The McVP – Musings About McKenzie, Malcolm’s Greatest Teacher

I have posted several times about being the parent of a child who happens to have Down Syndrome, but I would be remiss to mention that the most positive influence and his greatest teacher is his older sister, McKenzie.

We call her McK.

Malcolm calls her MAAAACKKKK!

She turned 14 today. And she starts high school in a month. And that means she will be going to school with me.

Mck6

Lucky us! Actually, lucky me. More actually, lucky Malcolm.

McK was five when Malcolm was born. They both have the same red hair and blue eyes, just like their stunningly beautiful mother. That’s right, I am the token bald guy living with the Ginger Brigade.

She makes special connections with people. She is intensely loyal and understands the nature of strong relationships. Her bond with her Grandpa Ed was one of the more special things for me to witness as a parent. Simply unconditional love.

Mck2

Never once have I heard McK complain that her brother had special needs and that she was not getting the attention that we have had as parents given Malcolm considering that he needed some extra help. In fact, I can say without a doubt, that McK is probably the biggest influence on Malcolm progressing as fast as he has. He walked before 18 months of age and was trying to imitate all of her actions.

She talked to him at night when he woke up screaming and crying. She helped him when he fell. She read stories to him, taught him to say words, and allowed him to be part of her every moment when he wanted. She makes him laugh. She soothes his fears. They still chase each other around the house.

Mck5

She is Malcolm’s MVP, or rather McVP.

He trusts her. And when she is around him, she trusts her instincts. It’s a connection – a sibling connection. They have the same DNA. In fact, they have more DNA between them than typical developing siblings.

Another aspect I really admire about McK is that she is her own person. She is artistic. Literally draws all of the time. When she isn’t drawing, she’s reading. Voraciously, like her mother. And when she is not doing that, she is writing. There are multiple stories she has written with fully developed characters and interesting plots. Some she has posted online and received hundreds of positive comments.

Mck4

A great conversationalist, all adults that she meets admire her ability to converse on so many subjects maturely. But what I really adore about her is her sense of humor. She’s hilarious, goofy, and fantastic with voices. She can sound like a cross between Hermione Granger and Adele.

And Malcolm adores her. And she adores Malcolm.

Except when he goes into her room and rearranges things without her knowing.

Mck3

That happens about eight times a day.

Happy Birthday McK. Harry Potter is fortunate to share a birthday with you.

Mck1

What The Recent Voter ID Law Ruling Can Do For Our Public Schools

The news that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Voter ID law was an enormous victory for many here in North Carolina. And the public system may be a major beneficiary both directly and indirectly.

What makes this decision even more historical is that it happens in time for the November elections. An appeal process would almost be impossible to complete before Election Day. So now NC will have to reinstitute full early voting periods, same day registration, and the ability for people to vote in a different precinct.

NC is a purple state. It went for Obama in 2008, and barely went for Romney in 2012. In 2012 Romney won the state by less than 100,000 voters. In 2008, Obama won NC by less than 17,000 votes. The race between Thom Tillis and Kay Hagan was very close. And now we have a governor’s race, another senatorial race, races for all House seats and all General Assembly seats.

A recent Reuter’s study estimated that around 29,000 voters would have been compromised by the current version of NC’s Voter ID law. Most all of them would have been poor minorities.

If one looks at the demographics of those who tend to support the Democratic Party as opposed to the GOP, it is not hard to see that democrats are the clear beneficiaries of the Voter ID law being struck down by the court system.

So why could this ruling have such a huge effect on schools? Actually, there are many reasons, but they all center on the fact that most of the changes that have hurt public schools in the eyes of so many have been designed and enacted by current GOP members. Due process elimination, graduate degree pay bumps removed, disproportionate “average” pay raises, unregulated charter school growth, Opportunity Grants, and the establishment of an Achievement School District are just a few of the GOP ordained “reforms” of the past four years.

So what specifically may happen and why? First, the fact that more people will be able to vote is foremost. Many more minorities in rural areas that have been GOP strongholds may now come out in droves, not just because they can vote with less restrictions, but now with a new lease on exercising their constitutional rights they will make sure to do so. And the opportunity to make a statement against those who supported the very Voter ID law that was struck down may be inviting.

Secondly, the timing of the ruling now puts North Carolina in more of a spotlight regionally and nationally. While the governor’s race has been in the national news with HB2, this ruling certainly puts more cameras on how North Carolinians will respond. With Citizens United allowing for major money to pour into candidates’ coffers, this ruling may loosen the purse strings even more. In the last week both Clinton and Trump have campaigned here. Kaine and Pence will be back soon. If political “tourism” was an industry, we would be leading the nation.

Next, with more people voting, candidates will need to try and sway their votes. And while not all citizens are directly affected by the Duke Energy coal ash spills or fracking, all citizens do have a stake in public education. It is the strongest common denominator that binds communities. Even if people do not have children in the public schools, they certainly pay taxes to support them. Public education will be put into the conversation even more.

Lastly, the overturning of the Voter ID law is another example of how this current administration has pushed the boundaries of constitutionality. There was the overturning of the teacher tenure laws. There was a court fight for the Opportunity Grants. There is the fallout from HB2 and the impending lawsuits to strike it down. They all are GOP initiatives. With public schools the largest employer in over 60 of North Carolina’s 100 counties and at least the second largest employer in over 90, it might be a safe bet that teachers and those who are close to them will vote in November. People who support LGBT rights will certainly come to the ballot box. People concerned with the environment will come out.

But no matter what prognosticators may say or polls may communicate, this ruling will galvanize the fight for public schools even more. It certainly has afforded many more people a way to make their voices heard.

Those people have a stake in public schools.

 

 

The Need To Be Flexible – Musings With Malcolm #6

True story:

I am taking the kids to Georgia to visit family in the van. I look into the rearview mirror and see Malcolm with two of his digits straight up both nostrils. For fear that he is about to start rubbing his brain, I ask McK to tell Malcolm to get his fingers out of his nose.

“Those aren’t his fingers, Dad.”

“Are they yours?

“No.”

“What are they?”

“His big toes.”

“What!”

Taking another quick glance in the mirror, I see this redheaded rooster top smiling with both big toes jammed up his nose. His smile is so big and wide that it literally spans beyond the scope of his elevated feet. It’s as if he is telepathically telling me, “Hey fat boy! Try this!”

Damn. That’s flexible.

Don’t believe me? He practically did it again this morning while watching Ice Age: Continental Drift.

See?

toesinnose

Most every child born with Don Syndrome has a condition called hypotonia, or low muscle tone. Some people call it being “floppy”. Malcolm calls it his way of slithering out of things. He knows his body and that he is flexible. He can literally slink out of your hands.

He can also sleep using his feet as a pillow.

He can make a yoga instructor jealous.

I watch him move sometimes and my hamstrings pull with the thought of doing one-fourth of what he does.

But before you think that this “floppiness” is a novelty, remember that muscle tone is needed for so many things. There are muscles that control your vocal chords. They have to be exercised constantly to help him say words. Malcolm does get frustrated because his receptive language is much more sophisticated than his verbal language. In other words, he understands what you say, and he also understands that you may not understand what he is saying. It can be frustrating.

Hypotonia also was a huge part of his aspiration. By the time he was old enough to eat and drink more items (12-18 months), we noticed that a lot of liquid was getting into his lungs. It was bad. Hospital visits because of breathing issues. Emergency rooms. Talk of feeding tube.  So we spent a while, actually a few years, thickening everything so that the muscles that controlled swallowing could be conditioned over time to allow him to not get any in his lungs.

Yep, that’s wild stuff. Even as I type this post Malcolm is on the floor laying down on his stomach raising his legs behind him for prolonged periods of time. Watching it makes my abs get a workout.

However, what Malcolm’s hypotonia has taught me and possibly others is that we all have to be flexible. Literally and figuratively.

And now we understand so many more words and phrases and actual sentences that he uses. For instance, he just said, “Pool?”

Which means he is already taking off his clothes and running back to his room to put on a swimsuit.

Better go. He will leave without me.

 

 

“A Confederacy of Redundancies” – McCrory, Berger, and Moore’s Weak Responses to Voter ID Ruling

If you have never read the Pulitzer-Prize winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces, then do yourself a favor and get a copy. It’s exquisite. It’s about an out-of-shape anti-hero who sells hot dogs and frets over a supposed heart-condition in New Orleans who is courting a radical gal from New York and ultimately survives a parrot attack. No kidding.

A top-five all time book for me.

It’s the nonsensical element that drives this book and its ability to showcase a lot of the meaningless fodder that we as humans give so much power to.

We seem to be living in our own alternate reality here in NC as well, but maybe with the recent ruling to overturn the Voter ID law, reality may be coming back to the real.

However, if you listen to the responses from our governor and leading lawmakers in the General Assembly, then you can see why in some ways we are still in that alternate reality, one called “A Confederacy of Redundancies”.

After the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling and opinion, the governor’s office released the following statement from Gov. McCrory (http://governor.nc.gov/press-release/governor-mccrory-releases-statement-voter-id-ruling).

“Photo IDs are required to purchase Sudafed, cash a check, board an airplane or enter a federal court room. Yet, three Democratic judges are undermining the integrity of our elections while also maligning our state. We will immediately appeal and also review other potential options.”

Why is this redundant? It is the same red-herring argument that was used for the “Bathroom Bill” (HB2), when a nonexistent circumstance like transgender sexual assault in locker rooms for school children was used to validate the removal of LGBT rights across the state. In the case for this response, the governor is referring to non-existent voter fraud. If he can make people focus on voter fraud, then it takes the focus off the fact that the Voter ID law really is discriminatory.

The governor is responding with a lot of words that seemingly do not have much substance. When he shines a light on the Photo ID aspect, he tries to shadow over the fact that the law also lifted early voting, same day registration, and out of precinct voting. All of those directly affect minority voters and in this election cycle it is not a stretch to see that those citizens will primarily vote for the Democrats.

Also, there is that using an ID to buy Sudafed, cash a check, board and airplane, and enter federal court argument. Well, most of those are legal transactions that now need ID because of actual (not nonexistent) fraud committed – Sudafed for the meth problem, check cashing because of identity theft, airplanes because of terrorism threats, all of which are very real.

Entering a federal court usually means you are entering a federal building. There’s security measures used for all federal building – ALWAYS. ID would be a sensible way to enter; however, the last time I went to go vote in my precinct, I was not asked for an ID to get in the building. Security measures do not necessitate it. It is a church. God already knows my ID.

And if the governor was really worried about ID’s maybe he should see how easily it is to get a gun without an ID.

The joint statement released by Sen. Berger and Rep. Moore offers more rich redundancies. It says,

 “Since today’s decision by three partisan Democrats ignores legal precedent, ignores the fact that other federal courts have used North Carolina’s law as a model, and ignores the fact that a majority of other states have similar protections in place, we can only wonder if the intent is to reopen the door for voter fraud, potentially allowing fellow Democrat politicians like Hillary Clinton and Roy Cooper to steal the election. We will obviously be appealing this politically-motivated decision to the Supreme Court.”

“Partisan”? From these two people? Really?

North Carolina as a model? Tell that to Wisconsin and Texas. Both of those states were just ruled upon too for their Voter ID laws – by different court officials.

“Reopening the door for voter fraud?” You mean the nonexistent instances of voter fraud that occurred before you changed the laws to help “steal the election” for GOP members in NC in this election cycle?

Furthermore, Berger’s website offered more explanation of his position (http://www.philberger.org/berger_moore_respond_to_politically_motivated_ruling_blocking_voter_id).

“The voter ID law ensures any North Carolina citizen who wants to vote will have that opportunity. The law establishes a list of valid government-issued photo IDs that voters can present at their polling places, allows anyone without a photo ID to obtain one at no cost through the Department of Motor Vehicles, and allows anyone who still has difficulty obtaining a valid ID to fill out a reasonable impediment affidavit and still have their vote counted. It also brings North Carolina into the mainstream of other states on matters of same-day registration and out-of-precinct voting.

More than 30 other states have voter ID requirements, and a similar law was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in 2008.

Polls – including those commissioned by groups challenging the law – consistently show the overwhelming majority of North Carolinians support voter ID. And political opponents of the law failed to produce a single witness who would be unable to vote under the law in court. “

Isn’t it ironic that the response from these two gentlemen from rural counties would be produced after the ruling in about the same time frame as it took for them to ram through the Voter ID law after the federal courts loosened voter discrimination rulings? Hell, look at how quickly HB2 was conceived and passed.

If Berger and Moore want to cite polls, then that means they may want to get more public input in their decision making. Where was that with HB2? Would they have allowed voters to actually give input to voting? No, I think not. Besides, if you talk about polls, then allow polls to rule everything else.

Furthermore, some people cannot get one of those “ID’s” without a birth certificate, which is really the only form of
ID that shows proof of citizenry. Just ask Donald Trump with his obsessive birther scandal with Obama. Many older people do not have birth certificates. Minorities and poorer people do not have access to medical records easily.

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals also took into account another item that Berger and Moore do not explain. An NPR report stated,

“The appeals court noted that the North Carolina Legislature “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices” — then, data in hand, “enacted legislation that restricted voting and registration in five different ways, all of which disproportionately affected African Americans.”

The changes to the voting process “target African Americans with almost surgical precision,” the circuit court wrote, and “impose cures for problems that did not exist”(http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/07/29/487935700/u-s-appeals-court-strikes-down-north-carolinas-voter-id-law ).

That sounds more like voter fraud to me.

Oh, my valve!

Ricky Don’t Lose That Number -The Suppression of The Suppression of our Voter ID Law

I just wanted to use a Steely Dan song title for once. You should go and research how that band got its name.

The news that the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Voter ID law was an enormous victory here in North Carolina. As Rob Schofield highlighted in his posting on NC Policy Watch’s “The Progressive Pulse” blog, there are two paragraphs that really stand out in the 80+ page opinion paper (http://pulse.ncpolicywatch.org/2016/07/29/breaking-fourth-circuit-court-of-appeals-strikes-down-ncs-monster-voting-law/#comments ).

“It is beyond dispute that “voting is of the most fundamental significance under our constitutional structure.” Ill. State Bd. of Elections v. Socialist Workers Party, 440 U.S. 173, 184 (1979).  For “[n]o right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined.” Wesberry v. Sanders, 376 U.S. 1, 17 (1964).  We thus take seriously, as the Constitution demands, any infringement on this right. We cannot ignore the record evidence that, because of race, the legislature enacted one of the largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the district court. We remand the case for entry of an order enjoining the implementation of SL 2013-381’s photo ID requirement and changes to early voting, same-day registration, out-of-precinct voting, and preregistration.”

The phrases “beyond dispute”, “infringement of rights”, and “largest restrictions of the franchise in modern North Carolina history” are strong uses of diction. Emphatic actually.

And there is more in the report that offers an even stronger repudiation of the Voter ID law.

Page 11 of the report (found here – http://electionlawblog.org/wp-content/uploads/nc-4th.pdf ) states,

“In response to claims that intentional racial discrimination animated its action, the State offered only meager justifications. Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist. Thus the asserted justifications cannot and do not conceal the State’s true motivation. “In essence,” as in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry (LULAC), 548 U.S. 399, 440 (2006), “the State took away [minority voters’] opportunity because [they] were about to exercise it.” As in LULAC, “[t]his bears the mark of intentional discrimination.” Id.

“Surgical precision?” Wow! “Intentional discrimination?” Double Wow!

What makes this decision even more historical is that it happens in time for the November elections. An appeal process would almost be impossible to be galvanized before Election Day. So now NC will have to reinstitute full early voting, same day registration, and ability to vote in a different precinct.

Furthermore, it highlights why North Carolina is such a huge state in this presidential election.

Whether some would like to admit it or not, NC is a purple state. It went for Obama in 2008, and barely went for Romney in 2012. In 2012 Romney won the state by less than 100,000 voters. In 2008, Obama won NC by less than 17,000 votes.

A Reuter’s study estimated that around 29,000 voters would have been compromised by the current version of NC’s Voter ID law. Most all of them would have been poor minorities.

If one looks at the demographics of those who are supporting the Trump campaign as opposed to the Clinton campaign, it is not hard to see that Clinton is the clear beneficiary of the Voter ID law being struck down by the court system. And since NC is considered a vital swing state with FL, PA, and OH, this decision looms LARGE!

And we already knew that NC was big, right? Look at it closely.

  • Clinton was in Charlotte the night the DNC started to convene.
  • Trump was in Winston-Salem the night the DNC came to order.
  • Two of the speakers Thursday at the DNC were North Carolinians, most notably Dr. Rev. William Barber, the head of the NC NAACP who has spear-headed the legal challenge to the Voter ID law.
  • North Carolina is a huge military state.
  • NC has been in the national spotlight already with HB2.

So, take that Ohio, Birthplace of Flight! Just kidding.

What I am more interested in is the response that will come from the governor’s office, particularly his spokesperson, Ricky Diaz.

This will weigh heavily on McCrory. Not only will thousands of more people vote for president, they will also vote for the next governor. McCrory has championed this bill for voter suppression and it has been declared unlawful. Polls were showing he and Cooper close, but now 29,000 new voters are in the mix. I don’t think that bodes too well for McCrory.

And it might be worth noting that this may have an effect on whether or not a special session convenes for the NC General Assembly to get HB3 on the ballot. That’s the TABOR Bill – you can read about that here – (https://caffeinatedrage.com/2016/06/24/tabor-a-tourniquet-around-the-bloodlines-of-our-republic/ ).

Oh, and when HB2 gets challenged, guess who might make the ultimate decision –

Yep. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.

That Tweet From The NC GOP & Trump’s Lapel Pin – Nonfiction Meets Fiction

It was very disappointing to see that the NC GOP party forgot to take both the time and effort to investigate how what it says can be shameful and embarrassing to all people in North Carolina.

But it is not surprising. If one just reminisces about the lack of thought and debate in passing laws like HB2, then it really makes sense. Furthermore, in trying to help sway the state’s electorate to vote for Donald Trump, it would make sense to use Trump’s favorite medium – Twitter.

This particular incident occurred Wednesday night of the Democratic National Convention. Tim Kaine was on stage. He just accepted the nomination for vice-president for the Democratic Party for the 2016 election. It is his moment. And then our state GOP tweets this:

NCGOPTWEET1

It has since been deleted. But if the image is too small it states, “@timkaine wears a Honduras flag pin on his jacket but no American flag. Shameful. #DemConvention (liberty bell icon) # DemsinPhilly (donkey icon) #ncpol”.

Ben Amey, a reporter for WNYT, then tweeted to show the error of the NC GOP’s assumption.

NCGOPTWEET2

The Greensboro News & Record ran the following report from the AP concerning the matter.

Republicans from North Carolina have apologized to Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine for mistakenly critiquing him for wearing a foreign flag during his acceptance speech.

The state GOP sent out a tweet Wednesday night saying it was “shameful” for Kaine to wear a Honduras flag during his speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Kaine spent a year in Honduras as a missionary. But Ben Amey, a reporter for WNYT-TV in Albany, New York, pointed out on Twitter that Kaine’s pin was actually the symbol for families with a member serving in the military.

Kaine’s son, a Marine, is currently deployed.

Amey posted a screen grab of the party’s original tweet, which the GOP has since deleted. Also on Twitter, the party thanked Amey for “letting us correct our mistake” (http://www.greensboro.com/ap/national/n-c-gop-mistakenly-harangues-kaine-for-lapel-pin-apologizes/article_ccda5475-2790-5c39-80b2-7204cc8eb307.html).

Shameful. Especially coming from the most “military friendly” state in the nation. The man is wearing a pin that commemorates service done by troops and the families who support them.

Furthermore, this comes on the heels of Trump’s suggestion that Russia hack into Hillary Clinton’s emails and see if they could find the 30K deleted emails that supposedly have secret information.

SO…

I got interested in lapels. We love our politicians to wear lapel pins. They need to be patriotic. They need to be American in nature.

Here’s Obama. Rockin the ‘Merican Flag.

NCGOPTWEET3

Here’s Romney – doing the same.

NCGOPTWEET4

Here’s Sarah Palin. Doing whatever she does.

NCGOPTWEET5

Here’s Chris Christie. That’s Jersey Baby!

NCGOPTWEET6

Then I looked for Trump and an instance where he wore a lapel pin. And I found this one.

NCGOPTWEET7

Look closely. It’s not American. It’s not Honduran. It’s not even from Alaska. It’s from…

NCGOPTWEET8

Russia! But look closer! It has something else. A picture. It’s…

NCGOPTWEET9

Putin! It’s a lapel pin from “Russia With Love!” And a bear!

Actually, all of that is not true. The Trump lapel pin, that is.

I was just drawing a quick conclusion based on assumptions and preconceived notions drawn on partisan ideologies.

Or was I being what Trump claimed when he explained away his invitation for Russia to hack U.S. mainframes? Sure.

“Of course I’m being sarcastic.”

“I Farted” – Musings With Malcolm #5

If there is one word that I could say in any class that would make most all of the males at east chuckle, it is “fart.”

“Fart.”

Fart.”

There’s a little bit of onomatopoeia in that word. Give or take a trumpet or an air leak.

One may “pass gas”, “experience flatulence”, “toot”, “poot”, “break wind”, “cut cheese”, “cut one”, or “sound the Horn of Gondor”. But none of these seem to relate the experience better than that one word…

FART.

Farting is actually not an uncommon motif on literature. Shakespeare uses it in the Comedy Of Errors.

“A man may break a word with you, sir; and words are but wind; Ay, and break it in your face, so he break it not behind” (III, i).

Dante? Yep, Dante. Of course it would be in The Inferno. Canto XXI to be exact.

Along the left-hand dike they wheeled about;
But first had each one thrust his tongue between
His teeth towards their leader for a signal;
And he had made a trumpet of his rump.

Yep, that’s a trumpet for you. However, when Dante reaches Paradise, no one farts. They “release” a heavenly scent. Actually, that’s not true, but it made me laugh.

More? Of course. I present Chaucer and “The Miller’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales.

This Nicholas just then let fly a fart
As loud as it had been a thunder-clap,
And well-nigh blinded Absalom, poor chap;
But he was ready with his iron hot
And Nicholas right in the arse he got.

That’s right. Arse = Ass. Then go to the Reeve’s Tale and you get more aroma.

And then there is Salinger in Catcher in the Rye.

“This guy sitting in the row in front of me, Edgar Marsalla, laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, in the chapel and all, but it was also quite amusing. Old Marsalla. He damn near blew the roof off.”

In a chapel, no less. And there are more.

But art is meant to reflect reality. And farts are real. Some more potent than others. Some more audible than others. Some more debilitating than others. But they are real. And we all do it, no matter what we call it. If we could see them, then we could avoid them. But we can’t.

One of the best farters I know is Malcolm. There is no inhibition at all with his activity. He lets it fly. One time he let a fart loose that was so powerful at the dinner table that I swear he levitated about six inches off his wooden, sound magnifying chair.

Then he smiled as if relieved and proud of himself at the same time. And then he yelled “Pot!” that’s his way of saying “pooty pot”.

Invariably in restaurants he will let loose a sphincteral symphony, but he usually reserves it for places that have leather bound booths. For some reason that combination of material and bodily function allows for the entire restaurant to enjoy that favorite pastime.

Now, his mother and I, while we cannot stop the inevitable, now have gotten Malcolm to say “Scuse Me!” That usually happens while laughing maniacally, but he is showing manners.

Why does he laugh? Because he’s a boy and it’s a fart.

Last week he did something even more humanitarian. He farted in a restaurant, laughed, said, “Scuse Me!” and then did this.

Fart 1

That’s right. He held my nose to spare my olfactory nerves the shock of his “sounding the Horn of Gondor.”

And that’s a good thing. Because I was about to “let Rohan answer!”

The Book of Leviticus and the Opportunity Grants

A recent NC Policy Watch article by Chris Fitzsimon entitled “More taxpayer funding for voucher schools that openly discriminate against LGBT students and parents” offers yet another example of how taxpayer money is being used to fund schools that are allowed to teach any curriculum they choose. Furthermore, many of these schools are religious schools and can discriminate against certain prospective students based on a variety of criteria, especially sexual orientation or identity.

In this particular article, Fitzsimon focuses on Bible Baptist Christian School in Matthews. He describes the situation:

The school collected more than $100,000 in public support for the 2015-2016 school year to pay for the education of 26 students who signed up for a voucher.

But not all taxpayers have access to the school.  Gay students and students with gay parents are banned from attending Bible Baptist Christian School even though their tax dollars support it.

That’s not an unwritten policy quietly enforced by the admissions office.  It is quite explicit that gay students and students with gay parents are not welcome.

Page 76 of the student handbook of the school includes a “Homosexual Conduct Policy” that makes it clear.

“The school reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to refuse admission to an applicant or to discontinue enrollment of a current student. This includes, but is not limited to, living in, condoning, or supporting any form of sexual immorality; practicing or promoting a homosexual lifestyle or alternative gender identity;”

The handbook lists Bible verses as references for its policies. One of the verses cited to support the anti-LGBT provision is Leviticus 20:13, that reads:

“If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/07/27/more-taxpayer-funding-for-voucher-schools-that-openly-discriminate-against-lgbt-students-and-parents/). ”

Bible Baptist is not the only fundamentalist religious school that receives tax payer money that is allowed to do this, but the direct use of a Bible verse to validate discrimination seems to be a violation of the separation of church and state. Ironically, churches already are tax exempt, but now those churches with schools can stay tax exempt and use tax payer money to further their doctrines.

The legality and the merits of that are for another post. What I am focused on is the use of a single Bible verse to allow for some students to be denied admission when there are so many other “laws” within the same book of the Bible.

If Bible Baptist Christian School chooses to use the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, one of the books of the Torah, as a basis for admission criteria and student conduct, then it cannot just adhere to just one of the verses and its commands, but all of them. And breaking any of these should be grounds for having to refund the public school system with the very money taken with a voucher to pay for tuition at the private, religious school.

No Red Lobster!

Lev. 11: 9-12 says,

  1. “These shall ye eat of all that are in the waters: whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, them shall ye eat.
  2. And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you:
  3. They shall be even an abomination unto you; ye shall not eat of their flesh, but ye shall have their carcases in abomination.
  4. Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.”

One cannot be caught eating at the Red Lobster or other seafood restaurant that serves certain prepared aquatic delicacies. Even if a student is not eating one of the forbidden menu items, watching others do so and not acting to stop it is just as much a sin.

No polyester / cotton blended t-shirts!

Lev. 19:19 says,

  1. Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee.

It doesn’t matter if the t-shirt has the school’s name and a picture of a cross; it breaks the law!

Hair better be done right! And no tattoos.

Lev. 19:27-28 says,

  1. Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard.
  2. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

That’s right. No cutting of beards or tattoos of crosses on arms or legs, or anywhere.

Make sure to discriminate against those who are different.

Lev. 21: 17-21 says,

  1. Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God.
  2. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous,
  3. Or a man that is brokenfooted, or brokenhanded,
  4. Or crookbackt, or a dwarf, or that hath a blemish in his eye, or be scurvy, or scabbed, or hath his stones broken;
  5. No man that hath a blemish of the seed of Aaron the priest shall come nigh to offer the offerings of the LORD made by fire: he hath a blemish; he shall not come nigh to offer the bread of his God.

That’s right. If one is short, has a flat nose, is blind, crippled, has a curved spine, or wears glasses, he is not good enough to become a priest. Would that also mean that one who possesses one of those traits is not qualified to be a student at Bible Baptist? The web site says, “We are dedicated to equipping the saints of God for the 21st century.” Can saints have the aforementioned “deformities”?

No more sports. Or change the balls.

Lev. 11: 6-8 says,

  1. And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.
  2. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.
  3. Of their flesh shall ye not eat, and their carcase shall ye not touch; they are unclean to you.

Athletes can’t use pigskins. Bible Baptist has an athletic program. Basketballs, volleyballs, and soccer balls used cannot have any leather. That would also include shoes. Athletic shoes in these sports tend to be made of leather.

Associating with mothers who went to church right after the birth of their children.

Lev. 12: 4-5 says,

  1. And she shall then continue in the blood of her purifying three and thirty days; she shall touch no hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary, until the days of her purifying be fulfilled.
  2. But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

That’s no church for the mother for 33 days after the birth of a boy. For girls it is 66 days.

No eating of fruit from a tree that is less than four years old.

Lev. 19: 23-24 says,

  1. And when ye shall come into the land, and shall have planted all manner of trees for food, then ye shall count the fruit thereof as uncircumcised: three years shall it be as uncircumcised unto you: it shall not be eaten of.
  2. But in the fourth year all the fruit thereof shall be holy to praise the LORD withal.

That might be a lot of wasted fruit, but that is what the verses stipulate.

Your family can not own any land.

Lev. 25: 23 says,

  1. The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine; for ye are strangers and sojourners with me.

There should be no land deeds or evidence of property tax found in any home of any student.

There are many more laws in the other books of the Torah to explain, but if a religious school is to abide by one of them, then should they not abide by all of them? And if someone breaks the rules of the school is the school not allowed to expel the student? Sure. What if the school does not enforce the very statutes that is espouses? Then the penalty may have to be to give back the voucher money to the public schools.

However, there is one fundamental law that comes from the Bible that I think all schools should keep in mind whether public or one of the 336 religious schools or private academies that receive voucher money. That is what Jesus said in Matthew 18 : 2-6.

  1. And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
  2. And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
  3. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
  4. And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.
  5. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

Our Kids Ain’t Just STEMS

There is an incredible emphasis on the STEM curriculum in public schools. I fear that because of the limiting of resources and reduction of per-pupil funding by our state government that other subject areas have and will suffer for it.

Gov. McCrory has been vocal about creating more emphasis on STEM curriculum. Even in his 2015 budget proposal, he wanted to offer graduate degree pay bumps to those who taught STEM classes. McCrory said,

High quality STEM education is critical to North Carolina’s future prosperity. To address the gap in education and workforce needs, we must provide resources and support for teachers’ professional growth – especially in the critical areas of science and mathematics. “ (http://wncn.com/2015/04/14/mccrory-announces-statewide-stem-initiative-with-help-from-gsk-2/). ”

But with all of this emphasis on STEM, the acronym itself suggests that there is more that students need to be exposed to when it comes to creating an innovative citizenry for this new age.

Why? Because a “STEM” is only part of the larger flower or plant. And while the STEM is important, so are the roots, leaves, soil, sun, and water in creating the bloom, fruit, crop, or plant.

If we are to create a vibrant citizenry, we need to make sure that we pay attention to the whole student. And that means that we need to make sure that the very students who many claim need to be immersed in STEM curriculum are also nurtured with the arts – both the liberal and the fine arts.

Think about it. Before a plant can grow it needs to have a good root system that allows it to take in nutrients from the soil and water from the ground. The more elaborate the root system is, the better chance that the plant will grow and thrive.

Much like a root system, we make sure to give our students a foundation early. Remember the three “R’s”? Two of them refer to reading and writing, which are the basis for language arts. Reading is practically the most foundational aspect for almost every other type of learning. Establishing and nurturing that root system must happen. Besides, the bigger the plant, the need for a more elaborate root system. That’s why we always need good language arts instruction. It allows us to grow within the environment.

The leaves are like the social sciences and other humanities. Leaves take in the sunshine and use photosynthesis to literally feed the plant. The leaves interact with what is around the plant. Much like the leaves, the social sciences and humanities lend perspective and teach lessons about what is around us and how we can interact with those entities. These areas lend us a lens to see how the world works and how we can function in that world. They also teach what has worked in the past and what has worked in other climates.

There is so much evidence and research that the fine arts enhance any student’s ability to improve in all academic areas. Theater, music, visual arts, and dance help students expand themselves and develop self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and self-expression. The very appearance and appeal to the senses has a lot to do with just how a plant presents itself.

Gov. McCrory was quoted along with many other high ranking Republicans this past Feb. 21st in the New York Times seemingly belittling the humanities and arts. Patricia Cohen reported in “A Rising Call to Promote STEM Education and Cut Liberal Arts Funding”,

“What has incensed many educators is not so much the emphasis on work force development but the disdain for the humanities, particularly among Republicans. Several Republicans have portrayed a liberal arts education as an expendable, sometimes frivolous luxury that taxpayers should not be expected to pay for. The Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, for example, has called for more welders and fewer philosophers. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida criticized anthropologists, and Mr. McCrory belittled gender studies” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/business/a-rising-call-to-promote-stem-education-and-cut-liberal-arts-funding.html?_r=0).

What McCrory, Rubio, and Scott forget is that they control the very soil and water that is used to help plants (students) grow. By fully funding our public schools, they ensure that the soil is nutrient rich and able to help grow plants. By removing obstacles like vouchers and unregulated charter schools, they can ensure that there is enough rain falling on the plants for them to grow.

When they say we don’t need as many liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, they are literally saying that plants are nothing but stems. And the stem cannot survive on its own. It needs the other parts.

In Defense of The Liberal Arts, Fine Arts, Humanities, and All Other Subjects – There’s More to Plants Than STEMs

There is an incredible emphasis on the STEM curriculum approach in our public schools. And I fear that because of the limiting of resources and reduction of per-pupil funding by our state government that other subject areas have and will suffer for it.

There is no doubt that having a unique approach to engaging students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics is important as we still adjust to instilling 21st century skills in our students. However, without the skills derived from other fields of study such as the liberal arts, the social sciences, the fine arts, and the humanities, that sole focus on STEM will create very knowledgeable, but one-dimensional students.

Think of a physical body where all limbs are functional and useful. Yet, the right arm is much more developed and favored than the others. In exercises that require only the use of the right arm, this person does well. In exercises that require full body coordination and strength, this person is weakened.

This century requires a much more fully coordinated workforce and a more dynamic world economy. Communication, presentation, collaboration, and understanding of other cultures past and present are just as critical as the products that we produce.

Many decision makers in Raleigh believe that our country’s ability to maintain its position and even lead the world in innovation and economic development rests solely on how well our students become enmeshed with STEM curriculum and its related fields.

I disagree. Not because I teach a subject area that is not STEM, but because I believe that the teachers of STEM subjects that I work with see and value the skill sets that non-STEM teachers teach.

I live in Winston-Salem. Some call it “The Dash” (actually it’s a hyphen, but makes a great name for a baseball team), the “Twin City”, or the “Camel City”. If you look on city limit signs for WS, you will see that it is also called “The City of Arts and Innovation.”

We have a major film festival (RiverRun), one of the most acclaimed art schools in the nation (NC School of the Arts) and three universities that offer degrees in fields associated with liberal arts. But not ironically, our largest employer is Wake Forest Baptist Hospital, a major medical research institution and healthcare provider. Wake Forest Baptist might be one of the first entities to tell our lawmakers that all skill sets learned from the non-STEM subjects are incredibly valuable to their success.

My wife works for Wake Forest Baptist Medical School. She has a journalism degree. She possesses a skill set that allows for the medical school to help raise funds that allow more people to do research that in turn help other people.

For a state that expends a lot of energy and money allowing for “choice” in our schools, is it not ironic that many lawmakers including our own governor seem to be favoring some of the choices above others?

These same lawmakers should know that being able to take advantage of any option in life is contingent on critical thinking skills, problem solving capabilities, effective communications abilities, and an understanding of what has worked in the past. Simply put, all subject areas are vital in preparing our students to make those choices.

Gov. McCrory has been fairly vocal about creating more emphasis on STEM curriculum. Even in his 2015 budget proposal, he wanted to offer graduate degree pay bumps to those who taught STEM classes (when it has been removed for all other teachers) and he introduced STEMAccelerator to boot. McCrory said,

““High quality STEM education is critical to North Carolina’s future prosperity,” McCrory said in a written release. “To address the gap in education and workforce needs, we must provide resources and support for teachers’ professional growth – especially in the critical areas of science and mathematics. The STEMAccelerator will help us meet one of my administration’s goals of transforming the teaching profession into a rewarding, long-term career (http://wncn.com/2015/04/14/mccrory-announces-statewide-stem-initiative-with-help-from-gsk-2/). ”

But with all of this emphasis on STEM, the acronym itself suggests that there is more that students need to be exposed to when it comes to creating an innovative citizenry for this new age.

Why? Because a “STEM” is only part of the larger flower or plant. And while the STEM is important, so are the roots, leaves, soil, sun, and water in creating the bloom, fruit, crop, or plant.

Here is a simple illustration:

plant1

Or you can get really technical:

plant2

The point is, if we are to create a vibrant citizenry, we need to make sure that we pay attention to the whole student. And that means that we need to make sure that the very students who many claim need to be immersed in STEM curriculum are also nurtured with the arts – both the liberal and the fine arts.

Think about it. Before a plant can grow it needs to have a good root system that allows it to take in nutrients from the soil and water from the ground. The more elaborate the root system is, the better chance that the plant will grow and thrive.

Much like a root system, we make sure to give our students a foundation early. Remember the three “R’s”? Two of them refer to reading and writing, which are the basis for language arts. Reading is practically the most foundational aspect for almost every other type of learning. Establishing and nurturing that root system must happen. Besides, the bigger the plant, the need for a more elaborate root system. That’s why we always need good language arts instruction. And writing (all types of writing) enhances our language abilities. It allows us to interact with the environment.

The leaves are like the social sciences and other humanities. Leaves take in the sunshine and use photosynthesis to literally feed the plant. The leaves interact with what is around the plant. Much like the leaves, the social sciences and humanities lend perspective and teach lessons about what is around us and how we can interact with those entities. History, sociology, civics, health, and other types of classes lend us a lens to see how the world works and how we can function in that world. They also teach what has worked in the past and what has worked in other climates.

There is so much evidence and research that the fine arts enhance any student’s ability to improve in all academic areas. Theater, music, visual arts, and dance help students expand themselves and develop self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and self-expression. Think of the bloom or the fruit of a plant. What makes that plant attractive or wanted? What makes the fruit of produce eye-catching? Why would we be drawn to it? The very appearance and appeal to the senses has a lot to do with just how a plant presents itself.

Gov. McCrory was quoted along with many other high ranking Republicans this past Feb. 21st in the New York Times seemingly belittling the humanities and arts. Patricia Cohen reported in “A Rising Call to Promote STEM Education and Cut Liberal Arts Funding”,

“What has incensed many educators is not so much the emphasis on work force development but the disdain for the humanities, particularly among Republicans. Several Republicans have portrayed a liberal arts education as an expendable, sometimes frivolous luxury that taxpayers should not be expected to pay for. The Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio, for example, has called for more welders and fewer philosophers. Gov. Rick Scott of Florida criticized anthropologists, and Mr. McCrory belittled gender studies” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/22/business/a-rising-call-to-promote-stem-education-and-cut-liberal-arts-funding.html?_r=0).

Ironic that in Feb. McCrory would “belittle” gender studies and, lo and behold, a month later we get HB2, otherwise known as the “bathroom bill”.

What McCrory, Rubio, and Scott forget is that they control the very soil and water that is used to help plants (students) grow. By fully funding our public schools, they ensure that the soil is nutrient rich and able to help grow plants. By removing obstacles like vouchers and unregulated charter schools, they can ensure that there is enough rain falling on the plants for them to grow.

When they say we don’t need as many liberal arts, humanities, social sciences, and fine arts, they are literally saying that plants are nothing but stems. And the stem cannot survive on its own. It needs the other parts.

I truly believe that good teachers in good schools not only value the skills that other teachers help students obtain, there is an understanding that the entire faculty and staff is one giant collaborative team. Cross-curricular cooperation should be common and chances to help reinforce concepts across subject areas show students the worth of what is being taught.

I find it beneficial that the science department chair in my school is a wordsmith. The social studies chair led a school – wide initiative in reading across the curriculum. There are the math teachers who have students explain concepts in short essays. The dance teacher has students do research projects using citation. Art classes are full of wiling participants. CTE classes have students who take AP classes as well because their curiosity leads them to diversify their outlook and skillset as well as their transcripts.

It is disheartening to see lawmakers favor a set of courses over others.

Because they are all important.