The Lady Speaks

Politics vs. Reality in Middle America

Sorry for the serious lack of posting. I just couldn’t make myself give a damn about politics and other bullshit.

I should care. I should care about the failures of the Democrats, the obstructions, hatred, and nonsensical positions of the Republicans, the complete and utter lack of caring about the poor and the weak and the needy.

I should be posting three and four times a day, ranting and raving.

But the truth is … I’m tired. I’m just tired and overwhelmed with outrage fatigue, and – quite honestly – depressed. Children die because bureaucrats in an insurance company, safely removed from the consequences of their decisions, decide they aren’t worth saving. Aren’t worth attempting to save.

People are going hungry, going without heat, going without necessities like expensive prescription drugs, struggling to hold on to their homes in a still-collapsing housing market and a tightening rental market, working two or three jobs to provide the basics of food and shelter and clothing and heat – in the so-called “richest nation on earth.”

Where’s the hope? Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel?

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December 27, 2007 Posted by | America, Economy, Education, Election '08, Family, Global Warming, Government, Health, Iraq, Politics, SCHIP, US Military, Veterans, War | 1 Comment

What Our Childrens is Learning…

I hated my high school, and most of the teachers in it. I still dislike most high schools and most of the teachers and administrators in them. (School choice? Doesn’t exist in Bradford County unless you want to pay an outrageous amount of tuition.)

I’m sure it all stems from being whacked on the head with my 6th-grade teacher’s big-ass paddle – the one with air holes drilled through it so it would hurt more when it hit your ass. (How did it hit my head? Well, there’s his story – that it slipped out of his hand – and my theory – which is that I was leaning my chair back again and reading in class, so he decided to “remind” me not to do that.)

Or it could be from the time the school mandated that girls (and only girls) had to wear tube socks with their gym clothes. Ugh! Did anyone in high school in the mid-80s wear tube socks? Apparently wearing shorts exposed too much skin, so they decided we should cover our lower legs?

Or it could be from the time I was unjustly given a D-minus grade because my “potential” was so much higher than the other students that it wasn’t “fair” to them if I received an appropriate grade – because the material was so much “easier” for me than for them; they’d put more “effort” into getting their B’s and C’s.

Acckk…the flashbacks!

Anyway….

Schools are about one thing and one thing only – teaching children to be unquestioningly compliant with authority. Nice if they learn the three R’s and a little more, but really, it’s about teaching obedience.

As anyone who’s ever attended high school knows: Kids have no rights. None.

Here’s a lovely example of idiocy run amok: (via Pandagon and Slacktivist) Tri-Valley Central School in Grahamsville NY created a “no backpacks or bags” rule. (Supposedly for security reasons, as well as to prevent back injuries among students caused by excessive homework loads and/or tripping hazards.)

And then…

From the Times Herald-Recorder’s recordonline:

Several television news crews from New York City are camped outside the Tri-Valley Central School following the story in today’s Times Herald-Record about what question a school security guard asked a 14-year-old female student.

The girl was called out of class by a security guard during a school sweep last week to make sure no kids had backpacks or other banned bags.

Samantha Martin had a small purse with her that day.

That’s why the security guard, ex-Monticello cop Mike Bunce, asked her The Question.

She says he told her she couldn’t have a purse unless she had her period. Then he asked, “Do you have your period?”

Samantha was mortified.

She says she thought, “Oh, my God. Get away from me.” But instead of answering, she just walked back into class.

At home, she cried, and told her mother what happened.

It appears that at least a few other girls were also asked the same question. [my emphasis]

OH MY GOD!

Can you imagine asking any woman that question – especially a “newbie” one?! Teen girls are already going through enough what with hormones going every which-a-way and the complete and total fear of being humiliated in front of their peers – and some man asks if she’s having her period, so she can justify carrying a purse?!

I was a terribly shy student in 9th grade. Even as a senior, after the worst of the paralyzing shyness ended, I used to hide my tampons in a zippered folder in my binder, because carrying them in your purse was an invitation for someone (Candy K., you bitch) to steal your purse and empty its contents on the floor in the front of the room. (I once abandoned a small purse with my extra pens, change, a ticket stub from a Foreigner concert, and – yes – my tampons, because the witch dumped it on the teacher’s desk.)

If someone in authority had asked me this question when I was that age, especially a male person, I would have wanted to die right there, and it would have taken my mother literally dragging me by the hair to make me go back there.

The girls at Tri-Valley Central are tougher cookies than I was at that age, though:

The small Sullivan County school has been in an uproar for the last week. Girls have worn tampons on their clothes in protest, and purses made out of tampon boxes. Some boys wore maxi-pads stuck to their shirts in support.

After hearing that someone might have been suspended for the protest, freshman Hannah Lindquist, 14, went to talk to Worden. She wore her protest necklace, an OB tampon box on a piece of yarn. She said Worden confiscated it, talked to her about the code of conduct and the backpack rule — and told her she was now “part of the problem.”

Goddess love ya, ladies! And gents, too! I can’t imagine even one of the young men in my high school being willing to even acknowledge the existence of tampons and maxi-pads, much less wear them stuck to their shirts in a show of support against a school regime gone completely off the tracks.

October 1, 2007 Posted by | America, Children, Education, Health, War On Women, Women | 6 Comments

Why Do Republicans Hate Children?

*edited 9/25/07, 11:00pm. Edits between # #. — Jenn

– – –

Michael Leavitt, the Secretary of Health and Human Services*, was on C-Span’s Washington Journal today. I somehow managed to listen to his blather, for a few minutes, until the urge to vomit overwhelmed me. Of course, that might just have been the stomach flu…

One of the talking points repeated over and over and over ad nauseum was the $80,000 figure. As in, “OH MY GOD, they want people making up to $80,000¹ (or 400% of the federal poverty level) to get FREE GOVERNMENT HEALTH CARE²!!”

¹ Wrong. The $80K figure came from New York State’s request #to expand its program# which was denied – and which would still be denied under the new SCHIP bill.

The SCHIP bill currently under consideration would insure children in families living at 200% of the federal poverty level (or $40,000 (pre-tax) for a family of four) who do not have access to, or cannot afford, private health insurance.

² And wrong again. This isn’t “government health care”. The government isn’t going to be opening clinics and running hospitals and giving kids their immunizations. This is government-paid health insurance.

Leavitt also blathered a bit about how this program was going to allow people who already had private insurance to get public health insurance, etc. etc.

Hmmm…

Can someone name a public, open to anyone regardless of income, government-sponsored program believed by the government to be necessary for our nation’s future and security, in which the government doesn’t actually provide the service rendered?

Indeed. Public education, folks.

Using the Bush misAdministration rationales for vetoing SCHIP, all those making more than 200% of the federal poverty level will be required to enroll their children in private school, at their own cost. If you can’t afford private school, well that’s just tough noogies. Your child will go uneducated.

I can see the future of education under the Bush Plan:

[[wavy lines with eerie “wee-doo, wee-doo” music signifying dream sequence]]

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September 25, 2007 Posted by | America, Bush, Children, Congress, Education, Family, Government, Politics, White House | 4 Comments

Jenn’s Sunday Sermon – Education Edition

Why the hell can’t American children write intelligently in their native language? I just saw an article somewhere (sorry, lost the link) that said some schools are thinking of allowing kids to write composition papers and essays in “IM language.”

Say what?! That’s like saying, “We’re now allowing students to submit papers in pig-Latin.”

I’d be willing to bet that everyone over the age of 30 or so (and very few under 30) remembers when you wrote something every single day of every single week, either in class or as a homework assignment. Usually in 2nd or 3rd grades, possibly as late as 4th, you first learned to write by copying paragraphs from the blackboard.

Then you were assigned “topics.” “Write two paragraphs about Halloween.” “Write a story using as many spelling words as possible.” “Write a letter to the President.” (My favorite along this line was one of my oldest’s son’s 5th grade assignments: “Write a letter home as if you were a crewman on one of Christopher Columbus’ ships.” My son wrote a pessimistic four-paragraph letter about the horrors of the sea and concluded “I think we’re all going to die.”)

There were also book reports, spelling assignments (where you had to use the each word in a written sentence) and the ubiquitous “How I Spent My Summer/Christmas/Easter Vacation.”

Each year the writing assignments got bigger and bigger, until teachers started freaking us out with assignments like “Write a 1000-word essay on the fall of the Roman Empire.” (And back in the day, we didn’t have word processors or computers to tell us how many words we’d written. No, we had to write it out in long-hand and count each word. It never failed that just as you got up somewhere in the 800’s, your sister would come in and ask, “What’s 6 times 12?” and you had to start all over.)

Nowadays, we have all this emphasis on reading and math grades and testing, our kids are writing little or nothing, and people are somehow surprised to find that most high school graduates can’t manage to fill out a job application?!

Kids can’t write a decent essay, so the answer is to allow them to write in gibberish? Brilliant.

September 2, 2007 Posted by | Education, Family | 1 Comment

Making Higher Education Affordable

Cross-posted at Some Notes on Living.

– – –

Why is it so important to make college affordable and accessible to all high school students who want to attend, and have the grades necessary? Let me begin by telling you a story:

When I was 16, about to enter my senior year of high school, I’d been dreaming about going to college for probably four or five years. I thought of the courses I would take, how hard it would be living away from my family, worried over whether or not I’d be asked to join a sorority – and decided it didn’t matter.

Over those four or five years, I’d created an elaborate dream for myself: How I’d graduate and land a great job, own my own house with a bright red door, a little picket fence and a huge bed of wildflowers. I’d dress like the folks on Dynasty and Dallas (hey, it was the 80’s…) and I would never, ever, have to work outside in freezing cold and blistering hot.

Reality hit, slowly, in bits and pieces, over the next few months.

More below the fold…

July 19, 2007 Posted by | America, Children, Education | 3 Comments

Is YOUR Mascot a Racial Stereotype?

“Chief Illiniwek” of the University of Illinois will perform for the last time tonight. In fact, as I write this, the student who dances as Chief Illiniwek may have already made history as the last person to do so.

From YahooSports:

The University of Illinois’ controversial American Indian mascot was set to perform his last dance, and men who have previously portrayed Chief Illiniwek said they want the tradition to live on in some form.

The mascot, whose fate was decided by school officials last week, will take center stage at Assembly Hall for one last performance during the men’s basketball game between Illinois and Michigan on Wednesday night.

[snip]

Removing the chief frees the university of NCAA sanctions after the organization deemed Illiniwek — portrayed by buckskin-clad students who dance at home football and basketball games and other athletic events — an offensive use of American Indian imagery and barred the school from hosting postseason athletic events.

I applaud the decision of the University of Illinois to comply with NCAA regulations and join the 21st century in ending the use of a stereotype.

Now, it’s past time for state and regional high school sports leagues to follow the NCAA’s lead and mandate an end to “an offensive use of American Indian imagery.”

My daughter’s school calls itself, no kidding, the Redskins.

I have a lot of problems with this, and have since we first moved here. Let me give you a few examples of what I find offensive: 1) in the sports section of their website (which I won’t link to, for privacy reasons) there are “cute” little caricatures of Indians in feathered headdress and buckskin leggings holding basketballs, pretending to be swimming, performing a split and holding pompoms, 2) their mascot is a chief in feathered headdress, 3) there’s a freakin’ tipi on the track/football field!

For one thing, they’ve mixed up their tribes. The Plains Indians wore the feathered headdress seen on the mascot, not the Susquehannas and/or the Lenni Lenape (Eastern Delaware Nation) which actually lived in this area. Also, the Native tribes of this area lived in longhouses, not tipis.

This is important to note because the school is about to celebrate its quasquicentennial (125 years) and thus, was founded about the time of the Indian wars. Back in the early years of the school, people weren’t thinking about ethnic stereotypes, they were busy reading about the Bighorn, Sand Creek and Pine Ridge massacres. (Although, back then, they didn’t call them massacres. They were “battles” won or lost by the Army.)

Second, the administrators, boosters, players, etc, don’t seem to understand that the word “Redskin” is an ethnic slur. One of the most offensive phrases used by this school – and its faculty, students, and alumni – is: “Redskin Pride.” Literally, this phrase makes me gag.

Let’s be honest. This is a small school district, 95% or so white. There’s little native ancestry here, if only because their ancestors wiped out the native populations with their diseases and their wars. These people have a misguided sense of pride if they can use the word “Redskin” as if it were some type of positive attribute – one to which they have no claim.

Over the summer, my mom got into a bit of a verbal tiff with a booster who had the utter audacity to say they weren’t demeaning anyone. It was, she said, a way of “honoring” the Native peoples.

Huh?

How utterly stupid. As a person of Native ancestry, I don’t feel “honored.” I feel insulted. My Native ancestors were not “Redskins.” Those ancestors were of the Bear Clan of the the People of the Standing Stone (Oneida Nation) of the Six Nations of the Iroquois.

The Six Nations’ Articles of Confederacy – creating the oldest known participatory democracy – later inspired the framing of the Constitution of the United States. In fact, the Six Nations’ confederation was considered so important to the writing, a delegation of Iroquois were asked to meet with the Continental Congress, and John Hancock was given an Iroquois name: Karanduawn, or the Great Tree. (Read more.)

Do you think those whose ancestors were slaves, would feel “honored” if the team was called the “Niggers”? Do you think anyone of Jewish ancestry would feel “honored” if the team was called the “Kikes”? Do you think any of the multitudes in this district who came from Irish and Italian immigrants would feel “honored” if the team was the “Micks” or the “Wops”?

Of course not!

Those are all derogatory words used to debase another race or belief or ethnic background, and are recognized as such by nearly every sentient being in this country. There is no such recognition for the constant slurs against Native peoples used by sports teams across the nation, professional or otherwise.

Let’s put it this way, for those still so blind that they continue defending the use of “Redskins” for their high school teams: Would you feel comfortable calling anyone a “Redskin” while you were busy dumping money in a slot machine at Turning Stone or Salamanca?

Ooh! I saw that! Made you a bit uncomfortable, eh? It’s one thing to yell “Go Redskins” at a football game, and quite another to actually use it in a place where the owners are “Redskins.”

It’s past time for all sports teams to replace names and mascots which represent “an offensive use of American Indian imagery.

February 22, 2007 Posted by | America, Constitution, Education, Ethnic Stereotypes, Native Americans, Pennsylvania, Protest, Sports | 10 Comments

Scrotum is an Odd Word

There is something very wrong about teachers and librarians pulling a book off the shelves in a frenzied attack over the use of the word ‘scrotum‘ in a Newberry Medal-winning book, The Higher Power of Lucky.

From the New York Times:

The word “scrotum” does not often appear in polite conversation. Or children’s literature, for that matter.

[snip]

Yet there it is on the first page of “The Higher Power of Lucky,” by Susan Patron, this year’s winner of the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious award in children’s literature.

[snip]

The inclusion of the word has shocked some school librarians, who have pledged to ban the book from elementary schools, and reopened the debate over what constitutes acceptable content in children’s books. The controversy was first reported by Publishers Weekly, a trade magazine.

The title character, a 10-year-old orphan named Lucky – whose mother was electrocuted in a storm, whose absentee father imports a guardian from Paris in the form of his ex-wife, Brigitte, and who eavesdrops on 12-step meetings – overhears another character mention his dog was bitten in the scrotum by a rattlesnake. Lucky has no idea what that is, but to her it sounds like something green and medical.

This book is intended for ages 9-11, but already it sounds like one I’d like to order. My two nieces in the target audience would probably like it, and my daughter and other niece – a few years above the 9-11 age group – would probably enjoy it as well.

But, the controversy is over an author using word scrotum in a children’s book. It’s not so much about children reading the perfectly-proper medical name for a body part, as it is about prissy, prudish types facing that moment when they have to tell their kids about body parts they’d prefer they didn’t know about.

This is a “war” between those who think children should know the proper names and the functions of their body parts, and the ignoramuses who’d prefer children were kept ignorant until they marry, at which time they can procreate and pass their ignorance to another generation. And so on.

“Gasp!” say those pearl-wearers. “Wh-wha-what if the poor child asks, ‘Mommy, what is a scrotum?'”

Whereas, in more enlightened homes, a kid in the target audience giggles at the idea of a snake biting a dog on the scrotum. They know what it is just like they know that they have arms and legs and eyes and ears.

This is a non-issue for me. I’m the mother of two people with scrotums and one without. I’ve been married to a person who had one, and I’m the sister of two with and two without. I have an almost-5-year-old nephew who not only knows what a scrotum is, but knows it contains “tessacles.”

I got my kids to adulthood and semi-adulthood without them turning to drugs or alcohol or self-destructive behavior like so many others their age do in order to blot the pain of miserable childhoods filled with too many toys and games and too much time around a helicopter-mom who drove them the half-block to the high school, took away nail clippers because she was afraid they might injure themselves, and worried whether or not watching ‘Bambi’ or reading the word like ‘scrotum‘ in a book would scar them for life.

Instead, I have fairly normal children who do things like give blood and fix their littlest cousin’s harmonica (even though listening to him play it makes them crazy) and let him have free rein with the Playstation but keep him from watching bad movies, who listen to annoying music, and find themselves watching Finding Nemo and Ice Age, and ride sleds tied to the back of their friend’s car…. Okay, the last one was only done by the oldest child, and only once.

I allowed them to read whatever they liked, without wondering if it was “age-appropriate” or making sure it contained no ‘bad’ words. Just because childhood is a time of innocence doesn’t mean it should be a time of ignorance, too. Adults are the ones who think in connotations. Kids just want definitions.

The fact is, the people whining the loudest are afraid of a word. Which proves that words have power, something I’ve known since a high school teacher tried to stop me from reading Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird in 9th grade.

Words don’t just have power. They are power. String enough of the right ones into sentences and paragraphs and chapters, and you can create a revolution or two, inspire millions, or cause the downfall of a President. You can cause millions to shiver with fear and sleep with the light on. You can give others the power to fight a deadly disease or help them work through their grief.

And the examples above are just a teeny-tiny, sub-miscroscopic look at the power of people who know the power of words. It didn’t even get into classic literature, poetry, song lyrics, or any of the other ways that words have been put to use over the millennia since human beings learned to communicate with one another.

If you know words, lots of words, the meanings, the connotations, the inferences, then you have power.

The pearl-clutchers are free to protect their kids from the scawwy words. The rest of us will continue to allow our kids to read and learn and grow and go wherever their minds take them. We will give our children the power of the words.

February 19, 2007 Posted by | America, Books, Children, Education, Family | 3 Comments

Valedictorian Punished for Attempting to Give Speech

Update: (4/25/06) The superintendent 'ordered' Gallatin High School principal Rufus Lassiter to award Chris Linzy his diploma, and the charges against him were dropped. Details at Tennessee Guerrilla Women

* * * * 

Being the valedictorian of your high school graduation used to mean two things: you were the smartest kid in your class, and – for one brief, shining moment – you would have the spotlight. For just a few moments, the entire graduating class would know who you were (most having read it in the program minutes earlier) as you gave the final speech of the evening.

My high school actually allows the top two GPA-earners to speak: the valedictorian and the salutatorian. (I was neither. My grades were good enough to earn me the nickname 'egghead' as well as unrelenting teasing and torment from my 'peers', but thanks to "Freshman Insanity"*, they were not quite high enough to rank in the top 5 in the Class of '86.)

Many speeches have been given by many valedictorians all over the world, but how many school districts are insane enough to 1) not allow the valedictorian to speak, and 2) file criminal charges against him for attempting to do so?

Turns out that Gallatin High School has its own tradition – the valedictorian is still the smartest kid in the class, but he or she in't allowed to give the valedictory speech.

Egalia has the story at Tennessee Guerrilla Women. (I bet you already guessed this school is in the South.)

If you've ever wondered why so many people homeschool their kids in this state, look no further than principal Rufus Lassiter at Gallatin High School in Sumner County, Tennessee.

Rufus Lassiter has filed a criminal complaint against Chris Linzy, valedictorian with a 5.35 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

The valedictorian's crime?

The kid attempted to give a geeky speech at his graduation ceremony. I kid you not! Chris Linzy managed to get out all of two sentences before the mike was turned off. Then like any good geeky kid would, he quietly went to his seat.

Sadie Baker has this in the comments at TGW: [emphasis mine]

Somebody needs to send that principal back to school because he doesn't know English.

The word "valedictorian" means the person who gives the farewell speech:

"In the United States and Canada, the title of valedictorian (an anglicized derivation from the Latin vale dicere 'to say farewell') is given to the top graduate of the graduating class (compare dux) of an educational institution. The title comes from the valedictorian's traditional role as the last speaker at the graduation ceremony."

There's more on the story from the Gallatin News Examiner.

[…] Linzy said part of his disappointment is that the achievements of ultra-smart students such as himself are minimized at the school. Since most Sumner County high schools ask the school’s top students to deliver speeches, he said Gallatin High’s tradition disturbed him.

Although he had tried to get the rule changed earlier in the school year, he said he’d given up on it until he heard Lassiter make a statement to the audience Friday night.

In the statement audience members and students were threatened with legal action if they were loud or disruptive with applause or calling out names, said Chris Linzy’s father, David Linzy. They were told they would be ushered out of the gymnasium and that a petition for disruptive behavior would be filed.

[snip]

Lasssiter also expressed frustration about the attention Linzy is receiving from the media and said about 270 students who did comply with the school’s tradition “are the ones who should be rewarded.”

David Linzy said he asked Lasssiter how to make the situation right and was told that Chris would need to present a written apology.

The young man’s father said he tried to deliver the letter Monday but was turned away and asked to come back Tuesday.

[snip]

David Linzy felt betrayed by Lassiter when the police came to the family home with a misdemeanor criminal citation about 2 p.m. Tuesday afternoon, because he had been led to believe that his son’s letter of apology was all that would be required of him to resolve the issue.

“I shook (Lassiter’s hand),” he said “ I never saw this coming. This is vindictive. There is no justification for this. This takes it to a whole new place we hoped we would never reach.”

David Linzy said things escalated even more when a teacher from the high school called to tell them the administration was in the process of confiscating all of Chris’ school papers and homework. […]

*

(*Freshman Insanity – a term my mother coined to explain why a more or less normal, high-achieving student suddenly became the smart-mouth of the class while simultaneously failing four subjects during the first semester. As with everything, it hits kids earlier these days, so my daughter went through "Grade 7 insanity".)

May 24, 2006 Posted by | Children, Constitution, Education, First Amendment, Protest | Leave a comment

Oh here’s a surprise…

Guess what state wants to make the Bible a part of its curricula? Georgia, naturally.

From Newsweek:

Fresh from a bruising federal court fight over the teaching of evolution, Georgia marched back into the culture wars last week when Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill allowing Bible classes in public high schools. An estimated 8 percent of the nation's schools offer some form of Bible study. But the Georgia law is the first to set statewide guidelines and earmark public dollars for a Bible course.

[snip]

Last fall the nonprofit Bible Literacy Project published "The Bible and Its Influences," a textbook endorsed by moderate Christian and Jewish groups. So far, 30 schools are teaching the pilot program, and the group says 800 schools have shown interest.

Meanwhile, the National Council for Bible Curriculum in Public Schools, backed by a long list of conservative evangelicals, including Pat Robertson, says its curriculum is already taught in 353 school districts. However, if Georgia opts for either program it will be the first time that a state has officially adopted a Bible curriculum.

[snip]

State Sen. Tommie Williams, one of the Georgia bill's authors, used the council's curriculum as a guide when drafting his proposal. "We simply have to teach 'This is what happened—make your own judgments'," he says.

As a northerner, I hate to make catagorical judgements about people in the South, because I have a great many smart and sensible friends and family living below the Mason-Dixon. But, when they elect idiots who push this kind of crap….it makes it hard. Especially those who elected an idiot who says, 'This is what happened—make your own judgments.' 

Uhhh, Mr. Williams….prove it. Maybe that's what happened, but maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster landed on the back of a giant turtle and declared it good enough. Or maybe…

I'm all for teaching the Bible in school – as long as it's part of the mythology section of Lit class where it belongs – with Greek and Roman, early Celtic, Norse, and Native American mythologies, among others. 

April 23, 2006 Posted by | Christianity, Constitution, Education, Georgia, Religion, Uncategorized | 29 Comments