Day Late and a Dollar Short

When Mike Judge’s satire “Idiocracy” was released in 2006, it didn’t make much of a mark on the landscape of cinema. Possibly just a little more than a blip of actual recognition. The film was a fairly ludicrous tongue-in-cheek poke at where our society will end up in 500 years if ignorance prevails. It was worth a few chuckles. Sadly, with each new year, more and more signs that “Idiocracy” is actually a documentary rather than a work of fiction, creep up. The latest has me shaking my head not just at law enforcement, but the education system.

You’re probably not going to believe me when I tell you this, but there are people—MANY people apparently —that don’t know that a $2 bill is a real thing. They’ve never heard of it, never seen it, pretty much think it’s the same thing as bajillion dollar bill. Don’t believe me? Seem a bit too, dare I say, idiotic? Unfortunately, I am shamefully stating a fact and the link to the story is here.  Have at it.

To sum up, in case you can’t open the link for some reason (or don’t feel like reading about utter stupidity), this poor eighth grade student tried to pay for her school lunch with at $2 bill given to her by her grandmother and was denied. The people working in the school cafeteria (did you catch that key word “school”? You know, a place where kids go to learn) thought she was passing off a fake bill. That’s embarrassing enough, right? That in an environment of academics and scholastics, the people working as an appendage of an educational institute didn’t recognize United States currency. However, sadly, it doesn’t end there.

So appalled were the cafeteria workers that this conniving middle schooler was trying to put one over on them that the police, yes the POLICE, were called in to investigate. Now, you’re probably thinking, “Well, they’ll nip this problem in the bud right away and set everyone straight.” Well, you would be wrong. So wrong. They didn’t know what a $2 bill was either. To repeat, a police officer for the Fort Bend Independent School District did recognize what a $2 bill was. What did he do in the face of this brand new, obviously fabricated bill coming from the pockets of a charlatan-in-training? He threatened her by telling her she could be in “big trouble” for trying to use the fake bill.  Cause you know. Counterfeiting and such.

Where does the ridiculousness end, you may be asking yourself? Not much longer, but still a trail of bread crumbs far too long. First the student’s grandmother confirmed that she gave her granddaughter the bill. THEN the police went to the convenience store who supplied the grandmother with the bill in the first place to make sure they backed up her alibi. THEN, they took the bill to a bank where bank officials confirmed that, yes, $2 bills do exist and what they had in their hot little hands was one of them.

I’m sorry but as much as I would love to find a way to reason with the school workers and police department, I just can’t figure out how to give them the benefit of the doubt. Sure, it’s not like we see $2 bills every day, but it’s still in circulation and was even deemed somewhat popular up until 1966. It’s not like this kid was trying to pass off dinars. It was legal US currency being used in the US and it fooled multiple levels of “educated” professionals.

If this isn’t a harbinger that “Idiocracy” is getting closer, I don’t want to know what is.

here you go...you know, in case you're wondering what one looks like

here you go…you know, in case you’re wondering what one looks like

 

 

President Who?

I visited my daughter’s school the other day, and spent some time in the science classroom where she is taking AP Physics. AP Physics. Advanced Placement. I’m not bragging. That’s relevant to the story. You’ll see why in a minute.

It’s always interesting to see what inspiring or educational posters or other media have been placed on the walls of classrooms to ignite the interest of students.

I have to admit I was a bit shocked to see a framed official Presidential photograph of Gerald Ford on the wall, half-hidden behind some kind of cardboard cubbyhole arrangement. If it had been in a history classroom, or even a “general” classroom, I would have understood, but in a science classroom?

I asked the teacher about it because you know me…can’t just let something like that go by.  And it turns out that the photo has been there forever, apparently – long before this teacher’s time. It seems no one has ever thought to remove it. Certainly this particular teacher hasn’t.

Occasionally, students are curious about it she said. Some of them actually ask her who it is. And she has to explain that it’s Gerald Ford, who was President from 1974 to 1977. I’ll repeat. She has to explain who it is. In a high school.  In an advanced placement class. See? I told you it was going to be relevant.

Now, admittedly Mr. Ford did not particularly distinguish himself as President (though truth be told, it’s not as if sought the position), but his connection to Richard Nixon should be memorable — it was due to Nixon’s Watergate scandal that Ford became President in the first place AND he later pardoned Nixon, as I’m sure you’ll recall, and Jimmy Carter became President after him. And yet none of her students know who he is!

Seeing things like this just has me wondering several “Why’s?”

I bet that photo has been on that wall for decades. Probably since it was first released. Why has no one ever upgraded it to a more recent President? If it has no significance in a science classroom, why not just remove it instead of putting things in front of it? Or replace it with a more science-y photo. Galileo perhaps (since we’re going with unrecognizable figures in history)? Or maybe Nikola Tesla. Or hey, there are always the standbys of science: Newton and Einstein.

And just why don’t high school students, especially those taking AP Physics, recognize a 20th-century President anyway? I mean, it’s not like it’s a photo of Millard Fillmore or Franklin Pierce or some President they have no reasonable right to know.

There’s an old joke which is apparently a pretty new joke as well. Ask a kid today how many Presidents there have been in our history, and they can name George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and – hopefully! – whoever the current President is. And that’s it. I know, sad joke.

There are a lot of problems with our school system, and that ancient and unrecognized photo of President Ford is just the latest example of it.

 

President Ford

Bad Parenting 101

I am a bad parent. Everyone says so. It must be true. My children were raised with empathy (oh my god!), compassion, lots of books, more hugs than you can count, and the idea that knowledge is paramount. Having these lessons also instilled in them a sense of independence and, I hope, a feeling of self-worth. They are certainly both individuals that I respect. And there I go again. As a parent, I should be proud (which I am, big time) but very few parents express respect for their children, especially if they’re young children. But there you go. I’m a bad parent. Just ask anyone.

In this crazy household of free thinking, my kids have come to find their own path in religion as well as other things. My son Jake leans towards Zen Buddhism though he can debate the philosophies and merits of pretty much any belief system. With his intelligence and insightful nature, it’s not surprising he is drawn to Zen Buddhism; it fits him very well.

So far my daughter Sarah is an atheist. I say so far, not to belittle her way of thinking, but because she’s only 14 and very well may change her mind. If she doesn’t, I say good for her. Everyone needs to find their own way.

Even as a small child Sarah has always known her own mind and while some parents would attribute that to insubordination or disobedience, I’ve encouraged this behavior. In a world chocked full of mindless followers, possessing a streak of independence is more than okay by me. It’s made for interesting times, that’s for sure. And many trips to school. I’ve definitely had my share of chats with teachers. Not due to behavior, because Sarah is always well-behaved in school, but rather because if she realizes an answer is right or a teacher is wrong, she won’t back down from the truth.

For instance, I had to have an extremely bizarre conversation with a 4th grade science teacher about Okapis and how they do in fact exist in the real world; they are not the stuff of imagination like unicorns and mermaids. Did I mention this was a science teacher? Sarah had brought up Okapis in class one day and had been told plainly that she was wrong and had made them up. Not one to back down, Sarah insisted Okapis could even be found at the Baltimore Zoo (which is where we had seen one). Sarah’s insistence on the poor Okapi’s existence won her a note home and me a trip to school. It was a true testament to the quality of our school system but also a prideful moment in that Sarah wasn’t intimidated by an authority figure into believing she must somehow be wrong when she knew she was right. Perhaps I am a bad parent after all because instead of lecturing her on the merits of “going along” or how “teachers are always right,” I commended her for sticking to her guns in spite of her natural reticence.

I’ll admit that they’ve both tried my patience over the years and some of the most frustrating conversations I’ve had with anyone ever, have been with my kids. Especially Jake. But then, I’ve also had the most stimulating and thought-provoking conversations with Jake as well. I’ll happily take it all. I can certainly understand why his teachers both loved and hated him though. He’s intelligent enough to seriously debate all sorts of topics which is a good thing. However he’s never been much of a follower and therefore draws his own conclusions, which, in a teacher’s eyes, isn’t exactly a good thing. Most teachers want students who simply repeat the lesson’s objective verbatim, not those who think for themselves. Jake’s open mind and intelligence with which to back it up was a source of exasperation for his teachers I’m sure. Let’s just say I’ve attended some pretty noteworthy parent/teacher conferences in my lifetime. But then, in our school district, Okapis don’t exist. So you can see what we’re contending with here.

Suffice it to say, no matter what I do in life, my kids are my greatest source of pride. They’ve turned out pretty well in spite of my bad parenting. I’ll gladly (and very selfishly) take the credit for how they turned out….but, and maybe more importantly, I’ll even more gladly take the blame for what others perceive as flaws. In my opinion, the world needs fewer “cookie cutter” personalities and more free-thinkers.

So to those who call me a bad parent (and you know who you are), go ahead. I’m the worst…and couldn’t be happier about it.

Partners in Crime

Partners in Crime