Monthly Archives: June 2014

Library Enthusiast

I consider myself a library enthusiast. I happily pay my fines and fees, knowing it will help keep the lights on. It’s the least I can do, literally. I’m also a parent. My oldest daughter will be entering the first grade. I have 3 girls total and they are all being taught to be “library enthusiasts”. I feel it’s my job. One no one else is going to do. To instill in them faith in a system that allows for a person to see for themselves.

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Photo via St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nine months ago, I started to look into the education system in our state. I started where most parents start: in kindergarten. We were lucky. Our oldest got an amazing teacher, who saw the upsides to the new controversial standardized testing in our state-Common Core, as it’s known. At first, I read Heart Of The Matter. I first heard of it on The Colbert Report, seen here, one night before my daughter was to start kindergarten. I read it because it was on that particular show. After which, I asked questions of every person who I came across, that worked in education. I wanted know about their opinions and experiences. For the most part, teachers were excepting, if not content, with the standards. All the while trying to block out the negative perception projected by those who are typically opposed to “progressivism”. Those who were saying “common core is evil!” (They were, which is precisely why I ignored them).

My personal experiences this past school year forced me to try and understand the institute as a whole, from top to bottom. It seems daunting, even impossible at times. I’m forced to use as many resources as I can find. I’ll be honest and vulnerable. The truth is I need all the help I can get understanding how our education system works.

I don’t know a teacher’s perspective. I don’t know what it’s like to finish school and want to make a difference. I don’t know the disenfranchisement teachers face. I don’t know what a dedicated individual working with underprivileged kids goes through to acquire funding for kids, that some people see as a bother. I don’t know what it’s like for the Washington University educated folks to work in very impoverished areas, for meager pay.

I need perspectives from other parents. I need insight and knowledge on how the power players operate, by people working along side policy makers and lobbyists.

This is me being honest and knowing my limitations. I hope it’s read and understood. A confrontational tone from teachers, parents, or administrators is the last thing we need.

Like we saw from Mike Jones, Vice-President of the Missouri Board of Education recently, when he confronted Steve Stenger at a County commission meeting. You can hear thorough coverage of the event via NPR. The tone was hostile. It actually shifted the focus to Mr. Jones’ actions and his relationship with County Executive Dooley and away from the kids for a moment . It’s understandable, an election is coming up, but this is education. It shouldn’t be subject to the counterproductive squabbles of local politics.

At the same time, those administrators who are appointed, not elected, shouldn’t be showing contempt or making light of the elected process. Like , Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro did in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Comparing our elected process to a “homecoming queen” election.

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I’m told to organize and network with other parents, but quite frankly, the parents who are interested in organizing are homeschooling or paying for private school tuition. So, I feel very much alone and outside looking in to a very complicated institute.

I do have faith, that good people will rise to the occasion and this problem will be fixed. Hopefully, my enthusiasm for libraries can help the process along, it’s a great place to start, but so much more is needed.

I will keep digging and striving to understand the system I’ve placed my daughters in at the tender age of five. I’ll always enthusiastically begin any dig at the St. Charles County Library…enthusiastically.

The Legend of Dorok…

Both his bowl cut and his belly were quite round. His name was Derek. “Hello.” he said, not at all like a 13 year-old, but more like a door-to-door salesman. He began to state the obvious and describe all the clearly visible things in his hands. He had a noticeable stutter, but my family had just moved in to a house up the hill on Grey Street, where Raulston ended, so I knew him somewhat. It was weird seeing him in my house. It seemed weirder that he walked the whole way up the hill, carrying his bass and amplifier. It was his second lesson with my father. It was clear he was trying to contain his excitement, by the stoic and intentional way he stood very straight, starring at our kitchen that led to the basement door. “Hello” he said as my sister walked though the living room, in the exact same manner in which he had greeted me at the door. “Hey” she replied in surprise and continued on her way.
“Ah-w-w-where’s you dad?” He asked trying desperately to control his stammer, having particular trouble with the “D” in “dad”.
“He’s in the basement…he’s putting new strings on his guitar.” I replied.
“Cool, cool.” He repeated nodding his head in affirmation. Clearly conveying, both, how uncomfortable and excited he was to be at my home for his second bass lesson.
“You need a hand with those?” I asked not really knowing what else to say.
“Oh!” Looking at the items in his hand, as if he were surprised to find them there. “No. No. I’ve got ’em.” Another moment of mutual awkward passed, with us starring at his musical gear.
Finally, out of shear befuddlement, I started walking towards the basement in hopes he’d follow, which he did. He also returned to the upright, stoic stance he originally had. He was all business.
We walked through the kitchen and down to the basement, where my father was sitting alone playing guitar. “Oh–hey dip stick.” He said while never ceasing his playing of ZZ Top’s “La Grange”. The acoustics rang well against the grey brick walls of our basement.
Derek set his gear down directly across from my father’s amplifier and started pulling out his bass and plugging in his chords.
“Do you remember where we were last week?” My father asked still playing La Grange.
“Aah” Derek said taking in a deep breath and turning around to look at my father, “yeah, I do.”
“Great!” My father replied finishing up La Grange. “You remember how to tune that thing?”
“Yes.” Derek said now starring at my fathers Brown SunBurst Fender Telecaster, fixated in some sort of trance. He just stood there, watching my fathers hands. My father “brought it home” and ended the song. Carefully set his guitar on it’s stand and stood up out if his chair. All the while, Derek never taking his eyes off the Fender.
“Okay, I’m gonna go get another cup of coffee. Tune that thing and we’ll get started.”

Editorial Update: no one edit this.

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( Graphics via, Eddie Adams)

My father walked away, taking his normal giant strides. Derek just continued to stare at the Fender. As soon as my father reached the top of the stairs, Derek approached the guitar on it’s stand. His gob gaped wide open, even more fixated. Without ever looking away, Derek reach down and picked my father’s guitar up and sat down in my his chair. He examined it from end to end. He held it with like my father did, but Derek was left-handed. He had this uncomfortable scowl on his face, like it hurt to hold the instrument that way. He thought, his brow even more furrowed. Then it hit him, you could see in his brow jump, as the thought crossed his mind. He just flipped the guitar over to his left hand and you could see it fit much better. He made the same chord he had just seen my father had play. And then he started…
He started to play exactly what my father had been playing, La Grange by ZZ Top. I stood in the doorway, where I had been standing the whole time stupefied I what I was seeing. He just kept playing. A left-handed kid, who had never played a right-handed guitar before, just picked it up and decided to do it. Before I knew it, I was in some sort of weird trance. What broke me out was my father’s curious “Hmm.. I’ll be..”. I looked over my shoulder and he was standing there not believing what he was seeing either, sipping his coffee. Which, as someone who had been scolded all of my life for touching my father’s guitar, I was now somewhat jealous.
“You never let anyone touch your guitar. Why don’t you let me play it?” I pointed out. My father still sipping his coffee, “Can you play it like that?” He asked. My silence was it’s own answer.
Derek wound down the song and “brought it home” just like my dad had done a few minutes earlier. He looked up and apologized. My father replied. “For what?”.
He took his Fender from Derek and Derek picked up his solid black bass. “Alright, now play it with me…” And they played the song again. Being that it was the third time and I was incredibly jealous, I chose to go watch tv.
An hour later, my father and Derek emerged from the basement with Derek’s gear. By this time, it was dark. So, Derek’s mom had arranged to pick him up after his lesson. She knocked on the door and came in to ask my father how he was doing. My father didn’t answer, he just went and got the check she had given him for the 5 lessons she scheduled and handed it back to her. “Well…I can’t teach him anything, he doesn’t already know. It ain’t right I take this money.” She smiled and excepted the check gratuitously.

That is the legend of Dorok…

Firsts

Tonight my daughters will leave on a trip with their grandparents. It’s the first time they will be away from our protective gaze, and won’t be in places they usually stay overnight, that are only a 20 minute car ride away. They’ll be several states away, spanning hundreds of miles.  I’m not worried about who they will be traveling with or who they are going to visit. I have full faith in the people involved. My girls seem excited, my five-year old has moments of apprehension when she ponders being gone from home for 8 days. The three-year old has no clue what “8 days” means, no frame of reference. She just knows she going to a beach. Their mother is taking great care in packing their bags, working out her anxiety in her own way. Her own way consists of fretting and controlling as much as she possibly can. To ensure they’re prepared, to ensure they enjoy themselves. Labeling and sorting each outfit for each day, taking great pride in organizing their travel bags.  She’s been coordinating and conferring with all the other adults involved, namely her mother and sister. It’s her process…

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To be honest, I had blocked out the fact that they are going altogether, for weeks leading up to this day. I suppose that’s part of my process. Now, I feel like a “helicopter parent”, which is now a backhanded pejorative in our modern lexicon. I wanna know the route they will travel and where the people responsible for my girls, plan to stop. Now all the sudden, I want to control the situation, but I can’t. This is where the painful process of letting one’s children actually grow into independent people begins. I realized what little control I will have in five years, even less in ten. Fifteen years down the road–I will have no role in their decision making process, whatsoever. Fifteen years down the road, I will have to trust in the foundation I’m laying now.

Their mother and I are choosing the people the girls are traveling with and where the girls will be staying. In fifteen years, they will be making those decisions. I have to trust that what I’m teaching them now, will instill the same discernment I use, as their father. That is my job, after all. Not to be their life-long protector, but to teach them to protect themselves. Most of the time, protection is easiest attained through preemptive measures. That is to say, making good decisions that do not put oneself in dangerous or compromising situations. My friends with kids who are similar ages to my girls, are going through same process. They are dealing with it through their own process. Handling and digesting their own anxiety, in whatever way they go about the wrapping their head around a uncomfortable reality.

That is the larger over all process, that parents face everyday. My daughters trip is nothing special or unique, to anyone but me, their mother, and maybe few other people. Just like they will eventually learn about their birth and life on this earth–it is nothing special. It’s the truth. A truth, I will one day have to explain to my girls. Yet another first I’m dreading.

 

 

A different perspective on the Bowe Bergdahl capture.

Firsthand account of SGT Bowe Bergdahl and his “capture”: Via, SSG Jeremiah Jackson.

Forwarded from Jeff Howard . “We were at OP Mest, Paktika Province, Afghanistan. It was a small outpost where B Co 1-501st INF (Airbone) ran operations out of, just an Infantry platoon and ANA counterparts there. The place was an Afghan graveyard. Bergdahl had been acting a little strange, telling people he wanted to “walk the earth” and kept a little journal talking about how he was meant for better things. No one thought anything about it. He was a little “out there”. Next morning he’s gone. We search everywhere, and can’t find him. He left his weapon, his kit, and other sensitive items. He only took some water, a compass and a knife. We find some afghan kids shortly after who saw an american walking north asking about where the taliban are. We get hits on our voice intercepter that Taliban has him, and we were close. We come to realize that the kid deserted his post, snuck out of camp and sought out Taliban… to join them. We were in a defensive position at OP Mest, where your focus is to keep people out. He knew where the blind spots were to slip out and that’s what he did. It was supposed to be a 4-day mission but turned into several months of active searching. Everyone was spun up to find this guy. News outlets all over the country were putting out false information. It was hard to see, especially when we knew the truth about what happened and we lost good men trying to find him. PFC Matthew Michael Martinek, Staff Sgt. Kurt Robert Curtiss, SSG Clayton Bowen, PFC Morris Walker, SSG Michael Murphrey, 2LT Darryn Andrews, were all KIA from our unit who died looking for Bergdahl. Many others from various units were wounded or killed while actively looking for Bergdahl. Fighting Increased. IEDs and enemy ambushes increased. The Taliban knew that we were looking for him in high numbers and our movements were predictable. Because of Bergdahl, more men were out in danger, and more attacks on friendly camps and positions were conducted while we were out looking for him. His actions impacted the region more than anyone wants to admit. There is also no way to know what he told the Taliban: Our movements, locations, tactics, weak points on vehicles and other things for the enemy to exploit are just a few possibilities. The Government knows full well that he deserted. It looks bad and is a good propaganda piece for the Taliban. They refuse to acknowledge it. Hell they even promoted him to Sergeant which makes me sick. I feel for his family who only want their son/brother back. They don’t know the truth, or refuse to acknowledge it as well. What he did affected his family and his whole town back home, who don’t know the truth. Either way what matters is that good men died because of him. He has been lying on all those Taliban videos about everything since his “capture”. If he ever returns, he should be tried under the UCMJ for being a deserter and judged for what he did. Bergdahl is not a hero, he is not a soldier or an Infantryman. He failed his brothers. Now, sons and daughters are growing up without their fathers who died for him and he will have to face that truth someday.”

Sorry bro, you’re a deserter.

Who knows? Bowe knows…

I don’t know what happened the night Bowe Bergdahl went missing. I had seen the hash tag “Bring Bowe Home” for a really long time on Twitter and didn’t know much about the story. Saturday, when I saw the headline, “Taliban Releases U.S. Soldier Held For Five Years” posted by Mediate, seen here, I thought “great news…the Taliban usually just beheads the ‘captured’ and puts the video on YouTube,” and shared the link. Yes, this is where I’m admitting to thoughtlessly sharing a link (which is an unpopular right we as Americans have).

After doing some digging, Bowe Bergdahl is a home school kid from Idaho, who wanted to be in the French Foreign Legion. He is apparently very bright and very well read. He was a barista before joining the army in 2008.

I woke this morning to find out that this was not actually a “release”. It was a trade. A trade for five Taliban detainees held at GITMO (A prison for U.S. enemy combatants). Here’s the BBC with a list of the five detainees released in the deal-something that had been under negotiations for a year now, according to ABC NEWS. In the same ABC NEWS article, it points out that Bergdahl was the only known “captured” soldier in the entire Afghan conflict. I was also pointed towards an article by the now deceased journalist Michael Hastings, who had written for Rolling Stone Magazine on the topic in 2012, you can view that here. In it, Hastings writes that Bergdahl might have just walked off base out of frustration and disillusionment. This is the same Rolling Stone’s writer who was credible enough to print statements by high ranking American military officials, some of which eventually lead to the removal of a popular, and arguably successful, Army General. All those factors made me really re-examine the story. While poking around, I found this old tweet from 2009. This is a screen shot:

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I was forced to ask myself, “is this what closing Guantanamo looks like?” Is this the process we go through?

I don’t know Bowe, or his dad (who has a less than typical YouTube page for a guy from Idaho) or their beliefs. Who knows? Bowe knows… and he’ll probably be asked some questions about what he knows when he returns.

What kind of ramifications will this trade have? What kind of effect will this have on young people, who see Bowe, as a disillusioned intellectual who just went for a stroll through the mountains along the Afghan/Pakistan boarder, during wartime, and live to tell the tale.

The whole thing kept bringing me back to one question: How can a generation obsessed with government transparency, embrace a deal made in such a manner?

I don’t know the answer to that, I’ve literally spent my entire Sunday pondering that question.