Monthly Archives: August 2014

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Yesterday we went to a community festival and besides the regular girl scout troops, church groups, local politicians, and sub-par musicians you’d see at any similar event, there was a new group of folks dotting the crowd wearing anti-Common Core t-shirts.

They weren’t passing out literature or anything, thankfully, but “someone” was clearly trying to set an opinion.

I chuckled to myself a bit as I think much of the message they were likely trying to convey was lost based on the folks they’d convinced to wear their t-shirts. It would’ve been a pretty safe bet to say that out of the whole lot of them, maybe one had more than a 4th grade education.

Or a job.

Or taken a shower in the past week.

Regardless of who they’d (poorly) chosen to deliver their message, I’m not really sure what the big fuss is about — besides the blind apprehension to change some folks have — though I’m confident that there are great arguments supporting both sides.

I’m pretty indifferent on this one. I think?

One idea I’m pretty aware of is how a lot of vocal parents out there think their kid is “special” or ahead of the curve and “common core” will only hold back their potential.

I’ll keep it short and just say, I disagree.

And I’ve also seen a lot of propaganda out there on social media from my right-leaning friends about how long division (among other things) isn’t taught correctly anymore because of common core with ludicrous examples of how 10 divided by two is now equal to 4 or some such nonsense.

I’m not certain if it’s part of the Republican and Tea Party agenda to crush the concept, based on my social media experience, it just seems that way. It’s all Obama’s fault, all the time, after all.

I guess I support the idea of a common core education under the impression that the point is to give all kids across all school systems the same education. Kinda sad that somehow gets turned into a political issue.

Go ahead friends, call me a socialist.

Things change and education should too. My oldest smurfling, now 5, is learning how to tie his shoes these days. I was never taught the “bunny around the loop” technique when I was a kid and that’s what he’s being taught. I accept that.

I know the “bunny” method was around back when I was a kid too. I’d heard about it but my parents weren’t “fluffy” when it came to teaching me how to tie my shoes (in the pre-velcro era, I might add).

Even still, based on how often my kids shoes come untied compared to how often mine do, sorry, I think my way is better.

But if the “bunny” method happened to be a common core standard, well, I’m okay with that.

I know my way *is* better but the end result is essentially the same — tied shoes. And I think that’s the point that a lot of people are missing.

Sure, there are a few things in there, such as the bunny, that are just plain silly but, in general, it’s a good idea.

Regarding something that’s a lot more likely to be in the curriculum, when I was in third grade, we listened to 45’s on a record player in math class that played songs where the lyrics were times tables.

I can still hear it in my head now — “Six times Six is Thirty-Six!”

It was nothing more than memorization. We weren’t taught the concept at all. I didn’t know why it was 36 — I just knew…because of a jingle.

As far as I’m concerned now, that was a total failure on the part of the school system.

Sure, I figured it all out the right way eventually, but I certainly wasn’t taught multiplication — I just memorized it.

Do I want my kids to be taught the same way I was? Absolutely not.

Change, in this case and from my perspective, is good.

Now I know it’s unrealistic to think that every school across the country can be on the same page — logistically impossible — but I do think it might be a good idea that they’re all within the same chapter at least.

I switched schools, states, and even countries during my elementary and secondary school years. My first — and most difficult — switch occurred between first and second grade when I moved from Illinois to Connecticut.

Culture shock for a seven year old all on its own, sure. I was light years ahead of my Connecticut peers when it came to reading and writing. For math, I was a little behind — yes, even in a school system where they used a record player to teach us. Ouch.

My real Achilles heel, though, was alphabetical order (which was detailed in this post from years ago).

While I could read and write at a level far beyond anyone in my class, the entire concept of alphabetical order was foreign to me. It apparently wasn’t a priority or even a part of the curriculum in Illinois and, frankly, it made me feel like an idiot for my first few months in the new school.

Not the greatest mindset to have when trying to make new friends.

I think common core’s goal is to prevent that sort of thing from ever happening and — beyond that — set a REAL standard for what an educated person is and should be.

Really, I’m pretty sure I could’ve got my GED by the time I was ten years old. Yet, somehow it’s practically viewed as the equivalent of a high school education.

I can’t say I learned a whole lot in high school but I certainly came out smarter than I was in the 5th grade when I was 10.

I also think that most of the opposition — right leaning or not — to a common education system is coming from people who have never known a different school system than the one they were a part of.

When I graduated from high school, I’d venture to say that over ninety percent of the kids in my class had been in the same school system since kindergarten and I think that’s generally the case across the country.

You don’t know what you don’t see or encounter.

I’d bet that every kid that ever moved from one town or state to another knows exactly what I mean.

And it has nothing to do with how great a school system is. I graduated near the top of my class from one of the best school systems in the country. I aced the math portion of the SAT. My reading/vocab portion was sufficient but certainly lower than what I would have assumed a top student in a top school would muster.

Even with the crappy, in my opinion reading/vocab score, the perfect math score propelled me into the 95th percentile and I was accepted at all but one of the universities I’d applied to.

And when I got to university?

Complete and utter failure.

My midterm mark in APSC-171 (which was integral calculus for engineering students) was 12%.

And that was with a 46 on the actual mid-term exam so it kinda (sadly) made it appear as if I was getting myself back in the game.

I went to class every day. Did all of the homework. I studied as much as the typical student. I was never much of a socialite and didn’t really enjoy the party scene but I was a failing student pretty much from day one. To my credit, I wasn’t alone.

But how could this happen?

Well, it’s because all school systems were NOT teaching the same thing. I was so unprepared when I got to university, it was almost comedic.

How could a guy with a perfect score on the math portion of the SAT only muster a 12% in a frosh level math class? Seriously.

Thinking back, it’s a shame that my high school wasn’t using record player jingles (or a cass-single) to teach me the formulas for derivatives and integrals. I’d have been prepared then as calculus really is nothing more than memorization.

Twenty plus years removed from it all now, I now know why the school system I graduated from was so heralded.

We were trained how to take standardized tests, plain and simple.

Our town routinely lead, and continues to lead, the State of Connecticut on them and places incredibly high across the entire nation.

To this day, on, I see that all of the schools I attended in Connecticut have a 10/10 rating. Where I live now, the schools are rated 6 and 7 on the same site.

As you may have guessed, from the last 10 one-sentence paragraphs, that doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I came from an elite program only to learn I was truly far below average.

But really, I just hope that the common core concept helps level the playing field — not just from the university application aspect but for society as a whole.

It’s not dumbing down the smarter kids. The smart ones will learn, and excel, no matter what. Anyone with a brain knows that.

The concept is solid.

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Okay, so this past Saturday morning on my way to the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) to renew my license — an unwieldy task in and of itself — the radio DJ had just finished up some overplayed (for 30+ years) Steely Dan song and said, “I’ll have another great driving tune in 30 minutes…” and then proceeded to play “The Sign” from Ace of Base.

30 minutes?

Try 3 seconds!

I belted out the entire tune like it was 1994 — nearly wearing my voice out. There are only a handful of songs that hold this status for me and as cheez-pop as it sounds now (and did even back then) — and it’s certainly not really in my preferred style of music — the song is timeless.

So how do I know all of the lyrics? Well, I’ll tell you…

I happened to be in high school in 1994 when the song came out.

At the time, my musical tastes leaned more towards Phish, Live, Toad the Wet Sprocket, and my beloved They Might Be Giants. I even had a soft spot for even bands like Megadeth. Hardly Euro-Pop.

Now, as I’ve mentioned a few times in the past, I was distance runner on the track team. You know, one of the skinny guys that can run in circles endlessly.

Well, to the casual observer, it may have seemed like we were weaklings but truth be told, we were in the gym on a daily alongside the huckers and chuckers (the meathead discus and shot put throwers).

So, it was a pretty small weight room — a spot for squats, a couple of benches for free weights, and this giant Solo-Flex thing that had like 8 “stations” for all kinds of things. We distance runners basically rotated around this one universal machine before pounding the pavement.

Anyway, this windowless former uniform storage closet was a pretty mundane place to “work out”. One guy had a boom box (a what?) to listen to tune except we were technically in an underground bunker where we couldn’t get any stations in — even with tin foil all over the antenna.

There was one very cool feature on this boom box though — it had a tape deck (a what?) that would auto-flip (huh?) automatically kinda like cassette players in your car (in your where?) would do.

Cassettes were still a hot commodity then since no one had a CD player in their car — cassettes or the radio were your only options — so no one was willing to sacrifice one for the weight room.

Until one day, a cass-single (seriously, what are you talking about?), still in it’s cardboard wrapper, magically appeared.

A sign.

I mean, “The Sign.”

With the high end technology of that boom box and that poor cass-single, I must’ve heard that song hundreds of times with a 45 pound weight hanging from a chain between my legs connected to a weight belt as I struggled through 3+ minutes of dips.

And that was the beauty of the song — it’s tempo was perfect for doing weights and clocking in at just over three minutes, it was also a perfect timer for when to change stations on the universal…

So, yeah, to most of the school, the weight room seemed like a scary place that only jocks hung out in after school and during study hall but, in reality, it was a meeting place for bunch of guys who pretended not to like Ace of Base.

Really, though, to this day, I’d bet everyone single member of the 1994 State Champion Track team still belts it out on the rare instance that it’s still played somewhere.

Speaking of Ace of Base, we’re about due for another double dating Swedish musical act to take the world by storm, no?

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It’s been a long and unnecessary hiatus on here so if you’re still with me — I’m talking to you, Angie, out there in Arizona — thank you.

I still like to think of this place primarily as a personal finance blog overflowing with an abundance of incredibly useful advice though I must confess it did turn into a bit of self absorbed mommy blog towards the end.

But, really, you should see my Facebook page.

But I think the best response I ever received from a reader was along the lines of “You could write the phone book and make it a fun read.”

I should probably stick to my true strengths, huh?

Finances are fun for me, and I’ll still write about them, but I know that they’re pretty mundane for the masses.

My kids are fun too but I know how painful it is to look at a family photo album full of people you’ve never met. I’ll still write about them — and probably include photos of them too — whenever I think there’s something worth telling.

But, really, I’m going to try to post more often on things like current events, witnessed road rage incidents, unusual items spotted on public transit, and poor fashion tips along with the occasional “how to” article.

Like, how to get your kid’s soccer shin guards on while also driving.

Those bring in a lot of traffic for some reason…

And now to clean up nearly a year’s worth of spam comments…

Can You Dig It?