A Short Rant

The Youth Media Awards were announced this week. The book Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly won the Newbery Award. I saw one person on Facebook comment that the one review of the book mentioned that the r word is used a lot in the book. I don’t know what review that was, but I found one on Amazon with the same complaint. Is the r word used in the book? Yes, but you have to look at context. It is used multiple times by the bully against a kid who goes to the resource room for special help. I know that we would rather not see the word, but if you are writing realistic fiction you have to be realistic. I guarantee you kids are still calling other kids retarded no matter how many times we tell them the word is hurtful. It is real for the bully to use the word. Nothing about the book makes it seem this is OK.

In the fall there was a big controversy over the book The Black Witch. There was a review online that pulled several racist comments out and used them to say the book was hurtful and should never have been published. People piled on and posted negative reviews on Goodreads without ever reading the book. I read the book. What they fail to comprehend is that those racist statements in the book were said by racist characters. Some were said by the main character, but the entire point of the book was to see the growth in a character who was raised to believe her race was superior only to realize how wrong that was once she goes to school with other races. Context matters. It was a very good book.

I keep seeing over and over again how books are being pulled from schools because parents complained about language or other content without thinking that this language and content is what makes the book real. Why do you want your kids to read sugar-coated realities? Why are we judging books on a few words instead of on the entire content of the book? Why can’t we read challenging and difficult stories anymore?

Also – there was another school shooting today. We seem to be more active in removing “dangerous” books from schools than we are in keeping actual danger out. Maybe we could fix that?

Montgomery County’s Stupid Move

The big news in schools locally is Montgomery County’s decision to remove all references to religious holidays from the school calendar. This move was prompted by the local Muslim community’s request to have one of their holy days off. It was a reasonable request. Most local school systems are closed for the major Christian and Jewish holidays, the precedent has been set. What can they do? Oh, I guess they can make a really stupid decision in response. I have two problems with this decision.

1. Do they think people are too dumb to know what they are doing? Do they think people are so stupid that next year when they are closed on Yom Kippur that people won’t realize why they aren’t open because Yom Kippur is not specifically stated on the calendar? A lot of systems already say winter holiday or winter break when they close at Christmas. I don’t think anyone is blind to the fact that they chose that time frame because it’s Christmas just because they call it something else. Don’t insult your public’s intelligence. This only makes people mad and does not even address the request.

2. As a public institution you can not promote or endorse one religion over another. If you set the precedent that you will close on certain religions major holidays, you are setting yourself up for requests to close on other major religious holidays. If you say no, you are discriminating based on religion. You can’t say that we won’t open or hold activities on x religion’s holy days, but then be business as usual on another’s. I’m not saying take away the religious holidays. I’m very happy that I get the day off on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’d be perfectly OK with being off on Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur (apologies is spelled wrong. I’m too lazy to look it up). I’m just saying that once you start down that road as a public institution you can’t throw up a stop sign when another religion wants to join in.

School(parents) Drama Club

I was already irritated with parents in Anne Arundel County due to my membership in the AMS PTA Facebook page. It is generally just a stream of constant complaints. Nothing is ever good enough for these parents and they want everyone to know it. My irritation once again expanded county-wide(see hurricane aftermath post(https://theycallmetater.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/a-note-to-anne-arundel-county-parents/) when AACPS announced last night that they would wait until this morning to assess conditions and make a decision on opening schools.  Parents jumped on the announcement on Facebook to complain bitterly that the school was actually waiting to make an informed decision. They wanted to know RIGHT NOW! They had to know RIGHT NOW! They had to know RIGHT NOW mainly because they were too stupid and/or lazy to have a plan in place for what to do with their kids on a snow day and couldn’t make one then because they were too busy posting on Facebook. They had to know RIGHT NOW because 5am is too late to make alternate plans and also too early in the morning to get a phone call from the school. They also wanted a decision RIGHT NOW because if their kid went to school tomorrow they would likely DIE because it is ICY RIGHT NOW.  The school held their ground, waited and made the proper decision to open 2 hours early. This prompted another stream of complaints. My kid is going to DIE because you are making them go to school and our sidewalk is ICY. Do you want my kid to DIE? Why are you so HEARTLESS? As far as I know, no children were harmed on the way to school today.

This drama was followed by the news that AHS was without power when the kids arrived at school today. It was announced that power was out and that no decision had been made about early dismissal.  This announcement was followed by more posts from the drama queen parents. No power?!  It’s cold outside. If you don’t send my kid home he will DIE from hypothermia! No power?! That’s dangerous! It’s dark in there. If you keep my kid there she will likely be assaulted, murdered, robbed, etc and DIE. Why are you so HEARTLESS? Why can’t you think about the children? Power was restored within 30 minutes of school starting. As far as I know, no children perished during this difficult time.

We wonder what’s wrong with kids today? Look at the parents.

Zero Tolerance for Zero Tolerance

If you are friends with me on Facebook, you have probably seen the “stupid school” articles I share.  Many of the stupid school decisions are based on a zero-tolerance policy. The most recent one that really made me mad was this one:


where a high school athlete was suspended after she went to a party to drive a drunk friend home. She did not attend the party and did not drink. She was only there to get a friend who called to ask for a ride. Instead of thinking and applauding the teen for making sure a friend didn’t drive home drunk, the school used “zero tolerance” to make a really stupid decision. I could post article after article of other schools doing the same thing.

Zero tolerance is supposed to be about “making kids safer”. What zero tolerance does is take common sense and any thought out of a process that needs common sense and thought. If we are going to suspend, arrest, expel, etc a student I would like to think some thought was put into the decision to ensure that it is the proper decision. This isn’t happening. Anyone using any sort of thought process can’t possibly believe it is right to suspend a student for making sure a friend got home safely. Would the school rather the friend drive drunk? Are schools really safer because kids are suspended for pretending their fingers are a gun? Wouldn’t we feel better knowing school administrators have the best interest of the kids in mind when deciding on punishment instead of just following an excessive, blanket zero-tolerance policy? If they aren’t required to think, can’t we at least replace them with computerized VP’s of discipline to save money?

Recess, Respect and Middle School

I recently joined the Facebook group for my daughter’s middle school’s PTA. There have been a large number of posts recently about how hard it is to get substitute teachers to come to the school because of behavior issues in some of the classrooms. These behavior issues include entire classes ignoring the teacher, Kids dancing on the desks cussing, talking back and the sub crying because they have lost control. There has also been a recent incident of a teacher being assaulted by a student. The group is full of excuses as to why this is happening. They blame the administration. They say the poor little babies have too much responsibility thrown on them in 6th grade. The recent hot topic is the belief that giving them recess will cure all of the behavior ills. The two things I haven’t seen mentioned: better subs and parent responsibility.

I do agree that many studies show that giving kids time to play helps them grow as people and build a variety of skills. I agree that letting kids be active will release some pent up energy and might make the students less fidgety and talkative in class. I agree that some sort of physical education needs to be a standard for every student as it is as important as the other skills being taught. Do I think recess for middle school is the answer? I’m not sure. I think just daily PE classes would be helpful. I think less strict rules about talking, walking around, etc during lunch would be helpful. I don’t think any of this will fix the issues mentioned above.

Students who dance on desks, cuss out teachers and assault teachers won’t become model citizens because they got to go to recess.  These issues are not the result of a little bit of pent up energy.  Most times it is the result of too little parenting happening at home.  Too many parents either aren’t around to parent or are so lenient at home that the kids learn nothing about restraint, respect and just generally how to act in public.  Kids are coddled and given everything they want.  They aren’t punished for treating their parents in an uncivil manner. How do we expect them to learn to treat others with respect. Instead of looking around for others to blame, parents need to first look at themselves.

Also, if a sub loses control of a classroom and is crying in the front of the class it is probably not the right job for them. Someone needs to be willing to have this discussion with them and encourage them to find another career choice. Teaching is hard work and not for everyone.

Finally, actually punishing kids who misbehave in school is not a bad thing. If we allow kids to act this way with no repercussions, why are we surprised when the behavior continues and sometimes escalates?

A Note to Anne Arundel County Parents

Once again Anne Arundel County has been hit by storms that knocked the power out in portions of the county. Once again, when it was time for schools to reopen parents are crying that little Brittany and Jackson have to go to school when there is no power at home. How can they possibly learn if they can’t blow dry their hair in the morning? It’s an outrage! My message to them: stop crying and realize how lucky you are.

People in NYC and New Jersey have lost their homes. People have lost their lives. Some people don’t have homes to lose. There are many people worldwide who live without electricity all the time. Many have no running water. I’m sure given the chance, they would love to trade places with you. If all you have to worry about is your kids taking a cold shower before school or maybe skipping a shower for a day you should count your blessings. It could be much worse.