Common Sense, not Common Core.

The United States of America, one of the greatest nations in the history of our planet, has reached a tipping point. Sixty million of its citizens willfully voted for a populist narcissist with no political experience in hopes he will make America great again, mostly through clever positioning, racism, extortion, and bullying. The fundamental problem is those sixty million people have no critical thinking ability. That is entirely our fault, fellow citizens. We have failed as parents, as neighbors, as priests, as politicians, as teachers. The next four years will certainly embrace this failure and masquerade it as success, which makes solving this problem even more daunting. Unfixed, this single issue may unearth the cornerstone of America’s greatness.

Before you pull the race card, know that a large majority of those sixty-plus million people were white. Think segregated. Rural and suburban. Entitled through dirt poor. Common Core or not. And every single one of them horribly misguided for one reason or another. You can’t pin this problem on the inner cities, folks. Proof-positive American education is experiencing a long-term wide-scale systematic failure.

Common Core was flawed from its onset. Textbook manufacturers support powerful lobbyists who push political candidates that support enriching their already health bank accounts. Business runs education in this nation. And until we change that, we will keep shoving useless information down our children’s throats until they regurgitate it as well as they can, pass to the next grade, and forget it almost immediately. I am a learned individual, and I cannot remember the last time I referred to zygotic meiosis, I have never quoted anything from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and I have never in my life found it necessary to multiply polynomials. In a poorly executed attempt to make our children well-rounded, we are wasting precious years of our kids’ lives preaching useless information dictated by a fascist business entity. Children are confused, bored, and uninspired, and leave high school with little to no relevant life skills. Common Core or not – American education is a terrible failure.

Education is mandated by the states, not the federal government. So why aren’t states recognizing and fixing this magnificently flawed system?

One of the wonderful perks of a capitalist society are the sublime studies commissioned via pork barrel spending. If you’re a typical American student, you might not have been taught that “pork barrel” is the appropriation of government spending for localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district, included as hidden or footmark items on completely unrelated bills to ensure legislative votes. It’s a neat way to pay your friends with my tax dollars. Examples of this sort of wasteful stupidity include the U.S. government spending $750,000 on a new soccer field for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay; between 16 and 20 million dollars helping students from Indonesia get master’s degrees; $175,587 to determine if cocaine makes Japanese quail engage in sexually risky behavior; $200,000 on a tattoo removal program in California; and $3 million to researchers at the University of California at Irvine to fund their research on video games such as World of Warcraft. Yes, folks, truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. Yet, no commission or study I am aware of has been funded to measure and test an alternative curriculum based on life skills and critical thinking right here in America. Someone doesn’t want this problem fixed.

I too thought Charter Schools would be the answer. Charter Schools were created with a theory that since they’re in a smaller boat, they could change things with less resistance, perhaps as an experiment to test and prove new concepts to the larger school systems. However, the more I learn about charter schools, I realized many of these too were set up by people with financial motives. What has happened now is we have effectively doubled or even tripled the number of vendors who now serve education, and we have run into the same or even more resistance we experience with a larger system. And nothing has changed.

Some folks believe change begins with finding better teachers. There is some truth to that, but the fundamental problem is the curriculum. Our daughter’s first period was Algebra 2. We coaxed her into taking the honors class since that was what the admissions folks at the University of Florida recommended we do. I hoped that since it was an honors class, the teacher would also be on top of her game. Wishful thinking. Our daughter is stuck with some prim and proper Southern Belle who panted about her class being nine days behind while begging parents to bring in more Lysol wipes and dry-erase markers. I couldn’t help but tune her out as I glanced at her bulletin boards that were filled with elementary school posters recommending students wash their hands when returning from the bathroom and use their “16-inch voices” to avoid disrupting the class as she droned on about the dean’s office being right across the hall. She bragged about her college basketball team once beating Michael Jordan’s while casually mentioning she is flying there to attend a game this weekend. It was then I realized this woman was locked in la-la land. She has absolutely no concept of the real world because she has never done anything else but attend school and teach. Our “A” student daughter has complained about this teacher being ineffective. She currently is failing this class. Regardless of Algebra in general being a useless life skill for 99% of the children who are forced to learn it, I am confident Ms. Belle is the problem here.

During second period, we visited a fairly spiffy lab for our daughter’s advanced placement chemistry course. This teacher had a couple masters’ degrees, two decades of experience working in a paper mill, and once ran a materials lab for an automobile manufacturer in Detroit. She was very sharp. Our kid enjoys the teacher’s real-life stories as applied to their lessons. She has a 94 average in this class, which to me, seems much more difficult than Algebra 2 honors.

I discovered night school about midway through my own college experience. After running out of money twice and being forced to sit out a semester here and there, I found a day job that would contribute to my college fund. What I found was most of the night school professors also worked real jobs during the day, most in the industry in which they were teaching. The most fascinating teacher I’ve ever had was a local district attorney who peppered our constitutional law class with real-world stories. I’ve also had the good fortune of sitting in classes with a few retired or ex-CEOs, cops, nurses, and scientists. These folks were there not because they needed the money — they simply wanted to teach.

I don’t necessarily agree with the old saying “Those who can’t do, teach.” We have met several excellent career teachers who have a certain charismatic chutzpah. Unfortunately, these teachers seem to be the minority. People who have ventured out of academia have a better insight into what works in communication via practical application of knowledge. Those who return seem to be more ready to effectively pass on that knowledge.

Not everyone was cut out to teach. I’m not sure how we got here, but we don’t appreciate or reward great teachers in this great nation. It’s not supposed to be a fallback position — teaching needs to be the single most lauded profession in the world. Perhaps teaching should be the aspiration of those in the working world. Elevated perks and salaries should be reserved for those who can offer enrichment and enlightenment to our children.

Our current K-12 curriculum is disastrous. It’s dated and irrelevant. We force all children to learn the same things at the same rates, which hinders some from moving at a faster pace and hurts those who simply don’t have an aptitude for certain subjects. First, we must collectively fix the curriculum. I’m working on that now. It has to begin somewhere.

Once the curriculum makes sense, there are two ways to fix education. The first would be to increase teacher salaries to attract the best and brightest to inspire children to learn the revised curriculum. Unfortunately, for many pretty stupid reasons (outrageous textbook costs, lopsided tax rates, contractual mismanagement), states can’t seem to find the funds to make this a possibility. And since the founding fathers neglected to include education as a constitutional right, the federal government is more involved in funding political favors and buying things that kill people.

The second method can work, we can do it right now, and it would save a fortune. Find the best and brightest teachers we already have – the most inspiring and enlightening people who have dedicated their lives to education – and digitally record their classes. Think a TED conference. Those lessons would be rebroadcasted in current classrooms nationwide, with current teachers acting as proctors and tutors. Kids get the inspiration they need, the required information sticks better, and teachers learn what works – ultimately making them better teachers.

Recorded lessons would be freely available online, available for review by current students, parents, or even adults who might be interested in a refresher course.

Regarding the ridiculous cost of textbooks held ransom by three large “not for profit” companies, the federal government would have the select teachers along with handpicked specialists author all-original national textbooks. An impartial committee of educators, industry experts, psychologists, and parents would then edit and evaluate these textbooks, resulting in a compilation of ideas that works, which would then be distributed electronically for free.

To make America great again, we need to begin with our children right now. We’ve lost several generations of Americans who are set in their ways and will not change. But kids are still moldable. And it’s up to us, the other sixty-two million, to ensure America doesn’t continue its slide into obscurity, or failure. It’s not too late, but we’re coming dangerously close. It all begins with a little common sense.

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Teens and Sex.

Don’t think it’s important? Chew on this for a moment:

  • At least one in ten of all 13-year-olds have already had sexual intercourse.
  • Half of all teenagers have had some sort of sex by the time they enter the 10th grade. Fortunately, half didn’t – or perhaps they aren’t talking about it.
  • One in every five teenage girls will become pregnant during high school, forcing them to make an adult decision way before they’re ready for that kind of responsibility.
  • By the time they finish high school, two out of every three young adults will have become sexually active in some manner.

It’s difficult to get honest statistics from teens. Even with a huge and probable statistical margin of error, those numbers are still disturbing.

“The talk” is awkward – if not impossible. Sex seems to be the single most difficult topic for any parent to discuss with their children. Kids are embarrassed, and parents are in denial. Take it from a kid who learned all his mistake from poorly misguided idiots – it’s always better to have the talk and steer your kids in the right direction rather than let nature take its course. My mother and father could have saved me a lifetime of grief and a couple hundred grand in child support payments for a kid her mom never wanted, and yet still kept her away from the only person with common sense in her life (me). I had no idea what sex was about, how to do anything, what not to do, or the potential repercussions. I am still learning! I talk about this in my book, Diary of an Angry Father (which EVERY parent should read), but opted to save the real discussion for the followup book. However, with my own adolescent kids navigating the treacherous waters of dating, it’s too important to withhold.

Fortunately, many kids will do their own research online. We didn’t have that when I was a kid. It’s important to know that just because it’s online doesn’t make it good advice. But – it’s a great place to start. Remember that anyone can build a website and spew erroneous opinions. Even me. I am not a sex therapist, and I will never pretend to be a relationship counselor. I have scoured popular authors and articles for what I thought was the best advice written by pretty smart people and/or professionals, and listed those articles here. If you choose not to have the discussion yourself, perhaps you can steer them to this post and let them read this information privately. It’ll dispel many myths and uncover truths in an effort to prevent life-altering mistakes, and allow your children to explore the final adolescent wonderment of physical mortality. Start here:

Seventeen Magazine: Answers to Teen Sex Questions
http://www.seventeen.com/health/sex-health/q-and-a/a15810/sex-questions-answered/

Seventeen Magazine: Girls Reveal What They Wish They Knew Before Their First Time
http://www.seventeen.com/love/dating-advice/a43397/girls-reveal-what-they-wish-they-had-known-before-having-sex-for-the-first-time/

Scarleteen: Sexual Advice for Teens
http://www.scarleteen.com/article/advice

The Six Types of Sex
http://teenadvice.about.com/od/sex/tp/what_is_sex_info.htm

Sexuality and Gender Identity
http://www.teensource.org/relationships/sexuality-gender-identity

Sex and Birth Control Options
https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/teen/dating-sex/Pages/Making-Healthy-Decisions-About-Sex.aspx

About Penis Size – Myths and Other Stupidity
http://sexetc.org/info-center/post/beware-of-penis-enhancement-products/

 

 

A Sample Internet Contract.

HERETOFORE, NOTWITHSTANDING, HENCEFORTH, and THEREAFTER…

In which such minor residents of the residence located upon a Brevard County parcel in the ____________ subdivision at _________________, _______ County, _____, United States of America, in exchange for the privilege of possessing and operating such electronic devices including but not limited to any brand of smartphone, tablet computer, laptop computer, or desktop computer; the electricity which powers it; and the internet which supplies the connectivity to the rest of the world, you agree to the following terms and conditions with respect to operating said electronic devices in a safe and respectful manner. Any violations to any of these terms and conditions may result in the immediate removal of such devices without prior warning or notice for a reasonable term to be determined by the bill-paying adult. As of this day, in order to access the devices, electricity to run them, and the internet connectivity provided to them that we pay for, you completely agree to the terms and conditions below:

  1. Your devices were bought and paid for with money that your parents or guardians earned. Technically, we are loaning them to you. Therefore, we shall always know the passwords or passcodes to each and every device. If you change it, you will let us know what the new one is in 24 hours or less from the time you changed it.
  2. You will not share any personal information, including date of birth, name, address, assets, income, or specifics about what school you attend. You understand that while you are communicating with persons whom you don’t know in-person, they are able to deceive you and may not be truthful about who they are and their intentions. You recognize that sharing such information could lead to harm if it gets in the hands of someone who intends to hurt you. You fully recognize the threat this is to your own safety.
  3. In all of your online communications, you will be respectful of others and will never embarrass, humiliate, threaten or bully anyone. Your communications shall always be truthful, encouraging and helpful.
  4. You recognize there is no such thing as real privacy when on the Internet. You fully understand any content you post about yourself or anyone else on the Internet may be distributed across the world without your knowledge or permission. Even if you intended such communication to be private, you have no guarantee that will be the case. Always assume we may have tracking or monitoring software on all of your devices.
  5. We reserve the right to audit any and all of your electronic devices whenever we see fit and without prior notice. Deleting text messages, emails, history, chat sessions, or anything else shall constitute a violation of these terms and conditions. Yes, we can tell if things are deleted.
  6. If your phone rings, and your caller-ID reads MOM, DAD, TINA, or GRAMMY, you’d better answer it. Regardless of all the other cool things it does, it is first and foremost a cellular telephone. Say hello, use your manners. Do not ever ignore a phone call or text message if the screen reads MOM, DAD, TINA or GRAMMY. Not ever. A dead battery is not an excuse – you’d better get in the practice of charging your device each and every night. Five missed calls within one calendar year means you don’t really need a phone, and we will remove it.
  7. If any of your devices fall into the toilet, smash on the ground, or vanish into thin air, you will be held partially responsible for the replacement costs or repairs. Clean a bathroom, wash a car, do dishes, vacuum the house, or do something that will earn you a few bucks to stash away somewhere. It will happen, so you should be prepared.
  8. Do NOT search for, accept requests for, or accidentally trip on any sort of pornography – that means your private parts. Do not take obscene photographs of yourself and share them with anyone else. Do not ask for or accept obscene photographs of anyone else, regardless of whether they’re supposed to disappear – because there are always ways to capture them before they do. Be aware that any image or video of any person under the age of 18 – whether they agreed to it or not – is technically child pornography and grounds for arrest. And it doesn’t matter if the person lied about their age – if you possess just one obscene image, you could be arrested. If you have a question about anything, do not wait or hide it. Immediately ask one of your parents or guardians before it’s too late.
  9. You shall never commit fraud, pretend to purchase something without intending to pay for it, use someone else’s credit card number, or be party to any criminal activities. Although it seems fake and harmless, some of these crimes constitute federal crimes. If it smells bad, it probably is. Talk to a parent before you get busted. This is REAL.
  10. Downloading, streaming, and/or sharing movies without paying for them, or downloading music for free is a violation of Federal Copyright Law, and can expose you and your family to an expensive federal lawsuit that could cost us thousands of dollars for attorney’s fees and damages. Do NOT do this. If you would like to watch a movie or listen to bad music, let us know and we will rent or purchase it for you.
  11. You have a job too – you are a FULL-TIME STUDENT. You must be successful in your job to earn electronic device and internet privileges. You agree to keep your report card grade averages in every subject at B or above to continue the privilege of using these electronic devices. Any grade below B on a report card may constitute the removal of such devices until the grade has been raised to a B or better. It is your responsibility to keep up with all assignments, properly complete all homework, and prepare for and study for all tests. If you require assistance in any subject, you should recognize this immediately and ask a parent or teacher for help before it is too late. We all want you to succeed. If these devices get in the way, it is a parent’s responsibility to remove such devices.
  12. You shall NEVER text, Google, dial, game, Snapchat, photograph, or do anything while you are operating any moving vehicle (golf cart, skateboard, bike, or automobile). That few seconds could cost you your life – or the life of someone else. The first offense shall be your last.
  13. Keep your eyes up and off your device every hour or so. Doctors say it will help your eyes avoid becoming near sighted, and we say it’ll help you avoid walking into things. See the world happening around you. Stare out a window. Listen to the birds. Take a walk. Daydream. Draw something. Build a model. Wonder without a screen.

INSOFAR AS, THEREFORE, INDUBITABLY, and THENCEFORWARDS, you have earned our trust by obeying us as your parent and guardians, and you shall continue to have the intention of continuing to do so. You willingly enter into this agreement to be held accountable. By following these terms and conditions, we agreed you shall continue to enjoy the privilege of using electronic devices, our electricity, and our internet connectivity. HOWEVER, if you violate any part of this contract, you shall voluntarily surrender any and all electronic devices – smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops, and gaming consoles – for a reasonable term as determined by the offended adult. In the event of device surrender, homework shall be done in a supervised location on a parent’s computer. Terms are non-negotiable.

 

_______________________________________________________________
SIGNATURE AFFIRMING ELECTRONIC DEVICE USING MINOR

_______________________________________________________________
PRINTED NAME

_______________________________________________________________
DATE SIGNED