speaking of hope, fear, and daring…

nanoThis is what NaNoWriMo looks like around here. You might see the text in the background — but what I’m talking about is the stress eating.

Ice cream.

For when nothing else will do.

I’m not going to lie; that sad little block of Heath Klondike has nothing on this.

What’s your poison?

Ice Storm 2014

Here are some pictures from around the house earlier today. They’re saying snow is coming next. This little accumulation, about a quarter to half inch of ice, is from freezing rain. The roads in the neighborhood are impassable, so we’re pretty stuck here til the thaw.

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hunkering down for snowpocalypse 2.0 ATL edition

Look. This is a serious weather threat for our area, in spite of all the mockery given the disaster that was Atlanta a couple of weeks ago.  An ice storm is not good news, ever. I can predict, without a meteorology degree, that we’re going to lose power, and that it will be an unfortunate thing for many people.

In our case, we’ve got a fireplace, a gas stove, plenty of food. And we’re inside, so no matter how cold it gets, we’ll have blankets and whatever we need to be fine. I know this may not be the case for many families. I am fearful for the homeless.

But look at this tweet, please. How can we possibly take storms seriously with this kind of crazy hyperbole? Makes me want to NEVER take this guy seriously ever again.

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I’m consoling myself with some bourbon. Over ice. It’s going to be a long week.


and all this time I thought I was the bad parent

I wanted to rant like a crazy woman after reading Allison Benedikt’s manifesto on private schools vs. public schools where she suggests parents who send their children to private schools are bad persons. I really really wanted to be clever and bitingly sarcastic, but when I finally sat down to write, the best I could muster was a little pity.

Her premise certainly got my attention: if parents who have the means to send their children to private school would channel their children into the public school system instead, then the school system would benefit from those parents who would work hard to improve the schools. Not doing so is selfish.

A new spin on distribution of wealth? Only this time, it’s a distribution of homeroom mommies? Seriously?

She acknowledges that this improvement would take generations, and in the meantime, those generations of students who could have had excellent educations, won’t, and it’s no big deal — it’s all worth the sacrifice for the common good. After all, she had a crappy education and doesn’t know anything about art and culture and all that stuff, and look at her, she’s turned out ok.

That’s a pretty odd thing to be proud of, but she’s probably right. One assumes she’s a productive and contributing citizen. Of course, I’m just assuming here….

Benedikt ends her ludicrous “fix” for the state of public education by using the usual emotional appeal, “Don’t just acknowledge your liberal guilt — listen to it.”

I found myself periodically looking at the site’s flag at the top of the page to verify that I didn’t accidentally click on a link to The Onion.

Why should anyone need to feel guilty about being financially successful and in the position to pay for things that will enrich their children’s lives? And why on earth would she demonize those parents and call them “bad persons” or as Max Lindenman clarifies, “bad Americans?”

I pretty much dismissed the whole thing for what it is, the ignorant screed of an attention-hungry misguided koolaid-drinking nut. Or as she self-identifies, judgmental.

Except, she says some things that are true. Or at least sound like they could be true:

I get it: You want an exceptional arts program and computer animation and maybe even Mandarin. You want a cohesive educational philosophy. You want creativity, not teaching to the test. You want great outdoor space and small classrooms and personal attention. You know who else wants those things? Everyone.

Whatever you think your children need—deserve—from their school experience, assume that the parents at the nearby public housing complex want the same.

I think that’s valid in most cases. However, there’s a big difference between wanting something, and wanting something, so you work for it. I want to lose 20 pounds; meanwhile, wait a second while I go serve myself another bowl of ice cream.

Surprisingly, I also agree with Benedikt that the fix will likely take generations, although the solution does not depend upon having parents run strong PTAs. Don’t misunderstand me, strong parental support is not just a good, but an important part of any educational program. Children need to see and know that their parents support them.

The bigger problem, what she doesn’t address at all, is that the public school system(s) needs reform. In fact, more than reform, there needs to be a complete and total makeover. Of the school system and society.

But here’s the thing, we probably don’t even have to focus so much on reform as we do on accountability.

Corruption and a lack of oversight at every level have been damaging our children for decades, and the political machine that re-elects school boards that are more interested in perks than learning are to blame.

So are superintendents who are sycophantic to these boards.

And the principals, who tolerate mediocrity and poor performance.

And teachers who don’t teach.

And students who don’t take responsibility for their learning.


Oh. Did I just say that out loud?

when is the truth not the truth anymore?

Just in time for the beginning of a new school year, in a stunning and over-the-top display of political correctness that reads like an edict published by the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984, the New York Department of Education published a list of words banned in the public schools.

Elizabeth Scalia pointed this out to me on Twitter, referring to the list as asinine. I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I’ve had some days to stew over this, as the new school year invariably also includes attempted book bannings for the same ridiculous asinine political correctness.

I get it. Words are powerful.

They hurt or heal; tear down or lift; wound or love.

The right word can convey a multitude of meanings. In fact, word choice often conveys more about how the speaker feels toward the subject than the subject itself.

For the poet, the right word contains a universe. For the writer, putting the right words together, just so, can turn the piece into a work of art, or at least create one beautifully crafted phrase that sings.

I get why some educators — or possibly policy-makers more than likely — would be sensitive about certain words that carry negative connotations. The wrong word can do a lot of damage.

I’m in my third decade as an educator, so I’ve been watching this trend for a while.

It started nobly enough with inclusive language. No more assuming doctors are “he” and nurses are “she.” Honestly, I don’t take issue with that.

However, it led to a preponderance of pronoun antecedent errors in the composition classroom. Choosing the plural pronoun “they” resolved the issue of sex, and introduced the problem of agreement in number. Because who cares about grammar when political correctness is at stake?

Apparently, no one. Grammar Girl gives a great analysis of this dilemma, but even she doesn’t have a definitive answer. She does, however, point out that the singular “they” will one day be the norm. Sadness.

It’s like a gateway drug. Ok. Maybe a little bit of hyperbole there, but that philosophy expanded to an approach to language that may have been rooted originally in dignity and sensitivity, but opened the door wide-open for all kinds of crack-pottery. Is that a word? It is now, at least until New York weighs in on it.

Anyway, the preferred use of custodian over janitor may have added some well-deserved dignity to an otherwise disparaged job, but when that same position became sanitation engineer I think we started the perilous slide into absurdity.

Dancing around words, using euphemisms, relabeling things — this doesn’t change the truth, it just fools us into believing the lies.

The Ministry of Truth is a fictional construct. Isn’t it? Isn’t it?