Sunday, July 20, 2008


Between two half-homes,
A needed, sudden stop.

Turn the key and park it.
Leave its hood, put up my own.

No place for maintenance
On the car, at least.

Sandals in the soggy grass.
Rain falls, clouds loom low.

Step by step familiar
Trying for respectful.

Reaching hands, carved
Still looking out of place.

Stand there, "I miss you."
There is nothing else.

Tears masquerade
Salty raindrops, blending in.

Tiny flowers, unexpected
In a garden of memories

Beauty meets death,
In the simple souvenir.

Stay only for a minute
Weathering the storm.

It doesn't pass; it won't
The hood down, I go

To home. Family.
Always minus one.

This didn't come out how I wanted it to, but I've tweaked it a lot already, I rarely like my poetry, and I kind of needed to write it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"the best and brightest"

Today presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at my university, Purdue. Unfortunately, the security forum was invitation-only, and I couldn't attend despite the fact he was 10 minutes' walk away. Anyway, I did read through a transcription of his comments. While a part of me thinks it was in part to appease the crowd (mostly cyber-security experts from a university known for its engineering and computer science)... I liked this quote:

"In the Cold War, we didn't defeat the Soviets just because of the strength of our arms – we also did it because at the dawn of the atomic age and the onset of the space race, the smartest scientists and most innovative workforce was here in America. For the last few months, I've talked about how America's economic competitiveness depends on education. The same holds true for our security. If we're not investing in math and science education, our nation will fall behind. And if we're not educating the best and brightest scientists, engineers, and computer programmers here in the United States, we won't be able to keep America safe."

[emphasis added]

I hadn't picked a candidate, and I still haven't-- but I would be lying if I said that this particular quote didn't endear Obama to me a bit.

Education and the economy (and society in general) really are closely linked. Maybe not immediately, but our economic future ten years down the road absolutely will be affected by changes to our educational system now. Today's economy could use a quick fix if we have it, but in the meantime it would make no sense- in any field- to worry about now without trying to prevent the same things from happening in the future. And I think for many things, math and science education especially (but also all education), is the avenue for change that makes the most sense.

Yeah, maybe I'm biased because I'm an ed major- but I wouldn't be an education major if I didn't value education. I get frustrated when people tell me I should be in secondary ed because we need good math and science teachers. We do-- there's a severe shortage of math and science secondary teachers (much less good ones). But I think there's a shortage that's not as easy to document: the shortage of good math and science elementary teachers.

Without a decent foundation in math and science, students will struggle to succeed in secondary school, no matter how many resources are made available to them. It is the responsibility of elementary teachers to build this educational foundation, so that students can move on to continue learning newer and more complicated things.

Elementary teachers don't always get a lot of respect for being able to teach math and science, but just because a lot of the math and science taught in elementary school is considered "easy" to do does not mean that it is "easy" to teach. You try explaining to a kid how the base ten system works, and why he shouldn't add the denominators of a fraction. It's kindergarten, first grade stuff-- and yet some of the most difficult 'stuff' to teach well that I've ever tried.

But what does it matter if an elementary teacher can teach, if they don't? In my elementary teacher training, I've seen multiple future colleagues (both other future teachers, and current teachers) who simply lack the confidence in their own science knowledge to try teaching it. Science can scare these teachers- and particularly with the focus on improving standardized test scores in reading and math, it's easy for these teachers to skim over science, or even skip it altogether. In some cases, I've seen a teacher who seems to think it's okay to just read the science textbook or maybe a fictional book about an animal now and then. Because, you know, she's 'covering' it.

It doesn't take long for students to develop the opinion that "science is boring." If a student thinks science is boring and he's not even out of elementary school, I feel like we have missed a huge opportunity. Children are so naturally inquisitive about the world, which makes learning science so absolutely perfect for them- and we crush the curiosity. For a lot of kids, I don't think it ever comes back.

So yes, I love science- but I'm going to be an elementary teacher. And no, I'm not wasting my intelligence or any teaching talents I have. I'm still teaching kids things they don't know that can be really difficult to them- it's just that the kids are younger, with less predetermined ideas about school and learning. I get to be that teacher who teaches them that science can be fun, math can make sense, and reading doesn't have to be boring. I have the opportunity be a teacher that helps prevent kids from being burnt out on school by the time they reach junior high. I can not only teach skills, but I can get kids interested in and excited about almost any school subject, and teach them how to think.

I really do think Obama's looking the right direction. When considering current issues, he's trying to look back at some of their causes, including a deficiency in our math and science education, so we can try to prevent similar problems in the future.

But I hope that he remembers to look all the way back to where educational problems can begin. Science and math education don't start in the sixth grade, or in high school. If a student loses confidence, interest, or competence early, there may be no way to remedy the situation. Without a solid foundation in elementary school, students can forever be trapped playing catch-up with their potential. And that's not good for the future of our students- or the future of our country.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Favre Retirement Quandary: A Fan's Perspective

Brett Favre retired in March, much to my surprise. The last few years, when he'd contemplated retirement, I'd prepared myself for it. But last year? When the Packers were so close to getting in the SuperBowl? When Favre had a year so much improved from his last few? I thought sure that it wasn't even a worry this year.

And then he retired, teary-eyed, saying he could play, but he didn't want to. He was just "tired."

I wasn't happy, and I was very unsure how I'd react to watching a Packers team without Favre at quarterback (something I really can hardly ever remember seeing) when this football season started.

By now, I'd become at least more accustomed to the idea. I was going to the first preseason game of the season, and looking forward to seeing Aaron Rodgers' first game as a starter. As it turns out, that may not be what I see at all!

For those of you not big into football, Brett Favre has expressed his desire to come back out of retirement this season. The Packers, who have been obviously moving forward, intensely working the offense with Rodgers at QB, didn't welcome him back with open arms, and with good reason (especially because if Rodgers, a first-round pick and college star, doesn't get his chance now- he's likely to refuse to re-sign with the Packers after his contract ends next year. And then the Packers are left without a probable heir when Brett does retire in the next few years.)

Brett's upped the ante, requesting "an unconditional release" from the Packers. His love of playing football (something I normally laud as one of my favorite qualities of his) has led him to seek a release from the Packers. If they won't let him play, well, then- he wants to go to someone who will.

I can understand that he just wants to play, but one of my other favorite Favre-ian qualities is his loyalty to the Packers. And seeing Favre in a uniform other than a Packers one will not sit well with me, or many other fans. I think Favre feels his loyalty has been betrayed, but really- did he expect the Packers to sit around waiting for him, or did he expect them to continue building for the future of the team? They've waited for him to decide until June before, so when he gave them a decision as early as March, they surely figured- like me- that he was sure this time.

Finally, his very reasons for wanting to retire completely contradict what would happen if he came back. Oh, you're tired from working so hard to win? Oh, you'd be disappointed if you didn't get a Super Bowl next season? How does switching to a new team, learning a new offense, getting in sync with new teammates and coaches fix those problems?

I can understand that Favre wants to play again; after 17 years, it makes sense that he'd miss football. I wouldn't even mind seeing #4 behind center at the game I'm going to this season. But that still doesn't mean I'm happy about the way Brett Favre handled this- and I consider myself a big fan of his.

There's a part of me that hopes Brett Favre is just trying to tempt the Packers. It's like he's standing at the top of a building, leaning over and shouting, "I'll do it! I'll jump!"-- he's trying to show them he's so serious about playing that he won't even limit his team options. Still, threatening to go to a new team seems like a stupid political move, but I think the thought of him trying to manipulate the Packers into taking him back is slightly preferrable to the thought of him actually wanting to play for another team.

As it stands, I think the Packers have little choice but to take him back. Sometimes teams need to focus on rebuilding, and we will need a new QB soon- but in the meantime, Favre's doing fine and it's not as though the rest of our team is young and needs time to improve. The Packers' head guys really have no way to come out of this looking classy at this point, but I think their best option is to come out with their tails between their legs, welcoming Brett back onto the team- even if that means screwing over poor Aaron Rodgers (who's showed an amazing string of patience while waiting for his turn at the helm).

Because, when it comes down to it, the Packers need to build the best team. And Rodgers looks promising, but how many other teams, given the choice, would pick an unproven college star with a tendency for injury over a tried-and-true, passionate and prolific legend, who's sure to bring in revenue (and probably wins) for the team?

This is a no-win situation at this point, but here's my best idea for what to do next:
Packers- take him back, grudgingly. Favre- accept, gracious and gracefully. Rodgers- you were so close this time. Better luck next year?

P.S.-- No matter what happens, GO PACKERS! :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

the san fransisco pride

My good friend on LiveJournal, Starbucks521, posted this today. I found it interesting, and thought some other people might, as well. I've copied her exact words below (with the exception of adding an informative link that I'm almost certain refers to what she was talking about) in the indented paragraphs:

I was looking up something else in the Catechism this morning, and I saw this, and I thought a couple of you might like to know what exactly Catholics believe about homosexuality. This is taken straight out of the Catechism.

"The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."

I know obviously that not every Catholic does that, but then, that wasn't my point. I just wanted to share.

My own home church is a member of the ELCA. The ELCA also has a mostly accepting stance, which makes me proud. I don't think I have to agree with every single thing the church synod says in order to go to a certain church, but I do think the general beliefs must align with mine. I don't think I could go to a church that condemns homosexuals. I don't think that's right to do, the verses I've read seem less cut-and-dry than many people would have me seem (particuarly when comparing multiple translations and versions of the Bible), and condemning gay people does not at all fit with my view of God. Maybe it's because I was raised a Lutheran and one of our main ideals is the idea of grace, but I simply can't believe it for myself that God is a homophobe.

I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, but I do like pointing out that not all Christians think it is wrong to be homosexual. And even some that think it's a sin or a trial (like Catholicism) don't condone judging people who do suffer from it. After all, we're all sinners, and who recognizes that better than Catholics? :)

So, believe what you want about whether it's right to be gay. But don't believe that all Christians feel similarly on the issue- because there are plenty of accepting, loving Christians (whether they personally believe it's right or not). Just because we're often quieter than all the extreme homophobic Christians doesn't mean that you should assume we don't exist.