Archives For Off The Top

Random things that fly off the top of my mind

Freestyle School….

September 29, 2014 — 3 Comments

2014-09-15_11-36-46As the new school year approaches, teachers have come to expect that many of their students will have forgotten some of what they learned earlier. It’s called summer learning loss, and some teachers believe it’s inevitable. Are they right?…

The traditional educator’s remedy for summer learning loss is more of the same, more hours and more days of classes and, of course, summer school.  What if schools enlisted family members as partners to help teach the children? But suppose there is another solution.  That’s what’s happening here at Russell Byers Charter School in Philadelphia. For five weeks this summer, Sarah Pisano helps 6- and 7-year-olds get better at reading.

SOURCE: Turning parents into teachers to fight the ‘summer slide’.

A recent episode on the PBS NewsHour got me to thinking about summer vacation. It is a known fact that students in the U.S. spend less than half the year in classrooms whereas other developed nations spend much more time than that. The reason we have not kept up with increasing our school hours and days is partly because of the resistance from teacher’s unions and partly because we don’t want to spend the extra tax dollars to make it happen.

Summer vacation was born in the early 19th century when most of America was agriculturally based. The family needed all hand available to plant, tend, and harvest the crops during the growing season.  Fast forward to today and that reason for summer school is totally archaic but the tradition of a three-month vacation in summer continues.

One solution to prevent us from falling further behind the rest of the world in the primary education of our youths is to simply extend the current school year beyond its current boundaries. But what are the alternatives? One was mentioned in this report and shown above.  But I kind of got a different approach to it. What if we made the summer session of school freestyle?

By freestyle I mean what if it were used to broaden education or at least help students overcome barriers? What if it emphasized the arts rather than the three “R”s? I think it is generally recognized that creativity will be a driving force that will keep our country a front-runner in the future. But by drowning out creative thinking and concentration only on the mechanics will we be able to keep up our lead in this area?

Just a thought….

To Face The Future…

September 24, 2014 — 2 Comments

The future is a scary place for many of us. We primarily see things that are out to get us and hurt us. We cling to the past as the good old days. The thing about that is that the past was simply not the good old days as we remember them. We seem to have an abject fear of letting our children out of our view for fear that they will be abducted. But the fact it that these are safer times in that regard than they were twenty, thirty, or even forty years ago.

We as a country seem to have an abject fear of any radical rag-tag group that does something utterly stupid on the other side of the world. We spend trillions of bucks to take them out but all that really does is to spurn yet another group’s ire for our intrusion into their lives.We can’t seem to realize the possibility that if we just leave them alone they will leave us alone.

Sometimes to face the future you must let go of the past. You have to throw all the old baggage out the window and dream of other possibilities. Dreading the future is certainly one option we have but I believe a better one is to dream of a future where we actually love each other as God commanded us to do in almost all religions.

Old wounds can drag you down and keep you where you don’t really want to be. A good example of this are the traumatized war veterans of sadly each generation. For my generation it was Vietnam. For more recent ones it is Iraq and Afghanistan. Trauma does terrible things to all of us but for some it is totally devastating. Those unfortunate souls are lost in the past with no dreams or expectations for the future.

Health tragedies hold others in their grips. It could be an accident that claimed a limb or maybe the deaths that resulted from the accident. It could be a major health event that caused six-figure medical bills that seem totally inescapable.

The future can be a scary place but sometimes the past is even scarier. The pessimists of the world many times live in a very dreary world, much of their own making. Optimism allows us to see a better place in front of us. Don’t ever allow life to drain that away from you. Always cling to that optimist thread no matter how thin it might be…

 

I Can’t Get No….

September 22, 2014 — Leave a comment

2014-09-15_10-57-03I know the Rolling Stones song goes “I can’t get no satisfaction” but for purposes of this post I am going to change it a little. I have been fully retired for about eight years now and was semi-retired for six before that. One of the things that I have found the most difficult to keep a handle on in these retirement years is stimulation. In other words for it “I can’t get no stimulation.” and without stimulation my life sometimes seems to just be spinning in place.

In the corporate world of the 1990s it was always about doing more with less. We saw our fellow employees being laid off and their duties dumped on us to do as well as our own duties.  There was certainly no lack of stimulation during the final decade of my work life. But when that door was abruptly closed in the Spring of 2000 I found myself in a very different mode.

Stimulation in our senior years is pretty much left for us to find. Regrettably some get their stimulation just from the struggle of day-to-day life trying to live on a fixed income when food and healthcare costs increase substantially every year. Some have on-going serious health problems that plague them in the senior years that push out almost everything else. But for those of us who have managed to save enough meet their needs and have relatively good health (of course that is a very subjective thing) we need to find things that stimulate us.

It is very easy in our senior years to get stuck in a rut and to give over to a couch potato syndrome instead of finding stimulating things to do with our time. It is easy to just sit back and suck up oxygen and very little else. We must struggle to keep life stimulating. That is especially true for those of us who have very sedentary spouses. We need to find something that stimulates us that is separate from those close to us. For some that means maintaining a “man cave” where we are do our things. For some it means fishing or camping in a Walden style.

Without stimulation life is hardly worth living. Without stimulation depression can get a massive grip on our lives. Don’t ever fall into the mantra as I do sometimes that I “can’t” get no stimulation. It is not a good place to be….

Capitalism – A Dirty Word…

September 16, 2014

2014-08-14_07-49-36I have been accused by some who have come to this site primarily in the antagonist mode to be anti-capitalism.  I hope that is not the general persona that I put forth.  It is true that I don’t think that unfettered capitalism is a good thing. If left to its own capitalism would morph into a survival of the fittest mode or something even worse. But I don’t think those beliefs make me against capitalism.

I thoroughly recognize that capitalism is the primary driver that has made the U.S. and much of the industrialized world what it is today.  Without capitalism we might all be in the survival mode as found in much of Africa and other third world countries. Constrained capitalism simply brings out the best in us. Without the Robber Barons of a century ago our country would look much different. But at the same time without the Republican president Teddy Roosevelt taking down the Robber Barons things would probably have looked just as dreary.

Here is a little about what Wikipedia says about capitalism:

Capitalism is an economic system in which trade, industry, and the means of production are largely or entirely privately owned and operated for profit. Central characteristics of capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets and wage labor. In a capitalist economy, the parties to a transaction typically determine the prices at which assets, goods, and services are exchanged….

Proponents of capitalism argue that it creates more prosperity than any other economic system, and that its benefits are mainly to the ordinary person.Critics of capitalism variously associate it with economic instability, an inability to provide for the well-being of all people, and an unsustainable danger to the natural environment. Socialists maintain that, although capitalism is superior to all previously existing economic systems (such as feudalism or slavery), the contradiction between class interests will only be resolved by advancing into a completely social system of production and distribution in which all persons have an equal relationship to the means of production.

Having a “completely social system of production and distribution in which all persons have an equal relationship to the means of production.” is simply not workable as proven by history. Without the possibility of advancing your personal situation there is simply no incentive to make things better. But at the same time I realize that capitalism so often results in extreme greed, corruption, and worse if it is not controlled and regulated.  That is where our governmental functions come in.  Someone needs to be at the reigns of capitalism so that it doesn’t destroy itself. We seem to have lost that sense of governmental responsibility in the last few decades. Hopefully we will get it back before it is too late….

All About Coveting…

September 15, 2014

When I think of the word covet I think of the tenth commandment. Here is what that says

2014-09-04_18-44-59“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.”

I know covet is an old word so let’s be sure of the meaning.

Covet – wish, long, or crave for

So this last commandment means you should not wish for or crave anything that your neighbor has. But isn’t craving things that others have kind of foundational to the capitalistic system? We are all supposed to want the latest gadget, clothes, houses, you name it. If no one craves anything how can we survive.

Let’s face it, at least this commandment if very anti-American…

I’ll bet if I go through the other nine I will find others that just don’t jive with our current American culture. Things like loving money, cursing that is found in almost all of our movies, lying on the resume, or even war for that matter seem to be no-no.

Maybe we should put the ten commandments the law of the land. That would radically change things or at least change the makeup of our prison population….

2014-08-24_14-35-11I am getting up there in years (approaching seventy) and it seems I have a different sense of what is important to put into my brain now than I have had in previous years.

I spend about a half hour every morning going through my selected new feeds on the Internet. Several of those feeds have various stories about this person or that.  For the most part they are celebrities of various ages but they tend to be in their teens and twenties I think. The stories are usually about some outrageous thing they have done or worn lately. Some are heirs to vast fortunes and spend it like they don’t know the value of money or hard work and I’m sure they don’t. I just don’t understand why so many are so enamored with this crowd?

Another thing I just don’t get are selfies. Why would someone want to take so many pictures of themselves? I was recently on a New York City tour bus, you know the kind that has the open upper deck. We were  two rows behind a couple. He was in his seventies and she appeared to be about thirty or so.  She kissed and hugged him frequently. Getting to the point now, she took probably 100 or more selfies during the hour ride. I don’t think she ever took a “normal” picture during the whole time.  Now I must admit that I have an inborn prejudice about narcissistic things such as selfies because I had a very self centered mother who abandoned her young family to find someone with more money.  So, given this story you might understand why I groan whenever I come upon selfie people.

Getting back to the main story here, There seems to be hundreds of people who are followed by millions of adamant fans now days on Facebook, Twitter and probably dozens of other social network feeds. I take the view that they don’t know my name so why should I bother to learn theirs or spend my precious time reading about their frivolous activities….

 

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LOL – From my Facebook friends over at Living Blue in a Red State.

Maybe We Got It Wrong…

September 1, 2014

2014-08-09_19-13-53This is probably not a good post for a U.S. national holiday but here goes anyway. Fools rush in where….

A few hundred years ago, which is a very short amount of time in world history, we were part of the Great British empire. We bowed to the king and paid our share of taxes. Then some hot heads came along and convinced us that we would be better off on our own.  They, like many Californians today, just didn’t like the idea of paying taxes and found every excuse to avoid doing that.

Long story short here we are today with one of the worst, and the absolutely most expensive, healthcare system in the world.  A murder rate and gun ownership one of the highest in the world. Of course those two items are not unrelated.  Spending more on our military than all the other countries in the world combined let alone being so stressed out we seem to have no time for family.

While over in England they were recently judged to have the best healthcare of a first world country. Their gun ownership is a small fraction of our and they have less murders per capita l in a year than we do in a month. They, like most other countries spend miniscule amounts on their military.  They take the time for afternoon tea and meals with family. Britain also seems to learn from their mistakes much sooner than we do. They outlawed slavery many years before we did. They never tried to get rid of their alcohol as they realize that it is an integral part of their culture. They didn’t practice segregation to nearly the extent we did.

Maybe we got it wrong all those years ago. We let a few hot heads convince us that what we had was not a good thing.  Canada which is our neighbors to the north also rate pretty much as well  as England in all the mentioned categories. It is always fascinating to me to consider the results of various decisions both corporate and personal and to think about the consequences if we went the other way.

I know you can’t unscramble an egg or re-join a country so the above thinking is a total fantasy but it is interesting to ponder about how different my world would be today if we had not listened to those hot head rebels so many year ago. Now before you begin to flame me please realize that I love this country but we could learn a few lessons about doing it better from some of our neighbors, especially our British ones.

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about “Obama spending” and “Obama deficits” and how the “stimulus” just made things worse….

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SOURCE: Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law Updated | Dave Johnson.

In the old days, that is the time before I gave up on all the cable news channels I used to get a weekly dose of Fox News.  As they say keep your friends close and your enemies closer. It was anything but news……

That’s all I want, or need, to say about this topic. It is too toxic to go any further into the idiocy of it….