Month: October 2013

Bullying – Do Children Need to be Taught to Cope Better?

I had an interesting conversation with my senior students (this is a Contemporary Issues class) this morning. We were watching the NBC Nightly News broadcast from October 20, 2013. There was a story about a student who was bullied and how it was handled, including how it is helping others around the country. Following their viewing of the broadcast, I asked them if there was anything that that caught their attention, something that they wanted to discuss further. One student raised his hand and asked, “Should we be teaching our students to cope better with bullying?” What do you think? Is this a valid question or just insensitivity?

They are, of course, aware of the case, and others like it, where a middle school student jumped from the top of the abandoned cement factory because of the bullying she endured from kids at school.  Some of them also admitted to instances in their past where they were being bullied and how they dealt with the situations. But, many of the students agreed with the first student that asked the question. Many agreed that if students were taught skills to cope with adversity in life, kids might not react so drastically.

Before I get too deep into that part of the conversation, let me also mention that the students, nearly to the person, said that bullying was a problem in society and that is has rightly gotten the attention that is deserves. Several students brought up the fact that there is a fine line between playful teasing, something that can happen between friends or family, and becoming mean – usually where bullying resides. They acknowledge that students need to be sensitive to others’ feelings and they also agreed that laws protecting those who are being bullied are necessary.

However, many of the students said that we live in a hypersensitive society. Too many people today, they felt, are too quickly offended, too quick to sue, too quick to play the victim. They said that we have become “soft” and that one of the reasons we are this way is because we have failed to develop “thick skin” when it comes to what other people do or say to us. Several examples they used (again, we watch the news) to demonstrate their point were the case where a school banned balls of any kind on the playground, the school that banned playing tag on the playground because children get hurt, or even from their own school where a former superintendent banned dodge ball because a student broke his wrist in a freak accident be stepping on a ball as he jumped out of the way. All of these cases, they felt, were from people overreacting to incidents because they were afraid that someone might sue. While these cases don’t have a direct connection to bullying, the point was well taken. Adults have been a bad example of how do deal with instances of conflict and our kids see how it has been handled and they act accordingly.

So, how do we teach our kids to have thicker skin? Better yet, how do we, as adults, begin to demonstrate that trait? Surely there is a need in our society to have thicker skin.

I am short and I get short jokes all the time. I have always been teased, maybe even ridiculed. But it hasn’t ever bothered me. It is a fact of my life. It isn’t something I can’t change so I accept it and make jokes about my own height as well. How did I develop the skill to cope with such treatment? I am not sure. But I am sure that there must be some value in teaching others the skills to cope in similar situations as well.

Admittedly, we all are different and what might set one person off doesn’t set another off. We all have different “breaking points” or we all have a threshold for tolerance. But why is that threshold so low in some and so high in others?

I would like to hear your thoughts. What do you think? Did my senior student have a valid point or was he just being insensitive?

Eject “God Bless America” from Baseball.

Fireworks are launched during the national anthem. The Seattle Mariners defeated the Houston Astros 3-0 during Opening Day at Safeco Field Monday April 8, 2013. Photo by Daniel Berman/www.bermanphotos.com

I hope I don’t come off sounding too unpatriotic for this, but I hate “God Bless America” at the ballpark, or any other sporting event for that matter. It doesn’t belong there any longer, and it most definitely doesn’t deserve the same respect. It had its place and time, but that time has gone and it is now time to send it to the showers. I am patriotic. I love my country. I love the flag. Perhaps that is why I can’t stand this seventh inning disrespect.

My last visit to the ballpark this summer on a Sunday afternoon in Seattle found me rising for the traditional singing of the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I love this part of the game. I love this part of tradition and I believe that all sporting contests should start this way. And, why not play it before a baseball game? After all, baseball may have started the tradition in the first place, though not at the beginning of the game but during the seventh inning stretch. According to an article I found on ESPN.com, “The Song Remains the Same,” Game 1 of the World Series between the Cubs and the Red Sox in 1918 would establish its place in the sport. Eventually it would be moved from the seventh to the pre-game festivities, as an opening of the contest. I think we can all agree that it belongs there. It belongs there because sporting contests are often referred to as “battles” so the connection to armed conflict isn’t too big a stretch, especially since the origins of the song are centered directly there.

I very much appreciate the significance of the national anthem. I teach American History, Contemporary Issues, and Civics so I know the story well. The song was written by Francis Scott Key to commemorate the battle at Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. This part of the story is what makes the national anthem great – Key saw the American flag flying over the fort after an intense battle and knew that American forces had endured; that America would endure. These facts are set in history. It is also set in history that President Wilson recognized the song for official use in 1916 and it was adopted as the national anthem in 1931 by a congressional resolution and signed into law by President Hoover.

Typical protocol for the national anthem is as follows: when the flag comes onto the field, all stand and face the flag, take off their hats (if they’re men), put their hand or hat over their heart (military personnel in or out of uniform salute), and stand respectfully (quiet and still) while the anthem is played. One part that people often forget is that they should continue this respect until the flag has left the field. This is the proper way to honor the symbol of our nation, one that men and women throughout our history have fought and died for – protecting our own liberties or those in need of some.

The seventh inning stretch gets my American blood boiling. The public address announcer says something to the effect of, “Please rise and remove your hats for the singing of ‘God Bless America’.” What happens? Nearly everyone stands and removes their hats for the singing. However, I DO NOT AND NEVER WILL. I don’t care if I get “the look” from others. I don’t care if people think I am being disrespectful. I sit in my seat, talk, eat, I don’t remove my hat and generally just go about my business as I normally would during the seventh inning stretch. I am not trying to be obstinate or overly obtuse.

Wikipedia tells me “God Bless America” was inserted into our national pastime as a display of solidarity against the tragedy of 9/11. The Padres, in a show of sensitivity to our collective beat down, first thought about removing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” baseball’s anthem, and inserting the familiar tune. But that tradition would have been missed so, instead, they inserted it just before the anthem of frivolity. All of baseball was soon mandated to follow suit.  I understand the reason behind this action. I even participated in it for a while. Although I understood and I participated in it, the more I thought about it the less comfortable I was with it. These days, apparently, it is optional and left to individual teams to decide how or if they want to continue its use.

So why do I have such a problem with it? Well, it is NOT the national anthem!! It doesn’t deserve the same respect! Don’t get me wrong, it is a beautiful song, but to give it undue significance is disrespectful to the national anthem. It has been artificially elevated to a lofty position and, as a result, it lessens the value of the national anthem. Nothing else should ever be raised to that level. Nothing. The national anthem is enough to remind us of our past, our present, and our future. We don’t need “God Bless America” for that.

Next time you are at the ballpark, please, don’t participate in this now silly and inauthentic show of patriotism. Let the MLB and the teams know that it is time to eject “God Bless America” from baseball and return the game back to the way it was. Please keep and even elevate your acknowledgement and respect for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” After all, it is still there, gallantly streaming, over the land of the free and brave.

The Passing Lane

imgresWhy? Why is it so hard for a trucker to pull into the “slow lane” so that the backed up traffic behind him can get by?

I commute 45 miles, one way, to work each day and I am constantly befuddled by this bad behavior. State law (I’m in Washington) says that if there is a backup of more than five vehicles the offending vehicle is to pull off the road to allow for faster traffic to pass. Most of the time this law is violated by the big rig trucks. It also happens from travel/recreational vehicles, but mostly by trucks. But my grumpiness today has to do with trucks.

Just this morning the offending monstrosity was a giant vacuum for storm drains. I had to follow it for more than 15 miles (granted I was in a long string of cars also following it) before we reached a passing lane. At the first passing opportunity, it SPED UP?!? What is with that? So, only two of the trailing victims could get by. At the second passing opportunity, it NEVER EVEN MOVED OVER into the passing lane, thus causing all trailing vehicles to move over and speed up to go around it. Now, why does that have to happen?

Maybe all big rigs should be required bear their loads between certain hours of the night. Maybe they should only allowed to navigate from sun down to sun up. Maybe they should follow the traffic laws and not torture other motorists simply because of their size and because they can.

I’ll be commuting home this evening and I’ll be, more than likely, shaking my fist at another tyrannical trucker.

It’s one of THOSE days…

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Shardayyy on Flickr

Ever had one of THOSE days that just seems to make you grumpy no matter what happens? Me too. The list could be especially long and filled with inane events, people, or items. Yet, there is always something that seems to turn my mood from general annoyance to downright disdain. What I find interesting is there are no real patterns for my grumpiness, though there are some definite triggers – cat puke, unwelcome visitors, traffic, slow barista, etc.  Now, I try not to be grumpy but often this effort proves futile and the grumpy train carries me on down the line.

So, what makes you especially grumpy? Share below and maybe I will discuss yours in the future!