Friday, September 28, 2007
What I really want to talk about is the lottery. In a bulletin posted by one of my friends (a real life friend, even!) it was asserted that the Governor is a hypocrite because she won't sign a budget that has cuts in education funding but her government shutdown would cease lottery sales (money that "funds education"). A math lesson using completely hypothetical low numbers to illustrate how the lottery works:
1) The State sets an education budget. Let's say this budget is $1,000,000. Note: the State sets a budget before having any clue whatever about how much money the lottery will bring in.
2) Lottery funds come in after the budget has been approved. Let's say that the lottery made $500,000. Most people think this is what happens:
$1,000,000 Original budget
+ 500,000 Lottery Sales
This is not what happens. What actually happens is this:
1) $1,000,000 education budget
2) $500,000 lottery sales
$1,000,000 Original budget
+ 500,000 Lottery sales
- 500,000 Pulled back out from original budget
$1,000,000 Back to original budget
Essentially, whatever is made in lottery money only makes it possible for the state to pull out money and redistribute it into the general fund to use where needed. It doesn't matter if the lottery makes $1 or $1,000,000. The state budgets for education first from the general fund and all the lottery does is allow the state to pull money back out.
So, she's not a hypocrite. I'm sure she is, we all are, but not here. That's how lotteries work. They don't help fund education, they help fund whatever the State needs it for. By the way, that's not a Granholm policy. That's the way it's worked in MI under all of the governors and it works that way in other states.
On the subject of the shutdown, I've got to tell you, that woman has balls. Big ones. It's not like, all of a sudden, she didn't get her way and she's going to throw a temper tantrum. This budget stalemate has been going on for 8 months. People suddenly start caring, though, when it's going to inconvenience them. I say that even as it will inconvenience me in two ways, though I'm only sharing one (stolen from NBC's Detroit affiliate):
Monday, September 24, 2007
Hi, folks! Today I want to draw your attention to the American Library Association's Banned Book Week. I had planned on writing something up on this but, upon reviewing my blog subscriptions today, I'm not sure I could've said it better than Brad Listi. Read his blog on the subject here.
I'll only add a little bit. As a parent, I don't suppose to know what's best for anyone but me. I can use what I know about myself to make decisions for my children. I believe children can handle a lot more than most adults give them credit for and when I look at lists of banned books, it actually saddens me to see some of the beauty society tries to shield its children from. For years, I have spent most of my daughter's nights reading books to her that are above her reading level. I've read her classics like The Secret Garden, A Christmas Carol, and To Kill A Mockingbird. I've also read her books just for fun, like the entire Series of Unfortunate Events series by Lemony Snicket. I will continue this tradition with her (and my son when he's ready) until she won't let me anymore. But I don't think that will happen because that precious time that I spend with her can't be replicated or replaced by anyone in the world.
I don't know if the books I choose to read with my children are best for all children. I only know that they are best for us. I wish the parents who choose to challenge books wouldn't pretend that they know what's best for all children and focus on raising their own, instilling their values the best they can.
That said, the first link I provided has lists upon lists of books that have been challenged/banned. I'm sharing with you the 100 most challenged books of 1990-2000. I've highlighted my favorite, a book I've read three times and hope to read again many more. Tell me which is your favorite.
One last thought- if naysayers succeeded as fully as they might like and these books were wiped out- where would we be and what would the future of literature look like without them?
- Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
- Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
- The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
- Forever by Judy Blume
- Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
- Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
- Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman
- My Brother Sam is Dead by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
- The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- It's Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris
- Goosebumps (Series) by R.L. Stine
- A Day No Pigs Would Die by Robert Newton Peck
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker
- Sex by Madonna
- Earth's Children (Series) by Jean M. Auel
- The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
- Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
- Fallen Angels by Walter Dean Myers
- In the Night Kitchen by Maurice Sendak
- The Stupids (Series) by Harry Allard
- The Witches by Roald Dahl
- The New Joy of Gay Sex by Charles Silverstein
- Anastasia Krupnik (Series) by Lois Lowry
- The Goats by Brock Cole
- Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane
- Blubber by Judy Blume
- Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan
- Halloween ABC by Eve Merriam
- We All Fall Down by Robert Cormier
- Final Exit by Derek Humphry
- The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
- Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
- What's Happening to my Body? Book for Girls: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Daughters by Lynda Madaras
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Beloved by Toni Morrison
- The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
- The Pigman by Paul Zindel
- Bumps in the Night by Harry Allard
- Deenie by Judy Blume
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
- Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden
- The Boy Who Lost His Face by Louis Sachar
- Cross Your Fingers, Spit in Your Hat by Alvin Schwartz
- A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Sleeping Beauty Trilogy by A.N. Roquelaure (Anne Rice)
- Asking About Sex and Growing Up by Joanna Cole
- Cujo by Stephen King
- James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl
- The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell
- Boys and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
- Ordinary People by Judith Guest
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
- What's Happening to my Body? Book for Boys: A Growing-Up Guide for Parents & Sons by Lynda Madaras
- Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
- Crazy Lady by Jane Conly
- Athletic Shorts by Chris Crutcher
- Fade by Robert Cormier
- Guess What? by Mem Fox
- The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
- The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline Cooney
- Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- Native Son by Richard Wright
- Women on Top: How Real Life Has Changed Women's Fantasies by Nancy Friday
- Curses, Hexes and Spells by Daniel Cohen
- Jack by A.M. Homes
- Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo A. Anaya
- Where Did I Come From? by Peter Mayle
- Carrie by Stephen King
- Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume
- On My Honor by Marion Dane Bauer
- Arizona Kid by Ron Koertge
- Family Secrets by Norma Klein
- Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole
- The Dead Zone by Stephen King
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
- Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
- Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
- Private Parts by Howard Stern
- Where's Waldo? by Martin Hanford
- Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
- Little Black Sambo by Helen Bannerman
- Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
- Running Loose by Chris Crutcher
- Sex Education by Jenny Davis
- The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
- Girls and Sex by Wardell Pomeroy
- How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell
- View from the Cherry Tree by Willo Davis Roberts
- The Headless Cupid by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
- The Terrorist by Caroline Cooney
- Jump Ship to Freedom by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
We can argue 'til the cows come home about how effective public schools are. I don't really want to do that now. While I support the public school system with every fiber of my being, you'll never hear me argue that the system is not broken. I think that, regardless of our varying views on public education, we can all agree that public schools (from school to school, district to district, state to state) are inconsistent. Since we can all agree on that word, "inconsistent" it will be as I discuss further.
So, what are vouchers? The concept of vouchers is simple. Think of Capitalism and apply its concepts to schooling.
Guess what? I'm not here to argue Capitalism either. If you know me, you know that I'm generally a proponent of Capitalism though I do think that, were the government to truly take a "hands-off" approach to the market, we'd all (and by "all" I'm referring to the majority of the people in this country who are in debt up to their eyeballs or who live paycheck to paycheck) be screwed. A blog for another time.
In a voucher system, parents would have the option of saying "no" to their local low-performing school and receive a voucher from the government (money that otherwise would have been granted to aforementioned local school) and have the option of sending their child to a private school. Like in a free market, if parents had a chance to send their child to a higher performing school, the low performing schools would either have to step it up or shut their doors. Low-income families would benefit because they could get their kids out of the ghetto school two blocks over and give their kids a chance at a top-notch education.
Sounds great, doesn't it?! But, wait, there's more!
I'll tell you what. On principle, despite any leanings toward capitalism I may have, I'm am strongly opposed to vouchers. In a free-market schooling system, it's a bit odd that the biggest stakeholders in this whole argument (the children actually attending school) don't get to choose. But wouldn't it be nice if they did!?! Hey, there, all of you little five-year-olds! Today, you get to decide which school you want to go to! Here's a bunch of data, we know you can't read yet so we went ahead and included a slew of graphs and charts in pretty colors! All you have to do is decide which school is the best and then the government will pay for you to go there! What's that you say, Johnny? Your local public school would get $7,000 per pupil but it costs more to attend the private school you've picked out? Boy, you are sharp! Well, we're a bit unsure about how we're going to handle that. Either your parents will have to pay the difference, or the government will have to shell out more money for you than for your neighbor. I wouldn't worry though, if I were you. Clearly, with your mad math skillz, you can get a scholarship for the difference. By the way, your local PTA is looking for a treasurer.
Let's face it. It doesn't work like that. Kids don't get to choose what school they go to, parents choose. In a voucher system, we imply that all parents are capable of making decisions that best suit the future of the world. That ain't true, folks.
Look at the welfare system. I support having a welfare system because, sometimes, good hard-working people genuinely need it. My mom used it as a single mother of three when she was going to nursing school. She's made a great living for herself in the 20 years since she graduated and has more than paid back the assistance she received. I support welfare even more when I think about all of the children it helps to support. If there were no welfare, wouldn't that force people to get off their asses and get a job to feed their family? In some cases. Not all.
I've been around enough to know that there are lotsa lazy losers living on welfare. Some, perhaps many, of these people either don't care or don't know enough about making informed schooling choices on behalf of their children. And should these children have to pay for that? It's not their fault.
So, for those of you who don't have children but pay taxes that support public schooling anyway, this is a real treat for you! Susie, a good kid with nice folks who live in a middle class neighborhood is going to send you a nice thank you card for paying taxes that sent her to a lovely, high-achieving private school. That should make you feel warm and fuzzy. But don't turn your back on Joe, the 7 year old who has to let himself in to his apartment in the projects because his dad split and his mom has to work all day for minimum wage at Wal-Mart. He's using your tax dollars to go to the local public school. For many reasons.
Maybe mom doesn't care. Maybe she does but she doesn't comprehend these vouchers. Maybe she can't afford transportation to the private school. Maybe she comprehends, can arrange transportation, but little Joe just wasn't accepted. After all, the school is private, silly taxpayer. They can admit anyone or refuse anyone they want on any grounds they want. And, as they become so popular for producing such model citizens, they get to up their tuition (supply and demand, anyone?) and turn away more kids than ever! Who do you think is going to get turned away first?
So, Joe comes home to an empty house. He goes to a substandard school and has substandard peers with which he spends all of his time. Alas! In this highly competitive free market education system, where everyone has access to a better school, the cycle continues! Hallelujah! Praise Jesus! (I can say that here, because your tax dollars will send these kids to religious schools if their parents choose.)
What else? Hmmm...Private schools are not subject to standardized testing (again, blog for another day), so it's gonna be hard to measure their success over public schools. In a study by the Department of Education as well as statistics of countries that have implemented some form of a voucher system, there really isn't an achievement gap overall. Private schools (subject to inconsistencies as well) and public schools average the same "score." In Milwaukee, a quarter of the students use vouchers yet more of the property tax money goes to the voucher students than the public school students. So, taxpayers, what you're saying is that you're willing to pay more taxes for students to attend private schools. It seems to me that if the public schools had that kind of funding to work with, they might do a tad bit better, too.
That's all I've got for now. I'm probably forgetting something. Bring it on, dissenters, I'm ready to fight! ;)
Monday, September 17, 2007
-Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son
A new quarter begins officially next week. My family looks out for me. Both my mom and my mother-in-law called a couple of weeks ago to see what I'd need of them in the line of babysitting to help with school. I didn't think much of it; not much at all of the fact that, typically, when I get my school schedule, I call about to make arrangements so that the kids are always in the same place on the same day each week. It helps to have consistency.
And so it was agreed that, though all of my classes are online this quarter, my mom would take them every Sunday night and drop them to school on Monday mornings to give me some guaranteed time to do homework. Todd's mom agreed that, since I don't need her regularly, she would let me know when her days off are and take them one night a week accordingly. Additionally, I agreed to take Treasure's kids on Mondays and her mine on Tuesdays to help each other out with school.
With my children spending a few hours two nights a week with Todd, as well as every other weekend, if I budget my time correctly, I'll have plenty of time to dedicate to school. No excuses. Right?
It hit me today when my mom brought Alex home after dropping Jenna off at school (he doesn't start school until tomorrow). One of my mom's very best friends lost her husband to cancer over the weekend and she was running down times for visitation and such trying to get a feel for when I can go. I told her I could go tomorrow since Todd will have the kids for a couple of hours. Only I remembered that he's on vacation this week and is staying with his girlfriend in Indiana. So I have no help from him this week. I have to find someone else to watch the kids. No problem.
But this week is my sample. He's moving in with her permanently in October. I knew it was coming. I just didn't really entertain how it was going to affect my life. It's going to be much bigger than I expected.
During this time of transition for my children, I have to stifle all possible hints of whatever inconvenience this is to me and ensure that they are well taken care of and know how very much I love them.
He's going to be over 350 miles away. He won't see them on average of three days a week. He'll see them one weekend a month and alternating holidays.
At first, when he announced he was moving, I was gung-ho ready to support him and do everything I could to make sure his kids would see him as much as possible. I grew up without a father; I don't want my kids to grow up without theirs. But that's just not realistic.
Now that it's almost here, not only do I see how it's going to change my life (and bless my family for being proactive in offering support and not waiting for me to call for help), but my kids as well. It's kind of breaking my heart.
He says he's lonely and has become extremely bitter and the only happiness he finds is with his girlfriend. I get that, truly. Still, no matter how much I felt empty without someone, it doesn't compare to how empty I would feel if I didn't have my kids to come home to. If I couldn't watch them sleep. If I couldn't go to the school play and see my daughter nervous on stage. If my son wasn't in the other room building me a trophy made out of Legos.
It hurts. As much as I want them to have their father, I have to remain cognizant that it's he who chose to leave. I'm not judging him, I promise. But I have to remember that it's not my responsibility to ensure that he has his kids on any kind of regular basis. It's truly up to him now to define his relationship with his children. These things happen, it's life.
Unfortunately, not all change is for the better.
(On another note, I've been reading again and I'm determined to finish this book that I started months ago before school reconvenes. Even if it's not as good as its predecessor.)
Thursday, September 13, 2007
As is expressed in much of Steinbeck's work, IDB is sympathetic with the working class and income disparity. However, IDB takes this plight a step further than other Steinbeck works I've read and makes a strong political statement. Not that political themes can't be derived from the other things I've read but, in this case, Steinbeck stops just short (only by not actually naming it) of publicly proclaiming his support for the Communist Party of the USA.
Relying on past studies of Steinbeck, I believe that, in reality, he neither supported Communism nor Capitalism. He posited that the worker would be exploited in one way or another under either.
I found something early on to be thought-provoking and, while I think I nearly stumbled upon an answer a couple of times, am not fully satisfied.
(I recognize fully that this book is fiction; however, it is reflective of events happening in the country at the time. Also, no matter how it looks, this is not intended to be a political discussion, I'm not attempting to make any political statements. The political references are only relative to the plot of the book.)
I find myself reflecting on what actually drove the front line "Reds" that were trying to encourage workers to organize and gain Party membership. Most people (though certainly not all) do things for some sort of benefit they will directly derive. In this case, there was certainly no money in it for those who believed that Communism was the way to change. Those who were fighting against Capitalism from the bottom up made no money and lived on favors from sympathizers, essentially. They were in jail frequently for their activities or for vagrancy.
As such, it would seem to me that the protagonists in this book and the "real-life" people they represented were in it for an abstract idea that they believed very strongly in.
Yet, they were trained to influence (manipulate?) to achieve their end. They found groups of workers at their most vulnerable and used it to put their foot in the door. Everything they said and did was very calculated to persuade. If they were truly living for a cause they believed in, why such deceptive techniques to make it happen?
Clearly, these types of techniques are used by anyone trying to gain power or even to keep power.
It's interesting to me, though, that in this case, there would be no personal gain for those working the front lines. Usually, there is some type of visualization of how the future will materialize itself once objectives are attained.
Here, the main characters of the book don't really talk about the future. They have a goal, they become exuberant over every little milestone and, yet, they have a very defeatist attitude in respect to how or when there will be a payoff, be it tangible or not.
What drove them?
It seems to me like the protagonists know less about what they're fighting for and know only that they want to fight against something (and will jump on any vehicle to do it). Perhaps because I'm such an optimist, I don't like that answer. It seems so contrary to what typically drives Steinbeck characters (he who believed that authors who didn't believe in man's potential perfection had no business writing).
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
My daughter is in the fourth grade.
When I was in the fourth grade, my mom was "old." Let it be known that I am five years older than my mother was when I was in the fourth grade. My mom was not "cool" when I was in the fourth grade. No matter how cool I think I am, my daughter likely does not agree. My mom did not listen to the music I listened to. Guilty. Hannah Montana and the High School Musical Soundtrack make me want to bleed out. My mom teased me about boys. Oops. Guilty again.
I have officially become a dorky, old mom. This morning, while Jenna sat at the dining room table eating Apple Jacks and watching Jimmy Neutron I said (and I quote), "Jenna, if you continue to stare at the TV and not eat your cereal, it's going to get soggy."
*sharp intake of breath*
It gets worse. When I was in the fourth grade, the girls really started getting catty and forming new alliances every other day. Distinctions between who was to be "popular" and not began sharpening. I began crushing on cute boys. Anyone remember Joel West?
I can't believe my firstborn is in the fourth grade.
How did this happen to me?
P.S. Below, to remind me of the good ol' days when my then three year old daughter knew every lyric to every Weezer song.
Monday, September 3, 2007
The idea seems to be to tune into your music library of choice, be it on your computer or iPod (or off-brand MP3 player in my case) and discuss the songs that come on, in order. With No Name did 9 songs because it's her favorite number. I'm gonna go with 10 because I simply don't have a favorite number but I do like nice, round numbers.
I have a feeling that there will be a few songs I don't know as Josh loaded up my computer with a bunch of stuff while he was here. I may have to skip those ones. Is that against the rules?
1. Fatboy Slim Push and Shove Okay, Josh did put this song on here but I do know it. I didn't know it was Fatboy Slim until this very moment as he borrows a vocalist (Justin Robertson) that sounds like someone I've heard before. I just don't know who. This song seems to be about that love that conquers all obstacles. Who doesn't love that story? I'm starting to get into electronic music. Who would've thought?
*presses pause and goes off to do a load of laundry*
2. R.E.M. Imitation of Life It's R.E.M., people. What else needs to be said? Something, apparently, or there would be no purpose behind this blog. I was recently asked this, "If Michael Stipe is gay, does that mean this song (song was "Strange Currencies") was written about a guy?" Probably. But it doesn't make a love song by R.E.M. any less effective. Of course, this isn't a love song but you know you wanted me to relay that conversation to you.
How is that load of laundry done already? My work is never done.
3. Goo Goo Dolls Black Balloon Really, why should I be embarrassed that I don't skip Goo Goo Dolls when they come on? Could it be that I teased a bit on The Invisible Man's blog and likened them to Bryan Adams? Perhaps. "Angels fall without you there..." I don't care. I like it. I'm not afraid to publicly admit it. *hides behind laptop*
4. The Tragically Hip The Lonely End of the Rink Y'all know how I feel about The Hip but, I've got to tell you, I don't like this song. *gasp!* I think it's about a goalie. That's all I have to say about that. Except that I will now skip this song.
5. The Tragically Hip Courage Two in a row! A sign! I do like this song. Courage. Indeed. I'm trying to learn to acquire some of that. I wasn't born with it. I'm a natural born sissy. This is good in a few ways. I have patience for miles and I'm very forgiving. These can be fulfilling characteristics, sometimes not I suppose. I think this song is about how courage isn't always a good thing and sometimes bouts with courage may cause us to act rashly. "There's no simple explanation for anything important any of us do." Word.
*off to make a phone call*
6. Coldplay Twisted Logic There is something so soothing about Chris Martin's voice. Most of Coldplay's songs are mellow which makes them a perfect band to listen to while taking a hot bath (Enya is not the answer, my dear) or falling asleep or just being sad. No more typing during this song. Shhh...
7. Buffalo Tom Late at Night Buffalo Tom is my secret. Nobody knows who they are. Except me. And a handful of other people within a 15 mile radius. On one hand, I'd like to keep it that way. On the other, it means I've only seen them live once and that was as an opening act. This is the song that turned me on to them. You remember. That show from the mid-90s My So-Called Life. This was the song that was playing (a) when Jordan Catalano pretended Angela wasn't his girlfriend at the Buffalo Tom concert because he was embarrassed to be seen with her then (b) when Jordan Catalano didn't want to lose Angela and therefore went to her locker and purposefully took her hand so the whole school could see to show her that he wasn't embarrassed anymore. You remember, "I'd do it if I could, I hope you know I would." *dreamy far off gaze*
8. Moby Go I really like Moby. Did you know that Moby is not his real name but was the name of a whale in one of his ancestor's (Herman Melville) great works? It's true. His family nicknamed him as such when he was a baby. I have a boat-load of Moby on my computer and there was no illegal activity on my part in acquiring it!
9. The Pixies Cactus Another sign! This has been my absolute favorite song for several weeks. I was introduced to The Pixies a few months ago and loved them instantly. I can't believe that I had never heard them before. Cactus was the very first song that I listened to by them. It is hands-down the sexiest song on the planet. "Bloody your hands on a cactus tree, wipe them on your dress and send it to me." Mmmmm... I mean, who here is not guilty of not washing a towel or a shirt or a pillowcase (a dress in Monica Lewinsky's case) so you could still smell him/her? I really hope I don't sound like a freak for saying that.
10. Augustana Mayfield This may be one of those young bands that experienced some success on their first album only to never be heard from again. I don't know. I like this album and my son loves this song. He likes to belt out all of the "OOOOH's". Can you blame him?