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Accidental Babies is now available in paperback and Kindle devices. I first got the idea for this book ten years ago. I completed the first draft five years later. Since then, it has been restructured, edited, re-worked and shopped around to various agents and publishers. Each had different feedback. Each had a different vision for what the book should be. I finally decided to release the product I wanted under my own terms. This is it. It's available at Amazon.
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It was reported this week that Utah schools can now hire teachers who aren’t certified to teach. Utah lawmakers passed the measure to combat the ugly truth that a large percentage of Utah teachers leave the classroom within the first five years of teaching. When it comes to teachers and Utah, there are a number of items that need to be evaluated:
Regardless of how you feel about teachers, one thing is clear: if you have children—and if you live in Utah you probably have several—then without openly admitting it, you probably appreciate the school year because, at the very least, it is mostly-free daycare. Even at the high school level, parents take solace knowing where their child is during the day. Schools allow parents a reprieve from parenting for a few hours every day.
A few years ago I was on a flight to Salt Lake City. My seatmate was from Seattle, and at the time, Seattle teachers were striking. This quickly became the topic of our conversation. He expressed his disdain for the strike because he didn’t know what to do with his children during the day. He wanted, in his words, his “free daycare back.” When teachers are viewed as nothing more than glorified babysitters, is it any wonder why some would choose to leave the profession? This belittlement has lent itself to force teachers to lower classroom standards in an attempt to appease parents and administrators that want students to receive maximum classroom rewards for minimal efforts. Yes, that is where education has devolved to. When standards are lowered, graduation rates increase. On paper it looks great to boast a ninety-five percentile graduation rate, even if the classroom standards had to be compromised to do so. Parents, students, and the top education echelon win, while the teachers lose.
Utah is known for large families and conservative values. When it comes to public education, these items do not coalesce. Public education is funded by tax dollars. The average Utah family has over four kids. It is not unusual for those kids to come from a single-income home. Dad works and mom stays home. That means there is one tax payer for four or more kids. Even if both parents do work, there are still more kids filtering though the public education system than taxpayers (parents) to fund them. There lies the problem.
Utahans claim to hate socialism and government handouts, yet we don’t have any qualms about cramming forty students into a classroom and taking the $1,000 per child tax credit that the government hands out every year. The truth is public education is a socialized program, and unless your kids are in private schools and you opt not to claim your children on your tax returns, you benefit from socialism. Do we really hate socialism or just the politicians that seem to back it?
If Utah wants to retain quality teachers and offer quality education to its students, then it needs to offer competitive pay and smaller class sizes. That can only happen if we raise education taxes on the families that have more kids than taxpayers. Most don’t want this because most want to continue receiving a service they don’t pay for. The result will be more of the same: fewer qualified teachers in classrooms that have more students than desks, followed by repeated empty rhetoric from lawmakers.
Last week a Muslim entered a gay Orlando nightclub and killed forty-nine people. The murder spree unleashed the same banal arguments that have plagued our political discourse for the past twenty years. The Right feels the shooting serves as further confirmation that we need more guns for protection. The Left feel more stringent gun laws need to be implemented to prevent monsters from getting their hands on guns. I don’t want to choose a side because I’m sure if I found myself in a public place and some lunatic was picking people off with an assault weapon, I would like to have a gun to protect myself…from his gun. There’s my epiphany—yes, we need guns to protect ourselves from guns.
For those of you who don’t understand sarcasm, I’m not shitting on the Second Amendment. I would never disparage anything that was written over two hundred years ago by rich misogynistic racists. That would be crazy. But before we follow King Trump into the breach, dear friends, let us recognize the inherent irony of our potential future president. Trump’s solution to gay night club shootings is to ban Islam in America and give Christians more guns. If we’re going to cite the Second Amendment as our right to bear arms, then we can’t ignore the First that gives us the same right to worship as we please. Can we?
Sure, religions are notorious for picking and choosing which parts of their religion one must take seriously. Gays are bad but bacon is good. (You can only be offended by that remark if you don’t eat shellfish and you’ve never worn a cotton/polyester blended shirt. And if that joke doesn’t make sense, you’re a worse Christian than Jesus, who was a Jew.) So I need to know if we are now going to pick and choose which parts of our Bill of Rights are actually worth following. I’ve heard it said that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” Well, if guns don’t kill people, then religions can’t either, right? By that logic banning specific religions won’t stop murder.
The problem doesn’t seem to be guns or religion; the problem seems to be guns mixed with religion. The paradox is our founders said we get access to both. And therein lies the conundrum, because if thirty-five years of American exceptionalism has taught me anything, it’s that it is unpatriotic to question the wisdom of the men who used other human beings as property. All men are created equal, but the footnote that excluded Native Americans, African Americans and women is never talked about. Is there anything more abhorrent than the selling and trading of human beings so they can serve someone against their will? Why do Washington and Jefferson and others get a pass for engaging in something they knew was wrong, yet did nothing to stop it? I think I know. Because the Bible said it was okay.
Maybe it’s time we reexamine the tenets that we’ve let control our lives for the past…however many years. Amendments can be amended; heroes can be criticized. If that’s what needs to happen so people can go to a night club and not get shot, I’m on board. And for those of you who got to the end of my diatribe and are just more pissed, here’s a picture of a weimaraner puppy.
For the second year in a row all the acting nominees for the Academy Awards are white. Spike Lee, Jada Pinkett Smith and other black Hollywood elites are calling for a boycott of the Oscars. Every year there are “snubs” and “surprises” when the Academy Award nominations are announced. African Americans are crying foul that the likes of Will Smith, Idris Elba, and Michael B. Jordan were snubbed. Did the aforementioned actors deserve a nomination? Absolutely. Should I boycott the Oscars because they didn’t? Not so fast.
Look at the best actor category. If Will Smith or Michael B. Jordan got nominated, then either Matt Damon, Bryan Cranston, Michael Fassbender, Leonardo Dicaprio, or Eddie Redmayne wouldn’t have. I’ll admit that I do believe Will Smith gave a better performance than one of the men that actually did score a nomination, but we’re talking about art and art is subjective. It’s not that Will Smith or Michael B. Jordan didn’t get nominated because they were black (I hope), they didn’t get nominated because there were other equally-strong or more deserving performances. The same argument applies to Tom Hanks (Bridge of Spies), and Tom Hardy (Legend). Both were great; both got snubbed.
If Elba snuck into the supporting category, then who should have been left out? Is Elba more deserving than Stallone, Bale, Rylance, Hardy, and Ruffalo just because he’s black? What about Steve Carrell (The Big Short) or Michael Keaton (Spotlight)?
Could the Oscars be more diverse? Yes, but not if it’s at the expense of not nominating someone just because they happen to be white. There were some good black performances this year, but that’s not doesn’t mean the great white performances should be dismissed either.
And just for the record, the best performance of the year didn’t come from a white or black actor. It was Benicio Del Torro’s performance in Sicario. A Mexican.
Three women work in an office building downtown. An hour into the work day, the first woman receives a text from her husband asking if she would like to meet for lunch. The second woman receives a bouquet of flowers (the sixth time this year) and a necklace from her husband, while the third woman stumbles in late wearing last night’s clothes and hung over from her weekend one night stand. Whether it’s a husband who’s willing to offer his time, one who never has the time but the finances to make up for it, or the freedom to spend each weekend with someone new, each woman wants what the other has, looking over the hedge to the greener grass and the other life that appears flawless from so far away.
Imagine a Presidential candidate that told you what you can/cannot eat, drink, how to dress, how to spend your money, how to vote, what movies you can see, what music you can listen to, who you can date, who you can marry, which birth control you can use, how many kids you should have and how to spend your Sundays (or in some cases Saturdays). Would you support that candidate?
Now imagine a prophet who does the same. Would you support his religion?
In New York a lawsuit is being filed by a handful of parents who feel the school system is failing their kids. The parents blame the teachers. The teachers blame the parents. Both sides want more accountability from the other, while the students are too apathetic to know where they stand. Everyone is wrong because everyone is right. With the school year fast approaching, one must look at the reality of what goes into being a teacher. Here are a couple hypotheticals to help illustrate my point.
Suppose a patient goes to his doctor. The patient smokes and is slightly overweight. He asks the doctor what he can do to improve his health. The doctor gives him a prescription: start dieting and stop smoking. The doctor’s wisdom makes sense, but the patient doesn’t have the willpower to change his lifestyle, so he doesn’t. The patient returns to the doctor every few months for a checkup and the doctor continues to offer the same advice: start dieting and stop smoking. After enough time elapses, the patient returns to the doctor and learns that he now has lung cancer and diabetes. Now who is at fault for the patient’s failing health, the doctor or the patient?
Now suppose a student enters a classroom. Test scores indicate the student is reading at a sixth grade level even though the student is a sophomore in high school. The teacher gives him a prescription: read more. Cut back on the video games and television and read more. The teacher’s wisdom makes sense, but the student doesn’t have the drive to do as prescribed, and for a variety of reasons, the student's parents don't have the time to read with him or the energy to enforce the teacher's prescription. Nine months later the student takes an end of level test and the results show very little improvement has occurred. The student receives a poor grade and his parent’s want answers. Now who is at fault, the teacher or the student/parent?
Now I know some will feel I’m comparing apples to oranges here. I am. There are several differences. The first is the patient went to the doctor on his own accord. He wasn’t forced by some state-ran entity. Second, the patient asked the doctor what he could do to improve his health. He was conscious of his health and sought answers. And finally, the doctor interacted with the patient one-on-one without having to contend with 30 other patients. In the second scenario, the student was forced to enter the teacher’s classroom (with 30 other students), and although he was told what he could do to improve his reading, he never asked for his teacher's advice. Why would he care to improve his reading when there are more entertaining options waiting for him at home?
Why is it that we would never fault a doctor if a patient refused to adhere to a prescription and thus got sick, but the moment a student fails in the classroom, the blame must lie with the teacher even when the student ignored the teacher’s advice? Yes, there are bad teachers just as there are bad professionals in all professions, but maybe, just maybe we should be a little slower to point the finger at educators when student achievement isn’t where parents want it to be. After all, assuming a student has perfect attendance in a given school year, a teacher will only spend 90 days with that student during that school year (or 180 if the school doesn’t have a rotating daily schedule). But a parent to a sixteen-year-old will have had 5,840 days together. How can a teacher break a habit in 90 days that had over 5,000 to metastasize?
A farmer can lead a horse to water, but he can’t make him drink. Just as a teacher can lead a student to knowledge, but he can’t make him think.
Hobby Lobby, in case you didn't know, won a landmark case earlier this week when the Supreme Court ruled the arts and crafts store does not have to pay for birth control--as mandated by the Affordable Care Act--for its female employees. Hobby Lobby argued that the contraception mandate infringed on its religious rights and principles. In short, Hobby Lobby feels it's immoral to offer women certain forms of birth control.
Before heaping your praise onto a corporation that is somehow considered a person yet doesn't have any human characteristics save it's impeccable record of religious hypocrisy, there is something you should know. If Hobby Lobby is going to pretend to love the lord more than capitalism and birth control, why does it invest secretly in the abominations it condemns publically? According to the Los Angles Times: Hobby Lobby's 401(k) plan "has invested via its mutual funds in companies that manufacture and distribute precisely those drugs and devices that it objects to providing via its health insurance plan."
Religious principles indeed.
Sorry ladies. You were two female justices short of finally getting equal treatment. Just don't research this issue too in depth. It may anger you to learn that although your birth control isn't covered, Viagra is.
Earlier today five guys, who have the luxury of wearing a robe every day to work, came to the consensus that if you own a business, and you don’t want to offer your female employees birth control, you don’t have to…as long as you’re Christian.
Quick recap: The owner of Hobby Lobby is a guy named David Green. Mr. Green, along with many Americans, isn’t a fan of the The Affordable Care Act. Under the Act’s new provisions, employers of a certain size (I’m talking number of employees, not inches, perverts) have to cover birth control costs for female employees. Mr. Green, however, is an ardent Christian and he knows, because the bible tells him, that it’s blasphemous for women to partake of contraception. Mr. Green took his fight to the Supreme Court where they ruled (5-4) that for-profit companies do not need to offer birth control to female employees if it is not in accordance with the employers' religious principles. Mr. Green is not short on religious principles. On the Hobby Lobby website, under the “our company” link it reads: “At Hobby Lobby, we value our customers and employees and are committed to honoring the Lord in all we do by operating the company in a manner consistent with biblical principles.”
It’s nice to see someone like Mr. Green stand up for his convictions. I just hope that if he’s ever in one of his stores and suddenly finds himself in cardiac arrest from eating too much bacon wrapped shrimp (for ironical references, please see Leviticus 11:7-12), he won’t hold it against his employee if he unknowingly hired a Christian Scientist who, instead of calling an ambulance, simply kneels down next to Mr. Green, takes his hand and offers a humble prayer. God help him, especially if said employee is menstruating (Lev. 15:19-24).
Michael Wojciechowski is the author of the novels Utah Expectations and Cameron's Road and the short story, Redemption in a Cheap Motel Room.