Teachers: Discourage White Letters!

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Teachers: I was just reminded of something I recently learned from one of my college freshmen: Students have been (and will continue to do so) writing X amount of nonsense words at the end of an essay, then change the font color to white. This means the word count you see (grade?) will be larger than what they actually constructed.

Of course this is ridiculous, but then again, so is assigning a word-count minimum (in my opinion).

We need to stop the “easy-to-grade/penalize” mentality of counting words, correcting spelling, and writing in missing commas. Instead, work with young people to develop their thoughts in a clear and organized manner.

If you are reading this and you plan to use this in a future paper or assignment, please re-consider.  Your teacher may dock you for not meeting some arbitrary number he/she established, but you can continue in life knowing that not every one of your readers will concern himself/herself with how many words you can write.

When it comes to your words, quality will always outweigh quantity.

Concerning the Outcome of the Election (2016)

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The following is a list of my prepared reactions to the result scenarios of the US Presidential Election of 2016.

  1.  Trump Wins:  “America has spoken.  Let’s join together as a nation and do what we can to progress as a civilization.”***
  2. Clinton Wins:  “America has spoken.  Let’s join together as a nation and do what we can to progress as a civilization.”
  3. Johnson Wins:  “What?”
  4. Stein Wins:  “Seriously…what?”

All jokes aside, here’s my unsolicited piece:

If “my” candidate loses, I will not say/believe that the election was rigged.  I will not unfriend people who supported any other candidate.  I will not share images of violence or ideas that inspire hatred that may be occurring (this is my rule all the time) as a knee-jerk reaction to the the results.  I will continue to love my family, friends, and students (though not in a creepy way).  I (probably) will not move to Canada or any other country.  I will not once express any disenchantment with democracy.

I will, however, remind myself (and perhaps others) that no one should think our system is perfect.  It’s flawed because we’re flawed.

***That is, unless his ideas/executive orders are batshit fucking crazy and are a clear pledge to destroy the fabric of our country…

 

The Side-armer (Another Baseball Analogy)

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sidearm-pitcher

Do you throw this way?  Should anyone, in your opinion?  Imagine being a coach of young players and taking on the challenging task of introducing pitching form to them:  Would you have even considered the notion of showing them this technique (which you know not only exists, but also works with many pitchers) in the early (crucial!) stages of their baseball education?

These are rhetorical questions to which I’m assuming you are saying “No”, “If it works for them”, and “Probably not” respectively.

So, here’s the connection to what I do for a living.  Successful writers understand general sentence structure, paragraphing, and building arguments.  They know about characterization, the impact of dialogue, the necessity of conflict, and even the usefulness of fragments.  Fragments good sometimes.  Not always.

However, for the same reason elementary school teachers do not begin the academic year by exploring the nuances of the subjunctive case or the proper uses of the semicolon, I do not think it wise to discuss various advanced writing methods (in all genres) with 100-level students at the college level.

I believe it’s more beneficial to the student to comprehend and apply a “groundwork” notion of writing before exploring more experimental and non-traditional techniques.  I never truly wish to quash any student’s aspiration to be creative and funky with their writing, but I also subscribe to the notion that creativity is neither natural or taught.  It is, instead, developed.  Over time.

So, frankly, I sincerely hope that my students eventually become successful side-armed pitchers with their writing.  They will have found their voice, the techniques that work for them as individuals, and are satisfactorily communicating their thoughts to a receptive world who appreciates their contributions.

To get to that point, though, I have to instill that my current students first become strong, confident, over-armed pitchers.

 

Would you hire me?

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My name is Steve Lively, and I’ve been in education for over 17 years, most of which was at a small-town public school.  I teach English, if that happens to matter.

So.  I hear you’re selling your house?  Will you hire me to be your realtor?  How about just the home estimate?  I spend much of my time at home.

I understand you need an engine replaced in your 1957 Bel-Air convertible.  Beautiful vehicle.  Just gorgeous.  Will you hire me to put it in?  I’ve ridden in many cars.

It’s come to my attention that your roof is leaking?  Wish to pay me to do that for you?  Water is bad when it comes to stuff like that.

I noticed your neighborhood is lacking in security.  Might you consider me to be your night watchman/security council?  Lots of bad-looking dudes lurking around neighborhoods these days, boy.  I’ve seen them.  They’re a disaster.

That wound looks fresh.  Let me get my, er, uh, stitching tools and I’ll clean you right up.  I’ve seen Grey’s Anatomy AND ER.  Don’t worry about the bill.  For now.  Believe me.

Some credit card companies are hounding you about a bill you paid?  Hire me, and I’ll defend you in court.   I know about money and stuff.  Lawyers.  That Judge Judy, though, is a nasty woman.  Private server.

Your next-door neighbor just informed me that she’s seen you inviting multiple women into your home while your wife is away at work.  You old dog!  Women are beautiful little creatures, aren’t they?  I know!  No one can make a better sandwich, boy.  I know.  I can’t really help myself either.  Anyway, need help with that?  I’m very respectful of women.  At least, the young, skinny, attractive white ones.

I hear the city is considering a multi-million dollar road renovation that will turn your quaint little two-lane street into a four-lane causeway.  Well, that’s just business.  I’ve actually got a lot of land.  No, not here.  Well, wait.  Maybe here.  So much land, ya know. My companies typically come through early and under budget.  I’ve got some new buildings going up in…wait, what were we talking about?

That toothache?  I can fix it.  Let me tell you something.  And I’m being totally serious here.  I got a corn kernel stuck in my teeth once when I was a kid.  These rigged movie theaters are in bed with the dentists.  And if you don’t believe me, you should.

Just hire me.  Trust me.  I know stuff.  I can do it.  Emails.

Forget the fact that I’ve spent my entire life not actually doing any of the above things.

Forget that my resume would hit the the bottom of everyone else’s trash can for these jobs and responsibilities.

You just have to trust me.

Trust that I can do it for you. The best job.  Because I have balls and I say what I mean.

I mean, let’s look at this.  ISIS, right?  Terrorism.  Jobs are going to other countries.  Disaster.  Stamina.  Wrong.  China knows what we don’t.  Those thugs in the Middle East?  They figured it all out before anyone.  Technology?  It’s just a disaster.  So very sad.  Putin.  There’s a leader.  33,000 emails.  He and the north Vietnamese.  They were at a Miss  America pageant at one of my casinos one time…

ahem…

Forget that.  They’re just all trying to destroy my brand and my name.

Remember this:  The other guys who want to work for you are crooks.  They’re crooked.  They’re rigging the system against me.  You could be next.  Choose me.

The vote is next week.

Remember When? (Oct. 10, 2016)

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Remember junior high school?

Remember when kids in the school identified candidates for student council?

Remember when those nominees were all recognizable, as in you either knew them from class, from the hall, from elementary school, or they happened to be a close friend?

Remember when those candidates would post campaign signs in the hallways and bathrooms?  Remember how sometimes those signs had an innocent rhyme or pun in order to garner the vote of the undecided.

Remember when it was the day to vote?  Perhaps you were all brought to the gym or auditorium and hands were raised.  Perhaps everyone filled out a paper ballot during first period.

Now…

Remember when you voted for the school bully just so he wouldn’t punch you while you quaked and stood at your locker?  Remember when you voted for that big dude in school because he was so proud of how many girls he fondled without their permission in the hallway?  Remember when he was kicked out of class for making sexually suggestive remarks toward the young substitute?  Remember when his dad came to the school and got him out of severe trouble?  Remember when he joked with you in the locker room after gym about some alleged private sexual engagement between him and a female classmate?

Remember how you wish you had been that guy, and that you idolized him and thought, YEAH…this guy needs to be in charge?

Remember thinking that this is who represents all of the students’ moral goodness and intelligence?

Remember thinking that this is the guy at my school who, even though his past is a bit unsavory, will no doubt change any of his inappropriate behaviors and vocabulary once he’s elected?

 

The Power of a Single Word

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It’s late.  I should probably be in bed.  However, I ended up talking politics (online) with a former student.  He knows who he is…  Anyway…here’s my wacky take:

It’s election season here in the USA, and there’s a lot of talk about the -isms.  Capitalism.  Heroism.  Judaism.  Communism.   Pokemonism.

But no one seems to talk about Americanism.

Not all Americans are Christians, but much of our country’s founders were.  Thus, there is a large percentage of Christian-oriented language in our early political documents.  While “Americanism” is on nary a page of those documents, I firmly believe we as a nation subscribe to this lesser-known -ism.

Observe:

An Americanismist is probably inclined to donate a buck or so to the wounded veteran sitting in a wheelchair outside a Wal-Mart.  To us, that seems like a obvious choice.  We think, “I’ve come to this shit-hole store to buy something.  I have money.  This guy can’t walk anymore because he put his life on the line X amount of years ago to protect what I believe to be my freedom, so…yeah!  Here’s a buck!”

Someone who follows Americanism also thinks it’s nice to have a firm structure above him or her at the time of sleeping.  That roof could be made of torn umbrella pieces, crystal, or something in between.  We tend to prefer to reside in some type of living space that covers us.  Gosh.  How many times has anyone reading this learned of a family or friend who has suffered through some type of accident or damage to one’s abode?  Here, we think, “Your house burned down?  That’s terrible!  What can we do?  Would you like to stay at our house?  Can I take your kids to school?  I know your insurance is pretty good, but we’d like to help you out because, you know, you’re my uncle.”

Example three:  Americanismists are pretty touchy about education.  While I can’t possibly gauge what all readers do while engaging in social media interactions, I can wager that the following occurs quite frequently:  Parents discuss teachers’ methodology (positively or negatively).  Teachers discuss parents’ involvement or lack thereof.  Students’ discuss their parents’ and teachers’ ability to constantly piss them off.  Politicians or political strategists discuss the importance of mainstreaming, inclusion, individual educational plans (IEPs), schools’ performance grades, schools’ performance scores, schools’ accreditation, schools’ budgetary states, etc.  Every damn one of these Americanismists want kids to not only go to school, but to be educated to the point where they can  a) contribute in some way to society, and b) move out.  For this example we say things like this to young people:

“Boy, school wasn’t like that in my day, but I guess times change, huh?”

‘When you’re older you’ll understand how important it is for you to graduate.”

“I work hard so you have opportunities I didn’t have.”

“Please, for the love of God, put down that phone and listen to me!”

So…a while back a few of those “founding” guys thought that our new country ought to have some type of basic educational system for every child.  In their infinite senselessness (ahem), they further thought that said education should not come at a huge cost that would leave some young people out of those schools.  Make it free, they said.  They’ll be like an investment toward the next generation.  We can teach them all how to read, write, understand trapezoids and protons, and they’ll strengthen our local-, state-, and federal work force to a higher point YEAR AFTER YEAR!  (I’m paraphrasing, of course…)

That’s why, in 2016, it’s pretty much illegal for a public school to turn away a student who wishes to enroll.  It’s Americanism.  It’s because we care about one another.

Which, if you think about it, is a societal thing.

We are also quite social.  We attend social gatherings such as church, PTA meetings, AA meetings, and even ice cream socials (if you went to my elementary school).

At these social events, we talk to one another, ask about each other’s families and work.  We engage in what is commonly known as “respectful behavior” and “common sense.”  We support fundraisers.  We buy lemonade from the neighborhood kids every summer.  I mean…come on.  We’re not against being social, right?  We’re not anti-social.  Right?

We can’t wait to hang out.

We can’t wait to leave work and see our families and friends.

We can’t wait for our lunch break at work to have some time to socialize.

We love to be social—in person and online.

But are we SOCIALISTS?

Hell no.

Wait….what?

Enjoying the Holi-gaze

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I have this weird suspicion that other countries have live-feed cameras planted in American retail stores that will broadcast for the next 24 hours.  Viewers from around the world will prepare (healthy/un-American) snacks and watch us plow over each other in order to save money so we can buy even more stuff that we are convinced we need. 

This Year, Give Tranqs!

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So, I think I’ve figured it all out.  Okay, not all all.  But one thing that has bothered me since I was young.  

Once, when I was (probably) nine, my mom asked me what I would do if I won a million dollars.  With very little preparation or thought, I said the following:

“I think I’d like to buy everyone’s guns–maybe for about $50 each–and throw them in an incinerator.”

Yeah.

Okay, you got me.  I didn’t say “incinerator.”  I know that because, as I write this, I just now had to look up the correct spelling.  I have always had a thing where I do not normally use words that I cannot spell.  

I remember looking at the sidewalk–I’m pretty sure we were in front of my school–and not at my mom’s face when I answered her.  Because she’s never liked guns–and always made that abundantly clear to my brother and me throughout our childhood–I have a suspicion that she probably welled up and felt pride in raising her son to subscribe to the same beliefs as she’d held for so long.

Now, the point of this (quick?) blog post:  As a high school- and college writing instructor who lives and works in southern Indiana and assigns argumentative essays, I have read a “fair” share of pro-gun essays.  Often, within the argument, the student-author will mention a recent event where a responsible gun owner prevented a heist or mass shooting to impress upon the reader that state- and federal governments should not stand in the way of this potential for heroism.  

In those classes as well, we discuss the Rogerian argument method.  In short, it’s a technique in written argument that suggests a compromise and not a complete reversal of one’s perspective.  

As I sit in my chilly kitchen writing this–at least 100 yards from the closest firearm–I’m the eternal pacifist–the guy who always thinks that guns are not the answer to any of the world’s problems.  

If I were in a gas station, however, waiting in line to buy one of those hot “taquitos” they have spinning on the metal rollers as the place was suddenly being held at gunpoint, perhaps my tune would change.  I mean, those fucking things are good as shit!

Seriously, though, I have an idea.  If the real concern is that everyday Joes and Janes who own and like to shoot guns ALSO want to feel protected as they stand behind me in line as I’m ordering a grande chestnut praline frappucino, I suggest the following:

Tranqs!

Let licensed gun owners have the ability to carry tranquilizer guns!  Since their apparent objective is to take down any threat, why not just prevent the threat without killing them?  Let’s explore a couple more ideas and alternatives first:

Knives:

Lots of people carry knives.  They are quite popular in Switzerland, I hear.  In America, we use them to spread butter and open Amazon deliveries.  The bigger ones can be worn on hip-sheaths and can cut through anything else from tennis shoes to cows’ necks (if needed).  In a hostage situation, however, being close to the threat is key–unless, of course, the knife-owner happens to be one of those guys at the circus who can purposely miss hitting a bikini-clad lady on the spinning wheel from fifteen feet.

Grenades:

This would definitely end the ordeal, but it would also cause a bit more havoc than a bullet (or series thereof).  Let’s move on.

Tasers:

These are advantageous, but they also could succumb to electrical shortages.  As anyone knows, battery-powered objects have the proclivity to jam or simply be out of power when absolutely needed.  Who among you has had his/her phone die at the WORST POSSIBLE TIME???

Swords/Nun-chucks:

These would send the right message to these would-be thieves or killers would even draw a weapon, but they are not the most convenient items to carry when all you really want is some Big Red soda, a roll of toilet paper, two doughnuts, and a NASCAR-themed lighter.  

While I have not been to a scene such as those suggested where heroes have (or could have) saved innocent lives, I have seen news footage of the aftermath.  There are typically thirty-six EMTs, police officers, news reporters, and bloggers surrounding the crime.  These people have other responsibilities and should not have to waste their time on this preventable situation.  If the perpetrator was tranquilized, he or she could have been arrested while “under” and handled by less than three dozen professionals.  

Those people who have to clean and sanitize the place probably have other agenda items for their day.  Do you think any of those people enjoy wearing haz-mat suits and being crouched down on a tiled floor cleaning up bone fragments and grimy human blood?  

Yuck.

Lastly, what about the friends and families of the alleged criminals?  Should the only option of civilian peacekeepers be to take the life of this person?  They (presumably) have families and friends who probably don’t want to be at a funeral any time soon.

Thus, it is clear that the cleanest, most efficient way for responsible civilians to help prevent crimes (and countless hours of 24-news entities “covering” these deplorable events) is to let them carry tranquilizers guns to take down threats and keep America safe.  

As for my taquito, I prefer salsa to blood spatter.

Conceal and Carry – A Confession

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Today, I did it.  I was at school, and it was a Monday.  Part of why I chose today was because I truly felt no one would notice, nor would they even suspect me.  My school doesn’t have any type of metal detectors at the entrances, so I knew I could just ease in and go about my day with it behind my back.  In the mornings, most of the students and teachers walking around are catching up, trying to be somewhat chipper about the unseasonably warm weather.  I, too, was in good spirits because I was carrying into a school as a little experiment.

I’m not angry.  I don’t have much of an agenda, really.  With all the talk lately about conceal-carry—especially on campuses–I thought I owed it to myself, my own children, and the world to conduct a little test, just to see if I could get away with it.

This is, after all, a confessional.

I’ll keep it brief.  I went through my day without making any sort of deal about it.  I followed my normal routine all the way until after the last class had ended and the building virtually emptied.  I strolled down the hall toward the faculty restroom and smiled at my successful experiment.  I had done it.  I had made it the whole day and no one noticed.  No one even cared.  No one felt unsafe, and no one felt insecure.

I was secure.  I knew what was behind my back made me proud to exercise my Constitutional right.

I entered the restroom, closed the door, switched on the light, and sighed.  It took a second to withdraw it from my back.  The size had never felt so right.  My hand just looked right holding it before me.  The test was complete.

I sat down, still clothed.

and read my book…