Saturday, February 28, 2009


A growing number of educators and parents are concerned with the issue of handwriting. When I was in school it was a foregone conclusion that all students beginning in third grade would learn cursive and subsequent teachers would require it. That is, until high school where I was allowed to keyboard my papers.

Historically, our letters were a part of our culture and beautiful handwriting was as important as the content of the document. Everyone handwrote their notes, documents and letters. Nowadays we have a new culture of email, texting, twittering and blogging. It is a time when very few bother to write letters by hand. Even those that use the United States Post Office for correspondence do so, most likely, by typing on a computer and printing it out on a desktop printer. We just don’t have the need for cursive today, anymore than my grandmother needed the horsedrawn buggy to get to town, thanks to Mr. Ford.

Speaking for myself, I have adopted a hybrid handwriting technique whereby I mix print and cursive, although most of my penmanship involves printing. I often use all upper case letters like an architect. I find it more pleasing to the eye and distinctive.

The essential question facing educators lies in teaching cursive in any form. Should we or shouldn’t we? For the most part, schools continue to teach cursive; however, my sixth-grade teaching friend says that most of his students cannot read cursive writing on the white board. This despite the fact that we continue to work on cursive in schools. Another friend who is a long-time master teacher states that her adult children never write in cursive.

Does the 21st century student need cursive writing? If so, can he or she simply be taught how to read it and not how to write it? They say that takes about 15 minutes depending on one’s age. Seeing how our world is increasingly technology-based, I personally see no reason to teaching cursive except that we always have and that’s really no reason at all.

Students can go to college, take notes using print, write legibly, send letters, hand write thank you notes, and live a perfectly healthy and successful life without ever writing a single piece of cursive. As far as I can tell (with the short amount of Internet research I did) there is no legal requirement to sign your name in cursive. So what’s the point? After all, isn’t the issue really about communication, rather than the format? Proper communication only requires legibility.

Why spend 30-minutes or more everyday practicing cursive, when I could be teaching children to think deeply about core subjects. Imagine the real learning that can be accomplished when we focus on the content and learning rather than on the proper slant to my writing. We could spend that time reading a book and connecting it to our lives. We could work on skills the students will actually use in life. We could complete one more science or mathematics lesson.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I just realized that I never published an Oscar wrap-up. It's shameful but I'll tell you anyway. I went to bed at 9:30 p.m. Those long days are zapping my energy and it's all I can do not go to bed before my 8-year-old.

Heath Ledger won and I was glad. I really didn't care about anything else. Not that I am down on the Oscars or anything, but I didn't see many movies this year so I wasn't exactly invested. That will change one of these days.

I'll have a party again, and my good friend, Larry and his complex mind, will be the first to receive an invite. Just plan on coming over next year, bud. Consider this your invite. You and the fam are at the top of the list.

Skinny Kitty informed me (at 5:30 a.m. the next morning) that Slumdog won Best Pic and Best Director. Whatever. I haven't seen it yet so I don't know. It's on the Netflix queue.


Today was an 11 and a half hour day and it flew by. I had a fantabulous day. Understand, I have absolutely no idea what's going on in the world around me. I am too busy with school and too distracted with my grandmother to be able to connect with the world around me and actually involve myself in the news.

I'd prefer to keep up on the goings-on, but that simply is not possible right now. No way, no how. It won't always be that way, of course, and I take solace in that fact. I'm in hog heaven just the same, so I don't really mind too much. At least not for now.

Hey look, ma. I got some blogging in during the week. How about them apples?

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Obviously, if he eats your friend's face off then there's a problem, but we might look for some clues before entering that dark, knify, stabby place. Jason Rohrblogger offers a few key things to look for when caring for your pet chimp.


Yeah, there's plenty of stress this semester. More than any other thus far in my program. That should not be misconstrued to mean that it is a bad semester. I am enjoying the learning immensely and I am happy. The stress is high – very, very high – and the paperwork is overpowering, blinding, breath-taking.

On top of that, my grandmother has experienced several mini-strokes called TIAs. While the American Heart Association states there is no lasting damage, that is not entirely true in Grandma's case. She has some serious holes in her short term memory and other issues. Thank the Lord on High that my mother is retired and able to help her. Mom is living with Grandma and helping her adjust and deal. Grandma has never been sick a day in her life so she is having a hard time dealing with any ailment, especially a significant one.

We check on Grandma most every day, which means our evenings are busy and late. It takes a toll on everyone, but that is what families do and we are glad to support her. I want someone to support me and my family when I get old and sick.

We have been leaving our little 6-pound Bichon-Yorkie over there during the days and many nights. He has done wonders to help her cope with her situation. He loves her, kisses her, and lays between her legs when she sits in her chair. He has done wonders to lift her spirits and keep her mind focused on something other than her situation. We miss him bunches, and bring him home sometimes, but he spends the bulk of his time over there right now. Dogs are amazing animals.

The other day he broke into her room. She awoke to a dog licking her face and commented that it was a nice way to wake up. Grandma has never taken up with animals before, so it's really interesting that she's done so now. But I'm thankful.


For years we have hosted an Academy Award watch party at the House of Jack. Fun, games, awards, and one year we had wings catered by Coyote's Adobe Café (they make the best wings in town). School has gotten the better of me this semester, burying me under a mound of paperwork and stress. At 6:47 a.m. this very morning (Saturday) I realized, after reading, that the Oscars are this Sunday.

Dang. Double Dang.

I'm supposin' that we are foregoing the party this year in lieu of homework, checking on grandma (who is not doing well), and prepping for the massive, aneurysm-inducing week ahead. I just don't think I can manage to stay up past 9:30 p.m., let alone the stress of party planning. (You see, 5:30 a.m. has become the wake-up norm round these parts.)

I think I could swing it if the Academy would consider postponing the awards for another three weeks. I think I'll use my powerful Fat Jack influence and two Blogaroni awards to twist their arms. I'll let you know how that works out. Maybe if I published more of their press releases?

What shall you do, dear readers? Well, (the funniest dang website in all of bloggerville) will live blog the Oscars. Had I party, we would be checkin that out. I'll probably still drop in and see what that hysterical bunch has come up with.

Click here for a Printable Oscar ballot.


The dingbats of Springfield voted down the 1-cent tax to fix the fire-police pension and we sent a message to the powers-that-be: no new taxes. We want to keep more of our own hard-earned money.

Today, grandma got a letter in the mail citing the reason for her home insurance rate increase. You see, because of the vote we have some newfangled rotating fire house shut down. So her bill went up $75. I don't know how much she would have paid out if the tax would have passed, but I wonder if it would have been $75 for a 92-year-old on SSI.

We showed them, didn't we? That checkbook gets cracked one way or the other. Now, we give that money to the insurance man rather than applying it toward fixing the police-fire debacle. I think that means we will end up paying more. We showed them, didn't we?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


The Oscars of the Ozarks are open for voting and I've filled out my ballot. I did not, however, submit any nominations. The process was changed to include self-nominations, and I've never been a fan of nominating myself. Although I supported the addition of the self-nomination process.

This little blog has won awards the past two years and we think it is high time that some other blogs were considered. Some new blogs, some other blogs, something besides the same ones over and over. There's lot of good bloggers out there.

Had I the time I would have nominated Chris Brewer for Best Personal Blog. He takes on the church, his own faith, dogma, media, and all kinds of interesting topics. He does it with introspection and reflection. I love it. By the time I got around to thinking about nominating him it was too late. I'm pretty busy right now. I enjoy reading your corner of the blogosphere, Brewer. Except the football, but I don't like sports too much.

I did cast my vote for the many cateogories and I suggest you do the same. Big thanks to my good friend and fellow blogger, Larry, for coordinating it all. It's tons of work, and he does a good job. For my part, Larry, I hope we continue our tradition of hosting our events at Patton Alley.

Sunday, February 08, 2009


You are going to have to forgive me my theatrical transgressions; I’ve been around fourth graders too long this semester. Be that as it may, I am reporting – or confessing, depending on your point of view – my adulation for STEP BROTHERS.

Yeah. Fart gags, vagina jokes and plenty of adolescent rambunctiousness made for a funny-ass flick on a Sunday afternoon. Go figure. I stopped seeing the 40-something Ferrell and Reilly as anything but 12-year-old boys cursing and spitting their way through life. Somehow it was hysterical, except for the ending, but I just ignored it.

The movie does remind me of my students and the expectations that we grown-ups put on our youth. We push them, rightfully so, toward independence and self-reliance, and it can be all too easy to remember that they are children. They will act like children. They should act like children. It is okay to fart and laugh and play and be silly.

(Keep in mind that STEP BROTHERS is rated R because it is full of sex, the f-bomb, and plenty of genital slang. I think that’s what made it funny.)


Busplunge quoted a contemporary and applicable diatribe about ignorance, written by Mark Slouka for Harpers, which is directly related to the classroom, and I feel compelled to continue the discussion.

As enticed as you might feel to read the piece as a rant on the red masses of America, on the conservatives, please refrain. The piece, whether intended to or not, is directly applicable to red and blue, conservative and liberal, religious and atheist, and a whole host of skin colors and ethnic backgrounds. My experience in education has demonstrated this point at least in my own mind.

There is a growing subculture of apathetic learners in the United States. It is a community of persons who view education as elitist, unattainable and unconnected to their daily lives. It is the idea of "if it was good enough for me then it's good enough for you" ideology. I see it often and it still shocks and shakes me.

At one time there were generations of parents who wanted more for their children. Who desired a better life for the progeny. Who wanted their little ones to be more, have more, attain more than themselves. Amazingly, those who can identifyy with such sentiments are finding their culture shrinking, giving way to those who wish to hold their children back.

More and more people no longer value education as an important aspect in their life. The evidence of the widespread nature of this movement can be seen on college campuses where first generation college student services are available. These services are designed for that student who comes from a family that has never had a anyone go to college. We find that these students are unduly stressed by familial expectations, anger and a lack of understanding of the requirements of school. Quite often the families push the student to quit, to stay behind, to follow paths of the rest of the family, to be like them, live like them and – I think most importantly – to not leave them behind.

What's more, and this is not based on observation as much as a hunch, is that those of us who do value an education are reproducing at smaller rates than those who reject education.

It is the job of educators to help connect children to education and demonstrate the value of life-long learning and thinking for one's self. It is a daunting task when compared to the oppostive value system being taught in some homes. We can place career seeds in our students and give them hope and purpose, a drive toward a goal even if it is a non-traditional goal such as comic creator, stand-up comedian, or dancer. Hope is a powerful thing.

I teach my kids to think ... for ... themselves. This is an issue that can be controversial. Why? Teaching children to explore, research and think beyond what they are simply told requires something that many parents can object to: exposure to different thoughts, beliefs and ideas. In fact, many parents find themselves in the precarious situation of wanting their child to think for herself so long as that thinking is in direct line with the parents' ideas. That's not thinking for self. It's a hard line for educators and we try hard to balance that line and push our students to think while not teaching the kids to think too much.

What do you think about that?

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


The way I read the story, that's already an option. What we are really talking about are concealed guns at church. An Arkansas bill would allow churches to opt out of the conceal and carry law, prohibiting concealed guns within the hallowed walls.

I think that means that people already have the right to carry concealed weapons at church. I didn't know that they needed a special law to allow churches to ban them.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God." (emphasis mine)
– Matthew 5:9.

I'm pretty certain that Christ did not attack or defend himself against those who would hurt, attack or kill him. If he is the living example of right and wrong ... well then I think his actions speak volumes.

(UPDATE: I don't know why I didn't mention this before, but it should be noted that I am – and always have been –  an avid gun owner and shooter. I can relate to the "from my cold dead hands" ideology when it comes to protecting my rights to own firearms. I don't want anyone taking my guns from me. Period. I don't feel the need to haul them to church either.)