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Poetry and snark blogger who also has a creative side (who knew?)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Did I Ask You If You Wanted To Sit Down?!!

I never used to have the barely controllable urge to curse at children. Now, I find myself wanting to shriek like a banshee, hurling expletives at 7 year-olds. What has happened? Have I changed or have children become more irritating?

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Let me illustrate with a true example: the other day while volunteering at the Nature Center, I escorted a group of first graders into our exhibit room for a brief introductory lesson. I gathered them together and nicely instructed them to have a seat where they could view the pictures I had put up on the board. One little demon continued standing. I again instructed him to please take a seat, at which point this Devil's spawn stated, "I don't want to sit down," and remained standing. My immediate urge, which I had to suppress, was to grab this mini schmuck in sneakers by his collar, get up in his grill, and yell, "Sit your ass down, you little shithead!" Let me reiterate, I did not do this. I did, however, firmly and non-too-nicely say, "I said, 'sit down,'" at which point, he finally did.

This incident left me wondering whether kids' behavior has become more oppositional and defiant or whether I have just lost my patience in dealing with it. Or both. And I'm not talking about kids who have emotional issues that affect their behavior, are truly ADHD, are autistic, etc. These kids I can still deal with just fine. I'm talking about your run of the mill brats. They seem to be getting brattier. And to have more of a sense of entitlement. These are the kids that seem to think that rules don't apply to them, that they are somehow special.

Perhaps we should look at the parents for a clue to why these children are so out of control. I have the opportunity to interact with parent chaperones during field trips to the Nature Center, and often, the parents behave worse than the children! Talking on cell phones during instruction, interrupting teaching with their private conversations, disappearing for smoke breaks, blatantly ignoring instructions not to disturb wildlife, eating on the trails-these are just some of the behaviors in  which I commonly see parents engage when they are supposed to be assisting the children with their assigned tasks. That's in addition to showing up for a day of hiking at a Nature Center dressed in designer leather boots, mini skirts, high heels, expensive sweaters, and all other manner of inappropriate clothing.

Then there are the parents (typically the dads) who fancy themselves "nature boys." They seem to think that the field trip is for them and forget that they have kids to chaperone. I often find these dads wandering around the exhibit room, chatting with the Nature Center staff, or asking me dozens of questions unrelated to the field-trip. While I appreciate the interest these guys take in the natural environment, I find that I frequently have to redirect them to the task at hand. "It looks like your group may be wandering into that patch of poison ivy over there instead of looking for woodpecker holes in trees. You may want to try to bring them back to the group." (Translation: Wake up, jackwagon!)

I find that I am often tempted to take two of these parents' heads and bash them together. My theory is that the hollow sound it might make may be akin to the sound of the redbellied woodpecker pecking holes in the rotting trees to search for insects. I could have the children listen as I smashed their oblivious parents' empty heads together and compared the sound to a woodpecker. Violent impulses relieved and teachable moment. Now, that's a good field trip!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Making a Monkey of out Scopes

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If you thought the state of Tennessee is full of only Bible thumping, inbred, possum eating, toothless, half-witted snake handlers, you are wrong. Tennessee is full of Bible thumping, inbred, possum eating, toothless, half-witted snake handlers who have political savvy. Scary. These right wing wackadoos have managed to pass a law intended to turn public schools into public churches. Yes, my little pretties, the state famous for the Scopes Monkey Trial that determined the right to teach the scientific theory of evolution in the public schools is now allowing fundamentalist religious wingnuts to monkey with years of science curriculum in the name of "critical thinking skills" on "controversial issues."

This month the Tennessee House voted 70 to 28 (not even close, people!) to pass a bill (HB 368) that would allow science teachers to discuss "alternatives" to scientifically accepted schools of thought on certain "controversial" issues, including biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning. Although cloaked in language of "respect" for "differences of opinion," what this bill essentially says is that it is now fine for a science teacher to tell his or her students that the theory of evolution may not be correct and that there is room in the science curriculum for creationism. What these backwoods yahoos don't seem to realize is that no matter what they believe, creationism is Christian theology and has no place in a public school classroom.

I was able to pull up some video of the Tennessee House of Representatives debating House Bill 368. Watch this on an empty stomach or what you see may cause you to revisit your lunch. If you are unable to view the video, I'll provide you with a brief summation of the circus of idiots that passes for government in Tennessee.

First, we have Representative Frank Niceley, who begins by quoting one of the greatest scientists of all time, Albert Einstein,who was basically an agnostic Jew. According to Mr. Niceley, Einstein said that "a little knowledge would turn your head toward atheism, while a broader knowledge would turn your head toward Christianity." I guess Mr. Niceley has been reading some of the more obscure biographies of Einstein because I have never heard that particular quote attributed to him.

Another highlight of this intellectual firestorm is Representative Sheila Butt. She expounds on her "Aquanet Theory" of global warming, on which, I believe, she and Al Gore will soon be publishing a paper. According to Ms. Butt, she and many other girls in high school, gave up their Aquanet hair spray because scientists told them it was "bad" and caused global warming. Now, she says, those same scientists are saying that the aerosols from their hair spray might be "absorbing the earth's rays and keeping us from global warming." Therefore, Ms. Butts argues, what children learn in science class might turn out to be wrong. And something about chocolate. She ends with a statement that will make all prospective industries and corporations think twice about locating to Tennessee; Butts insists that no child in Tennessee should be made to feel ignorant for not accepting the theory of evolution or any other scientific theory. In a science class. In a public school.

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"Inherit the Windbags" TN House of Reps Debate Debacle

I wonder whether the good folk in the Tennessee House of Representative have considered that they may have opened a Pandora's box (that's Greek mythology; it's not in the Bible, Reps. Niceley and Butt) with their bill. If teachers are now allowed to critique evolution and offer "alternative" theories of creation and evolution, what's to stop a practitioner of Wicca from talking about her theories of creation or a Muslim from talking about Allah? Do the people of Tennessee really want their science classes to turn into a class on World Religions? I bet not.

It truly frightens me that this absurdist political theater has crawled its way into children's classrooms. If these folks want to brainwash their kids in their own homes and in their churches, have at it. But where taxpayer dollars are concerned, keep religion out outside the doors of the public schools.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Words of Wisdom

This is the true joy in life, 
the being used for a purpose 
recognized by yourself as a mighty one; 
the being a force of nature 
instead of a feverish, selfish little clod 
of ailments and grievances 
complaining that the world 
will not devote itself 
to making you happy. 

George Bernard Shaw

I saw this quote on Tess Kincaid's blog, Life at Willow Manor,  and thought to myself, "Yes!!!" George got this one exactly right. For those of you who may not think you're adept at deciphering quotes, the gist is this: If you want to be happy, quit complaining that you're not happy and get out there and DO something useful! 

How many people do you know who whine, whine whine about their sad, little lives? Every gripe, every grievance must be recorded and recited to anyone and everyone. Does the ranting make them feel better afterward? Does it provide some catharsis? Hell no!  They go on feeling miserable and downtrodden, accumulating ever more resentments and lamentations. Do these chronic pessimists ever attempt to do anything to change their outlook or their situation? No, they don't because they feel that Life owes them happiness. They have a sense of entitlement that is bigger than the chip they carry around on their slumping shoulders! As George puts it, they are "selfish little clods."

What these sadsacks fail to realize is that if they would just take a little time to think about someone other than themselves, it may just benefit them. "Get your head out of your pupik" is a Yiddish expression that means "Get your head out of your belly button" or "Look around you." There are many people who are worse off than most of us.  Try thinking about someone other than your pathetic self for a short time and you may find that suddenly, your mood improves. Once you find a purpose, your own complaints don't loom as large. The irony (and I hate when people use the word 'irony' wrong, but that's another rant) is that helping others helps you. 

Am I talking about you? Are you one of the "selfish little clods" of whom Mr. Shaw speaks? Answer these questions honestly:

  1. When you have a conversation, do you talk mostly about yourself? Do you talk or do you listen?
  2. When you hear about world or local events, do you immediately think, "How will this affect me?"
  3. Do you refuse or neglect to do things that are helpful to others or to the environment because they are inconvenient to you?
  4. Do you give of yourself only when you expect to get something in return?
  5. Do you make any attempt to understand people who come from different cultures or backgrounds from your own or do you think that those who differ from you are problematic?
  6. Do you feel that you are entitled to have things go well for you and that if they don't, it must be someone's fault? 
  7. Are you frequently oblivious to the effect of your actions on others? For example, do you talk on your cell phone in restaurants, blow smoke near people's faces, cut off other cars in traffic?
  8. Do you often fail to keep promises or obligations because you "forget" or because something "better" or "more important" comes up?
If you find that you've answered "yes" to several of these questions, you may want to think about whether you are, indeed, leaning toward clodhood. You may be whinier, more self-centered, and have a bigger sense of entitlement than you realize, and it may be making you an unhappy person. I KNOW it's making those around you unhappy. So, now that spring is here, do a little spring cleaning on your personality. Sweep that kvetching right out the door and start doing something useful instead of just bitching about how lousy everything is for you. As George Bernard Shaw also said, " Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself."