Tuesday, February 23, 2010

N o More Senior Moments?

Remember your Senior Year in high school? Was it a great year? Was it the highpoint of your athletic career? Did you win the science fair? Did you have a memorable time at the prom? Did you learn more as you prepared for college? Did you go to some great basketball and football games? How about all those graduation parties? Or was Senior Year a painful time filled with awkwardness, acne, and adolescent angst? Well, a Utah State Senator, Chris Buttars suggests that for many students, 12th grade is a waste of time that costs the state millions of dollars. At first, he suggested that the state cut out 12th grade altogether. Since then, he dialed it back to propose that Senior Year be optional. He just doesn't think 12th grade is necessary for many students, because so many "kids are just goofing off." Of course, many of us feel that state senators aren't necessary, because so many of them are just goofing off.

If kids are goofing around and wasting time in school, I don't know that this behavior should be rewarded by telling them they don't have to go to school anymore. Maybe making sure that 12th grade isn't a waste of time would be a better way to go. If the results of Drivers' Ed aren't so good, you don't stop teaching kids to drive safely. You teach them better.

Similarly, William Sederburg, Utah's Commissioner of Higher Education, said the bill was a move in the wrong direction. He pointed out that half of the students who graduate now are unprepared for college math and about a third do not have the writing skills for college.

Anybody who feels that kids need less rather than more education today hasn't talked to too many teenagers lately. If the Senator would just go to the nearest mall, he'd hear things like, "So, uh, like, I thought it was so random when he asked me if this is a new sweater since me and him were shopping when I bought it." Or, "So she went all Lindsay Lohan with me and I was totally, like, duh." Or "I gave him a ten dollar bill for the burger and Coke. Is this the right change? I think I took a mental health day from school when they did subtraction." Do you think the Senator would still say they don't need more education?

And of course, let's not forget all those once-in-a-lifetime Senior Year moments. Do we want to deny kids the Prom, the Big Game, or that magical moment when they find out that there's no such thing as a "permanent record?"

When kids go off to college or work, they are going to have to answer "yes" or "no" to questions about sex, drinking, and drugs. Do you really want them to be out in the real world dealing with things like that earlier rather than later? A year to grow and mature isn't a luxury. How can we expect 17-year olds to handle the real world when many adults can't?

J.D. Williams, the student body president of Utah's West Jordan High School doesn't think 12th grade is a waste of time. He says, "If you're the type of kid who will slack off, you'd find a way to do that in sophomore or junior year anyway." That's a good point, but if Buttars and those who agree with him hear that statement, they might want to cut out the sophomore and junior years, too.

One thing that happens when children aren't educated properly is that they become adults who haven't been educated properly. We hear adults using bad grammar every day. How often do we see someone making a speech on television, and hear her say, "We all have to think more positive about this issue" -- instead of "more positively?" Over and over again, sportscasters talk about how teams "have to play more aggressive" -- instead of "more aggressively." And these are people whose high schools had a 12th grade.

In case you haven't guessed, I'm not in favor of cutting out the Senior Year. I'm hoping that you'll be convinced by something William Sederburg, Utah's Higher Education Commissioner, said on CNN: "We would like the high school system to take the 12th year serious."

That's right. He said "serious," not "seriously." And he's Utah's head of Higher Education.
I don't make these up. I couldn't.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Fly The Skinny Skies

Recently, actor-director, Kevin Smith was removed from his seat on a plane and forced to leave. The reason: he was too fat, or as the airlines say, "He was a person of size." Smith, who starred as Silent Bob in a couple of movies, had purchased tickets for two seats because of his girth. But then he decided to stand by for an earlier flight. There was only one seat available on that flight, he sat in it, then was forced to leave. Now before you start sending irate emails to me, let me say something: I recognize that obesity is a big problem in America, and I understand that there may be times when someone is big enough to squish the person next to him. But this guy tried to play by the rules, and bought two seats. If there had been two vacant seats on the next plane, he would have bought them. And he was already seated! Was his physique really such an inconvenience for other passengers or such a danger to the flight that he should have been removed from the plane? Being overweight might be bad for you, but he wasn't a criminal. Eating second helpings is not a felony.

I understand the reasons for the airlines' rule. Nobody wants someone else infringing upon their space, and there's hardly any room on airplane seats if the one next to you is empty. But people other than those "of size" can cause just as much discomfort and annoyance to the person next to them, but nobody's kicking them off the plane. How about someone sitting next to you who hasn't had a bath since the Clinton administration? Or what if you get "a talker" next to you? He's some guy who buckles up and then says something like, "Let me tell you about myself. A lot of people don't realize what an interesting field recycling bowling balls is. …." Then there's "the laugher." She watches a movie on her computer while you're trying to sleep, and every time you doze off, she laughs out loud. Her laugh is slightly more annoying than the sound of broken chalk on a blackboard.Nobody wants to sit next to a drunk who spills half his drink on your new pair of pants. Then there's the guy who's taken a sleeping pill right when the plane takes off. He falls into a deep sleep with his head flopping onto your shoulder in a creepy way. The drooling doesn't help. As much as we all love children, do you really want to sit next to a kid who keeps banging his toy hammer on the armrest for five hours?

Besides the "squish factor," the other reason airlines say they are reluctant to have a heavy person onboard is because in an emergency, he or she might prevent "a timely exit from the aircraft." If you ask me, if you have to exit a plane because of an emergency, your least problem is that the person next to you likes to have ice cream after his pasta.
Besides, who decides if a passenger is "too fat?" Is it okay to be 10 pounds overweight? How about 25? 50? Do they draw the line at 100? 1081/2? Obviously, it's a subjective call. Well, kicking someone off the plane who has made an effort to abide by the airline's rules is a subjective call, too. And they blew it. They should have thrown a little common sense into the mix. An allowance should have been made for his having bought two seats, and there should have been some understanding of the inconvenience and embarrassment of being kicked off the plane after being seated. Again, I'm not saying that I'd love to be next to someone who takes up a good portion of my seat, too. I'm just saying they shouldn't have made such a big deal about someone being big.

Now it would be easy for me to argue snidely that they kicked this guy off a plane, but they let a guy on who had a bomb in his underpants. So, I won't say that. But it is a bit weird for the airlines to be so vigilant in profiling people with big profiles.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sarah's Schoolyard


You probably know that when Sarah Palin spoke at a recent Tea Party gathering, she had some "crib notes" written on the palm of her hand. Apparently, the words were "Energy," "Tax Cuts," and "Lift American Spirit." Unfortunately for the former governor, she peeked at her helping hand right after she criticized the President for using a teleprompter. Not surprisingly, some Democrats jumped on "palmgate' almost immediately, and some Republicans leapt to Palin's defense. I'm not particularly interested in weighing in on whether her writing on her hand was good or bad. What strikes me – and probably everyone else – is that it’s something that it brings to mind school days. This got me thinking. Maybe politicians will follow Palin's lead and revert to the behavior and words of kids.

One of the people who spoke in Sarah Palin's defense was former Miss America Kirsten Haglund – or as she would be referred to in school, "the pretty, popular girl."

Maybe soon we'll hear Nancy Pelosi exclaim after somebody criticizes her: "I'm rubber, you're glue. Everything you say about me bounces off me and sticks to you."

I think it would be fun to watch an exchange like this between Rod Blagojevich and the prosecutor at his trial:

Blago: Am not.

Prosecutor: Are too.

Blago: Am not.

Prosecutor: Are too.

Maybe Defense Secretary Gates will be criticized by someone who will say, "Oh yeah? You and what army."

Maybe after the President urges Republicans to embrace the spirit of bipartisanship, Minority Leader Mitch McConnel will respond, "You can't make me. You're not the boss of me."

When the chair of a Senate committee asks a witness, "Where's that report you promised us?" Then the witness might respond, "Uh, my dog ate it."

While the President is going over his notes for a big speech over breakfast, I can just hear Michelle saying, "You know the rules. No reading at the table."

At a state dinner where some exotic food is being served, the Secretary General of the United Nations is told, "Come on. Just eat half of it." He responds in earshot of everyone, "No. It’s yucky. It'll make me barf. Now let's talk about nuclear proliferation."

The wife of the head of the CIA: "Well, I wouldn't be so suspicious if you weren't so secretive."

An unimpressed mother: "Surgeon General, big deal. Now, if you were a general surgeon…"

And then there’s the one you really don’t want to hear: “Come on, kids. I’ve told you a million times: Don’t hide my “football” with all the nuclear war codes. I’ll let you stay up an extra hour if you tell me where it is. Give me a hint. Is it in the dishwasher again? Am I getting warm?”

New Bob Newhart Video

Check out Bob Newhart's first internet video by