Archive for August, 2009

What? No first place?

In skimming through our local high school’s website – and yes, this would be the high school that we fund, but don’t use – I found the following very sad bit of trivia.

“At the Branson High School commencement, rather than to recognize a valedictorian or salutatorian, beginning with the class of 1992 the school will recognize graduating students who have completed at least one (1) semester at Branson High School and have maintained a cumulative G.P.A. of 10.00 or better on an 11.00 point scale. Students will be recognized alphabetically as “Graduating With High Honors.””

I happen to think that this just stinks!  For one thing, I have no idea what on earth an 11.00 point scale is.  When I was in school, battles were won and lost on a field of fours.   A’s were 4, B’s were 3, C’s were 2, and below that who cared?  Now, there were a very few classes that were 5-point A’s (and 4-point B’s, etc.),  and in fact, my choice to take physics (a 4-point A), rather than elementary functions (a 5-point A) kept me from being valedictorian.  I made that choice knowing full well it would cost me the top spot, and I have no regrets.  I thoroughly enjoyed Mr. George’s outstanding physics class, and when all was said and done, I ended up 3rd out of 416 – which wasn’t too shabby, if I do say so myself.  And I do say so.

But back to my rant. . . I think it’s terrible that Branson High School has had no valedictorian for the past 17 years!!!  It’s the same mindset that meant the little guys at Andrew’s joke of a Level 4 gymnastics meet in January all received trophies, even though most of them couldn’t turn a somersault without a coach whispering step-by-step instructions in their ears, while Andrew did his full Level 4 floor routine, uncoached and with only one mistake.  However, in today’s American society, you can’t have one person be the best, because then someone else wouldn’t be the best, and he might feel bad, which would be entirely unacceptable.

Instead, we must all be treated equally, or at least be made to feel like we all performed equally.  And people wonder why our nation is in the mess it’s in!  How on earth can our kids compete globally when the rest of the world functions on the basis of achievement and not on the basis of self-esteem?  Try taking our pablum-mindset to the Asian countries whose students consistently knock our American students’ socks off in math and science – and to which so many formerly U.S. jobs are now out-sourced.

Tell it to the families I’ve met in other nations, whose sons and daughters spend up to 12 hours a day, six days a week at school (not to mention four hours of homework each night, even during summer break) in order to hopefully achieve high enough test scores to gain admission to a top-notch university and be chosen for a well-paying job.  For at least 20% of the world, one’s ability to come out on top of the academic heap may literally mean the difference between life as a professional and life as a street-sweeper.

I say bring back the valedictorian and let him or her make a grand speech.  May all the underclassmen listen with envy and think, “Wow.  Look at him (or her) go.  If I work hard enough and score well enough, maybe when I’m a senior, I’LL be up there speaking, and this program will have MY name in gold letters at the top of the list.”  It surely motivated me.

Let me make myself perfectly clear:  Two thumbs down to the Branson High School administration.  This valedictorian realm is one in which I’m not the least bit ashamed to say, “give me back those good old days.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

NOTE:  My dad read the above post and sent it on to his friend, Charlie.  Charlie replied to both Dad and me, and with his permission, I am adding his reply below, including Dad’s explanatory comments in red.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Al,

That was great. Please give Patty my compliments. Of course, I agree with her 100%; and in fact am probably much more inclined that way than even she tends to be. My AAU athletes (Charlie coached AAU basketball teams for many years) didn’t understand that “equality” mindset (at least not in athletics). They didn’t want low performers on the basketball court with them, for it hurt their Team (and therefore them). I wonder if these same idiots at Branson think it is wrong to name an All-State football team?

Jeff left me behind in our HHH bicycle race last weekend (the HHH is a 100 mile bicycle race held every year in Wichita Falls TX in late August – can you say “stinking hot” – and Jeff is a friend who rides with Charlie) because he was faster. No whining from me. He deserves to be recognized as being better. That’s easy for me to admit. Have I ever told you my story about playing racquetball against the 12 year old girl (when I was a 35 year old league champion)? Oh, it was UGLY. She beat me 21-0! Ha! (Charlie still plays a very competitive game of racquetball at age 59 and loves to beat the socks off younger players) I don’t have much patience with folks who want to build false/phony self esteem.

The literal meaning of “No Child Left Behind” has to really be “No Child Gets Ahead”; for if one is ahead, then another one MUST be behind. The harsh truth of life is that someone must lose (be inferior at) each competitive contest. That is just part of being a member of human society. If everyone was average, there would be no excellence. We would all be drones.

It is interesting that liberals who tend to celebrate the natural order of things in the animal world, which concept also includes evolution and/or natural selection, are against those same ideas (the strong survive and/or prosper, the weak suffer) among humans. We ought to celebrate the opportunity to recognize the winners and weed out the losers.

Sheridan High School (where Jason (one of Charlie’s sons) attended) seemed to be good in many ways; but I think they also adopted some form of that ridiculous policy used in Branson. Jason’s wife Kristin was Valedictorian–at least she had the highest grades in their relatively large high school class; but I recall that in the ceremonies she was grouped and honored with several other “high achievers”; because we wouldn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by making them second place. It wasn’t fair to Kristin. She had earned EXCLUSIVE #1 billing by her PERFORMANCE.

Fortunately, at least our Pulaski County School District (Charlie is one of 7 members of the Pulaski County School Board) does that particular thing right (for now).  Camille (Charlie and Mary’s daughter) got what she earned.  The girl who finished second to Camille was very smart, worked very hard, and never made a “B”; so we  think her family felt a little bit cheated when Camille beat her for top honors. Tough.  “Mary” (name changed) took only 5 “AP” courses her senior year, while Camille took six.  Mary chose to take College Algebra instead of AP Calculus, by her choice losing the extra point value for Calculus. That “easy load” was Mary’s choice. Camille determined early that she wanted to WIN the GPA contest and took the necessary steps. It would have been wrong not to reward those efforts. In contrast, Kristin was cheated.

When Jason was young, a baseball team (the Royals) one year older than his team got kicked-out of the league because they practiced too much (about 5 days a week). They were too good. It made the other kids feel bad. Well, the Royals later won two national AAU championships; and many of their players (years later) got free college educations playing baseball. It wasn’t bad for them, was it? Later my basketball teams were criticized for beating our opponents so badly, with scores like 80-40. The charge was: “You take all of the fun out the game!” My standard reply was: “It (80-40) sure is fun for MY kids!” Ha!

=================================================

CHARLIE’S ADDITIONAL EXPLANATION: OUR AAU BASKETBALL TEAMS WON MORE THAN A DOZEN STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS. IT BECAME AN “ORGANIZATION” RATHER THAN ONE TEAM (ALTHOUGH ALL IN ONE AGE LEVEL); AND IN THREE DIFFERENT YEARS OUR TEAMS FINISHED BOTH FIRST AND SECOND IN THE STATE. WE WON ONE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP AND FINISHED HIGH AT NATIONALS IN 4 DIFFERENT YEARS. OUR ATHLETES CAME FROM ALL OVER ARKANSAS, WITH TWO (7′-4″ AND 6′-7″) EVEN FROM OKLAHOMA. MOST OF THE ATHLETES GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL IN 2001; AND MANY PLAYED MULTIPLE SPORTS.WE BECAME THE DOMINATE TEAM IN ARKANSAS (IN THAT AGE GROUP), ALMOST A MONOPOLY.

61 OF THEM PLAYED COLLEGE SPORTS IN EITHER FOOTBALL, BASKETBALL, BASEBALL, TRACK, OR TENNIS. SEVERAL BECAME PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL PLAYERS (MINOR LEAGUES), AND 4 LATER PLAYED IN THE NFL. JASON WAS A D-1 WIDE RECEIVER AND MADE THE ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN TEAM, FOR WHICH YOU MUST BE A GREAT PLAYER PLUS A GREAT STUDENT. HE WAS THE SUN BELT CONFERENCE MALE ATHLETE OF THE YEAR IN 2005. THE POINT: JASON LEARNED HOW TO COMPETE WITH THE BEST THROUGH PLAYING 3 DIFFERENT AAU SPORTS (BASKETBALL, BASEBALL, TRACK) AT MORE THAN 20 NATIONAL TOURNAMENTS. AAU COMPETITION WORKED WELL FOR HIM! ON THE OTHER HAND, TWO OF HIS FORMER TEAMMATES WERE DEAD BY AGE 25 IN DIFFERENT DRUG/GANG RELATED ASSASINATIONS. BOTH WERE CUT FROM MY TEAM AT YOUNGER AGES (9TH GRADE) FOR “POOR BEHAVIOR”. LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS A PLEASANT STROLL THROUGH THE PARK. WE MUST HAVE THE “GUTS” TO DISCIPLINE THE LOSERS SO THAT THE WINNERS CAN EXCEL AND PROSPER.

THIS AGAIN ILLUSTRATES THE POINT: EVEN AMONG THE “ELITE”, THERE ARE WINNERS AND LOSERS; AND ALWAYS WILL BE. THAT’S A HARSH FACT OF COMPETITION AND OF LIFE.

==================================================

In all seriousness, Patty’s Branson example is only one tip of a huge problem with humanity. We are NOT all created equal, at least insofar as ability to achieve worldly standards and goals. Furthermore, the ones without the inherent ability and/or without the work ethic will usually be jealous of those who CAN AND DO achieve. The “losers” will NOT be able to admit their own shortcomings and will feel that they “deserve” an equal outcome; so they will try to “equalize” the achievers. Perhaps the biggest issue in public education today is the conflict between “Equality” (meaning true Equal Opportunity) vs. “Equity” (forced Equal Outcome). Most sophisticated educators (proud of their modern outlook) lean strongly toward the latter.  It is a huge national flaw.

America is in love with sports, which I think is generally OK. But what we conservatives need to do is to use the example of competitive sports, which America idolizes, to carry over into the more important philosophies and areas of life. We celebrate the “winners” in sport and completely agree with cutting the losers from the team. Few sports fans think that a slow, lazy, overweight kid should get to start on their beloved high school football team. Now we need to make people see that those same accepted philosophies and concepts should apply in other areas of life, too. That’s why I think sports are important.

I’ll probably write more about this later; but now I’ve got work to do.

Thanks for sending this to us.

Charlie

Advertisements

Should be illegal

For a mom to be sick.  It’s just way too inconvenient for everyone, and when she’s finally back to full strength, she’s behind on everything.

Click ‘n’ Pull

I was reading a favorite blog of mine the other day, and the mom mentioned that she likes to use Sam’s Click ‘n’ Pull service.  I had never heard of such, but she described it in glowing terms.  Boldface type mine.

“Heather alerted me to the fact that Sam’s Club has something called “Click & Pull” on their website.  I log in to the website, and there I have created a “shopping list” of items that I usually purchase.  A couple of days before I intend to head to Sam’s , I go to my list and order the items on the website.

“AND THE VERY NICE STAFF AT SAM’S CLUB PULL THE ITEMS FOR ME.  Hence the name, Click & Pull.  Clever, eh?  When the items are ready, I receive an e-mail which I print out and take with me to Sam’s Club.  When I get there, I take the print out back to the cigarette stand (why there, I don’t know) and the items are retrieved for me while I finish up my shopping.

“It doesn’t matter if the items are frozen or in the refrigerator section.  They remain in a cooler/freezer until you arrive to claim them.

“The only thing they don’t pull for you is fresh meat.  Which I prefer to lean across that cooler and agonize over myself.  I also like to pick out my own fresh vegetables, but they will pull those for you as well.

“I save a ton of time using this technique, and I’m less likely to engage in impulse purchasing.”

So, I thought to myself, “Time is the most valuable commodity in my life right now, and when we go to Sam’s, we probably spend 20 minutes from parking the car to driving away.  If someone other than Jessica, Josiah, and me collected all the groceries and brought them to the checkout for us, we could be in and out in five or ten minutes.”  And minutes saved at Sam’s translates directly into more minutes at the library.  (insert evil grin here)

I decided to give Click ‘n’ Pull a whirl.  First, I called our new Sam’s Club to find out how the system works and how long I’d have to wait for my goods once I arrived at the store.  “Oh, it’s great.  You place your order online, and we pull it and send you an email when it’s ready.  You print out your order and when you bring it in, you just go to member services, we bring you your stuff, you pay for it, and you’re out the door.”  But how long would I have to wait?  “Oh, just a very few minutes.  It’s really fast.” Sounds like my kind of shopping experience – really fast!

I created a Sam’s account online, selected my items, and hit “go.”  I could see everything I wanted and even the total cost before tax.  Sure enough, a few hours later, I received an email saying my items were ready for pick up.  Yee hah!  I printed it out and away we went.

It was a frustrating day in Springfield anyway – but that’s another story – so we got to Sam’s later than I wanted to, but since it would be “really fast” and “just a very few minutes,” I figured we’d still get in at least 45 minutes at the library.  My goal is always at 60 or more, but I had already shot myself in the foot on that yesterday.

We waltz into Sam’s and I head directly for Member Services, which is conveniently located quite close to the door.  I am waylaid by an Associate who asks if she can help me.  I tell her I’m here to pick up a Click ‘n’ Pull order, and she tells me to go to Tobacco.  TOBACCO?!?!?  What’s with THAT?  I don’t even know where Tobacco is.  She points to the pharmacy on the very far side of the building.  Binoculars would have helped.  “Tobacco’s just to the right of the pharmacy.  You can’t quite see it from here.”  I guess not.    That would be because Tobacco is ALMOST as far as it is possible to hike away from this front door and still be in the building.

Nevertheless, I deftly trot over to Tobacco, which consists of a chain link fence to the ceiling, enclosing many, many cases of pallet-stacked cartons of cigarettes.  There are two cash registers in front of the tobacco cage.  There are no Associates anywhere to be seen.

I call out “Howdy!”  No one answers.  I peer among the pallets.  No one.  We wait a few minutes.  No one appears.

I walk next door to the pharmacy and tell the lady there that I need to pick up a Click ‘n’ Pull order, that I was told to come to Tobacco, and that there is no one there.  She will page someone.  Which she does.  But no one comes.

We wait a full ten minutes in front of Tobacco.  Finally a managerial-looking lady in khakis comes strolling by, talking into her shoulder.  She smiles, but does not stop.  I am not surprised.  She doesn’t really look like a Tobacco Lady, anyway.  We wait several more minutes.  I grow quite impatient.  By now, we could have collected the stuff ourselves, paid for it, and loaded it into the van, and hauled our crate of returning books into the library.

Finally the khaki lady comes back by (interestingly from the same direction as before) and this time I flag her down, waving my Click ‘n’ Pull print-out.  She pauses.  She looks at the sheet, apologizes that the Tobacco Lady “called in” today,  and tells me to walk this way please.  I try, but my body is not shaped quite like hers and I’m not terribly successful.

She leads us to another caged-in area, this one back up near the front of the store, and asks me if I can identify which of the dozen or so shopping carts of dry goods within might be mine.  I do so, and she begins to try to move a flat-bed cart out of the way to get to mine.  Josiah helps her extricate our cart.  She tells me I can take the cart to the checkout and pay, because they will just scan my print-out.  Meanwhile, she will go get my refrigerated and frozen items.

We go.  I pay.  We wait.  And wait.  And wait.  We have now been in the store almost 30 minutes, I am out some $130, and I still have less than 1/3 of my food.  Our library time is going away, going away fast.

Finally, the khaki lady reappears with a mere mortal male Associate in tow.  Each of them is carrying a large, heavy box full of cold stuff.  They have clearly hauled these boxes (sans anything having wheels) from the fridge and freezer, which are located even farther from the checkout than Tobacco.  I thank them for their help, and we leave.

Moral of the Story:  Click ‘n’ Pull may work for my online friend, but it didn’t work at all for me yesterday.  As for me and my house, just give me Jessica, Josiah, and a torn-in-half Sam’s list ANY day.

Modern medicine

In March, Scott flew over a ski jump, landed it hard, and injured his heel.  He’s been in pain with it ever since.  He’s been to the doctor several times and it’s been x-rayed.  The diagnosis is a heel spur and plantar fasciitis, and the treatment thus far has been special exercises and a shoe insert.  They haven’t helped at all, and in fact, when I went online and read about the condition, I learned much more than Scott’s been told at three doctor’s appointments!  For example, since the tissue is INFLAMED, an ANTI-INFLAMMATORY medication is strongly indicated.  (duh)  So after four months of pain, I suggested (again) that he take some Alleve or at least Ibuprofen.  He took the Alleve, and it helped greatly, but had the doctor ever mentioned that?  NO WAY.

So yesterday, he finally had an appointment with a foot specialist.  She was a bit more aggressive, adding new exercises, different orthotics, weekly physical therapy, a brace to wear at night, and a highly technical way to keep the arch supported during the day.  Are you ready?  I promise that I’m not joking.  The preferred arch support is to tape the sole of the foot with . . . DUCT TAPE!  Honest Injun!

Yes, every morning, we apply strips of duct tape to the sole of his foot in a specific pattern.  Now, I am a firm believer that you can fix anything with Duct Tape, but even I never dreamed of wrapping your feet with it.  As Scott said, “and this is the medical care I paid hundreds of dollars for.”  I guess if it works, it doesn’t matter how silly it sounds – or looks – right?

So, for the near future, we will keep Duct Tape on our Wal-Mart list.

The joys of Post-It notes

In our house, we tend to call them sticky notes, because I am usually too frugal to pay brand name Post-It prices.  I have them in several colors and two sizes, and because I go through so very many of them and I like to grab them with one hand, I even invested in a couple of nifty “pop-up” dispensers.  The big one (for the standard sized sticky notes) sits on my desk, and the smaller one (for those lovely miniature sticky notes) is hermetically sealed to the front of my top right desk drawer.  The desk is metal, and no, I wouldn’t have mounted an adhesive-backed dispenser to a wood desk.  At least I don’t think I would have.  But then again, I do have maps under plastic duct-taped to my dining room table. . .

Anyway, I have now added sticky notes  to my relatively short list of essential homeschooling supplies.  This is a second (male) generation development.  With the girls, I said things like, “Do your academics,” and they did.  With the boys, I have learned that such statements accomplish nothing.  It took me a few years to realize that, but then sometimes I am just incredibly dense.  When mere words failed to suffice, I developed checklists that clearly stated what was to be done.  They may be works of organizational genius, but I’ve noticed that they don’t work too well, either.

BUT, now that I’m almost done being 48, I have finally hit on the ultimate solution:  put a sticky note with the day’s assignment inside each book that each man-child will be using in a given day.  In addition to single-handedly keeping the Staples (“That was easy”) corporation solvent, this has actually been working quite well for quite some time, and tomorrow we will be able to tell whether the momentum will carry into a third day.

By the way, here’s the original list.

* Pencils (I happen to like Ticonderoga Tri-Writes)

* A pencil sharpener (preferably electric)

* A never-ending supply of single subject spiral notebooks

* A library card (or six)

I’m trying to think if there’s anything else that we buy simply for homeschooling purposes.  We do have computers with internet, masking tape, sharpie markers, and index cards, but those are all just normal tools of the living trade, whether or not one’s family homeschools.  We also own a heck of a lot of books (more than 2100 cataloged at latest count), ALL of which purchases have been neatly categorized by Yours Truly in Quicken as “Education,” but then, I collect books by default and would have done so (albeit in admittedly smaller quantities) even if the kids weren’t homeschooled.

So, yep.  I think that’s it.  Oh!  I almost forgot two more:

*  An undying passion to see each of your kids achieve his or her potential + a maniacal willingness to do almost anything to see that come to pass

*  A large dose of bulldog-like determination, so that one will (in the words of Winston Churchill) “never give up.”

And when a homeschooling mom adds into the mix sticky notes in two sizes and at least two colors, she can’t help but succeed!

T-minus eight inches and counting

Shortly before she headed back to Patrick Henry for her sophomore year, Katie asked me to cut her hair.  This did not initially seem to be an unusual request.  I have cut our kids’ hair since Katie was about six years old, and every few months, she asks me to whack off a couple inches of split ends.  Being a wise and thrifty woman, she has never seen the need to pay a “beautician” for what Mom can do in 30 seconds at no charge.

This time, I was little surprised at her choice of the verb “cut,” rather than “trim.”  It turns out that after growing her hair long for a number of years – and it was approaching her waist – she wanted it cut much shorter.  She was hesitant to make a major hair change while Jessica was away on a mission trip, because she and her sister are like Twinkies with their long hair.  Jessica’s is longer, but they enjoy wearing it the same way and causing people who don’t know them well to mix them up.

However, after much analysis and contemplation, Katie decided that, as the Walrus said, “the time had come.”  So, in two stages, I cut away eight inches of hair.  That’s a lotta hair!  And she looks WONDERFUL!  It’s about down to her shoulder blades and I’d say “cute and sassy” would describe her new look.

Even if Katie were to mourn her missing tresses, not to worry; her hair truly grows like a weed.  I bet she’ll regain three inches (in hair length, that is) by Christmas.

Urgent Care update

Good news.  Last night, Josiah mentioned in passing that the fine folks from Urgent Care called back to say that all the results of his tests are perfectly normal.  No beasties.  No treatment needed.  I guess the fact that they called in two days instead of “a week or so” redeems them.  Maybe.

Thankfully, Josiah is feeling MUCH better, has no fever, sports a fairly normal 15 year old appetite, and has about 90% of his energy back.

Jessica is still fighting the runny nose, cough, and weakness, but she is also now fever-free.

Andrew has been perfectly fine and was still perfectly fine at bedtime last night, but woke up this morning feeling quite awful, with an upset stomach, and running a temp of 101.

I will not be taking him to Urgent Care.