This is an interesting link where people discuss nutrition and the current trend in eating.
With ideas changing quickly on what is good to eat and what is not, it is a good idea to stay updated and make your own decisions.
This is an interesting link where people discuss nutrition and the current trend in eating.
There have been rumors circulating around the county about our local high school that our is in serious academic trouble with the state. Being the snoop I am, I took the time to do a little research on the issue. It did not take long to find the state ranking of West Virginia high schools. http://www.schooldigger.com/go/WV/schoolrank.aspx?level=3
As I scanned the 113 high schools which were arranged according to their math and related arts scores, I became more deeply concerned. As I drifted through the first 10, then 30, 60, and then beyond 90, with no sign of Hampshire High, it became apparent that we are in considerable trouble. I continued down the list all the way to 111 and there found good old Hampshire High, two places up from the lowest scoring school in the state, Mount View High! Upon further study of the scores I determined that the highest scoring school, Bridgeport High, with a West Test composite score of over 150, almost tripling our score of 60! Local schools like Keyser (score 100) and Moorefield (score 94) almost doubled our scores! It would seem that we are pursuing the honor of being the lowest scoring high school in the state. Let’s be clear, Hampshire High was never an academic powerhouse, but we were never this far down!
So what does this mean? Does it mean that our teachers are bad, our students are not working, our administration is non-functional, or our Board of Education is out to lunch? I think it is a little bit of all of these. I know for a fact that there are teachers who remind me of Ditto from the movie TEACHERS. I know there are students who could care less if they do well in school. I know that there are administrators and teachers who have no clue what academic rigor entails. And for sure, there are board members who are clueless about the state of our schools and what to do about it.
I hope that this issue is as troubling to most others as it is to me. This is the school many of us will send our children or grandchildren to prepare them for the real world. These teachers and administrators are responsible for educating our children so that they will be productive members of society. I sensed several years ago that our high school was in trouble and wrote often about my concerns, but nothing has changed; in fact, it has continued downhill.
I am almost certain that the state has threatened to come into the county to take over with the idea of fixing the problem. There is one unavoidable concern I have with this approach, i.e., at least one of the schools below us is from a county that was just recently taken over by the state. To put differently, the state has no idea how to fix the problem. The answer has to come from within, and there is no one I know who is willing or capable of leading us out of this mess. The problems that our county faces are so deeply ingrained in the local philosophy that it may not be a fixable problem.
At the risk of repeating, here is my solution:
1. Stop this ridiculous, excessive and useless testing.
2. Hold teachers and students accountable.(to be determines)
3. Make class time a sacred time during which there are NO interruptions!
4. Structure classes such that they are a challenge and a worthwhile endeavor.
5. Create competency tests for all grade levels to determine if a child is ready to move on.
Make no mistake, in today’s over-regulated world, this will be a major undertaking, but it is essential, for the sake of the future of this county and country that we take the first steps in a very new direction! The problems we are facing at the local level are being felt country-wide. We are not alone in this arena but are much ahead of the competition in poor performance.
The other morning a wonderful sound blessed my ears as I ventured out on to the porch to fetch some wood. It was as if an orchestra was filling the air with the sound of spring. This wonderful sound was bouncing through the hollow, announcing the resurgence of the morning sun and then stopping as if nature had waved a magic wand as the first rays of sunlight touched the crystal-clear stream of water making its way to the ocean. Yes, the Spring Peddlers are back and they are telling us to prepare for the retreat of Old Man Winter and the emergence of spring. This is my favorite time of year. Every year I slog through the doldrums of winter waiting for the crocuses to push up through the soil. This past winter was relatively mild but seemed long and unrelenting as the days moved slowly by. Most people do not know that the sun is actually closer during the winter and farther away in the summer in the northern hemisphere, but thanks to an incident that occurred millions of years ago, our earth is tilted just enough to give us seasons, four wonderful seasons of which spring is my favorite.
One of my most favorite rituals during this time of year is to walk outside in the glorious sunshine and feel its warmth against my face. When I do this, I feel a rebirth inside me like no other feeling in the world. It is as if the warmth travels through my skin and deep into my core, warming up my most inner self. An old saying that I believe has much relevance is, WAKE UP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Step outside and see the clear blue sky, the trees coming to life, the grass becoming green and the glorious spring flowers covering much of the earth.
Every day, every minute, every second is a gift to each of us but springtime is an especially wonderful gift. Enjoy it!
Dear Mr. President:
There have been few times in my life that I have felt this strongly about a person in public office. I watch daily as you fight the forces of evil that are so prevalent in our world. I wonder how you manage to ever smile with the knowledge of what these people are trying to accomplish at the expense of the American people and the world. Even with my limited knowledge of history, I know enough to understand that our world situation is a direct result of the greed of powerful individuals and corporate entities. This is the second letter I have written to an American President and both have been to you. Even though I do not suffer from the illusion that you read the millions of letters that are directed to your office, I feel that you and your staff are sufficiently interested in what we Americans are thinking. As an educator for over 30 years, I know how important it is to be told once in a while that you are doing good things and making people’s lives a little more meaningful, even when the wind is directly in your face. Few days pass when I do not watch you on the TV and see the determination in your eyes. I also see the sadness that must come with the knowledge of our current national situation. Some days your smile gives me the strength to smile back in hope that there is a better day on the horizon. After all, hope is the eternal flame.
With that said, I would like to express my ideas on a few issues that I think many Americans agree on.
A vast majority of the public schools in this country are broken. Children are graduating with poor basic skills. Good teachers are leaving the classroom for less stressful and higher paying jobs. Testing children has become more important than teaching them. Politics, rather than securing the good for children has become the bane of contemporary schools. Many students move through grades never learning to read or do basic math. This surely is not a problem that you or any recent president has created, but a result of a society lost in consumerism, self absorption and over indulgence. Some say the fall began when teachers first became unionized. I maintain that it began when school attendance became mandatory, with little thought as to where the education system needed to go. Since we require all children to attend school, we need an arrangement that will meet the needs of all children. We need a strong vocational component, grade competency tests and a salary scale that attracts good people into the field. If we begin today, it will take at least 20 years to fix the public school system, Mr. President, of all those who have held your position, I believe you are the most qualified to begin the process.
Immigration is another issue that currently weighs heavily on the American mind. I believe that most Americans understand the need for immigration; after all we are a nation of immigrants. The problem lies with the complex laws that are designed to control the rate of immigration into our country. The solution seems so simple to me; go after, with reckless abandon, the people who hire illegal immigrants.
Despite the fact that many people get ridiculously rich from war and many Americans believe that war is a glorious and wonderful adventure, we need to not be at war. Quite simply, Mr. President, we can no longer afford it!
Kudos Mr. President on the health care plan. I think it is beginning to provide a safety-net for the millions of citizens who cannot afford the insane cost of medical care. I do not know if you read the recent article in Time Magazine about the state of the medical system, but I think the author hit the nail directly on the head. As usual, a group of powerful people, who believe there is no such thing as too much money or power in the hands of very few, is controlling the direction of health care policy.
Lastly, I understand that there are many very needy people in the world but I believe, that due to our current limited resources, we need to focus on fixing the multitude of problems we face as a nation before we try to save the world. After all, if we continue our current descent as a world power, there will be no money to give!
I dropped by the Hampshire review today and met my entire readership in a little less than one minute….four Hampshire review staff members called out that they read my blog! I feel like a celebrity!
I have come to the conclusion there are many concepts in our understanding of how the universe works that are rather intuitive. One of these ideas is the notion of the learning curve. Said quite simply, everybody learns at a different pace. We all know this is true and have experienced it in our own march towards adulthood. We witness people who learn faster than we and those who learn more slowly. It is what behavioral scientists call the BELL CURVE. There is a range of physical characteristics that extends all the way from foot size to how fast we accumulate knowledge. If I measure any physical or mental characteristic of any living thing, plant to human, there will be a range of results. The standard percentages are 2% below average, 14% in the next to lowest area, 68% in the middle, 14% above average and 2% in the upper most area. It is important to understand that being on one side or the other of the curve does not automatically mean that that is a good trait. I am not sure that having size 19 shoes, which would put one very far to the right of the curve, would be much help in out-running a tiger on the Serengeti. In terms of intelligence being in the right top 2% of the curve means you are smarter than 98% of your fellow humans. In some cases this is good.
Here is a picture of what I am referring to. Notice the percentages in each area. This could be an IQ chart or a foot-size chart; it really does not matter. To my point, I want you to consider it as a learning curve chart. A very small number of people will learn extremely fast and so on and so on. With this thought in mind, let us take a look at the traditional classroom with students from every point on the curve. Now, place a teacher in front of these 25 students and ask him/her to keep all 25 children engaged and learning. Do this for 6 to 7 hours a day, five days a week. We all know the scenario: the bright kid in the class gets bored and then begins to act out, disrupting the class whenever he wants. The slower children are somewhat lost because the teacher is going too fast. Then there are all of the kids in the middle who span the distance between the 16% and 84th percentile. 16 to 84 percent is a lot of variation from 16 to 84! You may ask, why then do we do this? Why do we feel the need to put all 7 year olds together and all 12 year olds together regardless of how quickly they learn? The sad truth is that we do it for convenience. Children are much easier to keep track of if they are grouped homogeneously, based on age. So, little Johnny who is capable of doing algebra in the second grade will have to wait till he is in middle school. And little Beth will have to wait untill high school to write sonnets. Most elementary teachers are not trained to handle the smarter kids in class, and if they are, it is a whole lot more work and they already have far too much keeping up with all the bull-crap the state and county throws at them to waste their valuable time. The idea of a grade-less school system has been discussed many times in the past but has always been pushed aside in favor of the more efficient age-grouped arrangement.
In today’s system we to often tell children of the horrible consequences of failing a grade. We mark them as dumb, uncooperative, attention deficit, inattentive, uninterested and numerous other reasons for not meeting the standards. Rather than label them with all these negative words, why not simply tell them they that they need more time to learn the material! I dare to suggest an alternative reason for not meeting the standard: maybe the child has a different learning curve! So now this child has been labeled for the rest of his life as a failure simply because we have a strictly (maybe not so strictly enforced in our county!) enforced grade system. Now consider the alternative. Little Bobby needs more time to master the skills of that level and when he is ready, he moves on to new material with his self-esteem in tack and the mastery of that skill set.
Today’s school system is stuck in the mud, and there are no signs of going to 4-wheel drive in the near future. We are creating a whole generation where a large majority of children are going to be essentially uneducated and unable to participate in a very complex and unforgiving society. Not only do many of our children suffer from a false over confidence and inflated self-worth, many of them feel society owes them a THE GOOD LIFE. Do not misunderstand me on this point, We do have a responsibility to provide a social safety net for all Americans that needs to be fair and cost efficient, but we also have to instill a desire to better one’s self throughout life. This is where the family and the school system must focus their effort, giving children the desire to seek knowledge, expand horizons, stretch the boundaries of human existence and enjoy the one part of life that makes us so different from any other animal living on this planet- to grow intellectually!
It occurred to me late last night, somewhere between the dream state and consciousness that I was stuck in the middle. Yes, we are smack dab in between the roaring east and the sleepy west. Somehow, here in old Hampshire County, we have missed out on both worlds. To the west of us is less development and ever-present quiet, yet to the east of us the ecoterrorists are building faster than one could have imagined. I have heard that our little county is different from all the counties around us, and I tend to agree. We seem to be in a coma-like state, afraid to move into the future and leery of staying in the past. One of the nicest buildings in the whole county, not counting banks, for a long time, was the local jail. Just recently we were blessed with the arrival of the Hampshire Wellness Center. Have you ever noticed that no matter how depressed an area is, the banks are always architecturally splendid. To continue, I have lived in this county and watched it grow in crazy ways: no zoning, no overall plan, no announced directions just whatever fit of fantasy happens to flit by in their minds. We did manage to miss the current gas frenzy (for now) and just barely avoided the waste disposal plant on River Road, but one has to wonder what is around the corner for our fair county? We need to decide where we want to be in, oh, say 10 years. One thing is for sure, if we want good decent, honest businesses to come into the county, we will have to fix the school system and the roads! Right now, in our current state, no business will even consider locating in our county. because it is simply not up to speed. This evening I took my grandson to see a play in Moorfield, WV. Moorfield is even more undevelopment than we are; nevertheless, they produce several plays a year! The same is true of Keyser, our other neighbor to the west. Has our county in the last 30 years produced even one play? The answer is NO! Our big county event is donkey basketball, a good fundraiser but hardly a cultural event.
I enjoy many aspects associated with living in our county, but I am also capable of seeing ways in which we could improve. So here I sit on my little chunk of earth watching the trees rustle in the wind and listening to bird chatter, thankful for where I am in this world, but also wondering how the future will unfold in our little county. Since this is my home, I will probably stay here for as long as I can but will always wonder why we are so stuck in the middle….