“Bend Over. Grab Your Ankles.”

corporal punishment (noun): punishment administered by an adult (as a parent
or a teacher) to the body of a child ranging in severity from a slap to a spanking.

For no apparent reason, I recently found myself wondering about the state of corporal punishment within the American educational system.  I grew up in a time when corporal punishment was a well accepted and oft administered practice, the exercise of which could be found in nearly every school teacher’s tool kit for maintaining order, decorum, and a focus on learning in their classrooms.

I wish I could say that I was surprised, when after a conducting a quick Google search on the topic, I learned that corporal punishment is not only discouraged in today’s overly litigious society, but that it has now been declared to be illegal in 22 states.  Such a shame; for it worked so well.

ShopThe autumn of 1966 found me enrolled in my junior high school’s Industrial Arts class.  Industrial Arts, more commonly known as “Shop“, was on virtually every boy’s short list of elective classes to take.  It being the course in which one learned the basics of woodworking, along with the use of table saws, band saws, lathes, drill presses, and belt sanders.  Before being turned lose in the shop, the curriculum at my school included six weeks of technical drawing or drafting.   This was a necessary prerequisite to flipping the switch on a band saw because we were required to create a detailed three-dimensional orthographic design of each item which we planned to create.

By now, you’re probably wondering what does this have to do with corporal punishment.  Let me explain.

It was a Friday, the last day of school before the beginning of the 1966 Christmas holiday break.  I was in Industrial Arts class, sitting at my drafting table in the classroom which adjoined the woodworking shop.  A good friend of mine, let’s call him John, was sitting at his drafting table just to my right.  Both of our tables were in the front row.  As class began, our instructor Mr. Carpenter, no pun intended, walked into the classroom from the shop and promptly told everyone to pass their completed homework up to the front.

Being a keen observer, Mr. Carpenter noticed that my friend John was not pulling the required paperwork out of his notebook.  “Where’s your homework, John?”  Mr. Carpenter inquired.

I don’t have it.”  replied John with eyes cast down at the work on his drafting table which suddenly had become of the utmost importance.   

“You don’t have it, or you didn’t do it?”  asked Mr. Carpenter unwilling to leave the subject at hand. 

“Uh, well I, um, … didn’t do it.”   

“Hmm? ”  replied Mr. Carpenter as he finished picking up the papers which had been passed to the front of the class.  We all could feel the slight yet unmistakable tingle of electricity in the air.  We all knew that on the weekends, Mr. Carpenter participated in rodeo events.  As such, we all were quite certain that he didn’t believe in taking “Bull” from anyone.

Mr. Carpenter walked over to his desk, dropped the homework papers, and instructed us to continue working on our drafting assignment.  He turned slowly, paused theatrically for a moment, briefly looking directly at John before walking to the door leading out into the woodworking shop.  The top half of that door contained a window which was normally closed from view by a venetian blind.  As Mr. Carpenter proceeded through the door, he nonchalantly pulled down on the string opening the blinds as the door closed behind him.

By pure happenstance, my drafting table was the only one in the classroom which provided a view into the shop.

John motioned to me and under his breath whispered, “What’s he doing out there?”

I glanced out the window.  I could see Mr. Carpenter standing at a large rack on which wood was stored.

“He’s picked up a piece of 1″X6″ about four feet long and is looking at it to make sure it’s straight.”  I replied.

As small drops of nervous perspiration began to appear on John’s brow, Mr. Carpenter walked over to the table saw, flipping the switch to turn it on.  Startled by the raspy, metallic sound of the saw coming to life, John gasped “Oh damn!  What’s he doing now?”

From that point, and for most of the 45 minutes remaining in that class period, I provided John and my classmates with a running commentary on Mr. Carpenter’s activities out in the shop.  With the table saw, he cut a piece of the 1″X6″ pine to a length of about 18 inches.  Mr. Carpenter’s actions were very slow and methodical.  While I never noticed him looking back into the classroom through the window in the door, I’m confident that he was totally aware that his every step was being duly noted and carefully reported to his charges in the drafting room.

Next he walked over to the band saw.  John’s body convulsed again as the band saw began to whine.  When I realized what was happening, I reported that it appeared that a handle had been shaped on to one end of the 18 inch board.  A sigh of total despondency slowly escaped from John.

Using the belt sander, Mr. Carpenter very carefully sanded the board and its handle; rounding and smoothing the edges around its entire perimeter.  Then it was over to the drill press, where a series of holes were drilled through the rectangular portion of the wood above it’s handle.

After giving his work a thorough visual examination, Mr. Carpenter took the device by its handle and quickly slapped it once or twice against the palm of his other hand, the sharp stinging sound of which seemed to awaken us all from a trance.  Suddenly, we realized that there were only 5 minutes left in the period.

Slowly, Mr. Carpenter opened the door.  “John, ….. can you step out here for a moment?”  Realizing that the statement was a command rather than a question, John stood and very deliberately walked out of the classroom and into the shop.  None of us were willing to make eye contact with John.
As the door closed, Mr. Carpenter led him into an area of the shop which even I could not observe.  In the drafting room, you could have heard a pin drop.  As we all sat at our desks, eyes fixed on our three-dimensional orthographic drawings, we heard the unmistakable “Thwack!”  of pine meeting rear end, followed in slow succession by two additional “Thwacks!”

Judgement had been decided.  Justice had been served.  All homework was completed for the remainder of that year!

As we filed out of class that day, Mr. Carpenter, paddle stored under his arm, wished us all a Merry Christmas.

“You too, Mr. Carpenter.  Merry Christmas to you.”


Photo credit: chazferret Foter CC BY-NC
Photo credit: buzzle.com

Things Aren’t Always What They Appear

News is anything that makes a reader say, `Gee Whiz’! “
– Arthur MacEwen, American editor

You may have heard or read about the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) news story on the youth soccer league in Midlake, Ontario, Canada which has decided that they want to improve the experience of the children playing on its teams.  In order to achieve this goal, the league’s administrators have decided to eliminate what they consider to be one of the more damaging aspects of sports; that being competition.
Helen Dabney-Coyle of Midlake’s Soccer Association explained the objective this way, “This year to address some of the negative effects of competition, we’ve actually removed the ball.  And the kids are loving it.
(I added the emphasis)

According to the story, Helen went on to say, “By removing the ball, it’s absolutely impossible to say ‘this team won’ and ‘this team lost’ or ‘this child is better at soccer than that child.  We want our children to grow up learning that sport is not about competition, rather it’s about using your imagination.  If you imagine you’re good at soccer, then, you are.

Here in the U.S., several major media outlets including The Washington Times and USA Today picked up the ball-less soccer story, running it in their print and on-line editions.

There’s only one small fly in this particular ointment.  Nothing about the story is true.  It was originally broadcast on the CBC’s “This Is That ” program which, by the way, happens to be entirely satirical in nature.

Sadly, I don’t find it surprising that so many people were hoodwinked into believing that this story was true.  After all we do live in a culture which, far too often, is guided by ill-advised, but politically correct philosophies.

As an example, some school systems have eliminated the use of the letter grade “F” because it might serve to label particular students as not performing up to minimal standards.  No matter that those students are in fact not performing up to minimal standards!   We just wouldn’t want their egos damaged by their having to face the truth regarding their own lack of effort nor to hold them responsible for making an attempt to improve their study habits.

In the world of youth sports, political correctness is responsible for the now common-place practice of awarding every child on every team a trophy at the end of each season regardless of how they or their team performed.  Apparently, it’s now considered bad form to only recognize the hard work and achievement of those teams and individuals who actually put in the effort to excel.

From my perspective, those individuals who are wearing their rose-colored, politically correct glasses fail to understand the simple and age old truth that when events are structured so that everyone wins, in actual fact, everyone ends up losing.

The winners soon learn that their extra effort gained them nothing at all.  While the losers learn that little or no effort is required to achieve the same level of reward and recognition as those who did put in the extra effort required to achieve.

Hear that loud slamming sound?  That’s everyone being forced to the lowest common denominator at exactly the same time.

But enough about programming subsequent generations into being under achievers who expect to be rewarded for their (lack of) effort.

The really sad thing about this story is that main stream media in the U.S. picked it up and reported it as being factual and newsworthy.
There was a time when news stories weren’t published unless the facts contained within them could be thoroughly substantiated by at least two reliable and independent sources.  In those days, journalists actually worked very hard to vet, or to confirm, the truth of their stories before they were reported as being factual.  Apparently those heady days of journalistic accuracy and excellence are going, if they are not already gone, the same way as the “F” letter grade and the awarding of trophies only to actual winners.

Even if The Washington Times and USA Today had just taken the time to have an intern Google “Midlake, Ontario“, they would have learned that the place simply doesn’t exist.  Good job Main Stream Media.  I’d give you an “F” on this one if that grade still existed.

Edward R. Murrow most certainly is turning somersaults in his grave.


Photo credit: SportsGrid.com
Photo credit: newspaperalum.com

Something’s Rotten in the State of Football

I live in what is locally known as SEC country.  No, I’m not referring to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  In these parts, SEC is synonymous with the Southeastern Conference.  And as any true sports fan can tell you, the SEC means college football.
Arguably, in recent years the SEC has been the most dominant NCAA college football conference in the country.  An SEC team has won the NCAA football championship every year since 2006 and the odds on preseason favorite to win the 2013 title for the third consecutive year is the Crimson Tide of the University of Alabama.

I would consider saying “Roll Tide! ” at this point, but my personal college sports allegiances actually reside within the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Perennially, the college footballTop Ten lists, such as the AP and Coaches polls, are dominated by SEC teams.  At the moment, five SEC teams are listed in a 2013 preseason composite listing of the top 10 college football teams.

Regrettably, there’s another less well known listing which is filled with the names of athletes who play football for SEC schools; presumably institutions of higher learning.  That would be a listing of those individuals who have been arrested on charges ranging from misdemeanors to felonies.
At the moment, the Universities of Alabama and Florida (both SEC schools) lead the nation with arrests of athletes who play football for their school’s teams.  Both Alabama and Florida have had five current players arrested during the period January through June 2013.  The University of Kentucky comes in a close second with four players running afoul of the law during the same period.  The University of Georgia and Texas A&M have each placed three players in the pokie so far this year.  I won’t belabor the point by listing those SEC schools which have had only one or two players charged.

In total, between January and June 2013, there have been 25 Southeastern Conference football players arrested on a variety of charges.

Now before you think I’m picking on the SEC, this is a problem which is plaguing college football regardless of the conference in which teams play.  So far this year, there have been a total of 76 arrests made involving college football players across the country.  In 2012, 264 college football players were arrested; in 2011 there were 226 players arrested, with 88 such arrests being made in 2010.

Equally alarming are the numbers of college basketball players being arrested each year.  Year to date in 2013, 38 college hoops players have been taken into custody for one thing or another.  In 2012, the number charged was 74.

Given the fact that the number of players on a college basketball team is a mere fraction of those found on a football roster, the arrest percentage found among college basketball players may actually dwarf that of their football playing classmates.  I just don’t have the time nor the inclination to do the necessary analysis.

So where am I going with all of these arrest statistics?  No where in particular, other than wondering aloud if this trend is the direct result of the “win at all costs” attitude which predominates these days in college sports; particularly within the big conferences such as the SEC, the Big Ten, and the PAC 12.

After all when coaches, who have posted winning records for multiple seasons and are 9-2 during the current season, feel that they’re in jeopardy of losing their jobs – it just seems to me that there’s something badly out of balance.  Is it any wonder that they recruit and play anyone, regardless of past or present behavioral issues, who they believe can help their team win?

Here’s to simpler times.

Rickety Rack, Rickety Rack – Go State!


Arrest statistics available at: arrestnation.com
Photo credit: sunsurfr Foter CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: The.Comedian / Foter / CC BY-NC



“What Fools These Mortals Be”

Speaking through Puck in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”, ol’ Will Shakespeare once again hits the nail on the head.

You may not have heard of Doug Bartlett.  He’s a school teacher in the Chicago Public School system.  He’s been teaching school for 17 years.  He’s currently assigned to teach a second grade class.  Or should I say, “He was.

As the saying goes, “Into each life, a little rain must fall.”  If that old saw is correct, then it’s safe to assume that Mr. Barlett has been hit with an Amazonian rain forest deluge.  He was recently suspended from his teaching position for four days without pay.  That’s a fairly significant slap on the wrist.  What, you might be asking yourself, did Mr. Bartlett do to deserve a punishment of this magnitude?

I’ll tell you.
Mr. Barlett was teaching a unit on tools.  The kind of hand tools that are found in virtually every home.  As part of his demonstration, he showed his class a screw driver, a pair of pliers, and a wrench.  Mr. Bartlett kept the tools under his control at all times.  He didn’t pass them around the room or let his second graders handle them.  When the demonstration was completed, the tools were stored away in his toolbox which was then placed on a high shelf, well out of the reach of his young and inquisitive students.

Having once been a young boy myself who found himself sitting in a second grade class, I can tell you that Mr. Barlett probably had the full attention of his class during this innovative teaching exercise.  There was probably some real learning going on.  Which one might reasonably assume is just what the school system is charged with promoting.

Well, …. maybe.

Upon learning of Mr. Bartlett’s lesson involving tools, he was summarily charged with “possessing, carrying, storing, and using a weapon.”  Which in turn led to his suspension from teaching and his loss of pay.

Ever since reading of this travesty, I’ve been struggling to find a word which accurately describes the school administration’s decision to take this action against Mr. Barlett.  Pathetic is the only term that I can come up with, but pathetic really fails to capture the full depth and breadth of my personal displeasure.  I’m still looking for a more descriptive term.

It’s difficult for me to accept that there are individuals filling top level administration positions in our school systems who consistently demonstrate such a complete and utter lack of judgement and common sense as is so clearly demonstrated in this case.  But the reality is that they are in those positions and they are making decisions impacting our children every day.
Sadly, Mr. Bartlett’s case is not unique.  There is the case of the two eight or nine year old boys who were expelled from school for pointing their fingers at each other during recess on the playground and uttering the phrase, “Bang, bang!”   There is the young girl who was expelled for possession of drugs because she took an Advil that she had in her purse.  And unfortunately the list goes on and on.

Based upon the absence of judgement which is now routinely demonstrated by school administrators all across our country, I can only assume that scissors, pins, and sewing needles have been banned from Home Economics classes and that all Industrial Arts courses have been totally expunged from the curriculum.  After all, it follows that both of these pursuits represent clear and present dangers to our children, not to mention our society at large.

I wonder how long will it be before no one under the age of eighteen will be allowed to enter a Home Depot or Ace Hardware store?  Or if a background check is going to be required if I want to purchase a pipe wrench?

Any man is liable to err, only a fool persists in error.
Marcus Tullius Cicero


Photo credit: jrhode Foter.com CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: horizontal.integration / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA


Ground Control to Major Tom

Ancient Aliens
I have a confession to make.  I really enjoy watching the History Channel series, Ancient Aliens.

I enjoy the series for a couple of reasons, one of which is most assuredly NOT because I believe that the “ancient astronaut theorists”, as they prefer to call themselves, are coming anywhere close to the truth with their suppositions regarding the history and origins of mankind vis-à-vis visits by tourists from across the galactic expanse.

No, the primary reason I watch the series is that it highlights some really interesting and inexplicable archaeological sites, which is a subject that has always tweaked my interest.  Beyond that, it’s enormously entertaining to watch the “ancient alien theorists” convolute logic and the scientific method to beyond the breaking point in order to make their hypotheses appear to be plausible.

When I was in grade school, I learned that the scientific method consisted of the following steps:  1) Start with a question, 2) Make observations and conduct background research, 3) Propose a hypothesis explaining that which is being questioned, 4) Design an experiment to test the hypothesis, and 5) Accept or reject the hypothesis based on the experiment’s results.  Then of course, rinse and repeat.

The “ancient astronaut theorists” on Ancient Aliens have seen fit to substantially streamline the scientific method to three extremely expedient steps:  1) Start with a question, 2) Propose an hypothesis, 3) Accept the hypothesis.  Why waste time with cumbersome and time consuming stuff like observations, research, and experimentation?  Bah, humbug!

Ancient Aliens never fails to provide a bit of comic relief as the show’s stalwart group of “ancient astronaut theorists” blithely present startling inconsistencies in their extraterrestrial explanations of otherwise earthly artifacts and events.  And they’re able to do so with such straight faces.
For example, in different episodes, the Great Pyramid of Cheops has been explained to have been, without question, 1) an enormous chemical generator designed to produce microwave energy which was then beamed up to the ancient alien’s mothership orbiting the earth, 2) an enormous nuclear powered device designed for the purpose of converting common elements into gold (for as we all know, the ancient aliens were really only interested in our gold), and/or, 3) a cosmic portal used transport our extraterrestrial vistiors, not to mention the occasional Pharaoh, between Earth and the region in and around the Orion nebula.

In the rough and tumble world of “ancient astronaut theorizing”, the rule seems to be ‘If the hypothesis comes anywhere close to fitting, stretch it.
Live Long and Prosper, Ancient Aliens!  It certainly beats watching American Idol.

On second thought, some of those contestants appear to have just beamed down.

Has Winning Also Become an Entitlement?

As I’ve mentioned a few times, one of my vocations is that of sports photographer. Being down on the sidelines, close to the action allows me to see and hear things going on during games that those watching on TV or even from the stadium seats often miss.  Sometimes, this access to the nitty great, so to say, gives sports a completely different look and feel.

Yesterday, I was covering a high school state championship tournament.  It was a two-day double elimination event involving 56 teams, playing in six different classifications, A through AAAAAA.

As long as I can remember, organized team sports have always been promoted as a means of developing character, integrity, and leadership skills in the athletes who play the games.  If this be true, and I’m sure that it is in the majority of cases, one would assume that these skills are mentored by the coaches and grow and evolve in the players as they engage in healthy competition and learn the benefits of fair play and being part of a team effort.

Back to the tournament.

In two cases after the completion of championship games, players from the losing team either failed, or refused to come to the dais set up on the field to be recognized and to receive their runner-up trophies.  In one case, the official representing the state high school athletic association was forced to walk twenty or so yards out to where the team and its coaches sat on the turf.  No one from the team stood up to receive the trophy or show any appreciation of having received it.

I watched this in a state of disbelief.  Sure it hurts to come that close to winning a state championship only to finish in second place.  But if those associated benefits of playing team sports are to be believed, this is the time to rise above defeat and congratulate your opponent, to recognize the level of your own team’s achievement, and to display the true essence of sportsmanship.

Apparently not in some cases.

I had to wonder what was going through the minds of those coaches as they tacitly allowed their players to so thoroughly embarrass themselves, their team, and their schools by refusing to participate in the award’s ceremony.

It did make me wish, for one fleeting moment, that I was the Principal of one, or both, of those schools.  I would have relished the opportunity to invite the head coaches down to my office for a chat on Monday morning.

Short of that, I just sat there shaking my head.  I certainly didn’t waste my time attempting to capture an image of this sorry display.

Epiphanies, Revelations, and Other Childhood Trauma

History is filled with examples of great thinkers having moments of epiphany; instances in which some conundrum which had been perplexing them was finally understood in the flash of a moment.

Take Sir Isaac Newton for example.  The observation of an apple falling from a tree was all it took to pull the loose threads already meandering through his mind into the Universal Law of Gravitation.

Back in my corporate days, we referred to those instances when your thought processes finally clicked and you immediately understood something that had been stumping you as: “Aha! Moments

I can clearly remember the very first “Aha! Moment” that I ever had.  Sadly, the outcome of that moment of insight didn’t yield a result which would match up to Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation, but for me it was enough of a revelation that I’ve never forgotten it.

When I was eight years old, I began to develop a real love for reading.  I wish I could say that I was driven to read by my passion for the works of Tolstoy, Dickens, and Melville; I was not.  My favorite author was Franklin W. Dixon.  Are you struggling to come up with some of the titles of Mr. Dixon’s more noteworthy works?  I’ll give you a hint.  His main characters were Joe, Frank, and their fun-loving companion, Chet.  That’s right, the Hardy Boys.

I devoured Hardy Boy books; particularly during the summer.  Warner’s Toy Store carried most of the books, there were 58 titles in all, and as I recall they could be had for the princely sum of $1.00 each.  I spent many a summer afternoon sitting in the shade of a tree in the backyard reading such genre classics as The Twisted Claw or Mystery of the Flying Express.

But I digress.  On to my “Aha Moment”.

While reading, I would sometimes come across a word which, at my young age, I could not decipher.  One word in particular stymied me for quite a while.  It was a fairly long word, nine letters in all.

Keep in mind, I was still a very new reader and still at that stage where I was often discovering new words.  But for the life of me, I just could not figure this one out.

I remember attempting to pronounce the word phonetically in my mind.  DETT’-uhr-mine, DETT’-uhr-mine?  I’d try to figure out what the word was by examining how it was used in a sentence.  No luck.

Finally after weeks of frustration, I remember coming across the word once again in a book.  Immediately, I perceived the printed word in a completely different manner.  It was almost as if it jumped off of the page at me.  My mind’s eye separated it into its component syllables differently than I’d ever seen it before.

Aha!  I realized that this was a word that I already knew!  I realized that this was a word which I was completely familiar with it!

dee-TER’-men, determine, DETERMINE!  Not DETT’-uhr-mine.  

In keeping with the prose that I was used to reading in the Hardy Boys stories, I probably said something like, “Yikes!

My mental agony was at an end, at least momentarily.

My eight year old mind could not possibly imagine the epiphanies and revelations that Life had awaiting me around corners not yet encountered.

Say What You Mean, Mean What You Say

I tend to be a little anal retentive when it comes to using language correctly. I always cringe when I hear someone slaying the King’s English.

For example, many years ago I was in a business meeting when the facilitator attempted to inform a participant that a suggestion which he had just made was, in fact, pointless to the discussion.

Thank you, but that’s a mute point“, said the moderator.

After a pregnant pause, I interjected, “I think you meant to say that it’s a moot point.”

Then I added, “Otherwise, no one would have heard it in the first place.”

The blank, glassy eyes staring back at me from around the table confirmed that the meeting had gone on for far too long or that my comments had also been deemed to be moot.

Another of my linguistic pet peeves is a phrase that I hear frequently and which is almost universally used incorrrectly. Let me tell a story to illustrate.

Sally and Jean have met for coffee and are engaged in conversation. Much to Sally’s chagrin, Jean is going on and on about her husband John’s big promotion. Since Sally’s husband is still inspecting gizzards on 3rd shift down at the chicken processing plant, she really doesn’t want to hear any more about it.

To make her point, Sally interrupts, “Jean, I could care less about John’s promotion.”

Oops! I don’t think Sally meant what she just said.

Since Sally was really attempting to tell Jean that it would not be possible for her to be any less interested in hearing about John’s promotion, she should have said, “I couldn’t care less…..

By saying, “I could care less….” she actually was indicating that her level of disinterest had not yet hit rock bottom. Just how much less she could have cared about John’s promotion is anyone’s guess given what we know.

So remember, when you’re wanting to let someone know that you’ve had just about all that you can take of any situation in which you find yourself, the correct phrase to use is,
I couldn’t care less….

Which is probably what you’re thinking right about now, so let me end this rant and wish you Bon Mots!

There is No Dark Side of the Moon (except for that Pink Floyd Album)

An Illustration of the Power of Language

Several years ago, I was having lunch with a co-worker; a highly educated gentleman, well versed in applied chemistry and other sciences.

As we were randomly discussing topics now long since forgotten, he made a comment that caused me to do a quick double-take.

I’ve often wondered what the dark side of the moon looks like.  Since it’s never illuminated by the sun, I wonder if it has craters too?

At first, I thought he was kidding, but then I realized that he was being completely serious.

I replied, “You realize that there really isn’t a dark side of the moon, don’t you?  As the moon rotates, the sun sooner or later lights up its entire surface.  By the way, there are photographs of the back side of the moon and it does have craters.

At that point, he gave me a look of complete disbelief, forcing me to ask, “How did you manage to sleep through the entire 4th grade?

I’ve often heard it said that: as we speak, so do we also think.

This story serves as a perfect example of the power of language to shape our thinking and convince us of “facts” which unfortunately just aren’t true.  In this case with a well-used and commonplace phrase.

It’s relatively easy to see how such linguistic misconceptions can be reinforced.  After all, why would our language accept the use of a phrase such as the “dark side of the moon”, if there really isn’t one?

For the rest of that particular lunch hour, I used an apple (representing the Earth) and a grape (the Moon) to demonstrate to my friend that the Sun does eventually illuminate the entire surface of the Moon and that the Moon does rotate on its axis – just once – every time it revolves around the Earth.

It was fairly obvious that he really thought that I was trying to pull one over on him.  We both had been known to attempt that from time to time.

Begrudgingly, my friend finally had to admit that I was correct, but I could tell that he was having a difficult time accepting the fact that he had allowed himself to be misled by this phrase for all those years.

I hope he doesn’t believe that the Earth is flat!  Maybe I better give him a call?

Whose Interests Are We Looking After, Anyway?

I’ve always been one who has attempted to stay up-to-date on current events.  It’s not at all unusual for me to come across a news story or a report that causes me to mumble to myself, “I find that hard to believe.

I often wonder if this propensity toward disbelief is simply the result of my advancing age and with it an increasing tendency toward curmudgeon-like behavior and attitudes; or if, on the other hand, these events really are justifiably hard to believe.

Here’s a news story that I’m confident most people will agree has totally blown itself off of anyone’s Believability Scale!

Back in 1997, Bay City, Michigan instituted a new agreement with the union which represents the teachers working in its public school system.

If you’re like me, you probably think that its commonplace for all modern school systems to practice a Zero Tolerance approach to the use and/or distribution of drugs and alcohol on their premises and grounds. That just seems to be a fundamental principle, does it not?

Well, apparently not in Bay City, Michigan.

It turns out that under the 1997 master agreement with their union, Bay City teachers could be found to be under the influence or in the possession of illegal drugs in their classrooms up to three times before they could be terminated from their jobs.  If they were found to be alcoholically intoxicated, they were allowed five chances before similar action could be taken!

Apparently knocking back a stiff drink before tackling the Geography lesson is a more acceptable practice than taking a quick toke on one’s pipe or doobie.

Amazed?  Don’t be, it gets worse.

Under the agreement, a teacher caught selling drugs in their classroom would be suspended for three days and have to undergo counseling. But they were not in jeopardy of having their employment terminated until they were caught selling drugs a second time!  (Hold on, I’ve got to read this paragraph again.)

Students in the Bay City system, aren’t quite so lucky.  Middle and high school students who are found to be under the influence of illegal drugs are immediately given either a five day suspension or a three day suspension accompanied with mandatory counseling.

I guess the school system’s administrators believe that five days away from school is sufficient to make any drug counseling unnecessary.  Go figure?

I’ve heard of cases in other school systems in which students were immediately expelled for having a bottle of Advil or a prescription inhaler in their backpacks.  I’ve always found that to be an extreme case of over reaction.  But now the other end of this nonsensical continuum has clearly been found to be located in Bay City, Michigan.

I have to ask, who’s minding the store, or in this case, the public schools.