Friday, January 31, 2003


FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

CULTURING CHILDREN LIKE PEARLS

The secret to pearls is their layers. Little by little, the beauty is piled on. It's the same way with raising a truly civilized, acculturated child.

Busy families need to plan ahead to be sure to give their children exposure each year to a little bit of music, a little art, a little theater, a little dance, a little history, and the other niceties that make the world sweet and satisfying.

You don't have to overdose. A little bit goes a long way. Just plan ahead. Weekends are great. Sunday afternoons are perfect. Just plan your year so that perhaps once a month, your children get a little culture. Get theater tickets this month, take them to special show of paintings at the museum next month, a symphony matinee the next, then the ballet, maybe a special-interest museum, maybe your high school's spring musical, an organ concert at the local college . . . something that transcends the mall, the arcade, the movie theater, the skating rink and the bowling alley.

Nothing wrong with those places, of course . . . but there's not as much right with them, and right for your child, as at the classier venues.

What are you rearing? A kid? Or a civilized, acculturated, sophisticated, discerning citizen?

String together some lovely memories like a lovely string of pearls, and encircle your children with culture.



THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

For more, see Go Big Ed

RIF NOW, OR THE BLOB GETS IT!

School districts are gigantic employers in Nebraska, with the larger ones eclipsing even the largest of the private employers in the state, according to the Nebraska Department of Economic Development with its annual rankings of public and private employers.

The Omaha Public Schools maintains 8,073 jobs, making it much larger than the largest private employer in the state, Walmart of Lincoln, with 7,400 jobs.

Lincoln Public Schools' 4,970 staffers would make the capital city's school workforce rank eighth if it were a free-enterprise concern.

And only 18 private firms in Nebraska employ more people than the Millard Public Schools with 2,488.

Questions are being raised by tax watchdogs such as Joseph Elster of Millard about how come there have to be so darn many staff members per pupil in our public schools. He sent a letter to the Millard School Board this week, asking why taxpayers have to foot the bill for nonstatutory school activities -- things that schools don't HAVE to offer kids, but LIKE to.

Only the state, the feds and Offutt Air Force Base employ more public employees than the Omaha Public Schools. The combined total workforce of just the three largest districts in the state is 15,531, which would make just those three districts, combined, second only to state government in total employees.

Are our schools overstaffed?

Are we on a course that will engulf taxpayers with so many public jobs there aren't enough private salaries around to pay for them?

Does it have to be this way?

Can we drive education costs back to a reasonable level?

Couldn't our schools RIF employees who are NOT working in statutory, "must-do" jobs, and then seek donations from philanthropists, private companies and parents to cover the extras and pay those people on a contract basis?

If not, why not?

Wednesday, January 29, 2003


WEDNESDAY: Family Funnies

HOPING FLU FLIES FAST

It was an eight-jammie night last night. Our little one, Maddy, 2, had her first bout with the flu. It was student body left and student body right, every hour on the hour.

Friends' fond stories of similar bouts with their children are helping me through. One little boy, flushed and feverish, informed his mother that he had a "heggegg." A little girl displayed such spectacular "form" when throwing up that her parents to this day can't drive by a powerful lawn sprinkler without giggling. A real organized mom I know actually stenciled "BARF BUCKET" and some flowers on a dimestore tin bucket with a handle, to cheer up her children when they were sick and help them with their aim.

But my favorite is the big brother, about age 4, who ran to his mother to announce what his baby brother had just done:

"HE VOMECATED!"

That 'bout says it all, for the flu.

And I "promecate" you, I'm going with the flow, but ready for the flu to fly.

Tuesday, January 28, 2003

TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

PUTTING A PRO-LIFE HEROINE'S DEEDS IN PERSPECTIVE

In 2001, the last year for which the Nebraska Crime Commission posts online statistics, there were 5,197 violent crimes in Nebraska and 68,376 crimes against property in the Cornhusker State. That's 73,573 crimes. We're talking murder, rape, robbery, assault, burglary, theft and arson. Major bad stuff. The vast majority of these crimes and the vast majority of their perpetrators barely got a mention in any newspaper or other media outlet, despite mega-harm done to Nebraska citizens.

So why have the state's media harped so hard on something a pro-life lady did that wasn't even a crime and actually did our state a lot of good?

Because this was a case of politically-motivated prosecution, pure and simple. Raw, ugly, naked power politics. Ewwww!

I'm ashamed of it. We all should be. Let's hope nothing like this ever happens again, to any Nebraskan.

Last week on the 30th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, a bogus felony charge was dropped against Nebraska's best-known pro-lifer in one of the more bizarre and ironic cases in Nebraska law enforcement history.

Julie Schmit-Albin of Lincoln, longtime executive director of Nebraska Right-to-Life and a friend of mine and fellow softball mom, won't have to defend herself against a felony charge of "intercepting communications" because she chose to go into a pretrial diversion program instead. The charge was dismissed and she won't have to face trial and all the expense and distress that would have caused her and her family, even though she was innocent and would have been exonerated.

She will have to meet with a court employee once a month, pay a $35 a month fee for six months to a year, and do 80 hours of community service. She probably will end up volunteering at a school, a social service agency, or perhaps will make blankets for hospitalized children. In exchange, the shameful, politically-motivated charge against her was dropped.

Here's what happened: right before Christmas, newspaper headlines screamed, "Abortion Foe Charged in Clinic Infiltration." It led the reader to believe that a pro-lifer must have broken into an abortion clinic brandishing a machine gun and machetes, unplugging all the abortion machines and shepherding all the pregnant ladies to safety or something. Turns out Ms. Schmit-Albin had simply received information from a former employee of the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Lincoln and turned it over to state health authorities.

The information was allegedly obtained by that fellow employee improperly or illegally, through voice mail and email systems he had worked with -- but Ms. Schmit-Albin didn't know that, and apparently can prove that, in spades. She just knew that the information suggested that women's health was being endangered at the Planned Parenthood clinic.

And the information which she turned over, as any good citizen would, resulted in sanctions against Planned Parenthood by the Nebraska Health and Human Services System. The clinic apparently failed to have proper sanitation and instrument sterilization procedures in place, and unlicensed personnel were giving medications, including injections. This, in the wake of news that 81 people had recently contracted hepatitis C because of similar hygiene violations in a Fremont medical clinic. So it was certainly timely and helpful that Ms. Schmit-Albin turned them in.

But even though she didn't know where the tip came from, and even though it turned out to be true and helpful for protecting women's health, Ms. Schmit-Albin got a felony charge leveled against her, months after the fact, over the Christmas season and right when the 2003 Legislature was getting under way, a blatant attack on the pro-life community's political voice in general, and her credibility in particular, with a number of pro-life issues on the agenda.

That's why the charge appears to have been politically motivated, nasty, unkind, unfair and not in the spirit of Nebraska.

Here's what I would have liked to see happen, instead:

Make the Planned Parenthood board members, who are responsible for the violations of health standards, make all those blankets for the little hospitalized kiddies, instead.

And make the law enforcement personnel and media people who came down so hard on Ms. Schmit-Albin write on the blackboard 73,573 times, one for each REAL crime in Nebraska: "I will not persecute a nice softball mom like Julie Schmit-Albin for political purposes, ever again."

Monday, January 27, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

NATIONAL TEACHER CERTIFICATION: BOON OR BOONDOGGLE?

It sure sounds good: "nationally board-certified teacher." In many states, that designation is worth a raise in pay and increased respect from the community. It brings to mind the admirable continuing education systems, board certifications and rigorous examination processes of physicians and certified public accountants, among other professional groups.

But is it really the mark of a master teacher, to have gone through the process run by the private organization, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards? The NBPTS says so.

But an increasing number of education advocates who have studied this relatively recent phenomenon are saying that NBPTS is a scheme by education insiders to entrench their nonacademic ideology and get more money for those who toe the line on political correctness.

They say national certification is based on a relatively bogus and highly subjective set of videotapes, portfolios and essays that don't really measure how well the person teaches, but instead rewards those who adhere to the educational fads du jour and can spout nearly meaningless ed-school jargon.

In a state such as North Carolina, the NBPTS is coming under attack for the way the state pays the hefty application fee -- $2,300 per teacher -- and automatic 12% raise for any teacher who processes through the NBPTS certification process. The criticism comes from the fact that not a bit of evidence has been found so far that links any actual improvement in teacher or student performance to NBPTS designation . . . and actually, some nationally-certified teachers actually have abnormally low student progress, the studies have shown.

The problem is that the NBPTS, which is closely tied to national teachers' union and education school personnel, is entrenched in ideology which has little or nothing to do with actual teaching competency. Instead of methods that ignite scholarship, the NBPTS system mostly plods along on current fads -- all the "isms" of education, including progressivism, constructivism and multiculturalism.

See Education Consumers Clearinghouse for more information.

Sunday, January 26, 2003


SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

Angel on a Snowmobile

Behold, I send an Angel before thee, to keep thee in the way, and to bring thee into the place which I have prepared.
-- Exodus 23:20

SOME corporate spouses get to go to luxury resorts for wintertime meetings in places like Florida and Hawaii and the Bahamas.

But I got to go to Canada . . . in January.

At least it was the best part of Canada, Quèbec. I speak a little French, and my husband doesn't. It provided a delicious opportunity. He could only smile nervously when the Quèbeçois business people burst out laughing and looked merrily at him as I told them, in French, about the unusual colors and shapes he had on his underwear.

On the last day, we could all choose something fun to do. We could have aromatherapy and a relaxing massage at the hotel . . . hmm, nice, but not ''Canada-y" enough for HIM . . . or we could go dogsledding . . . but there was a rumor they beat the dogs, so forget that, and sic PETA on 'em, too . . . or we could put on these weapons-grade ice cleats and grunt mightily as we portaged a canoe over the frozen St. Lawrence Seaway . . . yeah, right . . . or . . . go snowmobiling in the scenic Laurentian Mountains.

Cool! No pun intended . . . yeah, right. We signed up.

I should have known the snowmobiling wasn't going to go smoothly when I slipped on the ice in the parking lot, threw up my arms to try to keep my balance, and delivered a powerful uppercut to the chin of a lovely Quèbeçois woman on my right.

It knocked her down and caused a scene. ''ZEES CRRRRAZY AMERICAINS!!!''

''I can't take you anywhere,'' my husband hissed, helping her up and ha-ha'ing our way out of an international incident.

It got worse. We had to put on these enormous black snowsuits and Paul Bunyan boots, with helmets and goggles that made us look like Hell's Angels on steroids.

They were putting people on the snowmobiles two by two, but Dave wanted his own so that he could go fast with no backseat driving advice. That meant I had to have my own. I was the only female driver in a group of about 20.

''Gas, à gauche'' the helper shouted over the engine. ''Brake, à droit. Vite, vite!''

Wait a minute . . . right? Left? That's it, for driver's ed?

But everybody else was roaring off in a hurry, vite, vite. So I did, too.

We had a great time going up the mountain in the pristine forest, although everybody went 'way too fast for the goofy dame from the Nebraska Flatlands. I was always behind. At the top of the trail, there was a picturesque chalet, which in the Nebraska Flatlands we call a ''bar.'' We pulled off our helmets and socked down the schnapps. Tres bien!

But then came word: a dangerous whiteout had arisen from the St. Lawrence Seaway. We had to get clear back down the mountain . . . vite, vite.

Everybody roared off. Again, they all went too fast. Again, I couldn't keep up. The whiteout fog was beginning to envelop us. I could barely see Dave's taillight in front of me. He motioned me to speed up. Vite, vite!

I tried. I really did. But they kept zooming around those hairpin curves. How could they see where to go? I hadn't had enough schnapps to go that fast. I was afraid I'd plunge over a cliff, or clunk into someone who had stopped. The taillight wavered in and out of sight . . . and then disappeared.

I could see nothing. As Sgt. Schultz would say, NOTH-ink.

I slowed to a stop, idled, and waited. The fog got thicker. I waited. And waited. There was no horn to honk, or at least I couldn't find it.

I waited some more. And panicked. They wouldn't realize I hadn't kept up 'til they got all the way back down the mountain to where we started. Then how could they ever find me, in a whiteout? I was lost up here! I was going to die! I was going to freeze to death!

I would be . . . literally . . . a STIFF!

Wait a minute. No, I wouldn't. I couldn't freeze in that enormous snowsuit. I was warm. I could spend the night and they'd find me in the morning. Gulp. Maybe.

Please, God, help me. But there was only silence and whiteness, up, down and all around.

God! What about me, God? Don't forget about me, God! Vite, vite!

Nothing. NOTH-ink. Only whiteness.

A lump formed in my throat. Hot tears rolled down my cheeks, fogging up my goggles and freezing down my cheeks.

I wasn't crying because I was going to die right there in my big, black snowsuit. I was crying because I was going to die . . . and I LOOKED SO FAT!

Just then, a snowmobile appeared. Its driver motioned me to follow.

My eyes jutted out of their sockets, focusing on that taillight. Swiftly and surely, it led me back to safety and the crowded dressing room where I planned to bonk my husband, bigtime, for leaving me behind.

But in mid-bonk, he protested that he had thought I was behind him all the way down. No, he hadn't been the one who had come back for me. Must have been one of the others.

They were all standing around in their identical black snowsuits. I went around to each one asking, ''Who came back for me? Who saved me? Etes-vous mon champion? Was it you?"

Nobody. They knew NOTH-ink. They just smiled and shrugged, French-Canadianly. Zees crazy Americains.

That's when the fog lifted.

Ohhhhhhh. Sacre bleu! I know who it was!

An angel on a snowmobile had been sent to save me . . . vite, vite.

Saturday, January 25, 2003

SATURDAY: Lookin' Up

BUT THE BIBLE DOESN'T SAY ABORTION IS WRONG. . . .

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the historic U. S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, that legalized abortion, at least in the early months of pregnancy. There are good, sincere people on both sides of this issue who believe they have Biblical justification for their positions on abortion.

Pro-choice Christians and devout Jews agree with pro-lifers that what is inside the woman's body is human life, whether it is at the stage of a fertilized egg, zygote, embryo or fetus. However, pro-choicers say that life still should not have the same rights as a born person. They say a fetus or an unborn baby is not a "person" until later in the pregnancy, when he or she might have a brain wave, or even at birth, when he or she draws that first breath of air.

Pro-life Christians may refute that with what they consider pro-life scriptures such as Jeremiah 1:5, which quotes God as saying, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations."

Their pro-choice colleagues may counter with the statement that that scripture refers and relates specifically only to Jeremiah and shouldn't be blown out of proportion as dealing with all of humankind.

The reason for the clash is simple: there are 'way more things we can think of doing in this world than there is space within the pages of any book that can guide us as to whether we should or should not. The Bible is mainly a set of underlying principles to be interpreted and applied. When you look for the principle, you can see God's will for any given situation.

No, the Bible never specifically says that abortion is murder and that it is wrong. But the principle of the sanctity of human life runs throughout the Old and New Testaments. Since what is formed at the instant of conception is human life, then, based on principle, that human life must be afforded the same treatment as all human life at all other stages.

No, the Bible never specifically says that we are not to abort the unborn. But the principle of Exodus 20:13, "thou shalt not kill," translated more properly as "murder" in the sense of killing the innocent, does not come with any exceptions: frail elderly people, handicapped people, unborn people . . . if you are ruled by reason and the principle.

No, the Bible never says it is a sin to have an abortion. Neither does it say it is a sin to worship a purple, polka-dotted calf statue . . . or tell the world you hate your mother and she wears army boots . . . or covet your neighbor's new plasma TV. What the Bible does give us are the principles behind those things. We are not to engage in idolatry, on principle. We are not to dishonor our parents, on principle. We are not to covet other people's stuff, on principle.

If we really turn our hearts toward God's principles and God's will, we will do the right things, even if they aren't spec'ed out on paper in the Bible.

And that means, in principle if not specifically on paper, either explicitly in the Bible or in any court decision: abortion is wrong, and the pro-lifers are right.

Friday, January 24, 2003


FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

SPOIL-PROOFING YOUR CHILD

How do you create a monster? By giving your child too many things and too much power, and shielding him or her from duties, disappointments and life's little tough bounces.

The rise of narcissism in our classrooms is evidence that too many parents have done those things, unfortunately. Note the verbal abuse of teachers, the cheating, the lack of motivation and initiative, the unwillingness to conform to rules, the temper tantrums, the impulsive behavior, the distractibility and the violence. All of these are symptoms of spoiled children.

How do you spoil-proof your child, then? Three simple ways:

1. Teach self-control over emotions and actions. Model it yourself. Work out the order of things in advance with your children: no TV until the homework is done, no friends over until the room is clean, no phone calls until the dog is fed and the garbage is taken out, and so on. Set clear, consistent discipline rules with relatively strict consequences for noncompliance, centering on isolating your child from the peer group if your child doesn't maintain self-control. Help your child learn how people become the best at various endeavors, from sports to business to the arts: the bottom line is usually that they had self-control. Help your child obtain self-control by showing how choices have consequences, and that delayed gratification is usually the most rewarding.

2. Foster competence more than self-esteem. Even the youngest children should have at least one chore a day. If you don't have a chore chart on your refrigerator that's pretty demanding by the teenage years, you've let your children down. Don't set conditions on your love -- "I'll hug you only after you clean your room" -- but do set strict expectations for your child's ability to do things for himself or herself and to help around the house. Carefully teach your child how to fulfill those expectations, whether it's how to cook dinner, how to maintain reciprocal friendships, how to say "I'm sorry," how to sweep a floor or how to manage a checkbook. That's where true self-esteem comes from.

3. Instill empathy. Find ways to show your child that the world does not revolve around him or her. Visit shelters for the homeless, nursing homes, hospitals and homes for battered children. Suggest ways your child can help neighbors and friends. If your child demands something of you that you can't deliver, explain why. Encourage your child to give away one toy for every toy he or she receives at birthdays and Christmas. Say over and over: "Think of the other guy" and "walk a mile in her shoes." Teach your child that it's OK to say "no" to some things and some people as long as you've considered them fairly. Fight the tendency in our society for children to feel "entitled" to lots of toys and electronics, a cell phone, expensive clothes and shoes, lots of weekend fun, and so forth. Explain how many hours you have to work to purchase those things, and put the child's lifestyle in perspective. Most of all, model compassion for others, and your child will "catch" that crucial character trait.



Thursday, January 23, 2003

THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

TAKING NEBRASKA'S PUBLIC SCHOOLS PRIVATE:
A 10-YEAR PRIVATIZATION PLAN

For more: Go Big Ed

There is ample evidence that the public education system is broken. There are plenty of reasons to suspect that a school-choice voucher system would end up damaging and destroying private schools and homeschools because of the government's regulatory "strings" that would be attached to sending tax dollars into private schools.

But there's a better way: taking our public schools private.

The same way private-sector doctors and businesses contract to provide government services can become the way that quality education is delivered to children. The proposed transformation would convert public school districts into private, nonprofit corporations, with existing school property as assets, and still using local property taxes as a key funding source along with other options, including grants and donations. In this way, local educators and parents can avoid the morass of mandates and regulations that come with state and federal funding and significantly reduce their costs per pupil.

It's a return to America's roots -- local control of education -- only assuring the continuation of services for special student groups, and the continuation of a free education for every child in the state.

Read more about it on the Go Big Ed website, and send comments to me at swilliams1@cox.net


Wednesday, January 22, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Funnies

WATCH OUT FOR SPIKE

Never underestimate the imagination of a 2-year-old. The other day, I was cooking dinner when Maddy came around the corner and suddenly emitted a blood-curdling scream that I'm sure was heard in the nearest 14 counties.

"YOU STEPPED ON SPIKE!" she wailed.

"Who's Spike?" I retorted, jumping back, my heart pounding.

"MY DOGGIE!" she cried.

Ohhhh. I bent down and stroked a loving apology to the invisible doggie, who, I learned, is "brown and white and has little, little ears." Our real dog, Shadow, died last summer at age 12. I suppose Maddy was missing her and so did what came naturally to a small child: she made a new dog up. The best thing about Spike is, he leaves nothing around that you really can step in.

But oh, my nerves. Anytime you're around 2-year-olds, guess you've got to learn to watch your doggone step.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003


TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

MARK TWAIN'S WAR PRAYER

All those who are beating the tom-toms of war might want to remember the timeless wisdom that is found in the biting satire of the 1905 fantasy, "The War Prayer," by America's favorite writer and wit, Mark Twain.

Scene: a church, where young troops getting ready to go to war have just heard a rousing oratory on their behalf by the local preacher, entreating God for victory. Suddenly, a white-robed stranger appears, saying he has been sent by God to answer BOTH prayers that were said that day: the voiced one, and the silent one that everybody was REALLY thinking. The white-robed stranger said it went something like this:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them - in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of their guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord, & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(Pause)

"Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

-- From "Mark Twain: An Illustrated Biography," by Geoffrey C. Ward, Dayton Duncan and Ken Burns (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001, p. 204)

Monday, January 20, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

PUBLIC SCHOOLS, PRIVATE SCHOOLS AND PROBLEM PARENTS

(I was on a radio station this afternoon, Omaha's KCRO, 660AM, to talk about my plan to take Nebraska's public schools private over the next 10 years. I received many thoughtful emails -- swilliams1@cox.net -- and wanted to share this one. My plan is based on the belief that the public school system is broken and can't be fixed, but that private schools are doing the things that should be done. But here is a slightly different point of view from a mother of four.)

"I have had experience with two different public schools and four different private schools. I am not all that happy with the private schools anymore and wonder if the money is worth it!

"The things people complain about with a public school education -- sex, drugs, unruly obnoxious kids as well as parents -- are in the private schools as much as in the public! My 14-year-old daughter one day mentioned that (her private) school wastes time talking about not smoking (cigarettes) when they ought to be talking to them about not smoking pot or not having sex as she knew kids doing both! (Yes, I took that opportunity to have an indepth discussion about that!)

"My 11-year-old son was invited to a birthday party last year of a (private) school friend . . . but it turns out that the parents were taking six boys to Hooters! I have friends who have told me horror stories of the kids 'making out' in the school halls . . . drinking at grade school dances . . . and this is in PRIVATE grade schools with 13-year-old kids!

"The education doesn't appear to me to be any better than what I have seen in public school. For example, the private school has gone the way of requiring Spanish (starting in kindergarten!) when the kids haven't learned English, computer training when they cannot write yet, and while I don't have a problem with those subjects fundamentally, they take away from the curriculum and the kids are not learning basics.

"My kids can't speak Spanish but they've had three years of it. Their spelling went right down the tubes when they no longer had Spalding (a phonics program). The religion education even leaves something to be desired. They may go to Mass once a week but young kids watch PG-13 movies on the weekends and play Teen- and Mature-rated Nintendo games at home. My own boys were banned by me from not going to one of their friends' houses whose dad has Playboy all over the place! They are not being taught morals or ethics or even just manners anymore.

"Our private grade school, in my humble opinion, hires the low end of the teachers because they simply cannot afford to get better. The better teachers go to the public school system for more pay which is entirely understandable given the fact that if you were mixed in with both types parents and kids you wouldn't be able to tell any difference.

"My point here is that parents have turned into 'wienies.' They don't pay attention, they have dropped their standards, they want to be their child's best friends. The school just goes along . . . I don't know why, but they have turned into 'wienies' as well! The voice of a parent with standards and ethics and morals is in the minority. (Money does NOT talk, in my experience.) I can't tell you how many times I have had my child's friends here overnight and no parent calls to check into who I am, if I'll be here the whole time, etc. Most don't even call -- they just drop their kid off and come back the next morning to get them. (I have buddies who say they run into the same thing.)

"I complained about an R-rated movie being shown to seventh graders on a (private) school bus trip! The parent chaperoning brought it and the school ignored me when I complained. And yet our family has given generous donations over the years. It just doesn't make sense.

"I won't say I am entirely innocent, either. It is tough to police kids when the whole world seems to have lost their minds.

"So, I don't know. The ideas you have are great as far as funding but there's a real problem in society today . . . and I really think it's apathetic parents . . . and the same apathetic parents who haven't the energy to police their children are ironically the ones who'll be yelling loudest at you to lighten up and stop being so straight-laced. You'll find them in both school environments.

"Parents not only need to get involved in the education system, they need to get involved with their own kids, and I don't mean making sure Johnny is the number one soccer player! Our priorities are messed up and until that's fixed . . . I don't think the schools can get fixed."


Sunday, January 19, 2003


SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

SNOWFLAKES

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.
-- Psalm 139:14

We have this friend who is a good golfer and a bit of a scamp. He is always teasing and joking, even though he is sweet and kind. He is a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant businessman and father.

Well, one day many years ago, our friend arrived at his golf club to find out that the newest club member, an African-American businessman new to the city, had been placed in his foursome for the morning. Mix-and-match scheduling is a nice way of introducing someone new to fellow club members. This was long before Tiger Woods, and long before there were many golfers of color at country clubs anywhere. In fact, I think the new guy was the first black to join this particular club.

They played the first nine holes in pleasant companionship. The African-American man was a good enough athlete to have a pretty good score, although he was new to golf. Some of the time, he hit beautifully and out of trouble, but most of the time, he was in the rough, under trees and in the sandtraps. Inconsistency would have been an understatement.

On the 10th tee, though, he hit a perfect drive, straight down the fairway. Our friend said, “Nice shot, Snowflake.”

The black man got a funny look on his face, but said nothing. A few holes later, he hit another good shot. “Way to go, Snowflake,” our friend said again. The black man shot him a dirty look this time.

On the last tee, the new member hit his drive right in front of the green, and our friend said, “You’re in good shape, Snowflake.”

That’s when “Snowflake” blew his stack.

He is very tall, and our friend is very short. The new member stood literally toe to toe with our friend, glaring down at him with a mixture of menace, hurt and puzzlement, and said:

“Why do you keep calling me ‘Snowflake’? What are you, a racist?”

Our friend stared back up at him, savoring the moment.

“Why, noooo,” he said, smiling. “I call you ‘Snowflake’ because every single one of your golf swings is different!”

It was as silent as snowfall.

The tall black man continued to stare down at the short white man. He looked deeply into his eyes, and saw the innocence there . . . the good intentions . . . the humor . . . the friendship . . . and the acknowledgement that, yes, there ARE people who DO say nasty, racist things to try to hurt black people, but the vast majority of white people hate it every bit as much as the black people do.

And this white man was one of the good guys, not the bad guys. He wasn’t hurling slurs. He was just trying to become his friend and initiate him into the world of men’s weekend golf, where it doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like . . . you’re going to get razzed.

Calling him “Snowflake” wasn’t a racial epithet. Calling him “Snowflake” meant he was an accepted part of the club.

He grinned. The ice broke. You know what? They’ve been friends every since.

I love that story. It reminds us that just as every golf swing is different and every snowflake is different, every person is different. It’s amazing. It’s incredible. And it’s true.

Think about it: no two snowflakes are alike, even though there have been countless squillions of them formed over this planet throughout time. They are all nothing more than water molecules that form around a dust particle, but somehow they begin to grow in stacks of multi-faceted lattices.

They have six-fold symmetry and amazing intricacy. The longer they whirl around and the more they go through, the more complexity they develop and the more beautiful they become.

Kind of like people.

And they frost your eyelashes and stick to your specs, and they cling to your coat like tiny fallen stars. And even though they’re wonderful bunched together in snowballs and snowforts, they’re even better when you look at them one by one by incredibly beautiful one.

Kind of like people, too.

Every single one is different. Every single one is beautiful. Every single one is precious.

What a lesson for three special events coming up:

Martin Luther King Day: snowflakes illustrate the unity of diversity, and how we can look very different from one another but still be basically the same stuff, and we ought to treat each other that way.

The 30th anniversary of Roe v. Wade: at the instant of conception, the DNA in that developing human being is different from all other DNA of all other living beings, now and ever, reflecting just one more facet of the same God with the creative power to make each snowflake different from squillions of others . . . and we ought to realize it’s the same way with people, and treat each developing human being as if we realized that.

Darwin Day: the Feb. 12 event will seek to persuade children and others that God didn’t make the world and everyone and everything in it, and there’s no purpose and order in the universe, but that it all just “evolved” by random chance, accidents of mutation and quirks of chemistry.

Oh, yeah?

Snowflakes. Tell ‘em about snowflakes.

Snowflakes tell us the truth . . . and make us into friends.

Saturday, January 18, 2003


SATURDAY: Lookin' Up

INVITING JEWS TO THE SECOND HALF

Our family has a number of friends who practice Judaism. We have gone to a number of Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs, and sympathized with their feelings of isolation as Jews in a sea of Gentiles in middle America. We have felt the pain of the occasional slur they have to endure, bought several USA T-shirts for one student to give away as a goodwill gesture on her dream trip to Israel, and taught our children about the historical persecutions of Jews and how to stand up for Jews boldly today. We pray for the peace of Jerusalem, support politicians who support Israel, and, to use a term that if it isn’t Yiddish it should be: yadda yadda yadda.

We don’t just “tolerate” Jewish people. We love them. There’s a huge, huge difference.

So how can we possibly think it is OK to tell them about Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) and how He died to pay the debt for sin and grant us all eternal life? Isn’t that disrespectful of Jewish beliefs? Isn’t that a slur, to tell them they are wrong and we are right?

Well, look at it this way: what kind of anti-Semitism would it be to NOT try to introduce people, who happen to be Jewish, to their Messiah, just because they are Jewish? If we truly believe Jesus holds the key to eternal life, then by not telling Jewish people about Him, aren’t we saying they aren’t worth saving?

What kind of schmucks would do a thing like that?

Why wouldn’t we want to share the greatest blessing imaginable?

Why wouldn’t we want to take advantage of God’s promise in Genesis 12:3, that He will bless those who bless the Jews and curse those who curse them? Why wouldn’t we seek to be kind to the people God called holy and special above all others in Deuteronomy 7:6 ? Why wouldn’t we endeavor to share the message of His coming with, as Paul said, “the Jew first” (Romans 1:16)?

If we remained silent and didn’t try to share the Gospel with Jews, it’d be as if we were doctors, and sat there filing our nails during a medical crisis and letting people die without employing the skills and caring that we have to help heal them.

It comes down to this:

1. Yeshua is the Messiah.

or

2. He isn’t.

Those two statements are diametrically opposed. They can’t both be true. No matter how reluctant those who believe (2) may be to engage in dialogue, we who believe (1) know that someday, they are going to have to account for why they fell into the (2) camp. We don’t want to see that happen. We aren’t schmucks, remember?

If our ultimate goal is truth, we can’t stifle the process of discovery of that truth. We have to keep talking about it. Jews have to, too.

For those Jews who think it is wrong to “proselytize” for Yeshua, answer this: what is most important to God, that a person follows Jewish customs and traditions and stays comfortable in the faith of the fathers and mothers, or seeks – really seeks – to see if Yeshua is the Messiah?

Where in the Bible does God ever tell His beloved people to skirt a problem or a challenge, look the other way, never mind, ignore it, fuhgeddaboudit?

Nowhere.

What holds Jews back from this discovery process? For many, it is fear that they will no longer be Jewish if they become believers in Yeshua. But those Jews are still Jewish. They will always have that identity. They don’t have to abandon a molecule of their heritage, no matter what official Jewish leaders may claim to the contrary. A Jew’s identity is a sovereign work of the Almighty God. Do Jewish leaders truly think they can declare that Almighty God has changed His mind about a single Jew, just because that person defied THEIR rules and regulations? Of course not.

Those aren’t God’s rules and regulations that keep Jews away from their Messiah. Those are man’s contrivances. Think about it.

And think about this:

Think of our world’s history as like a gigantic football game. Jews enjoyed the first half. In fact, they starred. But now it’s well into the second half, and they’re still out of the stadium having their halftime break. They’re missing the action. In fact, it’s almost over.

Isn’t it time we Christians went out looking for our Jewish friends . . . so that in the end, when there’s victory on the field, they’re down there with us celebrating?

Friday, January 17, 2003


FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

SELF-ESTEEM CENTRAL: THE SURPRISE PARTY

A little girl I know organized a "Kidnap Breakfast" surprise party for her friend Laura. It was all pre-arranged. Two moms in minivans started picking up 10-year-old girls, still in their jammies, at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. By 8:30, the two minivans convened on the birthday girl's house. Her mom, alerted ahead of time, let them in.

The birthday girl reminisces today, "I have never heard such a beautiful sound as all those thundering feet, coming up the stairs toward me, and voices shouting, 'We want Laura! We want Laura!'"

They went to the neighborhood breakfast spot -- still in their jammies -- and were the delight of the geezer crowd as they plopped birthday candles in the whipped cream of the strawberry waffles and just had a great time enjoying the surprise and their friendship.

Every kid deserves at least one surprise party in childhood. The fun is in the planning, the intrigue, the arrangements . . . and the ecstatic moment when those eyebrows shoot up and the honoree understands that this is alllllllll for him or her.

Sweet. Very sweet.

Nothing makes you feel as special. Because everybody likes surprises.


THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

WE OUGHTA AUDIT STATE AID TO EDUCATION

SECOND IN A SERIES
TAKING NEBRASKA'S SCHOOLS PRIVATE
TOPIC 2: AUDIT STATE AID TO EDUCATION

It’s not just ludicrous that the State of Nebraska doesn’t carefully audit state aid to education. It’s downright stupefying that we don’t, especially with our gigantic state budget deficit, fed-up tax climate, iffy economy and nasty drought.

These are the times when we should be measuring and moderating the money flow from state tax coffers out to the public schools. But instead, it’s as if we’ve left the Hoover Dam gushing out money on its own for years . . . and now it’s about to break.

The amount of waste and fraud in K-12 education that proper audits are uncovering in other states is enormous. The mismanagement and lack of accountability those audits are disclosing should be red flags to Nebraskans that it is time to find out if the same sorts of things are going on here.

Ah, but Nebraskans are so honest, you say. True enough. But think about it: Nebraska’s K-12 schools are spending $1.9 billion altogether this school year, and nearly one-third of that was funded by state tax dollars -- $662 million in state aid this school year. You can’t say, with a straight face, that not a dime of waste, fraud or mismanagement was involved in all that spending.

But how would we know for sure? We don’t audit all that money. We can’t. We need a change in state law to do that.

Helllllllloooooooooooo!!!!!!!

Ah, but districts already do their own audits, you say. No, they don’t. They do pro-forma checks. Their “audits” just check that they spent what they said they spent. They don’t get in there and dig and spot the inconsistencies. They don’t follow the money trail and report on its twists and turns – they just confirm to the people who are spending all the money that the money trail is there.

Well, we need a whole new road crew of inspectors, that’s for sure. We need much more businesslike accounting methods for our K-12 school districts and state education bureaucracies, and much more accountable financial reporting to the public about how our tax dollars are being spent. What’d we buy them all that technology for, if not to keep better track of where the money’s going?

Shed the light of day on their spending, and poof! Watch a lot of the stupid stuff disappear.

And here’s how it could be done:

State Auditor Kate Witek is already totally up to speed with the need for performance audits for state spending. Her office is where the power to audit state aid ought to be placed – never with the state education commissioner or state board of education. This is a management oversight function, not a political football. State ed officials have already demonstrated with excruciating clarity that fiscal accountability to the public is not their “thing.”

But how to pay for the additional staffing such an audit system would create? Easy. Stop giving away bonehead fluff grants through the State Lottery Fund -- $84.7 million of absolute waste since the lottery began nearly 10 years ago frittered away through the Education Innovation Fund, as you can see on www.nelottery.com -– and devote that money to a K-12 accountability fund controlled by the State Auditor.

State lottery grants to K-12 schools are supposed to be for “innovative” programs. Hah. Instead, lottery grants have funded many of the dumbest “school deforms” in Nebraska, all across the state. Most of it has gone for Goals 2000 social engineering and political correctness programs that have damaged and destroyed many of the solid, traditional academic programs that kids need and parents want the most.

But here’s what’s worse: lottery grants are one-year grants. It’s bad enough that the bonehead stuff can get funded for one year, through lottery proceeds. What has happened, almost without exception, though, is that after the lottery grant runs out and the money dries up and is gone, the local school district has just stepped in and picked up the tab and added it to their budgets and kept the newly-hired staff on board and kept the bonehead new fluff program going even though it hasn’t added a particle of quality to the educational in-baskets of the kids.

So lottery funds have actually DAMAGED educational quality and INCREASED educational budgets. That doesn’t do a LOT for me. Does it you?

Much, much better to spend our “vigorish” from the lottery on finding out how districts and the state ed department are spending our dough.

They wouldn’t have to audit every district every year. A spot-check basis will do. They wouldn’t have to audit every dollar spent in every department of the targeted district. They would just look for those “Colombo Clues” that suggest that something is not quite right.

If you are skeptical that auditors of the nearly $2 billion in K-12 school spending in Nebraska would never find a thing amiss and that everything is hunky dory, just check out the list of what audits in OTHER places is turning up posted today at Go Big Ed.

We oughta audit, people. We really oughta.

THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

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Wednesday, January 15, 2003


WEDNESDAY: Funnies

The 2-year-old had just noticed that the paper cover had fallen off one of her fat, chunky crayons.

She lifted it up, and said, "It's a NUDIST!"

Tuesday, January 14, 2003


TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

TURNING THE TABLES ON PEOPLE BEHIND SOFT-CORE PORN

We got a Victoria's Secret catalog in the mail today. On the cover was a photo of a woman in a bikini bottom so tiny, if you sneezed in it you'd only have one nostril covered.

It made my nostrils flare . . . as a decent American mother trying to raise decent American children.

I went to their website and sent a courteous, but strongly-worded email asking them what kind of people they were, to be sending that kind of sexploitation through the U.S. mail, and what happened to sear their consciences to the point where they didn't even see anything wrong with it.

I haven't heard back. Hope I do.

But in the meantime, here is my plan: I am going to send that catalog to the president of the company and suggest that he or she take that catalog cover to his or her grandmother, next visit, and show it to Granny.

My rule is: if you can't show something you're responsible for to your grandmother, you shouldn't have had anything to do with it.

Victoria's grandmother has a secret, too: she wishes America would rediscover the only real beauty is in modesty, discretion and class . . . the opposite of what's on that catalog cover.



MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

AFTERSCHOOLING YOUR CHILD IN WRITING

Why are so many college professors bald? Because they're tearing their hair out over how poorly students write these days.

What's a parent to do? Two things:

1. Don't tear your hair out; you may need it for the NEXT incredible challenge of parenting.

2. Get your student a copy of Jensen's Grammar and afterschool your child with this wonderful curriculum.

Afterschooling is a hybrid solution for parents who want to keep their children in public school, but supplement with a few key at-home learning activities. This is becoming a growing trend since it is clear that public schools are not able to deliver high-quality basics such as writing instruction any more. Writing instruction is one of the most time-consuming jobs in all of teaching, and so as schools became more and more places for socializing kids and less and less places for educating them, good, old-fashioned, formal writing instruction was one of the first things to go in many districts.

Sigh.

But Jensen's Grammar is an affordable ($30) tool for parents to make sure their children have been exposed to what it takes to write well. It appears that the curriculum is for public school students at the high school or college levels, or homeschoolers in middle school -- which should be yet another clue about the quality of educational delivery in our tax-supported schools.

Everything from subject-verb agreement to plurals to writing simple sentences and sophisticated ones is covered in this curriculum. Companion products are available as well on the same website where you'll find Sam Blumenfeld's excellent AlphaPhonics, HowToTutor.com

Monday, January 13, 2003

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

UP A MOTHER'S SLEEVE

As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you; and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
-- Isaiah 66:13

My dad had a highly specialized job in the Merchant Marines during World War II. He was so patriotic, he lied about his age to get in on the fighting. I’m sure they were thinking of his mother back home when they gave the naïve 17-year-old from Nebraska a really safe job. They made him a “medical officer” on a supply ship off the Philippines, pretty darn far from the action.

His job consisted of doing routine first aid for the swabbies. Some men fight with bazookas and hand grenades; my dad fought with bandaids and splints.

The highly specialized part of his job was this: whenever the swabbies would go on shore leave, it was his job to make sure they had plenty of condoms. He literally threw handfuls down to the sailors as their boats were being lowered into the water to go ashore.

You could say my dad was part of a key military defense strategy. Or you could say my dad was safe sex before safe sex was cool.

So he never shot a gun. So what? He saved lives and prevented casualties anyway. I doubt he ever told his mother ALL the details of his job. At least she didn’t have to worry as much as some.

Now, I have a friend whose dad’s wartime assignment was even cushier: he played basketball. That’s right: he shot hoops instead of bullets. He was a great player, and watching games was a nice diversion for the troops getting ready to go to war. So he played in a league at military bases up and down the eastern seaboard, and neither set foot nor bounced ball on foreign soil. A mother’s dream.

Ah, but not all mothers can be that lucky. Now a whole new generation of us are going to find that out.

I have a friend whose only son is being deployed to the Middle East next week. He is 20. He is a hunk. He is a Marine. He is in the ground troops, and he is not afraid.

But his mother is.

That is about as far from a cushy assignment as a soldier could draw in wartime. Oh, the things that are running through her mind.

When he enlisted, she went along with it: he wanted to be one of the few and the proud. It fit. He was perfect for the Marines. He worked hard. If he was happy, she was happy.

But then came 9/11. All of a sudden, this wasn’t a boy off playing in the mud with pretend weapons. Rumors and news reports jolted her ears now. War! We’re going to have war! The stakes and the pressure suddenly zoomed sky high.

With some of the scary things they’ve been saying about what our ground forces may soon face, all she can do is pray. She’s asking everyone she knows to pray, too.

But she’s a mother . . . and like all mothers, she had one more thing up her sleeve.

She wrote down her favorite Bible verse in permanent ink on a strip of fabric. Then she sewed it upside down in the lining of his left jacket sleeve, inside the cuff. It doesn’t show. But anytime he wants a dose of mother love, he can flip his sleeve back and read:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. – Philippians 4:6

She wrote down the same verse on another square of fabric, and sewed it upside down in the hem of the left sleeve of her robe, inside the cuff.

So they match.

She starts each day at dawn, praying and reading the Bible. Starting next week, she will be concentrating hard on the words up her sleeve. Across the world, her son will be doing the same.

They know this: when it’s time for war, you can still find peace. Be anxious for nothing. By prayer, supplication and thanksgiving share your heart with God.

In the coming months, no matter what happens, a mother and son will fight together, facing danger and fear with uncommon valor. His is the outward battle, hers the inward one.

One thing’s for sure: her courage, her bravery, her dedication, her loyalty will be every bit as strong as his.

A mother wears her heart on her sleeve, you know.

Saturday, January 11, 2003


SATURDAY: Lookin' Up

AREN'T ALL RELIGIOUS OPINIONS EQUALLY VALID?

There are many people who say that in their opinion, Christianity is NOT the one true faith. They certainly have a right to that opinion, don’t they? How can anyone say that one person’s religious convictions, or lack of them, are not as valid or “true” as any other’s?

You can say that if you have examined the evidence for the truth or falsehood of religion, or lack of it. People have a right to hold opinions of all kinds, but that does not make them the right opinions.

If there were someone writing articles about a music group that you loved, and those articles had facts such as court records, check stubs and photographs that showed that your favorite music group stole their songs from someone else, killed members of competing groups, took drugs and hated people, would you still love that music group? The things in those articles are facts, not opinions. But once you knew those facts, wouldn’t you change your opinion about that group?

It’s the same thing with religions, and investigating which one, if any, is valid. There are many examples throughout the centuries of really smart atheists who have set out to disprove Christianity, once and for all . . . but once they start looking in to it, they realize they’re wrong . . . and become believers.

There has never been any evidence produced of any kind, from anywhere, that shows that Jesus Christ was not God in the flesh here on earth, who taught astounding truth to thousands of people, died for our sins even though He never committed a sin, was resurrected from the dead, and rose up to heaven . . . all of this taking place before eyewitnesses with plenty of historical, archaeological and scientific evidence backing it up.

That track record of truth is enough to make Christianity declared true and valid. Once it is, then all other religions, and atheism, cannot be true and valid.

The actions of Christians ever since – establishing schools and universities, ending slavery, starting hospitals, providing for the poor, opposing drugs and alcohol, ending prostitution, establishing governments, laws and businesses that promote individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – all show that millions of people throughout the centuries have believed that Jesus Christ really is God, and really loves us and wants us to love each other.

No other religion even comes close to that kind of a track record of service to others. No other religion is centered on a Person who claims to be the one true God, either. Mohammad and Buddha claimed only to be go-betweens for the gods they represented. No other religion has a sacred book that even comes close to the Bible for being so well-documented, verifiable and historically accurate. There are stories and writings from the Hindus, Native Americans, African tribal people and others who are or were pantheists. But these stories lack records about specific people’s names, places and things, so we can’t objectively check out their claims that there are many gods in many forms, instead of one separate and definable Being, as claimed in the Bible.

That’s a lot of conflicting belief systems.

They can’t all be right. They aren’t. Only one is: Biblical Christianity.

Enter ye in at the straight gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat; because straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. – Matthew 7:13,14


Friday, January 10, 2003


FRIDAY: Vitamin Mom

THANK-YOU NOTES AS GOOD AS THE GIFTS

It is critically important that mothers teach their children to write thank-you notes for gifts received, special favors rendered, or sit-down dinners or lunches provided.

By now, holiday thank-you’s should be off in the mail. But if your child has trouble putting pen to paper, here are some alternative ideas that should make the thank-you note as much fun to receive as the gift was to give:

-- Thank-You Picture. Give your child crayons or markers and have your child draw a picture of himself or herself using the gift. A simple, "Thanks, Grandma! I love it!" and the child's name is all that's needed.

-- Thank-You Story. Have your child write or type a funny story in which the gift serves as the solution to a mystery or develops magic powers.

-- Thank-You Crossword. Your child could write down several words that describe the gift, and then arrange them in a crossword puzzle. Make blank boxes for each letter, and write clues. Put the answers on the back.

Thursday, January 09, 2003


THURSDAY: Go Big Ed

FIRST IN A SERIES
TAKING NEBRASKA'S SCHOOLS PRIVATE:
THE 'WHY' AND THE 'HOW'

As the Legislature reconvenes and begins to grapple with Nebraska's gigantic budget deficit, I begin a series of stories about public education in Nebraska, why we should begin a 10-year process of privatization, and how that can be done.

Topic 1: Special Education

In the 1992-93 school year, Nebraskans spent $128.1 million on special education in our K-12 public schools. That zoomed up to $205.2 million by the 2000-01 school year, a 60.13% increase.

Special education spending amounted to 17.7% of total K-12 education spending in Nebraska in 1992-93, but in the eight years since then it increased to 21.1% of the total ed bill, fueling the lion's share of the increase in expenses for public education.

The sad thing is, an estimated 80 percent of the kids labeled "special ed" do not have a medically-discernible physical disability at all. They aren't deaf, mentally handicapped or physically disabled. They just can't read very well. But it's not their fault: brain scan research is showing that the scans of dyslexic children transform into identical patterns with kids who read well, once the "dyslexics" have been taught to read properly, with systematic, intensive, explict phonics and a content-based curriculum.

"Learning disabilities" and their accompanying problems, both behavioral and social, miraculously disappear once the child is taught to read, in other words.

In the few schools around the country where kids are taught to read properly, with phonics only, the referrals to special ed by teachers who think a child is "learning disabled" drop to nearly zero.

There are significant financial incentives for getting more and more kids labeled "LD," with the most-often cited "advantage" the fact that there is federal reimbursement for some of the expenses. But think what we're doing: making kids dysfunctional and more expensive to educate, just because there's money in it for the education system.

Shame on us. Shame, shame.

We just cannot, will not, must not let this "phony special ed" continue, not even one more year. It is one of the chief reasons Nebraska's K-12 funding is in such a mess. Cutting off the funding for what is hurting kids would not only save tens of millions, but makes the most sense from a public-policy standpoint . . . especially if you care a rat about kids.

Now, the most compelling argument I have ever heard for sticking with our system of public funding for public schools is that to shift everything to the private sector would be disastrous for the real special education students -- the medically-disagnosed ones -- and their families. I totally agree.

Under my plan for privatization, over a 10-year period we would reduce state aid to education by 10 percent per year, per pupil, to zero in the 2014-15 school year. That's shocking, I know, and I'll report more on that idea later.

But for now, with regard to special ed: under my plan, statewide tax dollars would continue to pay for the needs of each special ed student that is above and beyond the annual cost of educating a nondisabled student, as figured from statewide totals reported to the State Ed Department. Accountability and policy for special ed students for those services that are specifically special-ed services would transfer from the locally-elected school boards, to the regionally-elected Educational Service Unit (ESU) boards. Those boards, by the way, now number 19 in Nebraska, but they should be reduced to three, one for each congressional district.

The point is that medically-diagnosable special education students would not be abandoned, under privatization. Responsibility and funding for them would be maintained at the state level with the state department of education and ESU staffs working in oversight with local districts to make sure their needs are met.

The difference would be this: there would no longer be a penny of state aid paid out for NON-medical special education.

I'm talking about the totally preventable and totally reversible conditions often labeled "specific learning disability," that are increasingly being exposed as not truly a physical, medically-diagnosable disability at all . . . but the consequence of boneheaded instructional methods in kindergarten and first grade.

Whole language, whole math and child-centered education have created this epidemic of "learning disabilities," and we need to cut off all funding to all schools which inflict those methods on kids and create this expensive dead weight that is dragging us all down in a sea of debt and overspending.

Bottom line: not a dime more state tax funding for any district that is not using systematic, intensive, explicit phonics, traditional classroom style, and content-based curriculum over the next 10 years, 'til we can wean our schools off the public teat once and for all.

For background, track your district's special ed spending on the State Education Department's financial website:

Annual Financial Reports

Wednesday, January 08, 2003

WEDNESDAY: Funnies

We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary with a beautiful candlight dinner with a good wine in crystal goblets and Olive Garden takeout on paper plates (you do what you have to) with our three daughters still at home, with a sweet call later from our oldest, who is off at college.

The elegance of the evening was upset only a little by the solution of the mystery of what happened to our 2-year-old's tippy cup of chocolate milk. It was eventually found inside her potty seat. Turns out that she had learned her potty-training lesson too well, and thought that "you swallow your food, and when your body is through with it, it goes into the potty" meant that she should put her cup of chocolate milk in there, since she was through with it.

AAAIIIEEE!!!

It was indeed a memorable incident in this most memorable among 25 anniversary celebrations. However, not even that can surpass the memory of our 10th anniversary. We had a 4-year-old, a 3-year-old and a newborn baby. I had told my husband that my fondest wish was for a little time to myself, to read the paper, take a bubble bath, and just relax for a little while. So he took the three little kiddies out into the wintry evening to have a fast-food dinner and play on the indoor playground, then pick out a romantic movie for us for later, and to stop off at our favorite restaurant for gourmet take-out for us.

When he got home, I felt human again and was grateful for the respite. But then the two large sacks of gourmet takeout turned out to be mostly empty: there were two styrofoam containers, each with a few toasted ravioli in them, but that was it. The take-out people had forgotten the entrees, salads and breadsticks. Minor details!

But it was so cold out, and we were so tired, that we just put the kids to bed and then cut each toasted ravioli into 1/16th inch squares, and "stretched" them into our meal.

The topper was when I saw what video he had rented: FOGHORN LEGHORN cartoons. "That was the only thing I could find that I liked," he explained.

Boy! I say . . . boy! At the time, I thought that anniversary had laid an egg. But now it's my favorite. A sense of humor and the ability to adjust to unexpected situations are key to long-term marriage. That, and an appreciation for the unique: I mean, who else in the world has a love story about litty bitty raviolis and Foghorn Leghorn?


Tuesday, January 07, 2003


TUESDAY: Hot Potatoes

Musings On Our Silver Wedding Anniversary

We got the silver . . . and now we're going for the gold! The hubby and I are marking our 25th wedding anniversary today.

It's so wonderful, being "oldyweds," but it seems as though you never hear people talking about their long-time marriages anymore, and the delights thereof. Instead, the topic of conversation always seems to go toward the bad and sad side: adultery, cohabitation, divorce, property settlement issues, custody issues, visitation issues, stepfamily issues, homosexual "mock marriage," yadda yadda blah blah blah.

When it comes to marriage these days, why can't everybody kiss -- keep it simple, stupid? Get married and stay married. What is so darn-tootin' hard about that?

Well, I, for one, am SICK of focusing on dysfunction, and I pledge this year to focus a lot more on FUNCTION when it comes to good, old-fashioned, reciprocal, committed, fulfilling, exciting, meaningful long-time marriage.

Even if he keeps introducing me as his "first wife."

Even if he develops a line like Omahan Jim Kalal, who is wont to say of his own long-time marriage:

"It has been 37 years and it feels like 37 minutes . . . . . . . . . . . . under water."

Maybe he should put it this way: "Marriage is breathtaking!"

Vive Marriage! and Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart.

Monday, January 06, 2003

MONDAY: Show 'n' Tell for Parents

Book Review: 'Fed Ed: The New Federal Curriculum and How It's Enforced'

If you've been wondering what the heck is going on with increasing federal involvement in local public schools, this book is for you. It's a well-written, well-organized two- or three-hour read available for $12, and I highly recommend it.

Chaptoids include:

-- Taking Control of the Curriculum

-- Politicizing Education

-- Redefining the Media

-- Bringing in Private and Home Schools

-- Defining the Curriculum as Themes

-- Undermining National Sovereignty

-- Redefining Natural Rights

-- Minimizing Natural Law

-- Promoting Environmentalism

-- Requiring Multiculturalism

-- Restructuring Government

-- Redefining Education as Job Skills

. . . and many more.

The book has 153 pages and is published by NuCompass Publishing, Glencoe, Minnn.

The author is Allen Quist, a college professor in Mankato, Minn., and a former Minnesota school-board member and state legislator, homeschooling champion, Republican activist, and father of 10.

The book is available through the excellent education reform website, Maple River Education Coalition, www.EdWatch.org or through www.amazon.com

If I have one beef, it's that the solutions chaptoid is skimpy. I gather that the author is calling for a public information campaign in order to try to head off the nationalization of our schools. I'm for that, majorly. But he gives no practical advice, steps to take, ways to go about it, people to contact, arms to twist, etc. Let's face it: most people are just not set up to do all the backgrounding that it takes to understand something this huge, much less organize and advocate for an alternative to it. They are 'way too busy making a buck, raising their families and what all.

I wish the author had come up with a checklist of, say, 10 do-able things that the rank and file could undertake or at least get together with like-minded citizens and delegate. But all he exhorts us to do is to spread the word.

Guess that's better than what most people are doing to save our schools . . . which is just 'bout nuttin'.

This book could change that.


BACK FROM A HOLIDAY HIATUS. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

SUNDAY: Radiant Beams

When Elmer Blushed

Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
– 1 Corinthians 10:6

Somewhere out there in greater Omaha, there’s a 50-something woman who’s going to bed with a puzzled smile on her face these days. It’s all thanks to an impromptu meeting of the First Wives’ Club held in the lingerie department at Dillard’s this past Christmas.

It was one of the busiest shopping days of the Christmas season, and I was one of nearly a dozen people standing in two lines with armfuls of unmentionables – or, as we say in my family, “frou-frou.”

It hadn’t taken me long to pick out colorful new robes for my daughters and a much-needed new FiFi for myself. Yes, our family is so weird that we call upper undergarments “FiFi’s.” It has something to do with poodles. Don’t ask.

In addition, in those extremely rare instances in which it becomes necessary to refer to my lower undergarments, they are termed “Buicks.” This is because of the changes wrought by four pregnancies that turned my chassis from a sporty two-door into a solid, sensible, four-door sedan. At any rate, I believe I had picked up a couple of new Buicks as well, and had them discreetly under the colorful robes with the new FiFi.

But I digress. There we were in line with two clerks working feverishly, and all of us customers were women . . . except Elmer Fudd in the other line.

I studied Elmer. He had on a nice topcoat with well-shined shoes. That’s a good sign. A man in well-shined shoes thinks well of himself. I figured him to be an accountant or an insurance executive, nearing retirement.

He was about half-bald, in an appealing way, with a shiny chrome dome that matched his well-shined shoes.

He was holding a woman’s robe in a thick chenille. I believe it was in a sensible dark color, maybe plum, that wouldn’t show stains. It was obviously a Christmas gift for his wife or mother.

He had thick, long, curly eyelashes, in stark contrast to his smooth head, but I only noticed because he was looking down. I suspected he was embarrassed to be the only man for miles in the Frou-Frou, FiFi & Buick department of the busiest store in town.

But he wasn’t embarrassed. He was thinking.

Suddenly, he looked up, looked around, caught my eye, and spoke:

“Do you think she’d rather have one of THOSE?”

He was motioning his head toward a rack of little satin teddies: powder blue, princess pink, mint green and white. They were classy, but sexy. They were cut high on the thigh and had a little discreet fur trim along the bodice. Verrrrrry nice.

I was so shocked, I didn’t self-edit.

“This is for your wife?” I asked, stupidly. He nodded.

“Been married long?” “Thirty-seven years.”

Aha! Diagnosis complete.

“I’d sure rather get one of THOSE than one of THOSE.” I motioned my head first toward the teddies, then toward the thick robe in his arms. “Nobody likes to feel like an East German border guard.”

Another woman chimed in. “Heck, yes, get one of those pretty things,” she said. “What you’ve got looks like something Whistler’s Mother would wear.”

And another: “When you’re buying lingerie for the woman you love, it’s no time to be practical.”

And another: “Go for it!”

Not just his face, but his whole head blushed bright red from bottom to top. It was exactly like what happened to Bashful when Snow White kissed the top of his head at the end of the movie. Boooooooop!

We witnessed all the sensible, conservative, mortgaged and leveraged molecules in his body transform into pulsating, determined, testosterone-crazed, hot-blooded passion molecules.

Wow! All this in the Frou-Frou, FiFi & Buick Department at Dillard’s!

I’ll never forget what he did next: “By golly, you’re right,” he muttered, and ceremoniously dumped the sensible chenille robe right down onto the floor. “But I wouldn’t know what size,” he mused.

We all cooed happily and helped him pick out a powder blue teddy, encouraging him to add a matching satin robe and some really luxurious slippers as well.

When it was his turn at the counter, the clerk said casually over her half-moon specs, “And what do you know? These just went on sale – 30 percent off.”

Winks and smiles all ‘round.

The transaction accomplished, off he went, clutching his sack. But ‘ere he strode out of sight, he whipped around and exclaimed a joyful, “Merry Christmas!” with a sweet, shy look right at me: “. . . and thanks.”

My heart just sang. It’s still singing.

Maybe it’s the pornography all around us, or the raunchy, hypersexed TV, music and movies in our marketplaces. Maybe it’s the recent scandals involving homosexual assaults on children, or the world epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases, or the lurid sex ed in our publicly-funded classrooms.

All I know is, somewhere along the way in recent years, the fun and the joy of God’s gift of sexuality has been stolen from too many decent, married people . . . the ones God meant it for.

In a sincere effort to separate themselves from what’s wrong in our increasingly immoral, oversexed society, they’ve ended up denying themselves what is very, very right.

They settle for the chenille when they have every right to the satin.

God never said we couldn’t be passionate and lusty. He just put a simple condition on it: holy matrimony.

And God never meant for it to be a bore. He meant for it to be . . . well . . . holy moly!

So this new year, to all you old married folks out there – and my hubby and I join your ranks this week with our 25th anniversary – I say, let’s fight back by turning up the heat. Let’s expose all that’s wrong with sexuality outside God’s plan, by blessing ourselves with it when it’s right and wholesome and joyous and 100 percent within His one constraint.

Righteous lust? All those who are having and holding, God’s way: go for it.

Elmer Fudd, wherever you are, thanks for reminding us. It’s important. Tell the Mrs. that the First Wives’ Club hopes she likes her new frou-frou.

To all of you Elmers out there: go get ‘em, Tiger . . . rrrrrrrrrrrrrr.