Monday, April 30, 2007
Sunday, April 29, 2007
I don't think I've made a big secret of my utter contempt for public school politics and the "one-size-fits-all," "us or them" attitude toward education in our society. My attitudes toward education tend toward the radical and reformist.
So, I think the idea of educational vouchers is a TEENSY, TINY and very rational step in the right direction toward improving the state of education in our country.
So, you can probably imagine my pulse rising and my cheeks turning a deep crimson when I heard about the recent efforts of a
n evil labor union (the UEA).
Let me catch you up.
The Utah State Legislature, a body elected by Utah citizens, recently passed a bill that would reimburse parents for a portion of the money they spend in private schools if they decide that a private education would better suit the needs of their children.
The UEA, through what I feel are deceptive and less-than-appropriate means (read: manipulation, lies, lies and propaganda), have gathered enough signatures to put the voucher law on the ballot. That is, it will go to a public vote. If the public votes "no," then there will be no educational vouchers in Utah.
But, to me, the whole point of a voucher law is that one parent can do something to help his or her one student get an appropriate education regardless of whether or not all the other parents think that public education is "good enough."
And you want to know something? The legislature was cool enough to make it so that the state will pay almost nothing extra to support the voucher program. And guess what's even better? A student who leaves the public school system can take only a maximum of 50% of their per-student funding with them in voucher spending. If that student belongs to a high-income family they will take even less.
I went to public elementary school, a pretty good one I think, and I believe I have a good grasp on basic arithmetic.
$6,000 per-student funding minus $3,000 maximum per-student voucher spending equals $3,000. Right?
And one minus one equals zero. I'm sure of that math. I can do it on my fingers.
So, $3,000 left-over and no student to spend it on means $3,000 EXTRA for the public school system.
Tell me, because I just can't get it. How is this bad for education?
Child gets the education he deserves. Parent gets help paying for that education. The public school system has one less student to educate and $3,000 more to help improve the education of other students. In the end, the state government pays less than half a percent more on education. Sounds like win, win, win all around.
But the bureaucrats at the UEA would have teachers and others believe that vouchers are a bad thing. This leaves me with only a few conclusions. Their math and logic skills are lacking. Or they haven't actually read the legislation. Or they don't thoroughly understand the idea. Or they are lying.
I've been wanting to write something about the specific merits and logic of educational vouchers (or really any experiment in improving the quality of education for individual children). But I am highly opinionated on the matter and (as you can see from the above) my ravings on the subject are far from impartial.
I'm afraid I couldn't do it justice.
So, this morning I read an editorial (it's a bit old) on the whole deal. I think it's spot on. And I think they've said it better (and much more rationally) than I could have.
So, I'll pull a Lavar Burton here and treat you to an editorial from the staff at the Daily Herald. You don't have to take my word for it.
Take it away, Daily Herald folks.
The moral case for vouchers
Opponents of the recently passed school voucher system now say they've got enough signatures to place the measure on a ballot. A vote, they hope, will override the Legislature and kill vouchers in Utah.
Their overreaction is surprising. What are they afraid of? Why would a modest experiment in Utah education engender such weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth?
The answer is, sadly, an old one: Voucher opponents consist primarily of members of a major labor union (teachers) and a corps of professional school administrators, both with a vested interest in the outcome. They fear a loss of power.
This may not surprise anyone, but it's still wrong.
In truth, Utah's voucher experiment should be welcomed. It offers a practical answer to some entrenched problems in the public schools, and it doesn't cost any more than we're spending already. The ongoing dollar commitment for administration -- $100,000 per year -- is a drop in a massive bucket. Utah's commitment to education is about $3 billion a year.
And yet vouchers get violent opposition. The rhetoric includes a full dose of fear, hyperbole and skewed information. You would think vouchers were somehow hastening Armageddon.
They are not.
Opponents would have you believe that it is wrong for the state to pay to accomplish a valid public purpose -- universal education -- if is not accomplished in the particular way they want. They would have you believe that the public purpose is not to educate every child, but to educate every child exclusively in a public school system.
There is a big difference. And the latter distorts the argument.
Look at it this way: The state long ago endorsed universal education because an educated population is more productive. Education was deemed so important, in fact, that the state even made it compulsory by law. In making education compulsory, the state properly accepted the burden of paying for it -- today at a level roughly $5,000 to $7,500 per student per year.
That money is committed whether the public purpose is accomplished by public or private means. The only thing that should matter to taxpayers is that the purpose is accomplished.
Voucher opponents, though, would have you believe that the state has no obligation to fund anything but a public system. We disagree. There is no case, for example, that private schools have failed to accomplish the public purpose of educating students. If anything, they have proved themselves superior to the public system.
The whole issue turns on a single question:
Whose money is it? Or, put another way, do tax dollars properly adhere to the individual student for whom education is compulsory, or does it "belong" to the public school bureaucracy?
Fairness requires that government money follow a student to any institution that can deliver an education at least as good as what the state provides. The logic is simple: Education is a public purpose, and it is compulsory. The state is committed to a dollar value for every child of student age to accomplish that public purpose. If the public purpose that compels compliance can be accomplished through a legal alternative, then refusing to pay for that alternative is inherently unfair. It constitutes a form of theft.
In short, if the state pays for the education of one student, it must pay for all.
The public schools are supposed to provide for individual needs, which include things like substantial one-on-one attention from teachers. They are supposed to address varying levels of student aptitude. They are not supposed to become a melting pot in which "good enough is good enough," where everyone turns out to be the same gray shade of oatmeal.
While Utah's public schools deserve credit for the good work they do, it remains a painful truth that some of our best and brightest students are slowed by large classes, limited resources and government mandates.
Vouchers to support education in private schools are a philosophically sound answer for them.
Do not be taken in by opponents: Paying a private entity to accomplish a public purpose is not a bad idea. In fact, it is done all the time. Highways, for example, are built by private contractors; trash is collected by others; state-funded mental health services are provided by others. The list could go on. Private concerns often do the job better than the state can.
Such is the case with education -- not always, but enough to justify a state-funded alternative to public schools.
Voucher opponents miss the mark when they claim that private education is the sole financial responsibility of parents. The argument is especially unconvincing because the state is currently paying on a per-student basis to accomplish precisely the same purpose in public schools. The argument might hold water if public education were proved generally superior to private, but that is not the case.
Of course, more is at stake than money. Parents have a moral obligation to see that their children rise to their full potential. The state should help them do it -- at least up to the fraction of actual cost that was enacted by the Legislature ($500 to $3,000, depending on income).
If the current misguided effort succeeds in getting vouchers on the ballot, we urge voters to stand behind parental choice. Stand behind education as a public good. Reject public school politics. Cast your vote for human potential.
This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A5.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Okay, I've got my poetry blog set up. I'm pretty excited about it.
If you'd like to read it, send an email to: email@example.com and I'll send you an invitation.
Those who have already mentioned that they are interested and who I already know (and know their email addresses), I will send an invitation to.
Should be fun.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Four things about me, that you might not have known. Tagged by my friend, Edge.
Still working on the last half of that 100 list.
Four jobs I have had in my life:
2. Writing Tutor/Teacher's Assistant
3. Childbirth mentor
Four movies I have watched over and over:
1. Sleepless in Seattle
2. Love's Labors Lost (fantastic musical version by Kenneth Branaugh)
3. My Blue Heaven
4. Hunt for the Red October (Thanks, JDub)
Four places I have lived:
1. Ephraim, Utah
2. Cedar City, Utah
3. Littleton, Colorado
4. Orem, Utah (Yeah, pretty much just Utah.)
Four TV shows I love to watch:
2. 24 (We actually don't watch this on network TV, but enjoyed working our way through the first two seasons.)
3. Smallville (Again, DVDs, not TV.)
4. The American Experience
Four places I have been on vacation:
2. Europe (Germany, Switzerland, France, England)
Four of my favorite foods:
1. Chocolate, especially European chocolate.
2. Chicken Fajitas with LOTS of guacamole
Four people who I think will respond:
Call me a party pooper. Not doing this one. Anyone is welcome to participate.
Monday, April 16, 2007
It's national poetry month!
I'll be reading in a poetry reading tomorrow evening with some other local (and wonderful) poets.
If you're local and know where my local library is (or if you don't and would like to email me to find out) I'd love to see you there. It will be at my local library at 7pm in room #309.
I'll be reading "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou and a poem of my own titled "Elias."
I've been thinking about the whole "poetry blog" thing. I was dead set against it. Not because I mind sharing my poetry. Quite the opposite in fact. My main concern is not anonymity. My main concern is that if I poured my soul out and spent the time to write an excellent poem, I don't want anyone else to copy and paste and take credit for it. Or use it without my permission.
But, I'm considering the idea of having an "invited readers only" poetry blog. For family, friends, people I trust.
What think ye? Good idea? Bad idea?
Saturday, April 14, 2007
My children let me sleep in this morning, so I woke up to sunlight streaming in my window and a feeling of peace and calm. Everything will be all right.
I had a good, long talk wih JDub last night. We specifically discussed one of the situations that's been bothering me. I came to the conclusion that, though it's hard right now, all is as it should be. I was able to come to a point where I understood the situation better, where I understood him better and forgiveness and openness washed over my heart. Everything will be fine. It will all work out.
Just wanted to share that.
I'm waiting to find out about my friend's funeral. I wrote a poem for her back when we were in sixth grade. I found it about a week ago. Her mother had made a copy for each of us in her beautiful calligraphy. I'll have to find it and post it here -- it was about friendship and how moments pass, but the memories remain and are precious. Quite applicable now. Probably more so now than then.
Well, I get to coach another soccer game for 4 and 5 year olds today. Maybe Mashuga will actually play this time. He played in his first game only because I bribed him. There were only four kids there, so I needed him to play. His last game he just wanted to stay on the sidelines and cuddle in a blanket. We had a full team and all the others were eager to play. So, I decided it would be best to just let him play when he wants to. This is supposed to be fun, after all.
Created by Heather around 7:55 AM
Friday, April 13, 2007
I'll be brief today. Partly because I'm supposed to be folding laundry right now. That's what I promised myself I'd do. Mostly because I don't want to say too much. I'm feeling a bit too tender right now for daring expose.
My heart is hurting today. For many reasons, it's been hurting for a while now. But there are some specific things that have happened recently that have really broken my heart.
First, on my parents' anniversary my Dad's best friend died. They had been friends since their sophomore year of high school. He was the best man at their wedding and was only 51. This was very unexpected and it's been hard for our whole family, but especially for my dad. And especially because he is in Turkey right now. It hurts me to think of him sad and me not able to hug him. And it also makes me sad because I remember him (my dad's friend) and have such pleasant, happy memories of him.
I've also been thinking about my old best friends, most of whom I have not hung on to. I was thinking mainly of childhood friends that I've lost touch with and how much they meant to me then. How I wish we could have stayed friends, stayed close. I've wondered how I'd feel if one of them were to die suddenly.
Well, this morning I got a call from my mom and I knew immediately that the tone of her voice was a "someone died' kind of sound. True. She had very bad news. I'm having a hard time bringing myself to the point where I can type it. Seeing it in black and white makes it so final. One of my best, favorite childhood friends was found dead in her apartment yesterday. Or was it this morning? The details all blurred together when I heard "Jodie is dead." I've fought back the tears and just taken care of my kids all day, so I haven't felt much. But now that I'm sitting here, typing, seeing her face, I'm crying. I've already been missing her, regretting the end of our relationship. And now for it to be so final...
And the last thing, though not quite as traumatic, has been much more drawn out and difficult. I am ashamed at how hurt I feel. I want to let it roll off my back, to turn the other cheek. It's not easy. I don't want to get into details or be disloyal, here or anywhere else. I'm trying to love and freely forgive, regardless of the outcome. But it's been a battle.
So, all in all, I'm hurting. My heart aches. For me, for others who have lost loved ones, for broken trust and difficult decisions, for lost time and a feeling of having so much taken, on so many fronts.
Created by Heather around 4:43 PM
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
According to sitemeter.com, I get close to 600 hits per week on this blog. The vast majority of them are bounces, which means they don't spend any time on my site.
Most of these bouncers and some visitors who actually stay awhile come from google searches. I'm rather entertained by the keywords that lead to my blog. Some are applicable, some are downright funny. Some are not at all related to this site. I'm sure there are some disappointed 17 year old boys who search for the words "breasts" or "sexy pics of jennifer lopez" and end up here at my fairly family-friendly, not at all sexy blog.
Here's just a sampling of the keywords that have found me over the last few days.
I also get A WHOLE LOT of hits from google images -- people looking for things like "nude female" and "breast pictures". These come from this post which, ironically, has absolutely no images, just links to images.
So, what do you think? Should I post a public service announcement at the top of my blog that says:
"Warning! Google has misled you. You will not see Jennifer Lopez or any other females naked here. There are no gratuitous cleavage shots here. Discussion and pictures of breasts usually revolve around using them as God intended, to nourish small children. Move along."
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
One of our local morning radio programs has a segment titled "Things that must go." In it, each host takes a couple of minutes to share things that bother them and must go. One from the other day was "Mariachi bands at restaurants that expect a tip even though you didn't actually ASK them to play for you."
Today, I decided there are some things (well, one group of things) that I think must go.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Sean Hannity and any other person who treats others like garbage in the name of morality and right. It seems to me that the greatest morality lies in treating other people with kindness and respect. I think that treating others with dignity is one of the few things in this world that is inarguably right.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Last night Kaitybean was playing Scrabble with JDub and my brother and his wife. Somehow they got on the subject of nouns and someone asked her what a noun was.
"Person, place or thing," Kaitybean said. "Like, in the sentence 'The frightened girl ran away quickly.' the noun is 'girl'."
So, they all quizzed her on which word in that sentence was an adjective, which was the verb. I asked her about adverbs and whether or not she knew what they were.
"Adverbs are the how, where and when of the verb," she answered, "Like quickly. That's how the girl ran. Quickly is the adverb."
Then, my sister asked, "So what is the preposition in that sentence?"
Kaitybean came back with, "Well, it would be 'away', but there is no object of the preposition, so 'away' is actually another adverb."
We all laughed and were terribly impressed.
I didn't know that kind of stuff until I was in college and teaching others how to write.
I love Kaitybean. And I love her school. And I love Shurley English.
In other news, we're moving Scud to 1st grade this week. I've really struggled with the decision and almost put him in first grade this year to begin with, but felt that Kindergarten would be best. But, a couple of weeks ago he told me, "Mom, I'm too old and too smart for kindergarten. I think you need to think about putting me in first grade." How do you argue with that? After talking to his teacher and principal, some testing and a trial period in first grade math it turns out he was right.
I've been agonizing over the decision -- thinking about cause and effect, everything from when he gets his license to when he'll go on a mission. Finally, I just decided that it's foolishness on my part to make decisions based on "what ifs" and "mights". I do know that this is the right decision for right now. I can worry about tomorrow's decisions tomorrow.
UPDATE: We (Scud's principal, kindrgarten teacher, 1st grade teacher and I) had a meeting this morning. We determined that it would be best to have Scud do one more trial week -- this time for a full day of first grade. We will evaluate next Tuesday. My main concern is that don't want him to go from beimg way ahead of his classmates to a point where he's struggling to keep up.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
OKay, here's the first installment of 100 things about me. Look for the rest in the next couple of days.
1. I was an only child for the first 4 years of my life.
2. Those years were spent playing outside, playing outside and more playing outside. There was much tree-climbing, mud-pie making, loud singing, snow angels and running off with my imaginary friend, Albert, to go to Disneyland.
3. Yes, I had an imaginary friend. His name was Albert. He lived in a pink house about two blocks from my house. We liked to go places together.
4. There was a HUGE pine tree in my front yard when I was growing up. I used to get pine sap all over my hands and in my hair. My mother hated it.
5. There was an apple tree in my back yard. It had four slanting branches that made it easy to scramble up. I spent many afternoons creating systems for getting from branch to branch without getting down. I also read many books and ate many peanut butter sandwiches in that tree.
6. I really loved that tree. Honestly, it was a love affair. That tree was my best friend growing up and, like many true loves, I didn't recognize how important it was to me until it was gone. It got chopped down when I was 14 years old so that my Dad could build a garage. I still miss that tree and feel sad about it sometimes.
7. I remember watching Sesame Street on an old black and white television set that was probably only 13 inches wide. That was the only TV we had for quite a while.
8. I lived about a block away from my Grandpa M when I was a kid. I used to run to his house and help him milk his goats.
9. My Grandpa M collapsed in my back yard when I was six years old. He died shortly after this from a blot clot, pumonary embolism, I believe. But, I was six then and don't remember the details.
10. Just before he collapsed, he'd asked me to get him a glass of water. I thought about scrambling up to get a big, grown-up glass for him, but decided on a small tupperware tumbler that I could reach more easily. He drank it gratefully. However, I thought for years after that that I was partly to blame for my Grandpa's death, because I didn't get him a big enough glass of water. When, I told my mother that I felt that way, after I was an adult and aware of how silly this was, she reminded me that I may have been the last person to do something kind for my Grandpa while he was still alive and conscious. I cried all over again. For different reasons.
11. When my mom first told me that my grandpa had died, she says I didn't cry much. I told her that I knew I'd see him again, so I didn't feel sad. I was so certain. That's a certainty that I've carried with me throughout my life, that I will see and hold and love those I've lost in this life again. It is, however, more sad for me now to lose them because I'm more aware of how long it will be before that "seeing them again" comes. But, maybe I really had it figured out when I was six and it really isn't all that long in the scheme of things.
12. I have lots of cousins and lots of aunts and uncles.
13. My Great Aunt Millie and my Great Grandma H raised my Dad. I used to love being at their house, which was full of treasure. They were packrats. So is my Dad.
14. So am I.
15. The reason my dad was raised by his aunt and grandmother is that his parents were killed when he was 15 months old. Between that, my mom's mother dying before I was born and my grandpa dying when I was only six, I've always felt a bit cheated in the grandparent department.
17. I really had a wonderful childhood. Happy, happy growing up years. Lots of freedom to play and explore. Lots of love.
18. I have two younger siblings -- a sister and a brother. I have always (Except for a few years when I was in 4th and 5th grade and somehow got it into my head that it wasn't "cool" to like your siblings.) thought they were two of the most wonderful people in the world. I adore them.
19. I love the theatre. I love acting and directing.
20. The last time I was on stage was in a short play I directed and acted in for the women's organization of my church. It was a musical called "Only a Visiting Teacher" and I had a ball doing it.
21. I also love to sing. I have not performed, other than in my church choir for many years. I feel both sad and guilty about this. It is a talent that I feel I need to share more, but one that I tend to hide.
22. I play the piano and love to write music.
23. I've been working on a musical for years, but I only have snippets of songs and bits of scenes. I keep thinking that I'll wait until I have "time" to complete it. Really, I think I need to just MAKE time. Then, once it's finished, I'll need to learn all about orchestration.
24. I love to write. Period. I especially love to write poetry.
25. I love teenagers. I think they are some of the most intriguing people.
26. I also love children.
27. And I love old people. I used to love visiting the nursing home in the small town where I grew up. I loved listening to the stories the people there had to tell.
28. Really, I just love people.
29. I am a registered democrat, but I always vote based on each candidates merits. So, I voted mostly Republican in the last few elections.
30. When it really comes down to it, I actually consider myself an independent. Probably libertarian.
31. But I'm also a bit socialist in that I believe that decent health care and a basic education are rights, not priveleges. And I have no problem with the idea of the government helping people out with those things.
32. I love playing soccer and I'm actually quite competitive. I'm not afraid to play with anyone and not afraid of getting hurt.
33. I once broke someone's arm while playing soccer. I'm not proud of it and if I could go back, I'd make her chocolate chip cookies and be her personal slave at school until she got her cast off.
34. I'm not very agressive in the rest of my life.
35. Except, perhaps when my Mama Bear comes out. I'll do anything to protect and help my children.
36. I'm a pacifist and a peacemaker at heart. I do not like contention and always try to find a way to help others get along and feel good about themselves.
37. I do, however, love to argue. Not to fight. I love a civilized dialogue and the sharing of ideas.
38. I love any type of good conversation. I especially love to hear what others have to say.
39. I'm always fascinated with what other people think and how they feel and how they express themselves.
40. I especially appreciate people who are willing to "live big" and give the rest of us, through their lives, permission to do the same.
41. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
42. For the last few weeks I've either finished, revised or begun a poem every single day.
43. I still have a hard time riding a bike. Like most kids who grew up in small towns, I rode my bike everywhere. But, I had my fair share of falls and scrapes and to this day, cannot feel comfortable riding a bike long or far or over any major obstacles.
44. I tore one of the ligaments in my left knee the last time I went skiing (2002).
45. I vowed never to ski again. And I haven't.
46. Snowboarding, however is tempting me. Maybe it'll be different. Maybe I'm fooling myself and the only difference is the TYPES of injuries one can get.
47. I met my husband at a church dance when I was 14 and he was 16. For me, it was love at first sight. He just felt like home. For him, it took a few years.
48. We got married here almost 10 years ago. And I'm still so glad we did.
49. Kaitybean was a honeymoon baby. Since she was born three weeks early, she was actually born 4 days before our 9 month anniversary. So, we've had very little "kid-free" time in our marriage.
50. I hope to be a published writer soon. I've got two book ideas in the back of my head, lots of poetry and quite a few finished magazine articles and stories that I just need to get around to submitting.
Created by Heather around 6:20 AM
Monday, April 02, 2007
If I implanted some sort of device in Mashuga's skin that (gently) shocked him if he ever left the yard without my permission?
I'm expected to keep track of this kid, to keep him safe, to keep him from terrorizing the neighborhood.
How exactly am I supposed to do this with a kid like Mashuga?
In the last week he has snuck out of the house to:
All of this without my prior knowledge and permission. And these are just the things I found out about.
I swear to you, I am not a neglectful mother. It's not like I ignore him for hours on end while he's roaming the neighborhood. I usually get him busy with something, go away, come back to check on him and he's gone.
A bell on the door. Now that might be an idea!
Any other ideas? I'm desperate.
And how tightly do you think children SHOULD be reined in? To what extent should I just let him visit the puppy dogs of the neighborhood without freaking out?
What's the balance between freedom and discipline, between trust and watchcare?
I tell you. This child!
Created by Heather around 4:35 PM