Archive for the ‘Your Adorable Child’ Category

Once Upon a Time in Atlanta Part II

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

Atlanta-Public-Schools_Where-Excuses-Go-to-Die1Further thoughts on running a school district like a criminal enterprise.

The Atlanta Cheating Scandal (or “APS Scandal” for Atlanta Public Schools) essentially began in 2009 after the Atlanta Journal Constitution published statistical anomalies in state competency tests that showed suspicious numbers of teacher corrections in 58 Atlanta schools.

By 2011, the Georgia Professional Standards Commission had uncovered cheating by close to 178 educators in 44 of 56 Atlanta schools that were investigated. Students were either directly provided with correct answers or teachers changed incorrect answers on tests after they’d been turned in. They did this, in short, to either collect bonuses or keep their jobs, and anyone who tried to shed light on the fraud reportedly lived in fear of retaliation. (more…)

What I Saw in a Selfie

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

A friend’s daughter’s selfie stirs contempt for social distortion.

Notes from a Non-parent 9_Where Excuses Go to DieSomewhere around age 11, most kids stop thinking of themselves as children. In fact, with some, there might even be a first taste of contempt: an inaugural disdain for one’s own image in light of the year’s more celebrated models. That was my experience, and I’m guessing it might also be that way for Ray (short for Rayna), the 12 year-old daughter of my friend Ruby. One of Ray’s selfies, in which she’s wearing thick eyeliner and lipstick, took me by surprise this morning.

Now, I’m a non-parent by choice, so these remarks are made knowing that my own being caught off guard can’t compare to the urgency felt by Ruby and other moms. But the photo made me sad, nonetheless: sad for the marketing designed to strategically divide and conquer women that’s already being aimed at this kid, this baby held by me in a picture above my desk.

What I saw in this selfie took me by surprise, ‘cause I wasn’t prepared to equate Ray’s face with my anger for how dumb adults can be. (more…)

The Racist Tree – Part II

Sunday, February 16th, 2014

But the tree did not actually like Hitler_Where Excuses Go to DieAdditional thoughts on an entry from 2012 that has stayed with me.

The Racist Tree is a simple little poem by Onion writer Alexander Blechman that packs a punch despite the fact it was probably written in fifteen minutes for fun. Lark it or not, I remain intrigued. It’s the epitome of get character or become one.As you’ll see, the consequences of the tree’s poor choices go beyond a label when it’s deeper beliefs, latent virtues, and intentions are rendered irrelevant.

The poem rips conditional social justice, but its subject is securely tethered to the writer’s sense of humor. So on this casual Sunday, enjoy. And consider discussing with someone 20 years younger, a teen screw-up you may know, a teacher, or a parent.


A False Image of Solid Parenting

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Taking responsibility for your children doesn’t work in silhouette

Notes from a Non-parent 8After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick threw herself off an abandoned concrete silo tower last month, her friends and schoolmates came forward in droves to tell police she’d essentially been bullied to death. Guadalupe Shaw, 14, and another girl (aged 12) were charged with felony aggravated stalking after Shaw posted a new message stating in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t care less that her cruelty had resulted in the girl’s death. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd reacted to that arrogance swiftly. He has since been adamant in his intent to jail the two minors, and he’s not staying silent on the responsibility their parents should bear, either (“I’m aggravated that [they] aren’t doing what parents should…Responsible parents take disciplinary action”).

I won’t get into the particulars of the backstory since, for instance, the intimidating coercion by Shaw of one of Rebecca’s friends to join in the bullying is all over the Internet. But I will note that an examination of Rebecca’s computer revealed search queries for “What is overweight for a 13-year-old girl?” “How to get blades out of razors,” and “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die?” That’s a kicker that feels like it just hit your chest.


There’s No Excuse for Limiting 9/11 to Hero Worship

Sunday, September 8th, 2013

Are 9-11 Remembrance Festivals really latent Islamophobia picnics?

Those that serve only to indoctrinate – yes.

NintendoYou’ve got your 9-11 ceremonies and your 9-11 family fun runs, silent auctions, parades, Karaoke, walkathons, crafts for the kids, food, refreshments, and for some groups, even mock CSI investigations with clues, evidence, and presumably “perps.” (I wonder what they look like at a 9-11 festival.)

You can be outraged at my questioning this stuff, but you can’t be offended by my asking why these events rarely include educational opportunities to broaden our understanding of cultures other than our own. Yes-yes, I understand it was Western culture that took a hit that morning, but number one, ours wasn’t the only culture to be irreversibly affected, and number two, not every follower of Islam is hiding Boeing 747 wiring diagrams. So what’s the excuse? Where’s the booth that explains to young people what the Koran is, and who reads it?

Of Connecticut’s Wethersfield 9-11 memorial picnic, a Richard M. Keane Foundation spokesperson told a local paper, “It’s a nice family evening, and a time to remember in a positive way. It’s a looking-for-the-light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel kind of theme. I think it’s a great way for people to share the day and remember, but also enjoy their families.”

Absolutely. And familiar sentiments all –– the physical and emotional scars of 9-11 are indeed part of America’s social fabric. I’m just asking why it has to be limited to only those. Why can’t it also be used as a teaching tool (and an ounce of prevention)? Limiting these festivals to only “our side” and our understanding is dangerously restrictive in terms of dealing with those suspicious or distrustful of our way of life. Even from a tactical military standpoint, a soldier would question why we’re dismissing “the other guy.” Must hearts and minds always be won after America has put itself above those with whom it seeks to gain favor? (more…)

Slamming the Stroller-pushers

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

When the term “stroller-pusher” becomes a derogatory label


When Stroller-pusher is used as a snide reference, it’s usually directed at some self-righteous adult pushing not just a stroller, but a holy-stroller, a classist war-wagon, if you will.

Notes From a Non-Parent 7

I also call it steering a child-hero or driving a trophy-trolley, (too often while forcing a 10th-grade wardrobe to conform to a 10th-grade-was-a-long-time-ago body). Certain Stroller-pushers have a pious air of expectation. Some Stoller-pushers rove in gangs, flying yoga colors, and they’re impatient, entitled, and predominantly white. Stroller-pushers believe it’s their privilege in life to express themselves, yet they demand the sanctity of their own comfort zones and short circuit like malfuctioning toasters when challenged. The woman in this cell phone footage (we’ll call her “Bananas”)  exemplifies what happens when a self-important crybaby’s low tolerance for difficulty collides with not getting what she wants. She exemplifies a lack of patience and bearing.  (more…)

Unlocking The Truth – is Where Excuses Go to Die

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

Lucky are the children who think (and rock) for themselves.

Okay, how cool are fantasy tour dates!? Never mind the gold stars; here’s our show rider!

TOO MUCH METAL FOR ONE HANDThe thing that thrills me about Malcolm Brickhouse and Jarad Dawkins isn’t that they play so well, or that they’re so determined to jam. What’s cool is their combined and individual grace. They clearly choose their words in a manner that best serves their intentions and goals rather than making them sound hip and defiant. And it’s almost as if you can see ’em processing their way through adolescent confusion – without the defeatism that accompanies juvenile martyrdom. It’s called metacognition and it’s incredible to witness in kids this young – bonus that’s it’s too much metal for one hand. 

I’m jealous. I certainly wish I’d been able to explain  –even to myself–  my own ideas and dreams so well at their age. I’m both enamored with Malcolm and Jarad and in admiration of them. Some may dismiss the heavy metal genre they’ve chosen (which would say more about the dismisser than the style preference) or the fact that it’s a kid holding the guitar. But these two are future lawyers, teachers, engineers, or future Vernon Reids or Greg Graffins, so it really doesn’t matter how they rock.

They just rock.

Still, some might assume Jarad and Malcolm are being played by parents aiming for fast cash or fame they couldn’t achieve themselves. And while that’s often a bullseye, the difference between a kid whose heart isn’t in it and a kid who is being pulled along by his heart is obvious. And not once in this video do we catch an adult speaking for either boy like a hovering stage-parent.

Unlocking the Truth. Right-the-hell-onJarad and Malcolm aren’t just processing their young emotions, they’re channeling their frustrations at being picked on in school through lyrics, stagecraft, and chords. They’re not making excuses for altercations, broken windows, or self isolation; they’re using viable tools to communicate what it feels like to be in their shoes. And they’re learning to derive pleasure from a sustained relationship with delayed gratification (i.e. practice makes perfect) rather than posing or primping. That’s rare in society generally — even more so among kids this age, who usually still need adults to teach them how it’s done.

Getting picked on for thinking for yourself is the worst thing ever, but fortunately for people like these two, it just strengthens resolve. It’s cool that Jarad and Malcolm’s outlet is rock ‘n roll, too, but if it were painting, chemistry, or anything else, I’d look up to them just the same. Most of us would. Nobody seems to be putting words into their mouths, but apparently someone has  already instilled some quality coping skills. My fingers are crossed that the world around them doesn’t manage to undo their impressive drive and dedication, ’cause with the path they’re on, these kids can become some seriously heavy hitters.

The United States of Suspects

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

File This One Under: Advice for Parents, Children and Teens

Notes6Tuesday, April 23 – posts an article linking the online Al Qaeda recruiting publication “Inspire” to bomb-making plans used in Boston. Soon after, here in L.A., “Charlie” clicks on a link contained in the piece that takes him to the Jihadist magazine itself. He explores it, without questioning why such a hot-potato link was live, instead of just explained.

At 6:25 the next morning, Charlie’s condo door is nearly pounded off its hinges. Whizzing past his 18-month-old daughter’s crib, he marvels at her solid sleep. The peephole view through the door is of several LAPD officers and ATF agents. He turns the handle to find game faces and drawn sidearms. Boots instantly become doorstops. Their respective uniforms are tactical, but reasonably so. Still, they’re big, amped, and all going at once.

“Step back. You’re gonna wanna step back.”

“Are you alone? Step back.”

“We have a report of a man seen in your window waving a firearm.”

“Hold on, what?” Charlie demands, alarmed at their inching inward.

“Where are your weapons?”

“Hey, wait,” Charlie implores. “I have my 18-month-old daughter here!”

“Will you consent to a search of your property?”

“A man in your window was seen from the street with a handgun.”

“I don’t own a handgun! I have no firearms here.”

“Yes you do – a Ruger American, 270.”

“I just bought that. A friend is sighting it for me.”

“At what location?”

“You didn’t get the scope option?”

“Will you allow us further entry to check for ourselves?”

“Go ahead and look! It isn’t here. I have a baby, so I don’t keep guns here.”

They fan out into the living room, dining area, and next to the plasma by the big window in question. Charlie doesn’t merit a strategic takeover of his living room or his life, so he’s clueless but calm. As it hits him that this is really happening, he wonders why it feels like both an honor and an insult. (more…)

Once Upon a Time in Atlanta

Friday, April 5th, 2013

On running a school district like a criminal enterprise.

Bail hearings have begun at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, where 35 educators, administrators, and one Superintendent are charged with everything from theft, racketeering, and violating the Corrupt Organizations Act, to making false statements and influencing witnesses (read: leaning on whistleblowers). While some parents sought to stop these teachers and principals from altering tests so they could collect bonuses for improved scores, it fortunately doesn’t appear that too many other parents were involved.

Atlanta Public Schools_Where Excuses Go to Die

It’s no Scorsese plot: squealers weren’t chased through parking lots with a pair of pliers, a baseball bat, or a 12-gauge. But your shrewdest criminal operations don’t need to resort to hostile messages. And not only had this particular operation been going on for a while, it’s part of the larger and more entrenched standardized testing debate itself. In other words, it’s part of the system itself. (more…)

The Standards of a Stand-up Guy

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Richard McCarthy’s 4-year-old son received oral sex on numerous occasions from a 5-year-old female classmate at First Lutheran Church of Carson School. McCarthy’s son wasn’t the only one, and it didn’t just happen on the playground.

The school was cited for a lack of classroom supervision and an inappropriate teacher-to-student ratio. The given reason for the school’s sudden closure is being called a lie, and parents are beside themselves with anger. The Department of Child Protective Services is all over the situation, a lawsuit is about to be launched, blah, blah, blah. That’s the stuff we can set our watches by.

And McCarthy’s a man we can set our admiration on.  (more…)