Monday, September 30, 2013

Are We Dumbing Down Our Young People?

I believe that is a fair question. Everywhere we look we are seeing it happening. Young people do not seem to be learning like they did even ten years ago. Many believe it goes back even farther. Studies have shown an incredible decline in vocabulary, critical thinking skills, the ability to communicate, problem-solving skills and a host of other skills necessary to compete in the global economy of the twenty-first century.

I have written about this before and after watching this brief video by the late, great George Carlin, he makes some interesting points in the direction our educational system is going. Watch this short bit and see if you agree with him or not:

You may read my previous grammar post of March 7, 2013 by clicking here

He makes a compelling argument regarding what our children are learning, or in the greater sense, what they are not learning.

After reading several articles on the topic, being turned away from schools because they do not want to bring in an outside speaker that would take away time teachers have to prepare for the test, countless conversations with frustrated teachers when I do get in the schools and a host of other factors, No Child Left Behind is not working for schools all over the country.

One of the biggest problems No Child Left Behind has is it is given as a standardized test to fifth graders of every educational level. That means children whose primary language is not English, Special Education students on all levels, gifted and talented students; students with lower IQ's are all tested on the same test. There is no way many schools with very diverse populations can keep up with other schools that do not have a wide range of students.

Of course, there are other factors in why our children are not learning critical thinking skills, creative problem-solving processes and constantly lowering their vocabulary skills. Please do not get me wrong here, I am all for the digital age and learning with computers. What I have a problem with is the loss of the ability to communicate with one another in a one-on-one conversation, and do so intelligently without one or both of the people using improper grammar, today's modern acronyms, and not being able to formulate a proper complete sentence.

One of the things that bothers me the most is when I turn on the television to watch the news, SportsCenter, or watch a game of any kind, and have the broadcasters and announcers using improper grammar.

To me, listening to someone speak improperly is like scraping your fingernails on the blackboard. It is everywhere. I often find myself hitting the Mute button when watching a game of some sort and not having to listen to the broadcasters butcher the English language.

I try to be as well-informed as I possibly can in writing because I believe it is important to show I care about what I believe to be an important subject. I cannot tell you how many times my editor and I discussed certain language when we were writing my book. I constantly try to be vigilant in my language on this blog, every letter I write, every comment I make on a Facebook post and email I send.

I know sometimes I come off as being a Nazi Grammar Police, but I believe it is important for us not to forget an important skill. As you may know, I use a voice recognition software program to write this blog. It is called Dragon Dictate and is Macintosh's version of Windows' Dragon Naturally Speaking. I used that program to write my book when I had a MacBook Pro with the Parallel program that allowed me to use the Windows side of my computer. Now I have a Mac Mini and have Dragon Dictate as my program.

This is just a small portion of my problem with the educational system today. My little brother, Chad, taught in a year-round school in Southern California for seven years. He loved the students, but had problems with administration and some of the requirements that were heaped on him. They never went more than six weeks at a time without being in school. I believe that is the wave of the future. Year-round schooling makes sense to me if done properly.

It is been proven time and again students lose a lot of the knowledge they gained in the previous school year when they have a three-month summer vacation. I believe that should also change.

Those are just two suggestions. I have many more. I will save those for another post. Does anyone see any mistakes I made in this post?

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Friday, September 20, 2013

We Did It!

In my last post, I told you I was going to my forty-year high school class reunion. A week ago tonight we had a good turnout and everyone had a wonderful time. We started with a tour of the newly renovated high school and saw just how much things had changed in the forty years since all my classmates graduated.

Before the tour, I spent about ninety minutes with the high school principal learning about all the good things happening besides the bricks and mortar changes. Their enrollment is growing, they are offering new classes, students may now get college credits for some of their coursework and several other highlights were just gushing out of his mouth. He is truly excited about the direction the school is taking! That was a fun conversation for me.

After the tour, we gathered for a social hour and then banquet. It was great fun seeing some people I had not seen in forty years! It was a challenge recognizing some people and there were only a few I did not recognize. One of my former teammates came up to me, did not say anything and I just looked at him. I was drawing a blank, and then I asked him to smile. As soon as he smiled, I blurted out, "Kevin Johnson!" I did not recognize the bald head, but I certainly recognized his smile!

The entire evening went by far too quickly, as they always do at events like this. At one point during the social hour we were all asked to go outside for a group picture. I am going to put a photograph here of someone trying to organize all my classmates. It was like herding cats!

Click on the image to make it larger:

Someone had lined up a row of chairs that was supposed to be the front row. So, I had someone move the middle chair, parked myself and waited for people to fill in around me. It seems simple enough to me, but it proved a little more difficult for a group of middle-aged people!

Saturday was the big hometown festival called King Turkey Day. There is a whole other story to that which I will not go into, but suffice it to say there are all kinds of activities for just about any demographic group's interest. The big part of the day is always the parade. We had a Class of '73 float which consisted of a flatbed hay rack with bales down the middle for people to sit on, and we opened up a spot in the back for me to sit.

Here is a photograph of me getting on the float using a front-end loader, which is the same one they used to get me on the podium when I spoke at last year's Turkey Day:

Once again, click on the image to make it larger:

Notice I am wearing a black poncho Deb (Bourassa) Peterson graciously lent me as the rain was just starting to come. Randy Haack, Bill McCuen and partially hidden Dave Baker all helped get me onto the float. I do not plan on riding on another float anytime soon!

Seriously, I was in no danger. It is always just a little scary being put in a situation where I am completely out of control. That comes from experience!

After the parade, they were more events that ran long into the night. Unfortunately, I only lasted until about 9:30!

All this week I have been collecting photographs, as I am sure many of my classmates have been of the weekend events. I believe I can safely say everyone enjoyed himself or herself.

Now it is back to all parts of the country from Florida to California to Oregon and all over the Midwest to resume our lives and rekindle our memories of our forty-year high school class reunion.

One more thing, I would like to thank everyone on the committee who organized the tour, evening's activities, slideshow, parade arrangements and anything else I may be forgetting. Also, thank you to the guys who helped get me on and off the float.

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Yes, I Know What Day It Is …

Of course, I know today is the twelfth anniversary of one of the most horrific days in American history; however, this post is not about September 11, 2001. What it is about is a celebration of the fortieth class reunion of my fellow classmates in Worthington, Minnesota. I say my fellow classmates because I never graduated with them. After my accident, I spent the first seven and one-half months in three different institutions, came home and quickly developed my first pressure sore which led to six months in bed and three surgeries. That followed into their senior year when I tried to go back to take classes for three weeks, but the sore kept me in bed and I never graduated with the class.

The spring of 1973 when my classmates were finishing their high school education, I had started school at Worthington State Junior College. Technically, I am a tenth grade dropout! However, I do have a college degree.

They timed our reunion events around the annual celebration in Worthington known as King Turkey Day! Friday will start out with a golf event for those that choose to participate in the morning, followed by a tour of the newly renovated high school. After that, it is off to the new Worthington Convention Center for an evening of reminiscing, exaggerating old stories, seeing friends I have not seen for many years, meeting spouses, sharing stories of children and grandchildren, showing pictures on people's smart phones and just having a good time. I am extremely excited and looking forward to that night, Friday the 13th!

Saturday will bring the annual all-you-can-eat free pancake breakfast, a small art fair, a midway, a 5K walk and a 10K run which grows every year. Following the race, will be the featured speaker who will have an incredible speech to follow since yours truly was last year's speaker! I wrote about it in a post last year. You may read that post by clicking here.

That is followed by the annual race of the turkeys between Ruby Begonia from Cuero, Texas and Worthington's own Paycheck. Last year, they even made me kiss Worthington's turkey. I never saw the picture, but I have been told it made the local paper.

Our class is having a hay wagon for us to ride on in the parade. If we can figure out a way of getting me onto it, I will ride in the parade for the second straight year.

Following the parade will be many people from all walks of life who will want to talk with me. That is a part I truly love! Not that the rest of the events are not fun, but as happens every time I am around anyone who remembers me, from my accident or all of the events that followed forty-two years ago they will want to tell me stories of their recollections of that time.

Much of my book, comments on my blog and Facebook posts are filled with people's recollections of that time so many years ago. I have always said, "It's amazing to me how an instant in time can affect so many people's lives!"

People still tell me it feels like my accident happened yesterday! I feel that oftentimes too! I have mentioned this before how I cannot believe how fast life travels. This weekend will be another reminder of that phenomenon.

That being said, my personal care attendant, Robert, and I will leave tomorrow afternoon for four days of storytelling experiences. I am looking forward to it. Bet you cannot guess what my next post will be about?

As always, I look forward to your comments.



Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Forty-two Years And Counting ...

--> Forty-two years ago tonight my life changed in a heartbeat. An instant in time has affected many people in one way or another. Unaware of what was about to happen, my head football coach, Milt Osterberg, called me into the game to replace an injured teammate. It was about halfway through the second quarter and Owatonna was driving again.
Owatonna had two excellent running backs, and they were chewing up yardage all night long. We were undersized and inexperienced compared to the entire Owatonna team. When I was called into the game, little did I know as I ran out on the field those would be the last steps I would ever run. That is why they call them accidents!

Some of you have read my book entitled "I Still Believe In Tomorrow" and know all the details of what happened those last three minutes of my first life. I have always told people I felt I had two lives. I lived to be sixteen in my first life, and tonight I start the forty-third year of my second life.

It is incomprehensible for me to believe it has been forty-two years already. I cannot tell you where the time has gone. I am sure many of my older readers often feel the same way. Where have our lives gone?

I once heard an analogy about life being like a roll of toilet paper. I will paraphrase, but it went something like this, "Life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes." 

I do not know how you feel about it, but I believe that analogy is spot on. I remember in my first life how time could not move fast enough. When I was a first grader, I wanted to be in junior high. When I was in junior high, I could not wait to be in high school so I could play the varsity sports, football, basketball and track and field. Then, I played baseball all summer long. Those last two summers before I got hurt were idyllic for a young, athletic, wanna be growing up in a small town in southwestern Minnesota. Worthington had everything I wanted or needed.

Sure, the Vietnam War was raging in Southeast Asia, but that had nothing to do with me because I was not going to war when I graduated. I was going to go play basketball on a college scholarship. My mother had three brothers who did four tours of duty in Vietnam. She wrote letters to them and sent them religiously. When they wrote back and told her where they were, she would put a pin on our Vietnam map hanging on the kitchen wall to show us where one of them was at any given time.

We know better now more times than not they were lying to her about where they really were and the kind of danger they were in. But the kind of men they are, they did not want Mom to worry.

As per my regular writing style I have wandered off course again from the point of this post. I believe tonight it may be intentional.

I am writing this about the time I would have left home to go get my ankles taped in preparation of the game. I was so nervous; I left early and was the second person to arrive at our locker room. Ben Horak was one of our co-captains and he was already at the locker room when I got there. I do not know who was more nervous, Ben or me.

As everyone started to arrive, along with coaches, managers and other players tension in the locker room was starting to build, as was the noise. I remember lying down on that cool, concrete floor using my helmet as a pillow and trying to relax. I could not relax as this feeling that had been with me all day was getting more intense. I later learned it was my intuition. 

That is a whole other story! I go into greater detail in my book about intuition and how males are taught not to listen to it. We are taught to suck it up, it is just nerves and you will get over it.

Once we hit the field for warm-ups, the feeling went away a little bit; but it was still there and I was not going to listen to it. I remember everything from that night; and those feelings always come back every year on September third. My anniversary is always a melancholy day, and this year was no different. Writing about it always helps, and this has helped me immensely put up this post. Thanks for reading. 

For those of you that do not know, I am not actually writing this. I have a Mac Mini with voice recognition software called Dragon Dictate. I have actually been speaking this entire post. That explains why I have made it so long! I hope you enjoyed my rambling.

As always, I look forward to your comments.