Bye, Bye Miss American Pie -Keeping “Specialties” in Schools

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“A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while

But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.”

Don McLean’s famous song “American Pie” has been the subject of tremendous amounts of explication. Websites devoted to explaining all of the lyrics and all of the rumored allusions can take a day or two to just peruse, but McLean himself has identified the “day the music died” as that day in Feb. of 1959 when a plane carrying Buddy Holly (“That’ll Be The Day”), Richie Valens (“La Bamba”), and J.P. Richardson (aka. The Big Bopper) crashed killing all three rock icons.

McLean’s song highlighted our culture’s need for music, expression, and how important it is to cultivate our sense of being by developing not just the logical left side of the brain, but the creative right side as well.

What followed in the next 15 years was possibly one of the most turbulent times in American history: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, Watergate, Women’s Rights, ongoing Cold War, etc. And the music and the rest of its artistic siblings helped us to capture, reflect, express, communicate, and heal from those scars received.

And now with the current political climate on this global terrain, we may need to rely on our artistic expressions to help cope and grow from what we will experience in the near future.

How ironic that in such turbulent times our own leaders are searching for ways to quash our children’s opportunities to develop the very creative and physical skills that study after study shows make us more complete, well-rounded, and prepared for life’s situations.

A Nov. 14th report on NC Policy Watch by Billy Ball (“New rules to lower class sizes force stark choices, threatening the arts, music and P.E”) states,

“North Carolina public school leaders say a legislative mandate to decrease class sizes in the early grades may have a devastating impact on school systems across the state, forcing districts to spend millions more hiring teachers or cut scores of positions for those teaching “specialty” subjects such as arts, music and physical education” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/11/14/new-rules-lower-class-sizes-force-stark-choices-threatening-tas-specialty-education-positions/).

First, I would make the argument that arts, music, and physical education are not “specialties” but “necessities.” In a nation that is spending more on health problems caused by obesity, the need to get kids moving and away from the television might be just as important as core subject material. Secondly, it shows a glaring contradiction to the religious platforms that many in our state government have been using to maintain office and their potential actions to eliminate part of children’s curriculum.

The predominant spiritual path in the United States, Judeo-Christianity, talks much of the need for music, dance, movement, song, and expression. I think of all of the hymns and musicals my own Southern Baptist church produced, most complete with choreography, which is odd considering that many joke about Baptists’ aversion to dancing.

Even the Bible commands “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalms 96:1), and “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe” (Psalm 150:4).

Furthermore, the Bible often talks of the body as being a “temple of the Holy Spirit” and even commands Christians to stay physically fit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Yet, some of our GOP stalwarts who are cheering about a budget surplus are planning to “ force districts into stark choices about how to allocate their resources.” Ball continues,

“In some districts, it may mean spending millions more in local dollars to hire additional teachers. Or in other districts, officials say, leaders may be forced to eliminate specialty education positions or draw cash from other pools, such as funding for teaching assistants.”

That’s egregious. That’s backwards. That’s forcing school districts to make decisions about whether to educate the whole child or part of the child in order to make student/teacher ratios look favorable.

That’s like going out of your way to get plastic surgery, liposuction, and body sculpting to create a new look while ignoring the actual health of your body. Without proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental health, and emotional support, we open doors to maladies.

When the Bible talks about a temple, it talks about the insides, not just the outsides.

Interestingly enough, many of the private schools and charter schools that receive public money through Opportunity Grants have plentiful art programs and physical education opportunities.

Wow.

What our history has shown us time and time again is that we needed music, dance, arts, and physical education to cope and grow as people and we needed them to become better students. To force the removal of these vital areas of learning would be making our students more one-dimensional. It would make them less prepared.

Don McLean released “American Pie” in 1971. It is widely considered one of the top ten songs of the entire twentieth century. Fifty-five years later, it still has relevance.

The last verse (or “outro”) is actually a tad bit haunting.

“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play

And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken

And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.”

When we elect our public servants to serve, we give them the keys to the vehicle that drives our state, a purple colored divided state that has HB2, vouchers, redistricting, Voter ID laws, underfunded public schools, and poverty.

Now imagine that vehicle being a Chevy. We don’t need to go to a dry levee.

We need to keep the music and the other “necessities.”

Elsa’s Disney Song For Pat McCrory – “Let It Go”

Elsa.png

“Let It Go”

The super moon hangs on the sky tonight
Waiting for the election recount
But the final results seem like
Cooper’s lead you won’t surmount.

That bathroom bill is nothing but a thorn in our side.
But you just defend it, pushing Carolina aside.

Avoiding questions, you just didn’t see
How HB2 hurt economically
Concede, we plead, because we know
And, now you know!

Let it go. Let it go.
Don’t defend bad laws anymore.
Let it go. Let it go.
Turn away and shut the door.

You didn’t care
What others had to say
Election night showed you
You won’t our governor anyway!

It’s funny the Carolina Comeback
Actually was very small
And those fears that controlled you
Never helped us at all!

Now you know what you must do
Just come to terms, accept the facts
Now it’s done, Roy Cooper has won. Now leave!

Let it go. Let it go.
We are the ones who get to decide.
Let it go. Let it go.
Put those stupid challenges aside

Cause there you stand
You’ve been voted out.
Let this state get on!

Your plans almost drove our state into the ground
The state’s been spiraling out of control all around
No longer will you be the GOP’s pawn
You’re not going back,
Because your term is almost gone!

Let it go, let it go
So we can rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
We just need you gone!

Here we stand
In the light of day
You can try to carry on, but
You never really governed anyway!

You can follow along here and plug in the words. They should fit.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L0MK7qz13bU

Hallelujah! Why We Need Poets. Thanks Leonard Cohen. 

We need our poets.

Whether composed with rhyme or meter, or to music, or if it is just on paper in free verse for someone to interpret through cadence, we need their words.

We need words put together to frame an emotion, an event, a doubt, a success, a life event, or something that never happened. And there are always those voices that say the very feelings or lack of feelings that we experience in such a way that rereading those words allows for the experience to be fully relived or abhorred.

It is very possible that someone else’s words gives you voice.

I’ll go further. The words of a true poet live well beyond the day in which the verses were written. Those poems are timeless. We read them over and over again and their relevance grows. Even when the poet physically leaves this earth those poems still breathe and give us breath.

Maybe one of the greatest gifts that God has bestowed upon us is that there are people in our lives who can say things better than we could ever imagine and we should be grateful for that. Someone took a snapshot of our mental, emotional, psychological, and physical state simultaneously and sent us the picture.

It gives us more time to experience and reflect. It reminds us that we are human.

Leonard Cohen passed away last week. And in a week that many saw as the upheaval of the American political system, it was his musical poem that opened up a satirical comedy sketch show that totally slowed the pulse of many people’s bleeding hearts and gave comfort and perspective.


Kate McKinnon, the lead female player for Saturday Night Live, came out in the “cold open” and dressed in her now-famous Hillary Clinton costume sang Cohen’s “Hallelujah” to a silent audience.

And it was (plug in your own poetic words).

You can view it here.

http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/election-week-cold-open/3424949

“Hallelujah” has been covered probably dozens if not hundreds of times. Jeff Buckley’s version is on my iPhone and he added some lyrics to the original version.

I also think that part of the strength of this song is that you can just read the lyrics and sense the power.

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

It goes like this

The fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing Hallelujah


Hallelujah

Hallelujah

Hallelujah

Hallelujah
Your faith was strong but you needed proof

You saw her bathing on the roof

Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you

She tied you to a kitchen chair

She broke your throne, and she cut your hair

And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah


Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
You say I took the name in vain

I don’t even know the name

But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?

There’s a blaze of light

In every word

It doesn’t matter which you heard

The holy or the broken Hallelujah


Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah


I did my best, it wasn’t much

I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch

I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you

And even though it all went wrong

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song

With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Hallelujah

Wow.

Read some poetry.

 

Dave Chappelle Is A Great Teacher

The following is the third prompt (open argumentation) from the 2010 AP English Language and Composition Exam.  The suggested time period for completing the prompt is 40 minutes.

Quick, eh?

It reads,

“In his 2004 book, Status Anxiety, Alain de Botton argues that the chief aim of humorists is not merely to entertain but “to convey with impunity messages that might be dangerous or impossible to state directly.” Think about the implications of de Botton’s view of the role of humorists (cartoonists, stand-up comics, satirical writers, hosts of television programs, etc.). Then write an essay that defends, challenges, or qualifies de Botton’s claim.”

And you could defend that claim by simply talking about what Dave Chappelle delivered in his monologue on November 12th’s episode of Saturday Night Live.

I miss his iconic show from Comedy Central. The Charlie Murphy stories about Rick James and Prince still make me release my bladder because of the hilarity. The episode with Wayne Brady was classic and the skit with John Mayer that explored racial differences with music was classic.

Dave Chappelle pushed envelopes and still made you ask for more.

dave-chappelle-snl-monologue

The credibility he has a seriously smart comic who is not afraid to talk about issues, along with a perspective of society as a young black man, allied with the fact that we have not seen him in a long while on television created what I would call a teachable moment.

And this teacher learned from it. I learned that I do not understand everything. And I don’t have to. I just have to carry on.

You may see it here: http://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/dave-chappelle-standup-monologue/3424955.

Here are some of the things he said as Dave Itzkoff reported in the Nov. 13th issue of the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/arts/television/dave-chappelle-saturday-night-live.html?_r=0).

“I didn’t know that Donald Trump was going to win the election. I did suspect it. Seemed like Hillary was doing well in the polls and yet … I know the whites. You guys aren’t as full of surprises as you used to be.”

“America has done it. We’ve actually elected an internet troll as our president.”

“I watched a white riot in Portland, Ore., on television the other night. The news said they did $1 million worth of damage. Every black person was watching it like, ‘Amateurs.’ ”

“So I’m staying out of it. I’m just going to take a knee like Kaepernick and let the whites figure this out amongst themselves.”

Funny and as de Botton says, ““conveys with impunity messages that might be dangerous or impossible to state directly.”

Chappelle seemed like he adlibbed parts of the monologue. I am under the impression that there is a run-through of the show before it goes live so that Lorne Michaels (SNL’s creator) can make last minute changes to skit order or decide what is in and what is out before they do a live version. And then when the actual show was seen live, Chappelle changed some of what he said and got away with it.

He said things like “Grab them by the Pu**y” on live television.

Chappelle knew his audience – both the people in the studio audience and the people tuning in to see how SNL would deal with the fact that Trump won.

Chappelle reminded people who were so surprised that Hillary lost that anything is possible and that people must accept that anything is possible. And as he was creating that teachable moment, he left us with an anecdote that made the lesson sink in that much more.

Dave Itzkoff continued,

Mr. Chappelle concluded his monologue with an anecdote about how he recently visited the White House for a party that was attended by black guests (and Bradley Cooper), and how it prompted him to reflect on the historical outcries that resulted when Abraham Lincoln invited Frederick Douglass there, or when Theodore Roosevelt hosted Booker T. Washington.

Describing the party he attended, Mr. Chappelle recalled:, “I saw how happy everybody was, these people who had been historically disenfranchised. And it made me feel hopeful. And it made me feel proud to be an American. And it made me very happy about the prospects of our country.”

He continued: “So, in that spirit, I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. And I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”

Chappelle’s a teacher. And I have learned lots.

 

 

Winter Is Coming – POTUS and The Game Of Thrones

Winter is coming.

No, seriously. Winter is coming. December 21st. Winter solstice. Happens every year.

However, for you Game of Thrones fans, winter has been coming for quite a while. The Wildlings have crossed through the wall, strange alliances made, and preparations for the coming apocalyptic standoff between the living and dead.

It’s weird stuff. Kind of like 99.5 starting its Christmas music slate for the holiday season a couple of days after Donald Trump won election as the POTUS.

Winter is coming.

The parallels between George R. R. R. R. R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series and reality really are not hard to forge. In fact, they are almost prophetic. Think about it for a minute. We have had families vying for control of the White House here in the past few years. House Bush, House Clinton, House Baratheon, House Targaryen, etc.

See, it’s easy.

GOTR is really a lot like the metaphorical representation of the American political terrain. There is the struggle for power by gathering as much support as possible. Strange alliances are made and resources mobilized to defeat factions vying for control of the Iron Throne. Sorry, the Oval Office. There are:

  • Powerful Women. The number of women leading forces in GOTR cannot be overlooked especially when a woman won the popular vote for the election on November 8th. Daenerys Targaryen, the Mother of Dragons, doesn’t really have to worry about elections. That whole “can’t be burned” thing and the control of dragons is actually more powerful than a ballot box. Trump would love those dragons. He probably thinks he could defeat ISIS with them.
  • Religious Voters. The role of organized religion in our current election season was again huge. With the evangelical vote and the backing of people like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Trump carried certain segments of the population. Imagine the power the High Sparrow could give a presidential candidate. Even the Many-Faced God has an effect over people.
  • Sexual Improprieties. Many people have called GOTR “medieval porn with a plot.” I present to you “locker room” talk and the rumors of affairs by people associated with both parties.
  • Wild Weather. Grayscale is probably caused by climate change.
  • WALLS! No further explanation needed.
  • Downcast People. There was the “Basket of Deplorables” and The Unsullied.
  • Politics. Again, no further explanation needed.
  • Hair. Would Trump look like Varys if a gust of wind came and blew his combover away?
  • Outsiders. Trump is not an established politician. But then again, Trump was not brought back to life like Jon Snow was.
  • House Signs. Trump will have one. Trust me.
  • Dragons. GOTR has real ones. Our political scene has lots of people who spew venom and fire.
  • Prophets and Seers? Bran is the Three-Eyed Raven. Nate Silver really sucked at predicting the results of this election.
  • Mottoes. “A Lannister Pays His Debts.” “Make America Great Again.”
  • Causalities. In GOTR, no one is safe. Especially the good guys. In today’s political climate, no one is safe either.
  • Doppelgangers. If you can’t see how people from today’s political campaigns could easily be spoofs of characters like Littlefinger, Varys, Brienne of Tarth, Cersei, Joffrey, and Melisandre, then you need a good two weeks of binge watching.
  • Subplots. Every character has subplots in GOTR. That’s why the books are so damn long. But think of Bridgegate, Whitewater, “Grab Them by the *****,” settling on the moon, etc.
  • The Emasculated. Theon Greyjoy aside, think of the political careers that have now been rendered ineffectual. Chris Christie anyone? Sure, he will probably get a post, but he may have lost any cred in Jersey.
  • Beards. Lots of them in Game of Thrones. None really in the POTUS ELECTION but it’s also “No Shave November.” You never know.
  • Hands. Jaime Lannister has a fake hand. He is also the “Hand of the King”. Donald Trump’s hand size have been called into question.
  • Honey Badgers. Trump has run for president before. You cannot ever doubt his resiliency and pursuit. And you can’t keep him down. Same with Hillary Clinton. Tough as nails. But try putting out the fires of the Clegane brothers (“The Mountain” and “The Hound”).
  • Bathrooms. Remember that scene when Tyrion shot Tywin while he was answering Nature’s call?  Yep. That reminds all of us that even the most powerful person of the free world has to answer to Nature. However, I imagine there is Secret Service around.

But there are some unique characteristics of certain characters that Game of Thrones has that cannot be translated into our current reality. And that is the loyalty that some of the more endearing characters in GOTR possess. And if I was running for political office, I would want them on my side.

  • Give me a Tyrion Lannister who is smart, savvy, dry, and committed to at least make you love him as a character. He possesses intangibles that no campaign slogan could ever embody. That and he defies his appearance. And he is by far the most intriguing person in the entire series.
  • Give me Arya Stark who is tough as nails and thinks for herself and completely devoted to a purpose.
  • Give me Jorah Mormont and Davos Seaworth who see the need to combine forces for a greater good.
  • Give me Samwell Tarly because not all heroes look the same way. That and he reads a lot. Always good.
  • Give me Hodor. Enough said. Yep, I cried at that one.
  • And throw in a couple of those dragons. They do kick ass.

Yes, Winter is coming. Go hug your family and live life.

gotr

Why Pat McCrory Has Already “Lost” This Election

If the current numbers pan out, Pat McCrory will be a one-term governor. But more glaringly apparent is that his defeat came in a year of another GOP wave of victory in the nation.

If the numbers are correct, over 60,000 people in North Carolina who voted for Donald Trump as POTUS DID NOT CAST A VOTE for Pat McCrory.

Currently, Roy Cooper is approximately five thousand votes ahead before canvasing and provisionary vote counts establish a clear winner. Even if by a stroke of demonic luck the results are overturned, Pat McCrory has already been dealt a stunning blow to his credibility.

To not be reelected as a republican governor in a state that sided with Trump and Burr with relative ease is stunning, but McCrory’s reelection bid was actually doomed way before the fiasco of HB2 ever started.

McCrory actually began to get unelected from day one of his administration as he became a rubber stamp for the GOP majority. The former moderate republican mayor of Charlotte who was elected to four terms by the Queen City morphed overnight into a cheerleader for ultra-conservative movements and eventually a scapegoat for policies established by leaders from rural counties.

Simply put, Pat McCrory alienated people. He was a metaphorical parent who did not love each child best.

That, and he lacked the ability to communicate effectively. In fact, he lacked the ability to unite while taking a back seat and allowing others to further drive our populace apart.

Look at the miniscule number of vetoes that he issued in his term. Even as a means of stalling legislation to give an opportunity for clarity and debate, McCrory rushed to agreement on policies that he as a mayor of Charlotte would have never championed. That alone shows a lack of strength, a lack of standing up for people, a lack of standing up to others.

Look at his compliance with the Voter ID law. The entire country was witness to its reversal as it was described as one of the most alienating pieces of legislature by the court system. That alienated poor rural voters, especially African-Americans.

Look at his bragging about a “Carolina Comeback” when almost a quarter of our public school students still live in poverty. That alienates those who really needed a comeback.

Look at his appointment of Margaret Spellings as president of the UNC system. That alienated younger students who will be leaders of tomorrow’s citizenry.

Look at his treatment of teachers and traditional public schools. Using electioneering tactics to tout his “pro-education” agenda, McCrory in truth alienated public school teachers and staff, parents of students in underfunded schools, and advocates for the public school system because he was not helping to curb the privatization movement.

Look at his giving cookies to protesters as a passive aggressive means of not acknowledging grievances against state actions. That alienated those who were peacefully looking for ways to create discourse and debate.

And now look at his inability to talk to his own hometown about toll roads and holding special sessions to overturn local ordinances.

And in a last stroke of self-defeating genius, McCrory alienated those who simply asked for an explanation.

Look at all of the times he skirted questions from the media about HB2. Look at all of the times that he had a “town-hall” meeting only to field softball questions pre-prepared to be non-confrontational. House Bill 2 is egregious. It is discriminatory. It is indefensible. It is unenforceable. And he did not confront his own lack of an explanation.

Look at all of the times that he went to Charlotte to explain why he defends HB2. Actually, there were no times.

In truth, McCrory showed no spine. No backbone. No foundation. And without a spine, one becomes floppy and easily managed.

Below is a map of the y counties voted in the 2016 gubernatorial race.

gov-2016-map

Now look at a map where all of the UNC campuses reside.

gov-2016-map-2

The only university campus that is not in a blue county is UNC-Pembroke, which was surrounded by three blue counties.

For a governor who has claimed to make it easier for students to go to college, this information is an indictment of sorts. The very people McCrory has claimed to help, he really didn’t. And on top of that, he never really communicated with them. He didn’t acknowledge them.

If anything is to be learned by Pat McCrory from Nov. 8th’s results it is that actions speak, but lack of action speaks loudly.

And silence screams.

That’s why McCrory is losing this election.

Who We Need Is Tom Bombadil

Bombadil! thou shouldst be living at this hour:
America hath need of thee: she is a fen
Of stagnant waters: altar, sword, and pen,
Fireside, the heroic wealth of hall and bower,
Have forfeited our American Dream’s dower
Of inward happiness. We are selfish men;
Oh! raise us up, return to us again;
And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.
Thy soul was like a Star, and dwelt apart:
Thou hadst a voice whose sound was like the sea:
Pure as the naked heavens, majestic, free,
So didst thou travel on life’s common way,
In cheerful godliness; and yet thy heart
The lowliest duties on itself did lay.

I extend my deepest apologies to William Wordsworth concerning his poem “London, 1802”.

In light of the recent presidential election and the various expostulated theories as to why things resulted with Donald Trump as President of the United States, one very true fact has become apparent: we are a divided country and our fears of losing any sort of power within an economic or social construct motivates us greatly.

NPR had a short interview with Richard Russo, the Pulitzer winning novelist, this morning (http://www.npr.org/2016/11/10/501537293/author-richard-russo-ponders-what-the-presidential-election-was-really-about?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=politics). Russo is known for writing about working class America and its struggle to find identity in a changing world. His book Empire Falls is an extraordinary book and I will likely add it to my list of books that I would have my daughter consider.

Russo talked about the difference between having a “job” and having “work.” He talked about having self-identity and being a part of a bigger community. He talked about the disillusionment of members of his family when Clinton lost the election.

He talked about a great many people within the context of his small town life.

I imagined Russo going back to his work as a writer in his country living, fully cognizant of the situation at hand, but fully aware that his next indicated step in life is not necessarily guided by other people’s decisions, but by his own.

Sometimes I wish for that sage perspective – to have the understanding of the forces at work in the world that seek power and the various individuals who labor in the small details and are often victimized.

Other times I cling to the idea the ignorance is bliss.

And then I talk to imaginary friends who all agree with me.

And then I think about Tom Bombadil – you know the most powerful character in The Lord of the Rings trilogy who never really got any attention in the movies but kicked ass in that middle-earthly, transcendental way.

Maybe, you’re asking, “Who the hell is Tom Bombadil?” or “How the hell does one go straight into The Lord of the Rings from the presidential election of 2016?”

I will answer the second question first. I can relate all things to TLOTR. It’s easy. Allegorical symbolism is pliable enough for all comparisons to life. It’s like duct-tape – it sticks to anything. Good versus evil. The lure of power. The use of armies to wage war (cultural or real). Egos. Jewelry. Large eyes. Spiders. Men with beards.

Now to the first question. Well, “Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow, Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow. None have ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master: His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster” according to J.R.R.R.R.R. Tolkien in the first book of the trilogy.

bombadil

Tom was a master of his domain – ever-giving, ever-vigilant, ever-full of song, ever-eccentric. And he was not corrupt. He was that character whom the darkness of Mordor could not overtake. The ring of power that is central to the trilogy story had no effect on him.

Tom just was himself.  The outside world did not define him. And he helped people. When Frodo and the gang are unsuspectingly on their way to eventually meet Aragorn, Tom helps them for a couple of days and even gives them a way of summoning him if they get in trouble while still in his domain.

Simply say,

“Ho! Tom Bombadil, Tom Bombadillo! By water, wood and hill, by reed and willow, By fire, sun and moon, harken now and hear us! Come, Tom Bombadil, for our need is near us!”

And BOOM! He was there to save the day.

Now, we may need him here in our country. Last night thousands of people protested in 25+ cities against the election of Donald Trump. California has a growing movement for secession from the US called #Calexit. Students are walking out of classrooms to protest the election of Trump. Immigration sites in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand are crashing from so much traffic.

We need ole Tom Bombadil to come and sing the nastiness away. We need ole Tom to remind us that there are places where the greed for power does not rule. We need ole Tom Bombadil to keep the orcs of negativity away.

“Hey! Come merry dol! derry dol! My darling!” I can hear him sing.

Then everything will be fine again or at least wrong in a manageable way. But like Frodo, we have a heavy burden and with that comes a great quest. We have that with any new presidential election winner.

I don’t think Donald Trump is the enemy. He got elected fair and square according to the archaic electoral system. And while there are many people who chose to speak out by not voting, we probably need to look at ourselves a lot more seriously and see how the problems we think we see today are actually symptoms of much bigger maladies that have been incubating for decades.

Those maladies are our rings of power that we wear around our necks. They must be destroyed. And we can only do that when we recognize them and do something about them.

And ole Tom can help us when we run into trouble. Or simply remind us that what we fear the most could actually be our reflections in the mirror and the inability to love others the way that we should.

Of course, I could be wrong, but if I see a man in a blue jacket and yellow boots, I might just make sure to be nice to him and let him sing away.

Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow,
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.
None has ever caught him yet, for Tom, he is the master:
His songs are stronger songs, and his feet are faster.

Being a Teacher the Day After “THE ELECTION” and How Public Schools Teachers Are Now More Important Than Ever

I did not vote for Donald Trump. Read my blog for just a few minutes and you can easily come to that conclusion.

But I teach in a public school. In fact, I teach a course and subject area which demand conversation, constructive argument, and rhetorical analysis. And each student who comes into my class deserves my best no matter what his/her political affiliations are or how each student’s family espouses its views.

I do feel that I have a unique perspective on the younger generations than most people being a high school teacher for 18 years. With the talk of privatizing education, wiping out entitlement programs, decentralizing, putting up walls, becoming more isolationist, drastically changing health insurance and social security, and war, I can say that without question that I have a lot of faith in this younger generation.

  • They think of themselves as part of a community more than when I was a student.
  • They look at the world as a dynamic public that spans religion, borders, and language more than when I was a student.
  • They think of service work as a natural part of being a citizen more than when I was a student.
  • They think of a climate that is changing more than when I was a student.
  • They think of connectivity rather than isolationism more than when I was a student.
  • They see things in a different light. Why? Because they are very smart and more observant than when I was a student.
  • They think of ways to improve themselves and follow their curiosity more than when I was a student.

And I have a tremendous belief that they want a better world for all people.

Some may think that it is a fine line to walk being someone who has his own political views and still approaches classes like AP English Language and Composition without injecting personal opinion while allowing students to formulate how to argue their own opinions well.

It is a fine line

And this election has shown the divisiveness in our country. It has shown the power of emotional appeals. It has shown the power of logical fallacies and the power of money over minds. It simply was one big ad hominem experience.

This election has also shown us the need for learning how to discourse constructively and argue productively. It has really taught us the need to sift the falsities from the truth.

Below is a map of the election results by state for the overall election.

map1

Now what follows is a map of the election if only considering the votes of those people who are 18-25 courtesy of Eliza Byard, the Executive Director of GLSEN.

map2

The youngest of the voting generation (late high school and early adulthood) sees a completely different perspective than the older generations. And with all the talk about the older white population swinging the vote for Donald Trump, it is easy to fall into a variety of conversations about who will have to live with what consequences longer than others, etc., etc. And whose votes count more in the scheme of things, etc., etc.

But this shows a clear disconnect in our population and it is not only divided among racial or religious lines. It seems very strong among age groups.

In an age where STEM education has taken center stage with a focus on 21st Century skill sets, what we really still need is the ability to articulate, listen, and constructively learn how to agree and disagree. That applies to all people in my opinion.

  • We need to learn how to analyze viewpoints, offer opinions, and not be afraid of what others believe as well as an understanding of problem solving.
  • We need to learn from history and use logic as well as ethics and emotions to ascertain what is right for us as well as a firm mathematical foundation.
  • We need to see how the events of the past can help us in the future so we make the right decisions in the present as well as fund scientific and medical research.
  • We need to see how cultures and diversity can beautifully blend together as well as measuring control groups against variables.
  • We need to learn about others as a basis of tolerance and not as a foundation for walls as well as being able to navigate from a map.
  • We need to be able to closely read, listen, annotate, and analyze the diction, imagery, language, and syntax of someone’s political promises before we automatically believe him as well as not automatically make a theory natural law.

We need our liberal arts just as much as the STEM subjects because the skill of problem solving is not reserved for the sciences and mathematics alone.The need to closely analyze, self-research, critically and creatively think, ponder, converse, span cultures, and synthesize new information in a global society is the basis of the liberal arts.

Liberal arts teach us to teach ourselves. Liberal arts teach us that we can always learn. Learning doesn’t stop because we “graduated” and became set in our ways. To stagnate in educating ourselves is really an insult to all of us.

My job as a teacher is not to change opinions of my students when it comes to their political, social, or religious views. It is my job to teach them how to better argue those views to a variety of audiences and understand how others construct their own arguments and do it with an educated viewpoint. Hopefully, they will continue to learn about those skills throughout their entire lives.

It will allow them to approach any election or big decision more prepared.

Because, if anything, this election has shown us that in an age with tremendous amounts of technology and knowledge, the need to critically think, constructively converse, and practice acceptance might be our biggest deficit.

If You Dance With My Daughter, Leave Room for a Very Large Jesus Between You

Not every father gets to spend as much time with his kids as I do with the schedule I have as a teacher. Part of that reason is because my daughter, McK, attends the very school where I teach.

She’s a full-fledged teenager. Has her friends. Takes classes. Has her friends. Spends time on the phone. Has her friends. Does some binge-watching on Netflix. Has her friends.

And some of those friends are male.

When she was born (literally five minutes after she was born), my wife looked straight at me and told me that every man McK may ever consider dating, she would probably compare to me.

I am balding and a little heavier than I was. I imagine my daughter having an easier time making that comparison. But what my wife was really referring to was how I treat women and those whom I love and associate with.

McK looks like her mother. And while I can bemoan that fact because that means she will catch the eyes of many a boy, McK also talks to her mother. And I feel good about that.

But that won’t stop me from having this put on a poster in my room at school and in every classroom that McK takes a class in.

willferrel

 

And while I am still a teacher at her school, I will be on prom duty.

And I will be watching.

I said a LARGE JESUS!