A new look at Gitmo

Watch this, then tell me what you think!

Advertisements

Socialized Pizza!

This video may not be completely accurate today, but the future is uncertain and I think it is worth watching.  It is about socialization, but this is not me accusing any specific politician or organization of implimenting such things.  I do not believe anyone wants socialization, but I do believe that one step inevitably leads to another.  So when you vote or speak to your local government about issues that are important to you, I only urge that you be alert and cautious.

history is here!

If you’ve read anything from Footsteps before, you are probably aware that I, the author, am a student trying to earn a degree in English.  What I don’t think I’ve revealed here before is that I also plan on obtaining a history minor.  I’d love to double major, but for now I’m starting small with just a second minor.  When I finally made the decision to go for a history degree, my mother was overjoyed.  I knew she’d been crossing her fingers, hoping for such news.  She knew that my love of history dates back almost as far as my love for English.  While I’ve never been good with dates or names, I always loved the stories.  

 

But reading those stories in history always left me with questions.  One of which being:  Where did all the heroes go?  I couldn’t understand why history was always in the past and no new tales of bravery ever popped up.    As a child, I always preferred world history, because there was more of it.  But for the purpose of my topic, I’m going to focus on American history.  In school, I learned about Paul Revere, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin. I was told the stories of Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Sojourner Truth.  These people were America.  When the world looked at us, those individuals–and each of their actions–is what they saw.  I was young, but not too naive to realize that people with that caliber of character were of a time long-past and did not exist today.  I realized that America’s glory-days of heroism were over, only to be cherished in history books. 

 

When I got older and took a long look at modern times, only one exception came in my bleak outlook of American valor: I was impressed with the heroes of 9/11.  We haven’t seen courage like that in decades.  But even those amazing acts seemed to fade as Americans fell into the stagnant, dull routine of life.  They got a line or two in a couple history books that recently underwent reprints for updates, but other than that, 9/11 was only discussed as an argument in the war in Iraq debate.  “Have you forgotten 9/11”  “We invaded a country that had nothing to do with 9/11”, etc.

 

I’ve kept asking myself, over the years, Where are the heroes?  Our recent election seemed to produce the antithesis of heroes.  Politics may not be stagnant, but it sure is ugly.  I’ve heard the claim that we are no longer separated as “Democrats” and “Republicans” but the parties of “Corrupt” and “Stupid.”  I was really upset by this election.  Not the results–I didn’t vote for President Obama, but I had the attitude of “Que Sera, Sera”  (what will be, will be.)  What I got so worked up at was the rude people, illogical arguments, nasty and underhanded attacks and just how inhumane I was witnessing my fellow Americans (on both sides of the political aisle) act.  I mourned that our history book would recall my generation negatively.  I mean, its great to defend your beliefs, but if your beliefs are illogical, unfounded, corrupt…what pride is in that?

BUT…

I now see hope!  America has come alive!  I’m not even sure how it happened, but our last nerve finally got stepped on and hear us roar!  The people finally understand that they are supposed to hold the power in our democracy.  I’ve always tried to keep up-to-date on the news, but never has it been so much fun.  Watching the news makes me feel like I’m living in my history book!  Is it crass to claim that watching our nation fall apart and yell at each other is “fun”?  Maybe.  But it is not so much the issue I care about as the fact that we are finally sticking up for ourselves.

 

This is one of my favorite demonstration videos: 

 

 

To quote Senator Spector, YES–that was democracy in action. 

 

 

In this video, Senator McCaskill voiced a question that a lot of people want to know.  She said two things: 1) she didn’t understand the rudeness 2) Do you think you’re persuading people by shouting out?   I’d like to address those comments.

 

1) Yes.  It’s rude.  There’s no doubt.  But people have been “nice” for years.  We’ve let our senators and congressman do whatever they pleased, only sending an e-mail or a short phone call to express opinions when we found it necessary.  But what we found was that our politicians vote by their opinions, not ours.  They go with their own personal agenda as much as they can until they’re afraid of sacrificing votes for re-election. Politics is one big, sick game.  We’re tired of it.  Now, not all politicians are corrupt.  But the American people have reached a point where it doesn’t matter.  We just don’t like politicians, period.  All across the nation we are treating them as the bad guys, the enemies, because that is how we view them.  That may not be good or fair…but its the way it is.

 

2) We aren’t trying to persuade anyone with our shouting.  During election time, debates got heated, people acted rudely and no one knew with 100% surety what the other side was trying to say.  That upset me.  It angered me because, as Senator McCaskill pointed out, you can’t convince people that your views are legit by yelling.  However, I’m supporting this and here’s why: the time to yell has come.   We aren’t trying to debate, we’re trying to get our voice heard.  The politicians who get to vote on this bill are already known and most will vote the way they meant to in the beginning, regardless of the protesters.  We know that our voice doesn’t matter anymore–not like it did during election, anyway.  But we want to make it loud and clear that there is opposition to what is going on and watch out at election time!

 

I don’t know how the Health Care debate will turn out, but I can’t wait to pick up a history book and read about these everyday “Joe’s” putting the elite politicians in their place.  I really do think this issue will get worse and I think it will grow to such proportions that our history books will take note of it.

Education Reformation:Grades

If you are stopping by my blog in search of my Education Reformation series, you are going to want to start with my first post.  This series has three parts, this being the third.  Here are the links to the first two entries.

Part 1: Education Reformation:Rewards

Part 2: Education Reformation:My Beef

As I foreshadowed in Part 2, this third entry discusses school funds.  I do believe, however, that I am guilty of lying by insinuation.  If my last post led you to believe that I would reveal how I would magically wave my wand and make greenbacks appear in Uncle Sam’s generous hand…I apologize.  That is not what this entry is about.  In my defense, however, I did admit that post #2 was written on a complete caffeine binge…  But the truth is, I am not a financial guru.  I do not have a mind for numbers, therefore I have no authority to tell our government how to improve the sorry state our finances are in. 

The part of our finances I am going to talk about is the incorrect way they are distributed.  This can be explained best with a true story.  I have been wanting to write my thoughts on education for a long time, but it was this story that finally convinced me to write this series for you.  Last week I found out some heartbreaking news.  I have a very dear friend who will be in 8th grade this year.  She recently transferred schools due to a family move.  My friend has some learning disabilities, so the special education department at her new school (which was a smaller, more rural school compared to her previous one) tested her in various areas.  Her parents were heartbroken to learn that she was significantly behind in her education.  They were also surprised, having had no idea there was this big of a problem.  There was a scuffle of research and contacting the former big city school to try find answers to what had happened and why my friend was so many years behind.  The truth eventually came out.  My friend’s former teachers knew she wasn’t understanding the lessons they taught.  But if they had held her back, it would have appeared that they were not doing their job since, according to test scores, she wasn’t learning.  If the special education department put out a progress report with students showing little to no improvement, they would be denied government funds.  Therefore, my friend’s teachers kept passing her so it appeared that she was learning and keeping up with her class.  Am I the only one who hears stories like this and then begins to see red?

This is where I diverge from money.  I don’t know how to make funds appear that aren’t there, but I do know a better way to distribute them.  Kind of.  Maybe I should say, I know how not to distribute them.  You should not be letting test scores dictate money.  You should not be having test scores dictate anything.  That is what I want to discuss for my third point: test scores.

I don’t believe in what is called “teaching to the test.”  That is when teacher’s have their test written out and the information they teach you is based on what you need to know to pass the test.  As a student, I loved this method because it guaranteed that if you paid attention, you’d get good grades.  But it doesn’t guarantee that you learn.  After countless years of taking math (even getting a private tutor for it), I still struggle balancing my checkbook each month, never quite getting the numbers to jive.  After taking a High School class on Environmental Science and passing with  flying colors, I realized just yesterday that I can’t remember the purpose of our local watershed board. After memorizing every single amendment to our Constitution for my college government class, the only amendments which I can give the correct number to with 100% certainty would be the first and second amendment–and I knew those before I took that class.  Those are all examples of times I memorized and learned “to the test.”

Compare that with my English studies.  The only time I have ever memorized anything for an English class was when I memorized terms or word definitions.  Most of those I have forgotten.  Other than that, I never really studied for English tests.  I LOVE English and it is something I have spent several years inundating myself in. I read a wide variety of literature, I attend writing workshops, I discuss writing and English studies with people, and most importantly, as a writer I put what I learn in English class to practice. So, how does that work when it comes to tests?  Well, sometimes it means I get a wrong answer, because I just don’t recognize the questions.  But many times its an exciting way to find out what my brain has absorbed over time.  Example: If my High School English class had a question asking the name for the Ancient Egyptian goddess of night, I may not remember.  After all, there are a lot of names in mythology.  But my brain could also go through the knowledge process.  I could recall one of my favorite books that was set in ancient Egypt.  Then I’d bring up certain scenes in the book that had included mythological creatures.  By remembering the dialogue in the book it would trigger my brain, telling me that the goddess of night was named Nuit.  And there you have it.  In a perfect education system, you wouldn’t have the inundated lifestyle that I have in English, but that is still the process your brain should be going through, because your teachers should have exposed you to the stories and fascination of each study in a very real, practical and applicable way.

Memorization isn’t knowledge.  There are scores of Straight-A idiots in our classrooms.  And they are getting rewarded for being such.  Who do we give scholarships to?  Who gets the assortments of privileges various schools hand out as rewards?  Who becomes teacher’s pets and is shown favoritism?  Who is given job recommendations by staff?  Is it not the straight-A kids?

Here is my belief: grades are not important; improvement is.  Teachers, consider this: when you put together your tests, does the score of the student at the top of the class really matter to you?  I mean if a girl who’s always gotten an “A” on her tests, gets another “A” in your class…you didn’t accomplish much, did you?  But if a struggling student who is failing returns a test to you with a “D” or maybe even a low “C”…REJOICE!  That is cause for celebration.  Somehow you were able to get into that students’ head one or two pieces of vital information.  Had that kid given you an “A” paper, chances are he or she either cheated or memorized to get the answers.  But with a slight improvement such as that, you know that something must have clicked.  That kid is smarter than he or she was two weeks ago.  And that is what teaching is all about.   

A look into the future?

To wrap up my series, let me give you my idea of a “perfect” education system.  These are all the “minor” changes I didn’t feel the need to spend a whole post blogging about.

  • Because students are all individuals, they all learn at individual levels and individual paces.  So they shouldn’t be clumped together in grades.  Learning (not memorizing) should be on an individual basis.  I am a big fan of the old-fashioned one-room school house: students of all ages clumped together, learning patience while the teacher helped others, learning how to socialize and befriend kids of different ages, helping others when possible and being allowed to graduate early if they move ahead in their studies or later if they took their time. 
  • School funding and student progress mandates should be the job of the local government, not subject to the whims of big government.   Lazy politicians in Washington D.C. who make money with their poor work ethic, skipping meetings and debates to go fishing and showing up only in time to vote, have no business telling our kids (who they have never met) what programs do and do not deserve funds. 
  • Teachers have the ultimate authority over their own class schedules.  If an elementry teacher from North Dakota has a Monday class on the first nice, blizzard-free day in they have seen in weeks, she has the right to take her class to the park to play, burn off some energy and just have a good time.  Life-lessons learned on days like that are just as important as 2+2. 
  • High School schedules should not be periods of continual back-to-back classes, but relaxed with plenty of time in between.  Healthy snacks should be provided for them.  Why does snack time end after elementary school?  Healthy snacks are important to a healthy diet.
  • In High School, English, Geography and Social Studies should be taught together as a combined effort of the teachers.  (i.e. When you are reading The Scarlett Letter in English, you should be studying early American settlement  and the Salem witch trials in Social Studies and you should be studying the layout of what was America at that time in Geography.  What colonies were being settled?  How far apart were they?  What was the land like then? etc.)
  • Algebra should be taken only when an upper classman in High School and you don’t need more than Algebra I (all other Algebra can be covered in college if it is needed for your major.)   Other years in High School should be spent on practical math: balancing a checkbook, counting back change, adding/subtracting time, etc.  Most schools cover this when kids are young, maybe middle school, but the skills are forgotten by the time the kids enter the job field.
  • 4 day school weeks.  Kids need to be kids.  They need to learn by living.  Don’t keep their childhood boxed inside four school walls all week.
  • Extracurricular activities should have limits.  A limit in age as well as the number of activities you can be in.  I watched too many people show up at High School 2 hours before the day started to run and do their practice for athletics because after school, during normal practice hours, they had practice for whatever form of the Arts that they were in.  That normally lasted till after supper, when the student would go home, do homework, study for tests, go to sleep and then get up in the wee hours of the morning and do it all over again, 5 days a week.  And that’s if they didn’t have part time jobs they were trying to swing, as well.  That’s very detrimental to a person’s health.  Adults don’t swing that kind of schedule, why are we expecting kids to?
  • We need to encourage professors and advisors at teachers’ colleges to be bold and critical.  If they see a student trying to achieve a teacher’s license who they don’t believe is very qualified to work with children, they need to encourage that student to pursue areas where the student’s knowledge could be better used.  They can’t force anything and ultimately it would be the students’ decision, but we all need those outside eyes giving us feedback.  This could also help reduce the number of teachers who are raping their students because those potential “teachers” wouldn’t be in the business. 

Whew!  This ends my education series.  I apologize for the length!  🙂  Writing these posts has been a huge stretcher for me, but wow does it feel good to have it accomplished!  My goal is to someday put these essays (and more) together in a nonfiction book about Education Reformation that I would collaborate on with teachers, politicians and other people “in the know” who could share their stories.  So maybe you’ll see them again someday!

Our kids are worth educating and our education is worth reforming!

Blessings,
Emily Grace

Education Reformation:Rewards

If I were allowed to accomplish one goal before I died, it would be to completely reform America’s public school system.  I told that to my aunt the other day and all she had to say was, “Good luck!”  It seems we all know our school system is failing, we’re just ignoring it.  The attitude that I have observed in people (and politicians) is that education, while serious, is low on priorities in our nation today.  After all, look at how many irons we have in the fire right now: a two-front war, healthcare reformation, and an economic recession.  And those are merely the “big” three.  Is it any wonder there’s no more energy and resources left to use towards our kids?   Here’s my argument: had America been more focused on education to begin with, we wouldn’t be dealing with the sticky situations that we are currently in.  The honest truth is that we need to invest in education to get out of these messes, as well. I am going to discuss the three basic changes (over three separate posts) that I believe American education needs to make in order to sharpen our childrens’ minds and improve the state of our people.  Here is change #1:

About three years ago, I had a brief job at an elementary school library.  There was a teacher there who had a candy bucket by her desk.  She dolled out these suckers, starbursts, jolly ranchers, etc. as prizes for good behavior, good grades, correctly answering a question, etc.  Any time you did something right, you got a treat.  Now, I never got to observe her class close enough to legitimately research the reactions from the kids, but going on supposition….what message do you suppose her students got from this method?  Kids (especially young kids) are pretty literal.  They probably learned that doing something correct=getting a treat. 

This method is not exclusive to the teacher I knew.  It is called the reward system and I hate it.  We should not be training our kids to think that whenever they do the right thing, they’ll get something good out of it.  That is a dangerous (not to mention false) lesson that will hurt our kids later in life.  I want to see kids with character!  Kids who are told to do good simply because it is good.  I want to see it explained that many times when we do the right thing we will suffer for it, not be rewarded. 

I’ve watched many teachers play this “reward game” to keep order in the classroom.  I understand that it is hard to keep kids under control.  I have worked with kids of all ages at church functions (Sunday School and Vacation Bible School), through my work at a Bible camp as well as working at two different school libraries.  Kids can be frustrating and they are almost always disruptive.  I am not denying that dangling a piece of candy or extra credit in front of a student will keep him or her in line.  I am questioning the ethics of it.  I call it bribery.  I was watching The Andy Griffith show the other night and have to wonder: what happened to the days when not doing your homework earned you the teacher’s ire and completing your assignments earned merely her smile?  Life used to be as simple as that. 

So what would I do instead of rewards?  Push history!!  Don’t just give kids briefly written textbooks that tell a timeline of events and expect them to be riveted by it.  Tell kids entire stories.  Pound into their minds on a daily basis the truth about life.  Do whatever it take so that those students hear about Corrie Ten Boom, who hid Jews from the nazis and was tortured at a concentration camp or Martin Luther King, Jr., who was murdered for standing against racism and fighting for Human Rights.  Tell them modern stories about September 11 and heroes who died that day.  Tell them local stories of people in your area.  Read books. Put on plays. Watch movies.  Channel these lessons into their heads however you can.  And then live these values in front of them yourself.  This will not solve problems in the school, but it would teach subtle lessons the same way the reward system does. 

If you’re a teacher, you’re rolling your eyes about now.  I know I appear to be living in fantasy land if I think this will “make it all better.”  But please don’t be offended by this next comment.  Out of all the cases of class disruption I’ve witness or heard about, 8/10 times fault can be placed on the teacher, not the student.  Normally, when kids are misbehaving or not doing their homework or any other number of things that are wrong, it is because they are either a) bored or b) they have realized that the teacher doesn’t care about them, they are no more than a number.

Sincerely care about your kids–and show them that you care–and they will produce the results you desire.  Class troublemakers are usually the smartest ones in the class, but if teachers don’t spend extra time investing in them an channeling their creativity into something inspirational, those kids struggle through school and some don’t graduate at all.  Teachers will have bad days; its what they sign up for when they decide to work with kids.  If you can’t handle the chaos of children, can I humbly beg you to pursue a different occupation?  Teaching positions are too important to be filled by unqualified individuals.

To the wonderful teachers out there who inspire instead of bribe: THANK YOU!!

(change #2– My beef:Why schools need to push health and nutrition.  Look for it soon!)

Healthcare poll

eye of the beholder For my new “Eye of the Beholder” series, I am going political.  (For this series I intend to pose a question or scenario, but ask for my readers’ opinions on it, instead of telling my own.) I’m starting to have pretty set opinions about this post’s topic, but want to learn what other people think.  So tell me:  WHAT DO YOU THINK OF OBAMA’S NEW HEALTHCARE PLAN?

Thanks in advance for your opinions!

 

Blessings,
Emily Grace

computer brain

computer brainWell, today is Wednesday, which means, according to my schedule, I’m supposed to post some of my original writings from this week.  But truthfully, this week has been very busy and abnormal.  I haven’t written much, and what I have penned isn’t really worth sharing.  The other option I have–what everyone in blog-land is discussing–the funeral of Michael Jackson, isn’t something I feel like blogging about today.  Maybe we’ll cover him tomorrow.  Or not.  He really doesn’t need any more publicity.  So we’re going to talk about this instead.

“This” is a news article claiming computers from both South Korea and the United States’ government were hacked into recently.  I believe the article refers to it as “cyber warfare.”  Welcome to 21st century fighting, people!  I find the timing of this slightly ironic, because just yesterday I listened to my grandpa and a family friend discuss how bad it is for businesses to rely solely on computers.  Our friend, who was visiting due to business, not a social afternoon, claimed that it looks pretty bad to ask a salesman a question only to have him “look it up” on the computer, unable to simply give you a straight answer.  This is in no way denying that computers are important.  As a writer, my world has been made significantly easier by them.  No more typewriters, like my grandparents used!  But I think humans have let the computer replace their brain. 

Computers should not do your thinking for you!  My math teacher tried to drill that into my head in regards to calculators.  (Which I stubbornly refused to believe.  At the time, adding on the machine seemed more logical to me.)  But there are tech-savvy people out there, and when our government uses machines–computers–to protect us, it is dangerous indeed.  (As I feel this news article proves.)  If it is possible to get inside the place where we store our Intelligence, you can be sure that there are people who will–and they will use it against us.  Next time we’re attacked, I have no doubt the bad guys will shut down our operating systems first, so we don’t know how to stop them.  This means that we need the individuals in Homeland Security, the FBI, etc. to be smarter than the computers and machines the bad guys have.  Is that even possible?  I really don’t know.

But I do know that computers have replaced manpower.  They have replaced education, courage, intelligence, emotion and sacrifice.  This is not to say we cannot have both–I think we should.  Its definitely still possible for us to revert back to a balance of both, with each in its rightful place.  But if I had to choose between the two….give me manpower any day!