The necessity of decency in teaching – and elsewhere.

After 34 years of teaching, there’s a whole lot I learned about the profession. Here are three of them.

If I insult students with handicaps . . .

trump handicap

If I reject students just because they’re new to the district and don’t ‘fit in’ . . .

trump and immigrants

 

If I demean women . . .

trump reporter

These things would potentially happen to me:

– Called on the carpet
– Suspended
– Fired.

I’ll leave it at that.

 

LET’S DECLARE INDEPENDENCE FROM HYPHENS

For at least one day, on our own Independence Day, let’s focus our attention on the word that comes AFTER those hyphens that are so popular nowadays. That word is AMERICAN.

You know what I mean. We have subdivided our citizens into so many groups – and I hesitate to list them for two reasons. I will be derided for who I list first (which may make me racist or sexist or some other –ist) or I will be derided for who I list last (same reason.) So, contemplate your own list.

And me? I belong to my own hyphenated groups. White- , Male- , Retired- , College Graduate-, Married- , Right handed- , Middle Class- , Lutheran- , Homeowner- , . . . and there are more.

Put the word “American” after each one of those and you’ll see what I mean.

I am aware that those hyphens matter – but maybe sometimes we get too wrapped up in them. I know I do.

Wouldn’t it be great if for one day, we honored the fact that we’re ALL American? Can we do that tomorrow, on our own country’s Independence Day? Can we set aside those hyphens for a time and be unhyphenated Americans?

When you go to a parade tomorrow, look around. All those folks there are Americans. They were born here. They were naturalized here. They work here. They contribute here. Shake some hands and say hello to some of them. Do the same at a community picnic. Do the same at your town’s fireworks display. Just for tomorrow – or longer than that if you want.

On our Independence Day, let’s focus on how our founding fathers used such great words as “We the People” and “All men are created equal” and “E Pluribus Unum”.

Give it a thought. Give it a try.

Trump and Clinton? Really?

Two years ago, it would have been ridiculous to consider that Hillary Clinton would emerge as the ‘old-school” establishment candidate.

Two years ago, Donald Trump was a mere TV name with some celebrity from his business dealings.

And look where we are now.

Mr. Trump clobbered his fellow Republican candidates in the primaries.  He has become known as a ‘shoot from the hip’ kind of guy, who holds no words back.  His words have seriously stung women, Mexicans, his fellow candidates, and Muslims, to name a few.  He has vilified our allies across the globe, and had good things to say about our foes.  He personally came up with nicknames for Republicans and Democrats alike – “Little” Markie Rubio.  “Lyin’” Ted Cruz, “Crooked” Hillary, and “Pocahontas” Elizabeth Warren.   Even though he is the presumptive Republican nominee, the big name Republicans have been slow to endorse him, even to the point of announcing their intention to miss the Republican convention in Cleveland.  His policies have been deemed lacking in any substance, detail, or practicality.  (PS – thanks to a friend on FACEBOOK who sent me a site where I could read his platform in more detail than I’ve seen otherwise.)

Having been a teacher for 34 years, allow me to make a comparison.  Let’s say there’s a wonderful curriculum out there.  It effectively works for a great number of students.  It is well thought out, it is clear and concise, it is a proven winner in so many ways.  Let’s say, though, that the teacher presenting that curriculum insults his students.  He puts them down based on who their parents are.  He cusses in class.  He pays no more than lip service to the curriculum, preferring to give his own version and methodology to the concepts, couching them in the promise that the education he presents would be fantastic, amazing, and totally unbelievably wonderful.  Such a teacher would never last in a classroom.  He would be summarily dismissed for such behaviors.

And so is Mr. Trump.  His behaviors and his ill treatment of people negates anything his platform may carry. Mr. Trump should not be president, no matter how wonderful his policies and proposals may be.   His demeanor is unacceptable.

Her candidacy was considered more or less a formality, but then what, Mrs. Clinton?   There’s no question she’s been in the national and international scene for a good 25 years now, serving as the First Lady, as a senator from New York, running for president in 2008, and serving as Secretary of State.  There have been the elements of controversy over those years as well – you can name them in many ways, but there’s White Water, the whole Lewinski thing, Benghazi, email servers – and she’s been seemingly embroiled in them but never quite formally tagged with any charges.    Add the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, and that formality isn’t quite so secure, is it?

Yes, allow me another comparison from my teaching years.  As it happens so often, there is often that student in a class who seems to have it all going – smart, efficient, maybe, but this student is often the one who seems to be in the middle of turmoil in the school.  The kids come back from a bathroom break, and one of them is crying over something, but no one quite knows why.  Another student seems to get shunned by the others for some rumor that’s been started – and that rumor can’t be pinned down, nor can the source.  Upon investigation, there’s that student who seems to always be in the middle of such situations, but can never quite get pinned down as the source of the problem.  This kind of student drives teachers nuts – they know something is going on, but because there’s no hard evidence, there’s just that aura.

And so it is Mrs. Clinton.  I myself have problems with her having somehow running for and elected senator from New York – her background was a childhood in Illinois and then in Arkansas with her Bill Clinton – sounds like carpetbagging to me.  Then there’s all those other things – can’t quite pin them on her, but nonetheless, there she is, amid the situations in some way or another.

So, as of now, I have not selected a candidate.  In the past, I’ve hoped for Colin Powell.  I’ve also recently seen Gen. Michael Hayden.  Perhaps against all odds, one of these, or others like them, will get drafted so run for president.  Will Bernie arise?  Will one of the Republicans resurrect themselves?

I just have trouble thinking our choice is between an outright bully and one who apparently instigates things in secret ways.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Downtown at Mac’s Bar . . .

… an effort to write what could be a monologue in a play . . .

Siddown and listen, willya? Look, it ain’t rocket science at all. We got these goofs running for president and you know, they got me steamed . . . I mean steamed like pure boilin’ water that just scalds me inside and out. Why can’t there be someone sometime who will just listen out loud instead of yack out loud alla time? I don’t get how they talk so much about how we gotta do this and gotta do that for the little guy but then they make it so some people who get so much more than their fair shake when there are people who could use any kind of shake at all, much less a fair one. And you know what else I’m sick of? I’m sick my car fallin’ apart from goin’ over bad roads and bridges. I’m tired of seeing pictures of the kids in school in ol’ flimsy desks that still got their grampa’s name still carved in ‘em and plaster chunks fallin’ off the wall – and then I turn around and see that there’s some big snot govermint dude pissin’ about how its soooo tough to only get a new car every two years and only have 15 weeks off a year and still get five times more money than good ol’ Dicky here behind the bar, pushin’ his drinks just to earn enough to make a house payment. Just don’t make no sense. And all that Middle East crapola – it just seems so useless to mess around with – but that doesn’t stop those weepy eyed talking heads on TV tellin’ me all about who is shooting who and how it costs so much, well, dammit, if it costs so much then why – hey I’m talkin’ to you – why do they do it? I mean, lookit ol’ Butch there at the pinball machine, who ain’t been the same in the head since he lost himself a leg with one o’ them roadside gizmos seven years ago over there and he gets told in the hospital he’s gotta wait and wait to get more help. I’m no more nuts than everyone else in this bar – we’re pretty much all good people here, and just want to see the govermint work and see all those poly-tishins pay attention once or twice when they’re in town. Let THEM get shot at and get a arm ripped off. . Let THEM not be able to make a house payment because the factory got shut down. Let THEM drive down the roads that are hardly better than dirt. Let THEM walk under the bridges and see the rust. Let THEM see our souls rust and corrode just like the bridges while we wait for ‘em to do something. Well, like I said, it ain’t rocket science. Hell, my beer makes more sense than those bozos. You just watch. I’m just gonna vote for my beer in the next election. It’s got a better head on it than any o’ those boobs that are runnin’, and I don’t care what party you’re talkin about. I just wish they’d get the job done or let’s just jerk every last one o’ them outa there!

 

MONEY MONSTER; a movie review

Money1

Starring George Clooney, Julia Roberts
Directed by Jodie Foster

Take your bigmouth TV economic show-off, add a quick thinking director of that bigmouth TV economic show-off, and multiply it by a very angry, armed small time investor, and you get this movie.

Excitement comes along in the form of nasty banter (F bombs aplenty, folks), intense moments between characters, situations that snap along at a pace that require the audience to watch and listen all at the same time – and don’t forget some of the humor (often snide, biting and/or stinging).

Clooney portrays the mouthy host of the advice show with a practiced eye – and it is clear Mr. C has observed such characters on TV, which allow him to craft his character with plenty of the personality we hate to love from such folks. He is dashing, he is quick – and yet plays it cool when the armed investor enters the scene.

Roberts gives her character a great deal of quick thinking skill – professionalism as a TV director, and some fine wit, which is a sign of some very good writing. Despite the emergency of a madman in her studio, she holds together her control room crew, her stage crew, and in so many ways, the whole situation. Solid job, Julia.

Jack O’Connell plays the down on his luck schmuck who has lost money in the stock market – and he blames the Clooney character for that loss … and in will no uncertain terms, and with any amount of anger, will extract his pound (or 8 million pounds) of flesh.

There’s more than the drama here. Clooney has given us films about the game show cover-up (QUIZ SHOW) and another fine piece on Edward R. Murrow (GOOD NIGHT AND GOOD LUCK) … and now this one that combines the loud brashness of a TV money advice show, an armed angry man, and a wall street deal that has gone so inexplicably sour – well, no spoilers here….

And as I was watching, I heard echoes of past films that addressed similar situations…. NETWORK, DOG DAY AFTERNOON, CHINA SYNDROME, and even THE TRUMAN SHOW can be felt as influences. Roll bit and pieces into the fine writing for this one, and there you go – another fine Clooney-produced number with a solid cast and good writing.

Regarding the whole transgender bathroom issue (and the ramifications thereof)

public-restroom

Let me take you back four months to Christmas Eve. Raise your hand if you spent a lot of time worrying about the issue I mention above. That’s what I thought – virtually nobody at all.

I’ve shared my theory on a few MEMEs that have popped up. Here it is.

THEORY: Virtually no one was concerned with, nor even aware of, a transgender bathroom issue until some legislator in some state decided that it WAS an issue – no, wait. Not an issue – a crisis; a crisis which required immediate action in the form of a law. END THEORY.

And then it hit.

Fan them flames, folks, whether it’s a fire or not.

And now we have people posting concerns about children getting mugged in the bathrooms. We have postings and pictures of “odd looking people” that carry texts that surmise what such a person might do in a bathroom. We have people posting similar things about how it’s not a problem so everyone else should just be quiet.

And we have states banning travel by state employees to one state or another based on what that original law-maker got passed.

And we have corporations that are making statements about how they’ll handle business within the jurisdiction of that original lawmaker and his law.

And we have people boycotting businesses who make some sort of statement about that original lawmaker’s law.

Don’t you wish we could get the same kind of fervor when it came to rebuilding our roads or improving our schools? Or when it came to funding schools? Or airports? Or tax policy? Or foreign policy?

It is time to stop these lawmaker-created crises… and its conservatives and liberals alike that come up with such things. Ban this. Limit that. Requirements. Penalties. Fines. Plug in your own favorites here as well. Many topics will fit, I guarantee it.

Government needs to be a positive thing; one of the words in the preamble of our constitution is “promote”.

Let’s get back to that. Time to start promoting, folks, instead of what we’re doing lately.

Community Theatre as a gift …

I have been given a gift.

 

That gift is community theatre.

 

Upon the upcoming opening of SPAMALOT here in Brainerd, allow me to describe that gift.

 

It’s the people, folks.  When it comes to friends I’ve made in theatre, I cannot possibly make a list of names, for fear of leaving people out, so I won’t go that far.  But if I put together a list of people I have gotten to know through community theatre, that list would include custodians, bus drivers, teachers, secretaries, students, computer technicians, professors, nurses, designers – and more.  Many of these remain friends; even though we may have not seen each other in several years, a little contact via Facebook or a chance encounter brings back all the joys of the shows we shared.  I also suspect this will remain true for the new friends I am making with this latest show.

 

I have shared the stage with people who used to be my students – and that is a very special relationship for me.  Community theatre bridged us from that teacher-student world to the friendship world, and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

 

I have shared the stage with theatre friends more than once – some going back decades.  Again, no names, but you might say a certain mayor of Finland and a certain member of the round table fit here.  I am sure that I will be able to say the same about the SPAMALOT cast – I am sure our paths will cross again over time as more shows come and go.

 

And those not on stage – the musicians, the techies, the directors, the ushers and marketing folks in the ticket booths – so many friends out of that arm of theatre are there, too.  I’ve not done much with tech over the years, but I’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff.  I’ve been a member of the pit orchestra several times – in fact, that was where I started with CLC theatre, back in the late 70s when a certain young lady (who later went on to play in a recent production of GLASS MENAGERIE) played the lead in THE UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN.

 

And on a personal level, community theatre gave me my wife – In 1982, while auditioning for GUYS AN DOLLS, the rehearsal pianist and I hooked up.  Lo and behold, a year later, Sue became my wife.  I can also say that I’ve shared the stage at one time or another with my two kids – in fact, all four of us were in OKLAHOMA in 1994 – and as far as I know, my son still holds the record for the youngest kid to have a spoken line on the CLC stage – “Who’s gonna be the auctioneer?”.

 

And the audience –  the support from friends and family  who come to watch a show just because they care enough to come see what I’m up to – that kind of stuff is priceless.   Then there’s the random chance of someone recognizing me for having done a part in a show – oh yes, a very special, humbling experience.

 

So to all of you connected with SPAMALOT, on and off the stage – may you be equally be blessed as I have with all the wonderful people connected with community theatre.  May you continue to enjoy the blessings that come from those people.

 

And I hope we share the stage again – real soon.

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