Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Beware the Ides of March

Today is March 15. For those who might have a good knowledge of history, it is also known as the Ides of March. Often, the quote “Beware the Ides of March” is heard on this day because Julius Caesar was killed by Brutus today. However, in looking at today, perhaps others should pay attention to this fateful warning.

In looking at the news, Saddam Hussein has taken the stand in his own trial. While the judge has gone ahead and closed the courtroom off to the public, one can only imagine what kind of testimony Saddam is giving. If his outlandish actions continue today, any chance of him not being sentenced to death will quickly go out the window.

In Alexandria, Zacarias Moussaoui was hoping that federal prosecutors had made a mistake when they had, according to sources, coached witnesses on their testimony. As much as Moussaoui had hoped that his sentence would not end in death, the judge ruled that he can still face the death penalty.

However, while we have all of these things going on in the world, I look towards my own Ides of March. As many of you know by now, I am a teacher. Last Friday, my school held an In-Service Day, which allowed us to do workshops and get a few better ideas in how to teach different materials. The logic behind it is that when it comes to our classes, you never know if someone else is doing something you can take and make it into your own.

The theme of this conference was “Engaging the Students.” Instead of having a key note speaker, it was decided there would be a panel of teachers who would discuss certain issues and the rest of us would watch them. In this particular panel discussion, there were five things I could not help but notice as problems teachers are facing:

1.) Students are more technologically sound than the teachers and are therefore more open to cheating.
2.) Students demand instant gratification for anything they do.
3.) Teachers are facing a student body with a limited attention span that does not allow for a good learning environment.
4.) Parents, like their children, demand special attention, especially through email. If replies are not sent immediately, parents believe teachers are being rude.
5.) Teachers find themselves becoming embattled in their own classrooms by added pressure and lack of support (not necessarily in all cases) from parents and administration

Fact of the Matter

The fact of the matter on this issue is this: teachers deserve more respect for the things they have to put up with. An examination of each of the five points I listed should give an insight into what seems to be wrong.

Students being more technologically sound than their teachers shouldn’t come as a surprise, namely because the number of younger teachers is far lower than that of older teachers. As a result, students can try to go ahead and use the internet to go ahead and do their work for them. I know from personal experience that a couple of my own students have tried that in the past. They seem to forget that when it comes to copying and pasting articles from the web will be noticeable, not to mention the level of intelligence that is put into each article.

When it comes to gratification, students seem to want that all the time. It is as if, “I just breathed, I deserve a reward.” In dealing with my own students, there seems to be a strong desire on the part of the students to get anything and everything they can as a reward from me. Is hard work and the success of doing a job well done not reward enough?

As for a lack of attention, video games and fast paced forms of entertainment has created a generation of students who need to have new stimulus introduced to them every few minutes. Am I the only one who misses the good old days of where some forms of entertainment took time? I still like the little plastic army men and collect them to form two huge armies. When it is “go time” for the battle, I take the better part of a week to conclude it. The advantage of doing that is that all of these things take time. You learn how to pace yourself. If students are taught to pace themselves, they can go through classes and not get bored by the material.

One of the greatest, but also most damning tool teachers have to deal with is email. As a resource, this tool can be very beneficial because teachers can notify parents of a student’s misbehavior in the classroom. The problem with email is that teachers can get swamped with multiple emails and have to determine which ones are the most important to reply to. In effect, it is like triage. If a parent does not like the fact that the teacher takes a little time to reply, they get mad at the teacher.

Finally, teachers find themselves being attacked on virtually all sides when it comes to teaching. With students, parents, and administration coming down on them, the poor teacher decides that anything is better than having to deal with this. While this is not always the case with every school and parent, there are some schools where this happens.

So what causes all these problems? Well, there are multiple areas to look at. First, the lack of attention is something discipline can take care of. In addition to that, a good teacher will be able to keep the attention of their students with different lessons that can appeal to everyone. Second, parent/teacher/administration relationships will have their ups and downs.

But in the end, the big cause for the problems we have today when it comes to the students is that fact that the students are being coddled to the point that they don’t feel they need to take responsibility for anything. If the elementary school teachers do not teach students how to be individuals and learn to not only take responsibility for their actions, but also how to be independent, then the students will expect to be treated the same way they were in elementary school in high school. Reality: in high school we are preparing the students for college. If the students do not learn how to figure things out on their own and be individuals, then they will get eaten alive in the real world.

The whole idea that a child’s self esteem can be damaged if a teacher stands up to the students and reminds them that their place is as the learner, then what happens to the teacher? Answer: the teacher loses all authority in the classroom. Self esteem can be found in other areas.

However, parents are also to blame for some of the problems teachers have to deal with. The problem here is the breakdown of the family unit in this country. If there are parents who work all the time and never see their kids, they are not always going to be aware of what their “darling” children are really up to. Instead, they will side with their kids over the teacher and argue that the teacher is in the wrong.

Let me tell all the parents who read this something right now. YOUR KIDS ARE REALLY THAT BAD!!!!!!!!! YES, THEIR INTELLIGENCE IS OFTEN IN QUESTION! (Ok, I will admit that one is a stretch, but not by much.) If a student does not know how to spell “strict”, “schedule”, “Lincoln”, and “intervene” there is a problem. The most important thing teachers need is the support of the parents in the classroom.

So why did I talk about my own Ides of March? Well, if you haven’t figured it out yet, EVERYDAY is my Ides of March and every student is my Brutus.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Follow Up

In a follow up to the previous post, an article on examines the rights of a man when it comes to unintended pregnancies. The article centers around a gentleman Matt Dubay, who currently pays child support for the child he helped create with his ex girlfriend. According to Dubay, he was told by his ex that due to a medical condition, she was unable to get pregnant. Subsequently, she did get pregnant and he is forced to pay 500 dollars in child support. Dubay is a computer programmer.

What is unique about this article is that the lawyers in the case feel Dubay is most likely going to lose the care. However, the hope is that this will generate discussion in the general public about whether or not men deserve to have a say in being responsible for an unintended pregnancy. Mel Feit argues in this case that “There's such a spectrum of choice that women have -- it's her body, her pregnancy and she has the ultimate right to make decisions. I'm trying to find a way for a man also to have some say over decisions that affect his life profoundly.” Ironically enough, this case has been dubbed Roe v. Wade for men.

Needless to say, women’s groups have now come into action on this issue, namely because of the name this case has been given. Jennifer Brown, who is a member of the group Legal Momentum, objected to this title for the case, saying, “Roe is based on an extreme intrusion by the government -- literally to force a woman to continue a pregnancy she doesn't want. There's nothing equivalent for men. They have the same ability as women to use contraception, to get sterilized.”

Mel Feit counter this argument by saying, “Roe says a woman can choose to have intimacy and still have control over subsequent consequences. No one has ever asked a federal court if that means men should have some similar say. The problem is this is so politically incorrect. The public is still dealing with the pre-Roe ethic when it comes to men, that if a man fathers a child, he should accept responsibility.”

What if the woman decides to keep the child instead of getting an abortion? Feit says after a small waiting period that, “If the woman changes her mind and wants the child, she should be responsible. If she can't take care of the child, adoption is a good alternative.”

In the final paragraph of the article, an interesting comment was made from the head of NOW. “None of these are easy questions,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “But most courts say it's not about what he did or didn't do or what she did or didn't do. It's about the rights of the child.”

Fact of the Matter

The fact of the matter on this issue is this: in an age of political correctness, it is rather ironic how women will want to be equal when it benefits them and also be unequal when it benefits them. Think about it. A woman always says she wants to be treated as an equal and be given a level playing field. Uh oh, she becomes pregnant with a child she didn’t see coming. Now she wants the man to support her because it is all his fault. See the irony?

Let’s look at two quotes from the article again and consider a few things. Jennifer Brown says that Roe was based on an extreme intrusion by the government. Well, last time I checked, the judiciary is part of the government. When a man is served with papers of a lawsuit which states he has to pay child support, it can be socially damaging to him. Would this not qualify as government intrusion into his life?

And then there is Kim Gandy. As I chuckle at this point, I should point out that the National Organization for Women is notoriously well known for be pro abortion. Yet, Kim Gandy said, “Most courts say it's not about what he did or didn't do or what she did or didn't do. It's about the rights of the child.” WAIT A SECOND! “Rights of the child?” Does this mean that a fetus in the womb is a person? Is the president of NOW admitting that the fetus has rights?

While I doubt this case will resolve any of the issues that have come up, I do believe we must remember a couple of things. First, when a man and a woman engage in sexual activities, they should realize that there is the potential for creating a new life. Second, BOTH individuals should accept responsibility for their actions. Finally, STOP WHINING! There is a more important concern to think about and that is the baby. This is a person who still deserves the right to live and have an opportunity to do something with this life. So for both sides: GROW UP. GET OVER YOURSELVES.

Monday, March 06, 2006

The "Right" to Choose

In looking at the news today, there are a few stories that have caught my attention, but I plan on looking only at one of them. In South Dakota, legislation to end abortions in the state has been signed by the governor and is expected to take effect in the summer. If the law is bale to go into effect, doctors in the state can be put into prison for five years and pay a five thousand dollar fine for performing an abortion. In fact, all abortions, including rape and incest cases, are banned in South Dakota. There is only a narrow margin of error where a doctor could perform an abortion is the life of the mother is in dire or if the fetus died by accident.

Pro-life groups see this particular piece of legislation as a major step in over turning the Roe v Wade decision the Supreme Court made back in 1973, which legalized abortion in the United States. Pro-choice advocates are now finding themselves in a difficult predicament. Planned Parenthood plans on challenging the South Dakota law in an attempt to stop the limitations of a woman’s right to choose. Although Planned Parenthood is considering all of its options at the moment, it is been reported that an anonymous individual donated ONE MILLION DOLLARS for the purpose of defending the pro-life law and keep it in place.

Fact of the Matter

The fact of the matter on this issue is this: abortion is a social irresponsibility. Let’s face it, when it comes to abortion, there are certain messages that are sent to both the men and women involved with the situation. For the man, he knows that if he doesn’t want to take responsibility for creating a child, he tells his girlfriend that she must get an abortion if she wants him to stick around. As for the woman, certainly being forced into this position from the man is difficult. In addition to this, the woman finds herself feeling that people will look at her differently.
The cynic in me says that everyone does have the right to choose. A man can choose whether to keep his zipper up and a woman can choose to keep her knees together. This idea does not sound too unreasonable to me.

As for me, I am against abortion, for those who haven’t figured it out yet. Over the weekend, I pondered an interesting statement made by a blogger known as NoVA Democrat. He stated that a fetus is not truly a live until a central nervous system is in place. On this point, I must disagree. An individual is alive when the heart begins to beat. Thanks to medical technology today, mothers can listen to the heart beat of their children while inside the womb. As a result, we know there is a life inside of the woman. In addition to this, we now know that a fetus can sense and knows when the mother is happy, sad, anger, frustrated, and every other emotion under the sun. As a result, the fetus can react to the mother’s emotions.

Some folks ask about the consciousness of the fetus. Does this fetus have the ability to think? I have a question for them. Does a mentally handicapped kid have the ability to think? Do children with nuerological issues have the ability to think? The standard answer might be yes, but how often do we look at those children, shake our heads, and give this sense of pity over letting them live a life that is otherwise hindered by their handicap?

I will be honest with all of you when I say that trying to think about what to say next is difficult. I have spent the better part of fifteen minutes trying to think of how to continue with this post. The reason is because this is a difficult issue to talk about. However, after some careful thinking, I have thought of a final point on this issue.

We have a choice when it comes to bringing a child into this world. We have CHOICE to either give this child every possibility that is within our means. We have a CHOICE to have them work to their potential. We have a CHOICE to either help them or give up them. Finally, we, as individuals, have a CHOICE. We can choose to do something with ourselves or we can choose to quit.