It happened again yesterday.

An acquaintance introduced me to her other friend, and when we got through names, titles and work places, I remarked that we did similar kinds of work. The mutual acquaintance immediately said “No. She has a PhD. She’s Dr. So-and-So.” As if this changed the fact that we had the same titles and did the same job.

I deal with this all the time in academia. A subtle or not so subtle belief that everything tastes better with a PhD.

I respect the work it takes for someone to get a PhD. I know it means they automatically have higher status than I do. I know it means that they know more than I do about any and every subject. I also know I will never have a PhD.

Once upon a time I thought I would get a PhD and teach, write and go to meetings for a living. And then life happened. I went in a different direction. I am not ashamed of my education or lack of a doctorate. Here I am and no regrets. And I still get to go to meetings for a living.

When all is said and done, some days it’s still hard to take the conscious/unconscious slights that come my way just because I don’t have a terminal degree. If I didn’t have a solid word-of-mouth reputation in my work it would be a sad state of affairs indeed. The higher ed system is a terminal case and the only cure for me is exit.

There are a lot of smart, dedicated people out there. So in this season of graduations I applaud the accomplishments of everyone getting a degree.  I am sure I missed a few:

  • general equivalency degree
  • high school diploma
  • associate of arts
  • associate of science
  • associate of applied science
  • associate of occupational studies
  • bachelor of arts
  • bachelor of science
  • master of arts
  • master of science
  • master of business administration
  • doctor of philosophy
  • juris doctor
  • doctor of medicine
  • doctor of dental surgery
  • O.W.L.S
  • N.E.W.T.s

Worthy accomplishments all.

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It is disheartening how little impact the mass murder of 20 elementary school children has had on gun regulations. Increased background check legislation stalled, restrictions on automatic weapons and military grade ammunition not happening. I guess the horror fades for some folks if it’s not your kid, and the political will to take on the gun lobby is clearly nonexistent.

In fact “In the 12 months since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., almost every state has enacted at least one new gun law“, however, of the 109 laws passed 70 eased restrictions and expanded the rights of gun owners.

Unbelievable in the wake of the unspeakable.

Below is what I wrote a year ago in reaction to the massacre of 20 children and the 6 teachers trying to protect them.

December 21, 2012

It is such a short trip to the land of fear. It’s a place you can get to from just about anywhere.

The predictable response from the NRA to the massacre in Sandy Hook was to blame every other societal ill beside gun proliferation. And of course to advocate for more guns because “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

The NRA’s Wayne LaPierre points to our “blood-soaked culture” as reason for the violence rather than the ease of obtaining military grade weapons equipped with high-powered ammunition. One of many arguments based on the idea that our culture has disintegrated, youth are desensitized, music videos glorify thug life, and we are not safe.

What we are is a gun culture. And the easiest way to perpetuate the need for guns is through fear.

After it happened, we talked with our daughter about Sandy Hook. She talked about the intruder drill they had at school the next week and how unsatisfying it was. She said she didn’t feel safe with this one particular teacher, and that the room had too many windows. The drill had kids hide under the desks, and most of them are too big to fit, which doesn’t matter anyway because it’s about as useful as  “duck and cover.”

When she identified other rooms and teachers she’d rather be with if “something happened for real”, I asked her to imagine what she’d do if she was in charge of that classroom. She had an immediate answer. I said if something “real” ever did happen, she should trust herself if she didn’t think the adult could keep her safe. This is a dangerous thing to say, but I don’t know how better to clarify that we trust her to trust herself.

This conversation was actually Part 2 of an earlier conversation about fear. We were in a run down neighborhood and she remarked that she always felt a little afraid in poor neighborhoods but then she feels bad because she is afraid that’s racist. (I think the DSM-V should consider including this as “The White Folks Dilemma.”) We teased apart what she was afraid of and why, and it was clear that none of the reasons were because the people were black. Poverty scares a lot of people. It can look like desperation, potential crime and violence.

What I was afraid of with The White Folks Dilemma was that she would talk herself out of her instincts. Our bodies always know danger faster than our minds. And our minds are trained to overrule all sorts of useful signals. It’s useful to be afraid sometimes, it heightens your awareness. It’s not useful to be afraid all the time because, again your mind is overruling instinct.

It’s so easy to give in to fear. Its much easier than joy, or love or trust. But that kind of “the world is a dangerous place” fear, seems implausible to me. I’m much more afraid of easy access to semi-automatic handguns than I am of a shooter going in my daughters school. Or randomly shoot me through the floor to ceiling windows in my office, which just occurred to me today after 8 years in this office.

I don’t have any solution except to keep reminding myself and others that fear is just one of our emotions. And I will continue to stumble stupidly through the world believing that humans are inherently good. I am a Platonist at heart – “To know the good is to do the good”.

Now we just need to teach the NRA the meaning of “the good”.

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Sometimes the future arrives when you aren’t even looking.

The other night we attended the fall concert at my daughters high school and I got to see the future up close. The school has a tremendous music program so the evening included chamber music groups, concert orchestra, concert band, symphonic winds and two jazz ensembles. And they were all outstanding.

In the concert band trombone section a girl who identifies as a boy was allowed to wear the jacket, trousers and bow tie boys uniform rather than the floor length black dress that the girls wear. No one blinked when she made the request. No one remarked when she performed.

Later during the jazz ensembles I remarked how the pretty (and talented) drummer would be a good match for one of the boys and my daughter said “No, she’s a lesbian.” And no one blinked.

I remembered the boy in my daughters middle school that came out as bi-sexual in seventh grade and the girl who came out as a lesbian, and thought this is why I live here. This is my community.

In this one place, for these children, it is okay to be gay, lesbian or bi-sexual. There may be other problems in their lives but hiding part of who they are at school is not one of them. That’s some kinda progress.

And I am thankful.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and continued progress.

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It seems like whenever I wonder what they are teaching my daughter in school I activate some cosmic response that makes sure I know. The lesson she learned last week was a refresher from previous years. It is called Random Acts of Authority.

Random Acts of Authority is an essential part of the core curriculum that prepares your child for life in the “real world.” It works like this. A teacher, security guard, office worker, lunch aide – anyone who is not a student – chooses a rule that is rarely if ever enforced and slaps it down on a kid. It has to be random, and for no discernible reason, or the lesson is useless and has to be administered again at a later date.

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School funding in my state is a giant, tangled unconstitutional mess in which our state legislature is currently wading. Their actions will reverberate for many years to come as they have during the previous 30+ years of trying to establish a constitutional state funding plan.

Their nonsense is already felt in my district which is cutting 34 positions to compensate for the reductions, that even the levy that passed during a recession cannot offset. The current funding formula is a somewhat fuzzy (to me) calculation based on local property taxes + a base per student rate that the state awards, plus an increase cap, which boils down to rich districts getting more money per student, and poor districts getting less and less and less as the residents flee because of poor schools.

This is a really tricky topic with strong feelings even if we leave the money out of it. Everyone wants their kids to go to a good school with engaged teachers and extra opportunities. Some people can afford to move to a community where this is guaranteed, some pay for private schools and some try to make their neighborhood school better because that’s all there is. In many ways it becomes an issue of privilege.

Studies show that the education level of the parents is a consistent predictor of the child’s school performance. Unstated is that the education level of the parent can also predict income level which allows the school district to be chosen rather than dictated by circumstance.

Our district is a mixed socio-economic area which means lots of well-educated wealthy people send their kids to private schools, middle-class folks who make sure their kids take AP & Honors classes, and parents who rent here because it has the best public school they can afford. Then there are the handful of wealthy, well-educated parents who send their kids to public school as a statement. We all do what we think is right no matter what it looks like from the outside.

I am really torn about some of these issues.

On the one hand, if we had the money, I would probably enroll my daughter in one of the nearby private schools because its the kind of opportunity I wished I’d had. On the other hand, I went to inner city schools in a district with the nations 3rd highest drop out rate, during mandatory desegregation and busing, and still managed to get myself over-educated and end up in the suburbs.  Then I think about children in third-world countries so desperate for schooling they share a stick to do sums in the dirt, (dangerously close to my mother’s “some people don’t have any legs” here), and wonder if what we should be worrying about is motivation.

I have very little faith that our GOP dominated state legislature will find a way to be nurturing, kind or fair in their school funding budget, let alone constitutional, as we are talking about 1) money and, 2) people who think poverty is a character flaw.

Out of sight out of mind is apparently a bona fide political strategy. Schools out next Thursday, so that means we can forget all about school funding until August rolls around and we see the class sizes and lack of extra curriculars. 

Of all the things going on in the world I don’t know why this one thing made me so sad. Our local paper today picked up a story about Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) being attacked for their Mix it up Day program.  The American Family Association (AMF) is saying that mix it up day, programming to prevent bullying, promotes a homosexual agenda to elementary school children. And 200 schools cancelled their participation based on this.

Teaching Tolerance being demonized seems to be a new low. AMF has notified parents that their children’s schools are involved in subversive behavior and they have listed Southern Poverty Law as a hate group. That’s a petty retaliation for being listed themselves because of these kinds of campaigns, but it still gets reported. And repeated. All this when the SPLC is an organization founded to fight hate and bigotry.

I’m not even sure about the efficacy of Mix it Up Day – my daughter has a hysterical story about her experience of it last year – but I know it’s not evil to promote breaking down social and racial barriers at school lunch. There are many layers to cliques and popular groups that we all remember no matter how far removed from our K-12 years – looks, money, brains, sporting skill, sexual skill (or the promise therein) with other variables thrown in like class, race, gender, religion and sexual orientation. You get locked into who you are pretty quickly.

There is probably no more dangerous or difficult time in your life to attempt to change groups than school years. Teenagers are incredibly rigid in terms of what they believe is right/wrong, acceptable/unacceptable, cool or uncool. This goes for people, places, and consumables (music, clothes, movies etc.), no matter how much they insist on their individuality. I speak from experience. Even rebellion is rigidly sanctioned.

I think I’m feeling this attack so personally because I benefited, in a very convoluted way, from an enforced Mix It Up Day. During my middle and high school years there was a court ordered desegregation plan for my school district, which meant that black kids were bused to white schools and white kids were bused to black schools. I’m old so the Hispanic population was relatively small at that point and didn’t come up much.

Busing “Mix It Up Day” meant that for the first time there was more than one black kid in my school. That kid moved by the way because as the notices were getting mailed to everyone about what school they would go to a small cross was burned on his front lawn. His name was Frank and he was the only black person I knew up to that point.

Busing “Mix It Up Day” also meant that I now attended High School in a part of town I had only visited once before. Because that’s where all the black people are. It was also where all the museums were but that was beside the point. The majority of white kids I’d been attending school with for my entire life transferred to Catholic Schools, or the bizarrely named and unaccredited “Freedom Academy”, so they didn’t have to go to the black school. They did however have to take a GED to graduate.

I was one of about 20 white kids in my class. This was no hardship. It was interesting. I got a terrific education and took AP classes. I met people I would never, ever have meet. I got to be the guest weirdly patronized by the grandma at my friends wedding (“Isn’t that nice Loretta invited that white girl!”), and had a glimpse of what it means to be a minority. Just a taste.

I know what it is like to experience prejudice because of various parts of my identity but I will never claim, because of this or any other experience, to know what it’s like to be a minority in the US. So if I was walking around in my white skin, looking indeterminately well-off in the way that white people do, and never had my Busing “Mix It Up Day”, how would I get around to expanding my world view? Why would I bother? What would compel me? Where would that information come from?

I don’t have those answers. Lots of folks call themselves life long learners but I wonder if they mean this kind of learning too. It appears that SPLC’s program Teaching Tolerance is one means to present ideas that might not otherwise see the light of day in some schools & households. Alternately, I would bet money on the the fact that limiting experience based on a religious or moral agenda does not reduce prejudice.

Teaching Tolerance offers this definition from UNESCO’s Declaration on the Principles of Tolerance:

“Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world’s cultures, our forms of expression and ways of being human. Tolerance is harmony in difference.”

They go on to say “Tolerance as a way of thinking and feeling — but most importantly, of acting — that gives us peace in our individuality, respect for those unlike us, the wisdom to discern humane values and the courage to act upon them.”

Which do you think is more perverted – teaching tolerance to our children, or the AMF’s attack on Mix It Up Day? You know my answer.

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My daughter has written a short piece about a conversation we had recently and is submitting it to an online magazine she adores. I guess this is only fair since she often figures into my writing, but still. She very generously makes me sound only half as crazy as I am in person.

She was talking about back to school and mentioned that there were YouTube videos of girls in her school fighting. I’m not surprised. School fights are dramatic and quick, so they are perfect for YouTube. She has never felt threatened in school, and is not someone who would either pick a fight or end up in one, but we have talked about how to handle yourself in these spontaneous school chaos moments. She is excellent at dodging, darting and throwing elbows to get herself through a crowd.

The problem is that it makes me furious to think that anyone would even accidentally hit my child. So I get a little strident when dispensing advice about self-protection. There was girl in 5th grade who was “jokingly” punching other girls in the arm, but it actually hurt, so I introduced her to the knife/gun fight theory.

I told her the next time the girl punched her in the arm to punch her back twice as hard. She did it and the girl never joked with her that way again.

I resurrected this advice the other day and inadvertently provided material for “My Mother’s Advice on How to Fight”, where I guess I said, and I quote her article, “Go ISRAELI ON THEIR ASS!” In my defense, my point was that if you immediately CRUSH any infraction the opposition will never mess with you again and you have established a reputation that will prevent further incidents indefinitely. Worked for me.

It is a wonderful thing that my gentle hearted daughter has two parents. Her father, while of Jewish extraction, has no Masada tendencies, and so is a more reasonable source of advice in this instance. Me, I have always loved the moment that Indi pulled out his gun and shot the guy with the fancy sword.

I am torn about my blog post today. I am suffering from split focus, attention deficit, mommy syndrome, something.

On the one hand I am busy stimulating the economy for President Obama. Purchasing binders, index cards, graph paper and boxes of Ticonderoga. Trying to figure out when to get the god-awful “spandies” required for volleyball, spending hours at Target watching my daughter try on clothes, and further hours discussing other stores that must be visited and the impending first day of school. This is all fine. Its the process and procedure of back to school.

Just to make things interesting, I’ve added a new complication this year. We gave my daughter a budget for the academic year for clothes, gifts, and extras. We went through, line by line (her father made an excel spreadsheet), and estimated what needs, what she does and how much it all costs and rounded up generously.

We explained the concept of fungible and the fact that a balance in the bank account at the end goes into her savings, we don’t take it back. Incredibly traumatic for all of us. I consider it a pilot year.

On the other hand I keep getting interrupted by news of Todd Akin.

Now he is saying he didn’t mean “legitimate rape”, what he really meant was that women lie about rape. And the GOP, scrambling to make lemonade since the lemon won’t quit, is declaring a no-exceptions abortion plank for their convention. Apparently is it a ‘self-evident truth’ in the Declaration of Independence that we should protect the unborn, and only the unborn, so help us God. If you can’t beat em, join em.

At least until the news cycle is over. Akin could still have a mysterious heart attack in his swimming pool (remember Wag the Dog?), or compromising pictures with his boyfriend could be revealed. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I ask you – don’t these God-fearing, excessively procreating, republicans ever take a break from their generalized assholery so normal people can get their work done?  I know I should look away from the Akin idiocy and focus on the duties of motherhood, but since I’m not pregnant at the moment my child’s needs don’t really matter.

And I feel like if God didn’t want women to have it all he wouldn’t have given us Yahoo, CNN, Huff Post and a Twitter feed. Not to mention all that elitist propaganda at NYT, WashPost & the BBC.

Boy! It feels good to blame God for stuff! I may do it more often.

I was reminded that it is graduation season by a facebook post about a cousin getting her MPA. Her proud husband posted a photo as well he should. When you get an advanced degree as an adult your partner/spouse usually has to step up to help make it happen.

All those life details like cooking, shopping and cleaning can seem daunting when you are working and going to school, but they still gotta get done. A co-degree should be awarded to the spouse who could undoubtedly pass a qualifying exam after years of enforced listening on the newly mastered topic.

During my grad years my husband probably could have written a pretty decent essay on Wittgenstein’s Ethics or Charles Berkley’s Uses of Tar Water. Maybe I should test him with a pop-quiz.  Actually, I don’t know if I could even write the quiz at this point given that my day-to-day work has strayed so far from my intended work. But it was still an accomplishment.

I was the first member of my extended family to graduate from college let alone get a Masters Degree. I suspect my little sister went to college in the last 10 years, but I won’t know for sure until after our “get reacquainted” date. Being the first at anything is always dicey, and in my case it was never clear if anyone in my family was happy or proud that I graduated, so the ambiguity led me to skip both my BA & MA graduation ceremonies.

I remember talking with my mom about her attending and getting the impression she thought it would be a major hassle what with the driving and the parking and the waiting through the ceremony. So I skipped it.

My husbands family was prepared to attend, but somehow that made it worse. Maybe because graduating from college was normal, my husbands family had a habit of attending graduation. My family, with no experience of graduation ceremonies, might have been intimidated.  Or maybe they didn’t know it was a kind of a big deal. Maybe I pre-empted their lack of enthusiasm by saying I would skip it. Or maybe my family was just odd.

I think I’ll just go with “odd”.

It’s funny to contrast my experience of graduation to how celebrated our children are in my crunchy suburban neighborhood. Milestones and transitions are public and documented from Pre-School “Graduation” (complete with little gown and mortarboard), to “Moving-Up” assemblies marking the shift from elementary to middle schools, and awards, awards, awards.

As much as I might gripe about the child-centric atmosphere, my kid has ended up with a good sense that we are proud of her accomplishments in all arenas. It’s possible to raise a child with healthy self-esteem despite the media reports of grade inflation and helicopter parents. Parenting trends swing back and forth every few years from things like tiger-mother, attachment parenting (can I just say shudder?), to free-range parenting. My guess is that there is no one best way to parent except to figure it out for yourself. And, if you are smart, you will actively try 1) to love your kid, 2) to like your kid, and 3) role with the punches.

We all do what we can and hope for the best, even my nutty folks. I look forward to recognizing many more milestones in my daughter’s life, not to over compensate because of my past, but because her achievements are the products of her effort and that calls for celebration. And there is that little moment of gratification were my husband and I can say (quietly and to ourselves) “Woo-hoo! We did it! We didn’t screw up our kid!”

And I hear Homer Simpson’s voice in my head adding – “So far!”

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The following was written for the online newsletter of the Middle School my daughter attends. The principle asked for a “parent column” that would engage parents on relevant topics, but insisted that I decide what topics to write on. The first one about discipline was ok, but this one had to be vetted by the district Communications Director and was deemed “too edgy for the newsletter.” I thought it was quite tame.

This was what I had submitted as my Black History Month column – talk to your kids about the words they use. It matters.

“Mean Mom: Episode Two

I am the swearing mommy, I confess.

I have been managing my impulse to use profanity with mixed results since my daughter was born. Swearing while driving is especially challenging. It’s not like I have a long commute (I live 10 minutes from where I work), its just that those 10 minutes can take up to 30 minutes if there is “weather” or some hang up on Cedar Hill.

During camp car pool one day last summer I reacted badly to being cut off in the drop off line by a massive SUV who pulled in at an angle blocking two rows of cars. I said loudly and reflexively –‘What a *BLEEPING* cow!’ — only to hear a kid in the back say “Where? I don’t see a cow.”

A better person would have been embarrassed. A calmer person would have apologized for her temper. I however, said to this tween that cows often drive shiny Escalade’s when they live in the suburbs. It’s just that their windows are tinted because they are Very Important and don’t want anyone to see them.

Kids who visit our house are used to me always having baked goods handy and swearing occasionally. They must not mind because I’ve never heard about it from any parents. I would hate to be considered a bad influence on anyone except my own kid, who for the record, inherited her father’s restraint with swearing.

I overhear my daughter and her friends talking about swearing one day and a girl bragged “You should hear my Dad!” so I felt a little better. I know a lot of kids use profanity when there are no adults around. I also know that despite the rules and the heroic efforts of the school staff, there is some swearing in the halls when students change classes. Since I was dipping into their conversation anyway, I decided to ask them – ‘What is the worst swear word someone uses at your school?’

They looked at me and without hesitation said “The N-word”.

I hadn’t thought of using the N-word as swearing before but I understood their reasoning immediately. Not just a charged word, but profane and unforgivable. We had a short talk about when kids use it at school, and how some people think its okay for black people to call each other the N-word and some think it should not be used by anyone, ever.

It was a deep discussion trying to help them to tease out how the power and meaning of the word changed in different situations. I’m not sure they got my somewhat complicated explanation about cultural analysis and how it is possible to linguistically reclaim an epithet, but we did talk about why its important to know Why a word has power.

I don’t shy away from any discussion, especially the sticky ones around “-isms”, because I think that’s part of my job description as a parent. I also truly believe that knowledge is the path to understanding, tolerance, acceptance and inclusion. And I would be surprised if I am the only parent concerned with language used by students at school, on the street or at home. Middle School is a time when boundaries are tested and using “adult language” is an easy line to cross.

Obviously the common curse words don’t faze me, but a kid using B**** or racial and religious slurs, triggers an automatic lecture from me. Even if we are in public and even if it embarrasses my daughter. I would bet that we all have words we consider to be, not taboo exactly, but unacceptable for our children to use, but some words – fag, homo, lesbo, stupid, retard, ‘That’s so Gay’, fatty – aren’t always considered unacceptable. The impact of their use may not register as hurtful until your kid is on the receiving end.

Do you talk with your child about the N-word? About name-calling or cursing? How does it come up and what do you say? Where do you draw the line with word choice? Do you ever talk about these things with other parents? I am wondering if we shouldn’t be having conversations about this subject as a community.”

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The school shooting in Chardon is tragic.

I cannot imagine what it is like to be a parent of murdered child. Or a student who no longer feels safe at school. Or a teacher with a double burden of personal safety and protecting their students. I cannot imagine.

I have heart clenching terror when I put myself in their shoes, but I would not insult them by believing that I can know what its like.

I grew up around violence and with lots of kids who experienced “broken homes” similar to that of the shooter. That violence was mostly directed inward – to the self, to relatives, to girlfriends. Even street violence has some logic to it. Robbery, gang fighting, drug wars. This modern, execution style violence has no logic that I can follow.

A unifying fact that cannot be denied is the use of guns to commit these crimes. The NRA and gun enthusiasts will begin their howling about how “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” even before the victims are buried. The arguments that a person bent on violence will use any weapon (“knife, bat or words”) so blaming guns is illogical, is specious until there is evidence of a “mass stabbing” at a school.

The truth is people with guns kill people.

Handguns are like no other weapon. Their only purpose is to kill people. Whether you call the person you are killing an intruder, an enemy or a classmate, the purpose of the handgun is to kill people. How is the access to guns not part of the problem? How does restricting handguns and assault weapons infringe on the right to bear arms or hunt? This is not what the 2nd amendment is about.

Do people even notice that there a two-page pull out section in the paper today advertising handguns for sale at Fin & Feather? Camo and deer blinds I get, two solid pages of handguns (.38 specials etc.) ranging in price from $150 – $1,500, I don’t get. Why is this acceptable?

I hope in the months to come the media coverage does not focus on those people who vociferously proclaim they will now buy and carry their own handgun in order to feel safe. None of those students who were shot in the back or the back of the head, had any chance to defend themselves.

Knowing one more person owns a gun does not make me feel safe.

Because I can barely contain my rage/outrage over what is clearly and without apology a War on Women, meaning the current House Oversight Committee hearings on regulations requiring insurers to cover contraception, I will instead focus on the the Ohio Crazy House, I mean State Legislature.

Oh so many f’d up things going on in Ohio, its hard to narrow it down. Today’s mini-rant features one prominent and one sneaky move. Yesterday a bill (HB 284) intended to expand the scope of what a physician assistant can do, suddenly included removing their current permission to insert or remove an IUD.

Physicians Assistants can be trusted to prescribe controlled substances like opiates and cannabis, issue a Do Not Resuscitate order and pronounce someone dead, but they can’t be trusted to touch an IUD. No wait its not about trust or medical skill, this provision was included because a State Rep believes that a fertilized egg is a human and an IUD prevents fertilization. Can’t get in the way of how many children the Good Lord wants you to have now can we. Nope. Not in Ohio.

Another piece of pending misguided legislation is House Bill 191. This piece of brilliance would restrict public schools from holding classes before Labor Day or after Memorial Day.

Am I the only one who thinks its insane to reduce the number of school days when we already require fewer than any other industrialized country? There is no federal requirement but most schools are in session for roughly 180 days. That 80 days of vacation not counting weekends. This might have made sense once upon a time when we all had to help out on the farm in order to eat come winter, but that has not been the case for a very long time.

We also have the shortest school day of any country – 6 1/2 hours compared to 7 1/2 or 8 hours in the EU. US kids seem to need a lot of free time to fish in the creek and play stick ball, or play video games and run the streets. One or the other.

The sponsors of HB 191 say it is about stimulating the economy by increasing the amount of summer we have for tourism.

So from my perspective the State House plan is to keep women from using contraception so they get pregnant, and then because summer vacation is so long they have take their children to King’s Island multiple times. And then when they are older, those same kids can work at King’s Island because they have been So Poorly Educated They Don’t Qualify for Anything Else.

Forward thinking – thanks State Reps!

Just heard a parent in Texas say that he would take two jobs and pay $1,000 out of pocket to keep football at their High School. He went on to say the school system should cut all that “liberal arts fluff” (art, music and foreign languages) and just teach math, science and reading. He did not resort to calling them readin, ritin’ and rithmetic, but he came real close.

Sports seems to be a more important part of this school system’s identity than academics. I am always started by this attitude. I like sports as much as the next person.

Wait, no, that’s a lie. I like sports considerably less than the majority of the people I know. I don’t watch sports and only pay enough attention so I can make conversation like when our HS team made the playoffs and it was all anyone could talk about.

I know folks have a deep attachment to sports, especially football, but I have yet to hear a story about a parent at a public school willing to work two jobs and pay $1,000 so the school can pay the French teacher. Now maybe if that was about the marching band for the football games…

I find it dishearteningly consistent.

The urban public schools I attended had very little, but they always had football, basketball and cheerleaders. No school paper or plays, no orchestra, band or Model U.N.

On the other hand, my husband’s suburban public high school sounded to me like something from an Afternoon Special – Philosophy class, a school paper, talent shows and marching band. They managed all those “extras” along with the sports.

If schools (because of budgets) are forced to pit athletics against liberal arts, the arts will lose. Arts always need a justification for inclusion in the curriculum. The folks who need to hear WHY learning music or French enhances academics never question the value of athletics.

Despite the bare bones of our HS, my friends and I all graduated and did well enough on the SAT to get into college. Some went into the military. Some went to jail. And two of those football players went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals.

Can the parent in Texas really believe that the breadth and depth of his sons education doesn’t help shape his future? Or maybe he is banking on an NFL contract. Are we moving more toward fatalism, or vocational schools? Either explanation works for current attitudes toward public education.