It’s All Downhill From Here

As the father of seven children, I’ve had to clean up a lot of gross stuff over the years.  I’ve only been peed on twice, and both times were my own dumb fault–I shouldn’t have been so slow with the transition while changing a diaper.

Still, what happened Monday takes the cake.

Our new daughter was one day old, and I was changing her diaper.

She had just gotten some work done at the hospital, and had a bandage on her heel where they drew blood.  As I started, it came off and she bled on me.  I put a new band-aid on.

I took off the old diaper and she promptly peed on me, and her clothes, and the blanket.  I got the old diaper back under there to get as much as I could.

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How the Family Is Changing

When I once asked, “Is there any combination of consenting  adults you *wouldn’t* accept as a marriage?” only one of my more liberal acquaintances really addressed the question with a substantive response.  He said he wouldn’t support legalizing polygamous unions because of the confusion they would create.

He was absolutely right, but this is another example of how social progressives must not have truly examined the likely consequences of changing the definition of marriage, because such a reality will absolutely be the actual result of where our society is going.

I know this because we’re already well on the way.

In 2012, Brazil formalized a three-person union.

Also that year, a bill was introduced in California to allow children to have more than two legal parents.  The bill made it all the way to the governor before being vetoed.  Obviously, such an outcome is inevitable if same-sex marriage is sanctioned.

As the journal Public Discourse noted:

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A Lack of Failure In Schools

Some current received wisdom: failure is good for us because it’s a strong teacher, and American kids today don’t get to experience it enough because they’re bubble-wrapped through life.

Both ideas have a lot of truth to them, but there’s another that needs to get out there, too:

American kids do still experience failure–constantly–but it’s been completely neutered.

Young people don’t fear failure, nor do they learn from it, though many of them will fail test after test, class after class, all the way through their school career.

Why?  Because what happens after those failures?  Increased practice?  Shame?  Loss of privileges?

Nope.  Nothing.  After the vast majority of daily school failures in this country, for the average teenager, life will proceed normally, as if nothing bad had happened at all.

We, as parents and school personnel, not only don’t hold their feet to the fire, we actively intervene to soften the natural consequences of failure.

In a climate like that, how could students possibly be expected to learn anything about academics, much less life?  Where’s the incentive?

If anything, they learn that failure is harmless and that hard work is pointless.  These lessons would prove terrifying in the real world if the real world itself weren’t increasingly so bent on maintaining that status quo…

 

Testifying of Testimonies

The book of Mosiah starts with a testimony of three important things, and a wonderful observation about the nature of faith.

In Mosiah 1:3-5, King Benjamin refers to his family’s copy of the Hebrew scriptures, and he teaches his children about how crucial the scriptures are in preserving spiritual culture.  In the next verse, he says:

O my sons, I would that ye should remember that these sayings are true,

and also that these records are true.

And behold, also the plates of Nephi, which contain the records and the sayings of our fathers from the time they left Jerusalem until now, and they are true;

and we can know of their surety because we have them before our eyes.  (Mosiah 1:6)

Here, Benjamin testifies of the truth of three things: his own teachings to his children, the ancient scriptures, and the collected teachings of recent prophets.

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Parents Are Not Entertainers

I used to love it when my children would come up to me and ask me to play with them.  This is what it’s all about, right?  Quality time, giving them your full attention, responding to their needs. 

But after a while I began to realize what was really going on.  Most of those requests for play time weren’t coming from a desire to be close or because they missed me.  They were just bored and wanted me to entertain them. 

My kids, like most children, I’m sure, frequently complain of boredom when they aren’t being actively entertained by something electronic.  As much as we limit their TV and computer time, they still yearn for them as their go-to way to pass the time in life.  Once their allotted time for those things has run out each day, I can often see a dull fear come over their faces, a lost and lonely cowering that says, “Now what?” 

And that’s when the pleading for more Daddy time comes in.  See, they never want Daddy time when they can watch TV or play a computer game; just when they don’t want to figure out what to do for themselves.

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The Biggest Way In Which We Fail Students

As an elementary school student, a teacher once told me, very politely and apologetically, that I couldn’t have something reasonable that I wanted in class because that would mean that other students would be entitled to the same thing, which would be bad for the class.  I’ve long since forgotten exactly what the situation was, but I remember the lesson–sometimes, things which might be justified must be denied because of the precedent that would be set. 

In high school, a science teacher once scheduled an activity important to the class at the same time that another important activity was scheduled for a popular student club.  Students couldn’t do both, yet both activities were good and valuable, and many students went into a tizzy, asking the teacher to change the day and time of his activity.  He declined, explaining that the real world does not rearrange itself so that people can get to do every worthwhile thing they want to do–priorities must be set, and sacrifices must be made. 

He was absolutely right.  That was a crucial life lesson. 

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Another Friendly Parenting Tip

Hey moms and dads out there, here’s an idea–being involved in your child’s education is a good thing, but did you know that it actually means doing more than just bullying your child’s school whenever you don’t get your way?  This message has been a courtesy of America’s frustrated teachers.

 

Parenting 101

During the year I spent working as a school counselor, I wanted to put a sign on the door of my office that said, “Parents: you are not doing your children a favor by excusing them from the natural consequences of their choices.”  That sign would have cut my work load–and stress–in half.  I’ve been thinking about that sign a lot as this school year winds down.

An Anti-Teacher Witch Hunt

News outlets reported on Thursday that Natalie Munroe, a teacher in Pennsylvania, had been suspended, pending termination, for writing critical comments about her students on her blog. 

According to the articles (such as here and here), she had written that her students were “lazy” and “whiners,” among other things.  My initial thought was to ask if she had directed comments at any certain students, or called them by name.  It appears that she hadn’t.  She did, however, use profanity on the blog; while it is unclear from the reports if it was directed at the students, it probably was, and that would be wrong–abusive language is never appropriate.  She also seems to have made comments about children’s physical appearances, and written things like, “I hate your kid.”  Yes, that’s over the line.

But the headlines, the complaints against her, and the comments on articles I’ve read mostly excoriate her for criticising students in general, not for the inappropriate content itself.  Parents and students at the school are outraged that a teacher could write about frustrations over poor student performance. 

Really?  Have any of the offended parties here bothered to consider what merit the criticisms might have?  Is it really so awful to suggest that maybe, just maybe, some teens actually are lazy whiners? 

Before anyone goes crying “Blasphemy!” and prepares to storm my castle with pitchforks and torches, can you see the irony of the situation?  If the teacher here was saying that her students and their parents are self-absorbed and entitled, how exactly is their response proving her wrong? 

About a year and a half ago, a report was released which studied 30,000 American teens and found that a third of teens are thieves, two thirds are cheaters, and about 80% lie to their parents.  Fully 93%, however, said that they are proud of their good character.  Wow. 

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The Education Letter the Review-Journal Didn’t Want You to See

Two Sundays ago, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a huge story about the massive failure of local students on common assessments.  I sent a letter to them responding to it.  Some of their story was honestly true, much was misinterpreted and out of context, but mostly it failed to take into account the most salient factors. 

Over the following week, they printed three letters in response to the article.  Mine wasn’t one of them.  All three that did run were positive in nature.  Why didn’t they print mine?  Is it because I’d just had a letter published the week before?  Is it because my letter wasn’t sycophantic enough?  Is it because I called them jerks on Facebook for crudely mis-labeling my last letter? 

Whatever the reason, here’s an excerpt from the letter the local paper didn’t want you to see:

In your lambasting of local education, you fail to explain why things are so bad. At one point, “culture” was reluctantly offered as a factor. No kidding!

In the first five weeks of school, I’ve spoken with a dozen parents who want their children removed from my English classes and placed in an easier class. This happens every year, as it does to every teacher I know who runs rigorous classes.

One mother explained that the problem with my class is that it’s “all reading and writing.” Apparently, I should be having more dance parties.

It’s incredible just how many parents in Las Vegas will insist on easier classes and demand lower standards. The lazy, entitlement culture is deeply entrenched here.

The next time you want to complain about education, write a scathing exposé about the thousands of your neighbors who regularly bully teachers into mediocrity.

 

More General Conference Talks About Improving Parenting

Yesterday, I noted that five talks in this General Conference were about being more involved parents, and that I suspected today would be an extension of that.  There were another five talks today that were predominantly on this subject (though some others mentioned it briefly).  These were the talks by Cheryl Lant (three guidelines for spiritually raising children well), Robert D. Hales (ministering to youth), Bradley D. Foster (the importance and influence of mothers), Francisco J. Viñas (helping family and others to be spiritually born again), and Neil L. Andersen (parents must tell their children stories about Jesus).  Elder Andersen even joked at the beginning of his talk about how he’d been listening during Conference for how much of his talk had already been given by others!

While this Conference also continued the huge theme from last October’s Conference about developing stronger personal revelation by the Spirit (such as in the talk by Julie B. Beck), another impressive surprise this weekend was that Quentin L. Cook of the Twelve Apostles and James B. Martino of the Seventy gave very similar talks: each gave a list of characteristics to be emulated, exemplified by the Savior during the last few days of His mortal life. 

This certainly gives me some clear aspects of life to focus on for the next six months…

This General Conference = Be More Involved Parents

Just after the first two sessions of this General Conference, one dominant theme is obvious: we all need to be better, more involved parents.  This was the overarching idea throughout fully five of the thirteen talks given today: those by President Packer (responsibility of fathers to be priesthood leaders in the home), Elder Ballard (counsel to and responsibilities of mothers and daughters), President Eyring (counsel for raising children with the Spirit), Elder Perry (importance of gospel teaching in the home), and Elder Bednar (teaching children to recognize and act on spiritual warnings). 

If this Conference is as consistent as the last one, we can expect to see this theme further developed tomorrow.

Grade Day of Reckoning

Third quarter grades were due today, and as I finished entering them, I couldn’t help but notice the big picture for a lot of students.  Days like this are sobering and discouraging. 

Here are two screen shots from my computer, showing what we’re working with here. 

First, this is a transcript page for a girl in one of my classes.  As you can see, after three full semesters in high school, she has earned exactly two credits, including a half credit in the middle of a semester for something called “guidance.”  She also failed every class this quarter.  The large numbers indicate absences.  Notice also that she is listed as a tenth grader, even though she falls far short of being on track–our politicians recently decided to let every student be officially promoted by age with their friends, rather than measured by the credits they’ve earned.  Thanks, leaders!

Obviously, this kid is not going to graduate.  I don’t know why she even comes to school, why we haven’t guided her to another school option or made her more uncomfortable as she slacks her way toward failure, or what’s going on in her home that makes such rampant failure acceptable.  (Her father is an educated professional; her mother is a homemaker.) 

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