A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Friday, October 31, 2008

A Fist Full of Anger

I was watching yet another attack ad that apparently is the only way some people know how to communicate, depending upon innuendo when enervation has set in. It got me to thinking about the dangers of failing to understand that this country that we should always truly put first is full of people-- people who are not all like you.

The iconic American is the cowboy-- the independent free spirit, who goes his own way and rides off into the sunset tied down to no one and to nothing. One could even call this icon a "Maverick." He may appeal to other mavericks, or those who style themselves as such, but there can't be more than one maverick-- everyone else just becomes a part of the herd. To the Maverick, almost everyone else is the "other."

But the problem is that the rugged individualist is never a part of a community. He doesn't know what it means to build a future within society because he takes too much pride in his self-imposed exile into the sunset. These iconoclasts do not consider the needs of others; they remain aloof from love; their friends are few. Even those "good guys" who might be their natural allies keep them at arms' length because the Maverick cannot be counted upon. His attention span is too short, and there's always another dust-covered mesa to cross. He shoots from the hip-- which is another way of saying that he doesn't always have a plan. He knows how to fight, but that makes him the gunslinger, not the mayor-- or even the sheriff.

But there comes a time when people have to work together in a crisis, especially a crisis that was caused by a refusal to attempt foresight or consider consequences. There comes a time when the townspeople realize that the Maverick always has his own interests at heart, and that ultimately he shields himself from the consequences of his actions by insisting on his own truth, his own path. In his heart, he believes that he is the only person who can determine what is right. He doesn't pretend to have the answers because the questions don't interest him. So he attacks instead of plans.

The Maverick is brave, yes. He knows right from wrong, but often justifies doing wrong for expediency's sake. Sometimes he crosses the line, consumed by his own mythology. He doesn't have opponents, only enemies, and he doesn't seek to defeat them so much as to destroy them. Sometimes he becomes willing to do anything in his quest to win.

Sadly, sometimes the Maverick just becomes the Desperado.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 129: October classic edition

Adieu, baseball! In a year in which the Cubs managed to break hearts in a completely new way, and the AL champs went from worst to first in stunning fashion while the NL's best teams swooned so that we have to watch the stoopid Phillies muppets-on-Mad Dog 20/20 mascot cavort around in blasted October, it's time to revisit this flick-- a real October classic for me. So here ya go-- put your quotes in the comments section!

"How's your wife and my kids?"

"Heywood leads the league in most offensive categories, including nose hair. When this guy sneezes, he looks like a party favor."

"Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with curveball."
"You trying to say Jesus Christ can't hit a curveball?

"Lou-- Lou-- A minute of your time. See, it says right there; no calisthentics. What do you think of that?"

"I thought you said we didn't have any high priced talent."
"Forget about Dorn, he's just high priced."

Weekend Update:

Wild Thing! You make my heart sing! It's


Did I ever tell you that I had a crush on Tom Berenger? No?

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Is this really necessary?

So it's not enough to run the PSAT, the SAT, and all the AP tests. Now the College Board seeks to traumatize eighth graders, too. From US News' education blog:
College Board, the owner of the SAT, is introducing a new standardized test next fall for students in the eighth grade. Like the PSAT for 10th graders, the new test, known as ReadiStep, will gauge the skills of eighth graders in mathematics, critical reading, and writing. The College Board says the scores won't be used for admissions or merit aid decisions. Only students and their schools will receive the results. The goal, officials say, is to provide feedback to school districts that want to prepare more students for college before they reach high school. "What makes this assessment valuable and not just another test is its instructional relevance," Lee Jones, a vice president of College Board, said this week in announcing the new test.

The National Center for Fair & Opening Testing, which is generally opposed to standardized testing, released a statement calling the new test "a cynical marketing ploy designed to enhance test-maker revenues, not improve access to higher education." Eighth graders already take statewide assessments that determine how well they have mastered math, reading, and writing skills. Robert Schaeffer, the center's public education director, questioned the value of another test. "The new exam will only accelerate the college admissions 'arms race' and push it down onto even younger children," he said.

College Board officials emphasized that school districts asked for the assessment. They also said the test is tied to rigorous national standards, so the results would offer a more reliable picture of students' abilities than state tests. "We feel confident enough from talking to College Board member institutions that they are excited about the test," Jones said, although he would not name or identify how many school districts asked the agency to develop such a test. College Board says it expects school districts, not students, to pay for the exams, although the exam fee has not been set yet. The two-hour, multiple-choice tests will be offered to students during a two-week window in the fall or the spring. Teachers, who will proctor the exams, will receive the results in four weeks.

Wow. What exactly is the purpose of this? Kids take the PSAT because it's actually the NMSQT-- the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. It's also interesting that this is coming out right at the time that some colleges are turning their backs on standardized test scores as admission scores.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Congratulations, Amy Poehler

A new baby boy for Amy Poehler! Congratulations! And the sing along on SNL tonight was really sweet.

Man, talk about working up to the due date....


Random bits of wisdom

Let's just say that, if I knew a new principal, I might suggest that this principal get out of his or her office and make his or her presence known among the staff. Because the staff is turning, my friend, and sometimes okay is not good enough.

Let's just say that, we need to all understand that, apparently, our district technology is nothing but a steaming pile of doo-doo and cannot be counted upon to do anything but swoon at the first sign of a high volume of usage. Like, maybe, a few dozen teachers trying to enter grades while the district is trying to administer a web-based assessment.

Let's just say that, we are now deep enough into the school year that, as they say, the HONEYMOON IS OVER. One of my good girls got sent down for FIGHTING???? Wha...?

Let's just say that, some people call me the space cowboy, some call me the gangster of love....

Ya feel me?

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Where did they learn this?

Just when I think I have heard it all, along comes something like this....
CHESTERFIELD, MO — Four or five Parkway West Middle School students will be disciplined after administrators found out this week that they designated a "Hit A Jew Day" at the 850-student school.

Principal Linda Lelonek learned Monday evening that her sixth-graders had started an unofficial "spirit week" last week.

The students started with "Hug A Friend Day," moved to "High Five Day," "Hit A Tall Person Day," and then, finally, this Monday, to "Hit A Jew Day," representatives of the Parkway School District said.

The students generally were not being violent, Lelonek said, but instead "tapping" their peers.

"It was almost like a tag thing," Lelonek said. "But then it changed."

She now knows of three or four students who were slapped; none told school officials about being hit. "They said, 'We were just playing,'" she said.

After school Monday, Lelonek heard from the mother of one of the school's roughly 35 Jewish students.

Lelonek called an all-sixth-grade assembly first thing Tuesday morning. She said she asked the students if they had heard of each designated "day." Nearly all raised their hands. Then she asked, "What's tomorrow going to be? 'Hit A Principal Day?'"

"You could have heard a pin drop," she said. "One started saying, 'Oh, no, Ms. Lelonek.'"

"I said, 'Don't say a word.'"

Lelonek said discipline will range from parent conferences to suspensions.

She said the sixth-graders will be studying the Holocaust later this year. "It's going to be a little more meaningful this year than it's ever been before," she said.

Incredible. Good grief.

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

“Joe the Plumber?” Tchah. Here’s the real story of Dad the Mechanic.

I was raised in a working class home. My father toiled for over thirty years as an aircraft mechanic, and before that he was a truck driver and a salesman. Before that, he served in the Navy during World War II. To join the Navy, he dropped out of high school in his senior year.

Dad was a registered Democrat, as most people in quasi-Southern state Oklahoma tended to be in the 1960s, if you get my mortified drift. But I don't think I ever remember him voting for the Democratic candidate in a presidential election. I mean, this is a man who put a “Goldwater for President” bumper sticker on my tricycle. I'm serious. On the local level, though, he voted Democratic and Republican, based on whomever he thought was the best candidate. And that's the way that it should be.

However, as I reached adulthood, I noticed that the people Dad was voting for for president really didn't represent his economic interests very well-- and that meant they didn't serve MY economic interests very well, as someone who wanted to go to college from this working class household. They tried to destroy the power of working people to band together in unions to demand fair wages and benefits. In fact, their rhetoric demonized the phrase “working people” as a kind of shorthand for “communists who want to redistribute wealth.” Of course working people want to redistribute wealth! If it’s their labor that enriches corporations and CEOs, they should be paid wages that reflect that! My father climbed through the fuselages of commercial aircraft for over thirty years. He studied diagrams of wiring and schematics and took tests continually. He came home reeking of sweat, covered with metal shavings that cut his skin hundreds of times before he could shower them off. His labor made those planes fly.

How could it be American to claim that he was just a sucker who was spoiled in asking to be able to bargain collectively with his fellows for a fair wage and benefits? Who benefited from the anti-worker policies of the last 40 years? Let’s see. In 1980, the average differential between workers’ salaries and CEO salaries was 42. This means that CEOs earned 42 times more than their average workers’ salaries. Now, fine, CEOs have more education and decision-making responsibility, so they should be compensated for that. Okay. But by 2005, that multiplier was up to 411. That could be justified if corporate earnings had increased at a similar rate, perhaps, but they haven’t. And workers’ wages have stagnated as unions have been depicted as crime-infested communist fifth columns—and many working class and middle class voters have bought it! Genius!

These administrations and congressmen that my Dad voted for wanted to alleviate requirements that corporations actually fund their pension plans, and wanted to encourage shifting the options for people to save for their retirement into stock-market based plans. These plans were good for the corporations, because more people would then buy their stock, which would then reward their shareholders. It was perfect! Not only would employees' toil enrich the corporation, but they would reinvest their wages into company stock, which would then make them work harder because their retirement would depend upon the success of the company in the stock market as well as in the greater marketplace (And if you think those two things are merely synonymous, you are cute.)

These same administrations for which my Dad voted came up with a brilliant strategy. They would get working class people to vote for their anti-working class administrations through a bugaboo of social issues. "Gun ownership!" my dad cried-- but we had one rusty squirrel gun from circa 1908. "Criminals loose on the streets!" But we left our cars unlocked and our house unlocked and the worst thing that ever happened to us, crime-wise, was that someone once stole our dog. A guy once tried to back a truck up to our house and steal some lawn equipment, but our neighbor who was built like a gorilla started questioning him and the guy split.

Then there was this gold mine: "Abortion!" You know, we never knew anyone who got one, but there was still something strange about the political career of this issue. Republican administrations have controlled Washington for 28 of the last 40 years, but abortion really seemed worthy of a few loud platitudes only at election time. It was especially good to get Catholics and fundamentalist Christians to vote Republican contrary to the teaching of their religion in almost every other area (And, Catholics, if you don’t believe me, try a few of these: Laborem Exercens, Mater et Magistra, Pacem in Terris, Populorem Progressio. And to all Christians, try looking up how many admonishments there are regarding justice for the poor in both Testaments, and then try looking for the term “abortion” in Holy Scriptures. Try online concordances—it’ll be quicker. I’ll wait.). Strange that in all that time, what was talked about so loudly before the first week in November every four years suddenly disappeared as an action item immediately after that. It seemed that Republicans had very little interest in actually eliminating abortion, because then how could they distract voters into voting against their economic self-interest? The majority of the judiciary of this country have been appointed by Republican presidents. Abortion hasn’t disappeared because it is too useful of a political tool. And that surely is evil.

My Dad managed on his very modest wages to put three kids through college, and as long as we got plenty of loans, we made it. But there was no extra to put toward retirement besides the pension plan. Every year, the money covered fewer things, and the corporation was legally allowed to renege on the promises it had made to its retirees. Every year, doctors’ visits and medicine became even more expensive. Every year, property taxes on my parents’ modest little house went up to pay for things that should have been paid for through an equitable tax system. By the time my Dad’s cancer was killing him, he decided to spend $10,000 on a (futile and excruciating) chemotherapy regimen. Eight weeks later, he was dead. But before he died, he admitted that the government he had voted for absolutely didn’t care about people like him. Except to charm their votes from them every few years through the cynical use of issues that, ultimately, don’t matter as much as being able to live in a modest, comfortable, dignified way after a lifetime of back-breaking toil. Toil that has made this country great and powerful. Toil that is sneered at by the conservative elites who dress up their disdain for American working people by plunking hardhats on their heads or by clutching dead pheasant carcasses every now and again so that they can masquerade as being “just like us.”

And here's the secret: taxes pay for good things as well as bad things. The trick is to demand that our government not spend money it doesn't have and then use that irresponsibility to cut services the government SHOULD be providing to all of us. If only we weren't distracted by a load of stalking horse issues that disguise the very dangerous and irresponsible economic agenda of the GOP-- an agenda that has gotten us into a very real crisis today.

My Dad was a hard-working American. He deserved better policies from his government in exchange for his precious vote.

Maybe that’s why people like the make-believe “Joe the Plumber” bother me so much. This man supports anti-worker policies and then wonders why he can’t get ahead. He hasn’t undergone the training that is required to be a plumber, but claims that Democratic policies are what’s holding him down. He claims that Obama would prevent him from buying the plumbing business for which he works while omitting that he doesn’t have the training (or, frankly the funds) to do so, nor even to be a licensed plumber to begin with. And he doesn't have the sense to know that neither McCain nor Obama have anything to do with his failure to pay his OHIO state income taxes.

"Joe the Plumber" isn't real. My Dad was.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Joe the Plumber: Not a plumber. Not a taxpayer, either, apparently.

I knew it. I KNEW it.
Joe the Plumber's story sprang a few leaks Thursday. Turns out that the man who was held up by John McCain as the typical, hard-working American taxpayer isn't really a licensed plumber. And court documents show he owes nearly $1,200 in back taxes.

"Joe," whose name is Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, was cited repeatedly in Wednesday night's final presidential debate by McCain for questioning Barack Obama's tax policy.

Wurzelbacher instantly became a media celebrity, fielding calls during the debate and facing reporters outside his home near Toledo on Thursday morning for an impromptu nationally televised news conference.

The burly, bald man acknowledged he doesn't have a plumber's license, but said he didn't need one because he works for someone else at a company that does residential work.

But Wurzelbacher still would need to be a licensed apprentice or journeyman to work in Toledo, and he's not, said David Golis, manager and residential building official for the Toledo Division of Building Inspection.

State and local records show Wurzelbacher has no license, although his employer does. Golis said there are no records of inspectors citing Wurzelbacher for unlicensed work in Toledo.

And then there was the matter of his taxes.

Wurzelbacher owes the state of Ohio $1,182.98 in personal income tax, according to Lucas County Court of Common Pleas records.

In January 2007, Ohio's Department of Taxation filed a claim on his property until he pays the debt, according to the records. The lien remains active.

At the debate, McCain cited Wurzelbacher as an example of someone who wants to buy a plumbing business but would be hurt by Obama's tax plans.

Wurzelbacher, a self-described conservative, had spoken to Obama at a rally Sunday near his home and asked him whether his tax plan would keep him from buying the business that currently employs him, which earns more than $250,000 a year.

"Your new tax plan is going to tax me more, isn't it?" Wurzelbacher asked.

Obama said that under his proposal taxes on any revenue from $250,000 on down would stay the same, but that amounts above that level would be subject to a 39 percent tax, instead of the current 36 percent rate.

McCain said Obama's plan would stop entrepreneurs such as Wurzelbacher from investing in new small businesses and keep existing ones from growing.

The McCain campaign posted a Web ad featuring the exchange between Wurzelbacher and Obama.

During an afternoon taping of "Late Show with David Letterman," McCain said he had not yet spoken to Wurzelbacher, and apologized for the press attention he had received.

"Joe, if you're watching, I'm sorry," McCain said.

Wurzelbacher had to deal with a clog of two dozen reporters outside his home on a narrow street lined with ranch- and split-level homes Thursday morning. No detail about the divorced father of a 13-year-old boy was too small: Was he a registered voter? Did he have a plumbing license? Whom will he vote for?

Leaning against his black Dodge Durango SUV, Wurzelbacher at first was amused by it all, then overwhelmed and finally a little annoyed.

"I don't have a lot of pull. It's not like I'm Matt Damon," he said "I just hope I'm not making too much of a fool of myself."

He indicated he was a fan of the military and McCain but wouldn't say who will get his vote. He is registered as a Republican, the county elections board said, because he voted in the GOP primary in March.

Wurzelbacher said a McCain campaign official contacted him several days before the debate to ask him to appear with the candidate at a Toledo rally scheduled for Sunday.

He told reporters he's unsure if he'll attend, since he's now scheduled to be in New York for TV interviews.

On Thursday in New Hampshire, Obama said McCain was misleading voters by proposing tax plans that favor the rich while criticizing an Obama tax plan that would raise taxes only on people making more than $250,000 a year, just 5 percent of all taxpayers.

"He's trying to suggest that a plumber is the guy he's fighting for," Obama said. "How many plumbers you know that are making a quarter-million dollars a year?"

Wurzelbacher said he felt a bit overwhelmed by all the attention.

"I'm kind of like Britney Spears having a headache. Everybody wants to know about it," he joked.

Ooh, Britney Spears. Great comparison. She also tends to do things that are against her own self-interest.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Making Homecoming Meaningful

Warning: have kleenex handy before proceeding.

This is an absolutely beautiful story fromABC News.
The title of homecoming queen is typically reserved for the head cheerleader or student class president, but not so at one Texas high school where this year's queen saw hundreds of onlookers moved to tears as she was crowned.

"There wasn't a dry eye to be seen," said Carolyn Pass, the mother of newly crowned queen Kristin Pass, who was born with Down syndrome 18 years ago.

Go read the whole thing.

Hooray for Aledo High School. There are a lot of beautiful people there.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Hook 'em... Horns.

Gives me hope for the state, after all.

AUSTIN, Texas - Facing a free-speech uproar, the University of Texas backed down Thursday from punishing two students who refused to remove political signs from their dormitory window.

Connor Kincaid and his cousin and roommate, Blake Kincaid, said they were barred from registering for spring classes after refusing Wednesday to take down their signs supporting Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

"Effective immediately, I am suspending the prohibition on signs in individual students' residence hall room windows and any sanctions related to its enforcement," UT President Bill Powers said in a written statement.

Powers said he had formed a committee to study the policy and make recommendations. In the meantime, he said, school policy now "expressly allows the display of signs and posters in students' residence hall room windows."

The Kincaid cousins were told during an administrative hearing Wednesday to take down their signs supporting Obama.

"This is an important free speech issue," said Connor Kincaid, a 20-year-old junior who claimed during the hearing that he saw a sign supporting Republican candidate John McCain in the window of another dorm.

The university says the dispute had nothing to do with either candidate. UT has had a policy for more than 10 years forbidding the posting of signs in dorm windows in order to control the look of the campus and avoid the appearance that the university is supporting any candidate, said Jeff Graves, an associate vice president for UT legal affairs.

The crackdown sparked an outcry among students, and university Democrats and Republicans worked together to fight rules they said were unconstitutional. They had encouraged students across campus to put signs in their dorm windows as a form of protest.

Graves said he wasn't aware of a prior case of a student facing an administrative hearing over the policy.

"It's never been an issue," he said. "Obviously this is a hot political issue, and it got pushed this time."

UT officials believe the policy was constitutional as written but thought it made sense to allow signs to be posted inside the windows of individual living quarters, Graves said.

And I am NOT going to discuss football with anyone right now, except to say: WHY ISN'T TULSA RANKED?????????

Texas. Tchah.

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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Should GLBT teens have their own school?

In Chicago, they're thinking about it:
Weeks after a proposal to open Chicago's first public high school catering to gay, lesbian and transgender youth was announced, about 200 people on Thursday met with administrators at the city's main gay social services center to discuss whether it's a good idea.

The Social Justice High School—Pride Campus would offer a college-preparatory curriculum in which students would take four years each of English and math, three years each of foreign languages and science, as well as fine arts and physical education, administrators said during the public hearing at the Center on Halsted on Chicago's North Side.

"[We want] to continue to provide a college-prep campus for students who are often overlooked," said Chad Weiden, an assistant principal at the Social Justice High School who would be the principal of Pride Campus. "Gay, lesbian and transgender students are often overlooked in our district. And this is a school for all students."

As a gay youth, Weiden said, he often experienced violence and fear at school.

But Andy Thayer, a co-founder of the Gay Liberation Network, said he fears the Pride Campus could relieve Chicago Public School administrators of responsibility for making sure gay and lesbian students throughout the district are being treated respectfully.

"My fear is that the rest of the system will be let off the hook," Thayer said. "The notion that the Pride Campus is a silver bullet to set aside all needs of [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] youth is mistaken."

Administrators at the meeting said the Pride Campus would not segregate gay students because attendance is voluntary and the institution would be open to all students, regardless of their sexual orientation.

District chief executive Arne Duncan is expected to decide by Oct. 1 whether he wants to bring the proposal for Pride Campus to the board for a vote. If Duncan decides to go forward with the plan, there will be at least one more public hearing before the board votes on Oct. 22.

Backers of the school said that even if they receive the necessary approvals, they do not expect the school to open until 2012. A site for the school must still be determined.

The plan is being put forward by members of the Greater Lawndale Little Village High School for Social Justice.

Officials expect a school of up to 600 students, and those familiar with the project expect a high population of minorities.

Okay, first, why was the announcement made, and then public input sought? That's a pretty ineffective way to do things.

Second, is segregation really the answer?

Third, and I am serious here, is this also an attempt to make things easier on the part of administrators who then hope to shove GLBT teens off into a corner, or is this meant to empower GLBT teens? Would the school still have a comprehensive curriculum, or would it focus on GLBT issues at the expense of academic content?

I don't know what to think about this, but I thought I'd throw it out there for the rest of you to at least ponder as well. I seem to recall that New York City runs a separate school for GLBT teens named after Harvey Milk, but I could be wrong.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Snoozing and losing

One of the decisions a teacher has to make in classroom management, especially at the middle school and high school level, has to do with students paying attention in class. Apparently, here is a news flash for some adults who are not classroom teachers: a teacher cannot MAKE a student pay attention.

We can have all the right moves. We can move around the room as we are instructing. We can use humor and interesting stories and metaphors, we can let students know that we will randomly call on them and that their ability to respond is a part of their grade. However, there are still going to be those who will tune out their teacher, no matter what. And unless you require students to keep their hands visible at all times, take a guess as to how many students are texting during class, no matter how hawk-eyed the teacher is.

Yesterday, I removed a phone from the possession of a student who I could tell was sending his thumbs flying over the keypad. When I asked for it, he claimed he was only checking the time (you do realize that kids today do not wear watches because their phones display the time, right?). My response? I pointed sweetly to the large clock displayed on the wall and raised an eyebrow. He at least had the grace to hang his head and hand over the phone. It was apparently an epidemic that day, because no fewer than six of my colleagues on my hallway also noted that they had to confiscate phones that afternoon. Maybe they were all texting each other.

My favorite story is the parent who, at parent conferences, claimed that her kid knew that education was priority one and that there was no excuse for her not paying attention, but who later admitted that she herself text-messaged her kid during the school day, sometimes several times. There went my eyebrow again in the face of such a blatant disconnect from reality. (By the way, phones are supposed to be turned off during the day according to district policy. Ha.)

Then there's the sleeping issue. I know many of my colleagues don't care if kids put their heads down in their classes, I guess thinking that at least the student can't be a behavior problem if he's asleep. I do not allow heads to be down, nor do I allow sleeping. If a student is sick, I send her to the nurse. Otherwise heads are up and eyelids are open. I think this policy not only greatly increases the chances of actually learning something, but I also frankly think it is disrespectful to the teacher to sleep in class. Now listen, I am one of the most tired people on the planet. I admit I don't get enough sleep, and I do get sleepy at my evening class. But I make myself uncomfortable enough (too cold, assume awkward position, avoid propping head on hand,etc.) to make sleeping very difficult. Kids need to realize that they can't stay up all night texting their friends and then not pay the consequences.

How do you handle sleeping and other distractions from learning?

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Perhaps this is why drunk drivers get slaps on the wrist

This is wrong, wrong, wrong.
Rose Harn peers out at the world with one working eye, her arms curled tightly against her shriveled body. A rag under her chin catches her drool.

In the two decades since Harn was left brain-damaged and paralyzed by a 16-year-old driver, her husband has taken her to numerous Mothers Against Drunk Driving events in Idaho as an object lesson in the consequences of drinking and driving.

But that was before MADD removed Harn as a volunteer at its booth at a state fair last month amid complaints that the sight of her was too disturbing.

The Harns have filed a discrimination complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission against MADD and the company that operated the fair. MADD is taking a closer look at its practice of bringing accident victims to public events. And the incident has stirred up townspeople in this community of 50,000, situated in a sugar beet- and onion-growing region 20 miles from Boise.

"People with all kinds of disabilities, disfigurements and challenges have the right to be at public events, no matter how queasy someone may be," the Idaho Press-Tribune in Nampa railed in an editorial.

Exactly what happened at the fair is in dispute, and the state agency is investigating. MADD, for its part, said it feared trouble at the fair and acted out of concern for Harn's safety.

But Mike Harn said MADD should have let his wife be seen.

"This is reality. This is what happens when someone who has been drinking and driving hits someone," he said. "This is what's left. This is shattered lives."

In 1986, his wife was left blind in one eye, paralyzed on her right side and unable to speak after a teenager who had been drinking ran a stop sign and plowed into her car. The crash nearly severed her brain stem, putting her in a coma for about 18 months.

The 58-year-old mother of three lives on a wheeled bed. Because she can no longer swallow, she relies on a feeding tube inserted in her abdomen. According to her husband, she is aware of most of what is going on around her, blinking once for yes, moving her head slowly from side to side for no.

Since the accident, Mike Harn, 64, has arranged for his wife to appear at numerous MADD events, including about a dozen state and county fairs by his count.

Rose Harn has also been wheeled in many times at court-ordered classes for people convicted of drunken driving, where her husband tells of how the other driver got just 90 days in jail for reckless driving.

At MADD's request, the Harns went to the Western Idaho Fair on Aug. 19 to volunteer. Less than an hour later, a fair employee asked them to leave because of objections that Rose Harn was "too graphic" and that her husband had put her on display, Mike Harn said. He refused to go.

The next day, Miren Aburusa, executive director of MADD Idaho, dropped Harn as a volunteer at the fair.

"The comments that people were making about Rose, I think were horrible. If that was the main issue, I would have said, `Too bad. We support our volunteers,'" Aburusa said. But "I was worried that the sheriff was going to show up. I didn't want to send Rose out there. I did not want to send them into a riot."

Aburusa also e-mailed county officials an apology "for the problems and inconvenience our booth has caused you."

Harn has since cut ties with MADD.

Aburusa said she has heard conflicting accounts of whether a fair employee actually told Rose Harn to leave. Rich Wright, a spokesman for Ada County, which oversees the fair, said: "It would be surprising to us if this indeed did happen." An attorney for Spectra Productions, the company that operated the fair, refused to comment.

But fairgoer Richard Cirelli said he was standing nearby when a female fair employee approached the Harns. "I remember her saying something about getting lots of phone calls because Rose was offensive," Cirelli said. "That was the word she used. It just hit me wrong."

In a statement on the Idaho chapter's Web site, MADD's national office said: "We are taking a closer look at how presentations by volunteers that include victim/survivors, are carried out in the best interest of the family and the public."

If the sight of Harn makes people uncomfortable, that is the point, said Dicksie Luke of Court Referral Services, a business that arranges appearances by her at court-ordered traffic-safety courses for offenders.

"They need to see Rose to understand," Luke said.

Someone who drinks and drives and then kills someone commits murder. No one makes you pour alcohol down your throat, much less get behind the wheel of a car.

As you can see, I have no sympathy for this "I couldn't help it," defense you often hear coming out of the mouths of those who, through a cascade of delusional at best decisions, have taken the life of someone with a deadly object known as a car.

If people think this is offensive, how much more offensive is having this kind of life imposed upon you because of someone else's criminal stupidity and irresponsibility?

What's really irresponsible is the punishment for the person who assaulted this woman.

For shame.

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