Under Bush it was ‘No Child Left Behind’. Under Obama it’s ‘Common Core’. Though I’m not a parent and not a teacher, I’ve been thinking about education in this country lately.

The two programs developed during the administration of two very different presidents seem to be, at their hearts, a means to raise the standards of education in this country so that we can adequately prepare our children to compete on a global scale.

No Child Left Behind was bad in that it pushed students through the system, regardless of their preparedness to move onto the next grade level. Students are evaluated based on one standard and does not take into account how different students learn differently and may have individual needs.

Common Core seems to want to establish a standard across the country for all schools regardless of state. I would assume that this is so that if a family relocates from one state to another, any school age children will not have to spend time catching up to what the new school is teaching or waiting on everyone else to catch up. The standards have changed the way students are reaching answers in mathematics so dramatically that parents are unable to help their own child if the child does not understand how to do the work for him-/herself. I have not seen any criticism of the language arts aspect of Common Core, but I’m sure there are some lurking around. Again, though, Common Core seems to ignore the fact that children learn at different speeds and through different methods.

When you have such a large country as the United States, divided into smaller sections with a will and mind of its own, standardizing anything is difficult. Imagine parents with 50 different children, each with their own personality, opinions on everything, desires on how they each see the future, etc. To get 50 individuals to agree on something can be difficult and that each of those individuals represents millions more makes the task even harder.

I don’t know what the answer is to improving education in this country, but I do know that we need to find a way to actually engage the students in their learning. I am somewhat familiar with the education system in England and like the way that in the final few years of high school, students take classes in a manner similar to college: whatever they plan to study in college is what they study in high school. So if a student is going to study art in college, they study only art in the last year or two of high school. However, I still believe that maths and language arts should be taught through grade 12 as there are still so many with a poor grasp of grammar and always need a calculator for the very basics of maths.

Perhaps thinking outside the box is what we need and outside the country.

Don’t look now, but…

There is a forum I frequent on a daily basis to talk about a wide variety of topics. One of the sections of the forum deals with science and technology. One of the subjects discussed in the S/T section has been Google’s on-going attempts to create driverless cars. Being the sort of individuals who don’t like to give up their rights, most people are firmly against giving up their right to the daily grind of traffic.

It’s occurred to me, though, that we’re already moving toward driverless cars and ultimately they will happen in these small increments. Just think of the car commercials where there’s a back up camera (rather than utilizing the mirrors which are standard on any car); cars that park themselves for those who are incapable of parallel parking themselves; cars that “think ahead” and can help you stop more quickly if the vehicle a few cars ahead of you stops suddenly; and lastly, cars which alert you when you start to drift out of your lane (because you’re tired or would rather pay more attention to your telephone than your driving). Granted, with the exception of back up cameras, most of these features are on luxury cars, but let’s face it: when driverless cars are a reality, only the rich will be able to afford them. Many car companies are also actively coming up with ways for us to connect to the internet while driving. This is the first step in allowing an office on wheels when a driver doesn’t have to think about driving; the car will drive for him/her.

Don’t look now, but driverless cars will be a reality. Perhaps not in the way Google envisions it, but it will happen. And I, for one, will be thrilled when it does.

Stop Sweeping It Under the Rug

Yet another tragedy has occurred in this country and once again, we point fingers at the wrong things/people to try to find answers instead of accepting that sometimes there aren’t any answers that might make sense to us.

I’m speaking most specifically of the tragedy that happened last weekend in Isla Vista, California. I wasn’t going to say much beyond discussing it with friends here and there, but after reading some news yesterday that really ticked me off. Apparently, the gun-man – Elliot Rodger – played the Massive Multi-player Online Role Playing Game known as World of Warcraft. Of course in the general grasp for some sort of answer (including the old standby of blaming Hollywood), gaming is targeted for blame.

I play this game. I don’t consider myself a gamer because World of Warcraft is the only game of it’s kind I’ve ever played. I’ve never owned an Xbox or a Nintendo. I own a Wii, but haven’t touched it in a long time. I only bought it because the games required that you get up off your ass to play, not just sit staring immobile at the television. I have played World of Warcraft for a number of years and I can assure you, nothing on there has ever made me want to kill people in real life. I’d wager that most people who play that game aren’t likely to commit a crime because of it. So that Elliot Rodger played World of Warcraft has nothing to do with the acts of violence he committed.

Neither does Hollywood. Though I admit I haven’t seen details, but I’m aware of rants from the likes of Seth Rogen about something he did that might’ve contributed to Rodger’s violent outburst.

It’s not the gaming world that’s to blame. It’s not Hollywood that is to blame. It’s the system that failed and the government which took the lead in the 80s and decided to shut down a lot of the institutions that might help those who are mentally unstable. Granted, Rodger’s is an extreme case and there was really little that could be done for him, but we need institutions available for those who can be helped. Don’t just dump them on the criminal justice system and expect things to work out fine.

In talking with a friend of mine, we’ve both acknowledged that it would be difficult to take steps in reverse and renovate a lot of the institutions that were shut down more than 20 years ago, something should be done. It’s certainly not easy to know which people should be put into some sort of institutional prison, but when you have a young man whose parents are telling his therapists that more needs to be done, that would be a fair starting point.

We must stop pointing the finger at everything else and accept that by closing these institutions back in the 80s we failed not only those patients who were helped by their existence, but we failed ourselves today and in the future by not protecting ourselves from the exceptionally violent members of society like Elliot Rodger. As I have said a few times on here before when I have blogged about this very same subject, I don’t like guns. I am smart enough to know and accept that I am in an extreme minority and no one in the majority cares how I feel. Attacking the NRA time and time again is only going to result in a tighter grip on the United States. Blaming the entertainment industry in all forms (movies or games) is pure ignorance.

There’s an answer out there, but no one seems to want to accept it.

Two Weird Dreams and Thoughts from the Past

Though they don’t seem to occur as often anymore and certainly nowhere as repeatable as they once were, I have bizarre dreams sometimes. Last night I had two, along with thoughts of people I once knew 20 years ago, in between.

All I can recall of the first dream is that there was a guy wandering around my neighbourhood throwing knives at me. No idea why, only that he had been doing it to someone else, then turned on me. His aim was poor (I was able to dodge every one of them thrown at me) as well as his throwing skills (one was thrown and it was no more than a foot off the ground so that I could jump over it). I don’t recall feeling particularly scared, either. At one point I turned to see where I was running and a carving fork landed in the grass just ahead of me, thrown by him. I picked it up and tossed it back, managing to lodge it in his shoulder. After that I woke up.

I’m usually woken in the middle of the night by Nature’s Call, so after I climbed back into bed, I lay there trying to fall asleep when I thought of the two ladies I worked with during a summer job when I was in college. I worked that summer in an optical store in a high end mall and we had loads of fun. I wish I could remember their names. The younger of the two was in a band with her husband called XLR8. I only remembered that after looking up the one song I recall them recording. I think they were planning a move to Nashville not long after I quit, so that’s probably where they are. The other woman was very soft spoken and sweet to talk to. The store closed some years ago so I have no means to find out what happened to them. Just seems weird that thoughts of them popped into my head with no prompting.

In the second dream I left work either in the late morning or mid-afternoon to run an errand. I do not know what the errand entailed, but as I was going to return, I noticed that the passenger side windshield wiper was completely detached from my car and dangling over the side by a wire of some kind. I pulled off the interstate entrance ramp and as I was trying to figure out what was going on with the windshield wiper, I noticed that the tire below was practically shredded to pieces and yet it hadn’t felt that way when I was driving. I called work to tell them I wouldn’t be back, then phoned my father to ask him to come change my tire. I don’t remember anything after that.

Such a weird night!

Women’s History Museum

w I really love this saying because it’s true. It’s only the women throughout history who have bucked the trends set by men, stepped out of their roles established by men or in some way stood out from their every day lives who have made their mark in history. Were it not for these women who weren’t “well-behaved” I dare say that women today would not have the right to vote, would not be allowed to work outside the home, or do pretty much anything we want on our own.

It really baffles me, then, when a politician such as Michele Bachmann seems to have major issues with the development and building of a National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall in Washington D.C. This is how she feels about the project:

“This museum that will be built on the National Mall, on federal land, will enshrine the radical feminist movement that stands against the pro-life movement, the pro-family movement and the pro-traditional marriage movement,” said Republican Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

You know, Mrs Bachmann, if it weren’t for the radical feminists, YOU would not have a position in the United States’ House of Representatives. But I guess it’s more convenient for you to attack what is different from you; to attack views different from your own instead of embracing all of our differences and stand firm in the knowledge that these women who were not well-behaved are the reason you are in the position you are in.

I guess you’d rather be in a marriage where you have to obey your husband and do whatever he says, no matter how demeaning it may be to you. Well, ma’am, you go right ahead and leave the rest of us to our lives that have been enriched because of those radical feminist women who refused to behave.

Me and you and a two man crew

I really have no idea where I came up with the title for this blog post. It just sort of popped into my head.

When I logged on a few minutes ago, I looked at my last post from March and how I’d lamented about neglecting this blog. The truth is, this blog has been neglected because of three other blogs I juggle that are far more popular than this one. They’re popular because they’re focused on specific subjects rather than my personal life. Still, this blog is useful to have because I find myself wanting to stray more to personal stuff on one of the blogs. So, I’m going to be reworking the look of this blog and probably going back to the original name (which is part of the URL) and hopefully liven things up again.

On a different note, I’ve really had my empathic abilities worked this week and it’s only Wednesday. A friend I haven’t heard from in months popped up on Yahoo! Messenger (yeah I still use it… don’t judge!) saying her life is all kinds of chaos and she needs balance. We talked further and apparently there have been a lot of changes in her life and boy could I feel the turmoil. It’s nothing I couldn’t handle, but it’s just one of the many reminders I’ve had over the last few months of my abilities. I’ve learned that being an empath gives me one ability that stands out above the others: the ability to see the true value of someone even when others don’t or can’t. I can see the good in someone when all they see is bad. I knew someone once through blogging who seemed to be going through a rough time. I had no idea how to help her nor if I could (ultimately I couldn’t) and then our lives drifted in separate directions. I’ve thought about her on various occasions over the years, wondering what happened to her, if she’s okay, if her life got onto the path she wanted it on. This was someone I see now that I barely knew, yet I wanted so much positive energy to just surround her and grab her tight. I guess I can only chalk that up to being an empath, because I doubt anyone else would give two rat’s asses about someone they hardly know.  But I did and I still do. I hope wherever she is, she somehow knows at least one person cared back then and still does.

Ciao for now.

Epic Dinner Fail

My goddess I hadn’t realised I’d neglected this blog since last October. My other two seem to be taking over my time. At I have returned with an epic tale of culinary failure courtesy of my mother, whom I refer to in this little tale as Einstein.

This story is about my mother and her recent decision to really screw up a very basic New Orleans dish: jambalaya. For those unfamiliar with the dish, it is very simply rice, meat (typically sausage, chicken or shrimp) and spices. That’s it. We typically cook it from a mix, which is just the rice and spices.

My mother decided to make jambalaya for dinner last Monday night which was fine, but apparently this time when she put both sausage AND chicken in it, she was afraid that it would be too bland because of the chicken absorbing a lot of the spices. The last half dozen times she’s made jambalaya this way she never worried about it being too bland. I don’t know why she feels the need to put both sausage and chicken in it, but whatever. So Einstein decided to add spices to it. I should inject at this point that Einstein hates spicy food. Things normal people don’t consider spicy, she does. Why Einstein did this is beyond me, but she made it pretty inedible even for me and I can tolerate spiciness way more than she can. At this point I don’t want her cooking the jambalaya anymore.