If the Real World Worked the Way Students and Parents Think School Should Work

Scene 1

IRS- Tax forms must be submitted by April 15.  No exceptions. 

Citizen A- But I didn’t have time!  I had other things to do. 

IRS – What things got in the way of a priority obligation that comes around ever year?

Citizen A – You know, like dances and field trips and clubs and stuff.

IRS – That’s OK.  Just get it in when you have a chance, please.

Citizen B – I didn’t understand it.  Can I just do it later?

IRS – Did you file for an extension with us first?

Citizen B- No.

IRS – Did you contact us for help ahead of time?

Citizen B – No.

IRS – Sure!  Do whatever you want! 

Citizen C – I have some other excuse.  Can I get out of it, too?

IRS – Of course!  Those firm deadlines aren’t for people with excuses for not getting it done. 

Citizen D- This sucks.  I don’t want to do it either.

IRS – Hey, sure, cool.  No pressure.  Do some of it when you can, or not.  Whatever you want. 

Citizen E- I already did my taxes, but I did them way, way wrong.  Can I still turn them in and get credit?

IRS- Fine by me!  It wouldn’t be fair to make you do them over.

 **********

Scene 2

Boss- Smithson, you’ve been late to work more often than not, you no-call/no-showed twice, your last expense report was copied from Wikipedia, and you keep breaking the company’s policy about no personal calls during work hours.  I’m afraid I have to reduce your salary.

Employee- You can’t do that!  You hate me!  That’s not fair! 

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American Literature Honors

For the past several years, I’ve taught a class called American Literature Honors. Immersing myself in that subject has made me realize that each of the three words in that title implies something powerful, and something contrary to the mainstream. In fact, I wonder if such a title will become controversial in the near future.

The first idea stated by the name of the class is that there is such a thing as an American identity, a nature that must meet some kind of criteria and that is discernibly different from any other identity. This is important to recognize.

It is undeniable that the term “American” exists, and therefore must mean something. Even relativism, the great intellectual cancer of the 20th century, can’t look the word in the face and say it means nothing, that it carries no more semantic weight than any current youth slang. It stands to reason that “American” can’t be defined as anything we want it to mean, but must have parameters that will include some things and exclude others. Simply admitting this is a victory over the foggy forces of multiculturalism.

The second is that “literature” exists, as opposed to other kinds of artifacts or fields of knowledge, and even other kinds of writing, and that this is worthy of being studied. Also, there is an area of intersection between the two, that some amount of this “literature” is decidedly “American” in character.

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I Give Another Morningside At Seminary

As this last school year drew near to a close, I figured I just wouldn’t be invited back to speak at the seminary for the high school where I work, even though I’d spoken there the year before, but with only a few weeks left, a couple of young men I know on the student council came and asked me to give another address at the end of May. 

I’d known since right after my first morningside what I’d speak on if I were brought back: living by gospel standards.  Below are the notes I used for my talk a month and a half ago.

  • Review message from last year about Book of Mormon.
  • Share Alma 30:34 & 36:24 about leaders serving to share their joy–and that’s why I’m here (but don’t tell anyone else I care about your happiness–I’ll deny it!).
  • Living by Church standards must be based on our own faith and testimony–anything else won’t last.  Priority–develop a testimony.
  • A lot of people don’t live standards or go to church because they’ve been offended.  Reference Elder Bednar’s talk on offense–don’t deprive yourself of blessings because of someone else.
  • Even if you are active, you must always keep up with prayer and scripture study, or you’ll burn out, like an athlete who ignores diet and exercise.  You can fake it for a while, but you’ll end up angry, hurt, and failing.
  • Call a volunteer to read the parable of the kite:

While Brother Pinegar served as president of the Provo Missionary Training Center, as you can imagine, we often talked to the missionaries about the feelings of happiness and peace that accompany courageous obedience to true principles. We talked of the influence of the Holy Ghost that comes to those who are obedient. We encouraged the missionaries to make obedience their quest. I enjoyed telling them the story of the little boy who went to the park with his father to fly a kite.

The boy was very young. It was his first experience with kite flying. His father helped him, and after several attempts the kite was in the air. The boy ran and let out more string, and soon the kite was flying high. The little boy was so excited; the kite was beautiful. Eventually there was no more string left to allow the kite to go higher. The boy said to his father, “Daddy, let’s cut the string and let the kite go; I want to see it go higher and higher.”

His father said, “Son, the kite won’t go higher if we cut the string.”

“Yes, it will,” responded the little boy. “The string is holding the kite down; I can feel it.” The father handed a pocketknife to his son. The boy cut the string. In a matter of seconds the kite was out of control. It darted here and there and finally landed in a broken heap. That was difficult for the boy to understand. He felt certain the string was holding the kite down.

The commandments and laws of God are like the kite string. They lead us and guide us upward. Obedience to these laws gives us peace, hope, and direction.

  • Show my notebooks of church meeting notes and share my summary of President Monson’s talk from Priesthood Session of General Conference last month (ask if anyone remembers what it was about). 
  • My thoughts about standards: BAD LANGUAGE: addictive, as they can see from their peers–try going without it for one day!  Tell them about “no swear club.”  IMMODEST CLOTHES: like bad language, makes us less godly, more like animals.  WORLDLY MEDIA: “It’s just a song/movie, etc.!” you say.  Then let it go.  PORN: not just “bad kids,” or boys, who need help.  Go see bishop asap or it will hurt life–faith, relationships, will steal from every area of life.  Bishop will think more of you, not less, if you go. 
  • Show them my copy of For the Strength of Youth from my wallet, challenge them to keep one also.
  • Close with the miracle of the sod cutter: Last Saturday I was doing yard work for someone with a sod cutter, a huge machine like a cross between a lawn mower and a rototiller on steroids.  After the yard was half removed, it quit.  I pulled the cord several times and the motor wouldn’t turn over.  I inspected it and tried several more times.  Nothing.  I let it sit for about ten minutes as I cleared away the dirt I’d piled up so far, then pulled the cord several more times.  It was still dead.  I took off my hat and prayed in the driveway, asking for the sod cutter to start because this work would help people in need and, since the sod cutter was a rental, needed to be done right now.  I closed the prayer and pulled the cord again.  It started on the first try, smoothly, and didn’t have any problems for the rest of the morning.
  • Testimony: we’re not sent here to see how much we can get away with, we’re here to enjoy the best blessings prepared for us.