Archive for the ‘life’ Category

The Problem of Illegals

October 20, 2013

us-mexico-border

I understand a lot about this issue as I was born and raised in Texas and spent twenty-five years of my life in Arizona where the wall against the illegals could not be built fast enough, it seems.

Not only did I grow up with many Hispanic friends, my wife is the granddaughter of two illegal immigrants as well. Her grandfather came across the border at age eight to make a life for himself and met his wife when her family skipped across the border when she was fourteen.

They raised ten kids and many grandkids who have become valuable neighbors and productive citizens including doctors, accountants, and lawyers. And my wife, of course.

The problem with the illegals is more involved than simply trying to keep them out. The will to survive is what drives them northward, into the land of milk and honey, the United States.

Of course, their country could become a better place too if our big monied interests would quit their manipulations of the markets and politicians in that country.

No, I don’t see it as any sort of conspiracy but I do see it as a business model that has worked remarkably well. So well that it has pressured the citizens of Mexico to leave their dwindling economic system for one that is superior.

It is a problem we have created on our own, a problem made by our own system.

We bled their country to make ours greater, then we object when they are drawn to the light.



Shallow Differentiations

August 25, 2013

I grew up in the late 50’s and the turbulent 60’s.

When the Civil Rights movement came along, I marched for the cause. I was not the only white person in the marches – although our number was a decided minority in those activities – but it seemed the right thing to do.

For some strange reason, I saw no sense in the entire “race” issue.

My German grandfather was a Southern Baptist minister and many of the churches in which he preached were predominantly black parishes. Whenever we visited, we attended the church he was currently ministering.

The parishioners were more animated than the usual church we visited in Maryland and the singing of the hymns was quite a bit more vibrant.

And, as we usually visited in the middle of June, we helped celebrate Granddad’s birthday, which just happened to fall on Juneteenth. He always threw a huge picnic for the church with fried chicken and homemade ice cream.

That was my background. The idea that the color of skin meant anything was a foreign concept.

Our neighbors in Maryland were the first interracial couple I ever met.

So, it was a little odd when I saw the reaction of my first wife a few years later, when a dark-skinned boy walked our daughter home from school.

I was out front working on the car that day and thanked the young man for walking her home and we talked for a couple of minutes – his name was Alex and he was grinning ear to ear – before the wife came out and hustled the daughter into the house.

After the fellow left, I went inside to see what the agitation was about.

My wife was explaining to our six year old girl that having that sort of person as a friend was okay but not to let it go any further.

Flabbergasted, I asked her what she was talking about. The two kids were only six years old. What was she so afraid of?

“You wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one of them, would you?”

Amazingly, we were still married for six more years.


Why should skin color even matter? There are all different shades of white, brown, and black. Trying to separate them out seems a pointless task.

I still cannot understand that way of thinking.


The “N” Word: “Nonsense”

June 21, 2013

n

Several months ago, Gwyneth Paltrow got in a bit of hot water for using the “N” word. Many negroes/colored people/African-Americans/blacks complained about her using the term even if it was to a close friend who happened to be black and a rapper.

Today, I hear that Paula Deen has been sued and fired from her television show for allegedly using the “N” word some seven years ago – which she denies.

I have always disliked hearing any slurs used regardless of the target and in this country there have been a lot of bigots using a lot of various racial/religious/sexual slurs. Sad but true.

In this case it has been confusing to me to know exactly which label to use as it has changed over the years. It used to be “Negro” (as in United Negro College Fund [UNCF]) or “Colored People” (as in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People [NAACP]).

Somewhere it changed to “African-American” (as in Council on African American Affairs [CAAA]) and then to “Black” (as in Black Entertainment Television” [BET]).

I can think of no other racial identity that been so mercurial, so fluid in so short a span of time.

But the part of this that is so disturbing today is that the “N” term is used quite widely, everyday on the streets of America, in malls, grocery stores and movie theaters. I hear it often. Yes, it is used by the same Black people who object to its use!

They claim it is fine unless it is used by a white person.

I really hate to break it to everyone but that is called racism. When you say something is all right for one race to use but not another, that is discriminating due to race, pure and simple.

It is objectionable to hear the “N” term whether it is spoken by a Black, an Hispanic, a Native American, a Caucasian, an African American, an Italian American, a Greek, or trailer park trash, but until the rappers quit using the term and until the Blacks in America quit using the term when discussing one another, I cannot support any demonizing of any non-Black for using the term.

The insanity has to stop somewhere.

Snowden has shown the government is lying to us and spying on us, the banks have been manipulating the stock markets for years, and there is an unjust war going on overseas.

Why must some people focus on an alleged term used by a chef maybe some seven years ago?

Is there a complete disconnect with the priorities in this society?


Loosen Up, It’s Just Science

April 29, 2013

There are so many people who get irate when debating religion. The same is true for science.

If the article infers that “nature” may have a few more tricks up her sleeve than Man understands, the commenters will claim the writer is talking about religion.

Religionists and those of a more scientific bent seem to be missing the “flexible thinking” gene, if there is one.

I saw a recent article about the “God gene”, for those people who seem to have a predisposition to following that sort of thinking. So, I assume there must be a gene for those of the scientific mindset. I mean, if you think such things are ruled by something like genetics.


In the old days, what passed for “science” would today be called “philosophy of science”. People developing anything from the knowledge learned were called “artisans”.

Today, it is a little different. Even the technicians, developers, and engineers are included in the grouping of “scientists”. Yes, the discipline has moved away from the idea of merely observing nature to gain a greater understanding of life – though this is still done in many areas – most are concerned with how it can be manipulated for our benefit. Well, of course! That’s where the money is.

Science has always been knowledge and the studies toward that end. Today, many say science is “truth” but that was never its goal.

There is a famous quote by Isaac Asimov that I love: “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not ‘Eureka!’ but ‘That’s funny…'”

It sounds as if something unexpected is what he was talking about. Unexpected and not something already supported by all the theories.

I find it very sad, especially around the web, that there are so many commenters railing again writers and websites for being such obvious idiots!

These types of people act like they know-it-all. In other words, they are not scientists.

And their flaming comments can be ignored.


Dangerous Black Men (a.k.a. Racial Profiling)

April 5, 2013

blade

I have seen killers released from prison after only a few years behind bars. Not the high-profile cases, of course, but some of the smaller or non-profiled ones.

Then we come to those most heinous of crimes, dog-fighting. Yes, Michael Vick served three years for such a hideous crime. Thus proving that not all celebrities are coddled in our judicial system.

And then there is Wesley Snipes, serving three years for tax evasion, proving once again that it is not nice to try and fool Uncle Sugar.

Still, it seems there is some disparity in their sentences.

Milken, the junk-bond king, served two years after stealing tons of money. Sure he paid a billion back but is still a billionaire. Snipes was cheated… but then his crime was against the government, not a bunch of retired middle class people investing their retirement funds.

And then there is Loeb brothers and Enron and… well, the list goes on and on, but you get the point.

Black males – including celebrities – are getting the shaft.

Is it all some bizarre form of “backlash” for the OJSimpson trial.

You know, where everyone says he was actually guilty?

Well, he wasn’t. In this country, the jury decides innocence and guilt, and they declared him innocent. So, regardless of how much you know, or think you know about the case, the man IS innocent of the crime because the jury declared it so.

But the punishments handed down for most of the blacks in the system seem to have been a fact long before the OJ trial occurred.

It seems to be a case of racial profiling.

Leaning In May Not Be the Answer

April 2, 2013

leanin

Many people much wiser than I have already observed that it is next-to-impossible to change any entrenched system from within.

The only way to change it is to built a better system outside the first and make the other obsolete.

It works in science, in business, and in government.

Ron Paul attempted to change the latter from within but his was a single voice in the wilderness for thirty years without success.

And it is unfortunate that in terms of government, the “making the other obsolete” usually entails a violent revolution.

In the business world, that sort of chaos is not necessary. Simply starting a newer better system of business that operates successfully is enough to win the day.

Businesses are, if nothing else, very concerned with staying competitive and if it requires some major overhaul then that is where they will go.

In the comedy film “Crazy People”, Dudley Moore played an advertising man who had gotten slightly unhinged and was committed to an institution.

When it was discovered his wacky ad campaigns based on truth were actually successful, others tried to imitate his techniques and it required a quantum leap many were unable to make.

So trying to get more women involved at the highest levels of management is a great idea. Just don’t try and do it in the business models being currently used.

Sheryl Sandberg has written a book about how to get more women to the higher levels in government and business. I’ve heard all her suggestions before and it is basically: act more like a man. Do what men do to succeed.

Trying to make women be nothing more than surrogate men in dresses, utilizing the same tools and techniques that serve the male-driven system well, is not my idea of a good thing.

Years ago, a push began to “equalize” the situation by bringing more women into the top positions. There seemed to be early success but then the percentage seemed to stop rising. Efforts since then have not increased the numbers much. But the same thing happened in STEM careers. There is a huge push currently to bring more women into those fields as well but the numbers there have not changed in thirty years.

The reason why – in BOTH cases – is that all the women who can display those male traits have already succeeded in the male-dominated fields. Trying to get more women to act like men just isn’t going to cut the mustard. Now or at any time in the future. (Thank goodness!)

Maybe I’m wrong but I think women can work better being women, designing a completely different system based on their strengths rather than simply trying to imitate men.

What that would look like, I don’t know. But then, I’m not a woman. But I do know that men and women are different for a fundamental reason and it goes far beyond merely child-bearing.

They need to make a new, better system, and access the talents that are theirs alone.

We already have seen what the male-dominated system can do.


Parenting 101

March 5, 2013

scolding


Many parents read voraciously about “parenting” and how to do it correctly.

Many parents weigh in over the nature vs. nurture discussion wondering which is the correct methodology.

Many parents think they have done something wrong when their children do no turn out perfect.

Having raised five of the small critters and sent them out into the world as fledgling adults, I can tell you straight out:

We are not here to teach our children much of anything, we are here to learn from them.

Now before I hear the complaints come rolling in from the scientific set, I will throw you a bone. Yes, your genetics play a very large part in the creation of the child’s body.

But to think the child is the physical body is to make a quantum leap beyond all the wildest extrapolations of generations of philosophers. It has not been proven and it never will.

The person is pretty much fully formed at birth. I have seen behaviors displayed by children in their first month that showed what they would be as adults. And it had nothing to do with the parenting “skills” of their adult caregivers.

Yes, we are here to give them a safe environment to grow, to help guide them in their interests and so forth, but that’s really about it.

Our interactions with them show us who we are, our failings, our strengths, and where we need improvement in our lives.

It is true that we can model certain things for them but – believe me! – if they are not already so inclined, all the modeling and discipline in the world is not going to change them fundamentally.

Nurturing them, helping them, guiding them. It may not sound like much but even that is a full time job. And it keeps us on our toes.

As well as teaches us a little bit more about who we are.

And all those parents out there too busy with careers to actually get very involved in the raising of their kids, you can ignore this post.

How Learning Actually Occurs

December 12, 2012

Teachers are proud of their place in our society and proud of their role in the enormous task with which they have been entrusted.

There is even the popular bumper sticker: “If You Can Read This, Thank a Teacher”.

Yes, teachers are the very backbone of our society. But that backbone is often bent, misshapen, or broken.

And, if the truth be told, they do not actually “teach” anything.


Now, before people go on the warpath and find some rope to lynch me for such sacrilege, let me clarify one thing: how exactly does anyone learn anything?

Even a cursory look at Pavlov’s experiments with the dogs will answer that one for you. And, no, it is not through stress and torture and food deprivation.

We learn things ourselves because it tends toward survival. And not everyone learns these things at the same speed. And not everyone has the same take on exactly what “survival” means to them.

Simply put, anything that improves the welfare of our mind/body/spirit is deemed pro-survival. Anything detrimental to that triumvirate is considered anti-survival.


But let’s extend the example a little bit further than Pavlov.

Let’s say you are trying to grasp a concept in class… say how numbers work… and the teachers puts up example after example of math in action…

But you just stare. The concept is completely foreign to you. Math! Addition! What utter nonsense! Who could possibly have a use for such things?

And then the kid sitting next to you gets it. And then another kid in the back of the room gets it. Suddenly, you realize that maybe this does have some importance, some relevance… If nothing else, you know you will become a laughingstock if you do not get it.

You puzzle over it for a time until the light bulb goes on and you see what the heck is going on with all the weird things the teacher is writing on the board.


Now, the tough question… where was the teaching done? Did the teacher actually bring the idea, the abstract concept into your head?

No. You did it yourself.

Certainly the presenting of examples was part of the process, the teacher’s guiding your attention to various parts of the process helped as well, but did the teacher actually teach you anything? No. You did it yourself.

The teachers have to realize their role is simply as a facilitator, a guide in this process. For them to think they actual teach is a bit of a stretch and it gives them some sense of power that was never theirs to begin with.

Having children copy information down, over and over, learning to recite data, repeat things by rote, is all fine and good but it is NOT teaching.

Studies through the years have shown this is the most effective way at “teaching” because it forces the child to go over the data again and again, and those same studies have shown that continuous exposure to the data will – in many cases – eventually cause it to become lodged in the child’s brain.

Unfortunately, those same studies also show that in very few cases do the children actually learn the concepts, though they can repeat the data well enough to get them through the battery of state tests.

There are even children who excel at taking tests. They know how to study for them and how to score well on them. Yet many of them have no understanding of the subject matter.


So we have a wonderful population of robotic drones with great test scores!

And America’s place at the forefront of scholarship and technological advancement slips ever so slowly from the top of the list…

We have become mediocre.

And we had better figure out a way out of the quagmire before we lose too many more generations through a lack of proper education.


Survival is the key to learning. Anything that brings happy, fulfilled beings leans heavy toward the survival side of the scale. If this is one key to the problem, it is only one.

Another key, and probably more important, is the natural state of children. This is the one key that should be utilized most heavily in education but it is usually ignored and quite often killed as brutally as possible: a child’s natural curiosity.

Rather than attempting to shove data down their throats, one needs only create a mystery about something and the child will generally move toward it. If the mystery is presented strong enough (not forcefully, but interestingly enough for the child) the teacher, as facilitator, will not have to do anything but get out of the way and let the child discover the answer.

Make resources available for the child to uncover the mystery and their curiosity will drive them to find the answer. Getting off-track? The facilitator can nurture them back on the task, with questions and instilling more curiosity.

Working with the basic temperament of children is so much more efficacious than trying to stifle their natural gifts. Use their powers, direct their strengths.


Another natural gift of children is the love of play. If “learning” was more like “playing” they would embrace it all the more quickly.

Quite often in pre-K and kindergarten, the teachers play games with the kids and help them learn that way. Why not continue the practice in later years as well?

Older children love to play as well even though recess and such physical activities are usually phased out of the curriculum in favor of more rigorous forms of (boring) rote learning.


This is not to say that children instructed for years in the normal manner used at present cannot become contributing members of society, because they can. And they do.

I just wonder, though, how much further we could all go if the education system was designed to be teaching human children rather than Pavlov’s dogs?

Advocating for Your Child… Gone Bad

December 2, 2012

Fairfax County is one of the most progressive counties in the nation and a firm believer in offering “better” opportunities for their “gifted” children.

Unfortunately, the very concept is self-defeating as much as it is self-indulgent.

One young girl I heard about, a 2nd grader, got accepted at one of the gifted learning centers. Her parents were overjoyed at the prospect but the girl herself was quite happy where she was. Her friends were there and the school she had been attending had ample after-school activities that she loved.

Her mom talked her into trying the advanced center for a year. If she did not like it, she could transfer back to the school she loved. It was a hard sell – a year being an awful long time to a seven year old – but the mother finally prevailed.

At the end of the year, I saw the young lady and she was so happy to be coming back to school she left. The advanced center was so “nose-to-the-grindstone” that it was boring and the new school had absolutely no after-school activities or summer programs like her former school.

Two weeks later, she was very disappointed. It seems the mom had told her one year wasn’t long enough to give the new school a fair shot and said to give it another year…


And you know what happened at the end of the second year…


The girl is now in fifth grade after spending much of the summer hanging out at her old school, wishing she could be involved in some of the wonderful summer activities going on there. But she could do nothing more than stare through the fence at the kids learning happily, doing science experiments and investigating nature, IN nature… not in some stuffy classroom… you know, like in those advanced academic centers.

Advocating for your child is good.

Lying to them – for any reason – does not set a good precedent for any sort of a bright future.

Even if you assume the ends justify the means, they do not.

It would have been better to simply endure the tantrum the child would have thrown or the weeks of sulking to “lay the law down” in the beginning.


And it is a shame in this case that the young girl got the raw end of the deal because those gifted centers are not all they are cracked up to be.

Sure, they are geared toward the advanced children but the level of enrichment is decidedly less as they assume the parents are advocating other enrichment for their children outside of school. Which this girl’s parents could not afford.

The teachers at the gifted centers know their children will not fall anywhere near the bottom of the academic barrel and so they do not try that hard, merely pumping data into the young minds like it is some sort of an Einstein-assembly-line.

I am not saying the teachers are necessarily doing bad work, it is just that that system is heavily flawed.


I feel sorry for the children abused in this manner in the name of “progress”.

And shame on the mothers and fathers who force that kind of slipshod education on their kids.

Especially to the point of lying to them about how “good” it is for them…

Or is this just some prideful posturing for the parents?

Progeria

November 28, 2012

Sixth grade was a rather strange year for me: new school, new friends.

And the teacher had the desks set up so that we were all partnered with another student. My partner was a student named Steve who I barely got to know before he wasn’t there any more.

Two weeks into the schoolyear, he was stricken with a medical malady and hospitalized. He no longer attended the school and his chair sat empty.

Around the beginning of March, six months later, we learned that he had died of some form of brain cancer.

My younger brother was in Steve’s brother’s class and I learned a lot about the guy through that connection and it always made me wish he would have stuck around. He seemed like a really great guy. Maybe he would have made a change in the world. I know he made a change in me.

But there were two other kids in the class I got closer to. One was Mitch, a mentally handicapped guy whose parents insisted he get a “normal” education. Steve and I had been assigned to help his deskmate, Lloyd, in assisting Mitch in his classwork.

It was certainly a challenge but I learned some of how the world looked through Mitch’s eyes. And they were bright, inquisitive eyes, despite the challenges he faced.

The other guy I ran with was athletic and gifted with both a sharp mind and an easy humor. Halfway through the year, his hair began to turn gray. I asked him why and he said he had a rare disease called progeria.

Progeria is a disorder that causes the body to age faster than normal. It does not always cause the aging process to be X times faster in everyone, and the rates differ from person to person.

At twelve years old, he was progressing into what should have been his sixties. And by the end of the year, as the rest of us were teaming up to play baseball at recess, he had to plead exhaustion. Yes, arthritis was setting in.

His family went away for the summer – abroad, I think – to try and find some alleviation for his dilemma so I did not see him until Junior High started in the fall.

His eyes were still piercing blue and dancing with light but the body was a wreck. His hair was completely white and the hairline was receding quickly. And his once athletic frame was now restricted to a wheelchair.

Still, he was happy to see his friends again and to share in the adventure that was another school year.

Sadly, he did not live to finish the year.

Life is often thought to be too short by half. So many people lie in their deathbeds, shaking their frail fists up at the God who would cut their lives so short when the patriarchs of the Bible lived for centuries. How unfair, they rail, how totally unfair.

It might be that we are all afflicted with progeria in some form.

Some of us live into our seventies while others live well beyond the century mark.

And none of us know how long we have.

The lesson to take from this is to use whatever time we have to not only get the most out of life, but to give the most out of what we have been given.