Lessons That Can’t Be Measured: Redux!

Author’s Note: I wrote the following screed back in May of 2012 on my personal Facebook Page. Besides my writing and photojournalism work, I am an 8th grade Science teacher. For the last two days, I have been teaching my students what factors are responsible for formation of the wind. After reading the textbook, me lecturing to them with visual aids and two videos (one even an animated cartoon), many of the students are still struggling to understand this simple concept. At the end of the day, I was thinking about how the length of attention spans, cognitive abilities and academic skills of the kids I teach today compares to kids I taught ten years ago. It was during this reflective moment I remembered writing the following:

COG_Arlington

I was recently looking for a certain picture on an old hard drive and came across a folder of pictures from one of my favorite moments I experienced as a teacher. In 2008, several teachers, parent chaperones and I took approximately 60 eight grade students to Washington DC during Spring Break.
It was a difficult task to raise the money, but the kids came through. With a few donations from the local business community and teachers, we were able to make a trip possible that literally changed kids lives.
The most memorable event for me from that trip was our tour of Arlington National Cemetery. During this tour, we split into groups. With myself and our group of kids were two other teachers, my friends Mike, who was the orchestra director and Dean, a fellow science teacher and coach. As we walked towards the public viewing gallery, we saw a funeral in the distance on a hill for a naval officer that I later found out had been recently been killed in Iraq.
As we sat the kids down in the gallery bleachers, my first instinct as a teacher was to watch for the cell phones and iPods to come out and the kids to start “geeking”. However, they were totally transfixed by the lone sentinel as he walked his 21 steps, paused for 21 seconds, then turning and walking back to the point he started, repeating this lonely march until the white gloved relief commander came out to announce the Changing of the Guard Ceremony.
The kids were focused upon the┬áretiring sentinel and relief commander as they performed the carefully choreographed weapon inspection ritual. Soon the relieving sentinel appeared and all three converged in the center of the black mat where the retiring sentinel delivered the orders to his relief…”Post and orders, remain as directed.” The relieving sentinel answered…”orders acknowledged.” Then, the relief sentinel began his shift guarding The Tomb, a vigil the Army has stood on a 24 hour a day basis since 1937.
We had remained in the gallery to watch a special wreath dedication ceremony. As we waited for the proceedings to begin, the sad, melodic strains of The Naval Hymn came from the funeral ceremony on the hill. The melancholy melody causing a definite reaction in myself and the other two chaperones, as well as the kids. However, this was just a prelude of what happened next. As the ceremony participants placed the wreath, a lone trumpeter began to play taps to honor The Unknowns. As his trumpet sounded the familiar mournful lamentation, another trumpet from high upon the hill began playing the same somber tune. The two trumpeters, one playing, the other echoing the call. A chorus of condolences to all who had fallen in defense of our great nation.
My two fellow chaperones and I tried to put up a stoic front for the kids, but Oakley and RayBan shades hid the real truth of how that doleful duet truly affected us. One look at the kids and we knew…they too had experienced an event that would be with them for the rest of their lives.
Upon our return, there were noticeable changes in some of the students who spent their Spring Break visiting the nation’s capital. One of my students that was applying minimal effort in his studies ended up being commended on his Science and Social Studies TAKS test. Another student, who was unsure of himself went on to become a leader in his high school’s NJROTC unit. Several others former students that went on that trip have told me it was one of the highlights of their school experience.
One week from now, these kids will be graduating from high school and will take their first steps into the adult world. Some will be attending college, some beginning a career, while others will be pondering which direction to take on the road of life. I hope that myself and my fellow teachers gave them enough “life lessons” to be successful in whatever they may choose to do with their lives.
Some lessons that teachers provide can’t be measured with standardized testing or other forms of assessment. The most important tests for these young people lie ahead on their individual journeys. May all who I was privileged to teach pass these test with flying colors!

dctrip2008

The kids I taught in 2008 were exceptional. Almost all of the approximately sixty kids we took on this trip were either recent immigrants or first generation American citizens of Hispanic origins. Many of the students in this group were English Language Learner (ELL) students. For those not familiar with that educational term, it means that English was not their native language. After graduation from high school, many went to college, or started vocational careers. Some now have families of their own and at least one that I am aware of lost a tragic battle to cancer and had her story cut short at a way too early an age!

After revisiting the past, and really thinking about the comparison of my current crop of students to those I taught ten years ago, it is my opinion that there is indeed a marked difference between the two. The students of today are not as functionally capable as those I taught ten years prior. The exposure to constant digital stimulation and total immersion in the culture of excess consumption, coupled with the beliefs and values  received via both the small and large screen, has had a detrimental effect on the youth of America.

Maybe my thoughts on this subject sound like the same sentiment teachers and parents had regarding my generation, but my generation sent men and women to space and built the basis for our modern technological civilization. What will the members of this up and coming generation contribute to the American experience besides daily Instagram selfies and the culture of “entitlement”?

I will have more to say on this in a future post!

 

Fiber Optics Kills the Fourth Amendment

I always knew there was FAR more to the illegal wiretapping programs of the Bush-Cheney wannabe dictatorship, but this recent news story is probably still not the entire story regarding the total efforts to turn “The Land of the Free and Home of the Brave” into a Dictatorship of Senseless Surveillance.

Having experienced the unconstitutional efforts of Uncle Sam’s snoopers in regards to my investigative journalism efforts and political activities in the past, I am sure more is happening in this country than just the wholesale monitoring of the electronic communications of individuals without probable cause and warrants.

Who’s to say who gets access to the information gleaned from this effort.

I know of a lady who once told me a story of something she came across during her employment as a network engineer for the telephone company in Lufkin, Texas. According to what she told me, she came across an unauthorized tap right at the switch and she said the F.B.I was possibly involved. After her discovery of this, she says her career came to an end through harassment and intimidation from her employer.

Her story of government wrong doing intersects my own through mutual friends and situations.

Recently, she contacted me about telling her story via my blog. I have tried to verify her story in the past, but have never been totally successful. I have been torn about her story, what has become of her and where the truth of all things lie, but it might be interesting to post her story and see what happens.

I truly don’t know if she and her story is for real, or she is a disinformation plant trying to screw with me, but if it is, it has been going on for over two years and the in their efforts, the scumbags involved one of Houston’s largest churches that has received recent national attention in the main stream media.

Your Captain will keep you updated on this one!

The Ripple is Still Strong!

mlk

History is like a large pond. It’s depth contains all its content, however it is on the surface where we judge whether something makes an effect on the pond. A small pebble thrown into the pond makes a ripple that spreads across the surface until it finally diminishes to the observer’s eye. Science teaches us that energy is never destroyed…it just changes form. The energy that was transferred from the pebble to the water is still there and capable of facilitating change.

Martin Luther King wasn’t a pebble, but a rock!

The ripples made by his splash in the pond of history released a great energy that brought about true change in this country in a non-violent manner. Ponder Dr. King’s following thought on the danger of using violence to promote change;

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”.

He understood that the path to change was a narrow one that would be difficult to travel, not unlike a journey to a mountaintop.

I have seen the change over my lifetime. The city where I grew up was the Texas stronghold of the KKK in the 1970’s. In fact, the Klan had a bookstore and would have robe wearing morons with signs out by the road inviting people in to talk about their “view of the world”. I went to school with kids of Klan members. I also went to school with Darrell.

Darrell was the first African American student to enroll in the school district where I was a student. The year was 1972, and the school district of my hometown was 98% white, 1.5% Hispanic and 0.5% other, but until then, no African American students.

Darrell was not well received, to say the least! Many students were not very nice to Darrell just because he was different from them. What’s more, even some of the teachers treated Darrell poorly. In fact, the gym coach used to call him derogatory names and every time we boxed in gym,he made sure Darrell had an opponent that was more than adequate to deliver a few good blows. I don’t know what happened to Darrell,because after that school year, he didn’t enroll again. From time to time, I wonder what became of Darrell…it would be interesting to find out how life turned out for Darrell.

For the school district, things have changed remarkably. The school district now has students of various racial backgrounds, as well as a diverse collection of teachers, administrators and support personnel. This was possible because of the actions of Dr. King. It is also the school district where I teach, and I am proud of the changes he help bring about.

It would be interesting to know what Dr. King would think about how far we have come, and remind us of how far we have to go. What would be even more interesting is to see how much more Dr. King would have accomplished, if not for that fateful day in Memphis.

Perhaps the best way to end this post is to leave the readers with one of my favorite quotes of Dr.King’s that our leaders would be mindful to remember!

“Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true”.

Martin Luther King Jr.
US black civil rights leader & clergyman (1929 – 1968)

PS: Too bad his contemporaries such as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have pissed away the power of Dr.King’s legacy and wasted it by becoming “poverty pimps” and shakedown artists!

Oops…she did it again!

Brittney Crunked

Dateline Las Vegas:

America’s Princess of Excess, Britney Spears passes out in a Las Vegas nightclub, dead drunk and has to be carried out by her “handlers”. It seems that this is the second time it has happened in as many weeks.

GOOD GOD, I AM SO TIRED OF HEARING ABOUT THIS WOMAN!

Where are the positive role models today? Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Nicole Ritchie, Lindsay Lohan…and now Ms. USA Tara Conner goes into rehab. These are great role models that our young girls have to idolize today…lets just let them turn out as wannabe, star obsessed pleasure sluts. Its only the future of the country we are talking about!

Also, the same goes for our young men too…wannabee rappers and players.

No wonder we are despised around the world!

R.I.P. Godfather

The Godfather of Soul

Yeah, uh! Get up, now! Ow! Knock out this!
Super highways, coast to coast, easy to get anywhere
On the transcontinental overload, just slide behind the wheel
How does it feel
When there’s no destination – that’s too far
And somewhere on the way, you might find out who you are
Chorus:
Living in America – eye to eye, station to station
Living in America – hand to hand, across the nation
Living in America – got to have a celebration
Rock my soul
Smokestack, fatback, many miles of railroad track
All night radio, keep on runnin’ through your rock ‘n’ roll soul
All night diners keep you awake, hey, on black coffee and a hard roll
You might have to walk the fine line, you might take the hard line
But everybody’s working overtime
(chorus)
I live in America, help me out, but I live in America, wait a minute
You might not be looking for the promised land, but you might find it anyway
Under one of those old familiar names
Like New Orleans (New Orleans), Detroit City (Detroit City), Dallas (Dallas)
Pittsburg P.A. (Pittsburg P.A.), New York City (New York City)
Kansas City (Kansas City), Atlanta (Atlanta), Chicago and L.A.
Living in America – hit me – living in America – yeah, I walk in and out
Living in America
I live in America – state lines, gonna make the prime, that
I live in America – hey, I know what it means, I
Living in America – Eddie Murphy, eat your heart out
Living in America – hit me, I said now, eye to eye, station to station
Living in America – so nice, with your bare self
Living in America – I feel good!

Living In America
James Brown

R.I.P. Godfather!

A cool holiday evening in Texas!

I promised myself that this blog would diversify itself away from my usual political rants, and with this post I am keeping my promise!

After taking care of business this morning, I decided to give myself the afternoon off and take life at a much slower pace. I had a great meal at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Las Brisas, and had a couple of margaritas. I spent time during dinner reflecting on the things I still haven’t accomplished for the afternoon, and decided that since I had completed two-thirds of my planned agenda…WTF…time to enjoy the afternoon.

I went by the bay and watched the pelicans and Mexican parakeets for awhile, but felt the need to head to one of my favorite waterfront bars. This place is definitely my kind of hangout…arrrgh, the Jolly Roger flies from the yardarm and thar bees true Texas pirates about! I joined two older, retired gentleman that were at the bar. They had taken refuge from the wind for a spell and parked the Harleys to enjoy a pint and a cigar. Sitting next to these gentleman was a young couple, and the guy was playing a 12 string Martin guitar, giving the bar patrons a fine serenade. This youngster was playing and singing “All Along the Watchtower” and doing a good job of it!

As this bar room minstrel entertained, I had a fine conversation with the two gentleman and the minstrel’s lady friend. We talked a little politics, but mostly about the day, life in general and enjoyed the tunes. Our musical friend continued with a little more Hendrix, some Pearl (that’s Janis Joplin for you amateurs), then played a few Beatles tunes. Upon trying to play “Day Tripper”, our young friend had trouble with the proper transition rift. Bob, one of the older bikers borrowed the minstrel’s guitar and showed him the correct way to play the rift, just like George Harrison.

I enjoyed watching the older gentleman showing the younger the proper way to play Day Tripper. I enjoyed the songs, the company and the atmosphere. I realize that I am glad to have been born in Texas and proud to be a Texan!

Try to see it my way,
Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.
While you see it your way
There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long.
We can work it out,
We can work it out.
Life is very short, and there’s no time
For fussing and fighting, my friend.
I have always thought that it’s a crime,
So I will ask you once again.

We Can Work It Out
The Beatles