IS CHANGE ALWAYS BETTER?


My how times change. Older folks said this in past years, but I never thought that I’d utter those words. In my observations, the changes that surprise me deal with education.
Not so long ago, teachers began to require that students complete summer reading assignments. They were also required to produce papers on those books. We who were high school students in the last century scoff at that kind of requirement. We walked out the doors of school on the last day of the term and gave little, if any, thoughts of spending summer time completing a school assignment. The
break from school refreshed us, and not requiring that work made sure that none of us began the year with a bad grade. We’d achieve that when school opened again.
The ending of teaching cursive writing is a shock. Those of us who are old remember the beginnings of learning to write our letters. For hours, we traced them and then tried to correctly construct them
on paper with a top and bottom line, as well as a dotted line in the middle. We toiled to perfect our ABC’s.
In what seemed to be the blink of an eye, teachers demanded that we learn a new style of writing. Gone were the straight- line letters; they were replaced with all sorts of curves and loops in letters. Cursive writing tried our patience and led to stress as we continued to make mistakes. Eventually, all of us created at least acceptable cursive writing. It was our individual style, but the letters met the requirements of the teacher.
In composition classes, I demanded that all students use cursive writing. I placed the ABC’s in cursive above the board and had students write them five times at the beginning of each class. Students complained but complied. They eventually became skilled in handwriting that was readable.
Another thing that amazes me is the use of the computer. Teachers post homework assignments on a program called Canvas. Students can complete their work and then submit it to the teacher on the same program. Teachers can also post notes and instructional material so that students who miss school can easily stay current in work or can make up missing assignments.
Teachers also use technology to send messages on phones or computers. They can explain  
assignments to students, add more work, and keep in touch with parents about student grades, attendance, and behavior. Grades are posted on line, and parents are able to access them on a site so that they can see what their children’s efforts look like. Of course, the leaders of classrooms and parents at home or work must be savvy enough with computers and cell phones to be able to accomplish these things.
These days, folks don’t need to listen to the radio or television to discover whether or not schools are closed for inclement weather. The system is able to call interested individuals with that information. The only problem that still exists is the decision-making process that occurs in the system’s administrative offices on the subject.
School seems too difficult these days. Yes, we have plenty of folks who sit in offices and determine what is necessary for students. I’m a firm believer in face-to-face contact with students and parents. I also am sure that the more a student handwrites material, the better he recalls it. Summer work puts school in the same boat as athletics: both are becoming year-round things that wear down young people. Maybe a few old practices might improve the situation without endangering the education of children. It’s a tough world out there. Let’s let kids be kids for just a while.

DID YOU SEE THAT TRUCK COMING?


Well, the latest installment of the absurd occurred today. Sports teams have banned the playing of music and removed the statues of the performer for racist actions. Before you stone me for such insensitivity, realize that the performer is Kate Smith and what “sins” she committed took place in the 1930’s.
Smith recorded “That’s Why Darkies Were Born” in 1931 and “Pickaninny” 1933. The first verse of
the first song is offensive if it is taken alone. In totality, the first verse tells of the terrible conditions of slaves. However, other verses laud the strength of those same folks and declare that they are the ones who lead the rest of us to the promised land. These individuals are to be held up in places of honor, not looked at as second-class humans.
The second song can be much more offensive in its language and references. Still, In the movie “Hello, Everybody,” the song is presented to black orphans. It is a song that offers hope for poor children who face along, hard, and poverty-ridden lives. It also says that the mothers of those children who were taken by the Lord will be waiting for them with open arms.
No, we don’t accept such comments or references in today’s world. We’ve learned a different way; we know the equality of all God’s children is our goal. However, the absurdity comes when today’s folks place the same standards on a culture and population that lived 90 years ago. The plain truth is that segregation and inequality were rampant in the 1930’s. Civil Rights marches and equality demands didn’t exist. At that time, those two songs that Smith sang offered a kind of hope that was otherwise not a reality.
So, Kate Smith sang songs written by others. She was a performer. She didn’t write the lyrics. Let’s forget the part she played during World War II. Let’s overlook the fact that she helped to raise hundreds of millions of dollars for the war effort. Don’t give a passing thought to the fact that she was held in high enough esteem to have been awarded The Presidential Medal of Freedom by Ronald Reagan for her artistic and patriotic contributions. Tear down her statues and never again play her rendition of “God Bless America.” We can’t have a racist like that receiving any kind of credit, right?
No, that’s not right. This country’s population might do well to tackle two major problems that face us. One is to stop wearing our feelings on our shoulders. Quit looking for something offensive. Live life with joy and commitment each day. Second, stop looking backward for injustice. Instead turn toward today and tomorrow and work to make sure that racial bias ends and that hate groups that promote it are dissolved.
By constantly looking in the rear-view mirror, we will one day say that we didn’t see the truckload of present-day problems that crashed into us. Accept that times were different; recognize people for the good that they’ve done. That is the best way to wipe out unfairness in the future.

HOLES IN JEANS


I’m from another generation, another time, and another planet. I must be an alien because so many things in this life baffle me. From social media to television programming, nothing makes sense to a member of the “Baby-Boom” generation.
I have a Facebook account. In times past, I used it to share photos, updates, and political arguments. I
also kept up with selected people and organizations on Twitter. Those, however, have been the extent of my ventures into social media, and even on them I’ve limited my involvement. Instagram and Snap Chat are beyond my understanding. Young people are involved with all of them. They’ve mastered communication with thumbs that move so quickly they become blurs. Mine are stiff with arthritis, and I correct mistakes as soon as possible; they come with nearly every word that is typed.
I substituted the other day, and in one class, an entire table of students sat with their heads buried in their phones. I asked one boy how much he knew about the girl next to him. I gave him half a dozen things he might have learned about her during the semester, but he said he knew none of them. He added, “She’s just been sitting beside me for two weeks.” That’s plenty of time to discover basic information about another person, but these young folks are too “zoned out” of life to know the slightest things about their friends.
I’ve always enjoyed watching television, but the shows I can enjoy have dwindled over the years. Much of it has to do with the simple fact that I don’t understand most of them. So-called reality
shows hold not fascination to me. I couldn’t care less which bachelor a girl chooses, and I’m not too interested in watching people “survive” on an island after self-imposed, greed-ridden ventures.
Someone needs to explain to me what is so grand about sitting in a room and playing a video game. We old people enjoyed playing outside. We made up our own situations and then plotted how to get out of tough situations, such as being trapped in the middle of a war or being encircled by Indians. Our entire bodies were sometimes sore from the play, not just our thumbs and behinds.
For sure, I don’t understand fashion. A quick scan of the Internet shows jeans with rips in the front legs. Females will pay from $45 to $225 for pairs of them. Guys wear tight-legged jeans with t-shirts
to work. How’s that allowed? Some males still wear their pants on their hip bones and walk with one hand holding up those britches. Untied shoes that flop on their feet are also in vogue. I’d break an ankle or some other body part as I tripped on such wardrobe choices.
 The “grubby look” is also all right. The best-looking men’s faces sport stubble. It used to be that walking around with whiskers that hadn’t been shaved for a few days was an immediate turn-off for women. Hair that is matted or standing straight up like when a person just crawled out of bed is a popular look. Why is that so appealing?
I looked in my closet yesterday and realized that most of my shoes are several years old. My clothes are casual, but neat and clean. My music preferences come from artists who performed during the last century. Yes, I’m old and set in my ways. The main reason for that is I just don’t understand the world in which I live these days. I’m sure that’s been said by generations since the beginning of man’s existence.

PERILS OF PUBLIC PLACES


Going out in public is good for me. My wife has told me for years. She implores me to venture out passed the boundaries of Ball Camp to see what’s on the other side of life. I do so on occasion, but after those trips, I wind up wondering what I was doing by leaving the confines of my home.  
I’d like to know when it became all right for folks to take their dogs with them to any and every public area. Don’t get me wrong; I am a dog lover. Sadie is as close to family as a pet can get. Still, I
don’t load her up for trips to most places. Too many people allow their dogs to tag along with them to malls and other stores. On more than one occasion, a canine has slipped up behind me and checked out my personality with an all too familiar sniff. Such surprising things caused me to jump and spin around ready to fight.
Others take their pets to sporting events. They bring them in stadiums and then allow them to walk around off leash. I’m usually ready to offer a pat to a pooch, but not when I’m watching a ball game.
The last thing I want is to miss a key play because a dog needs some attention. Some pet chaperones allow animals to “do their business” but fail to clean the messes up. That can lead to someone wearing some dog offerings home on the soles of their shoes.
Along the same lines, I wonder how it is good parenting
to turn a small child loose in public areas. I like young’uns, but like some people don’t care for dogs, others aren’t overly fond of “rug rats.” I lose patience when small folks run roughshod through seating areas. Especially bothersome is a small, dirty hand grabbing hold of mine. Too, no adult can abide having a strange child come up and begin touching personal belongings. Neither do grown-ups want to spend time answering a storm of questions from a small child.
While we’re at it, can someone explain to me the reasoning for someone taking up two spaces in a parking lot? Recently, I attended an event at a high school. Because the county middle schools were also holding a track meet at the same time, parking was at a premium. I searched for a space and eventually found one. However, when I pulled up to it, I discovered that the driver had parked his giant SUV so that the tires on the right side were positioned
in the adjacent space. No one could pull in unless he were driving something as small as an electric car. Another person parked across two spaces in an effort to protect his shiny vehicle. Other angry patrons might have felt justified if they’d have walked close to those vehicles with keys in hand. One frustrated driver couldn’t find a space and decided to park his car on the edge of the sidewalk directly behind the baseball field backstop. When a foul ball zeroed in on the top of the BMW and, no doubt, dented it, folks shook their heads and made comments about karma.
Yes, Amy is right that I should get out more. However, I’m not sure that doing so is that healthy. By the time I arrive home, my nerves are rattled, my patience is shot, and something on the bottom of my shoe is sticking like Velcro. Public places can tests even the savviest social creature.