Saturday, February 25, 2006

What is that on Your Tongue?

I have been making all kinds of observations lately regarding the students I teach. Perhaps it is because we are about to go on an extended break and I want to get in my last digs since I won't see my students for a month.

Today, let's talk about what my students eat. When I was a kid, I was a little weird; at least in relation to my peers. At the breakfast table, my brother would be eating his Froot Loops, and I would be eating Nutri-Grain. Sure I enjoy the occasional junk food, but overall, I have always eaten pretty healthy. That makes it even harder for me to come to grips with what I see my students eat every day. Either what they bring to school, or what they eat in the cafeteria makes me want to retch. What is even more frustrating is that much of the behavior I see in class is most likely caused by the crap that my students eat before they come to school, during or between classes, and especially, what they eat for lunch. I would love to be a fly on the wall and watch what some of my "ADHD" students generally eat during the day.

It's late and I'm tired, so let me just expound on a couple bullet points listing my biggest issues:

1.) Flamin' Hot Cheetos - I can tell when a student has been eating this vile snack food - the student's tongue is flamin' red. These are full of artificial coloring and flavor, which studies have shown to be linked to food allergies and hyperactivity.

2.) Flavored Sugar Packets - Try as I might to catch them, some students always get away with consuming these things during class. I know they do, because later on, I find the evidence on my classroom floor. That's what a kid needs at 10 in the morning: pure refined sugar and food coloring.

3.) The Cafeteria Snack Bar - During lunch time, I have occasionally strolled over to the cafeteria to see what is going on over there, and let me tell you, it ain't pretty. The chaos is such that I can't spend very much time there before I go sprinting back to the solitude of my empty classroom. During the time I have been able to endure, I have noted that the students have two options in the cafeteria. They can get the free or reduced price regular meal, or they can spend their own money at the snack bar, which serves pizza, fried foods, and drinks loaded with sugar. This is just what they need to consume before showing up for my afternoon classes (!). The regular meal is nothing to shout about either. It is all prepackaged or prepared in a microwave. I attended elementary and middle school in the 1980s. The food wasn't gourmet, but it was prepared mostly from scratch by honest to goodness cooks who worked all day in that cafeteria. Of course I and my fellow students complained about the food at the time, but the food served in today's school cafeterias really does make the fare that I received 20 years ago truly seem like a gourmet meal.

4.) Not a Brown Bag Lunch to be Seen - I always chuckle when I overhear students complaining about having to spend most of their lunchtime standing in line at the cafeteria. I have asked some of those students why they don't just bring their own lunch, so that way, they won't have to stand in line at all. The students usually look at me as if I am from another solar system. I think that some of my students might not know that the option of brown-bagging their lunch even exists.

I find it so funny that educators, doctors, and politicians wring their hands about the obesity and bad health epidemics that are plaguing today's youth, and yet, look at what kind of food these same people serve our youth, or allow to be served to our youth. Meanwhile, I am the one in the frontline trenches who has to deal with the behavioral fallout of these horrible choices of nutrition.

Good Day to You, Sir (and while your sitting there, pass the vegetables!)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Cartoonists Strike Back

A big hat tip to Evan Maloney of Brain Terminal, who linked to a collection of cartoons that poke some serious fun at the hypocrisy and lunacy of the practitioners of the Religion of Peace who have gotten their panties in a wad over a bunch of mediocre cartoons that dare to depict Muhammad. Meanwhile, these same nutjobs have little to say about the violence, terrorism, intimidation, and general nastiness that their fellow Muslims have shown toward people of other religions the world over. Just to wet your appetite, I posted my favorite above, but the others are just as sharp and clever as this one. Check it out, and remember, if the cartoon seems too small to read, just click on it and it will enlarge.

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

To Spank, or Not to Spank? That is the Question

As the father of a 20 month old boy, I am quickly approaching the period of a child's development that we all dread: the Terrible Twos (and Threes, from what I have heard). My son has already shown little hints of defiance as he figures out that he is his own person and that he can do what he wants if he can get away with it.

The question is, what should be done about it. Once upon a time, the answer was simple; you spanked your kid if he or she misbehaved. Then along came the 1950s, and parents were taught by Dr. Spock and others that the rod should be spared. Of course, the kids of the 1950s grew into the authority-defying hippies and protesters of the 1960s and 1970s, so that isn't much of an endorsement of not spanking.

But seriously, it is difficult to be in favor of spanking (as I am), when it seems the world is now against it. And again, look at the results; I see them every day in my classroom. If parents truly don't spank as much as they used to, I can't help but wonder if that doesn't show up in the absolute defiance of their offspring that I see walking my campus every day.

My wife and I don't see eye to eye on this issue. She is much more reluctant to spank than I am. Don't take that to mean that I am sitting here salivating and twisting my proverbial mustache, waiting for my son to screw up so I can take a belt to his hide; not at all. But when my son (and my soon-to-arrive daughter) get a little older, and defiance can truly become an issue, will spanking be on the table as an option in our house?

One of the common arguments of anti-spankers is that it teaches your kid that the only way to solve problems is through violence. Well, if you just haul off and smack your kid at will, that may be true. But that is not the way that healthy constructive spanking is supposed to work. Spanking is supposed to be a deliberate and planned act that is done when passions have cooled.
My wife and I receive a weekly newsletter from a company called BabyCenter. They give updates on the growth of our daughter who currently resides in my wife's abdomen. They also give advice on raising the kids you already have. In the current newsletter, they give advice on disciplining your 20 month old. Regarding spanking, they say, "Spanking does not teach children anything but fear, and that aggression is a way to solve problems." So spanking your kid will cause your kid to fear you. Let's hear what Robert Surgenor has to say. He is a retired Ohio police officer who runs the Ohio Family Defense Network. He writes of domestic violence call he worked where a 15 year old boy had beaten the tar out of his parents:
I interviewed the mother to determine why the boy had become so violent. The mother stated that they had simply tried to restrain the boy from leaving the house after curfew. Not wishing to comply with his parent's authority, he proceeded to punch the daylights out of both mom and dad. Mom explained that they had lost control of the boy at an early age, as young as three or four years old. He simply refused to do what they said. "We've tried everything," she sobbed. "We've tried time outs, we've tried grounding him, we've taken privileges away, it just seems like nothing works." I then asked mom a very simple question. "When he was three years old and refused to do what you said, did you ever spank him?" Mom became very angry as her eyes narrowed to slits and she gritted her teeth. With blood running down her face from a broken nose, she replied, "We don't believe in spanking. Violence begets violence!" (My emphasis).
Sounds to me like relying on only timeouts and other non-contact means of discipline made the kid violent enough. Does this kid sound like he fears his parents? Detective Surgenor went on to explain what the real result of proper use of spanking can beget:
I didn't tell the mom how ridiculous she sounded. During the next nineteen years I heard that statement from many parents who were trying to deal with out of control children. It soon became apparent to me that children who had never been spanked were more likely to get in trouble in school, in trouble with the law, and were more likely to grow up with an attitude of complete defiance of authority. It appeared that spanking a child for certain types of misbehavior instilled the healthy fear and respect for authority that is missing in many of today's youth.
I can think of quite a few students I teach (more like "attempt to teach"), who truly have no fear of authority, least of all my authority. I am quite sure that they have probably not been spanked. On the other hand, I fear that a lot of them get the opposite treatment from their so-called parents, which is a benign neglect in which the students have had to fend for themselves and consequently have become honorary residents of the island inhabited by the Lord of the Flies. Those children lost respect for authority as well; not from the misapplication of discipline by authority, but by an absence of any authority at all.

So, again, to spank or not to spank? It is something that my wife and I will have to talk about and pray about until we can come to a consensus. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking, and our children keep growing.

Good Day to You, Sir (SMACK!)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Nope, No Media Bias Here!

Is it just me, or does the breathless reporting by the mainstream media of the Cheney hunting accident make you think - just a little - that they would love to see Harry Whittington (the shootee) die? I have seen plenty of biased reporting before, but the leftist media have been unable to contain themselves over this Cheney shooting. One only had to watch supposedly objective reporter Dana Milbank of the Washington Post giving an interview in the hunting garb pictured above. What an ass!

A bumper sticker that was almost instantly released gets the last laugh however. It says: I would rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than go for a drive with Ted Kennedy.

Good Day to You, Sir

God's Country

The fam and I recently spent a weekend in San Diego. On one of our excursions, we crossed the bridge over to Coronado. We didn't know this, but the beach right near the Hotel Del is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, we knew there was a nice beach there, but what impressed us was how clean and well kept the beach is: No trash, beautiful talcum-like sand, the sidewalks were swept, the public bathrooms were clean. Of course, you have to remember, this is Coronado we're talking about here ($$$). We had a picnic on the beach, and then it was time to give my son a little water time; he loves the water, even the Pacific in February! I took him down to the tide line, readied the camera, let him go, snapped the shot, then ran like hell to catch him before he made it to the surf without me! Believe me, those waves were bigger than they look in the picture.

Good Day to You, Sir

Let the Whining Begin!

At my school of employ, our current term is soon coming to an end. And like clockwork, students with worried looks on their faces are beginning to darken my classroom door during lunch and after school as they come in to ask me what they can do to bring their grade up or to pass my class before the term ends. The funny thing is that during class time just about every day, I remind students of what they need to do to pass my class, and that is to do their homework and get decent scores on their quizzes and tests. Unfortunately, for too many of my students, homework takes a back seat to hanging with their homies and doing Lord-only-knows-what after school. I tell my students until I am blue in the face that if they don't do their homework, they will fail my class - it is not a threat, it is a mathematical certainty. The point values I give for homework assignments constitute enough of their overall grade that a student who shirks the homework will not have enough points to pass the class. Does this motivate my students to do their homework? I don't know. I think human nature and parental pressure dictate that situation more than anything I can say or do. I have the conscientous students who always do all their homework with glee. Then I have the medium students who do most of their homework, but probably only because their parents have their foot firmly planted on the student's neck; sometimes literally. Then I have the students who wouldn't do their homework if they had a gun barrel shoved in their mouth. The most tragic students are the ones who are constantly pushed, begged to, pleaded with, and cajoled by their parents to do their schoolwork; the student knows that he needs to do his school work; and yet the student just doesn't get it done. Those are the students who come to me in the last two weeks of the term and say, "What can I do to bring up my grade?" And it is their parents who call me and ask, "What can my son/daughter do to bring up his/her grade?" I feel for these parents of these non-responsive offspring, but I'm sorry, your little darling has done nothing for the entire term, and now it is time for the kid to take his lumps and face the consequences his choices have wrought. If those consequences mean attending Saturday or Summer School, then so be it.

I hate to drag out an old cliche', but when it comes to teaching, I can bring the student to the subject matter, but I can't make him learn. I can't follow him home after school and make sure he does his homework; that is the parents' job. When I talk to these parents on the phone or meet with them in person, they often talk tough about the steps they have taken toward attempting to get their child to produce, but somehow, I get the feeling that in reality, a lot of this tough talk is simply a bunch of hot air. I bet these students still get to go out on weekends with their friends, and still get to watch TV in their room and play video games. I just don't believe that many of these parents are truly making their kids face any consequences for not performing to their potential at school.

Just another day in the life of a teacher...

Good Day to You, Sir

Sunday, February 12, 2006

How Dare You Call Me Violent! For That, I Shall Kill You!

I realize that I'm a day late and a dollar short regarding this whole Mohammad cartoon scandal, but I just have to put in my two cents. Back in September 2005, a newspaper from Denmark called the Jylland-Posten ran some editorial cartoons lampooning Mohammad and his role in some of the excesses of Islam. The most famous of these shows a caricature of Mohammad with his turban in the shape of bomb that has been lit. It took a few months, but the cartoons began making the rounds. Soon, many practitioners of the religion of peace who only need an excuse and not a reason, began to take to the streets to protest these cartoons. The funny thing is I don't even think they are so upset about the cartoons making fun of Mohammad, as they are angry about Mohammad being depicted in any capacity at all. For those of you not in the know, apparently, Mohammad is not supposed to be shown in pictures at all. Now, when I say that the Muslims took to the street and protested, I mean they really protested. In countries throughout the Muslim world, protesters have burned down Danish consulates, burned the Danish and American flags, threatened to kidnap westerners and especially Europeans, and with their protest signs, have called for the execution and beheading of anyone who denigrates Mohammad or Islam. How insane is that? These cartoons make the point that Islam is a religion prone to violence, so the religion's practitioners take to the streets and prove the cartoons' point. So, point taken: no one is to criticize Islam in any form whatsoever, for great violence will come down upon you if you do.

The hypocrisy of this position is overwhelming to say the least. The cartoon I posted above - courtesy of Filibuster Cartoons - illustrates this breathtaking hypocrisy in no uncertain terms. Honest to God, in many Muslim countries, schoolchildren are taught that Jews are bloodthirsty vampires who kill Muslims, drink their blood and harvest their organs. Do Jews take to the streets and burn down buildings in response? Didn't think so. Then, let us talk about the denigration of Christianity. A few years back, an "artist" named Andre Serrano took a crucifix, put it in a jar of his own urine, and called this masterpiece Piss Christ. Did Christians take to the street and call for the death of the "artist"? Didn't think so. Also a few years back, another artist displayed his work in a NYC art museum that depicted the virgin Mary with elephant dung being one of the ingredients in the painting. Again, no calls for the "artist's" beheading. So it seems that it is only Islam that cannot take criticism. Let us not forget about the famous fatwa against Salman Rushdie for insulting Mohammad with his book The Satanic Verses. Mr. Rushdie had to hide out for years as Muslims the world over sought him out so they could kill him. The fatwa was lifted a few years ago before anyone could carry out the death sentence on Mr. Rushdie. One member of the arts who did not get off so lucky was Theo Van Gogh, a filmmaker from the Netherlands. A couple of years ago, Mr. Van Gogh made a short film that was critical toward the treatment of women in Muslim society. For this "crime" against Islam, Mr. Van Gogh was attacked on the streets of Amsterdam where he was shot off his bicycle by a Dutch Muslim named Mohammad Boyeri. After Mr. Van Gogh fell to the ground, Boyeri stabbed Mr. Van Gogh then slit his throat, nearly decapitating him; all of this in broad daylight on a busy Amsterdam street.

The worst part about all of this is that much of the major media on both sides of the Atlantic are capitulating to the Muslims by criticizing the publishing of the cartoons, and refusing to run them in their own newspapers or show them on television. In a recent article, the New York Times had no problem showing the photo of the virgin Mary elephant dung painting even as they said that out of respect to the Muslim religion, they would not show the Mohammad cartoons. Even the U.S. government made a statement condemning the Danes for publishing the cartoons.

Rather than post any further cartoons on this blog entry, allow me to provide you with a link to Human Events Online, where you can view all the controversial Mohammad cartoons.

Good Day to You, Sir

Friday, February 03, 2006

God's Country

In this edition of God's Country, we revisit one of my favorite areas in the world, the vicinity of Mount Shasta in lovely northern California. And like I always say, if you only look at Mount Shasta itself and ignore the surrounding area, you are missing out. I took this photo from an exit off I-5, about three or four miles north of the city of Weed. You are looking in a westerly direction at some low hills that are a part of the Siskiyou or Klamath mountain range - I can't remember which. Mount Shasta is to my left. The Shasta Valley is a beautiful expanse that runs from just north of Weed, to the city of Yreka, about 25 miles away to the north. The valley is full of volcanic rock and hummocks that have been spewed from Mount Shasta over the centuries. The volcanic rock was used during the 1800s by Chinese laborers to build property boundaries in the valley. Many of these low rock walls still stand today; visible from your car as you zoom along on I-5.

Good Day to You, Sir

The Cult of Inaccuracy

You've seen it: A boy, sometimes a girl, but mostly a boy, walking down the street. His baseball cap is on sideways, he is wearing an untucked oversize t-shirt (usually with a grimacing Mac Dre on the front of it) that reaches down to mid-thigh. Then you notice something way out of whack. Even with the enormously oversized t-shirt, you can still see this kid's back pockets. They seem to be almost even with his knees. All this is finished off with a pair of $200 basketball shoes, usually unlaced. Unfortunately, this has been the style of dress of a good number of our youth since about 1995. I thought it would go away quite a while ago, and it pains me to say that it hasn't.

Author, Dr. Samuel Blumenfeld, has a name for this manner of dress, and the usually slovenly manners, speech, and academic performance that often accompany it: the cult of inaccuracy.
According to Dr. Blumenfeld, the refusal of our youth to do anything accurately can be tied to the current faddish teaching strategies in our nation's schools. If kids aren't expected to read, write, spell, or speak accurately, then why should they dress accurately?

As a teacher, sagging pants is probably my biggest pet peeve - that and the gold teeth, called "grills", that I see more and more black boys sporting. I have yet to see a boy of any other race but black wear these grills. When that changes, I will be the first to let you know. I think what bothers me the most about these sagging pants is where the style comes from: prison. These boys are emulating and romanticizing a style popularized by the scum of our society. That's not exactly the role model you want your kids looking up to now is it? What further bothers me is the fact that I don't really want to see these boys' underwear as they clumsily walk to class, holding their books with one hand, and their pants with the other as they try to keep their pants from falling down as they walk. Would you really want to spend your life with your pants in a constant state of nearly dropping to the floor? I understand cops want this style of dress to remain popular with perpetrators, as you may be able to walk in sagging pants, but just try running in them!

I know it is like trying to empty the ocean with a bucket, but I will continue to tell students on campus to pull their pants up. It is a violation of our school dress code, and even if most of the other teachers have given up, I won't. Some might look at this as being petty and a waste of time on my part, but hey, we all have our hobbies; this is one of mine.

Good Day to You, Sir (and please pull up your pants)