February 22, 2011

February 22nd, 2011

Dear Sofia,

Wisconsin is a big ol' protesting, fake-sick-note-writing, hiding-out-in-Illinois mess.

Our governor, Scott Walker, wants to curb negotiations with the teachers' union. A union, baby, is a big group of people who use their power and influence to scare people into joining their ranks so that they can demand benefits be paid for them by someone else. What this means is they get their health care, pensions (money you get after you've worked a long time) and other benefits at virtually no cost - while most working people have to pay for theirs out of pocket (or, pay part while their employer pays the other part).

So, lots of public school teachers (motivated by self-interest) and ignorant University of Wisconsin students (whose class absence is ok'd by profs who are urging them to protest) are skipping school to hang out at the capital, scream in the faces of elected officials, carry signs with obscenities which compare Gov. Walker to Hitler and generally cause a nuisance to anyone trying to work downtown. Their signs also intimate that people who want to refuse Unions their bargaining rights for huge compensations are "anti-family." Protesters have also been roaming the halls of the capital building, smashing windows. Oh, and several UW-affiliated doctors were on site to hand out fake sick notes to anyone needing one (a teacher is required to have a valid reason for taking a sick day, which is the excuse most of them are using for their absence).

You would think the University Police, standing watch over the protest, would intervene and prevent these crimes. But.. they haven't. Could it be because the UW has a huge union, too, which includes teachers and police staff?

You would also think the elected officials in Wisconsin would decry this kind of behavior. Yes, it's ok to protest, but not when it's violent, damages public property and is a violation of one's workplace rules. But what are Wisconsin Senators doing to squelch the mob? They've taken to the hills, because they want to prevent Gov. Walker's vote from taking place. Yup, instead of attending their jobs (which they were elected to!) they've fled to Illinois and refused to come back, effectively stalling the vote because their numbers are needed to take it.

Thankfully, these behaviors have been noticed by many, and will receive punishments of varying degree. Outraged members of the medical community have demanded that the sick note-writing doctors be levied with a charge of gross misconduct, and the teachers who accepted them will be docked pay for the days they faked. Idiot UW students will not, of course, be punished (unless you consider a mid-life realization of just how moronic you acted to be a punishment; pending that self-awareness they'll continue to think their actions are righteous). And the missing Senators? So far they will need to pick up their docked paychecks (for every day they're M.I.A.) in person. Nor are they allowed to vote over the phone anymore:

"The Senate Committee on Transportation and Elections made significant changes to the photo ID bill in a meeting that was at tunes bizarre because of the Democrats’ absence. Sen. Jon Erpenbach (D-Middleton) participated in the meeting by phone, but Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin), the committee chairwoman, refused to let him vote.

Senators routinely participate in committee meetings by phone and are allowed to debate, offer amendments and vote on measures. But Lazich said she wasn’t allowing Erpenbach to vote because he had an invalid reason for being absent.

“I won’t extend courtesies for unethical behavior,” Lazich told Erpenbach.

Do you want the headline to be, ‘Republicans won’t let Democrats vote,’ even though we’ve allowed that many, many times?” Erpenbach said.

This coming from someone whose fellow democrats are doing exactly that by hiding in Illinois!

Sofia, your dad and I both believe in the right to protest. But when it is an argument against entitlements, it is not justified because no one is entitled to anything beyond the basics laid out in the Constitution (which is commonly misinterpreted to mean "you are entitled to be happy and well-insured").

And the teachers union cry of "It's all for the kids!" couldn't be further from the truth. Madison public schools had to close for two days because of the teacher shortage. How did the kids benefit from that? Even in the long term the union has a hard time justifying their claim; teachers make far above a living wage and have plenty of opportunity for affordable health care in Madison.

They probably make more than the single parents who had to miss work because their kids' schools were closed. Lastly, if teachers are doing this for kids they should be expecting kids to be watching and taking notes. So, is a sign like this really appropriate? Sadly, it's not the worst I've seen. Hopefully the kids ARE taking notes... of just who seems like they're going off the deep end...

A pathetic display...but not unexpected. Teachers should be ashamed.

February 14, 2011

February 14th, 2011

Dear Sofia,

Unfortunately I admit it: I do not like valentine's day. It always puts me in a bad mood. Why? Well, I'm not sure. Part of it is probably due to never having any memorable time on the day, yet being expected to honor it like it's been so good to me. I don't like the expectation it brings, either, like we HAVE to do something just because it's today! I guess it boils down to my not liking fake holidays.

BUT! [And it's a bit but.] I had SOOOO much fun making digital valentines with you yesterday! They turned out so cute that I wanted to post them here, too. Family and friends only got one of three, so I figured they'd like to see the other ones, too.

So... even though I am not a fan of today as such, I wanted to say thank you for doing these with me. It made my day (Dad's too)!

February 11, 2011

February 11th, 2011

Dear Sofia,

I don't think I could say it any better: "Multiculturalism a failure says... Europe."

Here is the story from HotAir.com:

"Yesterday French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the following about multiculturalism during a television interview:

'My answer is clearly yes, it is a failure,' he said in a television interview when asked about the policy which advocates that host societies welcome and foster distinct cultural and religious immigrant groups. 'Of course we must all respect differences, but we do not want… a society where communities coexist side by side.

If you come to France, you accept to melt into a single community, which is the national community, and if you do not want to accept that, you cannot be welcome in France,' the right-wing president said. ' The French national community cannot accept a change in its lifestyle, equality between men and women… freedom for little girls to go to school,' he said.

'We have been too concerned about the identity of the person who was arriving and not enough about the identity of the country that was receiving him,' Sarkozy said in the TFI channel show.

You might be thinking this was a gaffe, but it turns out it’s actually part of a trend. It began last October when German Chancellor Angela Merkel made much the same point:

'This approach has failed, totally,' she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany’s culture and values. 'We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don’t accept them don’t have a place here,' said the chancellor.

This was bolstered by British Prime Minister David Cameron who just a few days ago said: 'Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism, we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and apart from the mainstream. We’ve failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong. We’ve even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run completely counter to our values.'

Some on the right have suggested that Cameron’s statements were weak. I disagree. Can you imagine any major political figure in the United States saying this?
'...when a white person holds objectionable views, racist views for instance, we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices come from someone who isn’t white, we’ve been too cautious frankly – frankly, even fearful – to stand up to them. '

With the leaders of Europe publicly and forcefully abandoning multiculturalism, isn’t it time for America to make the same move?


Baby girl, we love us some multiculturalism. Love the food, love the music, love the accents. But, this country is one which has a national identity that everyone should adopt when they emigrate here. It's the beauty of our nation that, no matter who you were in another place, you can come here and integrate yourself seamlessly. That is, if you are willing to learn our language (English), our system (capitalism) and the religion of our heritage (Christianity).

Is that a controversial statement? It shouldn't be! Why is it wrong to assert that those moving into a country adopt the customs of the land? They are expected to adopt the law, and are punished if they don't. A long time ago there was a teenager from the U.S. who suffered a punishment of caning when he violated laws in (I think) Singapore. And, if you are arrested in many foreign countries you can be held for an indeterminate amount of time if they feel you've violated a law.

If the tables were turned - if we were talking about Americans moving into foreign countries - the most lefty leftist would be highly offended by someone suggesting they should feel free to continue speaking English, demand that others learn English in order to service them, use the influence of fear to change laws in their favor and live in segregated communities away from native speakers.

But that's exactly what Muslim immigrants to France, Germany, the U.K. and the United States have demanded. It's even getting to the point where public schools are forcing Muslim curriculum into elementary education! Imagine if Americans made these demands in other countries, and how angry liberals would be!

It might be wrong to force someone to adopt your culture in a country other than your native one. But when you are a citizen, by birth or by adoption/legal immigration, of a nation you have every right to defend threats against your collective culture. Every other nation does this; why is it only wrong when the U.S. does?

Sofia, honey, you can bet you'll be raised to appreciate other cultures. But we'll do our best to instill in you a national pride, too!

original article can be found by clicking here

February 10, 2011

February 10th, 2011

Dear Sofia,

In the dead middle of winter it's best to think of things that are fresh.

At the top of the list is... YOU! You're learning more every day and keeping us on our toes. You just learned to roll over (well, 99%) and now I have you sleeping in the pack and play instead of the bed. And we borrowed a bumbo chair so you can sit up by yourself! You've also developed a habit of waking at 5:30 a.m. to chat. I'd say it's to chat with me except you don't seem too concerned if I answer. You've got the floor, girlfriend, just start the dialogue a little later in the morning, please!

Something else that's fresh in the world is the people in our government. This past fall, I wrapped you up and packed you into the carrier, walked over to the community center and cast my vote for an all-republican ticket. Turns out a lot of other people did, too, and now we have fresh new leadership in Congress. The best thing they've done so far is make themselves accountable to those who elected them. They're not just towing the party line which is exactly why we put them in office. Here's a little story on that topic.

Is it ok if I admit to being more excited about planning our garden than politics? Your auntie Angela is doing a series of post on her blog about planning your own French potager (you can go to the posts by clicking here). My Martha Stewart Living magazine has a gorgeous photo of fresh veggies you can grow yourself on the front cover, as well as a detailed guide to starting your own backyard garden.

Urban gardening is on the rise! Madison is totally a garden-friendly city; we have our own huge community garden here in the university housing area. And, our neighbor Chae-Heung said I can plant in her plot this year! I am so excited to do this. I haven't had a "real" garden since Kalamazoo, which was a nice space but terribly silty soil and not much light. I loved the space and my perennial hostas and such, but I was loving growing green beans and wished I could do more! In hindsight, raised beds would've done wonders; I did have one lengthy window pot of salad greens which did well.. when the bugs weren't eating it!

I've finally realized that I have to plan some things. The garden is one of them. But, with a pre-destined amount of space (the plots are 25 by 25) and knowledge of the gardens in place (after walking around and around them for two summers), I think I'm off to a good start. Now, I've got to plan it out and get the seed starters!

You will be old enough to sit up by summer harvesting time, and I will let you play in the dirt. And, my hungry little caterpillar, you will be able to taste the fruits of the labor! I can't wait...

February 3, 2011

February 3rd, 2011

Dear Sofia,

I confess, your dad and I are not very inclined to send you to college. Now, don't get mad; just because we don't love the idea doesn't mean you're not allowed! But a lot of things would have to fall into place for us to say 'yes' to that desire.

For one, we would have to think it was worth it financially. Blame it on your mom's practical side, but this is a big detractor to me about so-called higher education. Call me crazy, but I don't want you to be paying off student loan debt for fifteen years after college, therefore detracting from the wages you're earning!

Two, it would have to be worth it personally/spiritually. Your dad will talk to you more about that one, about all the dangers both on the surface of academia and imbedded deep within the curriculum. In fact, you will not even need to ask him!

Full disclosure to adult readers: I come from a family steeped in education, both as teachers and students. They hold "education," meaning, the kind you get sitting in an accedited liberal arts locale, in very high esteem. There are positives and negatives to this mindset. On the good side, it meant my parents planned for the possibility of my going to college and set aside money for it. That was an amazing thing they did and I am grateful for the opportunity it provided, especially when I think of all the brilliant people I've known who would've loved to go - and would have excelled - who didn't have the money to do it.

On the negative side, their interest in having me go to college created the expectation that I had to go, whether I wanted to or not. As it turned out, when senior year rolled around I was neither interested in any field in particular, nor interested in paying for something so extravegant just because I could. Yet, I wanted to please my parents, and get away from them at the same time... two pretty lame reasons to go to college.

I don't want to disparage my parents or come across as conceited because I'm retroactively rejecting a major gift. But I've concluded that college wasn't worth the time for me. I was encouraged to do things that I liked to do, which meant I was going to gravitate toward what I had natural inclinations for. So, I ended up a double major in studio art - because I am somewhat good at it and just plan enjoy looking at/talking about it - and philosophy - because it provided some direction to the drifter I was.

This is all fine and good, doing things you "like," unless of course you want to make money doing them. It will come as no surprise that both of these fields are completely saturated and, thus, highly competitive. You can't just be a figure drawing artist, you've got to be drawing like Michaelangelo himself is crawling out of your conte crayon. And philosophy? Forget about it as a career, unless of course you're willing to get the masters degree and be brilliant in a PhD program after that. We'll talk about the pitfalls of graduate school much later...

Since I went into the education experiment without any discipline, I stayed in that same mindset. So, I couldn't get any better; all I could do was rely on natural ability. To this day, I don't know what "working hard" means or how to "study" something unless I can do it with my hands. This is why art appealed to me; I could physically see where I was going wrong and what I wanted to change. Alas, I don't have the creative mind needed for being a professional artist. As far as philosophy went, I could only understand what I could understand! I never figured out how to teach myself what I didn't know, which is crucial.

Since college I have had several jobs, some of which I turned out to be pretty good at, but virtually none of them employed anything I learned in school. The job I hold now only required I had a degree to apply, though most of my colleagues didn't go to either a two- or four-year institution at all. So, I could've probably gotten my foot in the door with my boss and then convinced him to give me a job, even if I hadn't gone to university.

Are there other reasons one should attend college besides job training? Some people will say yes, that one can get outside-the-classroom benefits like "becoming who you are" or being "exposed to diversity of people." Both of those arguments are easily rejected. For a Christian, self identity is truly found with Christ. Neither going to college nor abstaining from it will change that. [Allelujah!] The other pc statement is rebuked just by walking out my front door; we're exposed to diversity just by living in the world. No place is completely homogenous, and manufacturing one's exposure to preordained "diversity" isn't necessarily beneficial. (It's one of the reasons why trying to make a workplace diverse fails; it's artificial, everyone knows it, and certain people are subsequently looked at as tokens.)

Lastly, it creates a huge amount of debt. I had scholarships, fellowship money and a tuition stipend (thanks to my dad being employed at a sister school) but still ended up with thousands in debt. I've probably only earned $5/hour at every job since college after you subtract from my wages my student loan debt with interest. That means every dollar I earn today is reduced. The point after school is over is to earn, not pay.

Why go then? It's expensive, does not provide actual job training (for most disciplines), takes up time in one's life when real money is out there to be made, and provides little other benefit...

*What do you [adult readers] think? Did you go to school and found it a waste of time and money? Or did you always wish you could go? How has your "education" helped inform what you "do" for a living now? Eager to hear your thoughts!


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