Friends and Politics

I keep seeing posts from both sides regarding reactions to this election, and I feel I need to make one distinction very clear, from my perspective. What I want to discuss is the difference between civility and friendship, as well as the difference between agreement and respect.

This discussion supersedes personal political beliefs. You may not have liked Clinton’s politics, and you may have been turned off by the scandals the media perpetrated. Fine. I’m not here to debate that, because it no longer matters.  I’m not judging you for your stance on pro-life vs pro-choice. I’m not judging you based on your deeply held religious beliefs. I likely do not share them, but I can respect that you have them.  I’m not judging your stance on immigration, welfare, healthcare, or any of the hot-button issues that make up a political debate. I don’t want my children to grow up in a world where you have to choose your friends based on what party line they subscribe to – although, believe me, between our President-elect and his Vice President, I’m terrified. But this is different. Presidential candidates of past elections have had many different platforms and stances on issues, and we voted based on which side of the fence we fell on such issues. The debates could be heated, but in general we all could move past it. For example, despite what many may think, I did not vote for Obama in either election. Shocking, I know. However, though I did not vote for him, I greatly respect him as a president and leader of our nation and hold zero ill will for those who supported him during the 2008 and 2012 elections. Some of his policies aren’t to my liking, but overall he has had a very successful presidency.

 

“For the first time in anyone’s living memory we have elected a candidate who actively, publicly, and unashamedly stands for hate.”

 

The difference with this election isn’t the platforms, or which political party or candidate you identify with. There’s something greater than that. For the first time in anyone’s living memory we have elected a candidate who actively, publicly, and unashamedly stands for hate. For the first time, we have a candidate who promotes violence and discrimination over tolerance and respect.

Now, when one disagrees with another over a political issue or candidate, both parties are still entitled to the respect of others. That we can all agree on. We can also agree that in order to establish a friendship we have to have some kind of common ground. We have to believe that those we choose to share friendship with have a certain moral integrity, certain views on humanity, and certain views on basic decency. Friendships can develop around shared interests, work or social places, and even politics. But as I said, this is about more than political position. While I do not have to agree with your views, I do have to respect them. However, while I do have to be civil toward you, I do not have to be your friend.  If you have elected to vote for hate, I can assure you that we do not share the same beliefs regarding humanity and basic human decency, which is something I value in true friendships.

The silver lining for me is that Clinton won the popular vote, so on a mere technicality we can say the “majority” of the country did not vote for hate. However, if you were one of the many Americans that said yes to a leader who degrades women; thinks his wealth and television popularity are justifications for his atrocious behavior; publicly humiliates and condemns individuals in every class that is outside of healthy, white male; and is a documented hypocrite then I’m sorry, but I cannot be friends with you. What this means isn’t that I’m refusing to associate with those whose political beliefs differ from mine. I’m more mature than that, and as I’ve explained this isn’t about the politics of the situation.

 

“But this is about the difference between basic human decency and pure hate, and I cannot call someone a friend if they’ve chosen to be represented by the latter.”

 

As a human being with a sense of decency and professionalism, I intend to treat those I meet and have to interact with for one reason or another as I would anyone who shared my opinion on this matter. I do not discriminate based on your politics. But this is about the difference between basic human decency and pure hate, and I cannot call someone a friend if they’ve chosen to be represented by the latter. But I cannot support or respect your choice, and I cannot be your friend. If this means we must part ways, I wish you the best. But do not call me out as being narrow-minded because and pin my decision and my opinions on a difference in politics and a refusal to consider another side, because it’s not. If you want an embarrassing confession, I voted for McCain in 2008 – so I have considered your side. But as I’ve grown and learned, I’ve realized that that isn’t the direction I want the country to go. I’ve also realized that I don’t have to be friends with people who I believe do not share my views on common human decency. Actually, I’ve found it’s far less stressful if I don’t. I do have to treat you with respect when I interact with you outside of social media, and I will. But I do not have to be your friend.

I Want to Be Your Friend – Not Your Prospect

Momtrepreneur

Momtrepreneur

Scroll through your Facebook news feed and count how many multi-level marketing (MLM) posts there are. I personally see posts from about twelve different companies at the moment, and that isn’t counting the sales posts from the Buy/Sell/Trade groups I follow. Facebook, Instagram, and similar social media sites have become prime platforms for Friend-2-Friend (F2F – yeah, I know it’s “face-to-face,” but humor me) marketing strategy implementation. And why not? It’s easy to use, you already have an audience, and it’s free for the most part. Industries from real estate to home goods, financial firms to cosmetics, and craft retailers to dental offices use social media to market their businesses.

RachRiot – one of the awesome bloggers at ScaryMommy – wrote an on-point, albeit somewhat harsh, article about this topic recently. She received a lot of backlash from her post, from people who were offended by the way she called out those who subscribe to a MLM/pyramid scheme as a source of income.

Here’s the thing… I’m not going to unfriend you for advertising your MLM business on Facebook. I probably won’t even unsubscribe to your feed. I’m perfectly capable of ignoring the party requests and scanning over an occasional shared photo or meme for your product. I can even overlook the “private message” (in quotes, because as personal as you’re trying to make it seem, I know you’re sending the same message to half your friends list) sent to me from someone who hasn’t spoken to me personally in over a decade. So why write this post?

When you have to push your product that hard on your personal social media feeds, you’re doing something wrong. I’m sure that your company is telling you to do, but step away from the kool-aid for a second to think this over. You’re making a “business” by mining your friends list for prospects. Let’s be clear – I put the word “business” in quotes because as much as you want to call your self an entrepreneur, or momtrepreneur, presenter, consultant or whatever buzz-word or title you choose to use, what you really are is a contracted sales representative or account manager. This isn’t your business. This is their business – they created the product, manufacture it, design the marketing, and distribute it (to you or your customers, however your set-up works). Part of their marketing strategy? You, of course. Because they know that you already have an audience to talk to. All you’re doing is recruiting their next customer for them, and keeping in touch with the people who have purchased from you to see if they want to buy more, or to start selling on their own. You can go to the conferences and listen to the speeches and take in the empowering slogans that were written to make you feel inspired – to sell their product.

If you ever applied for a job and submitted a resume that included an MLM and you titled yourself a Momtrepreneur or Business Owner, or whatever the company who created the product you sell wants you to call yourself, I doubt you’d even make it to the pre-screening phone call. Why not? Your ‘work from home opportunity’ requires some of the same skills a W-2 job needs – marketing, public relations, customer service, and even accounting in some companies. The problem is that you’re deluding yourself when you think that by buying into an MLM you’re really “starting a business.” You’re not. You’re a sales rep for someone who actually was an entrepreneur – a person who organizes and operates a business, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so. Someone who had the vision to create this company you work with, who took on the financial risk to establish it, who develops products to keep you selling, and who determined that direct, F2F marketing would be the best way to sell the product. Employers know this and if, for whatever reason, in the future you get tired of being a contracted account manager with no benefits and decide to join the rest of corporate America, then I beg of you – don’t add this to a resume. Not unless you call it what it is. (I really could write a whole other post on this, because I’ve seen some resumes that have this type of position listed – and they’re serious about it – which makes me cringe. Maybe another time… )

In the mean time, while you continue to be a part of the advertising team for whatever company you’re contracted with, please remember that direct sales does not have to take over every aspect of your life – or your social media presence. Yes, ask any good marketer and they’ll tell you that repetition and consistency can create top-of-mind awareness and build your brand. But ask anyone who has ever had too much of a good thing and they’ll tell you that having your news feed filled with videos of clumpy mascara, pictures and memes of nail wraps, body wraps, magical weight-loss drinks, pills, and patches, bags, and jewelry gets really old, really fast. I’m sure you love your company’s product, and want everyone to share in the joy that is an MLM. But please, for the sake of our friendship – tone it down a little. Maybe, like, one post a day instead of 10? Can we do that?

I’m not saying any of this to be rude. Really, I’m not. I congratulate anyone who takes initiative to make money and support their family. And by all means – set up a page for your business, invite friends to ‘like’ it, and market your business. But please, please, please…stop posting about your ‘business’ five times a day. We love you, and we want to be your friend so we can see what’s going on in your life – not be subjected to a sales pitch at every post.

 

 

If You Think Politics are Fair, You Need an Education in Hiring

So 24 million people watched the GOP debates last night – and about half of those people, or so it seems, have been blowing up social media crying about how unfair the debate was. How their favorite candidate wasn’t asked as many questions as other candidates received. How all of the candidates weren’t asked the exact same questions. They should have balanced the questions better! It was all just so unfair!

Boo-freaking-hoo. Guess what? Life isn’t fair. Politics damn sure aren’t fair. And as far as the debates go, there’s a few things I want to point out. I’m not going to get into the actual politics discussed in the debate. I just can’t. Well, I could, and I’d love to, but I won’t. I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years – I lose a lot of friends around election time. Actually, it’s more like I lose a lot of respect for people I’ve considered friends in the past, and sometimes our opinions contrast so dramatically we just part ways. That hasn’t occurred this year, and I’d like to keep this post civil, so I’ll bite my tongue. Fingers? Whatever.

What I do want to discuss is the format of these debates. To break elections down to understandable terms, elections are basically an in-depth, multi-year job interview in front of a hiring panel of about 319 million people, where Title VII and other laws governing discriminatory practices in hiring are thrown out of the window and every thing you’ve ever said or done gets factored in. The televised debates are essential a group interview – a “cattle call” in HR terms. Some companies favor this type of interview because they say it brings out the leaders and team-players in the group. They may work, in some positions. Personally, I only advise companies to use this interview format when they’re hiring a large amount of people for the same position – think entry-level seasonal retail or warehouse employees. For other positions, such as a bookkeeper, medical professional, or an executive assistant, they’re the worst way to find what you’re looking for. You need to be able to get one-on-one with candidates in these types of positions and get an honest, upfront answers from them. During the debate, when the moderators don’t just go down a line and ask the same questions to each candidate, they are doing three things…

1.) Avoiding common interview problems…

Here’s the problem with a group interview. If you go through each candidate and ask the exact same questions, you’ll get an honest answer from maybe the first two people. After that, every other candidate is going to be forming their answer around your feedback to the answers already given, so you end up hearing the same answers over and over, with very few original responses. If you allowed politicians to do this – you know, the group of people who you think already lie about everything – particularly while they’re on a stage, in a live interview, in front of millions of people, who knows what answers you’d get. Their minds would be working overtime to say what they think you want to hear, instead of giving spontaneous answers and asking questions of each other. The basic group-interview format also tends to eliminate the necessity of follow-up questions, though there are other interview formats that do that as well. Interviews for government positions, for example, will sometimes be conducted by hiring managers who have a set list of questions they’re not allowed to deviate from, even to encourage a candidate to speak more in-depth on a certain issue. The people who create these hiring systems think that they’re eliminating bias and making the interview ‘balanced and fair,’ when what they’re really doing is ruling out the possibility of obtaining additional necessary information. When you’re interviewing politicians, it’s even more necessary to dig deeper and find out the thought behind the response, so it would be difficult to literally ask every single question (including the follow-up questions and questions from the other candidates) of every single candidate and get a real response.

It would also be somewhat pointless, as the opposite can be true as well. Some candidates have more to say. They give better, more informative responses that actually answer the question instead of dancing around the issue. Some candidates are better informed on some issues than others. It doesn’t do an interviewer any good to continue to probe a candidate who hasn’t really given you anything worth digging into. It creates a lull in the interview and wastes time. If you’ve already found out that they don’t know what you’re asking them, or that they don’t have a concise thought about a particular topic, a good interviewer will move on.

2.) Managing broadcasting time…

Let’s also be clear on this – if the candidates were asked the exact same question for every issue that was discussed, the debate would still be going today. The politicians have their platforms – part of their job in campaigning is to market those platforms. Yeah, the debates are one way to do that, but there are other ways for the candidates to make the public aware of where they stand on the issues. Particularly this year, with the number of GOP candidates that were on that state, if the network allowed them each to talk for equal amounts of time and thoroughly answer every question the moderators had…well, the debate would have lasted until the inauguration in 2017 and the GOP would have lost 24 million votes because viewers would have still been watching instead of going to the polls. This much time spent debating would also put the public into information overload. You know, that thing that happens when your 1-hour meeting goes for 3, and by the end of it your mind is so filled with facts, action items, and general confusion it’s difficult to accomplish anything? There’s no way we’d be able to process that much information and make an informed decision, nor does the public have enough time to take out of their lives to listen to it all.

3.) Meeting the public’s expectations…

This is the reason I like the least, and I imagine it’s the reason everyone is complaining about… but here’s the thing. You people created the media circus! By clicking on articles and sharing your outrage or support for certain candidates, you played right into the moderator’s hands when they were deciding what questions to ask which candidate. They do it for viewers and ratings, people! That’s why 24 million viewers tuned in to watch the debate – because in the weeks leading up to it, there has been a torrent of emotions and views dividing the public on a few key individuals *cough* who seemingly starred in the debates. Love them or hate them, people turned their TVs on to see them. So if you’re upset that your favorite candidate didn’t get enough screen time, think about how many articles and videos you clicked on regarding his (and I can say ‘his’ without worrying about being politically correct because the GOP has zero female candidates) competition in the past few weeks. Sitting behind a keyboard and complaining that ‘it’s just not fair’ is dumb and hypocritical, because you helped create the situation. Hypocritical also, because if your candidate had been the one in the spotlight, you wouldn’t have said a word about the unfairness of the debate format. If you think your candidate deserves more of a voice, get off your whiny butt and give him one. We have a position that needs to be filled next year, and complaining that the interview formats favor one candidate over the other isn’t the way to fix the hiring process.

There’s a reason some candidates shine in a political debate, just the same as in the hiring process. Whether it’s because they have a better, more original and more functional (bleh, those words were bitter) plan for this country, or because their personality is better suited for the role, or because they say things that create shock value that makes for a great story later, is beside the point. Crying ‘unfair’ because the person you like didn’t garner as much attention as you wished they would have isn’t going to make the process any better, and just because they weren’t asked as many questions doesn’t mean they aren’t still in the running. Sometimes the shocking interviews are just stories to be told later at the water cooler – it doesn’t mean that candidate will be hired. If your candidate is the best person for the job, we’ll find out after the election. In the mean time, be positive, quit complaining, and if you’re really motivated, do something about it.

 

For some reason, I feel the need to watch V for Vendetta earlier than usual this year… >.<

4 Horsemen of the Summer Apocalypse – The Back-to-School Supply List

It has arrived. The sign of the end of freedom. The end of long days filled with sleeping in, splash pads, library reading, and vacations. The dreaded supply list has made an appearance on the school district’s website. After a groan, an eye roll, and a silent prayer for your wallet, the .pdf is opened…

Who the freaking hell needs 5 dozen Ticonderoga pencils? That’s literally a new pencil every three days for each student. Do the kindergartners really need 104 crayons and 24 glue sticks? Heck, 5th grade wants 20 glue sticks… 3pkgs of dry erase markers? Added to our list this year is headphones – didn’t the schools used to provide those?

After the initial shock wore off, I started to wonder the reason behind the ever expanding school lists. Are the kids really consuming that many supplies each year? No, probably not. The more likely scenario (and I’ve polled a few teachers on this to get their side of the story – more results to follow, and thank you to all of the teachers who contributed their viewpoint) is that there is a growing number of parents, particularly in lower-income areas, that either can’t afford to purchase school supplies for their students, or just plain don’t care. So, how do these kids get their school supplies? By upping the amounts required on the list to ensure enough supplies end up in the community supply buckets, because you and I (and the schools) know that there are usually enough parents who will purchase the whole list without blinking to supplement the students whose parents won’t be sending enough supplies – or any at all. Maybe it’s just the district we’re in choosing to handle it this way – I’ve heard of some districts, oh the fantasy, that have a warehouse full of supplies for teachers to request when they need them, within a budget, and all parents are responsible for providing are the basic supplies – but I’m willing to bet there are others that go the same route as this one.

Now, believe me when I say that I am not resisting the need to buy school supplies – even for students whose education I’m not responsible for. Ask my kids’ teachers – I am one of the first parents to volunteer to bring extra supplies, and I constantly check in with them throughout the year to see if they need anything. Expo markers, paper plates and bags, pencils, extra folders, stamps, special requests for craft projects – I’m in. One of my kids was on a team last year, so some of supplies I brought weren’t just for her or her class, they were for two or more classes. And you know what, I don’t mind a bit. This isn’t a bragging statement, or an I’m-better-than-you-because-I-can-afford-to-buy-extra-supplies…because you know what, that’s not always the case. Of course, my family never does without the essentials, but there are plenty of things I could be spending my money on other than school supplies for other people’s kids. Suburbia is expensive. So why do it? Because I get it. I get that if parents don’t chip in past the amount needed for their own little darling, then either the kids whose parents don’t care or can’t afford to provide the necessary supplies will suffer, or the teachers will spend their hard-earned money on supplies. Usually, the result is the latter.

But here’s the problem with that… Teachers are employees of their school districts. Employees should not have to purchase supplies necessary to perform their job duties. Contractors do, and that’s perfectly fine. There are a few industries that are known for having employees provide their own specialty supplies – such as tools in construction work, and knives if you’re a chef. While that’s debatable in legality, many of these types of employees prefer this arrangement because they are able to purchase and use a brand they prefer and know will be maintained properly. There are also arrangements in some workplaces where employees provide things like their own coffee. Fine, that’s not a necessary tool to perform their job (of course I’m writing this from a Starbucks, so…). But if you walk into any office and ask an employee if their boss required them to bring in staples and pens for office use without reimbursement, the answer would likely be no. If the answer is yes, well that’s an issue for another post…

A Snapshot of Reality

However, it happens. Every school year, and I’d wager a guess that it happens in every classroom. I don’t think I’ve met a teacher yet who has gone one year in their teaching career without spending money on basic school supplies for their students. While this is noble, and admirable, and just the thing you’d expect from the personality of someone who is destined to become a teacher – it’s wrong. It shouldn’t be happening. Sure, if they want to spend some of their money decorating their classroom, or on a special project, go ahead. That’s the equivalent of bringing in your favorite stapler to the office, or of me using a design program I favor to complete my work. Actually, I think the teachers should be provided a stipend for these expenses as well. Some school districts do that, from what I gathered during my teacher-poll. However, these are typically the same budgets used for professional development and substitute teachers, which are two items most teachers would rather spend their budget on than pencils and paper. Rightly so. But the districts lumping necessary school supplies into professional training budgets means that one of the two has to suffer, which isn’t right. This leaves the teacher spending their own money on supplies so their students can learn, or spending time and energy coming up with creative solutions to keep pencils in their classrooms, particularly at the middle- and high-school levels.

Speaking of that, though a bit off-topic, do you even begin to realize how many creative ways teachers have of trying to keep pencils in their classrooms? Well, I found out during my teacher-poll. From an “orphaned pencil jar” full of mislaid writing utensils picked up in hallways, to “pencil challenges” spurred by rewards, to goofy-flower designs, to signs posted in the classroom encouraging students to return borrowed supplies, to selling pencils in the classroom – teachers have a hundred ways to try and make sure their students have the supplies they need to learn, and not many can say that they’re all that successful in the endeavor. Some even say they get backlash from their school administrators when they bring up the lack of supplies, and the best they can do is continue purchasing supplies out-of-pocket. This is…wrong. So wrong.

What Can We Do?

It’s a difficult problem to solve. Actually, if you look at it from the right angle, it’s a smaller scale of the taxes/welfare/government spending/perception issues we have in America. The people who can afford to supply provide for those who can’t, or else the children suffer. So how do we fix this? Can we even fix this? What should be done?

I see a three pronged approach, involving the states/school districts/PTA organizations (The Administration), parents, and students. Yes, even the kids have a role to play here, which is the biggest difference between the school supply list and the welfare debate.

1. The Administration

Okay, technically PTA isn’t really part of the administration in school districts, but I’m including the organization in this group because they have the ability to provide funding from sources outside of the parents’ wallets.

We seriously have to focus on increasing funding for education. For as much as this country, state, etc. pushes the need for education, there are so many countries around the world that are ahead of us. Now, that’s a topic for another blog, but one of the problems we have at hand is underfunding. I’m keeping this mostly at the state and local levels, simply because federal is an entirely different issue (why do we send so much money to other countries when we can’t feed kids in our own? why do we fund their education and medical systems when we have so many of the same problems here? Gah – another time…).

It’s the same story every year. Teachers are underpaid and overworked, but we can’t afford to pay them because the economy sucks, budgets have to be cut somewhere, there’s no money for extracurricular programs, we can’t afford to buy supplies. PTA wants to put an iPad in every classroom, or buy new playground equipment. Some districts can pay their superintendents an annual salary of $300,000+,  but can’t supply their students with the basics to learn. Skip the basic school supplies argument, what about printer paper, tissues, and headphones – things districts used to supply. Oh, can’t afford those either? Blah blah blah. Let’s just make the parents spend more money, that’ll solve everything, right? Add a few extra dozen items to the school supply list. Parents aren’t providing supplies anymore? Oh well, just increase the amounts asked for again; someone will eventually bring what’s needed. Next year I imagine we’ll be seeing ‘toilet paper’ as a requested supply item.

I’m sorry, but I live in Texas – football is a religion here, and you rarely see an underfunded football team. Schools have budgets earmarked for technology that have to be met. PTAs do fundraising every year, and often times it’s for a goal that is nice and all, but is it really necessary? There’s money somewhere. If you can’t afford the basics – pencils, Kleenex, Expo markers – then what are you doing buying things that aren’t necessary. There’s a huge debate about this for welfare spending – people have strongly held opinions leaning toward controlling what people on welfare can spend their money on. “Why should they get food stamps when they’re driving a Navigator and carrying a Coach purse?” We have the same situation in the school district. Do we really need an iPad in every classroom if our students can’t afford pencils? Yeah, I get it, this generation is going to need experience with technology, future of America, and all that.

Here’s the thing – my generation was born before the Internet became a thing. We didn’t have a tablet in every classroom. We barely had a computer in every classroom. I didn’t see a mobile laptop station till middle school. Or a smart phone till high school. And guess what – this generation is creating apps, inventing Facebook, designing websites, and pushing the growth of technology that some are insisting kids need access to in elementary school. Guess what. They don’t. I promise, they’ll be fine. It’s great if they can have access to technology, but it isn’t imperative. It’s not going to matter a lick if they know how to code when they can’t even spell “Objective-C.” It is not going to hurt their educational development to buy less iPads. It will hurt their educational development to not have access to basic writing instruments. Unless you can make the argument that the school districts and PTA have the funding to put an iPad in every child’s hand, and that all future school work will be conducted via tablets – then buy them some damn pencils.

2. The Parents

Now, The Administration is not going to change overnight. Even if they did, you’re a parent right? You love your children? Want them to succeed? How on earth do you think they’re going to do that if you don’t give them the tools?

As a consultant who deals with management issues, one of the most important things I tell my clients is something I learned years ago from a mentor. In order to successfully manage your employees, you have to do three things: 1, make your expectations clear, 2, give them the tools to do the job, and 3, hold them accountable. The same three rules apply to parents who care if their children receive an education. Sure, teachers need to do the same, but the parents have to be there, every step of the way, following those three rules. The 2nd rule is the one we’re discussing – give them the tools to do the job. Your child can’t learn if they can’t notes, do their homework, study for their tests, etc. If they don’t have the basic school supplies, none of this is possible.

Really, I get it – there are some parents who, as hard as they work and as much as they want to provide their child with everything they need to succeed, they can’t. There are also parents who know their child will be supplied with pencils and paper at school, and so they just don’t bother. But either way, is it fair to put that burden on the parents who have the means? Why should I have to buy twice the supplies my kids need to support yours? I’m already having to buy supplies the school districts should be supplying, now I need to pay for your kid’s stuff too?

Here’s the thing – I wouldn’t mind doing it… if I were asked. I have many parent friends who I know would absolutely be happy to help out if another child needed it. They’re the first parents I ask to help organize class parties, because they’re 100% reliable and have amazing, helpful attitudes. But if you want someone to help you, you have to ask them. You have to tell them what you need. You’ll get more help by simply saying please than you will forcing people to contribute. That’s why there are thousands of people who are happy to donate money to their church, charitable organization, etc. but are the same people who balk at the $20/year of their tax dollars going to welfare recipients.

People like to have control over where their money goes. They like to feel good about sharing what they have with someone in need – but that feeling isn’t the same when they know their hard earned money isn’t being put solely toward their child’s education. They know that there are parents who will abuse this system of community supplies and not bother spending any money on school necessities for their kids because someone else will have provided it. And it makes the whole process bitter.

So parents – to the best of your ability, send school supplies with your kids on the first day of school. At least buy them some damn pencils.

3. The Students

Now, what happens when the district provides the funds, parents can afford to send the supplies they’re supposed to, and do, teachers still shell out their own cash for school supplies, and kids still come to class unprepared. That, my dear students, is your fault. One of the things you’ll have to learn in life is responsibility – how to keep up with your own stuff, be prepared for the job you’re doing (school, at this point), and if you fail at that and someone is nice enough to help you, thank them and do not abuse the privilege. If you’re past elementary school and you happen to be out of supplies, ask your parents first before asking your teacher. It is not your teacher’s job to buy your supplies, and they do not get repayment for doing so. So…

Keep up with your damn pencils.

Tying it Together

So we know the problem, but how do we make this system more functional? I’m not going to pretend I have a magic solution for that. However, I will say there are some steps that could be taken to prevent this system from crashing entirely, but each side would need to do their part to make it work…

State, school districts, administrators – You are a broken system. Figure out where your priorities are. Budget enough money for paper goods and Expo markers in schools. Quit making it so difficult for teachers to get the supplies they need to practice their craft and educate the children of the state. Because guess what – if our education fails, all of the border control, homeland security, and infrastructure in the country won’t keep the state from imploding. Quit wasting money and spend a little extra in the school systems.

PTA – We, as parents, greatly appreciate the contributions you make to the school. I’m a big supporter of PTA, proudly place membership every year, volunteer in the classrooms, and participate in most of the fundraisers. Heck, my kids have been top sellers for a few of those fundraisers. But, as I mentioned previously, I think PTAs could take a better look at how they spend the funds. If a large percentage of the money you raise via fundraisers comes from the parents (and let’s face it, it does), then why not put some of that money toward programs that would alleviate the financial strain the school and state places on parents? Why not have a supply scholarship fund that would provide supplies to the low income students, rather than the schools shaking down willing parents at the beginning of the year for an excessive amount of supplies. Make it available to students whose parents have been approved for the Free and Reduced Lunch program, so there’s some accountability to who truly has the need. Advertise it, and allow parents who are willing make donations specifically for that cause. I get it, it shouldn’t be your job. But it shouldn’t be mine (or yours, technically, since most of the PTA board members are also parents at the school, so it does affect you personally) to be forced to contribute to community supply box. As an organization that works toward the good of the students, I would think this should be a vital issue. Maybe not in the wealthier districts (you know which ones you are), but if your school is poor enough to be asking parents to send $30 worth of pencils in August, you might want to reconsider how you’re spending your collected funds. PTA is such a wonderful organization, and it could be a huge advocate for students in this situation if properly directed.

Parents – Do you remember a time – or maybe your parents will – where you were given two pencils and some paper from your Mom and Dad, went to school, kept those same supplies for a couple of weeks, and then Mom or Dad gave you new supplies when you needed them? No big supply lists from the school demanding Mom and Dad send enough supplies for three kids. Parents used to be responsible, for the most part, for their own children. They used to teach their kids responsibility, and if they ever got a call from a teacher letting them know that their precious darling never came to class prepared, they would supply the discipline and provide a lesson in responsibility. Yeah, um, can we get back to that please? If you know you can’t provide the supplies required, at least make sure you’re teaching your kid to appreciate what’s given to them by others. If you can afford to provide and don’t because you know they’ll get the stuff they need from the teachers, then you’re a lazy, entitled asshole who is the primary reason for the system – which used to be perfectly functional – collapsing. You should feel ashamed. And finally, if you’re a parent who gives their kid every advantage you can, has their whole supply list ready on meet-the-teacher night, and pays attention to the school/class/teacher/student needs throughout the year, keep up the good work.

Teachers – Keep trying to hold students accountable. I know, it’s difficult, and you are all doing your best. I know there’s no magical way to actually teach kids to keep up with their supplies, just like there’s no magical way to make parents send them. The best ideas, in my opinion, I’ve heard so far are to sell the supplies to students who forget them, “orphan cups,” or to have a class set that you allow students to sign out on a sheet when they borrow something, and then a few minutes before the class ends review the sheet and reclaim the supplies so they don’t grow legs and walk out of the classroom. No system is going to be perfect, and I know you feel bad when kids don’t have what they need. But for certain cases – when it isn’t a matter of parents not being able to afford to provide supplies – it may take a few times of students not being prepared to get them to be responsible. They won’t learn if there are no consequences, and once they graduate they won’t have a nice teacher to hand them pencils every time they forget. If they don’t learn now, and their parents can’t or won’t teach them, when will they? I know it shouldn’t be your responsibility to teach this kind of discipline and responsibility, but as a natural educator, I don’t think it hurts to try.

Students – We all have a job to do, a part to play in your education. Take ownership of it – study as hard as you can, come to class prepared, and have a little respect for the people who work so hard to make your future brighter. Really, we do this for you.

It’s Not Over

I don’t think one (incredibly long, sorry) blog post is going to spark an immediate change, but even if I make just one person think, share a helpful idea, or start an initiative for positive change, then little by little the educational system can improve. Yes, even if it’s just a school supply list.

Sigh. It’s not the end of the world. Just the end of the summer.

Getting Started – The “Put Me In Charge” Piece

In honor of my maiden post for this blog, I wanted to write about the reason this blog now has a hosted domain name. For some time –  years, actually – I’ve been quietly and diplomatically trying to correct misinformation that floats around social media sites like Facebook. Sometimes these corrections turn into long, civilized debates between intelligent people with varying opinions. Sometimes, they end with friends blocking me while they continue to post things that aren’t true. I really hate that. Admit when you’re wrong. For clarification, I’m absolutely not saying that anyone’s opinion is right or wrong, but the “facts” that get shared are often inflated, skewed, or outright untrue.

This particular post has a little of both. A few years old, it’s recently being recirculated and getting some of the same ignorant, fallacious comments it received the first time it made the rounds. Today, it sparked me to take action on an idea for a project I’d been considering for awhile – this blog. A place where I could rant, correct misinformation, and voice my opinion on hot-button political and current event issues without offending friends in my personal social media sphere. So here it is…first, the post, then the facts, and finally, my opinion. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts on any portion of this post.

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“This was written by a 21 yr old female who gets it. It’s her future she’s worried about and this is how she feels about the social welfare big government state that she’s being forced to live in! These solutions are just common sense in her opinion.

This was in the Waco Tribune Herald, Waco , TX , Nov 18, 2011

PUT ME IN CHARGE . . .

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Ho Ho’s, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is to get women Norplant birth control implants or tubal legations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job and your own place.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22 inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good..”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin their “self esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self esteem.

If we are expected to pay for other people’s mistakes we should at least attempt to make them learn from their bad choices. The current system rewards them for continuing to make bad choices.

AND While you are on Gov’t subsistence, you no longer can VOTE! Yes, that is correct. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a Gov’t welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.

Now, if you have the guts – PASS IT ON…”

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Do Your Research, People

First, this article has been mis-attributed. It was not written by a 21 year old girl wearing a low cut shirt to showcase her ample chest, as depicted on Facebook. In fact, it was written by a 56-year-old man who truthfully does not want the responsibility of being put in charge of these programs, but was simply trying to get people to think.  While I appreciate the effort, I think there could have been a better way to accomplish this.

What I Agree With

I know, crazy right. Me, agreeing with click-bait fodder? Believe or not, the author makes a few points that I could see as benefiting the welfare system. For one, I actually do think there should be tighter restrictions on what can be purchased with Lonestar cards, SNAP assistance, food stamps, or whatever your state government calls them. I also agree with creating a system for ‘government jobs’ for those receiving assistance who are unemployed but capable of working. Why not allow them to earn their benefits by setting them to tasks that benefit the taxpayers? This, unfortunately, is where my agreement ends.

Wrong for So Many Reasons, and How to Fix It

Let’s just take this line by line…

Getting rid of Lonestar in favor of meager pantry staples. No. Why? Because you’re creating more problems for taxpayers. Think that rice, beans, cheese, and powdered milk complete a healthy diet? Hah – you’re going to have those people in the hospital for malnutrition, intestinal issues, and heart problems so fast your head will spin. And who’s going to be picking up the tab for that? Yep, you got it – the hard-working tax payers.

What should be done instead? Sure, place restrictions on what food stamps will purchase. Cut out sodas, chips, cookies, over-processed snack food, sugary cereals, and ice cream. If they want to spend their daily food allowance (somewhere in the neighborhood of $4/day/person) on ground beef, tilapia, or fresh vegetables, let them. If they want to buy frozen pizzas, canned tuna, and deli meat, go for it. These types of foods are part of a healthy diet. If cost is what you’re worried about, I’d rather a food stamp recipient spend $5 on a frozen pizza than $20 on a delivery one. The argument is that food stamp recipients are dining on steak and lobster, while hard-working tax payers are scraping by with frozen vegetables and boxed mac n cheese, right? Read this.

Birth control and drug testing. Think that will help? Normally, I’m on the other side of the birth control debate. I believe in women having control over their own bodies, and making decisions about their health with the two people who have any input – themselves, and their doctor. I don’t believe the government has the right to dictate a woman’s birth control. Period. Their job is to make sure women who want it have ample access to it. I could go on an entirely different rant about this, but my stance on this particular instance is that it would be violating women’s religious and personal freedoms to force them to use the birth control mentioned. And a tubal ligation? Seriously? You’re complaining about handing her a few dollars a month to feed herself, and you want to put her through a potentially risky surgery that could prevent her from ever having children? What is wrong with you? Do you not realize that many government assistance recipients aren’t actually milking the system (rhetorical question, obviously you don’t, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this discussion), and are using the funds to supplement a temporary loss of income. Why in the hell would you think it’s okay to take away a woman’s right – her basic, intrinsic, natural right – to reproduce, permanently?

To address the drug testing portion. Here’s my argument against it…it’s expensive. Screw the argument about it being demeaning. Sure, it is, but companies are allowed to drug test their employees, and this shouldn’t be any different. Screw the discrimination argument. Duh, this would affect only the poor, but again, it’s not like they’re the only people in the country subjected to drug testing, so really, it’s not. My argument stems purely from the fact that it isn’t cost effective to drug test welfare recipients. The tests are expensive, and there has been no studies that prove there is a higher rate of welfare recipients on drugs than citizens who do not receive assistance. So yes, there are a few users who would be receiving benefits. But you’re going to pay less to them in food stamps than it would cost to drug test every applicant. Simple math.

Government housing inspections. A couple of things here. For one, there are already government funded homes that are regularly inspected, so I’m not sure what improvement the author was trying to make here. Inventorying possession? I mean, sure, search for illegal weapons or drugs if you feel you must…but really, who the heck has time to go around inventorying everyone’s possessions? Do you realize how many people are on welfare? And do you really think the states can afford to pay inspectors to keep an up-to-date list of every possession in government housing? About shoving welfare recipients into barracks… seriously? Does everyone realize that not every welfare recipient is homeless? I mean sure, there is absolutely a ridiculously high homeless population, and we should channel more funding into getting homeless people off the streets. That’s not what this person is implying. Not everyone who receives welfare lives in government housing or homeless shelters. And to remove people from their homes to shove them in bunk beds in crowded rooms (which will increase the chances of sickness, and the bill for the tax payers who will be paying for the doctors visits and medications) is ludicrous.

– Presenting weekly check stubs, selling possessions, etc. So the obvious dig at this one is, “What if they are paid bi-monthly?” Hah. Anyway, when you apply for assistance you are required to list incomes. If you’re unemployed, they give you a form that you need to have signed when you interview/apply for a job proving that you are trying to find employment. Skipping over the fact that this is truly embarrassing for some, and could potentially subject them to discrimination (I’ve seen this first-hand), it seems like that system is already taken care of.

Selling the possessions they already own… please. I’ve made this argument several times, when people complain that a woman pulled a Lonestar card out of a Coach purse before loading her groceries into a newer model SUV. Look outside of your narrow view and see the bigger picture. How do you know that this woman didn’t just lose her job, is embarrassed as hell to be on government assistance, and isn’t actively looking for work to get off of it? What if the purse was a gift (or a knockoff found at a flea market) and the SUV was borrowed from a friend because she doesn’t have a car? Quit being so damned judgmental just because things don’t seem the way they should be in your narrow-minded view. Yes, there are likely some welfare recipients who don’t manage their money well, who buy things they shouldn’t, and who abuse the system. But there are others who are truly trying to make ends meet, to feed their families, and doing everything they can so they don’t have to receive assistance. Do you think – with the tight restrictions on income for those eligible to receive benefits – that they really are spending that $4/day on food so that they can buy $1,000 purses left and right? Get real.

– You want our money, accept our rules… Sigh. This is where so many ignorant, short-sighted people infuriate me. No, this isn’t about raising their self-esteem. I promise you, what was left of it was crushed the moment they walked into that welfare office to apply for benefits. Here’s the thing though. IT’S THEIR MONEY TOO! Do you honestly think that most of these people have never done an honest day’s work in their lives? And by that, I mean have never, ever worked at a tax paying job. Guess where those taxes went? This applies to people on disability as well. These people, at one point, held jobs, paid taxes, and supported other citizens on welfare. Heck, some of them are working and paying taxes right now. Get off your high horse and stop pretending we’re all doing these people some massive favor by handing them a few dollars a day. They’ve worked for it too. By the way, the amount spent to fund welfare is something like $20/year per citizen. So…really, you’re doing all this griping for $20?

This isn’t a ‘reward for bad choices.’ It’s a benefit, for those who had the misfortune to be laid off, become ill, live in a disaster zone, etc.

– Voting… This is probably the point that infuriates me the most. Do you realize that by not allowing the poorest citizens to have a say in what happens in the government, you’ve effectively turned this democracy into an oligarchy? You know, that system of government where the wealthy make the decisions. Hmm…where have we heard about that before… And who is going to benefit from the rich making decisions? Oh, that’s right…the wealthy citizens. Gosh, now doesn’t that sound like a perfect system? I’m sorry, but when you talk about taking away basic rights of a democracy, you’ve lost my respect and I no longer believe you have anything worth saying.

The Point

I’ll sum it up in a few simple sentences… Quit being so quick to judge. Think before you speak. Google a fact every now and again. And have a little compassion.

You’ll thank me when you get sick, lose your job, then end up on welfare and someone writes an article trying to make your life worse.