Grading Papers and Nailing Perps

Okay kids, today we're going to look at this picture and find something that doesn't belong in it.  (Image from panhandlepost.com)
Okay kids, today we’re going to look at this picture and find something that doesn’t belong in it. (Image from panhandlepost.com)

I just read a fairly preachy post on Facebook.  It was written by a “friend”.  I would not have classified him as a friend in the traditional sense of the word, but in Facebook parlance, people are either your friend or they aren’t.

In any case, the guy wrote about how putting armed police in every school could be an expensive option, and offered the alternative prospect of arming teachers.

I prefaced where I read the post, because I don’t want anyone to think that I got started on this thought process by going to the websites of political parties or special interest groups.  I certainly did not find this topic by reading the news, which I can’t really bear to do lately.  I make no apologies for not keeping abreast of a nation’s heartache; as a rational adult, I know all I need to right now and choose not to saturate my brain with the minutiae of every sickeningly painful detail, as reported ad nauseum by each and every news outlet.

I hoped that my “friend” was a lone voice and that he wasn’t just echoing the thoughts of someone with a broader audience than Facebook.  Somehow I doubted it.  A quick Google search proved my instincts correct.  An elected official in Washington State is pushing for teachers to have the right to carry weapons into the classroom.  Where would we be without some lawmaker telling us how to fight fire with firepower, or as I like to put it, fight crazy with insanity?

I feel I have a fair amount of first hand experience with schools and with teachers.  I attended public schools for kindergarten then twelve more years before moving on to several universities where I earned multiple degrees.  For the past 15 years or so, I’ve worked in schools.  I’ve dealt with every type of school employee from custodians to superintendents and many, many teachers in between.  I’ve dealt with new-graduate teachers and tenured, published PhD’s.  I’ve dealt with a lot of students as well.  My exposure to homicidal maniacs has been much more limited.

I am not a teacher.  I am not in the teachers’ union.  My father was a teacher, as were some of the most influential, important people in my life.  I admit that I’ve also dealt with a few teachers who were inept, sad examples of their profession.  Sitting here in my kitchen, I can’t think of a single one of those educators who I could imagine carrying a gun in the classroom.

In recent years, public school teachers in many states have wrestled with taxpayers and politicians over merit-based pay, benefits and tenure.  Apparently in the halls of power of at least one state, the argument has now switched as to whether or not to arm teachers.

Let’s take a moment to review: Elected officials and taxpayers can’t decide what a teacher’s work is worth, or how to determine if they are even effective at performing their jobs, but you’d like them to carry firearms?!  OK, just wanted to make sure I heard that right.

On a side note, law enforcement professionals routinely carry guns.  In many states they face the same scrutiny of pay and benefit issues which teachers do.  Unlike teachers, they enter their chosen profession knowing their duties may invlove the use of deadly force.  As a profession which has a fair amount of power in its armed authority, police training is designed to help weed out candidates who are unsuitable for the responsibilities of the job.  Despite the careful screening, history has shown us that sometimes the wrong people get badges and guns anyway.

Teachers’ challenges managing kids are pretty well documented.  In addition to teaching the three R’s, they are often called upon to teach kids things which would traditionally be taught at home and only reinforced in school.  Things like respect, being able to tell right from wrong and the basics of ethical behavior.  There have also been more than a few complaints about children in the U.S. falling behind their counterparts elsewhere in the world.  Tacking on the additional responsibility of acting as an armed guard just doesn’t strike me as a particularly effective way of improving overall job performance.

Owning and being capable of using a firearm is strong stuff.  Despite walking this planet for over 50 years, I have yet to find it necessary to even hold a gun, let alone carry one to work.  The first part of my personal rationale for not owning a firearm is that I don’t think I need one.  I believe, perhaps foolishly, that I can use other personal attributes to avoid gunplay.  Like a teacher, I’m convinced that I can use my knowledge and ability to communicate.  The other part of my rationale is that owning a gun would somehow reduce my belief in the  first part of my rationale.

In my opinion, a teacher who wants to bring a gun to school, has to accept the same thought, on some level.

The horror in Connecticut has dominated the news, but it is not an isolated case of senseless violence.  Two innocent people were killed by a shooter in a mall near Portland, Oregon.  Two volunteer firefighters were killed and others seriously injured by a sniper in New York who set fire to his home and car strictly to draw the firemen into his line of fire.

If the logic for arming teachers holds water, then it’s only fair that Foot Locker employees and firefighters are also encouraged to pack heat.  I’m sure that if one analyzed the data for victims of gun violence nationwide, it would be difficult to find a demographic which wouldn’t qualify for carrying a gun.

I know Facebook is filled with people who pop in photos of puppies or little quips about how annoyed they are with the weather without giving it a second thought.  One would hope they would stop and think before proposing something as controversial and fundamentally absurd as arming teachers.  As for state lawmakers making the same proposals, I’m at a loss for words, finally.

The Bitter Truth

My fingers were crossed. Psych! Those aren't even my fingers, it's clip art from bigstockphoto!

Yesterday, I posted my humble Versatile Blogger Award acceptance speech and fulfilled all the requirements for winners, including listing 7 little known facts about myself.

Being something of a prankster and pathological liar, I couldn’t help but sprinkle a few stinking lies in the seven facts about myself.  I requested that readers of the post give their opinions as to which ones they thought were true and which were not.

As of this moment, there have been 41 views of that piece and exactly three people have made guesses.  To be fair, I asked that anyone who actually knows me in the real world restrain from blurting out the answers, lest I brand them as “tools”.  I find it a little difficult to believe that of those 41 readers, only three of them don’t know me in the real world.  For one thing, I’m fairly confident that I don’t actually know 38 people who read all that much.

This is only the second or third time I’ve asked for audience participation in a post.  The previous efforts were also met with the similar soundtrack of a solitary cricket chirping in an empty auditorium.  When you’ve had several consecutive days with higher than usual number of hits on your blog as I have, it’s easy to get carried away and think that people are reading your stuff and getting you.  Maybe they are getting me, but are so awestruck by the brilliance of my sarcasm that they dare not attempt a public exchange of ideas with me for fear of looking less than intelligent.  I know when I comment on posts, I give careful consideration to my chosen words for just that reason.  Sadly, on my award post, the response requested was basically true/false – so we can eliminate fear of ridicule as an option.

In fairness to those few brave, loyal readers who went to the trouble of guessing, here are the answers.  Thanks to all three of you for participating.

1.  I was born in Vienna, AustriaFalse – I was in fact, born in the town which is the home of Northern Illinois University on a bitter cold January morning many decades ago.  I’m sure I stumped a few people on this one, as my sparkling command of the English language is more consistent with those who hail from other parts of the world.

2.  I am a physical therapist who works with special needs kidsTrue – Satirical leanings and a rapier-like-wit are actually assets in my career.  For the record, I also work with adults in other settings.  Just to clarify, I would never ridicule one of my patients, but the rest of you dolts are fair game.

3.  I have a fondness for dessert winesFalse – Very false.  I am no stranger to spirits of all sorts, but I’d prefer a strong, hoppy India Pale Ale, any number of tequila’s, boutique bourbons, or single malt scotch over some nasty, sweet dessert wine.  You can save that swill for someone who eats dessert.  This one should’ve been easy, as I have never been seen wearing an ascot – ergo – no dessert wines for me.

4.  My son is a jet-setting professional poker playerTrue – He’s abroad as I type this, flying hither and yon to play in tournaments and make more money than his old man.  If you sit at a Texas Hold Em table with him, don’t come crying to me later looking for cab fare and your retirement savings back.

5.  My younger brother met Kurt VonnegutTrue – Worst of all, I don’t think he’s a fraction of the fan that I am.  He actually meets all kinds of famous people all the time anyway, so I don’t think it meant much to him even if he was a fan.  I’d ask him, but his mellow attitude about it would just infuriate me.

6.  I see my mother on TVTrue – Mom is an actress and she shows up on my TV from time to time.  She hasn’t been acting too much lately, as she and Dad are bogged down with blog reading assignments.  As you may have read in an early post of mine, she and my father have a history of squandering her residual checks on cruises and dog-sweaters.

7.  My basement is filled with survival gear and back issues of Guns and AmmoFalse – While I’ve written, and will write again very soon about the Nat Geo series “Doomsday Preppers”, I am not a survival expert (Not yet, but that show is getting to me…stay tuned).

Those are the 7 little known or false facts.  In the fun spirit of lies, here are a few bonus lies:

8. I’m a massive fan of operaFalse – If I wanted to see some fat lady sing in a foreign language, I’d take public transportation in Philly.

9. Yardwork is a passion of mineFalse – Paying non-English speaking gentlemen to do yard work on my behalf is a passion of mine.

10. I’m a pet loverFalse – My gimpy dog left me a prize this morning which, due to a slight slope in the floor, extended the entire length of the hall.  I am convinced that this accident was no accident at all.

11. I prefer movies about space travelFalse – In fact I avoid movies with the word “Star” in the title.  I don’t know an Ewok from a Tribble, and I’m fine with that.

12. I love writing listsFalse – Good opportunity to wrap up this drivel.

“What is a lamp, you nincompoop? It’s a major award. I won it!”

Mr. Parker: It's a Major Award!
Swede: Shucks, I wouldn't know that. It looks like a lamp.
Mr. Parker: What is a lamp, you nincompoop? It's a Major Award. I won it!
Swede: Damn, hell, you say won it?
Mr. Parker: Yeah, mind power, Swede; mind power.
(Image and dialogue from Jean Shepherd's "A Christmas Story" - MGM)

I was recently named as a winner of the Versatile Blogger Award.

I was nominated by the presumably lovely and unquestionably talented Emma of In Other Words .  Thanks Emma – I’m not worthy of your praise.  While I appreciate the award, it’s made writing even more challenging than it already was.  It’s always been a bit daunting to hit the “Publish” button on a piece.  With my award, I now have to ask myself,

“Is this worthy of a Versatile Blogger Award recipient?

“Is it too trite?”

“Is it versatile enough?”

“Will posting this give Emma reason to doubt her judgement?”

Clearly the bar has been raised, and now I’ll need to consider my stellar reputation as a wit (or half-wit) before I post just any old thing.

I read how after winning the Academy Award for “Hamlet”, Sir Lawrence Olivier had the good judgement to turn down the title role in “The Incredible Mr. Limpet” – leaving the door open for Don Knotts to star as the man-turned-fish.  That’s the kind of foresight I’ll be needing from here on out.  I don’t want to be the Don Knotts of blogging – there are too many of those already.

To add further doubt to my already shaky self-image, I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to post a link to Emma’s site in here.  Fortunately, I stumbled onto a video tutorial on the VBA page, and after watching it an embarrassing number of times, I was able to negotiate myself through the process.

Now the other award shoe drops.

As if it wasn’t difficult enough writing with this massive new weight upon my shoulders, the award stipulates that I, in turn, award the VBA to no less than fifteen of my favorite bloggers.  Fifteen?!!  That means I’m going to leave someone out and undoubtedly hurt their feelings.  In addition, I’ll be saddling fifteen other bloggers to this same horrific batch of challenges and angst.  What fun!

The positive aspect of this is that all fifteen of my nominees write way better than I do, so they should skip through this effortlessly.  In the event that as a recipient of this noble chain letter award you choose not to follow through with your sworn duties, don’t be hating on the nominator.  It’s not my fault you write well and entertain me – that’s on you.

Here then, in no particular order, is my list of fifteen wicked-good blog writers.  I apologize in advance to both those who I nominated and to those I did not.  If you are one of the award winners, try clicking on a link besides your own, ferchrissakes!

The Good Greatsby

The Byronic Man

japecake

Prawn and Quartered

Paltry Meanderings of a Taller Than Average Woman

publikworks

Notes from a She-Hermit

blogdramedy

TEStazyk

Shut Up Dad

freddyflow

White Elephant In The Room

Perverted Wisdom

She’s a Maineiac

Peg-o-Leg’s Ramblings

I know that some if not all of my nominees are wildly successful bloggers who can’t be bothered with this nonsense, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to put some hack on my list and risk guilt by association.  Many of these blogging superstars have the good taste not to follow yours truly, so I have no idea when or if they will even hear about this.

The final requirement for winners is to tell seven previously undisclosed things about themselves to their loyal readers (This is a lot like work).   I’m not exactly a private person, but I’ve decided to just make some of this stuff up rather than risk boring people with nothing but facts.  In a wacky twist, you’ll have to decide for yourselves which of my following are facts and which are fabrications.

1)  Born in Vienna, Austria

2) I’m a physical therapist who works with special needs children

3) I have an admitted fondness for dessert wines

4) My middle child is a jet-setting professional poker player

5) My younger brother once met Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. – and I resent him for it (My brother, not Kurt)

6) I see my mother on TV sometimes

7) My basement is filled with survival gear and back issues of Guns and Ammo magazine

My god, I feel so exposed !  For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’d love to hear which of the 7 attributes you think are true.  For those of you who know me in the “real” world, don’t be tools and spoil it for everyone else.