12

E Pluribus Unum

Mom fights school district over Spanish ‘Pledge’ assignment

EDMOND, OK (NBC) – An Oklahoma mother is fuming over a mandatory assignment given to her son.

Melissa Taggart is now taking her fight to Edmond, OK Public Schools after her son was threatened with a zero because he wouldn’t complete an assignment that would require him to recite the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish.

“My husband and I are appalled by it. We don’t believe in it and I do not want my child doing it,” Taggart said. “I just feel that it’s wrong, that he’ll have to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States of America in Spanish. That’s not how it should be taught. That has nothing to do with the Spanish language.”

Officials with Edmond Public Schools said that Melissa’s son was going to receive a zero for the project. A few hours later, they changed their minds and are now offering him another assignment.

“There are poems, lyrics, and great writers that she could have chosen that emphasize the Spanish culture … Why the Pledge of Allegiance,” Taggart asked.

When I was in high school back in the Stone Age of the 1960′s, I took Latin as my foreign language choice.  My teacher, Mrs. Cargill, was from Argentina.  Besides Latin, she taught Spanish and had a working knowledge of Italian and German.  Even though she was one tough cookie when it came to making us toe the line, I adored her.

Since our class was during the first period of the day, we heard the principal’s morning announcements over the room’s intercom.  These were always preceded by the Pledge of Allegiance, which he recited while all the students in the school stood and recited it in English with him. 

Except for us. 

Mrs. Cargill thought it was important to take advantage of any opportunity to bring the language alive by using it in situations that got us outside of the textbook.  So, we memorized the Pledge in Latin and recited it that way while the principal spoke it in English.

My, how subversive.

I wonder if this same parent would object to the Pledge being recited in Latin. 

How about French?  German? 

Somehow, I suspect there wouldn’t be anywhere near the fuss.  The Pledge is not a sacred text that will be defiled if translated into Spanish.  If anything, instead of giving a robotic and rote memory recitation as many students find themselves doing after years of saying it in English, it may get her son thinking about what the words actually signify. 

 Now, wouldn’t that be something?

Here’s to you, Mrs. Cargill.  I’m sure you would be “appalled” that a valuable learning tool could be twisted around to such ignorant ends.

     Ego vexillo Unitorum Statuum Americae ac rei publicae, quam refert ipsum, fidelitatum voveo: Uni Nationi sub Deo indivisibili, cum Libertate atque Justitia omnibus.

7

Early Bird Special

My husband and I went to a school function this morning for our granddaughter who’s in first grade.  She and her brother attend a small private school, one which has a fantastic curriculum with a particular emphasis on reading and the arts.  (Some of the kids’ paintings would put many adult would-be artists to shame—myself included.)

Today’s special program was a puppet show presented by the first graders.  It was an adaptation of the story “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”  Each child in the class had a role and created his or her own puppet to go with it.  Our granddaughter, S., was chosen by the teacher as one of the two narrators of the story.  Her best friend, C.K., was the other one. 

Wow, can these kids read!  They stood up to the microphone and did an excellent job—even when the microphone started blaring feedback shortly after S. started.  Luckily, that was corrected and S. continued with her narration, completely unfazed by the air raid siren volume of racket that so rudely interrupted her.  I was exceedingly proud of her.  I told her teacher that only a couple of years ago S. was a shy little flower who didn’t want anyone to look at her and got very upset if she thought anyone might be laughing at her. 

Today, she was Ethel Merman on Broadway.  Way to go!

The puppet show was scheduled for 11:00 am and since we live about eleven miles outside of town we calculated that we should leave home about 10:20 to give us enough time to get to the school before the show started.  (I hate to be one of those people who comes straggling in after something has already begun.  Maybe it’s because everyone turns around and looks at you—gee, I wonder where S. got her phobia about not wanting to be looked at?  Hmmm…..)

It turns out we left home a little early, about 10:15, so we arrived at the school just a bit after 10:30—way too soon because the kids were out on the playground and there weren’t many other cars in the vicinity that looked like they belonged to fellow puppet show attendees.   We sat there for a minute and then decided we’d go to the post office and pick up our mail first and then come back.

My husband asked “Why is it old people are always early to everything and young people are always late?”

I just looked at him and replied “It’s because young people have a life.”

But, if we did have a life, we might have been too busy to see Ethel…er…S. in her big performance. 

I much prefer it this way.  Here’s to the Early Birds.

2

Virtually Painted Out

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Okay, this is my last painting for the Virtual Paintout for October.  Really.  This one is The Royal Bar in Belfast.

I’m going to be doing a marathon “Memaw” gig with the grandkids for the next week and a half, staying at their house overnight and taking them to school and picking them up in the afternoons.  My daughter will be in N. Carolina showing her most recent furniture designs at the big furniture mart in Highpoint, and my son-in-law will be finishing up his last week at the police academy (yay!) and will take his final exam at the end of the week.  There is one week left after that of practice tests for the state exam. 

It has been a long five months of his leaving every morning at 5:30 am for the commute to Austin, tons of state and local penal codes to memorize, physical tests of endurance, practice encounters with “bad guys” (and gals), being pepper sprayed and then still having to run several obstacle courses under the effects, the list goes on and on what he’s gone through to achieve his dream.  We’re very proud of him and have infinite respect for the men and women in blue who are there to protect us every day.

So, I will be coming home every other day or so to make sure the cats haven’t eaten Hubby, but I don’t know about creating any new cartoons or other artwork.  Well….maybe some cartoons.  hee hee

Pray for us—I think we’ll need it.  My grandson was coughing yesterday at McDonald’s, so I think we might be in for it.

2

Fowl Play

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Who would have guessed that a book on grammar and punctuation could be just as much fun to read as say, Sex and the City?  Well, maybe not that much fun, but fun nevertheless.  The book I’m referring to here is Eats, Shoots & Leaves–The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss, a droll and entertaining Brit.  She writes about the use and misuse of commas, apostrophes (don’t get me started on those!), semi-colons and colons much like an historian would chronicle the secret lives of the saints. 

I find it fascinating, but then I’m one of those terrible people who take umbrage at those misplaced apostrophes.  Yes, I am a “stickler” (as Ms. Truss calls her followers) and I, too, fear there has been a general dumbing-down of written English since the advent of email and text messaging.   

People just don’t give a hoot anymore. 

Mr. Townsend would be appalled.  He was my 9th grade English teacher and the pivotal force behind my emergence from the shadows of grammar apathy into the golden dawn of English language enlightenment.

Up until 9th grade I was only a mediocre student, at best.  Somehow, I found myself placed in the top English class my last year in junior high school.  It must have been my reading scores that landed me there because reading was the only subject where I excelled and exhibited any interest.  I had been floating through school on a wave of indifference.  Mr. Townsend threw me a lifeline and pulled me ashore.

About Mr. Townsend:  he was very slim and fairly short.  He was a natty dresser; given to fitted tweed suits with nipped-in waists and two back vents.  He was originally from Louisiana, so he had a Southern drawl that dripped honey when he wanted it to, but he could also make it bite like a Copperhead. 

He used to assume a sort of pose at the blackboard where he would slouch back on one hip, one arm held tightly across his waist in front, while gesturing with the other hand that held the chalk; much like Bette Davis smoking a cigarette.  All that was missing was, “What..a..dump!” 

Then, still holding this basic position, he would swivel and turn back and forth from the blackboard as he demonstrated some aspect of grammar.  Think of Tim Gunn on Project Runway and you get the picture:  he was wonderful to watch.

Early in the year, Mr. Townsend approached us with a request to help him proofread an article he was writing for a gourmet magazine.  It was about the correct method for cooking a chicken in a clay or terracotta container.  He was very serious about this article, and I’m sure he thought we would be suitably impressed with his magnificent grasp of English and be properly awed. 

He wanted us to read the draft he had written and then pass it on to the person behind us.  I happened to have the good fortune of being in the front desk in the first row.  This position wasn’t awarded to me because I was the top student in the class.  Our seats clearly weren’t assigned because of merit.  We had each chosen our own seat on the first day of class and I chose mine because it was closest to the door, allowing me the ability to make a quick exit if the need arose.

Mr. Townsend handed me the paper and went back to his desk.  I couldn’t have gotten more than half way down the first page when a glaring error leaped out at me.  To my astonishment, he had written the word “foul” in describing the star of the recipe, when what he had meant to write was “fowl”. 

I got up and took the paper back to his desk and showed him the error of his ways.  He was very embarrassed and fell all over himself in gratitude for my discovery of  this egregious mistake.  (I failed to mention that he always gave us two new vocabulary words every day.  That has come in handy over the years.)  I returned to my desk feeling somewhat good about myself and we all went about our work.

The good feelings didn’t last long.  I may have become more enlightened by Mr. Townsend’s approach to English but, apparently, he hadn’t lifted me out of my attraction to pedestrian literature.  One of my book reports was on Gidget Goes Hawaiian, and you can imagine the terrible razzing I got from him on that one.  War and Peace it ain’t.  My face flushed with humiliation, I vowed to get my revenge somehow. 

Finally, the opportunity presented itself.

Mr. Townsend was demonstrating how to diagram a sentence at the board, which required a lot of spins and turns and flourishes on his part as he tried to drum the information into our skulls. 

I don’t remember what I said that displeased him, but he was giving me a hard time for not recognizing something that he thought should be as obvious as balls on a tall dog. 

That is when I did it.

Still seated at my desk, I calmly turned over the large hand-printed card that I had been keeping face down on my binder for just such an occasion. 

I flashed it at him like a judge in an Olympic competition. 

Mr. Townsend immediately crumpled against the blackboard in paroxysms of laughter.  Still laughing, he raised his chalk into the air and said, Touché!”

The word on the flashcard?

“FOWL”

3

The Case for a Little Benign Neglect

By today’s standards for parenting, my entire generation shouldn’t have made it to adulthood.

lg_27helicoptersThe other day my daughter attended a “meet and greet” with the teachers at the private school my grand-kids attend.  She figured it would be the usual get-together where the teacher expounds upon the lesson plan for the year, the parent listens while politely munching on a cookie provided by the room mother, and then the teacher fields a few questions on mundane topics such as “can little Herkimer wear his orthodontic headgear in class.”

Instead, my daughter was taken aback by the grilling some of the mothers gave my grandson’s second grade teacher, Miss F., a young single gal with a bookish demeanor but, apparently, nerves of steel. 

The intensity and depth of the questioning were quite surprising. 

Sarah Palin was given more leeway by Katie Couric than the young Miss F. received from her inquisitors.

The climax of the interrogation arrived when one of the mothers said she wanted to personally deliver a Subway sandwich to her daughter every day for snack time.  (I will interject here that the kids in kindergarten through second grade get out of school at 12:15, so there is no actual lunch period.) 

Our Miss F. maintained her cool while informing the mother that this was not an option.  She explained if the children want a snack, they must bring it with them from home.  Anything out of the norm would be disruptive to the class and interfere with the egalitarian atmosphere that the school was trying to project.

The mother wasn’t listening.  She pressed on by asking if she could just “hang it on the classroom doorknob” so as not to disturb anyone.  Miss F. wasn’t buying this either, but apparently it took some discussion before the case was closed.

When my daughter related this conversation to me, I raised my hands to shoulder level and made little fluttering motions with my fingers. 

“What is that?” she asked.

“Helicopter parents” I said, to clarify that I wasn’t having a stroke or something. 

She hadn’t heard that before, so I went on to explain the concept of parents who continuously hover over their kids, anticipating their every need.  These are parents who have completely invested themselves in their children, possibly setting up their kids for a rude awakening at some point when they discover the universe is not centered around them.

In the days since hearing of Miss F.’s inquisition, I’ve been reflecting upon my own upbringing.  Certainly my mother worried about things like me putting my eye out if I ran with scissors, but there wasn’t a lot of concern about many of the things that are taken for granted with child raising today. 

We rode bikes everyday and didn’t wear protective helmets.  We wandered around the neighborhood and beyond all day and into the dusk, only returning home after hearing my father’s loud whistle from the front yard. 

My mother used to put big gobs of Vicks Vapor Rub up our noses when we had colds.  If you actually read the directions, it emphatically says not to use it anywhere internally, only on the chest.  I should be dead right now.  But, if my mother had her way, she would have found a way to cure cancer with Vicks, she loved it so much.

My parents had a baby-blue Oldsmobile.  There were no seatbelts and the dashboard was solid metal.  We kids used to rattle around in the backseat and very often I would ride in what we called “the way back”, that spot that was sort of a ledge behind the backseat and below the rear window.  If there had been a quick deceleration, I would have been a projectile object.  No one gave it any thought.

I practiced a form of benign neglect with my own kids.  Yes, they wore seat belts, always.  (By that time we did have them, thankfully.)  But when it came to overseeing every little detail of their day, that I didn’t do. 

Maybe this attitude of “live and let live” was a result of my mother always wanting to know what I was thinking.  It wasn’t out of concern for my well-being.  She just wanted to know what was going on in my little head at all times.  So perhaps allowing my kids to have some independence from the Thought Police resulted in my being more of a laissez-faire parent overall.

Yes, things have changed in this country since the 50′s and 60′s and not in good ways.  There are a lot more threats out there to children than there used to be.  But kids need room to grow into individuals and they can’t do it with Mom and Dad always fluttering overhead. 

Be like my mother.  Send the kid to school with a warm tuna sandwich. 

Now, that’s living dangerously.

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