Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I Just Fixed Public Education…You're Welcome

For my next trick, I am going to fix the public education system, and it’s going to be pretty easy. But wait, haven’t we been trying to do this for some time now? Nothing has worked so why do I have all the answers. I mean, I work in the profession and by all means that makes me one of the least qualified people to do so. It’s really the only profession which is overseen mostly by people who have never actually been inside a classroom. Maybe that’s where the problem begins. Anyway let me tell you what I’m not going to include in my solution.

I have a Passbook Savings,
get the hell out of my bank!
First, I am not going to mention that many of the people who set policy don’t actually work in education. Where else can you have minimal experience and be in charge and get to tell people what to do and how to do it? Hey I know how to withdraw money from an ATM so does that make me qualified to run a bank? This is a great idea, the next time I go into a bank to cash a check I am just going to start telling people what to do, just walk around the place like I own it. Then I might head over to G-Tech and just start firing people, for no reason, because I have bought scratch tickets, I KNOW THE BUSINESS!! But that is not part of the solution.

Yeah this will work.
I am also not going to explore the Privatize Education…errrrr I mean the Charter School solution. Someone explain to me why the only people in favor of For-Profit ….errrrr Charter Schools seem to be Mayors and Business Leaders. The Mayors just want to save money, the Business Leaders too. I mean why would the Business Leaders and the rest of the 1% crowd care about Public Schools? All their children go to Private and Prep Schools. Just admit it’s all about the money guys, you’re not fooling anyone. By the way Business Leaders who have all the answers, you are right about one thing, public education is definitely not like the private sector. Now if it were I’d be able to fire all my failing students and hire new one just like you get to fire all your failing employees and hire new ones. As one of my colleagues said once, “You can put a Charter School in our city under the condition that we get to select the students we send there”. Let me know how that works out for you. But, alas, that is not part of the solution.

The answer is simple and can be summed up in three words:

Parents, DO YOUR JOB. Get your kids to school on time, help them study, get involved, be a parent for God’s sake (Sorry about the God reference Jessica). If you can’t do this…um…don’t have kids…just a suggestion.

Teachers, DO YOUR JOB. Stop whining about the job, if you don’t like it do something else. Take it seriously and if your ego doesn’t fit in the room then either leave the ego at the door or get out of the room.

Students, DO YOUR JOB. Six hours a day and some homework, I’ll tell you what, find any adult and ask if they’d trade their job for yours. You’ll get some takers. If you hate your life, this is your chance to move on and better yourself. Once you leave, there’s no one left who cares about you.

Administrators, DO YOUR JOB. Run your schools and districts fairly with the best interest of students in mind.

Everyone Else, with all due respect, zip it and let us do our jobs.

There, problem solved. Let me get to work on this economy now.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

JoePa: Death of a Legend and a Legacy

After the passing of Joe Paterno last Saturday, I have, along with many others, thought about the legacy of the man who was arguably the best college football coach of all time. As everyone knows, all of that changed recently as the Penn State scandal has rocked the sports world leaving so many questions about the man who lead the team for the last 46 years. The ending was quick and tragic for Paterno. On November 5, 2011, former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was arrested on 40 counts relating to sexual abuse of eight young boys over a 15-year period, including alleged incidents that occurred at Penn State. Four days later, Paterno was fired by the Penn State Board of Trustees, roughly 12 hours after the legendary coach announced his own retirement at the end of the season. Shortly thereafter it was revealed that Paterno was being treated for lung cancer, his health took a quick turn for the worse, eventually taking his life on January 22, 2012.

So what is Joe Pa’s legacy? How does the sad end of his coaching career and his life affect this legacy? The answers are unclear. At his best he was a larger-than-life figure in State College Pennsylvania. Joe Paterno WAS Penn State University. He gave millions of dollars back to the school, and made millions more at speaking engagements across the country. He was a fatherly, and then a grandfatherly figure to his athletes who adored him. Paterno was never accused of breaking NCAA rules and his players always graduated at exceptionally high rates. Paterno had a hand in the rise of Penn State's academic standing as well. A library on campus was named in his honor. In the corrupt world of college football, with illegal recruiting and agents and powerful alumni attempting the circumnavigate the rule book wherever possible for the sake of winning games, there was Penn State, graduating players, playing by the rules and winning games, the right way. That is how I want to remember JoePa, a Brown Grad, a fellow Italian-American I could be proud of, someone who stood for all that was right with college athletics, but of course it all went horribly wrong.

The unspeakable crimes committed at Penn State by Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky have been well documented. The thing that I can’t get past is that they happened over a FIFTEEN YEAR PERIOD!! So as the program was being lauded for all its good, these heinous crimes were being committed and JOE KNEW. If the whole situation wasn’t tragic enough, people at Penn State knew and did not take action. JoePa stated he didn’t know what to do. The man with all the answers had none when he needed them most. The crimes were of the worst kind, nothing could seem to make it worse, until news of the cover-up, which makes it an absolute tragedy. From where I sit, his legacy is one of disgrace, as much good as he did at Penn State, his lack of action is what he will be remembered for. I want to remember him for the good he did, I really do. I want to think of him as a role model coach and mentor, but I can’t. I wish Joe had just ridden of into the sunset, as it is he hung on too long as coach. He was just a figurehead in the end. But now he won’t even be remembered for the coach who hung on too long and failed to ride off into the sunset, on the shoulder of his players, after one last final victory in front of a community who adored him. He will be remembered as the coach WHO KNEW, and who did nothing about it. The legacy died. Shortly thereafter, Joe died with it. 

Joe Paterno 1926-2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Here Lies Common Sense, May it Rest in Peace

Common sense is dead. How did this happen? I can’t quite be sure but it probably became official when Mc Donald’s had to start putting warning labels on their cups of hot coffee because some idiot bought coffee at a McDonald’s drive-through, spilled it on herself, and suffered  burns. She sued McDonald’s, and with the help of a clever attorney, managed to convince a jury that it was all McDonalds’ fault for not providing adequate warning that hot coffee is indeed hot, and can scald you. The lady walked away with a multi-million dollar award. In turn, McDonald’s, along with pretty much any other establishment that serves a beverage in excess of 100 degrees puts a “warning label” on their cups to inform the consumer that the hot coffee that they have just ordered is in fact, hot. Fearing future lawsuits, companies began to place warning labels in the most obvious situations making those of us with common sense left to ponder its death.

All hope appears lost. Let’s say you had fifty people on computers learning how to use Microsoft Word. Now let’s say that while showing them the various templates you asked them to find the Fax Wizard feature. How many of the fifty would begin searching the room for an actual wizard holding a fax machine? I am afraid to even find out.

I have done some research and come up with some actual warning labels that appear on products and in public. As you read them and wonder why it is necessary you are left to ponder the case of the McDonald’s coffee lady and the ultimate and untimely death of common sense.

Here’s the classic Dunkin Donuts cup warning. “So if I order a HOT coffee, this warning lets me know it is HOT?”

This Razor scooter apparently moves when used. I thought I was just supposed to hang my coat on it.

For all you dog owners out there, if they need medication, PLEASE, PLEASE do not let them drive your car!!!

Just make sure the $200 is in your wallet before you touch those wires.

“Why won’t this work?”

“But it looks like Vanilla, and Vanilla is my favorite.”

“I am in a hurry and my shirt is wrinkled”

“But Jessica Simpson said Chicken of the Sea was chicken”

I’d come to a conclusion but I am lost for words. Thanks for reading, if you like the blog tell a friend, there’s plenty of room for the rest of us in The Middle.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I’m offended by people who are offended.

So Cranston West High School must take down a banner that has been residing in the school since 1959 because it contained the words “Oh Heavenly Father” and ended with “Amen”. This banner clearly offended 16 year old Jessica Atheist, I mean Jessica Ahlquist to point where her daddy, I mean she, hired an ACLU lawyer to go to a federal judge who ordered the banner removed. This was deemed to be in violation of separation of church and state. At a news conference this morning, Atheist, I mean Ahlquist, a Cranston High School West junior, talked about the federal court's decision that the school's prayer mural is unconstitutional. She called it “the most important thing she had ever done.”

Look, I actually get the whole separation of church and state issue. While I don’t agree with most of it I can understand why sometimes religious symbols aren’t displayed in public places for example. I can understand why there is no prayer in school. But where are we going as a society where people are so easily offended. What’s next? Should we ban the Easter Bunny from appearing in Malls because Easter is a religious holiday? Might as well fire Santa Claus too. Heck, let’s eliminate all the holidays because somewhere, someone doesn’t believe in what we are celebrating and might be offended. Why stop there? There are lots of color blind people in the world, lets stop using colors! I mean every day millions of color blind people are deprived the joy of seeing a rainbow and can’t feel the true joy of springtime with the green leaves and blue skies. Let’s make everything in black and white before one of them hires an ACLU lawyer and sues.

Next, this is news? Really? There’s nothing better in the state of Rhode Island to worry about than some girl who doesn’t want to see a banner. The economy is in the tank, people are out of jobs, etc, etc, etc. But we have to devote time and energy so a banner can be removed because it offends one student in a school of almost 2000? I get angry and offended probably more than the next guy. Guess what I do when something offends me? “I LOOK THE OTHER WAY. If there is something offensive on television, do I hire an ACLU lawyer and sue so that it is removed? No. I CHANGE THE CHANNEL.

It seems that this young woman is very passionate about her cause and that is admirable. But my question is why this?  Why put time and energy into a cause that benefits so few and is going to anger so many? There are so many positive causes you can fight for that benefit many. Do you think she really cares about the banner? Or did Daddy and his lawyer friends decide this would be a wonderful time to grandstand and seek out their 15 minutes of fame? Ok Jess, you won. We lost. The banner is down. Thousands of people are mad at you but who cares? You proved your point. So why stop there. Your next project could be getting the “In God We Trust” off our currency. Maybe eliminated the “Pledge of Allegiance” from school. Heck, why not try to get Denver Broncos games banned from television because I know you and daddy must be offended when Tim Tebow prays and thanks Jesus. So let’s review. Winners- Jess, Jess’s Daddy, ACLU lawyers. Loser- Common Sense (again). Check back soon for our next meeting in The Middle.

                                           Ahlquist family new public enemy #1

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Welcome to The Middle

Let me just start by saying that I hate politics. I hate the left and I hate the right. I hate the conservatives, and I hate the liberals. Well, maybe hate is a strong word; maybe “dislike” is a better choice. Both sides are so hell-bent on getting their own way that they are pulling the nation further apart than it has ever been. People meanwhile have lost their ability to form their own opinions. The right-wingers watch Fox News and listen to Rush Limbaugh and spew the recycled propaganda generated, and the left does the same with MSNBC and the Keith Olberman types. Me, I listed to both and get aggravated by what I hear on both ends. Does anyone have the ability to form their own opinions anymore? Why is there so much hate from both sides?

When asked what my political beliefs are, I thought about the question and my answer was “Whatever Benefits Me”. That’s how I feel. Politicians on every level whether it be a Town or City Council, Mayor, Governor, or legislator are not in it for the best interest of the “greater good for all” but rather what they can get out of it. The conservatives will tell you that their candidates and their tax cuts for the 1% and perpetual fight against Public Employee’s and their unions are for the “greater good of all”. That we must take care of the “job creators” and spend less. The liberals will tell you that their candidates and their social programs, endless spending, and coddling of illegal’s is for the “greater good of all”. We have to take care of the less fortunate and take more from the rich and powerful so other have a chance. I say that they are both a bunch of liars. They all have their own agenda’s that benefit “them” and not some “greater good”. If through the betterment of themselves and their friends if things get done that actually benefit a great amount of people, then I guess you could say that it makes them a good politicians. So that’s where “Whatever Benefits Me” comes from. I will always vote for the candidate who offers the most to me and my situation, whether that candidate is Republican, Democrat, or otherwise. Does that make me selfish? YUP! Does that make me a hypocrite? Probably. Do I care at this point? NO! We are all in this for ourselves people. Take care of #1.

So why is this blog called “Welcome to The Middle”? Simple, I feel that most of the answers lie in the middle. I am a thinker, I form my own opinions. Opinions are never wrong, they do not have to be agreed with, but they are yours. My opinion is that until we start meeting in the middle we will continue to grow apart as a nation. I think that all the answers, no matter what they are, can be found in the middle. Again, does that make me a hypocrite? Probably, but I really don’t care at this point. In this space in the future I am going to rant about different topics, political or otherwise. I will give you my opinion and while I don’t expect everyone to agree with me I think most people feel I make sense. I am trying to bring common sense to a world where common sense is dead. That sounds like a topic for a future blog. Thanks for reading and I hope to see you soon in The Middle.