the main motivating factor for the Civil War   A. Slavery   B. States Rights  C. Abraham Lincoln’s Hat   D.  White Supremacy.  Well, I guess the answer is C, since the others all WERE LEFT OFF AS OPTIONS”
  • Terrorism – I’m almost positive that terrorism is something that children everywhere in the country (but especially in NYC) know that terrorism exists.  Pretending that it doesn’t by not mentioning it is patronizing, rude, and utterly pointless.
  • Television and video games (excessive use) – See cancer, gambling, et al
  • Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters) – This is so vague and broad that my extreme fear of spiders could be traumatic.  So I would theoretically be in my rights to boycott my Regent’s Exam because there was a spider question?  NO.  FAIL.  
  • Vermin (rats and roaches) – While Indiana Jones had issues with vermin, they have been major players in history.  Black Plague ring a bell for anyone?  Oh wait, that’s a disease, and history – so it’s already out of the running.
  • Violence – Sorry history, apparently you REALLY pissed off some councilmen.  Maybe they needed a better history teacher.
  • War and bloodshed – See violence.  Also, that Civil War question.  Now it’s reads like a Jeopardy question: “What is Abraham Lincoln’s Hat?”
  • Weapons (guns, knives, etc.) – See Alcohol, cigarettes, and well, pretty much everything.
  • Witchcraft, sorcery, etc. – Bye bye literature again.  
In conclusion, NYC Department of Education, you are misnamed.  You are aiming to remove all the things we are trying to teach our youngsters.  Sheltering children from real world issues is not a good thing.  It’s why people enter the real world and can’t handle it.  We need to stop treating our youth like they’re stupid and fragile, and instead give them the tools to deal with issues when they arise.  The Department of Education would better spend their time ensuring that every child has access to a physically safe environment and to teacher’s who have the tools to do their jobs, instead of pushing for asinine rules which are detrimental to their students.

Occupying

So, everyone knows about all of the Occupy movements around the country.  But no one really seems to be able to codify what the goal is.  Is it social change?  Economic?

Maybe it’s all of the above, but frankly, a widely split focus in a movement like this is just detrimental to getting anything done.  What I want to know, is how many of the people at these events are there because they believe strongly in activism, and have a goal in mind which they can articulate, and how many are there because it’s fun, an excuse to rebel, etc.?

How many of the Occupiers went and voted on Election Day?

Most of the articles, blogs etc that I read about what’s going on aren’t helping the cause.  Either they’re completely against the movement, or they’re written and commented on by people who are adding to the “crazy” label that is being applied by those against.

I was reading a post today about a NY Judge (Karen Smith) who, while acting as a legal observer to the OWS protests was assaulted by a cop when she tried to get him to stop assaulting another woman.  I agree with the fact that this is a horrible thing – not only was the cop assaulting a woman, he then assaulted a woman who identified herself as a legal observer.  I am in no way saying that the judge matters more than the other woman (as commenters on the other page were thinking, implying or whatever) but I am saying that it’s made worse in this case because he went after someone who was there to make sure that he was not abusing his authority, and did so after knowing who she was.  This shows me that this cop (and any others around him who didn’t step in) is out of control.

In reading through the comments on the page, only about 5% or 10% were actually coherent, non-inflammatory, or based in fact.  This can’t be helping the outside view for the general population.  As an observer, when the only people supporting a cause are those who appear to be crazy or ignorant, I shy away from that cause.

Having people who actually are able to express themselves well, who can communicate without cursing constantly, and have the ability to use facts and logic is going to be a better weapon on behalf of the movement than crazed whining ever will be.

So, if you’re involved in Occupy, please, help me out, tell me what you’re protesting for, and what other methods you have used, or are willing to use.  I’m truly curious.