Archive for February, 2008


Musical Chairs

With all the discussion of the transfer of power in Cuba, there is a lot of criticism that this is just an adult game of musical chairs.  I tend to agree, though I don’t think the system of government we have set up for ourselves is all that different.  There is little difference between the Republicans and Democrats, which may be why our elections have been so close recently.  There’s a lot of talk about Raul Castro and the small changes he will enact, but how much difference in laws and policies will there be between the administrations of John McCain and Barack Obama (or any other combination of potential Presidents)?  Americans can be all high and mighty if they choose, but the fact remains that sweeping reform is a thing of the past, and will not be the hope of the future until we ignore the mainstream candidates like Huckabee and Hillary and pay more attention to the lesser knowns, like Ron Paul and Denis Kusinich.


Calling Card

It started in 2000 when the National News Media (referred to hereafter as the NNM) called the election for Gore, then for Bush.  It continued unchecked through the 2004 election, and now the beast has grown as the NNM devoured the Primaries and spit them out in the image they chose.  Fights are created between candidates without their knowledge, and anyone in politics commenting at all on any aspect of the Presidential canpaign has their words twisted and contorted until no one really has any idea what anyone is saying. 

Unfortunately, most of the American public doesn’t know that you can’t trust the news, especially those of the generation of Edward R. Murrow and Walter Cronkite.  What I wouldn’t give for just one ounce of integrity in today’s NNM.  Maybe we’d have some idea of what’s actually going on in the world instead of being bombarded by op-ed pieces about soldiers coming home and flags flying high.  It’s an election, dammit, and let’s not forget that there’s also the small matter of the WAR we’ve been fighting.  And let’s stop saying that we’re choosing the “leader of the free world”.  Frankly, it’s insulting to the rest of the world, and it’s not a title we seemed to have earned as of yet.

3,966 US soldier killed in Iraq (yes, that’s still happening, and no, I still don’t think these numbers are accurate)  29,203 US soldiers wounded in Iraq


Poor Roger

I feel bad for Roger Clemens.  Of course, there’s no way of knowing if he’s guilty or not, but if he isn’t, I feel bad for him.  The way the baseball industry has worked this steroid-scandal thing is becoming a bit of a witch hunt.  It only takes one person (usually a trainer who is possibly jealous of being behind-the-scenes) to ruin an athlete’s career long after it has already ended.  Though I’m against athletes using any kind of performance enhancer, I think it should take more than one person’s word before we start throwing these men and women onto the pyre.  Athletes have performed amazing feats without the aide of steroids, and they will again.  It’ll take a while to clear the sports arenas of their demons, but in the end, we’ll know what the human body can accomplish without voodoo magic (or chemicals).  Until then, leave Roger Clemens alone.  It’s been too long for any proof to survive, and without actual evidence, are we really prepared to tear men from their pedestals at a time when we have no one to replace them with?


School Breaks

In a world that is becoming increasingly governed by changes in the weather, I’ve been wondering why schools aren’t taking the cue and rearranging their schedules.  We currently go to school September through June because a majority of the country was once farmland and schooling was arranged around the planting and harvesting seasons.  In rural areas, some schools still set their calenders by those restraints so that students can help out on their family farms.

With school districts basically hemorrhaging money, I wonder why they haven’t looked at changing their calenders so that they spend less on heat or air conditioning.  If you’re going to give the students 12 weeks off of school a year* (that’s a total including Thanksgiving, winter, and spring breaks as well as random holidays), why not set the calender up so that schools in Chicago are off in the winter when it’s most expensive to heat the buildings and schools in Florida are off in mid-summer when it’s most expensive to cool them?  Schools in areas where climate is less of a factor can go all year, with two week breaks scattered throughout (or whatever crazy schedule they decide is right for them).

 *In Philadelphia, the breaks are loaded in the beginning of the year.  We didn’t start until Sept. 10th, and after that, the breaks are loaded in the beginning of the year with one or two days off a month, a half day almost every other week for professional development, two days for Thanksgiving, a week and a half for winter break, and a week for spring break.



When I first wrote about forgiveness, it was in response to a crazed man walking into an Amish school and killing several children.  Our community was just as shocked as the Amish, but the marked difference was in how quickly they were able to forgive the man who terrorized and killed their daughters.  I was amazed, but felt that much could be learned from their willingness to put judgements aside and get along with the business of living, without fear, without anger, without regret.

I have used this lesson with my students this year, and given the volatile nature of the young men and women I work with, I feel it has served me well.  There is an incredible relief evident in the faces of my students when they realize that the teacher they swore at just 24 hours ago is treating them like nothing happened.  It’s not that I ignore the situation.  When something happens, we deal with it immediately and resolve the problem.  Because we do not dismiss students from our program unless their is an extreme situation, students who have screamed obscenities, refused to comply with norms, and, in some cases, became violent with us, are back in our classrooms a day (or very rarely, two days) after their momentary lapse in sanity.

Without the ability to instantly forgive these students and move on to the next challenge, our staff would drop like flies (or at least spend more time in therapy).  This is a technique that I feel is useful with all children, regardless of the degree of their transition.  As adults, we often forget that though their words might hurt us and their actions may be harmful to themselves or others, they are, in fact, just children.  They make mistakes, and they must be forgiven.  If not, we are teaching them that their mistakes are carried with them to be remembered by those they offended whenever it is convenient and that redemption is not possible.

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I am not perfect. I do my best to practice what I preach, but I am human. My mantra is, "DO NO HARM". I may not always succeed, but I will always try. My goal is to be a better person today than I was yesterday.

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