Tag Archives: Education

The Randomness Of Life

“We all want to convince ourselves that it is about hard work and education and perseverance, but the truth is, life is much more about the fickle and the random. We don’t want to admit it, but we are controlled by luck, by timing, by fate.”
Harlan Coben

I don’t want to believe this. It goes against my faith, my Christian upbringing and what we try to relay to and teach our children. But sometimes…..

When I was a teenager, I used to have conversations with priests about predestination and free will. I went to Catholic grammar school, was an altar boy and attended Catholic high school and so I was “indoctrinated” into a certain set of beliefs. (Of course they didn’t include current lawsuits and settlements, but that’s another story)
I never logically understood how predestination and free will come together and quite honestly, no one ever had an answer for me. So the people I spoke with fell back on the only answer that ended all conversation.


And I understand that. I accept that there are things that will never be clear to me and that faith is something I need to have as a Christian. But I’ve never been convinced that predestination and free will are a matter of faith. Other aspects of beliefs, yes but this one never settled in with me.
And as I was reading a Coben book and came across these words, the whole issue came back to  me again. Because I’ve also always believed that so much of life is controlled by place and time.

A woman is walking a child in a stroller on a perfectly calm and sunny day in the park when a tree limb falls on them and kills the child.

Five young people get into a car accident and three survive, telling me that the seat you chose determined if you lived.

You move when you were a teenager to the other side of the country and ten years later you find and marry the love of your life in the town you moved to. What if you didn’t move? Would you still find the one your love and live happily ever after?

You happen to run into someone you haven’t seen in years by chance in a random setting. You talk and the conversation changes the trajectory of your entire professional life.

You get my point. The list is endless. The randomness of life, the paths we choose, the decisions we make, the people we meet, the timing of conversations, is pretty crazy when you step back and think about the possibilities

There are good, well educated, God fearing people who are dealt a bad hand and bad people who live long, privileged lives. I often wonder, when traced back, what turned their lives around.
I’ve always believed in hard work and perseverance but there are many hard working people who have persevered their entire lives and continue to struggle. Conversely, the opposite is true. A chance meeting at the right time, a phone call, an introduction, a decision, an opportunity taken, may change not only your life, but those you love.

I like to believe that everything happens for a reason. At times, it makes life easier to deal with; easier to accept certain things that happen in your life. But I still struggle with whether or not God knew things were going to happen, and if He knew it was going to happen then I really had no choice but to follow His plan. And if that’s the case, then how can I have free will.

I know I’ll never understand it and though I’d like to find a way, I’ll never logically accept it. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe I should just accept and not try to find logic in the illogical. Maybe faith is the only answer when it comes to this particular topic.

Then again………


Bernice Sandler, And Why You Should Know Her Name

Bernice Sandler died this week at the age of 90. She is not a household name and my guess is most people don’t know who she is. That’s unfortunate because there are so many women in this country that owe so much to her strength and determination.

She was a schoolgirl in the 30’s and 40’s when she was told she couldn’t do some of the things that boys do, like be a crossing guard, fill an inkwell or operate a slide projector. When she was older and teaching part-time at the University of Maryland she was denied a full-time position because “you come on too strong.” Others suggested she was just a housewife who should be at home with sick children.

That past fueled her desire for change, which led to her becoming the face, voice and force behind the development, passage and implementation of Title IX, the civil rights law of 1972 that barred sex discrimination by educational institutions that received federal funding. It required that male and female students have equal access to admissions, resources and financial assistance, among other things.

To fully appreciate Dr Sanders, you have to go back to the dark ages of 1972, where many universities had limits on the number of female professors they would hire. Salaries for female faculty members were well behind men and while men’s varsity sports received millions of dollars in federal funding, female athletes held bake sales to pay for their uniforms, had no lockers and were forced to dress in their dorms.

Back in those dark ages of my lifetime, sex discrimination was not illegal in education. But Dr. Sandler found a reference to an unheralded executive order amended by President Johnson that barred organizations with federal contracts from discriminating on the basis of sex. She understood that most universities received federal funding so she went to work, beginning a class action lawsuit in 1970 on behalf of all women in higher education. She found that some schools had no woman faculty  and that women were often denied scholarships if they were married. She proceeded to file complaints against more than 250 institutions.

Title IX applies to every aspect of education, including enrollment, courses, financial assistance, housing and student services. But its impact has probably been most visible in college sports. Where resources for, and participation by women, lagged behind men prior to Title IX, participation exploded in the decades following implementation. Before Title IX, one in 27 girls participated in sports. By 2016, that number was two in five.

Sadly, after all these years, Title IX still has a long way to go before it eradicates decades of entrenched sexual discrimination. In Dr. Sandler’s own words, “I was extraordinarily naive. I believed that if we pressed Title IX it would only take a year or two for all the inequalities based on sex to be eliminated. After two years, I upped my estimate to five years, then to ten, then to twenty-five, until I finally realized that we were trying to change very strong patterns of behavior and belief, and that changes would take more than my lifetime to accomplish.”

Unfortunately, like all forms of discrimination and inequality, ignorance and distorted beliefs hinder real change.

Still, there are tens of thousands of women over the last forty-five years who owe so much to Dr. Sandler’s courage and determination. Women who have positions of power on college campuses, who have equal pay, who share the same educational and athletic resources as men, are all indebted to her sacrifices.

Bernice Sandler is a name and life that should be remembered by everyone.

Finally, Someone Understands

Andrew Hacker is my new hero. My guess is none of you know who Andrew is. That’s okay, because up until a few days ago, neither did I. You see, Mr. Hacker, who teaches political science and mathematics at Queens College is the author of a book called, The Math Myth and other STEM Delusions.


Mr. Hacker, ( my new hero), claims that adults use algebra or geometry about five percent of the time in their day to day lives. Personally, I think that number is a bit high but hey, I’m just grateful someone is finally putting the trash out to the curb here. Apparently, Professor Hacker feels the solution for our children is not more math, but less.

Thank you God.


According to my new main man, requirements like algebra, trigonometry and calculus are, “a harsh and senseless hurdle.”

Can someone please give me an AMEN?

Where was this superhero when I was going to school and developing a lifelong twitch every time someone started a sentence with, “If a train is traveling at 60 miles and hour……”
Because you need to figure that crap out everyday, right? Because you need to know the speed, stops, people and arrival times of a train, in order to graduate, right? Especially since that information is posted at the station where you buy the tickets, even when I went to school. Of course now you can just google it, but it doesn’t stop the crazies from still putting it on tests.


Hacker believes students should focus on what he calls, “adult math,”  so they become agile enough with numbers that they can calculate mileage for business expenses, understand interest rates or read a corporate report or federal budget.

What a concept, huh? Life skills taught in school that we can actually use for the rest of our lives.


Of course Hacker’s book has sparked some controversy by…drum roll please…the MATH teachers. Shocker, right? That’s like saying politicians don’t care much for fact checkers.



Give me simple math everyday and I’m a happy person. This other stuff they refer to as a language is bogus. I believe it’s been forced on us at an early age by former CIA agents who took secretive courses on cruel and unusual punishment for school age children.

Oh, and those little geniuses running around the school systems getting perfect math grades and test scores, spewing their equations ad nauseam? They were stolen at birth and implanted with chip devices that provides them with words that make no sense to the general population. Don’t think I don’t know what’s going on. They’re not normal.

Thank you, Mr. Hacker, for confirming what I have been saying for years and validating my life’s work. You’re THE MAN.


I rest my case.


If Mom And Dad Only Knew

The vocabulary word for they second grade class I had today was Putrid. 

We talked about the word as an adjective, how it sounds and the meaning. On the board I wrote, if something is putrid it is rotten and smells awful. 

When we were done I asked them to write the word in their journal along with the definition and then use the word putrid in a sentence.

Michael is one of those little boys who’s as cute as can be but can turn you into an alcoholic in a matter of hours. He wrote the following in his journal…

When my mother wakes up in the morning she smells putrid.

I stared at the sentence, then at him, then at the sentence again before asking him why he feels that way. He said, because it’s true, she smells putrid in the morning when she wakes up and looks like an old lady with glasses.

Part of me wanted to explain that it wasn’t a very nice thing to say and part of me wanted to walk away and avoid any additional information about his mom. I chose option B. I walked away. Call me a coward if you like but you weren’t there. You didn’t see the look in his eyes. You don’t know.

Of course when I was done with Michael I walked over to Holden who wrote, my father’s farts smell putrid. I nodded my head and kept on walking but Holden kept following me around saying, you don’t understand, they really do. 

It was only 9:15. The day was still young.

We Don’t Need No Education


In a 2016 national survey of college freshman, the number of students who say they will major in education has reached its lowest point in 45 years. Just 4.2 percent intend to major in education compared to 11 percent in 2000, 10 percent in 1990 and 11 percent in 1971. Combine that with poor rates of teacher retention in public schools and I think it’s safe to inform Houston that we have a problem. Baby boomers are leaving the profession and there’s no one coming up to fill those spots.

Anyone care to guess why this is happening?

Let’s start with the fact that we are raising a generation of students who feel entitled and believe teachers are powerless to control them because of litigation threats. Students have little respect for their teachers because their parents show little respect.
Parents don’t want to hear the truth about their child so bad grades are the fault of the teachers and not due to a lack of effort by the student. As a result, grade inflation is sometimes easier than arguing to deaf ears. It must get tiring for teachers trying to raise both the student and the parent. How sad is that?

So why enter a field where salaries fall well behind other professions also requiring advanced degrees?

Why enter a field where student/teacher creativity has now been replaced by standardized testing which changes every few years in order to benefit those marketing the product at the expense of children.

Why enter a field where we make evaluations based on a single test instead of a body of work over a period of months? Because everyone is a great test taker, right?

Why enter a field where teacher bashing has become a popular pastime headed up by some ignorant politicians whose only purpose is promoting their retaliation agenda against a union who decided not to back their election campaigns?

The students entering college today are the generation of no child left behind. They are the ones who remember teachers opening a manual and reading/teaching from it with no sense of creativity allowed. Young people especially in this age of technology, want to feel they can be creative in whatever field they choose to pursue. They’ve already experienced the teaching field from the other side of the desk and they’re not impressed.

Finland probably has the finest education system in the world because in large part, they pay their educators well, respect the profession and allow for creativity while keeping the workload and class sizes low. As a result, their system attracts some of the best students to the teaching field.

Most people think teachers are overpaid with lots of time off, short work days and great benefits. If anyone thinks that’s true, I’d ask you to go up to a dozen or so teachers and ask them if they would encourage anyone to choose the teaching profession today. Considering the perception that many people have of their easy lives, their answers will probably surprise you. If you’re brave enough to stick around they may even elaborate their reasons for you.

We have an education problem in this country that no amount of standardized testing is going to correct. It’s like saying the Johnstown flood could have been prevented with a patch of concrete.

Lets stop the insults, begin holding our children accountable and support ways to educate our children properly. Because as we all know….

a mine es a terble ting to wayste. 

The Smartest Person In The Room

“There’s a thin line between confidence and arrogance. It’s called humility.
Confidence smiles. Arrogance smirks.”

I was watching an old episode of Shark Tank last week during my holiday break from blogging and there was this relatively young guy pitching his business idea to the sharks. The interesting thing about this particular show is that several investors made an offer for his business but no one wanted him to be part of it. Why? Because they thought he was a detriment to his own business and it/they would never be successful if he came along for the ride. Instead, they would essentially pay him to go away.

The other interesting part of this show is that this guy couldn’t understand why they wanted him to leave, even after the sharks tried to explain their reasoning to him. He had this bewildered look on his face, thinking that maybe he wasn’t hearing things correctly. You see, in a room filled with intelligent and very successful people, he thought he was the smartest guy in the room and had difficulty accepting anything less than his truth.

Unfortunately, we all probably know people who are affected with this smartest person in the room disorder. If you’ve ever lived with a teenager, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Luckily, most of them realize, at some point in their lives, they were wrong. The problem is, some never do. They turn into adults who believe they are the smartest person in the room because they possess a fair degree of knowledge about certain subject matters or can answer some obscure question.

Of course not every intelligent person feels or behaves this way. Most are sensitive, caring individuals who never flaunt their knowledge like some two dollar lottery winner who behaves like a wannabe genius investor. Most intelligent people understand that in a rush to be right and prove themselves to be the best, they would miss subtleties and human motivation. Because if you can understand people and give them the common courtesy of your attention instead of turning your head when they speak, you will transcend any degree of intelligence you think you might possess.

Effective problem solving requires that an individual understand people and respect their positions and opinions. If you’re so locked into your own sense of truth, you will never see that the opposite of what you believe to be true may also be true. MIss that and you miss endless  opportunities.


Ultimately, this disorder is more about winning or being right, than being smart and that, in itself, carries a heavy burden. You don’t really notice the truly intelligent people. Their egos are not obvious. Their walk is not a strut. Their smile is not a smirk. They don’t feel a need to shine a spotlight on themselves. They respect the opinion of others. They are smart enough to understand that losses always turn into wins and that everyone you meet or deal with on a daily basis has something to say that has value. The truly smart person understands that you never really learn much from hearing yourself speak.

Ignorant people with knowledge miss those little facts.

The guy on Shark Tank didn’t realize that it’s not about smarts, it’s about an inability or unwillingness to learn, to believe he may have made some mistakes along the way that not only affected his life but those around him, including his family.

The smartest guy in the room never realizes that he isn’t, even when it’s obvious to everyone around him. That’s real arrogance.

But as someone once said, arrogance is just insecurities playing dress up. 

I couldn’t agree more.

Anniversary Re-Blog (The Written Word)

The written word is a dying art, and that makes me sad, for so many reasons. This is my vent about something that I hope comes back again, but realistically know it never will.

The Written Word

Several weeks ago I came across a note my father had written in 1953. It was over sixty years old. My Dad passed away 34 years ago but as I looked over his written words, I felt as if he was standing next to me, smiling. I stared at the way his letters were written, the curls, the way he formed each one and wondered what was going on in his life, and through his mind, at that moment. There was a small stain on the page and I tried to imagine what may have caused it. I ran my fingers over the letters and smiled as I took in the knowledge that I was holding a very small part of his life in my hands. It was very personal.

I recognize that my feelings on cursive handwriting is, in some ways, generational. And I understand that if you’re reading this and are under the age of 40, you may want to patronize me with a smile, pat me on the head and send me on my way. But you’d be wrong to do that. Because the truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know and to think otherwise is shortsighted.

I’m a fan of modern technology, even at, what some of you may view as, my advanced age. But there’s always a price to pay, isn’t there? For as much as we gain, there is always something we lose. Sometimes the tradeoff is worth it; sometimes it comes with a bill I’d rather not pay. For me, the loss of human interaction is a big downside to technology. In this specific case, it’s more personal . It’s a loss of history. Mine, yours and ours.

Not many people write anymore. Instead we send texts and emails over phones or computers. Cursive handwriting isn’t even required past third grade, though some schools still teach it without attaching grades to the practice. So much of our country’s history is written in documents, letters and books, yet experts have suggested that since future generations have not practiced the written word, they won’t be able to recognize or read it.

For me, a handwritten note is like a photograph; a moment of our lives that’s frozen in time. Unfortunately, it’ll be gone soon, and along with it words and letters that were never written. Future generations will never know what it’s like to carry around a simple I love you in your pocket, purse or wallet for years and how personal those written words feel.

So write a child or someone you care about a letter or short note today. It doesn’t have to be long, it just has to be you. It may take you a little more time and you may have to explain what that strange form of communication actually is. But you never know. One day, sixty years from now, that person may find the note and read it. They may wonder what you were thinking or feeling as you wrote it and what that strange stain on the paper might be. And maybe, if they linger long enough, they just may feel you standing next to them, smiling.

The Aspirations Of A First Grader

I substituted today for a first grade class and one of their assignments was to write a few sentences about what they wanted to be when they grew up and why. Some were pretty standard though their reasoning was interesting. Genders are listed in parentheses.

(B) I want to work in Starbucks because I love their S’mores cappuccino and I’ll be able to drink it whenever I want and sometimes for free. (I was going to ask if he took only decaf but I understood soon enough that the caffeine was well into his system. Thanks, Mom.)

(B) I want to be an Engineer or a Construction worker because I like trains and bulldozers. (There’s logical reasoning there somewhere.)

(B) I want to fix cars because my Dad likes to fix cars. ( I asked if he’s ever allowed to do oil changes and he said no, just brakes. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?)

(G) I want to be an artist because I like to draw and dream and make people happy. (I asked her if she drew something in the past that has made people happy and she said, yes….an apple.)

(B) I want to be a firefighter because my Dad is a firefighter and I love him. (I looked for the tissues after that one. It was the way he said it that got to me)

(G) I want to be a doctor because they make lots of money or I want to be a dentist because they help get teeth clean. ( I guess doctors are in a different income bracket than dentists who apparently are only in that profession for clean teeth.)

(B)I want to be a soccer player because I like kicking balls and I want to be a basketball player because I can do moves. ( Yeah, I know a few people with those same talents and they are not mutually exclusive.)

(G) I want to be a vet because I love all kinds of animals and like to take care of them or I want to open up a pet hotel with my cousins because I like the sound of it. (Hmmm.)

(B) I want to be a plumber because my Dad is a plumber. (I asked what kind of things his Dad does as a plumber and he said… plumbing things. Silly me.)

(G) I want to be a teacher because little kids are fun and difficult and they run around a lot and are difficult to control and it’s hard to count them when they run wild so because of that I won’t give them homework. (I didn’t know how to argue with that logic, I just wish I knew about it many years ago.)

(G) I want to be an astronaut because I can float and bounce or I want to be a janitor because it looks like fun. ( As opposed to floating and bouncing? I didn’t have the heart to tell her that there are plenty of people right here on earth that float and bounce without going in into space. But she’ll figure that out eventually. Why spoil the dream at such a young age.)

(G)I want to work in a hospital like my Mom. I asked what her mom did and she hesitated for a few moments and said she was a doctor but she owns the hospital. ( I didn’t want to argue.)

(B) I want to be a crab fisherman and go on a big boat in the Bering Sea and get bounced around by really bad storms or typhoons. (I asked him if he’d ever been on a big boat before on the water in a storm and he said no but he can’t wait to go on one and get thrown around. I was going to ask a followup question but really, where do you go from there, especially when you’re staring at a child who has a scary glazed look n his eyes?)

(B) I want to be a doctor and help people who are hurt. (At least he’s in it for all the right reasons unlike our doctor/dentist friend above.)

(G) I want to be a spa helper and make people pretty. I want to do toes and my brother will be the boss and my sister will do makeup and my friend will do massages and hair. (You can’t argue with someone who wants to make people pretty)

(B) I want to be a chef and own a restaurant called Famous Chef and only make junk. No healthy food. (I’m thinking he meant junk food and not junk, but I can’t be sure. )

So there you have it.

As for me, I wanted to be a baseball player when I was in first grade.  How about you? What did you want to be?





Hard To Explain This One

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you’re six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.
Oscar Hammerstein

I’m going to preface this post by saying that I’m a white male who is a practicing Catholic. I went to Catholic grammar and high school. I was an altar boy for many years as well as a member of the CYO. So on many levels this story is embarrassing, disappointing and sad.

Last week, there was a high school basketball game played in New Jersey between Atlantic City High School, which has a very diverse population and Holy Spirit Catholic High School. While both teams have some white players, the majority of players are African-American. During the course of the game, in what was described as “team spirit”, Holy Spirit students hung a curtain on the floor, just behind the basket. Whenever an Atlantic City player went to the foul line, they opened a curtain to reveal two students dressed up as a monkey and a banana, taunting the African-American players who were shooting the foul shots. They proceeded to jump and dance in close proximity to the players on the court, or the monkey held the banana in his arms.

Think that’s bad? There’s more.

A Holy Spirit School official acknowledged the conduct violated league rules for sportsmanship and said it would not happen again but that no students would be punished because of the incident, according to the athletic director.He said, “I’m not going to kick anyone out of school or whip anybody. All I can do is apologize, I can’t take it back. The punishment is that it will not happen again. Really? That it will not happen again is a punishment?  How will our children ever learn?

The coach from Holy Spirit had this to say, “There’s absolutely nothing that was intended to be racial whatsoever. it was a group of kids trying to have fun with something they saw on television. There was no malice there whatsoever. If anyone wants to make it out to be that, it’s not. We have a respectable school community. We have four out of five starter  that are African-American kids. That’s not what this was about. It was just kids thinking through what their perception should be, but there was absolutely nothing racial and somebody is making something racial about it.” So having African-American players on your team justifies this type of action? 

So if there was nothing wrong with this, why were the referees reprimanded, the students warned and “punished” and officials from Holy Spirit issuing apologies?
If this is a kids being kids excuse, which I’m tired of hearing, where were the adults to explain the insensitivity. How did they get into a gym wearing these costumes? Why didn’t the refs stop it immediately instead of letting it continue? Why didn’t school officials step in and someone with an ounce of intelligence suggest that this isn’t the image they want the school to project for their “respectable school community.”? At the very least, these students were in violation of multiple Spectator Code of Conduct rules governing high school sports in the state. And yet not one adult, stepped in and said, this is wrong. Not one. How sad and pathetic is that?

So these Catholic school officials didn’t see anything wrong with this action, huh? Just kids having fun? Well, let me be as harsh as I can be here since we’re using the kids being kids excuse and the adults seem to be clueless.

I wonder how the school officials from Holy Spirit would have reacted if a couple of Atlantic City High School students dressed up as a priest and ten-year old boy and the priest was holding the boy in his arms and dancing with him.

Not so funny now, is it? Need me to elaborate further on insensitivity?

No, I didn’t think so.