What If This Was Your Classroom? Actually It Is. 

I have this friend Phil. He’s an old college roommate. A father of three, he married his college sweetheart whom I also knew in college. He moved back to North Carolina two years ago and now he gets me to go hiking with him when he can. 

He’s also a pretty good teacher. He just does it naturally. The world is his lab. 


If you live in NC, you can’t deny that it is a beautiful state. Here in Winston-Salem, we have access to an incredible array of state parks. Today, we are at Hanging Rock. 


And it’s fantastic. The view. The air. The breeze. The sights. The sky. The trees. The sound. 


The path. The hike. The seeing where you were. The journey. 

So this teacher is thinking. If we are to prepare students to be successful in the real world then we need to make sure that we let them know how to navigate in the real world. How is what we are and could be teaching helping me at this very moment? 

  • There is the climbing up the path – physics and physical education. 
  • There is the following the trail and recognizing formations – geography. 
  • There is the counting of steps and calculations of energy expended – science and math. 
  • There is the conversation with Phil about raising kids – language arts. 
  • There is the reading of signs and posts – language arts. 
  • There is the silent use of interjections because I am really out of shape – language arts. 
  • There is the song in my head that lets me keep a rhythm -music. 
  • There is the fact that I can still do this – physical education. 
  • There is the idea that I am a part of something bigger – philosophy. 
  • There are the names that natives gave these mountains  – history. 
  • There was buying the gas and food – economics. 
  • There was the appreciation of the colors and the display  – art. 
  • There was the use of a smartphone to blog this – computer science. 

It all matters. If we make it relevant. And the real test is life itself. 

You’ll know the grade when you are done.

 

What “Pokemon Go” Can Teach Us About Learning – That’s Right, I Went There

I grew up in the 80’s – the decade of synthesized music, bright colored clothes like JAMZ, and movies like Back to The Future and Die Hard. I also lived in a very small town in Georgia, the kind where you knew everyone and possibly were related to nearly everyone.

We had cows. We had farms. We had two stoplights. And we had two arcades, both with less than three games.

The amount of quarters I spent on the Galaga game in the ice cream shop next to the Golden Pantry on the Union Point Highway is probably in the thousands.  You could also play Tempest in the “Dairy Bar II and Discount Furniture Barn” up the road. You could literally go there, play in the arcade, get a grape soda and a love seat to go.

If you were lucky, your parents got you the Atari gaming system for home. If you did have one, you suddenly became best friends with kids who had never spoken to you before. But I also remember that my mother was adamant that I did not have an Atari at home. She was afraid that it would make me not want to go outside.

Now we have smartphones and apps. I can play games on my iPhone that look more visually intoxicating on my phone than it ever did in an arcade. And I do not have to be landlocked to play them. However, many of these games can be somewhat mindless and time consuming.

But now there is this new phenomenon – Pokémon Go. It’s almost as popular as Twitter here in the U.S. and it seems to get people moving, which is good except when people don’t pay attention to where they are going and run into a wall, off a cliff, or hit a much heavier moving object.

There are also some lessons about the success of Pokémon Go that may resonate with education and learning. That’s right. Pokémon Go can teach us a lot about education and the positive parallels between the game and what works well in education seem to be many.

Don’t assume it’s the strongest of correlations. Education is not a game or should it be a means to a profit; however, it should be easily accessible and be an individual / team effort that is unique and valuable to the person / people experiencing it.

Easy to access – It’s a phone app. You download it. FOR FREE. It’s just like public schools and community colleges, as well as public universities, students should be able to access a place to get an education for very little money or without having to pay off student loans for the rest of their lives.

And no matter where the school is, students should be able to get out of it what they put in to it. That is, unless you have a situation where schools are underfunded or attacked by bad policies that hurt “reception”.

Is not just for technology sake – It marries the real world with technology. Pokémon Go superimposes its technology on to the real world – not the other way around. Many times in education, we bombard schools with technology for the sake of having the technology. There seems to be no real link to the everyday world. In actuality, this app really does marry the virtual to the real.

It’s kinetic – Remember recess? I do. Exercise the body, spur the imagination, and stimulate the mind in a positive way. You can’t play the game unless you are moving and exercising. Kids need more exercise in their school days – even the high schoolers.

You can do it in groups – When you reach a certain level, you can supposedly join groups. Think of a study group, but the only way you can get into the study group would be having already accomplished something academically. Furthermore, each member of the group could see exactly what others have done. That tends to make everyone a little more accountable for their part.

Remember when you did group projects and two people ended up doing the work for the other five? Yep, it made me frustrated as well. But this seems to foster real collaboration for a common goal.

Forces you to explore – In order to play the game, you have to go out and explore. And in some instances, you must go out of a routine. If you want to learn more, you must explore and be curious. Furthermore, the more you explore, the more you are rewarded in Pokémon Go. The more you delve into different curricula and explore its details, the more knowledgeable and skillful you become.

Can play anywhere – You are not confined geographically. The classroom does not have to be just the four walls. You can learn anywhere. However, some places may not be appropriate for the gaming. I would also probably not recommend studying for the big test while sitting in church with a sermon being conducted.

Can play anytime – You are not confined by just a clock.

Let’s you learn details as well as big picture – Believe it or not, this game is getting high praise because it allows you to come in contact with places and details you may not have even been aware of. Justin Sablich wrote a piece for the New York Times entitled “How to Make Pokémon Go Actually Useful” (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/13/travel/pokemon-go-nyc-tourism.html?_r=0) . It talks about benefits for the game and specifically speaks to this aspect.

People of all ages can play – You are never too old to learn. Or too young.

Not a race, but a journey – Sure, you may want to become a “Pokémon Master”, but you don’t necessarily see a bunch of people literally cutting each other out of opportunities to attain certain levels. Everyone can succeed. Some may take a longer route to get there than others. Some only may want to play for a while. Some may want to come back to it later.

But it does take energy and resources that need to be renewed – You do need to remember that there is an energy factor here. Playing the actual game requires use of data and a lot of battery life. Learning can take its toll as well. But it means that it is not a passive endeavor. Learning requires a lot of energy, time, sweat, and sometimes tears.

And what about the role of teachers? Well, you can’t play the game unless you have some fundamental skills sets that are taught and learned beforehand. One needs to learn how to use the resources available and have people to go to when more guidance and facilitation are needed.

Don’t we want to have a world where people become prepared to the point that they can be self-driven self-learners? Sure we do.

But I am a little afraid of what kind of “standardized tests” some states would create for this.

The Compare and Contrast Paper – EdWeek.org’s Interesting Article

 

This past week Education Week released an online compare and contrast the candidates on all things education. It is entitled “Compare the Candidates: Where Do Clinton and Trump Stand on Education?” You may find it here – http://www.edweek.org/ew/section/multimedia/president-candidates-trump-clinton-education.html.

When my wife shared this particular link with me, I imagined that I had already known where each candidate stood on issues such as school choice and common core, but this investigation went further including issues such as bullying, college access school construction, spending, and teacher quality.

When you click on any of the “topics” you will see a bullet list of points made by each candidate at the bottom of the screen.

edweek1

The compare / contrast bullet points are very helpful, but the quotes that serve as a prelude for each candidate’s position offer a very clear perspective in the major difference between Clinton and Trump when it pertains to public schools.

edweek2

And that difference is fostering an environment of collaboration versus one of competition.

The following table is a list of the quotes that were drawn from the EdWeek.org article for particularly hot-button items concerning pubic education in North Carolina. I have highlighted (rather bolded) key buzzwords and phrases that appear in those quotes. When those buzzwords are put together in groups according to the candidates, something very stark appears – the difference between collaboration and competition.

Issue Clinton’s Words Trump’s Words
Academic Standards “When I think about the really unfortunate argument that’s been going on around common core, it’s very painful, because the common core started off as a bipartisan effort—it was actually nonpartisan. It wasn’t politicized, it was to try to come up with a core of learning that we might expect students to achieve across our country.”

—Community college speech as reported by The Washington Post, April 2015

 

“So, common core is a total disaster. We can’t let it continue.”

—Facebook video

 

Bullying “Bullying has always been around, but it seems to have gotten somehow easier and more widespread because of social media and the Internet. … I think we all need to be aware of the pain and the anguish that bullying can cause.” —Iowa town hall even No specific quote from

Trump. However, The Southern Poverty Law Center, an advocacy group, recently cited an unscientific survey of teachers it said shows that Trump’s campaign rhetoric is linked to more students feeling unsafe or singled out by their peers.

 

Early-Childood Education “It’s hard enough to pay for any preschool or child care at all, let alone the quality programs that help kids develop and flourish. Funding for these opportunities has not kept up with changing times and rising demand.”

—Campaign appearance in New Hampshire

 

No specific quote from Trump. Hasn’t laid out any thoughts about early education as a Republican presidential candidate
School Choice “I have for many years now, about 30 years, supported the idea of charter schools, but not as a substitute for the public schools, but as a supplement for the public schools.”

—Town hall meeting, South Carolina

 

“Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition—the American way.”

—The America We Deserve

 

School Spending No specific quote from Clinton. However, Has said sufficient education funding is necessary to implement the Every Student Succeeds Act. Has called for new investments in computer science education, early-childhood education, college access, and more.

Wants to double funding for the Education Innovation and Research grants, the successor to the $120 million Investing in Innovation program.

 

“We’re number one in terms of cost per pupil by a factor of, worldwide, by a factor of many. Number two is so far behind, forget it.”

—CNN town hall

 

Teacher Quality “I want all educators, at every stage of your careers, to know that they’ll be able to keep learning, improving, innovating. And that goes for administrators, too.”

—Speech to National Education Association

 

“Our public schools have grown up in a competition-free zone surrounded by a very high union wall.”

—The America We Deserve

 

Testing Tests should go back to their original purpose, giving useful information to teachers and parents. … But when you’re forced to teach to a test, our children miss out on some of the most valuable lessons.”

—Speech to National Education Association

 

No quote.

 

With Clinton’s quotes you see words and phrases like “”bipartisanship”, “aware of the pain and anguish” of bullying, “opportunities”, “all”, charter schools that should not “as a substitute for the public schools”, and that “tests should go back to their original purpose.”

With Trump, words and phrases include “disaster”, “competition”, “wall”, and “forget it.”

I have been very consistent in my views concerning collaboration and competition in the public service arena. And I will state it again as I have before with Rep. Skip Stam here in NC,

 “Effective public schools are collaborative communities, not buildings full of contractors who are determined to outperform others for the sake of money. And when teachers are forced to focus on the results of test scores, teaching ceases from being a dynamic relationship between student and teacher, but becomes a transaction driven by a carrot on an extended stick. Furthermore, the GOP-led NCGA still does not seem to acknowledge that student growth is different than student test scores. When some of our colleagues deal with students who experience more poverty, health issues, and other factors, then how can you say that those teachers do not “grow” those students when an arbitrary test score is all that is used to measure students?”

If you read the quotes for all of the topics explored in the EdWeek.org article, you might see one candidate actually trying to listen to teachers.

The other one is not.

Gov. McCrory’s Attitude With Platitude

Pat McCrory’s response to the NBA canceling its visit for the net All-Star game from Charlotte does nothing more than prove the shortsighted nature by which he has governed in this term.

It also shows his willingness to play the blame game because HB2 will be the one of major issues that he will be defined by when the election comes in November.

It will be one of the largest albatrosses of the flock of albatrosses around his neck come this fall.

There were two statements that McCrory gave last week concerning the NBA’s actions that really stand out – one that seemed like a visceral response and then one that seems more official as if there was some sort of thought process associated with it.

First there was this response released last Thursday through his office.

“The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media have for months misrepresented our laws and maligned the people of North Carolina simply because most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present. Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances. Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children. American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.” 

This explanation leaves so much for explanation. If it was graded for its ability to actually offer and support an argument, it would fail. Too many claims, no data, and certainly no analysis. It’s just a pathos – driven blame game.

Look at it claim by claim.

  • “The sports and entertainment elite, Attorney General Roy Cooper and the liberal media for months have misrepresented our laws.” – The governor seems to forget that there is a business aspect to both sports and entertainment. If each entity makes a business decision, then not having the All-Star game in NC becomes not only an ethical, but an economical choice. Simply put, they no longer want to do business with North Carolina under the current HB2 law. It’s there decision, much like the decision to pass it. The NBA and Bruce Springsteen are allowed to do what they did – legally. What the NCGA and governor did may soon be declared illegal.The Roy Cooper angle is interesting as well. He is the Attorney General. He is the first to provide legal counsel for the state’s actions. He said it was not defensible. That’s him providing legal counsel. The NCGA and the governor did not listen to him.

    Months of misrepresentation? The governor has had the same amount of time to “represent” his position. Has he succeeded? Obviously not. And if most people believe what the governor says, then allow the people to vote on it rather than have HB2 rammed through the General Assembly into law through a 12-hour special session.

  • “Most people believe boys and girls should be able to use school bathrooms, locker rooms and showers without the opposite sex present.” As Chis Fitzsimon reminds us in “The Follies of McCrory’s continuing demagoguery on HB2” on NC Policy Watch (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/07/22/the-follies-of-mccrorys-continuing-demagoguery-on-hb2/), “Federal courts and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have interpreted sex to include sexual orientation and gender identity. McCrory’s law goes out of its way to make sure that LGBT people in North Carolina are not protected from discrimination.” If transgender people go to the bathroom of the sex they are aligned with, then the government pretty much said that they are not considered the opposite sex.
  • “Twenty-one other states have joined North Carolina to challenge the federal overreach by the Obama administration mandating their bathroom policies in all businesses and schools instead of allowing accommodations for unique circumstances.” But do those other 21 states have HB2? There is a reason that HB2 stands out from the other states’ laws. As Fitzsimon says in the aforementioned post, “HB2 goes far beyond bathrooms.  It creates a statewide nondiscrimination standard that not only doesn’t guarantee protections for LGBT people, it includes the term ‘biological sex.’”Not only that, but the term “overreach” is interestingly used here. When Charlotte passed its original ordinance, McCrory and the NCGA came in and passed HB2 which also forbids local governments from passing protective measures for the LGBT community. Talk about overreach.
  • Left-wing special interest groups have no moral authority to try and intimidate the large majority of American parents who agree in common-sense bathroom and shower privacy for our children.” What special interest groups is the governor referring to? He should name them instead of hiding behind a generalization. Common sense? Then put it up for a vote. Bathroom and showers? The governor should also provide proof of transgender sexual assault in public facility bathrooms that would be prevented with HB2. He can’t. Current laws already cover those possibilities.Moral authority? That might be the most hypocritical thing he said in the entire release.

    Furthermore, McCrory had one of the more interesting interviews about HB2 with Megyn Kelly from FOX News. That’s right, FOX News. She grilled him. Badly. And he defended his policy the same way he defended it on Meet The Press. Did that change the minds of those in the court of public opinion? Not really.

  • “American families should be on notice that the selective corporate elite are imposing their political will on communities in which they do business, thus bypassing the democratic and legal process.” Coming from the man who once worked for the very industry that is the focus of the largest environmental mishap in recent North Carolina history – the Duke Energy coal ash spills. The leniency that was used with Duke to keep them from having to be totally culpable stinks of its own special interest. Also, look at the governor’s first budget director, Art Pope. Talk about corporate elite imposing political will.And the democratic and legal process? The NCGA’s recent budget put aside money to defend HB2 in federal courts to defend an unconstitutional law that was never passed through the democratic process.

The very next day, McCrory was on a radio commentary show in Charlotte on station WFAE and said,

 “I strongly disagree with their decision. To put it bluntly, it’s total P.C. B.S. … it’s an insult to our city and an insult to our state.”

So, the governor, who could not in any way, shape, or form defend the surreptitiously crafted, special session law, blames the NBA, who had already told him that if the law was not repealed or amended they would pull out of Charlotte? Yes he did.

However, what is really interesting here is that he called Charlotte “our city”. The former four-time mayor of Charlotte, who still calls the Queen City home, said it was an insult to “our city”? But wasn’t it an insult to have the NCGA and the governor pass a law to repudiate the democratic process in Charlotte when they overreached by convening a special session to pass HB2?

If people think that the governor’s decision to keep blindly defending HB2 is worthy, it will come out in the wash in November. But if he is not re-elected, looking back at his statements concerning the NBA’s decision to not play the All-Star Game in Charlotte might serve as the very evidence that his willingness to defend HB2 is unbecoming of a public servant.

How Hillary Clinton Just Changed The Dialogue on Public Education With Sen. Tim Kaine’s Selection As VEEP

The announcement that Hillary Clinton today selected Sen. Tim Kaine as her running mate brought public education into the forefront of the presidential election even more.

Donald Trump’s recent selection of Gov. Mike Pence solidified his stance that “choice” is the solution for what ails public education. Gov. Pence has been very much in favor of the “reform” movement in public education. His championing of charter schools and vouchers makes North Carolina look like a novice with its own unregulated charter industry and Opportunity Grants.

It is no secret that I am not in favor of unregulated charter growth and use of vouchers to fund tuition costs at religious private schools.

Take a look at a report done by NPR (yes, I am an avid NPR listener) entitled “What Did Mike Pence Do For Indiana Schools As Governor? Here’s a Look” (http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/07/20/486654015/what-did-pence-do-for-schools-as-governor-heres-a-look).

Breaking down his actions on Common Core, school choice, pre-k, and statewide testing, the article by NPR’s Eric Weddle breaks down Pence’s resume on public education.

Add that history to what Donald Trump Jr. so uneloquently said in his RNC address about public schools. This excerpt came from Valerie Strauss’s Washington Post education blog, “The Answer Sheet” in a post entitled “Donald Trump Jr. trashes U.S. public schools (though he didn’t attend one).” It can be found here – https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/07/20/donald-trump-jr-trashes-u-s-public-schools-though-he-didnt-attend-one/.

Trump, Jr. said,

“The other party gave us public schools that far too often fail our students, especially those who have no options. Growing up, my siblings and I we were truly fortunate to have choices and options that others don’t have. We want all Americans to have those same opportunities.

Our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class. Now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students. You know why other countries do better on K through 12? They let parents choose where to send their own children to school.

That’s called competition. It’s called the free market. And it’s what the other party fears.

They fear it because they’re more concerned about protecting the jobs of tenured teachers than serving the students in desperate need of a good education.

They want to run everything top-down from Washington. They tell us they’re the experts and they know what’s best.”

If you read the entire post, Strauss actually debunks those claims made by Trump, Jr. and even brings in a quote from Trump, Sr. himself that shows how uneducated he really is about public education. She states,

“What does Donald Trump, the candidate, think? Education wasn’t high on the list of discussion topics during the primary season, but he has long been a supporter of school choice and a critic of traditional public schools. In his 2000 book, “The America We Deserve,” he wrote:

“We’re doing worse than treading water; we’re going under.” According to school-testing experts’ rule of thumb, the average child’s achievement score declinesabout 1 percent for each year they’re in school. That gives the expression ‘dumbing down’ a whole new meaning. Schools may be hazardous to your child’s intellectual health.”

Wow! Like son, like father.

Then here comes Tim Kaine, former governor of a swing state and current senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia. My venerable friend from my native Georgia, Bertis Downs, sent me a link to an op-ed written by Sen. Kaine. Maybe Bertis remembered I was a parent of public schools kids. Maybe he remembered I am the parent of a special needs child with an IEP thicker than some novels I teach, but made in cooperation with caring teachers and administrators at my child’s public school. Maybe he sent it to me to solidify that there are many who believe in our public schools to a degree that I can respect. I know he sent it to me because we share a passion for advocating for public schools in all states.

And this is what Bertis sent me – “Tim Kaine: Lessons from 40 years as a Richmond Public Schools parent”. Here is a link  – http://www.richmond.com/opinion/their-opinion/article_704c7708-041b-545b-921d-42fcb36e96cc.html.

And here is the content of what The Richmond Times – Dispatch used.

“Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.

The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

Simplify elementary education

By the time Virginians graduate from high school, they have taken at least 35 state-mandated tests in addition to all the classroom testing that good teachers require.

This over-testing phenomenon is particularly acute at the elementary level. Borrowing a phrase from Singapore’s educational reform efforts, I’d “teach less and learn more” at the elementary level by focusing the early grades on English and math fluency.

Use social studies and science material to stimulate curiosity about the world while building reading mastery and making basic math concepts more concrete. Save the state testing of science and social studies for later grades. If the early years are intensely focused on language and math, our students will perform better in all areas down the road.

Middle school as career exploration

I’d reconceive middle school as fundamentally about career exploration. What do kids know about the work world beyond what their parents do? We can make middle school more exciting if we use all parts of the curriculum to expose students to the wide range of available career choices so that, by the time they enter high school, they will be more able to choose the right direction for themselves.

Different paths to high school success

As governor, I created Governor’s Career and Technical Academies to promote the notion that technical education is as important as college preparatory courses. Virginia now offers three diploma types — standard, modified standard and advanced. Coupled with an increasing variety of other options — Advanced Placement courses, career certification exams, community college joint enrollment programs, verified online courses — a high school transcript is now a highly personalized learning résumé. Gone are the days when kids are “tracked” into a two-tier system of college prep or vocational education. When students are given exposure to all options, they can build their own high school path to the future they want.

Value the unvalued

While RPS is an urban system with fiscal challenges, it has resisted pressure to devalue arts education. These experiences enhanced my children’s creativity, confidence, communication skills and teamwork — all greatly in demand in the adult world. And it’s not just arts. Trained computer professionals are in high demand, yet most states still treat computer science courses as an elective, not allowing them to be used to meet math or science requirements. Many of the things that promote life and career success don’t fit neatly into today’s curricular requirements. Let’s create space for this kind of personal development in our schools.

Keeping good teachers

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.”

Tim Kaine represents Virginia in the United States Senate. This column is adapted from a longer article published by Education Week.

If I was a single issue voter as some might be and chose public education as the issue that swayed my vote – it just got swayed.

But I am not just a voter. I am a parent. I am an involved parent. I am a public school teacher. I am an advocate for public schools. I am a tax-payer. I favor the use of the arts in education. And I stay up at night reading articles and op-eds about public education. I want to know what these candidates think. Then I write about it in those very nights I stay up when my wife texts me from the other room to tell me to go to bed for God’s sake.

I distinctly remember when Chris Rock was asked by Larry King if he was going to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 for president because he was a minority. Rock said (and I paraphrase) that he would not. He was going to vote for the guy who only had one house to lose, not many houses.

Maybe, I might listen a little more to what Sen. Kaine says about public schools. Why? That’s where he sent his kids.

Me too.

Duck Me? No, Duck You! – Musings About Malcolm, Chapter 4

When you become the parent of a child who happens to have Down Syndrome, your mind can fly to a lot of places, especially the future.

My wife and I had a prenatal diagnosis of Malcolm’s extra genetic material. It’s quite startling to have this preconceived expectation of what your child will be like instantly changed by a medical test. Can’t lie about that.

Sometimes you can get caught in a dream of having a child who goes on to do great things in the eyes of others, and then you are told that there might something “wrong” with the child both physically and developmentally.

But here’s the weird thing. There’s nothing wrong with him. He’s just perfect in his way.

When Malcolm decided to come into the world twenty-something days early with his plume of fire-red hair, an older nurse said something about Malcolm being one of “those” children. It struck both my wife and me fairly hard that he was already being stereotyped, and there are a lot of stereotypes surrounding children with Down Syndrome. But Malcolm seems to have debunked most all of them. In fact if you meet people with Down Syndrome, ten ou might realize that most stereotypes associated with them just do not have much merit.

  • They are always happy.” Well, you didn’t tell him that he was supposed to go to summer school this morning and have him cuss you in his own way. Twice.
  • They are always very loving.” Well, unless he knows you he may just tell you to get away, although he is a bit of a womanizer. Serious game that boy has.
  • They are so compliant.” Hell no. Try and get him to do homework.
  • They are socially limited.” Actually, I have never met a boy who breaks down barriers more with kids of his age than Malcolm does.
  • They are always so honest.” Nope. He’s manipulative, especially if it involves getting certain foods like Cheetos Puffs, otherwise known as “Cheesy Dibbles”.
  • They are not as coordinated.” Actually, Malcolm is a bit of a ninja. It is not uncommon for him to walk into the living room late at night while I am grading papers and just appear out of nowhere to make me involuntarily do something messy. Having a full gallon of milk placed on my pillow in the middle of the night and then waking up to a smiling, yet thirsty child who whispers “Milk? Is not out of the ordinary either.”
  • They like to dance.” Actually that one is true. The boy has moves. It’s on video.

But here’s the one thing that Malcolm does that I really wish I could do – live in the moment. He is totally committed to the now. Especially when it pertains to outdoor adventures. The boy loves being outside, so much that we had to put a fence in the back yard because he likes to go outside so much, even in the middle of the night.

This adventure involves ducks. They quack. They waddle. Malcolm likes that.

So last weekend we went to the Bull’s Hole Duck Race on the South Yadkin River in Cooleemee. Why? Well…

First, the Yadkin might be the clearest river ever. No. Secondly, it helps out a worthy cause. Third, we had never been to Cooleemee. Even spelling the name Cooleemee is rather cool. So what do you do when you get there?

You “sponsor” some ducks for a price and get a ticket with a number(s) on it. The number corresponds to a rubber duck that will be in the race. When all tickets are sold, all ducks are dropped in the same place in the river to be led through the rapids by the flow of the river and whoever has the ticket for the duck which crosses the finish line first wins the jackpot.

So Malcolm is all into this whole duck race. It is the moment.

Here he is summoning some higher power to make his duck be first. Something Gaelic I believe with a hint of yodeling.

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Then they drop the ducks from a front-end loader of a tractor that happens to be in the middle of the river.

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And they are going! Some do go faster than others. “Float! You damn duck!” I think he is taking this way too seriously, but it is a moment.

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“Dammit! I didn’t get any money that I would never spend because I am not materialistic!” He cusses sometimes. Which is another thing about kids with Trisomy 21. They pick up words more quickly than you think. Especially interjections.

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We did not win any money. Not a big deal really. Why? Because we had another moment to be in. There were ladies to talk to, music to dance to, and milk to be drunk. We were outside. That was all that mattered.

And you wonder what you were ever worried about when he was born.

Megyn Kelly – North Carolina’s Moral Compass?

When the NBA told the NC General Assembly and the governor to amend / repeal the discriminatory HB2 “Bathroom” Bill, the governor and the NCGA did not act on it. They thought that the NBA might be bluffing. But the NBA wasn’t and the first figures thrown out by media outlets have already stated that this will cost the city of Charlotte over 100 million dollars at least.

McCrory’s argument that HB2 was “common sense” has had an uncommon effect. But it seems appropriate in light of all of the events occurring in the “alternate reality” (thank you Mrs. Wagner) that we live in presently such as,

  • Melania Trump’s plagiarist adventures and subsequent “admission” by an experienced writer named McIver who co-wrote many of Donald Trump’s books but seems to have been Photo-shopped in all her pics provided by the Trump campaign. And she seems to look an awful lot like Carol Burnett, who might be one of the most original individuals to walk this earth.

 

  • Ted Cruz’s speech and the WWE style entrance of Donald Trump that made the Q Center in Cleveland look like the stage for WrestleMania. And Trump has been to many of them. Like this one here where he actually is doing something with hair:

wrestlmania

  • Roger Ailes’s resignation as the head of Fox News amid sexual harassment allegations.
  • The NBA pulling out of Charlotte for the 2017 NBA All-Star Game due to HB2. His Royal Airness has now missed a chance to further promote his home state.

Ironically, one of the common denominators to all of these events is Megyn Kelly, the top-ranking news personality on the top-ranked news channel, FOX News.

Kelly’s recent assertion that she was also a victim of Ailes’s advancements became the tipping point of his ouster at FOX. Her relationship with Donald Trump has become the stuff of history books from the debate where he blatantly referred to her “cycles” to a subsequent interview with her. Megyn Kelly was one of the first on television to confront Ted Cruz about rumors of his extramarital affairs. She is currently reporting from the RNC, so she has seen firsthand the events surrounding Melania Trump and the rest of the convention.

And then there was the interview she had with Gov. McCrory concerning the bathroom bill in April.

Personally, I am not a fan of FOX News. People like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity do not inspire journalistic integrity within me. But I do find Megyn Kelly more palatable. She is knowledgeable, well-spoken, and seems to not mind asking tough questions. I especially remember during the 2012 elections sitting with Karl Rove talking about Ohio’s voting results and her having to walk down the hall of the news building just to show that Ohio had been called for Obama to Rove who was in tremendous disbelief. She looked like the voice of reason and logic – as she did in the interview with McCrory.

You can watch that interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecow6I50kZI.

Within the interview, she presses McCrory on why the bill exists in the first place. Transcripts of the interview exist in many places, but this part was taken fromwww.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com, specificallyhttp://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/watch_pat_mccrory_tries_to_plead_his_case_for_hb2_on_fox_news_megyn_kelly_destroys_his_argument.

But why?,” she asked again. “What was the concern? What was the evidence, specifically, that led you to believe this was a problem?”

McCrory, again on his talking points, insisted HB2 was necessary to protect “an expectation of privacy.”

Kelly reeled McCrory in, focusing on the main public conversation about HB2, restrooms.

“I’ve been in women’s bathrooms my whole life,” she quipped. “And we don’t have the urinal situation. We got like the stalls. We get to go in, we do our business, and like it’s not – we don’t see each other. So why are you concerned about young girls exposing themselves or seeing somebody else exposed, in a women’s bathroom?”

McCrory, angered, turns the conversation partisan.

“Well first of all I can’t believe we’re talking about this. This is not an issue that I started. This is an issue the left started, not the right.”

He went on to say that “the Obama administration is putting requirements on federal money that they also have to have this gender identification requirement for our schools.”

“If you could get back to my question though,” Kelly insisted. “The public restrooms that are maintained by the state, the question that many have is, what is your fear?” Kelly, again asked.

“Because you know, there is a misconception, that transgendered are somehow molesters  – and they’re not. That’s not true. Typically, male molesters are heterosexual and if they want to sneak into a bathroom they’ll do it. But 90 percent of the cases molestation happens with someone you know. So what is the fear with the transgender situation and the bathrooms?”

McCrory insisted he doesn’t “like the rhetoric” coming from the right, but rather, again from his talking points, claims “it’s a basic expectation of privacy.”

That “expectation of privacy” just cost the state of North Carolina and your HOMETOWN millions of dollars, but if it is privacy that we need, then we will see more and more of it as more companies and people stop looking at North Carolina as places to visit and do business until HB2 is repealed. But Roy Cooper’s campaign is loving it right now.

Why? Because the NBA just made Pat McCrory an enemy of the very sport that North Carolina prides itself with. Maybe when HB2 is repealed and the movie industry is allow to work in the state again a movie will be made about this whole HB2 situation. It might be interesting to see who is cast. Megyn Kelly can play herself.

Yet, what strikes me most is that an anchor on the very network that I personally find to be too right-winged in its views has been the moral compass that has accurately measured what our state has done. That, and Michael Jordan is pissed – not at the NBA, but at … you know.

Is there any way that we could get Megyn Kelly to interview Tom Apodaca?

Meredith McIver’s Apology Letter for Melania Trump’s Plagiarism – The First Draft

The_Trump_Organization_Logo

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

My name is Meredith McIver and I am the scapegoat for the plagiarism scandal surrounding Melania Trump and her speech on the opening night of the 2016 Republican National Convention.

I know I have severely disappointed all of you. I have made you question who I am and how I have done the things I did. I am embarrassed that I have put you in this position. For all that I have done, I am so sorry. I have a lot to atone for (1).

I do not plan in any way to whitewash my sin. I do not call it a mistake, a mendacity; I call it sin. I would much rather, if possible — and in my estimation it would not be possible — to make it worse than less than it actually is. I have no one but myself to blame. I do not lay the fault or the blame of the charge at anyone else’s feet. For no one is to blame but Meredith McIver. I take the responsibility. I take the blame. I take the fault (2).

I see the anger in people, betrayal, it’s all there. People who believed in me and supported me and they have every right to feel betrayed and it’s my fault and I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to earn back trust and apologize to people (3).

In my business, when you make a writing error, you’re expected to make a writing error, it’s accepted. My error was much more serious. I made an error of judgment (4).

Michelle Obama’s speech was the best of this decade!!!! I’m sorry to the Trumps if I let you guys down!!!! I’m sorry to my friends at Trump Organization. I will apologize to Mrs. Obama 2mrw. Welcome to the real world!!!! Everybody wanna booooo me but I’m a fan of real good speeches!!! No disrespect but we watchin’ the show at the crib right now cause … well you know!!!! I’m still happy for Melania!!!! Boooyaaawwww!!!! You are very very talented!!! That’s what it is!!!!!!! I’m not crazy y’all, i’m just real. Sorry for that!!! I really feel bad for Melania and I’m sincerely sorry!!! Much respect!!!!! (5)

Sincerely,

Meredith McIver

 

 

 

 

  1. (Tiger Woods – http://www.cnn.com/2010/US/02/19/tiger.woods.transcript/).
  2. (Jimmy Swaggart – http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/jswaggartapologysermon.html)
  3. (Lance Armstrong – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/othersports/cycling/lancearmstrong/9810801/Lance-Armstrongs-interview-with-Oprah-Winfrey-the-transcript.html).
  4. Bernie Madoff – http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2009/06/29/bernie-madoffs-apology.html
  5. (Kanye West – http://www.mtv.com/news/1621410/kanye-west-apologizes-to-taylor-swift-for-vma-rant/

My Little Trumpony – Twilight Sparkle Combover

In the wake of the plagiaristic controversy that seems to have engulfed Melania Trump’s speech last night at the RNC, many in Trump’s campaign are trying to find some sort of explanation to diffuse the situation.

Chris Christie saw no link whatsoever between Mrs. Trump’s speech and Mrs. Obama’s from 2008. Of course he saw no correlation between a bridge and a scandal. Trump’s campaign manager claimed that Melania’s words were so common in the conversation of the American Dream that she could not have even copied them.

But we never heard from Mrs. Trump herself. Maybe she would have said,

  • “The sun was in my eyes.”
  • “I was so overcome with positive emotions that I just said the most inspirational lines ever that came to mind.”
  • “It was on the teleprompter.”
  • “Who better to quote than Michelle?”
  • “Michelle said I could use them as my own.”
  • “Michelle doesn’t own words!”
  • “I was so tired when I didn’t write the speech.”
  • “Someone else wrote it. I only read it once.”
  • “Someone must have gone ahead in a time machine and saw me say these original words in the future and then went back and said it in a 2008 speech to make it look like I actually plagiarized it here in 2016!”

But the best explanation ever as reported on CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/19/politics/sean-spicer-melania-trump-my-little-pony/index.html) was offered by Sean Spicer. He said,

“We’re talking about 70 words, three passages,” Spicer told Wolf Blitzer on CNN Tuesday.

“Melania Trump said, ‘the strength of your dreams and willingness to work for them.’ Twilight Sparkle from ‘My Little Pony’ said, ‘This is your dream. Anything you can do in your dreams, you can do now,’ ” Spicer said.

That’s fantastic. Innocent Twilight Sparkle.

Little Sparkle

It seems that Sean Spicer might either be a “Brony”, the parent of a child who not only watches “My Little Pony” but watches them constantly and collects the dolls, or he has pulled off the greatest strawman argument ever.

But one does have to think a little about the correlation between Twilight Sparkle and Trump. It might even be the best fundraising idea in politics ever.

Each “My Little Pony” usually comes with a comb to brush the luscious, copious amounts of mane and horse hair that each “My Little Pony” has. Hours are passed away grooming that hair.

Hours of grooming. Brushing of hair to create that unnatural look.

Well now you have it  – The Twilight Sparkle Combover.

Trumpony

It will be huge.

What Jay Z Could Teach Melania Trump

Imagine reading this post while listening to Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby” (1) in the background. Or better yet, in case you want to ponder this post’s words with more time, put in Robin Thicke’s last album (2).

Four score and seven minutes ago (3), I watched a video of Melania Trump’s speech last night at the opening night of the Republican National Convention held in Cleveland, Ohio which is in Cuyahoga (4) County, the most staunch democratic party stronghold in Ohio.

Allow me to frame my watching the video. It has to do with the claims for plagiarism in Mrs. Trump’s speech. And as an English teacher and AP instructor, I would have to write a “D-1” (a discipline referral) for this particular instance. Why? Because it is flat-out plagiarism.

Look at the transcripts of Mrs. Trump’s speech aligned with what Michelle Obama said at the 2008 Democratic National Convention when her husband was to become the nominee. (The excerpt was taken from CNN.com (http://www.cnn.com/2016/07/19/politics/melania-trump-michelle-obama-speech/index.html). I don’t want to be accused of plagiarizing myself.

Here is Melania Trump, on Monday:

“From a young age, my parents impressed on me the values that you work hard for what you want in life, that your word is your bond and you do what you say and keep your promise, that you treat people with respect. They taught and showed me values and morals in their daily lives. That is a lesson that I continue to pass along to our son,” Trump said.

And we need to pass those lessons on to the many generations to follow. Because we want our children in this nation to know that the only limit to your achievements is the strength of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

And here is Michelle Obama, on August 25, 2008:

“And Barack and I were raised with so many of the same values: that you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond and you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you don’t know them, and even if you don’t agree with them.

And Barack and I set out to build lives guided by these values, and to pass them on to the next generation. Because we want our children — and all children in this nation — to know that the only limit to the height of your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work for them.”

Of course, the Trump campaign tried to dissolve the accusations and the controversy by citing the similarities of the message that Mrs. Trump was conveying as a mother who has worked hard to become who she is. Trump’s campaign presented Melania as someone who came to this country as an immigrant, looked at America, told it to tear down its walls (5) of any xenophobia, made something of herself, and prospered because she thought that America was a place where the huddled masses yearning to breathe free and the wretched refuse of its teeming shore could come (6).

Yet, it is not the blatant use of the First Lady’s words that really boggles me. It is the arena in which it was done, the context of the delivery, and the surrounding drama of the RNC.

On a day where speakers were attacking the present administration over security issues like terrorism, Benghazi, and schisms between law enforcement and citizens, the eyes and ears of America were very focused on Mrs. Trump’s speech. Even those who do not want Trump as president in any way shape or form (like many at the RNC) wish to see and hear what original ideas that Trump may have for “Making America Great Again (7).”

People want to see what makes Trump someone who is different, someone who can create a brave, new world (8), someone who can help us be free and show that America is free from the mighty mountains of New York to the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania and from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado to the curvaceous slopes of California (9).

But in many ways Mrs. Trump failed because the words she used were not even original.

And that speaks volumes and may make this a day that lives in infamy (10) rather than one that lives in victory.

One of the lessons that I try and impart to my students deals with plagiarism and originality. I tell them that you must give credit to those whose words and ideas you use. If you do not, then it is plagiarism. Just ask Vanilla Ice or Robin Thicke. It can ruin your credibility professionally speaking, especially if you are a writer or an artist.

Melania Trump could have taken a lesson from the social icon Jay Z. Yep, Sean Carter.

Artists like Jay Z give credit where credit is due. It’s called sampling in the music industry. One is not just copying another’s work, but rather putting a new twist on that work creating a new experience and still giving credit where credit is due. (Shakespeare did the same thing, but in his time it was allowed to happen without giving credit, but then again he never really owned his own plays.)

If Mrs. Trump wanted to use Michelle Obama’s words to show her own story, then she should have given the First Lady credit for the words but then showed how those words applied more to her own story than to that of the FLOTUS.

That would be original. Then Donald could come do what Donald does best which is wear iconic baseball hats that he makes more famous than any other Yankee can (11) and then show how everyone can leave his/her hard knock life (12) to live long and prosper (13).

 

Footnotes:

  1. The song “Ice, Ice Baby” stole the central riff from “Under Pressure” which is a song by Queen and David Bowie.
  2. Robin Thicke was just found guilty of plagiarizing literally many rhythms from Marvin Gaye.
  3. “Four score and seven years ago” – Abraham Lincoln from The Gettysburg Address.
  4. “Cuyahoga” is a damn good song from the Life’s Rich Pageant album by R.E.M.
  5. “Tear down this wall!” – Ronald Reagan at the Berlin Wall
  6. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” – Emma Lazurus from “The New Colossus”.
  7. “Let’s Make America Great Again” – Ronald Reagan campaign slogan.
  8. “Brave, new world” – Shakespeare from The Tempest.
  9. “Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania. Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado. Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. from “I Have a Dream”.
  10. “A day that will live in infamy” – Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941.
  11. “I made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.” – Jay Z from “Empire State of Mind”.
  12. “It’s a hard knock life!” – from the musical Annie, later sampled by Jay Z in “Hard Knock Life”.
  13. “Live long and prosper.” – Dr. Spock from Star Trek.