school days: what happened to age appropriate?

I am going to wade into something some parents and people in general might take issue with, but I am going to do it, anyway. I think it is a conversation that parents everywhere need to have with educators.

I am not a prude.  I don’t believe in treating children as a collective of village idiots.  But I do believe there are topics that are age-appropriate.

A few years ago a friend told me about a program a private school was running with elementary/middle-school aged kids about being gay.  At that age, most kids have no inclination of what that means even if they have same-sex parents. Anyway, my friend told me of the confusion and upset it caused the children.  Not the parents – the kids.  At the time I wondered aloud to my friend why they did this with kids so young and naive.  Basically kids who hadn’t even had any sex ed classes, either.

Now I am asking the same question of schools preparing for mock elections: what is age appropriate and when does it cross a line and make people fear there is another political agenda? (And I will note that I have a BIG problem with educators who bring personal politics of ANY kind into a classroom – it is not right – they are supposed to teach and be apolitical, educational Switzerland. Not put forth political agendas.)

What has got me on this topic?  Things I am hearing from parents all over whose kids are getting ready for mock elections at school.  Some schools require kids to have specific homework projects on it.

I have no problem with mock elections, I participated in my first one in 7th or 8th grade (when Jimmy Carter ran and became president).

What I have a problem with are some teachers are not only asking kids to do this but include as age appropriate topics for the NOT upper levels of high school set: abortion and gay marriage. These kids are elementary and middle schoolers. Not even high schoolers.

That truly bothers me.  What life experience and complex emotional capability do 10 – 14 year olds have to discuss gay marriage and abortion?  This is a complex subject, and to me it is something to be discussed at home….when they are older, or basically when the PARENTS decide. And truthfully, I don’t think the lower end of high schoolers (9th and 10th grades) should have this shoved at them as appropriate discussion either.

I am not even sure the average middle schooler can comprehend and articulate on the topic of gun control either for that matter. I mean is it really necessary?

And let me be clear, I might be a Republican, but I am decidedly pro-choice which is why I am also a ticket splitter half the time.  And I believe that a woman should have a right to choose and it is also a personal matter.  It is not for political platforms, courts, or pulpits.

As for gay marriage. Really?  Who does it hurt? Can you see it from your window? I have friends who have kids in their kids’ classes with same-sex parents.  Everyone gets along just fine. No one feels the need to wave a flag. It just is. The kids and the parents are accepted.

I just feel that these are very complicated topics that adults can’t even discuss pleasantly for the most part.  So why do middle schoolers and elementary schoolers have to?

I just do not see it as appropriate, and I question the underlying motives of any teacher that does this and school that promotes or allows this.

There is enough to learn about the electoral process, the issues, and individual politicians without having to explain to kids who haven’t even had sex ed in a lot of cases what abortion is.  Or to give them a pre-disposition towards gay marriage.

We do need to teach our children well.  But certain topics? Best saved for another discussion…and to an extent, I feel that there are certain  conversations which should occur at home when parents decide the time is right.

Seriously, I think it is bad enough when parents dress their kids like mini-me versions of themselves and schedule them so hard they don’t really know what it is to just be a kid, but to weigh them down with topics they are not emotionally or intellectually equipped to handle?  Just not right.

9/11

On September 7, 2006 I wrote an editorial about 9/11 for Main Line Media News which I would like to share with all of you.  Eleven years later, it still resonates.

I have been to downtown NYC a few times since I wrote my original column a few years ago.  I have watched NYC rise proudly again.

Face it, we are ALL different after 9/11, but I have to say we have become a country divided.  Over everything.  From the town to town, city to city, state to state to Washington D.C., we have become a country of extremism – especially politically.  We are all still Americans, but are we always proud of that? Hyper liberal, hyper conservative, what happened to the people in the middle? Who cares about the people in the middle?

When did it become a crime to disagree with the status quo?  To disagree with elected officials? To wish for better in the somber shades of a desperate recession? To be just a little bit different?

Who will do the healing if not each one of us ourselves?  Who do we believe in? Who can we believe in? Can we hope for anything or is hope still just an overused word in our everyday vernacular? And after this election, will “forward” also be over-used?

(NOTE: I apologize in advance for the spacing in the article – not how it was originally, but there is something a little wonky with posting this and I can’t get WordPress to cooperate)

Five years after September 11 what have we learned

Published: Thursday, September 07, 2006

 Sept. 11, 2006, is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and United Airlines Flight 93’s crash in the field in Shanksville, Somerset County. This date has special significance to every American, and intense personal significance to far too many individuals who lost friends and loved ones.
But September 11, wasn’t the first time terrorists visited the World Trade Center. In truth, Feb. 26, 1993. was the date of the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. I worked in New York at that time at an office located downtown in the financial district.
On that day, I had accompanied an office friend to the World Trade Center to grab an early lunch and to check out some stores in the shopping concourse. We were back outside the Trade Center buildings, getting ready to cross the street, when suddenly the ground shook and moved. I remember that we were looking directly across the street at Century 21, a department store in Lower Manhattan. Then something happened that rarely happens in New York: Everything went eerily still and quiet. We looked up at what we first thought were snowflakes beginning to float and fall from the sky. After all, it was February.

Then car alarms began to go off one by one like the cacophony of many distorted bells. The snowflakes, we soon discovered, were in reality ashes.
People began yelling and screaming. It became very confusing and chaotic all at once, like someone flipped a switch to “on.” At first, we both felt rooted to the sidewalk, unable to move. I remember feeling a sense of panic at the unknown. We had absolutely no idea what had happened, and hurried back to our office. Reaching it, we were greeted by worried coworkers who told us that someone had set off a bomb underground in the World Trade Center garage.
I will never forget the crazy kaleidoscope of images, throughout that afternoon, of all the people who were related to or knew people in my office who sought refuge in our office after walking down the innumerable flights of steps in the dark to exit the World Trade Center Towers. They arrived with soot all over their faces, hands and clothes. They all wore zombie looks of shock, disbelief and panic.
Of course, the oddest thing about the first terrorist attack on New York City is that I don’t remember much lasting fuss about it. I do remember that President Bill Clinton was newly sworn into office, but I don’t remember him coming to visit New York after the attack. Everything was back to normal in Lower Manhattan in about a month, maybe two. After a while, unless you had worked in New York, or lived in New York, you simply forgot about this “incident.”
So, on the morning of 9/11, as I pulled into my office building’s garage and listened to the breaking news on the radio announcing that a plane had struck the World Trade Center, tears began to run down my face unbidden. I knew in my heart of hearts what happened. I said to myself, “Oh no. They came back.”

I remember picking up my cell phone to call my father, whom I knew to be, at that time, on an Amtrak train bound for New York City. I remember him telling me it was fine and he’d be fine. I wanted him to get off in New Jersey and take a train back to Philadelphia. But the train was already pretty much past all the stations and getting ready to go into the tunnel to New York. That very thought terrified me. To this day, I still do not understand why Amtrak did not stop those last trains from going into New York City as the news of the World Trade Center attacks first broke.
I next remember getting in the elevator and getting off on my office floor to find people clustered around television sets and radios. And the news kept getting worse: first one plane, then a second, then a third, and then a fourth.
The images and news just didn’t stop. Camera cuts from lower Manhattan to Washington to Somerset County. They are images that have to be ingrained in everyone’s mind forever like indelible ink.
It took a couple of days for my father and brother-in-law (who had already been in New York on business) to get out of the city, but eventually they got home safely with many stories to tell of what New York was like in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. A lot of people weren’t so lucky. They never saw their loved ones again after that fateful morning. Many people in the Philadelphia and greater Main Line area lost friends, coworkers and loved ones.
On September 11, I knew people who were lost, but fortunately I didn’t lose any loved ones. I remember for a brief time it seemed we were all a little nicer to each other, and politicians actually seemed to come together as one and grieve as a nation grieved.

But here we are five short years later. I have only seen the site one time where the World Trade Center once stood proudly. That was about a year after the attacks. I remember a distinct pit in my stomach and looked away from the car window. This past June I was in Washington, and had the same intense, awful feeling in my stomach as we drove on the highway past the Pentagon.

Life must go on and time can’t stand still, but all in all I can’t help but wonder: What have we learned since about our country and about ourselves? Five years after 9/11 what have we learned and what have we forgotten? What do we need to remember?

political apathy.

There are some mornings you just think you should go back to be and start the day over.  This morning is one of those mornings. No Mitt Romney, today is not a good day for America.

Mitt Romney just picked his running mate.  Actually social media leaked it out a few hours ago, while mainstream media is hawking it as breaking news.

It’s not breaking news, it’s bad news.  Mitt Romney has chosen his running mate and he might as well have chosen Sarah Palin. He has chosen Congressman Paul Ryan. 

It is official, the politics of extremism will be running the elections in the U.S. this November.  Sign me one frustrated Republican.  Romney, like Obama, panders to small factions, pockets of extremism.  Like Obama, he does not speak to the average, nor majority of Americans.

The majority of Americans are in the middle, they try to belong to a political party and are trying to desperately believe in  anything and anyone, yet both political parties worship at the extreme sides of their respective parties, leaving little in reality for the Average American to grasp or hold onto.  Let alone believe in. Is the United States becoming a rudderless political ship steered by warring extremist political factions?

This choice by Romney makes me like a woman without a country. There is NO place in this election for voters in the middle of either party.  And Paul Ryan certainly won’t respect my right to choose as a woman.  And I am not saying what my choices are incidentally, only a Romney-Ryan ticket might as well have me proverbially speaking being barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. And silent.

Obama has done nothing for me, and truthfully what has Obama done for the majority of Americans?  The answer is nothing. He has been four long years of BTLA – big talk little action.  He’s good at talking, but while he is fiscally fine, can you say that for the majority of people in this country?  What is so fabulous about what he has done with healthcare? Has he reformed the actual healthcare companies? Look at bibles of wasted money like the largely uninterpreted Dodd-Frank Act?  Has there been sensible Wall Street  reform with rules people can actually follow?  Or has it merely given the Securities and Exchange Commission a bigger bully stick that comes complete with selective enforcement versus creating a better system through rule making that can actually work and not just grow their workforce?

Our country is an economic cesspool and the problems that existed four years ago, still exist today, only worse.  We might as well be in a depression.

Romney unfortunately is in that class of super rich who are out of touch with reality.  And his running mate is too extreme.  Ryan’s policies are too extreme and would punish everyone in this country except the infamous top 2%.

So where does that leave the rest of us?  We are not better off.   If anything, the Average American is more pissed off.

Romney’s Palin for Decision 2012 (Paul Ryan) may just hand the election back to Obama.  So I guess we had all better hope Obama can actually do something to benefit all not just select factions the next four years, hadn’t we?

I am so tired of the politics of extremism in this country, that I truly might not vote this November.  I have never said that, never done that.  I was going to volunteer at my new poll.  Why bother?

Sign me disgusted by American politics, and if Romney had chosen more wisely and chosen someone like Tim Pawlenty this might be a very different blog post.

But what do I know from American politics?  I am not of a religion that believes in magic underwear, after all.

The Wall Street Journal has some Ryan sound bytes:

WSJ: Paul Ryan Excerpts: ‘We Can Turn This Thing Around’

August 11, 2012, 8:42 AM

“I represent a part of America that includes inner cities, rural areas, suburbs and factory towns.”

Dude, you don’t represent me or my part of the country and the USA is pretty darn large.  Wisconsin is not representative of who I am as a Pennsylvanian.

REUTERS: Romney campaign confirms Paul Ryan as running mate

By Steve Holland

NORFOLK, Virginia |         Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:08am EDT

NORFOLK, Virginia (Reuters) – Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has picked Congressman Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate, the Romney campaign confirmed on Saturday.

“Mitt’s choice for VP is Paul Ryan. Spread the word about America’s comeback team,” a Romney campaign mobile phone application said, confirming widespread reports he had selected the 42-year-old Wisconsin lawmaker who chairs the U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee…..

Conservative leaders, increasingly anxious over the state of Romney’s campaign, had urged him to pass over reliable – but not particularly inspiring – figures such as Ohio Senator Rob Portman and former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and instead go for Ryan.

The Wisconsin congressman is a favorite of the conservative Tea Party, an anti-tax, limited-government movement that helped Republicans take over the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010.

But Ryan’s selection immediately draws attention to a budget plan he proposed as House budget chairman that would include controversial cuts in government health programs for the elderly and poor…..

By choosing Ryan, Romney effectively adopts the Ryan budget, which includes proposed cuts to Medicare, the healthcare program for the elderly, long considered to be politically taboo.

Ryan would set up a voucher-like system for the program to help beneficiaries buy private health insurance or give them access to the traditional fee-for-service plan.

Another controversial portion of Ryan’s budget is a plan to reduce the cost of Medicaid, the federally backed healthcare plan for the poor, by turning it into a block grant program for states.

Several Democrats have said that among the potential running mates for Romney, Ryan was the one they would most like to face because of his budget proposals.

And d’oh Romney just did his speech and goofed – he just asked people to welcome the next “President” of the United States and then had to correct himself.   Well every campaign needs a Sarah Palin and Dan Quayle. Ironically, Obama did the same thing when introducing Biden.

Also check out The New Yorker on this.

August  9, 2012
Posted by

As you may have noticed, I’ve largely avoided speculating about Mitt Romney’s  choice of a running mate. That’s partly because I don’t have any inside  information and partly because of something I learned back in 1988, when I was a  young whippersnapper covering the Presidential election for the Sunday  Times of London. At the Republican convention, in New Orleans,  Vice-President George H. W. Bush stunned almost everybody by picking Dan Quayle,  a young senator from Indiana, as his running mate.

After a string of gaffes on Quayle’s part, following questions being raised  about his résumé and lack of experience, the Bush campaign sent in the heavies  to shore him up: James Baker and Roger Ailes….Quayle was irrelevant….In 2008, Sarah Palin reprised the role of clueless running mate, providing the  press corps with even more entertainment than Quayle had done twenty years  earlier. But Palin, like Quayle, didn’t have much, if any, impact on the result.  By the middle of August, before John McCain announced his choice of Veep  candidate, Barack Obama was already holding a steady lead in the polls, which he never relinquished….

Now there’s another veepstakes, with speculation that an announcement of the  candidate’s name could come as early as today. Rather than trying to make  predictions, it may be more productive to assess what Romney’s choice might  mean…..But my hopes would be tempered by the memory of Quayle, Palin, and all the other  Veep candidates who garnered acres of newsprint and didn’t count for much on  Election Day. In fact, here’s a challenge: Can anybody think of a running mate  who made a substantial difference?

I am not a Tea Partier and I am not a Democrat.  There is no place for me in this election as a voter.  It also makes me wonder where there is a place for average Americans in American politics at all.  Paul Ryan is not a choice. He’s more political extremism.

The politics of extremism will ruin this country if we are not careful.