Sunday, May 29, 2005

#163 - One Must Occasionally Disappoint

Dear Newsweek,

I wanted to thank you properly for inviting me to join such an august body of subscribers. Recognizing the journalistic standards to which you hold, I am truly flattered to be offered your special "Professional Rate." I do, however, have a few questions.

First, judging by the rate itself, I'm guessing this rate is only offered to less than 5% of your total readership. Otherwise, I would be forced to suspect that the $20.00 annual fee you're offering me really means that your current mark-up is somewhere topping 1,000%, and I just know that can't be possible. I mean, honestly, how many rubes are there in this country who are willing to fork out $200 annually for your magazine?

Secondly, I refer to your list of "benefits." I appreciate the itemization, by the way. So nice to see a list of perceived benies without all the marketing hyperbole generally associated with such falsehoods.

For example, you state that this "introductory" rate is available to "professionals only." Really? Professional whats, may I ask? Now, granted, my company often refers to me as a "professional," but where on earth did you get hold of this information? Perhaps there is a publication titled "Professionals of America" in which I am featured. Could I trouble you for a copy? It would certainly help prove to my employer just how invaluable a resource I must be and could help me leverage a better raise.

Also, you offer a "Money-Back Guarantee" on all unmailed issues. Has this been a problem for you? I mean, I know we're only talking $20 here, but if delivery is a problem, why would I bother? None of my other magazines seems to have trouble getting here. Heaven knows, that includes the ones I never asked for!

Tell me more about this "Tax-Deductible Status" you offer if I use the magazine for business. Does that mean if I take the magazine in to work every week, I get to knock another $20 off my taxes? I must admit to being tempted. Must ponder this one further.

Finally, there's the promise of your special year-end double issue, "Who's Next." As a responsible consumer I can only ask, "Next for what?" I wish to take this opportunity to gently remind you of a small incident connected with less than savory reporting of a non-incident that consequently resulted in violence and death abroad. I'm sure you remember the one. The ominous sound of "Who's Next" calls to mind the stereotypical school yard bully who bloody's one child after another, then turns around with a maniacal glint in his eye and asks, "Who's next?" Dare I inquire as to whom you intend to mark for your next piece of irresponsibility? Myself, perhaps, for daring to question your journalistic integrity? One shudders at the mere thought.

No, on balance I'm afraid I must decline your most generous offer. I'm not much of a magazine reader these days. News magazines, to me, represent what might blithely be called "mainstream media," and, as such, are of questionable value. I blog, myself (terribly haute culture, you know) and find far better expressions of what today constitutes the bulk of my research into public affairs.

Sorry to let you down. Please feel free to pass this offer along to some poor lawyer who hasn't yet paid back his school loans.



Monday, May 23, 2005

#162 - Friends in All the Wrong Places

Good thing: Having someone agree with me that the No Child Left unBrainwashed Act doesn't work.

Not-so-good thing: It's the American Federation of Teachers.

This is a little like saying the Cavalry should stop attacking the Injuns. Let's send in the Klan instead.

I have made no secret of my contempt for NCLB. The very idea that students must progress at the same rate determined by some panel of random experts has always been abhorrent to me. There is no such thing as a "one size fits all" education. Period. Branding a child as a failure (you can call them whatever you like, but that's the message they'll get) simply because they're not ready to adhere to your neat and tidy curriculum is, in my opinion, criminal. Those who concocted the Act to begin with need to be sent back a few grades and made to try again.

Parents, too, need to step back and take a macro look at what they're expecting their kids to do. Parents who are so eager to get their children into education-rich environments at the earliest possible ages may well miss so much of what makes childhood special for the kids. My daughters, for example, both read well beyond their current grade levels. In math, they're just about dead even with their relative ages. My (nearly) eight year old, though, occasionally exhibits the attention span of a flea when the course work gets a little intense. Imagine some teacher having this bouncing ball of energy in his or her classroom where other kids seem able to control their fanny-springs. She'd probably be evaluated for ADD or ADHD in today's academic environment. But I know my daughter. She's a lot like her Daddy, in fact. I had the same problem as a youngster, and it had nothing to do with any syndrome, real or imagined. I simply had a hyperactive imagination, and it manifested itself most prominently during the more boring parts of school. During those moments, school was truly in the way; an obstacle to be overcome. Unfortunately, since I wasn't becoming the little fact-spewing automaton the educators expected me to be, I spent a lot of time explaining my embarrassing report cards to Mom and Dad.

Those were the days!

My problem with having the AFT echo my sentiments regarding NCLB has nothing to do with the fact that these are teachers who are complaining. My problem is that this is a union of teachers who are complaining. Unions have no reason to exist other than to beg for money, then spend it all begging for more money. This is the way Congress creates budgets and tax codes, by the way. Also, unions always have an "agenda." "Agenda," as defined by the union, means "Keep yer nose, eyes, and ears out of my classroom, if you know what's good for you."

Also, the union does not generally represent the real personalities of many, many teachers I have known throughout my life.

Most teachers I know have genuine interests in bringing education to life for their students. They have a real love for the profession, and most go the extra mile for countless students every year. They are generally underpaid, overcrowded, and unappreciated. They hate the educational bureaucracy as much or more than we do. They despise the idea that they must continually return to school themselves - generally out of their own pockets - just so they can learn the latest new-fangled "theories" from professional academics who've never had to stand in front of a class of hyperactive 10 year olds and try to make learning about sentence diagramming more fun than, say, putting a huge semi-chewed wad of gum on the seat in front of them. They already know that the public education system in this country is broken, and they spend more time than we credit them thinking about how to fix it.

The unions do no such thing. They already know the answer to the problem, and that answer requires money. Your money. My money. The teachers' money. And their "agenda." Whatever that may be.

Well, thanks, AFT, for supporting me on this issue. Do me a favor, though. If you want to ask for my help, just back slooowly away from my wallet.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

#161 - Many Happy Returns!

Way Off Bass turned one on the Blogospheric Calendar yesterday!

Although he is my younger brother, he's always been of the quicker mind and it surprises me not at all that he's been a few steps ahead of me as a blogger. In fact, my younger bro happens to be my BlogFather. Go figure.

So, Happy Blogiversary, Cam! Whatever form your blogging takes in the future, know that it will always be extremely important to at least one segment of your audience.

Monday, May 02, 2005

#160 - Utah: Love It or Hate It

Y'know, if it weren't for those danged crazy Mormons infesting all of Utah, I'd move there in a heartbeat.

Seriously, if you happened to catch "Cold Case" on the tube last night, you'd know by now just how crazy we must be. Our men all suffer from military attitudes. We apparently force our young people to wear temple garments despite the fact that a) they're too young to wear them, and b) they have no real idea why. Our moral strictness apparently forces youngsters into amoral dementia by teaching them that sex is evil, until you're married. This naturally sends young men into delusional "god told me she was dirty" killing sprees.

So, without question, I keep Utah in my hip pocket.

The "hip pocket" position is one of the first negotiation tactics you learn in business. Always go in with a fall-back plan. Something to whip out when your first plan just isn't going to work. I must note, for the record, that I am a lousy negotiator. For one thing, I have daughters. Anyone who happened to read "Non Sequitur" today will instantly know to what I refer. Also, I tend to freeze up when dealing with forceful personalities, such as car salesmen and other members of the leech family. This is why Mrs. Woody is our designated vehicle buyer. My hip-pocket position usually consists of trying to get out of the financing office with one of my two remaining shirts still in my possession.

"So, why," you ask, trying desperately to get me back to my original point, "do you consider Utah to be a 'hip-pocket' position?"

Good question. To answer this, I point you to a recent article on "" regarding a new law recently enacted in Utah.

The original bill was sponsored by a freshman state senator by the name of Madsen. Sen. Madsen had a child who had reached the age where he would need to start filing exemptions with his local school district before being able to teach the child at home. Sen. Madsen tells of thinking that, hey, this law is a tad vague, and decided thereupon to research it. The result is this law that shields homeschooling parents from having to meet state credentialing criteria, or having to submit to standardized testing.

This, in conjunction with Utah's recent knock-down of Bush's No Child Left Unbrainwashed, er, Behind, makes the Deseret State my hero. Well, and Sen. Madsen, too.

In fact, that law alone would make Utah an extremely powerful draw if California continues to harrass homeschoolers the way some families have been made to suffer in recent months. We've been fortunate to fly just under everyone's radar so far; filing our R4 affidavits like the good, law-abiding citizens we are. But it wouldn't take much to make me give moving to Utah serious consideration if the California EduNazis somehow succeed in overriding my constitutional rights.

I've always admired Utah's devotion to parent-directed education, and this really just clinches it for me.


An aside to the writers of last night's "Cold Case" episode: Try doing a little research, guys, before tossing your ignorance out there for all the world to see. As one old philosopher once noted: Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool, than to open it and erase all doubt.

Sheesh. What a market you could have had.