Color Me Confused

Earthquakes abound.  Hurricanes are wreaking havoc and leaving trails of death and destruction in their wakes.  There is rioting and looting in major cities, insane dictators launching nuclear missiles, flooding and famine throughout the world and people who still like the Steelers.

But nothing going on in this world today compares to the awesome destructiveness of Crayola’s newest color unveiling, Bluetiful.

Yes, this may be the most important subject and timely topic we can be divided over, hands down.

You see, Crayola has upset the space-time continuum by daring to name its own product.  After a naming contest for its newest color creation in the blue family, the winning name was Bluetiful.

Immediate outrage ensued and predictably, a boycott was threatened.  How dare this company name its own product?  Don’t they know that millions of children rely on crayons to learn colors and spelling and vocabulary?  It is no longer the responsibility of parents, or even teachers, to teach children that any shade of red is still red or that any nuance of blue is, in fact, still blue. And that they’re spelled r-e-d and b-l-u-e. Darn you, Crayola!  How dare you, the most popular art supplier of colored drawing implements in the world, neglect your duty of teaching our children?

What’s next?  Now that this insult is in place, will I be expected to teach my own children other things as well? Perish the thought!  Kindergarten teachers everywhere are in a tailspin.  They cannot be relied upon to teach our children colors!  Only you, Crayola, could accomplish this feat.  And you, Crayola, YOU just let us down!

I’m not sure I can continue to use my adult coloring books any longer.  Yes, yes, I still play with crayons. But more important, the confusion of naming crayons something other than their original color is just too great for me to handle.  What if I picked up the wrong blue and used it? Gasp! I mean, it could ruin a perfectly good drawing of Starry Night or Rainbow Dash.  I simply cannot be held responsible for my refrigerator art if Crayola continues to confound me this way.

The majority of people who chose the clever name of Bluetiful in the contest obviously have no respect for the role that Crayola plays in tutoring our children.  I suppose next I will have to teach my child manners?  Crayola should do that as well; Please Pink and Thank You Turquoise, for instance.  Yes Sir Yellow?  The possibilities are endless.  Crayola is falling behind the times here, and we are forced to teach our own children.  It is an outrage, an outrage I tell you.

Apparently, Crayola is only confusing us on a limited basis, since they discontinued my favorite color, Dandelion to make room for the mixed-up-not-a-real-word Bluetiful.  If you are going to baffle our children, Crayola should keep Dandelion and just add Bluetiful as an extra.  I was just getting used to Dandelion, and had finally begun to accept that Dandelion was a shade of yellow after twenty-some years of confusion.  And now, this?

A purple pox on you, Crayola, you destroyer of Denim Blue dreams!  Our Eggplant egos have been dashed to the ground, and trampled on by your Salmon sandals.  I can only hope that, together globally, we will overcome this Indigo insult.

Until we do, my friends, stay strong and Bluetiful.

 

click pic to read about all the hubbub

Campus Security

So, my daughter has been considering which college to fly off to in the Fall and in so doing, she’s been researching them, visiting, all of the things you do before making such a life-changing decision.  As it stands, she does in fact have some decisions to make, because on one hand, she’s only a couple of courses shy of having her AA degree – prior to graduating high school – at the local college, and she’s been accepted at all of the universities to which she has applied, with varying degrees of financial aid and scholarships awarded. However, this entry is not about decision-making, or being a proud parent – which I am, or the thought of empty-nest syndrome, or even the stress of coming up with tuition. I’m not exactly a parenting blog, not one that extols the virtues of “good” parenting anyway – and this isn’t that type of blog entry. No. This blog entry is about campus security. Even that isn’t right. It’s more a contemplation on the unexpected.

As I was saying, we’re researching colleges. A recent visit was going well, the campus was lovely, the people extremely friendly and helpful. However, there was one odd thing that really stuck with me. The windows. At least, not the windows per se; the windows were regular windows, just glass panes with a frame, but they had these weird locks on them. Not like regular window locks, although they had those too, no, these security devices were placed over the locks and handles to completely stop someone from opening the windows. From. The. Inside.

it’s screwed into the frame and attached to the window pane – a permanent fixture

Now at first, I thought this was just a security thing, keeping the kids safe by making sure access was limited. You have to give them credit for that right? You want a college that’s all about security. But the more I thought about this unusual hardware, the less sense it made. I’ll reiterate the cause for my confusion. The devices were on the inside of the window. The INSIDE. If it’s not to protect the students from the world, is it meant to protect the world from the students? Well, no that doesn’t make sense either, because there were still doors to the outside. I mean, I’m assuming the students have free run of the campus and aren’t kept locked inside like in some horror movie classic.

And here’s another strange thing, it’s not just dorms or classrooms that have these locks, it’s every window. Every. Single. Window. Admissions office, counselors’ offices, student centers, every window is completely closed off to the outside from the inside. It’s regardless of floor, also – because I thought perhaps they wanted to keep people from opening the window in a drunken frenzy and falling out, we all know what college kids are. Nope, they’re all over the ground level floors as well.

Of course, this got me thinking even more. There must be a reason behind this peculiar security measure. Right? I can’t be the only one thinking that. There just has to be a truly interesting backstory to explain away this scenario.

But honestly, what weird circumstance could have happened on this mundane campus to make the Administration decide “You know what, we just have to lock every window on this campus,” to which the Security Office no doubt readily replied “Well, yeah, duh. Every college does that. It’s common sense.” To which Administration responded vehemently “No, no, we must completely block off ALL access – no open windows anywhere on campus, I tell you! We can’t have a repeat of what happened an indeterminate number of years ago!”

Except…what the hell happened? What prompted such decisive action? Were a lot of kids climbing out of the windows and causing damage? If so why? Boredom? Alcohol? I can think of a lot of other ways to have fun – that require much less effort – than climbing out a window when there is a perfectly good door right there that swings open. Of course, that’s just me. Is it zombie prevention? In which case, it’s an utter fail, because you’re sort of trapping them inside and who the hell wants zombies trapped on the inside?

Or maybe they had students sneaking people in and if so, isn’t the Admissions Office kind of too out in the open for that sort of covert activity? And if that’s what was happening, I really want to hear that story, cause those students obviously just don’t give a shit. Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s not meant for the students at all. Maybe there was a mutiny and the professors at the end of their tether tried to leave en masse, and if that’s the case, well, the school sure showed them, didn’t they?

It could be for something as easily explained as sheer practicality.  “Shut that door (or in this case, window), were you raised in a barn?” comes to mind. As does “What are you trying to do, air-condition the whole neighborhood!”  Maybe the school’s administration is simply contending with a rash of students whose parents never taught them the fine art of climate control.

Whatever the reason, it remains a mystery. I never asked and there doesn’t appear to be anything in the campus literature – I looked. If anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

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

A Boy Named Ian

When my daughter was in the 5th grade, I received one of the “dreaded” calls from the office notifying me that she had done something horrific enough to earn a referral to the office. Now normally Sarah’s referrals to the office at this age were “M & M phone calls” which students enjoyed and Sarah normally racked up week after week.   Students would receive these positive referrals for things like going out of their way to help another student or teacher, taking initiative in class, getting caught being polite (holding doors for others, etc.) and the like.

However, on this dark day, she was sitting in the office for a more sinister reason: standing up for herself. I know, right?  How dare she!? Well. You guys know me well. You can imagine my response.  But I’m jumping ahead. Let me tell you what prompted the referral.

In my daughter’s elementary school, the students would leave their main classroom to attend Art (or Music) and then return to the main classroom again. In a state of flux, the class would stand out in the hall in a line for a long period of minutes (who knows why, though I think it was simply to test the students to see just how long they could stand still and whoever thought that was a good idea was a complete idiot).  Well, during this period of flux one day, Sarah and her friend were being harassed by a boy named Ian. Great name. Not so great a boy. He kept knocking their books and folders out of their hands and hitting them each in turn with a pencil. Now I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been cracked on my knuckles and my hands with items and it hurts like hell. Not to mention the annoyance of having to pick up your things one too many times to the amusement of the bully harassing you.

Well, I imagine for my daughter and her friend this little game of Ian’s got old and quick. Now my daughter’s friend, being more soft-spoken than my daughter, didn’t voice her dismay over the treatment. My daughter on the other hand had no qualms about speaking up. And she gave fair warning to Ian to stop or face the consequences. Ian, being brave or stupid, pressed his luck one last time and that was…as they say…all she wrote. My daughter snatched the pencil and stabbed him in the leg with it. Oh, not enough to even break the skin (so poking would be more accurate, but stab is what they put on the referral, so stab it was), but it was enough to startle him and make him cry and therefore embarrass him in front of his friends and the other kids.  And, since this big, strapping boy (much larger than my daughter) was embarrassed, by a girl no less, he told on her.

So. A referral was given, to both of them actually. I was a little surprised to tell you the truth. I figured it would just be Sarah since the boy claimed innocence (which he continued to do in the office) and Sarah readily admitted what she had done. And since our school system makes complete sense, they sent them both together, unsupervised, down the hall to the office which was on the other side of the building. What could go wrong there, right? They made it alive, another surprise.  I was told later, that on the long trek to the office Ian informed my daughter he no longer liked her (lo and behold the real reason for the harassment!), and that she hadn’t hurt him, he only wanted her to get into trouble for it.  To which she informed him, “Yeah, I guess that’s why you were crying then.”  My girl.

My response? Certainly not one the office staff was happy to hear. But it was the same one it has always been and always will be for my children. If someone touches you, you defend yourself. Period.

The ironic thing about it all?  Upon return to the classroom, Sarah was named Student of the Month and received a prize.  My girl.

advice for daughters

The Locked Door

Like many of us, my daughter suffers from anxiety. Being a teenager there’s what seems like a never-ending list of reasons why her mind could be thrown into a tizzy. Her main source of anxiety comes from school. No, it’s not the academic workload or fretting about standardized tests that hammer home the fear that how you perform will shape your future. She’s an Honor Roll student who excels in the classroom. What she finds stressful are the crowds, the thronging mass of other teens jostling and ricocheting off of each other in the hallways. It’s an everyday, unavoidable occurrence between each period (unless they build her a network of secret underground tunnels, which I don’t think is quite in the school’s budget). Not to mention the annoyance of sharing classroom after classroom with kids who basically do not want to be there and who do not share the same tolerant mindset she has for her fellow human beings.

Well, her anxiety recently got worse due to a safety precaution her school is now taking, or rather, a teacher’s explanation of it. The semesters changed over this past month so classes and teachers also changed. On the first day, a new teacher of one particular class explained that she keeps one of the two doors to her classroom locked because they are the first classroom in the hall and if a madman with an Uzi comes into the school guns blazing, it will be more difficult for him to come busting in their room, spraying rounds. Now I’m all for keeping kids safe. That I have no problem with. I question the teacher’s sense in explaining the reasons behind the locked door, but apparently she felt the kids were old enough to take the news and process it accordingly.

However, this brilliant educator of children went on to voice her opinion that since the door was just a flimsy little piece of wood, the shooter could kick it in rather easily or else simply shoot through it. And what with the second [unlocked] door only about 10 feet down the hall, if the gunman wants to get in, one silly locked door isn’t going to stop him so “either way we’re all screwed anyway.”

I’m just not sure what the hell this teacher was thinking divulging this info to the kids and putting this heinous idea into their heads. She could’ve just said, “I keep that door locked at all times” and end it there. They don’t have to necessarily know it’s to slow down a psycho with a semi-automatic assault rifle, because once that possibility is raised, it can be a little difficult to erase.  Then, by all means, let’s take away even that tiny bit of a safety net by saying it’s completely useless.

This possibility, that someone could be kicking into the classroom at any given moment (because sadly this is the world we live in now)…let’s just say that has not helped my daughter with her anxiety whatsoever.  And she can’t be the only one. Kids nowadays have so much to be anxious over and this is just one more thing to stress about. School, much like home, is supposed to be a safe place. Only it isn’t. You think kids don’t know that?  They know it more than anyone else.

The school itself locks all of its external doors which is a good thing. They do what they can, as most schools do, and that makes me feel better as a parent.   I just don’t quite understand the teacher’s need to give such tragic disclosure. We know why cars have airbags and don’t need commercials showing someone flying through a windshield. We know why we own fire extinguishers and don’t have to be shown pictures of people burning alive.

All I’m saying is that while I appreciate the safety measures being taken I think spelling out the potential consequences can be a little unnecessary – especially given the teacher’s added personal commentary. It seems to me that adding stress to an already stressful situation (high school) could be a little counterproductive to the whole learning experience.

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