Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Kid: Part One

Recent trips into the classroom at one public school where I work has inspired a series of blog posts. In fact, it’s reminded me to be thankful I’m not a kid these days.

My main job is to be a writing superhero. My alter ego works as a substitute teacher in local middle and high schools. There are plenty of things there to inspire my creative side, as many blog posts attest.

Unfortunately, all is not magic and unicorns in the realm of public education.

I’ve known this to be true for many years. It’s the main reason I decided NOT to pursue a degree in education when I went back to college in 2010. But in the final weeks of the school year, it was reiterated to me.

Why am I glad I’m not a kid?

Because education in the 21st century is all about meeting regulations and ranking well on state assessments.

Back in my day, school was about learning to read, write, do sums (and other math you never use in real life) in a social environment where you were expected to get along with everyone.

Learning at School?

Isn’t school supposed to be for the purpose of learning?


And not learning how to bully others. Or make excuses for late homework. Or perfect the art of doing as little as possible.

Believe me. Spend a few days in the average public middle school, and you’ll start to wonder.

Who decides what kids are taught in school?

Did you say the teachers? You’re wrong if you did.

Not even the school board has the ultimate power over curriculum.

Nope. Big Brother gets to say what will be taught in school.

Or else.

The fact they require kids to spend weeks and months learning things that do NOT help them understand their culture or prepare them to be an adult isn’t even the worst of it.

It’s not?

High school teachers and counselors in our school district have been heard to say, “Middle school doesn’t really count.”

So, what are they doing there? Why are we wasting six or seven hours of our time hanging out in classrooms?

Every day of school should be preparing kids to be responsible adults. Primary school should focus on the basics of reading. Once they get to third grade, throw in the basics of math. Without those two things, they’re not going to be able to succeed in the upper grades.

Nor will they be able to fill out a job application or make a budget.

Citizenship in School

I’ll be the first parent to tell you that it isn’t the school’s job to teach my kid to be a decent human being. Sorry. If you wait until your kid’s five to start teaching courtesy, discipline and respect, it might be too late.

It is NOT the school’s job to teach my child values or how to treat other people.

School needs to be a safe place to learn the complexities of social interactions.

How do I react if I have to work with a stranger? What if I get stuck with someone I don’t like? What should I do if my teacher doesn’t like me?
And the answer is NOT tell my parents and have them call the school to put me in an ideal situation.

That’s not life. School social settings should prepare kids to face the interactions they will have in the workplace. We’ve all had to work with someone we didn’t know or didn’t like.

I might be the only one who’s ever had a boss that I didn’t get along with, but I’d like to think it’s a common occurrence. And my mom didn’t rescue me from that person because that’s not what being an ADULT is about.

Staff at school should model ideal behaviors, sure. They shouldn’t tolerate bullying. Yes, they should keep kids from beating each other up because school is supposed to be a safe place.

Natural consequences should be allowed to fall on students in cases when it doesn’t mean bodily harm. For example, if you’re late too many times to work, your boss will fire you. There should be consequences for being late to class.

And I don’t want to hear your excuse. You either have a note from an adult…or you don’t. That’s all I need to know.

We’re only hurting the future of our society by failing our students in school. They deserve to learn to read, write and do math, and they should be held accountable for obeying the standard of conduct required in the schoolhouse.

Politics in School

I’m not saying that learning and citizenship don’t happen in schools these days. But those aren’t the priorities.

Government has their fingers in the U.S. educational system, and they like to generate red tape. Schools rely on the government for funding, so they have no choice but to march to the regulatory drumbeat.

Or they can shut their doors.

What happened recently to remind me of politics in school?

A teacher who taught both of my sons and I’ve worked closely with for a decade is transferring to a different position. I didn’t know asking her about it would open a can of worms.

The school has decided to combine language arts and social studies for middle schoolers. This isn’t a new or unusual thing. We had it before when the students could have a humanities block—two class periods for this class.

That isn’t what’s happening. Teachers will be expected to cover the learning goals for both subjects in one hour.

Furthermore, they’ll only receive one day of training on how to do this.

I hope the trainers are handing out Time Turners or some other magical device that will stretch one hour in to two (or ten).

How can students be expected to learn twice as much content in half the time? How can teachers be expected to teach twice as much content in half the time?

The biggest problem I have with this: the school is doing this because of budgetary constraints. They will use fewer staff to teach in this way.
Because money is what education is all about in our world.

I’m sure schools were funded the same way when I was a kid, but there weren’t common core standards and annual state assessments back then.

We went to school to learn how to be a productive citizen of the United States of America. That’s why the founding fathers pushed for public education for all people.

Kids these days are getting the short end of the learning stick. And our country will reap its dues when these under-educated people are running our country in a couple decades.

Are there things you’ve noticed about kids in school that make you grateful to have grown up in an earlier era?

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Wonder Woman Stops Terrorists

Our world needs superheroes. Instead, we’re plagued with villains. If Wonder Woman were here, she would stop terrorists in their tracks.

Since this is an election year, every little thing that happens in America gets used as propaganda. For this campaign or against that one.

And when the big things happen? You know, like a hundred people getting shot in a night club? The politicians are crass enough to use that as a stepping stone for their platform.

Terror and Terrorism

I’ve been in a car accident. I’ve been in several almost accidents. What I felt in those moments that stretched into endlessness? Terror.

And it wasn’t very pleasant.

Maybe some of you get an adrenaline rush from it.

And I understand the rush that accompanies being dropped from a hundred feet above the ground only to be snapped back at seemingly the last moment. I’ve done it. It’s called Geronimo.

You know why that sort of terror is okay? Because I chose to inflict it on myself.

A terrorist on the other hand never asks permission. Or forgiveness for that matter.

Terrorism is the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes (according to dictionary.com)

Wonder Woman stops violence in its tracks. Her bracelets send bullets back at the shooters. Her lasso forces the truth out of them.

In short, there’s no intimidating her. And that’s what we need in this day and age.

Vote Wonder Woman

I avoid all things political. This is something WW and I have in common.

But enough is enough.

We could use someone dedicated to fighting for right in the current political climate. Someone who doesn’t shudder and hide when a violent act of terror is rained on innocent people. Someone whose motives serve others rather than themselves.

She won’t stand up and push to pass new laws that infringe on the rights of citizens. No call to ban guns (although she doesn’t need them to fight crime – lucky her) from WW. It’s not in her nature to look at the victims and make some statement about their guilt or innocence.

We’re all guilty of something. No one deserves to be gunned down in the middle of a night out.

It would be nice to have a leader who stood up and said, “This has to stop.”

If only we could dial up the Justice League or The Avengers.

But then the media would scream about vigilante justice.

But where is the justice for these terrorists? Who will stop them from spreading terror?

I vote Wonder Woman.

If only she weren’t just a fictional character.

What do you think?

Why Superheroes need to conceal their identity

Superheroes might live among us. Your mail carrier could be one. Or maybe it’s the nerdy IT guy.

After all, many famous comic superheroes have alter egos. This identity conceals their true abilities and after-dark pursuit of justice.

If they didn’t live double lives, they would be considered vigilantes. Even the men and women of the Avengers who saved Earth from alien domination on two separate occasions were seen as vigilantes by some.

Because they worked outside the law to apprehend criminals.

But they always brought them to the authorities for prosecution (if they lived). Just like the A-team of 80s television, the Avengers never planned to use deadly force. Would they? Sure, if the criminals pushed them into it.

The Avengers were a special task force. And while they answered to a government agency (SHIELD), this was acceptable. Once that agency disappeared, people in power started feeling threatened.

It’s about Controlling the Power

There’s a fine line between being powerful and having control.

The Lamborghini is powerful. The driver leashes that power with a steering wheel and brakes. But what if the little plastic line carrying the fluid to those systems is cut? The power is out of control.

In the newest Captain America film, the governments of the world don’t like the idea that a powerful group of trained soldiers can fight crime and terrorism without paying homage to the local authorities.

Secretary of State says, “Where are Thor and the Hulk? If I misplaced two 30 megaton warheads, you can bet there’d be an investigation.”

So Thor and the Hulk are weapons of mass destruction? Wanda is even called that by her own team member. They aren’t people anymore. Only resources to be used by the powers that be.

And those in power are determined to control them. Were the Avengers out of control? Had they overstepped their mission?

No.

Civilians perished. It was tragic. In the process, a terrifying biological agent was kept from the hands of terrorists who would have used it to kill thousands, or even millions.

But no one’s talking about that.

In past movies, the Avengers kept each other in check. They answered to the team collective.

The Avengers were visible. Everyone knew who to blame if things went awry during the display of superhuman abilities. This visibility acted as accountability.

But that wasn’t enough. Politicians saw them only as a weapon, a tactical force to be deployed. Governments wanted a say in where they would go and who they would dispatch.

Hero_or_vigilante

It’s all in the Media Spin

The media spins the stories in our world (and the comic realities). One day they’re hailing the hero who stopped an insane murderer. The next they scream about stopping the vigilantes who are taking the law into their own hands.

In many places, the government controls the media. They can put the spin on the story so it reads like they want. Focus on the few innocents killed in a bad situation rather the thousands saved from something worse.

Superman, Spider-Man and Batman saw their heroic persona degraded and maligned. Is this why they hid behind Clark Kent, Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne? As long as no one knows who the man behind the mask is, media can only speculate and criticize.

Did they watch the news with the same hurt as Wanda and Cap? Did the fact they weren’t named keep them from feeling responsible when bystanders got hurt?

The writers make it sound like they keep their secrets to protect those they love from retribution. But is that the only reason? Is there ever only ONE reason?

After seeing the way media hype caused problems for the Avengers, it seems obvious that there are other reasons. Having a secret identity keeps them from being controlled by the powers that be.

Image from Marvel-movies
Image from Marvel-movies

Should they answer to someone? Most of these superheroes do have contacts on the police force. The masked men and women see themselves as a “special operative.” They must. Why else would they leave those they apprehend trussed up and ready for a reading of Miranda rights?

It’s not super to be a hero in our world. People are threatened by the unselfish pursuit of justice. The media is concerned about twisting things into a story that gets attention.

My hero, Captain America, would’ve been better off flying under the radar. Hard to do when the government creates you specifically to wear the face of their ideal soldier.

There’s no going back now. Cap can’t hide in anonymity.

The real losers in the situation are all the innocents he can’t protect.

Share the Love: Avoid the Haters

The purpose of this blog is to connect with future readers of the young adult fantasy series I’m writing. In reading my words here, you get to know me as “the person behind” the stories. If you like what you get here, you won’t mind parting with hard-earned cash to read a book I’ve written.

So goes the theory. Successful entrepreneurial authors tell me this, so I believe them.

In order to keep from offending my fan base, I’m supposed to avoid the following topics: religion and politics.

Not a problem. Neither of these subjects has much to do with what I’m writing (although there are both politics and religion in my fantasy universe). Who wants to start an argument anyway?

Apparently, quite a few people.

In checking out blogs with large followings, I’m realizing that most of them have 500 comments when they ask a question about a “hot button” topic or rant about religion or politics. Or, more specifically, how religion is misrepresented by the media and politicians.

I am eager for my readers to leave comments. Ask me to clarify something or share a similar experience.  Even a simple, “thanks” would probably get me dancing in my seat.

Do I want hundreds of comments? Duh!

What I don’t want is a bevy of haters to show up at my blog and tell me how wrong, stupid or hateful I am if I happen to disagree with their philosophy. This, I have noticed, makes up a bulk of the conversation on these controversial blog posts that go viral and get hundreds of comments.

I admire the people who disagree with the author of these rants with finesse and sound arguments. If a person can’t present their views in this way, I wish they wouldn’t comment.

Of course, I don’t know these bloggers personally. Maybe having an argument in their comments is the goal of their controversial posts.

If a person disagrees with me, I don’t jump down their throat in real life, so why would I do it in cyberspace? In fact, I know only a handful of people who react vociferously when you disagree with them. I’ve learned to keep my dissention to myself when speaking with these folks.

I love turquoise, aquamarine and teal. “I hate those colors,” you say. I shrug. After all, you’re entitled to your own opinions.

I despise tofu. Every time I’ve eaten it, it’s like choking down a piece of rubber. “I love tofu” you exclaim. I’m happy to let you have it. I’m not going to call you crazy because your palate is different than mine.

Yet, for some reason, when people come to deeper beliefs (those involved in politics and religion), this “agree to disagree” mentality flies out the window.  If I’m right about religion and you disagree, then you’re wrong. Only one of us can be right.

Maybe. Maybe not. I’m certain that if I approach our conversation with this “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude, things will get ugly rather quickly. There’s no chance I’ll convert you to my side of things.

So, is the point just to argue – be the loudest voice – when religion and politics enter the conversation? No one really expects to change the views of the person they’re demeaning, do they?

If that’s the case, there’s no point in having the conversation. I have entered such arguments in times past about abortion, drinking alcohol, premarital sex and even homosexuality. I’m done with such topics if it isn’t going to be a two-way street of sharing ideas. Communication involves speaking and listening.

communication.quoteListening doesn’t happen when the person who isn’t talking is just formulating their next rebuttal. The process will break down completely when the name calling starts.

Furthermore, if my answer to your stand on an issue is “well, that’s just stupid,” I’ve proven to you that your argument is sound and I have no rebuttal. Seriously.

If you present me with proof that chocolate will kill me, I’ll scream “say it ain’t so.”  I might even give up eating chocolate (or just comfort myself with more of the stuff accepting that everyone dies and I don’t mind dying with dark chocolate melting on my tongue). However, if you snatch the chocolate covered almond out of my hand as I’m getting ready to pop it in my mouth, I’m going to be ticked. The conversation isn’t going to go very well because it started out on a negative note.

I think the real reason I’ll avoid blogging about controversial topics in this space is because I want to start a conversation. I don’t want to fill my comments with name-calling and hateful rhetoric.

It makes me sad. I feel strongly about many things. I won’t write about most of them on this blog. My readers won’t really get know me in a deeper way. Some people might even call me
unprincipled, spineless or wishy-washy.

It’s a no-win situation. Name-calling tends to be the only route some people know when expressing their opinion.