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Rantings of a Crazed Soccer Mom
Monday, 9 May 2005
No Child Left Behind?????
Today my nine year old daughter went off to school to take what we call the EOG (End of Grade) tests, part of the No Child Left Behind act.

For the next three mornings, she and her classmates will be hunched over test booklets, diligently filling in those little bubbles with newly sharpened number 2 pencils.

She hates the tests. Her teachers hate them. I hate them. But we have no choice.

Standardized testing is an easy fix that doesn't work. First of all, just because a kid passes or fails a multiple choice test, it doesn't prove whether or not he's competent in a given subject. He may have been distracted during the test. He may have skipped a question and marked all the wrong answers on the test card, even though he got them right. Or he may just not be a very good test taker.

Also, there's the issue of test development. Last year I was shocked at one of the questions my daughter brought home on a EOG practice test.

Here's the question: Where would you go to find where Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson in the library?

Here's the answer: The card catalog.

My daughter has no idea what a card catalog is. She's never seen one. Most libraries removed them in favor of computerized search systems back in the early 1990s. Since my daughter was born in 1995, they were long gone the first time she walked into a library.

I did ask her where she'd go to find a book in the library and she replied, "That's easy. I'd look it up on the computer."

My point is that these tests are put together by people. Regular folks like you and me come up with the wording, the subject matter, and the criteria to be tested, which may include the non-existant card catalog. For all we know, there are plenty more questions about things that are not in the experience of our kids.

But the worst thing about the tests are who has to take them. Everyone in the school. The special ed kids and the children of migrant workers who've only been there for three weeks and don't speak English take it right along with everyone else, even though we know ahead of time they won't succeed.

Supposedly, the schools with poor scores will get help to improve, but that's not happening. The idea of forcing a school to behave like a business (the best ones flourish, the weaker ones improve or close their doors) just won't work. As a former educator, I know you have to work with what you've got. It works fine for the middle class kids whose parents have worked hard to prepare them for school, but in the poorer schools, there are lots of kids whose parents are just not there for them. No one reads to them, no one hugs them, no one practices spelling words with them. If their schools fail, whose going to teach those kids? That rundown school in the inner city was all they had.

Seems to me, the No Child Left Behind Act is leaving children behind left and right.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:50 AM EDT
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Friday, 6 May 2005
The Right to Eat As Much As You Want
Lately I've been noticing big splashy advertisements on television and in magazines for the Center for Consumer Freedom. Very high sounding name, right? It bills itself as "a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices." Well, who can object to that?

If you go to their website Center for Consumer Freedom you'll find a ton of articles telling you that everything you ever thought you knew about nutrition is wrong. Obesity does not cause near as many deaths as the Center for Disease Control claims, studies have shown that there's no real gain in drinking milk or eating vegetables, and there are lots of bad people (the Food Police) who are trying to force their misguided nutrional values on all of us.

Although it's non-profit, clearly it's all about profits. These are restaurant owners and food producers. (For more information click here: Independent News) Obviously, they want people to keep coming to their restaurants and buying their food. The more people eat, the more money they make.

Lately, groups who seem to have no problems at all are claiming to be persecuted. Conservative Christians loudly proclaim their values are under attack. Now the obese say the food police are after them.

As far as I can tell, you are still free to walk into your local Wal-Mart, fill your cart full of Doritos, Little Debbie's, Cherry Coke and Tombstone Pizza. As long as you pay for it, no one's going to stop you. You won't be asked for an ID, there are no limits to how much junk food you can buy. You can tell everyone within earshot, that you intend to eat all of it yourself right there in the car and no one will call the Food Police.

Yes, there's a great deal of discrimination against fat people and overeating. I make an effort to eat the so-called healthy foods, although they do seem to change from year to year. (When in doubt, eat brocoli) and we very rarely buy chips or sugared soda. Maybe, I've been brain washed by the food police.

But I will tell you this. When I worked as a patient registration clerk at the Dearborn County Hospital, every person who came in with Type II diabetes (and we had a lot of them) was always overweight. No coincidence.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:37 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 6 May 2005 10:40 AM EDT
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Thursday, 5 May 2005
Four Dead in Ohio
It's been 35 years and one day since the Ohio National Guard opened fire on a crowd of Kent State students gathered at a protest against the Viet Nam War.

Although I am a graduate of Kent State (BA in journalism), I was not there when the kids got shot. I was only 13.

But seven years later, my friend Sharon and I took part in the annual May 4th candle light vigil. We walked silently, carrying our candles along with a thousand others, finally stopping at the Taylor Hall parking lot.

I'll never forget the heart wrenching feeling I had when I saw Allison Kraus's father standing alone, surrounded by candles on the spot where his daughter was killed.

What's worse was the exhibition in the student union of the hateful letters and telegrams people sent to the parents of the dead and wounded. "I'm glad your son was shot. They should have shot more of them." How can people be so cruel? Most of the kids shot were on their way to class and had nothing to do with the demonstration. But even if they were all violent radicals, as Gov. Rhodes had called them, their parents still loved them and missed them terribly. What could possibly be gained from telling a grieving mother her son deserved to die?

I had hoped that we would all become kinder and more civil as the years went by but it doesn't look that way. The culture wars have reached a fevered pitch now and the righteous are raining down an awful lot of wrath.

Still, no one's daughter should ever die in a parking lot for doing nothing more sinister than walking to class.

Posted by judy5cents at 11:14 AM EDT
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Friday, 29 April 2005
How about fixing Medicare first?
Right off the bat, I was not all that keen on hearing what President George had to say. We were all set for an evening of our favorite network TV shows--Survivor Palau followed by a new CSI and the president's press conference put all that off by an hour. We did get to see Survivor (Sorry to see Stefanie go) but we're old and have to get up early and fall asleep at 10 o'clock, so CSI was a washout. Now we'll have to wait to see it on re-runs.

I've known for years that Social Security is essentially a Ponzi scheme. For years people have been saying that there won't be anything left when the people of my generation retire, which we're starting to do now.

I believe that Social Security is not as pressing a problem as the president makes it out to be and his solutions will cause more harm than good. Invest your payroll taxes in the stock market? How many of us saw our rock solid 401Ks tank four years ago?

What concerns me the most about retirement is not the piddly little check I'll get from the government every month. It's Medicare.

I'm in great health now, a couple months shy of my 49th birthday. And if anything should happen, I've got excellent insurance coverage through my husband's Blue Cross insurance policy, provided by his employer General Electric. However, in 16 years I will have to use Medicare as my primary insurer. More and more employers are discontinuing health coverage to their retirees so it's more than likely my husband and I will have to take out our own insurance.

We all know as we grow old, our bits start to wear out. Heart failure, cataracts, strokes, diabetes, high blood pressure, that's all a distinct possibility once you get past 65. Insurance companies know that and charge accordingly.

When faced with providing health care for a huge chunk of the population, Medicare payments are now so low that many doctors are refusing to take Medicare patients. And what does Congress do? They pass a Medicare Drug benefit that will suck out even more money from the program.

When I'm 73, with some manageable type of chronic ailment that Medicare won't cover, I've got my own solution. I'll go to Washington and camp out by my Congress person's office door, wasting away as the cameras roll. And maybe I'll bring along a few sick friends as well.

Maybe then, they'll realize there's more to the Culture of Life than one woman's feeding tube.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:44 AM EDT
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Thursday, 28 April 2005
My conservative views
Yes, I do have a few. Most of them have to do with child-rearing.

Last week while my daughter was at soccer practice, I happened to be down at the Christian Radio end of the radio waves and heard an interview with a woman who'd just written a book on dealing with a "strong-willed" child. Although her conversation was interspersed with lots of references to the glory of God, she did say something that I whole-heartedly agreed with.

"That little person is not your friend. They don't want an grown up for a friend. They want a parent."


Your children are not your friends. They're your children. Set limits. Say no. Don't give them everything they want. Resist the desire to be the cool mom and instead tell your teen aged daughter that there's no way in hell a co-ed slumber party will be held at your house.

I also believe that if you have children, you are the one who's supposed to take care of them when they're little. I know as women, we've been told that we can have it all--marriage, a family and a career, but anyone who's ever tried to balance all three, knows that there are lots of trade-offs.

I keep hearing that in today's economy, a family needs two incomes. And a lot of families are barely scraping by on two incomes. They have no choice. But I believe there are lots of families out there working themselves into an early grave in order to maintain an extravagant consumer lifestyle. Houses with four large bedrooms, three bathrooms and gigantic living rooms that cost a fortune to heat. Cable, high speed Internet, cell phones, wide screen televisions, new SUVs every couple of years. Plus the weekly trips to the mall.

But everyone else has all that, why shouldn't we?

Because having children means making a few sacrifices. They're only little once and they spend their childhood in rooms with nine other kids and a caretaker who's getting little more than minimum wage to be there.

Obviously, we can't pass laws to make women stay at home with their children. And despite Congress's best efforts, we can't force people to live within their means.

As far as having it all, you can. You just can't have it all at once.

Posted by judy5cents at 1:43 PM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 5 May 2005 11:16 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 26 April 2005
Too Much Information?
Or not enough?

Watching the nightly news at 6:30 is a tradition at our house. We eat our dinner in front of the television and discuss the day's events during the commercials. Usually, we watched Peter Jennings, but we would often switch to NBC to watch Tom Brokaw and later his replacement Brian Williams

But thanks to the wonder of satellite television, we now watch the BBC and ITV news from Great Britain. I don't miss the American news at all. Instead of the sound bites and dueling split screens, we see longer stories on serious subjects like the widespread killer bacteria in British hospitals and the upcoming parliamentary elections. And if there's anything really important going on in the US, they tell us.

Watching the US news just gets me angry. Now I realize that was the network's intention all along. They generate a lot of noise showing their spokesmen with diametrically opposed viewpoints, but they don't enlighten. They don't educate. They just confuse the issue.

Anger is what sells. We love a good fight, especially if our side wins.

Years ago when I was a newspaper reporter I attended a zoning meeting on a particularly complex issue. Cincinnati Pizza King Buddy LaRosa wanted to turn his mansion into a five star restaurant. Of course, residents objected. Channel 5 News was there to cover it. I left the meeting to write a fairly lengthy story, making a huge effort to include all the points discussed. Channel 5's version was a minute and a half of air time. The reporter presented the basic facts, plus short comments from people on either side of the issue. Ever since, I've always wondered just how much the TV news people are leaving out in order to distill their stories down to a minute and a half of airtime.

These days I get all my news from National Public Radio.

Posted by judy5cents at 9:11 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 27 April 2005 11:57 AM EDT
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Friday, 15 April 2005
Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime?
After years of lobbying, the credit card companies have gotten their wish. Today the president has signed the bank’s version of bankruptcy “reform.” Now bankruptcy won’t wipe away your debts completely. You’ll still have to make payments.

I don’t understand exactly how it works. There is some kind of means testing for payment. Now if you’re declaring bankruptcy because you lost your job and you have no money, it seems to me if you have no income, you have no means to pay your debts.

This bill is supposed to stop abuse of the bankruptcy laws, which happens. We all know people who spend money like there’s no tomorrow, rack up a mountain of debt then declare bankruptcy so they can do the same thing all over again.

But most people declare bankruptcy because of job loss, huge medical bills or both. It’s not anything they did intentionally. Lay-offs happen. Heart attacks happen. And insurance that sounds great on paper, but won’t cover any claims happens. Which has nothing to do with charging up a fortune on your Visa and forgetting to pay the bill.

Now that the credit card companies have gotten their way, I think they should take responsibility for the fact that so many people have an addiction to credit cards. Just like the conservatives are insisting on informed consent with abortion, there should be informed consent whenever you sign up for a credit card. Instead of a page of fine print that’s impossible to read, all applicants should be told by a real person that they are responsible for paying their bill every month. There will be late charges if it’s not paid on time. There will be finance charges and this is how much they will be. For example, If you spend $1,000 and you take a year to pay it off, it will cost you an extra $200. Whatever you send in goes first to cover the late charges and the finance charges and what’s left goes to the principal. If there’s a balance on your account and you keep on using your credit card to buy stuff, you’ll be charged more.

I don’t know if it will change anything, but maybe somebody out there would think twice before signing.

Posted by judy5cents at 2:27 PM EDT
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Thursday, 14 April 2005
Aren't you glad this isn't an election year?
Last year at this time, the brutal presidential election campaign was in full swing. Except "swing" seems so tame, recalling the brutal intensity of what essentially came down to the battle between Good and Evil. (And that pretty much described it no matter which party you belonged to.)

The 2004 campaign went on for too long and cost way too much money. In 2008, most likely it will go on longer and cost even more.

England is holding parliamentary elections now. Their campaigns can be just as vicious as ours, but they only go on for a month. Just imagine what it would be like if you didn't hear a political ad until October 1.

Obviously, under the current system, the candidate with the most money wins. There have been attempts at campaign reform before but it's never made any difference.

Here's my idea. Let's bring back the smoke filled room. Leaders from the Republican and Democratic party get together and hash out rules like no ads until September. End the convention and replace it with a formal nomination and platform presentation that lasts a couple hours. Set real limits on the amount of money spent.

Then they sign it in blood and a third party takes possesion of all their stuff. If both parties follow the rules, they get it back the day after the election.

I know it will never happen, but I can always dream.

Posted by judy5cents at 7:58 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 13 April 2005
Hell Must Have Frozen Over..
Somebody check, because today I found myself agreeing with something said by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

While making a budget request to Congress for increased security for the Supreme Court, Justice Thomas deftly answered criticism from a conservative Representative who felt the Supreme Court had overstepped its bounds.

"It's part of what we do to be criticized..." He went on to say that he was a big football fan and he had noticed that "the referees get out of there fast. They don't wait around and high five the fans, with good reason."

Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life so they are beholden to no one. And they don't get to high five with the fans, unlike elected officials.

Funny thing about the Supreme Court. Right now seven of the nine justices are Republican appointtees. So why are the conservatives so upset? I'll tell you. The Supreme Court has a way of elevating its occupants, they realize the enormity of their mission and put aside their partisan beliefs to follow the greater cause of justice.

Way to go Clarence! You're Supreme!

Posted by judy5cents at 10:27 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 12 April 2005
Anniversary of a Miracle
Fifty years ago today, April 12, 1955, the Salk vaccine for polio was approved for use in the general population. Mothers all over the world heaved a huge sigh of relief.

I was born a year later, so I never had to live in the environment of fear of the horrible disease that could cripple a child for life, but my older sisters did. Or more precisely, my mother did. I'm not sure if my sisters were aware of it.

My mother tells the story of taking my sister Nancy to the Children's Hospital emergency room in 1952 and having to wait outside for fear that she might have polio and infect other children.

People my age didn't have the fear of polio, but grew up in its shadow. Our older brothers and sisters may have had it, and we all knew somebody who walked with a limp or wore a leg brace because of polio. Our mothers never let us forget how lucky we were.

So today, take a look at your children and yourself and marvel at the fact how a crippling disease was wiped out in our lifetime. And like mom says, don't ever forget how lucky you are.

Posted by judy5cents at 10:07 AM EDT
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