Schools or Prisons?

I read this article about where the public education system is headed:


If you live in New York, or a city where this type of system exists or is being considered, I strongly encourage you to contact your city council and school board members to speak out against it, and encourage your neighbors to do so, as well. 

Firstly, schools should be educational institutions, not preparation centers for creating inmates. Police officers (or agents, in this case) are not trained to help kids learn and grow, they are trained to pursue, subdue and incarcerate criminals. In addition, constant police presence and overarching authority over school officials tells students that they are viewed primarily as criminals, and treating kids like criminals doesn't make them better students. 

When kids act up, as they often do, the knee-jerk reaction of someone trained to be an officer is different from a professional trained as an educator. If that officer, who does not understand the ramifications of his or her actions on the long-term development of the child, has authority to override the decision of the educational professional, we lose the kid. We already suffer from brain drain. Americans used to take pride in "thinking outside the box" and innovating, but we now have to import inventors from Asia, the area of the world we once scoffed at for being stringent and constricting. 

Secondly, the schools are not as bad as those who would wish to maintain control would make it seem. The officer interviewed in the article states:

"we have students who don’t want to abide by the rules and regulations"

What he fails to comprehend is that kids test boundaries, it's part of growing up. Sure, you have to dole out punishment on occasion, but you also need to recognize and acknowledge the good and make corrections as necessary, and for eff's sake, you don't punish an honest mistake! No matter how bad things are made out to be, the majority of kids, even at the worst schools, are NOT counterfeiters, smugglers and explosives fabricators. I have been on inner city school campuses and they are not the war zones he makes them out to be. The vast majority, even some that other adults have labeled as "bad", have just been regular kids.

Thirdly, we have become too quick to allow, and even welcome, institutional invasiveness and authoritarianism into our lives in the name of security in this post-911 world. As mentioned in the article, part of the reason this system passed so easily is because some bad incidents allowed feelings of fear to have a disproportionate amount of weight in the decision making process. While those incidents were horrifying, it's necessary to step back and take a wider view. Rather than openly accept such stringent protocols, it will be better in the long run to develop ones that are more appropriate to the situation at-hand.

We need to think first about our students' long-term development and whether we want to raise automatons and fodder for our jails, or productive members of society who will be proactive in keeping this world a healthy, viable place to live. Again, if you live in a city that has these types of protocols in place, or is considering implementing them, please do take a little time to voice concern to your council and school board members.


Bayfront Cleanup

I am not a morning person, but Bertha had asked me to volunteer for this year's Bayfront Cleanup. Bertha has known my dad since childhood, and if say no to Bertha, it makes my dad look bad, which is why I'm now on the board of my neighborhood association. And it's why I tumbled out of my soft, warm bed at 7:30 this morning, still horribly in need of it, then stumbled through the house to feed the animals, threw on the first articles of clothing my fingers touched, splashed some water on my face, used the toilet and was out the door at 8:00.
An hour later, after signing in, wolfing down a free donut and coffee, finding Bertha and the rest of the contingency from my neighborhood, and grabbing gloves and plastic bags, we were in a van headed toward the creek. The portion that runs under a nearby street is an ideal spot for a homeless encampment: a fairly large covered ledge that's sheltered from street and rain; running water (granted, it's cold and none too clean); and public access is blocked by a fence. So it came as no surprise that it actually is frequented by the down and out.
When we arrived, the ledge in the photo above was so covered with bottles, napkins and other trash that the cement underneath wasn't visible. There was also a queen sized mattress.  The photo was taken after a few trash and recycling bags had been filled and dragged up to the street for pick-up. One of the recent inhabitants was (possibly still is) a woman and her children.
Farther downstream, a dam had formed by a couple of branches entangled with quilt, jacket, hose and a couple garbage bags full of items that had been intended for a charity shop. The bags had been taken from donation bins, rummaged through, and the remainder left in and along the creek. We spent what felt like forever untangling, unearthing and dragging the wet, muddy, HEAVY items out of the creek. Those are some of the things we pulled out above before we bagged them up. And guess what? My boots aren't water proof, so I was soaking in microorganism-infested creek water! Next year I'm bringing my own heavy-duty, long gloves and wellies. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and bags and some items were embedded too far in the silt to remove without tools, so a lot of trash stayed where it was. Developing public access to the creek could solve a lot of the problems along it.
Find of the day? A makeshift bong made of plastic bottles and electrical tape. Sadly, when the mayor announced prizes at the after-cleanup lunch for unusual and interesting finds, the bong didn't even receive a mention.
Miss Piggly Wiggly stayed home, because I didn't want to have to clean her up after the clean up. She's just here for Martina.


Sick Day

A Turtle Contemplates Life, North Carolina, 2012

I can count the number of days I have been sick enough as to be utterly useless in my whole life on my fingers and still have a few digits left over. Yet here I lie in bed tapping away at my laptop after having effectively spent the whole day in bed.

I've felt generally drained for the past week, although not actually sick other than developing a sore throat within the last couple of days. Then, last night when I got home from work, I was loopy enough to leave the trunk of my car open all night. I have never even left my car unlocked at night, much less open!

I decided to sleep today away, even though I still feel just general fatigue and not sick-sick. So after dropping the car at the mechanic's shop, running to the bank, hanging the laundry and watering the garden, I grabbed a glass of water and passed out, with my ever faithful Piglette snoring right next to me (her foot or leg is hurt, she needs rest, too!). There was a solid three hours of sleep in there, plus another two in semi-sleep, but I still feel drained. Maybe after a good night's sleep I'll be up for work in the morning...


A Chilly Summer day

View from Chepstow

In the summer of 2008, the company I worked for sent me to Bristol, on the west coast of England, to open a new office and initiate business operations there, because we were THIS CLOSE to obtaining funding. Three months later, I closed the office. Such is the fickleness of start-ups and venture capitalists.

Workaholic that I was, I put in 10 to 12-hour workdays, and often worked 7 days a week. Other than lounging in the lavender steam room and various pools at the Thermae Bath Spa, and a couple of side trips over extended weekends, I didn't get out much. So it came to pass, that the CEO took it upon himself to make me get out for at least one sightseeing trip before I headed back home. We were heading across the bridge to watch whales.

"I love whales, they're so pretty!"
"Not whales, Wales!"
"Yes, exactly."

That's the thing about homophones, isn't it? When you're speaking, you can't tell the difference without context.
View from Caerphilli, low tide

Early one Saturday morning, the CEO, two interns and I squeezed into a car, crossed the bridge and ended up in Yugoslavia. Or so you'd think, because there were suddenly fewer vowels on the street signs. A few miles on was a huge, stone fortress perched high atop a cliff over a river that met the one we'd just crossed, Cas-gwent (Chepstow in English). Several miles south, we ran into another fortification of Norman design, this one with concentric walls. Caerfilli (Caerphilly in English, the only Welsh word I saw that seemed similar to its English translation).
Toodling through the ruins of both fortresses, reading about the military history of the Normans and their conquests and defeats, I couldn't help but think that in this day and age, these massive stone walls in a cool and slightly humid climate would make fantastic wine caves. And they'd be easy to defend!

Just as I was dreaming of my wine cave, some crazy little yellow guy ran into me full force, knocking me down! When my boss tried to pull him off me, the guy hauled off and punched him. Then he knocked down the interns, too, for good measure, before running off and screaming something about lousy 'Murcans. 

"Whoah, was that a banana?"
"Don't be silly, bananas are inanimate, and they wouln't grow in Wales, anyway." 
"Hey, my wallet's missing!"
"Mine, too!"

And that, my friends, is how I, my boss and the two interns, were robbed by an angry little Welsh banana. Pokey Banana has denied all culpability, claiming that area is too far south of his home territory, but he has no alibi for that day...

N.B.: for those who don't know Pokey, he is one of my blogging friends from another site who masquerades as an angry banana.