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.

1Point’s Guide to Winning Blogs: Chapter 2 – Topics

Everyone knows that some topics are just more appealing than others.  If you write about the best way to peel a rutabaga, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the lack of hits.  Juicy, sexy topics will almost certainly be more popular.  Many readers, just like actual people, are bottom-feeding gutter dwellers.  They savor scandal and yearn to laugh at the idiocy of others.

So penning a post on the “Real Housewives of Tulsa” or a similar bit of pop-culture fluff will almost guarantee hits.  Even so, you’ll inevitably get comments from people who don’t watch “those shows”.  Given half a chance, they’ll point out that while you’re watching inept goldminers sift through dirt and try to fix broken front-end loaders, they’re sitting on their intellectual buttocks watching BBC America for the higher-browed, better versions of The Office, Kitchen Nightmares and Who Wants to be a Bloody Millionaire, Eh Guv-nah?

The long-standing advice to writers has always been to “write what you know”.  This advice is quite logical, as writing about what you don’t know is damn near impossible.  If you doubt me, refer to my post titled, How the Minds of Women Work”

The trouble is that what most of us “know” is pretty boring and not even of interest to ourselves, let alone others.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started writing a post on “wheelchair seating assessments for the non-ambulatory pediatric population” only to realize that there’s just not enough sex and violence to keep most readers on the hook.  Similarly, my post “Forty Shades of Brown” on the best approaches to raking leaves in a yard littered with Labradoodle dookie, while filled with useful information, fell flat on the hits.  I’m almost certain that recounting a less successful outing in the yard, complete with slips, falls and cursing would have been better received.

The best strategy then, is this; if you have to write what you know, be sure to jazz it up with some dirty humor and fabricated violence whenever possible.  I’ll show you what I mean.  Here’s a brief paragraph I wrote up for an example;

Peeling a rutabaga doesn’t have to be difficult.  Using a sharp knife and cutting board, I start at the end where one of the flat spots is.  I chop a fairly thick slab off – maybe a 1/4 inch – parallel to the flat spot.  This gives me a nice stable root vegetable to work with – you don’t want that thing rolling around when you’re handling sharp knives!  Next, I systematically slice the waxy skin from the equator down towards the cutting board.  Don’t worry if you cut the skin off on the thick side, rutabagas are pretty big – you should still have plenty!  In my next post, I’ll describe the best way to chop, cook and prepare the rutabagas for your table!

There wasn’t much wrong with that paragraph.  It gave a fairly decent idea of how to peel a rutabaga.  My special hints on how to make the homely rutabaga a star on your Thanksgiving table will remain top secret.  I’m trying to instruct you rubes on how to write successful blogs, if you think I’m going to divulge decades of culinary knowledge in the process, then you’ve got another thing coming.  Wait..Don’t pout!  You know it pulls at my heart strings to see you that way.  Alright… I’ll give you a cooking hint, but then it’s back to writing winning blogs.  Here it is:  If you put enough butter on it, even a turd becomes appetizing.  Happy now?  Good!  Now let’s dab those tears away and get back to writing.  I’m going to take that same paragraph, but punch it up and really give it some zip.

You want to know how to peel a rutabaga?  Cut all the waxy crap off the outside of it and try not to lose any fingers.  If you’re a woman – and you should be, because this is woman’s work, after all – I suggest wearing a lacy apron and a pair of pumps while you do it.  It’d be nice if you did something with your hair too, but it’s not mandatory.  When you’re about half way done, put down the knife and go see if your man needs his martini refreshed.  When you ask him, try to smile and use a soothing tone – he’s probably had a tough day already.  If he slaps you on the fanny as you turn to return to the kitchen, be a good sport and give him a little squeal.

Did you notice the difference?  It was subtle – go back and read the two paragraphs again if you need to, I’ll wait.

To the novice author, this is a rutabaga on a window sill.  To the seasoned story-teller, this is a sexy orb of starchy desire.  Its pale orange skin and bruise-colored markings just need a little lace and maybe a sharp knife.
To the novice author, this is a rutabaga on a window sill. To the seasoned story-teller, this is a sexy orb of starchy desire. Its pale orange skin and bruise-colored markings just need a little lace and maybe a sharp knife.

Careful readers might think that the second paragraph was a tad sexist.  I wouldn’t be surprised if the more sensitive among you were even insulted by it.  The important thing is the end result; the next time I post something, no matter how inane the subject matter, readers will hopefully click on it as they mutter the words “I wonder what that idiot will say this time“.

To summarize, it doesn’t matter what your topic is, as long as you write with some style and a voice, even if the voice is that of a moron.  Here are some more helpful rules of thumb:

  • If the post is “clean” enough to send to your 12 year old niece, you need to go back and sex it up.  You also need to drop your niece off your email list.  I’m sure she has more than enough homework and only reads your blog because your sister-in-law makes her.
  • If there aren’t enough scatalogical references to keep the attention of your average 6th grade boy, then put some in there.  Refer to my “buttering a turd” reference above – that one’s a gem!
  • If no one gets slapped, pinched or threatened, you need to find a way to work that kind of stuff into your post – I’m telling you, violence is blog gold!
  • Finally – Give your blog a test-read, aloud, before you consider publishing it.  If it sounds like the audio-book adaptation for “Changing The Oil In Your Ford Taurus”, narrated by Ben Stein, you’ll need to consider an overhaul, or better yet, just trash it and start over.

Tune in next time, when I provide more tips for writing winning blogs!

Here's 1point in happier times, before the cardboard dwelling, before fighting a bum named "Lefty" for the rights to the steam grate.
Here’s 1point in happier times, before the cardboard dwelling, before fighting a bum named “Ostrich” for the rights to the steam grate.

About the author:  Ironically, despite his massive following and several “likes” of most of his posts, 1pointperspective has yet to be Freshly Pressed.  He’s been blogging about the goings on in his head for 10 months or so, and he doesn’t seem to heed his own advice, except for the stuff about poop references.  He lives in a cardboard box just adjacent to a steam grate, just south of City Hall in Philadelphia.  When not giving free blog advice, he pan-handles and screams at tourists.