School in 1959 versus 2009

I was sent this list of how several things have changed in our educational system and lives over the past 50 years, and it's a sad but true observation of how "Trying to Make Things Better™" ultimately makes things worse...

SCENARIO 1: Jeffrey will not be still in class, he disrupts other students.

  • 1959 - Jeffrey sent to the Principal's office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He then returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
  • 2009 - Jeffrey is given huge doses of Ritalin. He becomes a zombie. He is then tested for A.D.D. The school gets extra money from the state because Jeffrey has a disability.

SCENARIO 2: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

  • 1959 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up buddies.
  • 2009 - Police called and SWAT team arrives -- they arrest both Johnny and Mark. They are both charged with assault and both expelled, even though Johnny started it.

SCENARIO 3: Mark gets a headache and takes some aspirin to school.

  • 1959 - Mark shares his aspirin with the Principal out on the smoking dock.
  • 2009 - The police are called and Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. His car is then searched for drugs and weapons.

SCENARIO 4: Jack goes quail hunting before school and then pulls into the school parking lot with his shotgun in his truck's gun rack.

  • 1959 - Vice Principal comes over, looks at Jack's shotgun, goes to his car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
  • 2009 - School goes into lock down, FBI called, Jack hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

SCENARIO 5: Billy breaks a window at his school and his Dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

  • 1959 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college and becomes a successful businessman.
  • 2009 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is removed to foster care and joins a gang. The state psychologist is told by Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself and their dad goes to prison. Billy's mom has an affair with the psychologist.

SCENARIO 6: Pedro fails high school English.

  • 1959 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English and goes to college.
  • 2009 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against the state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English is then banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given his diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

SCENARIO 7: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from the Fourth of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle and blows up a red ant bed.

  • 1959 - Ants die.
  • 2009 - ATF, Homeland Security and the FBI are all called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates his parents -- and all siblings are removed from their home and all computers are confiscated. Johnny's dad is placed on a terror watch list and is never allowed to fly again.

SCENARIO 8: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher, Mary. Mary hugs him to comfort him.

  • 1959 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.
  • 2009 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces 3 years in State Prison. Johnny undergoes 5 years of therapy.

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Whatever happened to common decency?

I realize that we live in a stressful time - so many people are concerned about major events such as the war, the spiraling economy and housing market, the erosion of employer loyalty in an ever-changing job environment, etc. But every once in a while you are treated so badly by your fellow person that it's enough to make you sit up and wonder aloud at what's going on. On two separate occasions within the last week I have been witness to some of the rudest actions that I have seen in recent months. Either event was remarkable by itself, but compounded so much more so by the severity of the discourteous behavior that I witnessed in such a short time.

This past week my wife and I took our children to the movies. As we pulled into the theater's parking lot, I chose a space next to a large SUV that had managed to squeeze into a space that was clearly designed and labeled for a compact car. This space was at the end of a row of cars, and I pulled in so close to the sidewalk on the opposite side of the gas-guzzling gargantuan that my tires were grazing the curb as I parked; because of this action I was able to make sure that there was still plenty of room between both vehicles for people to enter or exit safely.

After the movie we walked to the parking lot where I noticed a note attached to my windshield. I read the note aloud which stated, "I have your license information and pictures. I'll call the police if there's any damage." My initial thought was, "Oh no, someone hit my car." For some reason it just didn't register with me at first what was actually being said, so my son and I walked around our car to inspect for damage. We didn't see anything wrong, so I reread the note aloud a couple more times and then it hit me - the author of the note was threatening me not to damage their car.

Never mind the fact that this automotive monster was located in a space too small for its size, the driver of this mammoth on wheels was concerned that I might somehow injure their precious beast. I looked at my son and joked, "If I wasn't such a nice person, I'd kick the door on the other side of their car." We both laughed at the thought, and since I had parked so close to the curb on the opposite side of the behemoth, my son was able to make use of the ample room between the vehicles to open our car door and get in for the short drive home. (Note: Because of my disbelief that the parking lot event actually occurred, I kept the threatening note and it now adorns the bulletin board in my office.)

The fact of the matter is, however, that even though the driver of that SUV didn't really need to write that note, it was up to me to choose how best to react. In some aspects, this could have provided ample opportunity for an angry "Pay It Forward" approach to the rest of my evening or the days ahead. I could have left an equally threatening note, or I could have damaged their vehicle out of spite. Instead, I chose to make a short joke to voice my frustration and drove home peaceably.

But sometimes it's hard to remain so detached.

Recently I needed to catch a flight home on Southwest Airlines, which prides itself for on-time flights and unassigned seating. Since I fly on Southwest Airlines fairly often, I know that I should get to the airport a little earlier to get in line for general boarding. When I arrived at the gate, I found a half-dozen people sitting in line already, and I dropped my carryon luggage at the end of the queue and sat down in the line. Over the next hour, several other travelers showed up and orderly took their places behind each other. Occasionally a person or two would mistake where the line was and walk to the front of the line, and would happily relocate to the end of the line when notified of their mistake by the people ahead of me.

A few minutes before general boarding was to begin, a few of the passengers at the front of the line began to stand up. Right as I got to my feet, a couple walked up to the gate and proceeded to get in line in front of the row of waiting passengers. I pointed to the people that were sitting in line and said, "These people are in line already; the end of the line is back there" and motioned to the back of the queue. The would-be line jumper remarked that none of the passengers that I had just pointed to were actually standing in line, they were sitting, so therefore they weren't really in line. I informed him that all of these people had been there at least an hour already, and that he needed to relocate to the rear of the column. He reluctantly obliged after a brief and curt exchange of words with all of the surrounding passengers, albeit complaining the entire way that he travels 120 flights per year on Southwest Airlines. After taking his place at the end of the line, he loudly exclaimed in my direction, "Yeah, don't even look this way, ---hole!" I turned around and stared at him in disbelief, while the other people in line began to laugh at him for creating such a ruckus over having to board the plane perhaps one or two minutes later. Was any of this really called for?

Once again, however, this left me with the choice on how I was going to react. I could have followed his example and launched into a tirade of expletives, but why stoop to that level? (I must admit, however, that I did take advantage of a situation that happened moments later. A person came running up just as I was about to board the plane, and he was holding a large, boxed painting. He said that he was supposed to pre-board but had trouble getting through security. I could see that he had a pre-boarding stamp on his boarding pass, and I just couldn't resist the situation - I looked at him, then I looked back at the would-be line jumper, then I looked back at the gentleman with the boarding pass and said, "Please - be my guest," and gestured for him to board ahead of me.)

Okay, I must admit - perhaps the last part of that story was a bit over the top on my part, but I just couldn't help myself. But once again, the line jumper was way out of line. He was wrong, but insisted that everyone accept his behavior. When the surrounding crowd forced him to take his rightful place in line, he did so with a never-ending stream of complaints, insults, and expletives. That just isn't right.

So I have to ask the question again; whatever happened to common decency?

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To the Moon... or Bust...

I have always been fascinated by all things space-related; the moon, the planets, the stars, etc. Perhaps it was watching all of the live TV broadcasts during the race to the moon in the 1960's, or perhaps it was spending part of my childhood living in Florida where astronauts would drop by the schools to talk about what they did for a living. My dad probably had a lot to do with this space-age attraction; when we were living in Tampa, he got us up early one morning and drove across Florida so we could be there to watch Apollo 16 launch for what was to become one of the last manned missions to the moon, and he bought the telescope that I continue to use to this day.

In any case, I was fascinated with space throughout my childhood. Over the years I followed the stories about the development of the space shuttle program, I watched several of the shuttle launches on television, and I even managed to make it back to Florida to attend one of the shuttle launches.

I tell you all of these things just to set the stage - when I heard that NASA was going to smash a rocket into the surface of the moon at 7:30am EST on October 9th, 2009, my first thought was shared by many people around the globe: "What gives NASA the right to bomb the moon?"

This was followed quickly by my second thought, which was: "Cool - can I watch?"

In fact, NASA had said that the explosion would be large enough to be seen by amateur enthusiasts, which is why I stayed up all night on October 8th to wait for it. I set up my telescope in the backyard, and I had a computer nearby that was streaming the live video feed from NASA. So I waited, and I watched, and I waited, and I watched, and then... nothing happened. There came a time that all of the folks at NASA's Ames Research Center in California started cheering, and it became obvious that whatever was going to happen had just done so, but not only was it impossible to see anything through my telescope, it was impossible to see anything on NASA's cameras that were smashing into the moon to record the event.

When you study the history of NASA's exploratory missions to places like Mars, you see a long pattern of failures due to one problem or other, and a lot of very expensive equipment has met a tragic end by plowing into the surface of Mars. So now that NASA has a chance to make up for their bad track record by intentionally crashing something into alien soil, you'd like to think that they've had enough practice to get that one thing right.

But unfortunately, they didn't.

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Welcome to my blog...

How many times have you seen words on a web page that say something to the effect of "Welcome to my blog..." on some anonymous person's web site? Does that make you really feel welcome there? I don't think so, because - let's face it - their blog is about them, and the Internet is supposed to be about you, isn't it? If nothing else, these days the web is pretty much a breeding ground for narcissism.

I mean, think about it - all of the big sites on the Internet are focused on you: there's MYspace, YOUtube, and MYlife, etc. The other big sites, Facebook and Twitter aren't named after you, but be serious - who else are they about? Everyone wants to brag about their number of friends, or their followers, or their site hits, or whatever. Everyone wants to post about themselves, or blog about themselves, or tweet about themselves... but no one really wants to read what you're saying because they're too busy posting something about themselves. And even when you write a blog, everyone else wants to post their thoughts about what you just posted - as if you care, because you just wanted to post something about you.

The wonderful folks at www.despair.com put it this way:

So - with all that in mind, why in the world would I bother to start another blog that will do little more than inundate the Internet with more senseless drivel?

Once again, the folks at www.despair.com created a great poster that says it all:

And on that note, that's enough for today. Smile

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