Gun Control — An Idea

It should come as no surprise that I’m more of a “liberal” girl.  As such, I am an advocate for gun control.  And before you get your knickers in a knot, you should consider that GUN CONTROL is not the same as TAKE ALL YOUR PRECIOUS GUNS AWAY FROM YOU AND VIOLATE YOUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS.

Jesus.  It’s like the joke about how the NRA isn’t willing to let one law pass because it’s seen what has happened with abortion.

Instead of seeing this as BLACK (NO GUNS WHATSOEVER!!!!) and WHITE (GUNS FOR EVERYONE EVEN THAT TODDLER WHO SHOT HIS MOM IN THE FACE!), I think we could actually come to some sort of gray area where compromise is made, but the spirit of the 2nd amendment remains intact.

How about we simply get rid of all secondary gun sellers who lack a Federal Firearms License?  Because we already know that Chicago’s gun control laws are easily circumvented because people can buy guns outside of Chicago or bring guns in and sell out of their homes or cars, I say that Chicago should allow the sale of guns.  However, only by dealers with Federal Firearms Licences.

Why?  Because that thing can and will be pulled for illegal activity.  Because you can then charge people who give or sell guns to people who aren’t SUPPOSED to buy them with aiding and abetting criminal activity.  Because you can charge illegal sellers with whatever crime was committed with the gun.  How about we get rid of the people who THINK they’re good, law-abiding citizens, and actually just nail them for the criminals they are?

Guns should also be registered because CARS ARE.  It does no harm to register your firearms and for a federal database to be kept. Sure, people are going to ignore it until it’s too late, but you can’t stop apathetic people from being employed.  You can, however, charge the idiot to whom the firearm was registered with the crime even if they weren’t there.  IF you’re lucky enough to have the weapon, but that’s another issue.

Furthermore, people who legally purchase weapons should be mandated to take classes in how to own, operate, and shoot the weapon.  Way too many people buy guns without any idea how to take care of them and how, in a situation where shooting a criminal would be necessary, to actually SHOOT the person and be willing to KILL the person.  There is no good use in owning a weapon you have no clue how to properly use.  Why?  Because we have driver’s ed. That’s why.

And last… Any weapon made for WAR needs to stay with the armed forces.  We really don’t allow people to walk around with grenades, canons,  or bayonets, so I think we can safely add assault rifles to this list. We don’t need them in civilized society.  Or, if we do, then canons, grenades, and bayonets should be allowed to sold as well. (Actually, I don’t know if there are ANY laws against them.  It just seems weird for someone to be walking around with them).

We can, as a country, enact safe, sane, and satisfying gun control laws without everyone flipping his or her wig.

And to give a little more perspective… If the number of young white men killed or incarcerated was equal to the number of young black men who’ve been killed or incarcerated due to gun violence, we’d probably see a change in the conversation.  If your point of view is that only criminals die or go to jail, you clearly don’t understand the issue at hand.



The Unthinkable

This spring I resigned my position with my school district.

It is, unquestionably, the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done.  The lack of job security at my age, the change in benefits, being unemployed, and searching for a new position are all scary.

I feel off kilter at not checking out the back to school sales in order to stock my classroom with supplies for my students.  Currently, I don’t have any.  I feel weird that I’m not planning curriculum or figuring out how best to refine my lessons.  I don’t know what grade I’ll be teaching when I find a job.  I feel lazy and un-moored; yet I recognize that this is one of the first summers where I’ve placed a premium on seeing friends and expanding my friendships.  It feels weird and wrong and uncomfortable, but I’m learning to focus on other priorities in my life.

As I continue to apply for positions closer to home, I am also realizing how STUCK I was.  I could honestly say I hadn’t moved forward as a teacher — implementing new ideas or trying different things.  I hadn’t had the opportunity to take on tasks that promoted school climate and community.  This lack of innovation makes me feel self-conscious when looking at postings.  Sure I know HOW to do the work, but it’s been 4 or 5 years since I’ve actually done it in the classroom.

I know that one of the things I’m looking forward to in changing positions is learning new methods, ideas, implementations, delivery, and design.  I want to continue to learn and grow in my profession, and the only way to do that is through change and discomfort.

With that in mind, boy am I accomplishing that goal!

Apathy & Accountability

Education, as a profession, is distinctly unique in that the people who are most responsible for student success (teachers) both love and hate being teachers.  Generally teachers love teaching.  They love learning and implementing new ideas.  They enjoy collaboration. And they even find joy with the most difficult student.

However, teachers, as a rule, HATE the administrative part of teaching — data mining, enforced team meetings/collaboration/site/staff meetings.  They hate the work of advocating what’s best for children only to be bound by red tape and double speak.  Teachers dislike being given curriculum with no clear direction, only to be told later their attempts at implementation are all WRONG.

Essentially teachers dislike those people in education who seem to be there for the wrong reasons — you know, like those plaques that read “June, July, and August.”

The fact is, in many districts across the United States, there are teachers being dragged under like they’re toddlers at Disney World only without the warning signs.

The very people many districts are employing to support student education are not supportive.  In fact, it appears that their only job is to question what happens in the classroom without managing to be supportive whatsoever.  And when questioned, the pat answer lies in, “You’re a professional; that’s your job to figure out.”

I believe quite firmly that if these “educators” were forced to re-enter the classrooms and to be accountable for student achievement on the same level a classroom teacher is, they would probably do what should have happened a long time ago. They would QUIT.

Just like the dirty little secret about how teachers rarely read, there’s the dirty little secret about how many “educators” don’t care about kids, achievement, or being support staff to the people on the front lines.  Many educators have found they can make the same, or better money, not dealing with kids, parents, colleagues, principals, or evaluations with far fewer headaches and the same “time off”.

If we’re really to advance education we should start looking at the number of “teachers” in a district who don’t actually teach and hold them accountable for the growth of the district as well.  I think we’d find that we’d save a lot of educational dollars ridding ourselves of apathetic educators who have no interest in being accountable.

In other words (and rather racist ones at that) — We have too many chiefs and not enough Indians.

I Decided EFF It

I’d been pretty good about deleting crazy shit received via email and text.  Hell, I even shut down my Facebook account ’cause I didn’t really want to have a bitchfest on-line and further alienate people.  After all, I’m supposed to be a grown up.  You know, the kind of person who actually does turn the other cheek and takes on thankless tasks like truly cleaning up someone’s estate.

Then I decided “FUCK IT”.  I’m no Buddha, and certainly not Jesus Christ.  In fact, I’m human, and as such I’m pretty tired of being blamed by some spoiled rotten brat who exploited my mother for her own gain because of (insert whiny bitchy obnoxious lack of perspective reason here). Revenge, we’re told, is a dish best served cold.  Moreso, we’re told it does more harm than good.  It’s not god for the soul to engage in it.

However, I feel that sometimes one’s nasty words should be placed out there for everyone to take in.  Especially when these nasty words are delivered by someone who immediately started taking things.  And, when she reads this, she should consider GIVING ME MY GOD DAMNED RING BACK BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT ANYTHING LET ALONE A RING I BOUGHT FOR MY MOTHER WHICH MATCHED A RING MADE FOR HER BY MY FATHER WHO IS NOT YOUR GRANDFATHER.  Just saying.  In a ranting, immature, go take some Adderall kind of way.

So… without further fanfare.  Today’s nasty gram.  Courtesy of the one who allegedly loved my mother best and took care of her the most.  Which explains her dying in a filthy house filled with animal hair, alone most of the time, paying people to take care of her needs, and sleeping in a bad without sheets because her dogs had destroyed them.  OK.  There was fanfare.

I hate you. You took my place to go to when I needed a break from life.  You can sell everything in that house because the materials items were never what I wanted.  You will never know the true meaning of grandma house.  You are a selfish horrible person.

All sent to me because the lawyer I hired for the estate told me I had to lock everyone out to keep the asset safe.  Mainly because it’s the only thing left.

Oh, did I fail to mention that my Mom retired in 2004 with $300,000 in pension/retirement?  Did I mention that she was penniless as of 3+ years ago?  In fact, in 2010, she only had $38K of it left?  Did I mention that said caring person who ALWAYS put her grandmother first “borrowed” money from Grandma’s account to pay for her bills, and SOMETIMES paid Grandma back?  Or that in 2007 she borrowed about $7K, most of which was NEVER repaid and of which, said LOVING GRANDDAUGHTER told her Grandmother she no longer owed her due to the fact that “She took care of her when she was sick and after she was hospitalized.”  Yep, picking up your grandmother, feeding her at your own home, and doing some of her laundry for less than a month amounts to a $7,000 loan forgiveness act.

Perhaps someone doesn’t want anything because she’s already taken it all?  Yet, I, who am bound by LAW, am the horrible, selfish person.

And yes, I get this is childish and inappropriate.  I’m sure I’ll return to being a responsible grown-up soon.

A Lot Has Changed

It’s amazing how much has changed since November 4th.

That’s the day Mom died.  In that amount of time, I’ve come to realize that death really isn’t the kind of thing that brings out the best in people.  If anything, I find that her death has made everything challenging in a new way.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that making a family member executor, especially to a family as dysfunctional as ours (we do have a royal flush, my friends), is really a bad plan.  You’d think that sometime in the past 27 years, I would have geared up for this marathon challenge.  Instead, I went along living my life as though I’d never have to run it.

I am an idiot.

Mind you, there’s really nothing to execute.  She was $33,008 in debt to the IRS, and another $46,000 to credit cards.  My only task is to do my best with what’s left to generate enough of a revenue stream to satisfy the debts. As executor, you protect the deceased and her heirs from financial fraud and exploitation.  That’s a hard one, and a little late if you ask me.  This seriously needed to be done while she was alive. I’d say my other task was to keep the family happy, but that flew out the window as soon as I wasn’t able to do just that.  You can’t execute an estate and keep people happy.  That’s an impossible task.

As always, I don’t feel much has been learned other than I can be hated greatly for denying everyone what they want while being responsible for paying the bills and taking care of business.  After all, when it comes down to it, I’m the dad of the operation.  I don’t count.

10 Commandments of Teaching

For some reason I was thinking about the 10 Commandments some more yesterday while hanging out, working, and talking with a retired teacher-friend of mine.  While I didn’t verbalize this, I realized that, appropriately skewed, these would make a great road map for education as well.  At least I think they will.

  1. Educating students is your only true purpose in working in education.  Thou shalt not place any other goals in front of this one.
  2. Thou shalt not place pretty walls, bulletin boards, and dog and pony shows above educational goals.
  3. That shalt not insult, deride, or take the names of the students, parents or colleagues in vain.
  4. Take one day each week as a day of sabbath and show fidelity to the act of rejuvenation.
  5. Honor teachers and educational practices that were in place before you.  These may be the ones you need to help fully educate a child.  Do not assume age equals inflexibility or that keeping a course means fear of progress.
  6. Thou shalt not kill students‘ dreams, motivations, desires, or passions. Nor shall you kill your colleagues’ reputations and job prospects through gossip, envy, or anger.
  7. Thou not put anything before the educational goals for the students or make student goals secondary in education.
  8. Thou shalt not steal ideas, materials, manipulatives, desks, etc.  Thou shalt show integrity in all interactions with all people.
  9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy fellow teacher.  Thou shalt show great integrity in being honest with colleagues about their actions.  Thou shalt give all colleagues the benefit of the doubt.
  10. Thou shalt not covet thy colleagues‘ students, room arrangement, teaching assignment, prep time, materials, or relationships with others.  Thou shall work on improving one’s self and not bringing down others.

OK, it’s a bit funky, but you get the idea.  In order for education to be truly reformed (which we know nobody really wants), we have to start building the community among the adult stakeholders (and ALL adults who work at a school should be stakeholders).  Building consensus, having common goals, being respectful of other viewpoints, and being collaborative will do wonders in producing a school everyone can be proud of.

The Ten Commandments, in my mind, have always been the road map for creating a peaceful and harmonious community that works together for the common good.  Religious or not, theist or not, or even conservative or not, I think we can all agree that to truly make progress we have to agree to behave in a way that honors the community.

Now, this was off the cuff and not completely worked out before writing.  So… what would you add? 

An Athiest’s View of the 10 Commandments

From time to time there is a lot of talk or controversy about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.  Mostly that people want them publicly posted.  This gets people who aren’t Judeo-Christian-Muslim in an uproar because it looks like state sponsored religion.  In fact, it may be.  However…  I think we should just go for it.  Why? Because when you strip religion from the commandments, what’s left over is a pretty good set of rules and moral behaviors for a peaceful and prosperous community.

First, I’ll be combining a few to illustrate how these ethical standards help a community.  In truth, we could probably shave this list down to 5.

  1. I am the Lord, your God, and 2) Thou shall bring no false idols before me.
    In my mind, this doesn’t have to be a deity.  Obviously in a religious text it is.  However, these are important to how we as people deal with priorities.  If we look at our lives as valuable and our community outlook as our work, then anything that interferes with that is an issue.  You cannot be a successful person and have multiple priorities.  It just doesn’t work.In the same vein, you can’t put things that aren’t priorities in front of what you consider your main priority.  Now in a judgmental sense we can say that this is one of the most broken of the commandments.  We worship many things above and beyond our true calling as humans.  We fill our lives with stuff, and junk, and visual entertainment, and almost anything to keep ourselves entertained. However, if our true calling is to raise each other up, then we’re failing.

    If you are truly serious about what you want to accomplish in life, then anything you put in the way that keeps you from being successful is an idol.

2. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.

In essence, I think this means don’t use language that’s divisive.  However, it can also mean that blaming God isn’t going to help you any.  I see people rail against God demanding the damnation of others.  I think anytime you use God to solve your own problems or to wish for an easy life, you’re taking his name in vain.

4) Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.

Everyone needs to take a break, reflect, and slow down.  A steady treadmill of busy, busy, busy clutters the mind, weakens the body, and kills the spirit.  Whether in prayer or in meditation or in time with loved ones, having a slow day once a week is vital to living a good life.  So once a week, step off of the merry-go-round.  You’ll be better for it, as will all those around you.

5) Honor thy father and thy mother.

You might think you know everything, but you don’t.  You need to think about those who have already blazed a trail, those who have experience, and those who may actually know more than you do.  I see this as honoring the experience, information, and guidance of others in the community.  There is great damage that comes from not having history or taking the past into consideration.

6) Thou shall not kill/murder.

Obviously this kind of action, especially when done out of greed or envy, rips a hole in society’s fabric.  The fear that comes from the callous actions of killing another person creates a society filled with mistrust and fear.  Those emotions lead to even darker ones, including the desire for revenge.  While the Biblical interpretation is that only God can determine a person’s death, we know socially that’s not the case.  When this is done for no reason, it rips people apart.  A rip not easily repaired.

7) Thou shall not commit adultery.

I think of this more as a be a man/woman.  Again, trust is hard earned as it is.  Anything that tears apart trust and sows the seeds of suspicion makes working as a community difficult.  Trust violations are worse than murder because they cause the victim to question everything and everyone. It causes the spread of gossip.  It can be the cause of death.  Go ahead, tell me no one gets hurt.  Then picture going to work with your lying, cheating spouse and his/her new girlfriend/boyfriend.  Then tell me there’s no victim.  I dare you.

8) Thou shall not steal††.

Again with the trust stuff.  Stealing is more than moving an object from one home to another.  It is an invasion of someone’s security and trust.  Once this essential trust is broken, then it’s incredibly hard to bring a community together.  People will be suspicious, wary, and unwilling to take chances.  It shows others that you value YOU over all else.  It’s hard to ask people to be giving when they have no choice about the taking.

9) Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This is so key that it’s hard to believe it has to be said.  And I’m sure the reader is TIRED of the writer harping on trust.  Yet, there we are. Sort of.  I see this as more than just lying about other people.  I see it also as gossiping and spreading news that is not yours to share.  Often this is done due to envy, fear, and greed.  It’s done to harm the other person in a way that cannot be easily recovered.  It is, for all intents and purposes, the killing of that person’s reputation and community standing.  While others need not know the extent of this kind of treason, it goes without saying that others will use this same tactic to get what they want.  Sad thing is, often what is wanted is just to see that other person brought low.

10) Thou shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (or anything that belongs to your neighbor).

One of the seven deadly sins — envy.  This causes the false witness, the adultery, the stealing and sometimes even the murder.   By looking at what others have and desiring that object or person, it keeps you from looking critically and your own life and treasures.  In a community, it takes over as the idol that supplants one’s true purpose.  Truly, I say, this should be the first and most important edict. This one will drive all the other negative emotions and the consequential actions.

While The Ten Commandments are put forth as the moral compass for the descendents of Abraham, it is also important to review them in the context of a secular life.  If all people were to follow these edicts, the community would be tighter, more peaceful, and more giving.  We could actually be that nation that people want, rather than having the 99%/1% split.

Now I admit that I thought lying was part of the commandments, but I see it’s not.  A pity, really.  Lying, tricking, and manipulating others for personal gain should be an added moral code.  For if we lived with that as a guiding light, we wouldn’t have a lot of 1-10 to follow.