Monday, October 30, 2006

#311 - The Curmudgeon's Prayer

UPDATE: Howdy and welcome to all you Junkyard Blogites. Enjoy your visit!

It's nearly 3:30 AM here on the left coast, and I have insomnia. Bad insomnia. I'm about to try to lay down and sleep and will hope against hope that my boss wasn't expecting to see my shiny forehead physically in the office today. I still plan to report to work, mind you, but the line between working virtually and virtually working will be much, much thinner today.

In the meantime, if I were one to recite prayers, this is one I might consider:

Now I lay me down to sleep.
My baggy eyes are sunken deep.
If I should wake with my alarm
I plan to do the darn'd thing harm.

I'll throw it 'gainst the wall at first.
I'll want to hear its innards burst.
(If there is justice in this life,
I'll not wake up my sleepy wife.)

And should I "Snooze" and not "Disarm"
I'll have to shoot my old alarm
Who's been with me through thick and thin.
A .38 should do it in.

Yet, since I've aged a bit of late
and even though the clock I hate,
I'm sure come morn all will be well
'cause I'll likely sleep straight through the bell.


#310 - And the Site Meter Says...

I enjoy looking through the referrals to the Woundup as tracked by Site Meter. They really do yield some surprises from time to time, and show just how many ways - both accidental and deliberate - people come across this blog.

For instance, say "Howdy" to Scrummager over at He was nice enough to place me on his Blog Roll, and I have reciprocated. Don't know much about him yet, except that he appears to be a retired law enforcement type who's enjoying his life in Sanford, Florida. He also claims to hold the ranking of 17,234,675 at Technorati which, he claims, are still better odds than the Florida lottery.


I apologize to the poor soul who ended up here whilst looking for Woody's Roundup® toys. I mean, this person had to be desperate. I was on page 8 on Yahoo! and the summary under the link said nothing about toys. Well, that's not strictly true. I did refer to North Korea's playing around with dangerous "tinker toys," but I also used the word "nuclear" in that context.

Is it that time of year already? Woody'd better get on the ball.

Not buried quite so deep on AOL's search engine ("Powered by Google!") was the Cranky Reviewer's review of Il Divo. You remember, don't you? Cam compared the Il Divo Christmas "collection" favorably with William Shatner's "The Transformed Man." Oh, yeah, that review! The search string, by the way, was "IL DIVO FOR HIRE." One shudders at the portent of this phrase.

Meanwhile, the search phrase "homeschooled cover face spelling bee" on Google scored my riposte of CBS' "special report" on homeschooling that aired in October of '03. Oddly enough, CBS never fails to find fault with homeschooling in general, and Christian homeschoolers in particular. But then, if the current crop of CBS "journalists" are all the product of public education, that may well explain a few things.

Finally, I apparently have ensnared more than a few innocents with my ever-popular (in my own mind) Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters. All Uncle Woody can say is, if young conservatives in California are looking to Uncle Woody for advice as to how to vote this November, this country is in for ginormous trouble. I'm flattered, really, young people. But do us all a favor... figure it out for yourselves! I have enough to feel guilty for, if some of my detractors are correct.

Oh, one more before I go; apparently some operative was checking on sources for links to Dick Mountjoy's official campaign website. For you history buffs, waaaay back in May I posted a piece about the laughable state of California's Republican office seekers, particularly Mr. Mountjoy. Apparently, whomever was checking for links to their boss's site found my little missive. Whether they read it or even took it seriously remains to be seen. I can tell you, however, that my opinions have not changed since May. Mountjoy is without question the single most invisible Republican candidate we've ever had for US Senator. I'd be tempted to write "Dick WHO??" on the ballot, except that we're electronic here in Orange County and I'm afraid that Hugo Chavez will laugh at me, or call me "the Devil," or whatever it is our little unhinged neighbor to the extreme south does these days.

Blogs. Gotta love 'em.

Friday, October 27, 2006

#309 - This Is Precisely Why...

...we are not a cat family.

#308 - Why We Homeschool (Reason 429)

Bullet-proof textbooks.

I'm serious. A candidate for Oklahoma State School Superintendent by the name of Bill Crozier really wants to pursue this idea, whether he wins the election or not.

My first reaction was to laugh out loud. I really couldn't help myself. The thought of kids and teachers in a Columbine-type setting crouching behind their textbooks or trying to decide which vital body part to cover with them was just a little too ludicrous for my warped sense of humor.

Then, of course, as I related this story to Mrs. Woody, I realized that it's really my sense of horror that we even need to consider such a thing that is my overriding reaction. In fact, it was the memory of Columbine and numerous other shooting tragedies that sobered me up pretty quickly.

I just can't see this idea adding any real protection to kids around the country. For one thing, it will drive the already prohibitive cost of educational texts sky high. Can you just hear the order clerk? "Will that be with or without the armor-piercing-resistant cover?" For another, I have a hard time imagining that kids are going to take time to think about hiding behind a textbook while in the midst of an all-out panic. How much would a bullet-resistant textbook weigh in comparison with today's glorified paper-weights? Think the kids are having back pains today? Just wait.

All I know is that guns are not an issue here at Wonderwood Academy. Neither, fortunately, are bullet-proof textbooks.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

#307 - In Case You Missed It

Yesterday was declared by our president as "United Nations Day 2006." I know there may have been a few of you who missed that important date, so let me just say that we here at the Woundup celebrated by waking up, getting showered and dressed, and driving twenty six miles to Seal Beach to give a fifteen minute briefing on a tool that I, er, we did not build. How's that for international diplomacy?

In all seriousness, let's pause for a few moments to recognize the U. N. for everything they've contributed over the past six decades:

1. They, um, they... give me a minute... Okay, they've been squatting on perfectly good land in New York City that otherwise would have become tenement apartments by now. They are welcome.

2. They also get nifty license plates that pretty much allow them to park on the same sidewalks where NY taxis are trying to drive.

3. They spend a fair amount of time vetoing anything the United States puts forward for discussion.

4. They keep Kofi Annan from participating directly in his family scandals.

5. Let's not forget serving as a platform for every U.S.-hating socialist who carries a grudge and a picture of Cindy Sheehan in his wallet.

I know I sure feel grateful.

#306 - There's Gambling, and Then...

Cox and Forkum's latest.

So the Fed is restricting online gambling. Big hairy deal. Hey, it's no skin off my teeth since I'm no fan of gambling. It's not entertainment, it's an addiction. Period. (For you who disagree, please refer to Woody's Woundup Rules of Engagement, section 3, paragraph 12 which states, "My blog... my opinion. Your opinion? Your blog.")

That said, here's the ironic quote of the day: (from the evidently omniscient Ayn Rand Institute)
"Why do supporters of the law deny individuals the freedom to spend their hard-earned money on gambling? Because, they say, people will bet and lose more than they can afford. In other words, individuals are inherently incapable of making rational decisions, and thus it is the government's job to protect us from ourselves. This vicious, paternalistic idea has no place in a free society."

I'll lay odds that whoever wrote that has a standing account with Trump in Atlantic City.

So, let me get this straight. People apparently want to restrict some people's rights to gamble away their hard-earned money. This I understand. But they turn to the Federal Government to do that? This is a "rational decision?"

Isn't that, like, fighting fire with gasoline?

Just askin'.

Monday, October 23, 2006

#305 - Campaign Wall of Shame

So it's not just the water in New York. Here in Orange County we have our own candidates who are guilty by association (or otherwise).

Part of the problem is that these turkeys are so intent on hitting all the current political "hot buttons," that they conveniently forget to keep their collective noses clean during the campaign.

Or could it be (he wonders out loud) that the GOP are really just executing a cleverly designed exit strategy so they can blame the Dems when nothing works as advertised in the next two years?

Nah... that's too cynical, even for a life-long Republican.

#304 - Another One Bites the Dust...

(via Drudge)

John Spencer, the GOP challenger to Hillary Clinton, just proved two maxims of mine:

1. Politicians are physiologically incapable of shutting their mouths when it's absolutely necessary. If there's any space in a politician's mouth, his or her foot will be inserted at the most inopportune (or, if you're on the other side of the argument, opportune) time.

2. Career politicians are rarely worth the money they print. Really. Incendiary members of Congress have never (repeat: never) been good for anything except a media circus. Spencer may as well go back to being a local crime party boss, or whatever it was he did for a living before becoming a professional idiot.

Freedom of speech occasionally can and will work against the speaker.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

#303 - Another Voter Guide

The Fetching One has published her own voter guide. We don't agree on everything, but she has the right idea. Read 'em and decide. Then vote. I tend now to automatically throw away every single election junk mail that comes to my box. Mrs. Woody and I have a tradition of sitting down prior to the election, going through the official pamphlet and making our choices. Then we vote.

#302 - Reactionary Blogging

It always amuses me to see the level of reaction to the published word. My amusement stems from the fact that I happen to be a performer. That is, I spend quite a bit of time on stage (although not as much lately... must be getting old) and am always looking for the right delivery. What works in a visual/audio communication does not always (one might even say generally) translate well into the spoken word.

My previous post is case in point.

Perhaps a little background would be in order. My father was a card-carrying curmudgeon. He could snarl like no one I've ever met, either before or since. Naturally, my brother and I have both taken on aspects of Dad's personality in our own lives, and we both tend to snarl a bit in our communications with others.

As an example, whenever we would watch TV news with Dad, we would listen to some story of wrongdoing and Dad would snarl from his chair, "That's precisely why we need public floggings." I don't believe for a second that Dad would ever have been comfortable with having public floggings reinstated in this country (or anywhere else, for that matter), but we who loved him understood both the genesis and the intent of his comments. What he was really saying was that, as a society, we have gone far too soft on criminals. He knew perfectly well that the Savior advocated hating the sin but loving the sinner. However, when you're at home and in a relaxed (somewhat, anyway) setting, your natural thoughts - the ones you tend to keep locked away when you're in the public eye - will often surface. And with Dad, they surfaced like a submarine doing an emergency breach.

The actor in me loved that curmudgeonly aspect of Dad's personality. I even, on occasion, use it with my kids, but always in a kidding manner. My girls have finally gotten used to that (far fewer meltdowns now when I try it!), and even my co-workers know me well enough to rarely take me seriously unless they see one of the warning signs. If I'm snarling, but my face isn't beet-red, then they're safe.

So back to my post. I wrote that immediately after becoming aware of the incident. A man - one of those leeches whom I am required to love - forced himself upon a 15 month old child. Such an act, if memory serves, ranks among the most heinous of crimes for which some forgiveness can still be expected (at some point), but is still one for which full restitution can never be achieved in this life. Not in my view, at any rate. Hence my rather reactionary post, with all the righteous indignation expressed to me in the comments that followed.

Too bad no one could see me snarl when I wrote that.

There are lessons to be learned here, of course. One is that the written word has a far-reaching impact that goes beyond mere delivery technique. In other words, as an actor I receive immediate feedback from my performance. I can tell whether what I've just said had the desired effect. Most of the time, at any rate. But the written word is different; it stands for all time (especially in this day of the internet!) as evidence of what you think. Whether I was actually serious about the death penalty (and I still think there is some merit to adding crimes of this type to the list) for this person will never be known strictly from reading what was written. Would I myself ever be capable of taking another person's life? I simply don't know. I'd like to think that, if it came down to having to defend my family, I might. But I have no way of knowing, and I really don't want to find out. That's one of the primary reasons why I never joined the military. There was always the thought in the back of my mind that I might actually, at some point, be called upon to take someone else's life. Why I would think that way, yet support having others' lives taken to satisfy the demands of justice is something I cannot explain, but I do.

The other lesson would be knowing the danger that comes from taking even the written word at face value. The primary example here would be the traditional press - the so-called "mainstream media" - that for so long has dominated the world of communication. We learn now that our fears of bias in the press were not only well-founded, but that this bias has grown over the past few decades. It has grown to the point where very little of what they write adds any value to my own life, as I would never espouse the ideals they try to pass off as wisdom. Yet many people do take them at face value, and the result is an ever-increasing polarization in our society.

(I am not naive enough to believe that this is the only reason for that polarization, but it sure counts as one huge factor.)

So it is here at the Woundup. There are three rules for "enjoying" this blog. First, this is a rant blog. I tend to use it to be the public face of my faux-snarling personality that I don't tend to show people in real life. Secondly, as a result of the first rule, I would wish that folks not take this blog any more seriously than they would, say, the World Weekly News. Really. Those that know me well know which posts to take seriously. The rest of you just throw a few grains of salt at the screen and relax. Third, remember, please, that Woody does not ever attempt to claim to be an expert at anything. Not on this blog, at any rate. If I can claim expertise in anything, it's in being a Dad, for which I have a completely different (both in style and in scope) blog. If you want to see Woody's spiritual, family-friendly side, go visit The Inner Dad. The rest of what I do here is strictly my opinion. Or, perhaps more accurately, what my opinion would be if I weren't such a darn'd good ol' Mormon boy.

So, to Curtis, Dan, and a few Anonymous types I would say, "blog on." Heck, I wouldn't write this stuff if I didn't think I could get an occasional rise out of people, and I'm glad to see you guys have got your thought processes well entrenched. If I disagree with you, I hope I at least do so politely.

Cheers, from your loving (and curmudgeonly) Uncle Woody

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

#301 - Why I Still Support the Death Penalty

Via Drudge.

This man would be my Exhibit A. (STRONG WARNING: Do not click unless you're in a mood to be enraged! The man is alleged to have done sick things with a 15 month old, then post it on the internet.)

This presupposes, of course, that the man is actually guilty. If so, you know where Woody stands.


#300 - Concert I Wish I Could Attend

The Los Angeles Bach Festival (73rd annual!) opens this Sunday at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, and one of these years I'd like to be able to take the time and just go. If I had my pick of concerts, I'd attend the closer for this year's Festival. Alexander Ruggieri will be conducting the Los Angeles Bach Festival Choir & Orchestra in Bach's "Mass in B-Minor."

The B-minor was my first real experience with Bach as a teenager when I was privileged to perform it with the (then) Ventura County Master Chorale. Quite a way to kick off my career as an amateur choir boy.

The B-minor is possessed of the kinds of stirring polyphonics that Bach reserved for his epic works, and it firmly cemented my desire to pursue classical vocal music as a hobby. (Actually, this is a lie. I had intended to make it a vocation, but let the schooling required for such a task intimidate me. Never got there. So it remains my number one hobby.)

Not coincidentally, one of my favorite works is being conducted by one of my favorite conductors. Alexander Ruggieri is an incredible music director - one I would gladly sing for again given the opportunity. I can only imagine what he'll be able to accomplish with the power of the Festival at his disposal. Alexander is currently the Minister of Music for First Congo, so he also serves as host for the event.

It was under Alexander that I (finally!) reached my vocal prime. Such as it is. It was his ability to teach without condescending that allowed me to learn just enough technique to be able to fake my way through some better-than-average choirs and not make a fool out of myself.

Anyway, if you're anywhere near Los Angeles on the 29th and have $19 to spare ($30, if you want prime seating), I'd attend this one. I would, if time and budget permitted.

The B-minor is not to be missed if it can be helped.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

#299 - Election Thoughts

I've been reading 'round the blogosphere in the wake of the recent Foley blowout, and find the posts over at Hugh Hewitt to be fairly typical of current Republican fears.

Talk centers around voters having a long memory where scandals are concerned, although I would assert that Democrats must have much shorter memories, given their continuing love affairs with Clinton and his cronies. Still, I'm hopeful that in this election, people like Foley (who has already stepped down) will be less on the minds of the electorate than a certain Nuclear Loon who sits across the ocean playing with a particularly dangerous set of Tinker Toys.

Bottom line, folks: If you have any concern for our national defense, voting Democrat is not the way to go. While there a few (VERY few) exceptions, they do not have the defense of our borders or our way of life uppermost on their minds. They have only retreat and appeasement on their agenda. I've worked in the defense industry for over 20 years, and I have never found Democrats to be a friend to the industry unless we threatened to take jobs out of their districts.

Neither party has a lock on ethics. Neither party can claim the upper hand on morals or virtue. If I had my way, the entire Congress would be booted out and handed over to people who can make such claims. But that's not likely to happen in my lifetime, so I'll continue to vote for those who come closest to guaranteeing my safety.

So vote for whom you will in November. Chances are you'll get exactly what you deserve.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

#298 - Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters - 2006 Edition

Updated for the February 5 Primary here.

[As the election looms ever near, I suddenly find that many people come here having searched for a "conservative voter guide" in, I'm assuming, California. No doubt you were looking for a responsible, well-researched, knowledgeable guide. This is not that guide. You could try Flash Report, but only if you understand lawyers. Heaven knows I don't.

This guide is merely my own missive detailing how I - a lone conservative voice in the wilderness - intend to vote this Tuesday. If it provides any entertainment value, you're welcome. If it annoys you, I apologize.

Election time is upon us once again, boys and girls. I know you all look forward to this election with as much joy and anticipation as that root canal you'll be getting next week, and Uncle Woody wants to share in that joy with you.

Of course, living in California, we have what we call "Propositions" or ballot initiatives. We have propositions because our legislature and governor are incapable of doing their jobs, so they need us to do it for them. There are only thirteen initiatives this year (lucky 13!), so Uncle Woody once again offers his "Curmudgeon's Guide for Young Conservative Voters" for this 2006 mid-term election.

Of course, this is only a guide, boys and girls. You may feel differently about some of these initiatives than Uncle Woody does, and that's okay. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, no matter how wrong-headed their thinking may be. Uncle Woody should also mention that he has not yet run this guide by Auntie Mrs. Woody, so his own opinions may change before we actually have the chance to vote.

So, boys and girls, pop some Reddenbacher®, sit back, and let Uncle Woody guide you through the mysteries of this year's ballot measures:

1A - Transportation Funding Protection
1B - Highway Safety, Traffic Reduction, Air Quality, and Port Security Bond Act of 2006
1C - Housing and Emergency Shelter Trust Fund Act of 2006
1D - Kindergarten-University Public Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006
1E - Disaster Preparedness and Flood Prevention Bond Act of 2006

Uncle Woody wants to like the 1A through 1E initiatives; he really does. They sound like very important measures that will provide some desperately needed money for our crumbling infrastructure. Of the bunch, though, the only one Uncle Woody can support is 1A. Why, you ask? Because 1A is the only one that doesn't require issuing bonds to fund it.

Uncle Woody doesn't much care for bond measures, because bonds are really just a way of deferring the debt for a period of time, with no real guarantees that we'll have the money to pay them off later. And if investors got cranky enough, they could cause the state a lot of grief. Did you boys and girls happen to read the "Overview of State Bond Debt" in the voter information guide? Well, Uncle Woody did, and for him it reads like the screenplay for "Fatal Attraction." And Uncle Woody never even saw the movie.

Bond measures are, for the most part, evil, boys and girls, and Uncle Woody advises against them. Especially in this election. Uncle Woody really wants to know what the state has been doing with all the money that California voters have been giving or granting them for the past several decades. Until they can reassure Uncle Woody that they're really doing what they promised to do, Uncle Woody thinks they need to sell a few more of their personal Hummers to finance some of these measures, if you get Uncle Woody's drift.

83 - Sex Offenders, Sexually Violent Predators, Punishment, Residence Restrictions and Monitoring

Yes! Yes! Yes! A hundred times YES! Uncle Woody thinks that, in the absence of public castrations, tougher restrictions on registered offenders will have to do. The only thing Uncle Woody could see that would improve this measure is physically welding those GPS locators on some sensitive portion of the offenders' anatomy, but you can't have everything.

84 - Water Quality, Safety and Supply. Flood Control. Natural Resource Protection. Park Improvements. Bonds.

Can you boys and girls guess how Uncle Woody might vote here? NO, of course. Listen, Uncle Woody is all for improving our water quality. Uncle Woody has been purchasing bottled water for years now (since moving to Anaheim, where Disney has done nothing to improve the water in this area!), and will continue to do so for as long as local water tastes like something that should have stayed flushed the first time. Flood control? You bet. Uncle Woody happens to live in a flood zone, and does worry about that. Protecting our "natural resources" (Hollywood does NOT count), and improving our parks? Go team. But, here again, BONDS are required to do all of this. Hey, Uncle Woody has a better suggestion: Let's just add another 3 or 4 dollars' tax onto every bottle of beer sold in this state, and see what that does. You boys and girls shouldn't be drinking that stuff, anyway. You'll thank Uncle Woody in the long run. Really.

85 - Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minor's Pregnancy.

The fact that we even need such a measure bothers Uncle Woody. A lot. And the worst part is that it does not deny the performance of an abortion, it only defers it for 48 hours. Abortion is something that makes Uncle Woody very, very sad, boys and girls. Uncle Woody would much rather talk about abstinence, personal responsibility, and improving adoption laws already on the books. But no, we have to decide whether to make teenagers wait for 48 hours before going ahead with an abortion, whether Mom and Dad agree or not.

Uncle Woody votes NO. Not because Uncle Woody thinks his girls should have immediate access to an abortion, but because anyone would think that such an abortion is acceptable under any but the most grievous circumstances. Uncle Woody thinks we should be spending much more energy on helping our girls stay pure until they're old enough to truly decide for themselves.

86 - Tax on Cigarettes

See Uncle Woody's comments regarding such a tax on beer under Proposition 84 above. Of course Uncle Woody wants to tax someone $2.60 extra per pack. Uncle Woody is not altogether convinced that the money will end up where they say it will (Uncle Woody hasn't believed our money ever goes where it's promised since we approved the Lottery in this state), but Uncle Woody will think it's worth it if it drives one more person to for heaven's sake GIVE UP THE HABIT.

87 - Alternative Energy. Research, Production, Incentives. Tax on California Oil Producers

Uncle Woody votes NO on Prop 87, but not for the reasons put foward by the oil industry. Remember Uncle Woody's basic premise: governments and bureaucracies need to be more accountable with the money we already give them. Taxing the oil companies an additional $4 billion with no guaranteed reductions on fossil fuel use is really just pie-in-the-sky thinking. In other words, if Uncle Woody's going to get hit at the pump (and, despite assurances by pro-87 forces to the contrary, we will get hit at the pump), Uncle Woody wants it to be for some actual project. Say, for example, the $4 billion were specifically earmarked for building more hydrogen refueling stations across the state, with a portion used to incentivize car makers in developing lower-cost hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. THAT Uncle Woody would vote for. For now... no plan, no vote.

88 - Education Funding. Real Property Parcel Tax

Uncle Woody is of two minds on this one, boys and girls. Uncle Woody wants you young people to stay in school, certainly, and Uncle Woody would love to know that you boys and girls are in a safe, moderate environment where you get plenty of attention from your teachers. This measure is supposed to raise Uncle Woody's property taxes by $50 a year, which would raise something like $450 million to be distributed throughout the state. Big hairy deal. Uncle Woody is pretty sure that $450 million a year would barely cover the costs of all those whiny commercials that the California Teachers Association put out begging for more money every week.

Still, even though Uncle Woody is a homeschooler and doesn't have union troubles to deal with, Uncle Woody also feels it to be his civic duty to make sure that we have public schools available, and that they are as current and safe as can be. Uncle Woody votes YES for this one. You're welcome.

89 - Political Campaigns. Public Financing. Corporate Tax Increase. Campaign Contribution and Expenditure Limits

Uncle Woody smells dead fish here, boys and girls. Campaign reform laws have not worked at the national level, and Uncle Woody sure as heck can't see them working at a state level, either. Uncle Woody recognizes that holding candidates responsible for their ethics (or, more generally, lack thereof) is very important, but here's the lesson: If you boys and girls want to have a reputation for being honorable and responsible, don't become politicians.

Uncle Woody votes NO. The fish ain't getting any deader.

90 - Government Acquisition, Regulation of Private Property

Uncle Woody supports this initiative. Strongly. For the past several years, Uncle Woody has looked on in horror while people have had their lives turned upside down merely because a city wants to "revitalize" some portion of the town. Uncle Woody thinks that eminent domain has its place, but that place should only be for extraordinary circumstances. Certainly they should have the option of condemning properties that pose a threat to the health or safety of the community. But taking a person's property merely to "develop" that property for revenue is - among other things - selfish, greedy, and unnecessary. Don't be like the government, boys and girls. Care about your neighbors. Uncle Woody votes NO.

That's it, boys and girls. You can cut this guide out and take with you for something to read while you wait in line to vote next month. (Like that's ever happened where you live.) Uncle Woody is proud of you for voting this year. (You are voting this year, right??) Uncle and Auntie Mrs. Woody want you to be responsible voters. Of course, where candidates are concerned, you boys and girls are on your own. Whichever sex-scandal-plagued, ethically-breached candidate or party you belong to, you have your Aunt and Uncle's condolences. Do your best, and Uncle Woody will still love you.

Unless you vote against Uncle Woody. Then you're out of the will.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

#297 - Questions Republican Candidates Must Ask (UPDATED)

Fetching Jen comes up with 15 questions for liberals, and receives some interesting responses. How would you answer them?

UPDATE: I get answers, too. Interesting how my more innocuous pieces - pieces where I do none of the work - generate more comment traffic than the ones to which I actually give some thought.

#296 - The NEA (National Educators Anonymous) - UPDATED

Mrs. Woody is plugged into a homeschool news list that keeps track of items of interest to homeschoolers, or educators in general. We, of course, are "dedicated" (read: insane) homeschoolers, which means that we are constantly looking over our shoulders to see what our state and local officials are up to. We watch them nearly to the exclusion of all other agencies and it's sometimes easy to forget that one group in particular - the national union - has more of a say in educational matters than I will ever be comfortable with. I refer, of course, to the National Education Association, and they are (for my taste) more dangerous than Hoffa's Teamsters have ever been.

Their current hot-button campaign is related to dropout rates among the nation's high schools. (At some point, I guess, they might address the nation's junior high dropout rates, but we have to credit them for starting somewhere.) They have developed - get your wallets out! - a twelve point action plan that, given enough resources (read: your tax dollars) should go a long way toward improving students' chances for graduation.

Allow me to summarize the 12-Step Program... um, 12-step...

Boy, does that sound familiar...

Sorry. Anyway, here is a summarized version of:
NEA's 12 Dropout Action Steps:

1. Mandate high school graduation or equivalency as compulsory for everyone below the age of 21.

The only thing worse than compelling a child to learn at a government standard pace is compelling them to graduate by a federally mandated age. I have never liked "No Child Left Behind" precisely because I don't believe the government is smart enough to determine just how old Johnny should be when he begins to read. Or do math. Or dissect frogs. I homeschool precisely because I know my children well enough to know when they're ready to learn those things. The government will never be that smart. Ever.
2. Establish high school graduation centers for students 19-21 years old

Aaaah. Everyone say it with me: "More schools require more teachers! More teachers require more funding! More funding requires that some other program(s) be cut from the budget!" No matter, so long as their almighty union grows. The NEA uses the term "specialized instruction" to describe this step. Specialists tend to cost even more money than generalists, last time I paid any attention. Speaking of which:
3. Make sure students receive individual attention

Now they want to push lower class sizes all the way to down to 18. Can't do that without MORE TEACHERS, ER, MONEY. Can you?
4. Expand students' graduation options

Hm. Whenever I see the phrases "creative partnerships" and "alternative schools" in the same paragraph, I instantly think of "designer graduation requirements." The professional educators have shown themselves incapable of standardizing on a single set of graduation requirements. What makes them think they'll be any more successful in managing multiple standards?
5. Increase career education and workforce readiness programs in schools

This puts me in mind of the old "Career Development" programs they tried on us in the 70's. I kept taking so-called "aptitude" tests, and consistently (I mean, every single year) those tests told me I should be a physical therapist. Either I was lying, or they were. Now I'm a computer geek. Whom do I blame for that??
6. Act early so students do not drop out

Ya think?? That's a brilliant line of thought, except for one small problem. This is where they continue to tout "universal preschool" and "full-day kindergarten" (high quality, of course!) along with any number of other programs designed to rob a child of its childhood forever. For heaven's sake, what is wrong with letting a kid be a kid?
7. Involve families in students' learning at school and at home

This sounds suspiciously like something we in the church tout all the time, except for two worries: First, they use the term "new and creative ways" which always means "more expensive." Second, nowhere do they address any of the real societal pressures that make involvement so difficult. Things like: both parents working outside of the home; gang influences; self-destructive popular culture, and so on. Show me a comprehensive, sensible solution to those problems, and then I'll be impressed.
8. Monitor students' academic progress in school
9. Monitor, accurately report, and work to reduce dropout rates

Haven't schools been trying to do just this for decades now? I mean, it hasn't worked so far... what makes the NEA so sure it'll work now? If anything, the word "monitor" in union-speak always (and I mean: always) means "bureaucracy." Which, I'm sure, would be staffed by more professional educators, yes?

By the way, read the full paragraph for step 9 carefully. Is it just me, or doesn't that smack a little of profiling?
10. Involve the entire community in dropout prevention

Give the NEA an A+ for effort on this one. This step I can actually get behind and enthusiastically support. I'm all for making it easier for parents to attend conferences with teachers, and community involvement in the learning process. I've seen examples of such things in many communities, and think some things (like the release time from work policy) ought to be encouraged nationally. Go team.
11. Make sure educators have the training and resources they need to prevent students from dropping out

Well, duh. Nothing new here... that's what we send educators to school to learn, no? As for resources... well, as my ex-teacher wife might say, there's never enough of those. However, using my ex-teacher wife as an example, I could also say that the best resources she brought to the classroom were the ones she created herself, using little more than her imagination, her talents, and some relatively inexpensive materials. I'm not saying she didn't spend a lot of money as a teacher - certainly she never made more than a pittance compared to many industries. However, what she did, she did out of love for her students. That made all the difference. It makes even more of a difference in our little completely-self-funded homeschool today.
12. Make high school graduation a federal priority

Finally we get to the bottom line where the NEA is concerned. Give us $10 billion a year for the next 10 years or you'll never see your education again! And if your state doesn't toe our nationally-mandated line, we'll withhold your funding! BWAAHAHAhAHahahahah! All your education are belong to us!


Really, if they wanted to build a twelve step program, whatever happened to admitting you have a problem, praying to God to know his will concerning the problem, and having a spiritual awakening?

Now, that's a twelve step program!

BY THE WAY... lest you get the impression that Mrs. Woody is not actually still a teacher; nothing could be further from the truth. When I called her an "ex-teacher," what I meant was "ex-professional-teacher." Now, as a homeschooler, she has found a much more rewarding career as an educator, and her credentials have never held more power than they do today. The only difference is that we don't call her "teacher." We call her "Mom."

UPDATE: Mrs. Woody gently reminds me that, love me though she does, she is most definitely a professional educator. It is, after all, her life's calling. What she really is, she still gently reminds me, is an ex-public school-teacher. One might even call her a recovering public school teacher, if I may further flog the overworked analogy.