Saturday, May 19, 2007

just for my hubby...

I love you.

I don't know what I'd do with out you.

You really are the best thing to ever happen to me.

I miss you when you are away, even if it's for a little while.

I'm still crazy about you, even when we both have a bad day.

I don't mind that you fold the laundry differently then I do. I need to get over my neurosis.

I'm proud of how hard you work to support us. Let's be honest, your paycheck keeps the lights on.

I want you to be happy and to feel loved.

I hope that your boss and you can figure out how to get you some vacation time before the baby is born so that you get to enjoy the last little while before junior makes his arrival. You know, the two of us with out having to employ a baby sitter for the night.

I love you more then I have words, even when I feel like I'm going crazy.

I can't see my life with out you in it. That's how Mom told me I'd know I picked the right one.

Something happier.

I'm enjoying pregnancy. So far it's been a wonderful experience, though the second trimester morning sickness is not that much fun. There's been some ups and downs, but life generally has been good. Oddly enough, the only concerns that I find myself plagued with are revolving around money. Some of this is obviously due to the fiscal changes that will be coming with the baby and some of this is due to the fact that I will be taking a year off from working at the school. Efforts to plan and prepare for the baby have been helping some to get this worry under control.

Some days, I have some really amazing things happen that gives me hope for the world. Yesterday was one of those days. I can't stop smiling and being endlessly proud of these kids that I work with at the school. As some of my friends may know and I may have stated here, I work with students that are mentally disabled and facing other educational challenges. The majority of the students in the classroom where I am are mentally disabled to the extent that they will most likely not be able to live on their own after they are done with school. Generally, they're of a good disposition and cheerfully face their challenges daily.

We go to the local nursing home to visit and entertain the residents. Earlier this week, I had learned that two of the residents were going to be celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary this weekend. I mentioned this too the kids and next thing I knew we were planning a surprise anniversary party. The students who normally argue like cats and dogs worked together diligently to accomplish this happy goal. Each persons contribution came together beautifully and this couple (who have so warmly embraced these kids and are facing their own share of difficulties) were delighted with the end result. Friday afternoon, we walked in the door with four balloons, a cake, and a card. We walked out with smiles, heartfelt gratitude, and a sense of pride in having done something truly wonderful.

And I think that the kids taught the adults around a valuable lesson that day.

No matter who you are or what you do, a little kindness can go a very long way.

I'm so very, very proud of them.

Summarizing angst/fury for the masses

I've taken some time to review the things that have really been bothering me. I read a few web-comics, looked at some stupid internet pictures, and generally tried to de-stress myself. I'm still awful damn angry about several different things. I'll apologize right now for my use of minor vulgarity. Sometimes, I get so angry that I have a hard time restraining it.

I've got three big points that make me angry. One of them I hit on earlier when I ranted about the degree to which people tolerate the general bullshit that's rampant in the nation's educational system. Mind you, this is bullshit that is focused on staff and faculty conduct and how the institution in question looks at it. The other half of my beef with the educational system can be boiled down into a problem that I have with how there appears to be a systematic effort to reduce the educational part of that system to ... well... a pathetic attempt to cope with one's basic need to feed themselves. I know, that sounds horribly bitter and probably a bit too harsh. From where I stand, though, I've got to say it's hard not to view it that way.

Civics education has been reduced to a memorization of a time line and a vague description of what the different parts of the government is. At one point in time, people were taught about things like why the American Revolution took place, why our government functions the way it does today, and how it developed. Good citizenship wasn't merely a question of who went out and saved the most kittens that month, as many schools have reduced it to. It required something of a basic comprehension of what one's rights were and why they were important. It clarified the motto of the country: E Pluribus Unum. Now, we're lucky if people can recall the things protected in the First Amendment.

You've seen my thoughts on mathematics education. The kind of attitude that's present there is infecting all of the other academic disciplines. What kind of education is a child going to get when they are discouraged from reading material because it is complex? It happens frequently in the local school districts and has been for years. Why is there so much effort being focused on trying to make people forget that matters pertaining to philosophy were once taught in high school? I'm not saying that we should teach religion, at public schools at least. But the methods of philosophical inquiry and discourse are highly valuable skills that not only teach some one how to learn about things but how to think critically. Critical thought is actively being confined to convoluted word problems that are to be solved in methods that hardly make any sense.

I think that is probably what sums up my second, and quite possibly my biggest problem with the educational institutions of this nation. We're not teaching students how to think. We're teaching them how to regurgitate answers, be it factual or propaganda. We're teaching them to rely on technology to solve their problems ranging from simple mathematics to grammar and spelling. These people are not going to have the skills they need to possibly start their own businesses. They simply won't be able to comprehend the various demands placed upon them. When the graduation rate of the nearest major metropolitan center is less then half of the student population and they're hoping to possibly get it to a 60% rate within the next five to ten years, there's a very large problem.

I find myself sickend by the entire mess. It depresses me to see that parents have little clue of just how badly their children are getting screwed. It enrages me to see that the failures of the educational system to actually educate people have been such a protracted matter that there are many parents that don't understand what's wrong. Am I crazy, or is it a teacher's job to empower and guide their students in their efforts to learn, grow, and develop intellectually? Last I checked, that was what teaching was about. What I find myself surrounded by is this ... this stinking morass of incompetence and idiocy run by bureaucrats who desire to pad their already expansive posteriors with the gains wrought by the efforts of others, stolen from the funds reserved for the needs of others, and/or swindled out of the pockets of the local/state/national government in some elaborate embezzlement scheme that's never really mentioned. The educational system, like so many other systems in the government of the nation (on all levels) is rife with corruption and serves to alternately depress and infuriate me.

And then you have non-governmental institutions that are equally despicable. It's more then disgusting to learn how corrupt the health care system is. The entire thing is a protection racket and if you're not participating, you're going to get into a lot of trouble because it's being supported by the government. Sure, you can choose to not have health insurance and not take your kid to the doctors, who are more interested in getting a bigger paycheck then your well being. You can make the free-market choice not to participate in that. At the same time, you will face legal ramifications and the potentiality of having your child taken from you by the government (if not your own imprisonment) for being classed as abusive. It doesn't matter if you can't afford to take Junior to the doctor for that bad cold or that you can't afford the bottle of the prescription medicine. You didn't throw yourself on the altar of greed to make it happen at the expense of your ability to feed your child or go into indentured servitude to the credit card companies.

And folks, please, tell me if I'm wrong about those credit card companies? I don't think I'm going to get a whisper of disagreement anywhere in the house. These people encourage you to sell your freedom so that you can get what you need. The popular culture encourages you to sell your freedom to these abusive taskmasters for the sake of keeping up appearances with the neighbors and having all the creature comforts. Creature comforts that you never truly get to enjoy because you're constantly working to pay off the latest credit card bill. And heaven help you if you can't afford to do so or you can't afford to pay off some other debts! You immediately become fodder for the collection agencies.

Credit collections has become a place where sadists can have a verbal playground. I know, I've been the recipient of much harassment and efforts to make me feel ashamed, afraid, and generally miserable about myself because of the 'shame' that I have for being unable to pay the hospital bills from when I was at college (about 8 yrs ago) on time. I've been denied work in a collections agency because I was too nice. I was willing to work with people to find a reasonable solution that would allow them to pay the debt off over a period of time, even if it was $10 a month. Reason and compassion are two words that are stricken from the vocabulary of debt collections and credit collections. It is replaced with harassment and verbal abuse.

What the hell is wrong with the world? I can't manage to pay my bill on time because I live and work in an economically depressed area. I am making a good faith effort and sending what I can. It is not the minimum that covers the principal balance and the usury charged in addition. So I am some how deserving of verbal abuse, humiliation, and general maltreatment? To add insult to injury, this bill is not for some foolish purchase that I couldn't afford at the time but a life saving emergency procedure that I needed but couldn't afford. One that if I didn't get I would have died?

How is it a crime or some how worthy of such misery to do what you must to live? Especially when said action is not one that is prohibited by law? How is it a crime to be poor? I must be poor because I obviously can not afford to pay these obscenely high rates. If I desired to have housing that would meet my long term needs, I would need to seek the assistances of these brigands in the credit industry. These thieves, mind you, who can freely deny my request for aid because it doesn't look like they'll be able to send in their verbal knee-breakers to get the money out of me fast enough to connive another poor soul into this hell.

Oh, I know, I know. There's public assistance and I have availed myself of it in the past. I'm desperately hoping that we will not need to do so in the future. But if you look at the public assistance programs, they're designed to keep as many people in them as possible. Looking at the current status of the economy, we see that the middle class is struggling to make ends meet. The lower-middle class is just barely more then beggars and they are being told to give up and let themselves be beggars. If you're not making enough to pay all of your bills but you're making too much for public assistance, you're left in the position of trying to save every penny and use every scrap of creativity and luck you have to get through to each paycheck. While my dear husband and I are not at the extremes of this point, we are not financially well enough off to proceed forward as we wish we could.

It makes me angry. My anger is unfocused and mingled with a great deal of sorrow. My ancestors did not fight and die here so that I and my child would some day be indentured servants to some faceless machine. We are not here to be tools of the government, as happens for the people who spread the propaganda in the schools as educational materials, or slaves of the companies, who love to pay a subsistent wage that is only such because of excessively high pricing on things we need. We're here to be free persons building our own lives. Our government is supposed to secure our liberties, not take them away or fool us into believing that they're optional. Our employers and the persons whom we purchase goods and services are not supposed to be working together to reduce us to meaningless pawns where by they trade units of a fictional currency.

But our society.. our miserable and pathetically blind society seems to think this is how it is supposed to be.

And it gets worse as you go farther out into the world.

Once, the United States of America was a place of hope and liberty...

Yep, I'm up on my soap box again.

I suppose I'll apologize to the however many close friends that I have just offended with my rant immediately prior to this post. I had to get it off my chest before I exploded. As in, before I literally spontaneously combusted.

I'll be posting another bit of vitriolic spewing after I eat my dinner. I may not have a working computer at the moment, but I have access to my husband's computer and the internet at my command. I've also got several weeks worth of fury, laughter, and deep thought to share with you. I figure get the angry stuff over with now. Then I can do the fun and "awww, how cute!" things next.

Anybody else, you may want to hang on to your seat. I'm a bit of a tornado at times and I think I've just reached F5 status over a few issues.

You tell me what's wrong with this picture...

A college professor may not be fired for failing to meet academic standards. A plagiarist and known to fabricate material, this professor recently entered the national limelight for his 15 minutes of shame due to a 'controversial' essay making some highly questionable comparisons regarding the victims of 9/11* and Adolf Eichmann.

A first grade substitute teacher drags a student down the hallway by their shirt collar after a minor behavior incident. The school attempts to talk the parent out of going to the authorities and pressing charges of assault.

A teacher repeatedly sexually assaults students. They use their power as a teacher to not only intimidate students into silence but also to cover up their damaging actions. The school attempts to tell the community that the first reported incident is the only blight upon the teacher's career, essentially an attempt cover up the teacher's impropriety for the sake of saving face.

I can continue to list more issues, some recent and some going farther back into history. It's not simply stunning. It's not merely disgusting that I can do a quick and simple search to find it reported in the news of teachers and administrators abusing students, reports that result in firings and convictions. It's not simply embarrassing that I can find reports of teachers and administrators failing to uphold the academic and behavioral standards that they expect of students at any level of education. It is not just idle talk when I hear my co-workers and others within the educational system talking casually about how "upstanding" members of the community, ranging from teachers to law enforcement officials to clergy, provided them with alcohol and encouraged them in it's consumption when they were in high school. Who knows how many more people have similar fond memories of their teen years?

Too many people turn a blind eye to these things. Too many people tolerate this and each time something as harmful as abuse of students or underage drinking is mentioned will explain it away as an isolated incident. Maybe it's just how I was raised, but last I checked, these kinds of things were wrong. Let's forget the moral argument for a moment. (I'm not even going to get into this with your moral relativists out there, I'm making it moot. Read on to see where I'm coming from.)

When a person in a position of power fails to uphold the standards and expectations they are required to enforce, it erodes the power. In the case of dealing with children (I'm sorry, teens, you are still children.), it provides a conflicting example and negates the standards and expectations. Thus, if a teacher commits plagiarism and is not punished for it, the students learn that the rule stating that plagiarism is not tolerated is an optional one to follow. If the same teacher commits this and similar offenses repeatedly, is not punished or given a highly lenient punishment, the rule is undermined to the point of being laughable.

When a person in a position of power abuses their power, it serves to psychologically harm the victim and erode the power of the position. Depending upon the form of abuse, the severity, and the amount, it can prove something that negates the self-worth of the victim, provide the ground work for conditioning the victim for further abuse, and/or instill a lasting psychological trauma (such as seen in cases of PTSD). In cases where the person being abused is a minor, the chances of developing these problems is often higher. It is also likely that the person will not report it for fear of punishment or some other negative repercussions from the abuser.

When an institution fails to punish members who engage in acts that are abusive or failures to meet the established code of conduct, it fails in it's duty. The institution has an implied obligation to the persons who seek anything from them to be honest in their dealings, to maintain their established standards of conduct in all areas, and to correct any instances where these areas are not met. This obligation extends beyond the mere duties to educate (in the case of an academic institution) or to provide medical services (as with a hospital).

This is what we are supposed to expect and it is not unreasonable for us to do so

Schools which fail in their obligations are schools that strive to cover up the impropriety of their faculty and staff; avoid the responsibility of disciplining their faculty and staff for acts that are not concurrent with the established code of conduct; or to intimidate persons into not pursuing redress of their grievances and legitimate claims against the school or it's faculty and staff. This happens on a daily basis all around this country. This is ignored on a daily basis all around this country.

Teachers and staff who abuse students are given a subtle wink of approval when we say that it's just an isolated incident. Academic institutions that refuse to rectify breaches in the social contract that we enter into with them when we are engaging in business with them, we are giving them approval when we pass it off as a tragic but isolated incident. When members of the community who are leaders of it support actions that are detrimental to the health of the youth and are illegal, they are encouraging the very actions they publicly condemn. When the community fails to hold the leaders of the community accountable for their actions, we are supporting them and endorsing their message to the youth.

Now, I have a question for you, dear Reader, why the hell are you tolerating this? Yep, that's right, I just dropped the ball in your court. I recognize that there are going to be some people who feel as I do that this entire mess is beyond inappropriate and is wrong as hell. I recognize that some people are going to be highly offended with me for making the blanket statement that each and every person who reads this is responsible for tolerating and encouraging the social decay of the country. You who are taking a stance against this kind of reprehensible behavior that I've described and pointed out, you know who you are. I'm not here to castigate you, because I'm sure you are as frustrated as I am with it all and probably just as angry.

I'm taking up issue with the persons who hear about these things and don't do a damn thing. They just sigh, turn the page of the newspaper, and get another cup of coffee. I'm taking up issue with the persons who say it's no big deal when there's rampant reports of people who are interacting with the youth of the nation and are abusing them. I'm taking up issue with each and every person who thinks it's not their problem when these kinds of things happen.

It is your problem. It's not just your problem, it's everybody's problem! The longer we tolerate this bullshit, the worse it is going to get. You want to know why kids are bringing guns to school? You want to know why kids are engaging in risky sexual activity at younger and younger ages? You want to have some kind of a clue as to why the hell there is so many problems with the youth of the nation?

It's not the music, the television, the games, or the clothes. It's the culture. It's the fact that we as a nation are not doing a damn thing when all of the wrong lessons are being taught. It's the fact that we as a nation make excuses for the criminal and the hypocritical actions that occur daily. We are neglecting our children. We are neglecting them as surely as if we were to leave a 3 week old infant for a month in the care of a heroin addicted pedophile who has not a single dime for food, not a single care for the health of the child, and is a habitual arsonist on the side. Chances are awful damn slim that the kid is going to live through the experience, never mind come out of it healthy.

Take your kids out and show them the world. Teach them right from wrong. Lastly, for the love of your child, fight like hell when the world is telling them the wrong thing is right and they should agree to be used, abused, and hurt. Empower your children to do the right thing, because they're the ones that will be taking care of you someday.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

No, I have not fallen off the edge of the earth! I promise!

I just don't have internet access unless I steal my husband's computer.

And, since he's a wee bit addicted to it... :)

Well.. you know the score. :)

We're working on a web-page that will tell our friends and family all about what we're up to. He's got some great ideas. Hopefully it will be up soon. :) Currently, I've a *ton* of e-mail to catch up on before he comes and boots me off of the computer. :)