No nice girls need apply

imageMy daughter is a nice girl in the old-fashioned sense — she’s moral and values herself. Her friends are the same — nice, old-fashioned girls.

My daughter has large numbers of friend who are boys. The really like her — but they won’t date her.

High school is peculiarly like regency England. The young men socialize with the nice girls, but date/sleep with the “bad” girls.

The “bad” girls aren’t really aren’t “bad” at all, of course. In this day and age, the girls aren’t making a moral calculation; they’re making a social and economic decision. Ace expanded on this point after reading about the economics of sex:

There are several storylines, two of which are particularly interesting. The one that’s relevant here is 12-year-old Winnifred’s story. She’s very precocious, and “gets it” on an adult level. She notes, for example, that FaceBook and other social media pictures of girls must always at least include the suggestion of being open for sex — of being “DTF,” as she says. (Down to F***.)

She says (or implies) that she’s rather trapped by the current market forces, in which boys just won’t take an interest in girls who don’t broadcast that sexual availability.

Remember, she’s 12.

The reason students need to take more English classes, rather than math and science classes, in order to graduate

Rear view of class raising handsWe had an interesting conversation at our dinner table last night. My son said that, now that he’s at high school, he enjoys his science class most.  He finds the other classes boring and, to his mind, pointless. Having watched a documentary recording what goes on in UC Berkeley’s liberal arts classrooms (a combination of Leftism and navel-gazing stupidity), even Mr. Bookworm conceded that my son was on to something and that going to college today for a liberal arts degree is probably a waste of money.

My son then asked a very thoughtful question: “If all these English classes don’t teach you anything useful, and science and math classes are useful, why is that our high school graduation requirement is for only two years of science but for four years of English?”

Because I didn’t want to start a fight in the house, I told my son that his was a good question, but didn’t offer an answer.  If I had offered an answer, I would have said that it’s because liberal arts classes are the vehicles for Leftist indoctrination.  Math, with its nasty little absolutes (e.g., 1+1 always equals 2), is not a welcoming environment for propaganda.  And if too many kids start studying science seriously, a substantial percentage of them might begin to understand that global warming, with its unfalsifiable closed universe, is a hoax.  English classes, however, are the perfect vehicle for teaching kids all the usual Leftist tropes:  class warfare; white imperialism, racism, and brutality; misogynistic male chauvinism, hostility to capitalism, and extreme gay sex.

Leftism and STEM cannot exist in the same universe, because true logical thinking must invariably reject hard-core Leftism.  The answer, therefore, is to trumpet a commitment to STEM classes, all the while making sure that Leftist literature and literary analysis remains the largest constant in any American child’s education.

Mitch Pearlstein, a former presidential speechwriter was therefore onto something when he took objection to Obama’s remarks about education (emphasis mine):

Then there is the matter of industrial innovation. The United States will continue innovating with the best of them, but we might not remain the very best of them as long as American students continue trailing large swaths of the world in math and science. A nation’s capacity for innovation is tied directly to the math and science knowledge of its workers, meaning the best such equipped workers increasingly are showing up in other countries. The president said pleasing things about high-school graduation rates. It would have been ultimately helpful, if painful, if he also had pointed to the fact that our students are losing ground vis à vis their foreign competitors. (Then, again, do I really want the federal government even more deeply involved in public schools? Forget the whole thing.)

Obama talks the talk, but he has no intention — ever — of walking the walk when it comes to actually elevating STEM subjects to the most important part of any high school curriculum.  Note, please, that I say “most important part,” not the “only part.”  I am not advocating doing away with liberal arts, although if I had my way, the kids would get intensive training in actual writing skills, and they would read Western classics that speak about big issues common to all people, rather than books aimed at undermining the enlightened Judeo-Christian western thinking.

Maybe there’s still hope as Obamacare’s burden on the young leads the young to push back

One of my children told me an interesting story about something that happened at her high school yesterday.  Because of questions from the students, a teacher gave a brief explanation of Obamacare, which included the information that it would insure everybody and that young people would be forced to buy insurance or pay a penalty.

When the teacher was finished, one of the students raised his hand.  This wasn’t just any student.  It was a top athlete who was in the running for Prom King.  He’s an admired leader in the school pecking order.

The student asked, “Does this mean that I have to buy insurance so that some illegal immigrant can get it for free?”

“Pretty much,” replied the teacher.

A few more questions like that in a few more schools across the nation, and young people might finally figure out that they’re being used and abused.

Grumble, grumble, grumble, English teachers, Grumble

Ever since my kids hit public school, I go through this every single Fall — “this” being the discovery that their English teachers are often border-line illiterate.  I know that there are wonderful, literate English teachers out there (Mike McDaniel springs instantly to mind), but my children haven’t been lucky enough to get one.  Without exception, the materials that the teachers send home are rife with grammatical errors.  I admit I’m a bit more punctilious than most when it comes to things such as split infinitives, but these are people — no, not people, but English teachers for Gawd’s sake — who can’t even figure out subject/verb or subject/pronoun agreement.

(I realize that there are invariably mistakes in my blog posts but, without exception, these mistakes are typos because I tend to slam these things out while in the midst of several other tasks.  The teachers, on the other hand, recycle these hand-outs year after year, so one would think that they’d eventually get them right.)

I just printed an assignment sheet for my high school freshman and it made me extraordinarily grumpy.  For starters, it’s poorly formatted, which bugs the word processor in me.  That’s just cosmetic, though.  I can even forgive the fact that the teacher pompously refers to himself in the third person.  Bookworm understands how that goes.  But the kicker is that it’s unintelligible.  The document has no organizing principle, it’s dotted with sentence fragments, and it’s impossible to understand what point the teacher is making.  It’s also impossible to understand what he’s asking from the students.

My children know I’m always willing to help them with English and history.  What I will not do for them, though, is decipher an accredited teacher’s marginally-literate maundering.

(Incidentally, this goes a long way to explaining the problem — English teachers are more interested in smut than in the English language.)

Could it be that my child will learn something in AP English?

My older child is taking AP English this fall, and has to do some reading and write some essays even before school starts.  I was intrigued by two of the essays:

Francine Prose’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Cannot Read : How American high school students learn to loath literature (Harper’s Magazine, 1999) and Richard Rodriquez’s Aria : A memoir of a bilingual childhood (American Scholar, 2001).  What’s amazing about both of these essays is that they go against the dominant narrative controlling high school English classes all over the nation.

Regarding Prose’s essay, I’m too lazy to search for links right now, but I know that I’ve railed repeatedly against high school English classes that have nothing to do with the English language (grammar, composition, artistry, and elegance), and everything to do with advancing a Leftist social agenda, complete with victimization, racism, white evil, and the elevation of emotions over rationality and morality.  Back in 1999, which doesn’t seem that long ago, someone could still write an essay that would be published in a major magazine making exactly those points.  Prose doesn’t phrase it in terms of the Marxist takeover of education, but that’s the underlying subtext to her complaint about the — you should pardon the expression — crap that high school students have to read, none of which advances the cause of the English language.

Oh, and while we’re talking about English language bastardization, please read Dennis Prager’s latest, in which he comments on a decision Leftist publications have made to act unilaterally to rename the Washington Redskins.  For purposes of this post, here’s the killer quotation, made as part of Prager’s slashing analysis of Slate’s self-righteous stance:

Slate Argument Three: “Changing how you talk changes how you think. . . . Replacing ‘same-sex marriage’ with ‘marriage equality’ helped make gay marriage a universal cause rather than a special pleading.”

Response: It’s nice to have at least one left-wing source acknowledge how the Left changes language to promote its causes. When more and more people began to suspect that global warming was not about to bring an apocalypse, and that, at the very least, it is in a pause mode, the Left changed the term to “climate change.”

The substitution of “marriage equality” for “same-sex marriage” is just one more example of dishonest manipulation of English.

The Orwellian manipulation of language by the Left would be reason enough to oppose dropping “Redskins,” a name representing a nearly 80-year-old tradition venerated by millions.

As for Richard Rodriquez’s article, he says what my father always said:  “bilingual education,” which really means teaching an immigrant child in his native tongue without ever exposing him to the English language, is a mistake.  At least, it’s a mistake for the child.  For the Leftists (this is me talking, not Rodriquez), it’s a great thing, because it creates a perpetual (Democrat-voting) ghetto class made up of people who do not speak sufficient English to break into the great middle class.

These articles are old, and I doubt that many more like them are being written.  I’m delighted, however, that at least one high school teacher is keeping them alive.

I should note that neither of these articles has anything to do with the English language either.  That is, this class has nothing to do with learning how to venerate and recreate the best kind of writing.  But at least it’s not PC crap.

Make new friends but keep the old . . . ’cause you’re never sure who you’ll like more when you grow up

I adore Facebook.  In the “real me” Facebook world, I have about 200 friends, reflecting all different phases of my life, from junior high school on up.  I enjoy watching their lives unfold.  I go on their travels with them, see their kids grow up (some of whom friend me themselves), see their homes through their eyes, and get insight into their values and political beliefs.  It’s like reading a great novel.  Sometimes, I learn useful things from them, or they learn useful things from me.

If I have important information to share, Facebook is the way to do it and they do the same.  For example, for my most recent high school reunion (which took place a few years ago), the reunion committee didn’t even bother with paper invitations.  Instead, they did the whole thing on Facebook.

It was at this reunion that I was struck by something interesting — those high school classmates who I find most interesting and to whom I feel most close now were not my friends in high school.  Some were just nodding acquaintances.  The flip side is that the people with whom I spent the most time in high school aren’t people I would want anything to do with now.  I enjoy following them on Facebook, but I do not consider them friends.

Much of this has to do with politics:  my close friends from high school have all become hard-core progressives; my distant acquaintances from high school, the ones I value as Facebook friends, are all conservatives or libertarians.  This doesn’t mark much of a shift from high school.  The hard-core progressives were Democrats; the conservatives and libertarians were Republicans or libertarians.  In other words, my high school classmates haven’t changed much, but I certainly have.  My values have shifted profoundly.

All of which makes me wonder if I would have been less of a social outcast in high school if I’d figured out earlier that I am, by nature, conservative.  My Democrat ideology was merely a shell, imposed from the outside by circumstances.

My thoughts are running along these lines today because I spent a lovely afternoon with my first best friend, whom I met when we both were 3.  We drifted apart by the time we were 10, so much so that we had no contact whatsoever by high school.  We weren’t hostile to each other.  We functioned in entirely separate universes.  Because our parents remained friendly, we’ve never entirely lost touch, but 2013 marks the first year we’ve been in contact since 1994.

She is an absolute delight (showing that I had good taste when I was 3).  More than that, I discovered that she’s very good friends with one of those high school acquaintances whose friendship I’ve grown to value on Facebook.  This guy and I haven’t spoken to each other face to face since 1979, but I hope one day to meet him — and I’m somehow not surprised to learn that those two friends of my dotage are themselves friends.

Those chortling over the Santorum yearbook photo should remember that both time and photos can be cruel

Yesterday, my sister emailed me a “cheer up” email that’s making the rounds.  It’s intended for women, who tend to feel more strongly than men do that the mirror is their enemy.  The tag line is “It isn’t just us who suffer changes over the years!”  The rest of the email is photos of former male sex symbols in their prime and now.  Here, see for yourself:

Val Kilmer

Mickey Rourke

Russel Crowe

Brendan Fraser

Alec Baldwin

Pierce Brosnan

Richard Gere

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Roger Moore

Clint Eastwood

Rod Stewart

I wasn’t amused by these photos nor did I have a pleasant frisson of schadenfreude.  Instead, I was saddened.  Age is cruel.  Maybe I’m more aware of that right now than I would have been otherwise because of my mother’s health issues.  A certain part of my memory has her locked into place as a fresh, vital, energetic, extremely pretty woman, about the age I am now.  But the lady I’m dealing with today is so very, very different:  she’s fragile, shrunken, wrinkled, sad, and tired.  She’s still my mother, and I love her, but she also feels like a stranger to me.

Famous people, the ones who had their gorgeous youth played out in the spotlight, have an exceptionally sad fate when they age:  We laugh at them.  People delight in the fact that the same people who used to make them feel inferior are now suffering the same fate as everyone else.  Unless you want to take the punk rocker advice of “die young, stay pretty,” age will lay its hands upon you.

The Santorum yearbook photo demonstrates that aging is a process that places its benefits and burdens on different people at different times.  For those who didn’t peak young, age can be a blessing.  Rick Santorum is a very nice looking man.  He doesn’t make my heart beat faster (that privilege is reserved for Keanu) but I do think that, for a guy in the middle of middle age, he’s got nothing to be embarrassed about.

For the MSM, Santorum’s ordinary good guy looks are a problem.  Fortunately, help is on the way in the form of a yearbook picture that isn’t very flattering, unless you’re a fan of Napoleon Dynamite:

Rick Santorum high school picture

Rick’s features are good, but the disco design shirt, the wide lapels, the huge square glasses, and the bowl haircut (complete with sideburns) are, well, in a word “dorky.”  At The Atlantic, you can feel the thrill of excitement:

A quick office straw poll here at The Atlantic, conducted amidst uproarious laughter, confirms that this is, in fact, the single worst year book photo that most of us have ever seen. An outright disaster. I suppose it’s Santorum’s misfortune to have been in high school during this era. I’m pretty sure that 1976 wasn’t too kind to anyone. But still. Wow–he looks like McLovin in polyester. I have yet to meet the political consultant talented enough to spin this one. My condolences to Santorum. Brave of him to have struggled through this and made something of this life.

The Atlantic includes yearbook pictures of the other Republican candidates at the same link.  Mitt was good-looking then, and he’s good-looking now, but everyone else has changed.  They all look young, they all look very much like products of their own time period, and in all of them, in the smile, the eyes, and the bone-structure, you can see the adults they would become.  Some have improved, some have just aged.  Again, rather than feeling smug when I look at them, I’m simply awed by Time’s power.

The Anchoress, naturally, makes a very good point about these photos.  For most of us, high school was not our peak time:

Let’s face it, yearbook photos suck. They just do. They’re a snapshot of a moment, and usually not a great moment. I think everyone tries to do the best they can.

In the interests of fairness, The Anchoress includes at her post high school (and college) pictures of the past Democrat candidates.  Obama looks like an extra in Kentucky Fried Movie; John Kerry looks as if he was auditioning for the part of Lurch in the Addams Family, except that he overacted and lost the part; and Al Gore looks pompous (so I guess some things never change).  Mostly, they look young, and they look like their peers.  That’s life — and to savage a candidate or even a movie star, because he looked bad then or looks bad now is, as The Anchoress says, “high schoolish.”

As for me, unlike The Anchoress, I will not include a photo of myself here (and hers is much prettier than she would give you to believe).   Aside from my commitment to my anonymity, I am notorious for shying away from cameras.  I don’t take pictures, I don’t like having my picture taken, and, when pictures of me exist, I don’t spread them around.


High School Daze

My daughter started high school at our local public high.  It’s a great high school.  It’s got a beautiful facility, high quality staff, all the bells and whistles you can think of, an involved parent body, and a whole lot of very nice kids.  I always knew all that, but I had that information reinforced when I attended my first PTA meeting.

I learned something else at the local PTA meeting:  drug and alcohol use are “rampant” (their word, not mine) at this high school.  By the time the kids are juniors and seniors, there’s a “culture” of abuse.  It’s part of “the fabric” of the students’ social lives.

Part of the problem is the curse of affluence.  The kids have the wherewithal to buy high quality fake IDs and the money to spend on drugs and alcohol.  The other part of the problem is something that never occurred to me — parents.  As I confirmed with some internet searching later, there’s a trend amongst parents to host pot and alcohol parties for their children.  The theory behind these illegal parties is these parents’ belief that, if the drug and alcohol use is done under their aegis, they can keep it “safe” and “responsible.”

Plain common sense tells how wrong this attitude is.  I confirmed my common sense by speaking with my daughter when she came home from school.  I told her precisely what I’d learned, and warned about parties where parents offer alcohol.  She said, “If we hadn’t talked about this, and some parent offered me a glass of wine, I would have thought it was okay and taken it.”  It’s that simple.  If authority figures say something is okay, then it must be.

Amazingly, Disney (Disney!) handles this issue of parental approval surprisingly well in 17 Again.  The plot device is that a man is suddenly transformed into a 17 year old (played by Zac Efron), and finds himself in school with his own children, a boy who is being bullied, and a girl who is dating the bully.  This scene is about condoms (and ignore the execrable Margaret Cho as the sex ed teacher), with Efron’s character watching in horror as a basket of condoms is handed to his own daughter:

Although the movie doesn’t come out and say so, I do believe that someone at the Disney studio disapproved of a high school teacher saying, “To hell with abstinence.  You guys can just have condoms because we’re too weak to stop you from hurting and demeaning yourselves.”

But back to the drug issue.  I also learned that, if my kids throw a wholesome party (a few vetted and trusted friends) and that party is crashed by drug/alcohol users, if those gatecrashers get into trouble after leaving my property, I’m still liable.  (As a lawyer, I knew this; as a mother, I had refused to recognize it.)  The way to short circuit liability is to call the police.  The police representative at the school said kids should know this too, as these events often happen to hapless kids when their parents are away for an evening.  The host kid should feel no compunction about placing a non-emergency call to the police, especially since our local police are extremely nice people.

I thought this was good advice, but I added my own warning to the kids:  If any kid ever uses drugs or alcohol on my property, in the house or in the yard, I will rip that child’s head off and celebrate as I watch the blood splatter on the ceiling.  The kids laughed, but I think they got the message.