Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Re-Gifted

I think it was the age of seven when it was first suggested I was "gifted". While I didn't understand necessarily what it meant, I knew I was able to read above my grade level and that I seemed to have an easier time of school than many of my fellow students did. I also loved school, which didn't seem weird at all. For all 12 years of school, I worked hard, took the hardest classes I could, fell in love with computers, and wore a wardrobe and took on social skills that ensured no girl would go out with me. In short, I thought I was prepared to go on to be everything I wanted to be (except romantically involved, but once I was rich, that would come.)

The problem is that gifted kids grow into gifted adults. And once you get a "real job", the quick mind and desire to challenge yourself and others becomes a liability. If you didn't do some real soul searching before entering the job market, you might find yourself doubting your abilities, feeling like you're actually the dumbass in a sea of people who know how to do it much better than you. Subconsciously, you learn what Dilbert said years ago, "Intelligence has much less practical application than you'd think."

This all comes to mind as my wife and I made the difficult decision to try and transfer my daughter from her nice new school with all of her friends to another one that offers the programs we feel she needs. I look at my daughter and I see a cuter and smarter version of me when I was little. She has an incredibly active mind and talents that far surpass mine. As I look at pictures she has drawn for us, poems and stories she has written on her own, and watch her mind work, I see someone with more giftiosity (I just coined that word, please use it daily!) than I ever had. I want a school that treasures those skills and works to develop them. And I want my daughter to have at least as good an education as I had.

I realized a few years ago that what I ultimately want for my daughter is for her to find something she loves doing and that she realizes the development of her own special gifts is more important than taking every single advanced class and trying to be a jack of all trades, interested in none.

So to my gifted daughter I say, "You can truly be anything you want to be. Just make sure you understand what you want, and work on who you want to be. I love you and all I want for you is to be happy and fulfilled in life. "

That's not too much to ask, right?


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Extreme Ultimate Martialkickboxwrestlefighting Arts


I love boxing. No matter who is fighting, I will always turn on the sweet science when I find it on cable. Even if the boxers are two blind guys with only one leg, I'll watch it. 99% of the time I have no clue who the fighters are. I don't understand all of the ridiculous variations in rules. I don't care about reach, height, or weight. I simply pick a boxer and cheer, based on an arbitrary score assigned to each boxer using these factors:

  1. The fighter with least obnoxious entrance. Points are deducted for entering wearing a mask, using props and entering to any rap song. Fighters who enter with their own rapper are immediately out.
  2. The fighter with the least ridiculous nickname. Extra points for not having one. I can't root for a guy who gives himself a name like Alberto "The Trouser Snake" Martinez.
  3. The fighter with the least decorated trunks. Points are taken off for wearing assless fringed chaps with the boxer's name in LEDs.
  4. The fighter who looks like he'll bleed the most. Any guy who finishes a fight looking like Carrie at the prom gets my respect.
  5. Any fighter who can complete a sentence. Bonus points if he can do it without saying "Know what I'm sayin'?"
Unfortunately, boxing has created a reputation as having slightly less integrity than a Florida election. There are tons of weight classes and about 58 titles from an alphabet soup of organizations, like IBO, IBF, WBC, and the BFD (Boxing Federation for Dudes). They all create their own "champions". And each of these champions has won 50 fights against boxers whose names are more questionable than an Acorn voter registration.

In boxing, you can also watch a challenger beat the champion to death for 12 rounds and when it goes to a decision, especially in the champion's hometown, the champ will have been judged to have won all 12 rounds.

And then there is Don King, who answers the question "What would happen if Billy Mays, Jessie Jackson, and a Troll doll had a baby?" This perpetual motor mouth is always fun to see at a fight, if only to see how each network tries to avoid ever showing him on camera. Watch him when he puts his arm around a fighter. I bet you never see the moment when he steals the guy's wallet.

In recent years, boxing's viewership has declined while viewership in Ultimate Fighting, Kickboxing, Mixed Martial Arts, Cage Fighting and Extreme Fighting. Having not had my share of bloodsport in awhile, I decided to turn one on, hoping to see some action. Instead, I felt like I needed a testosterone shot.

Don't get me wrong, I understand these guys are bad ass and could kill me with one glance, but in watching these fights, I'm not reminded of two gladiators squaring off in a ring, but of two overly tattooed twelve year olds fighting after school. It's all there. The tentative kicking, the charging and knocking people on their ass, and the pinning and holding until someone cries uncle. None of it is as inspiring as a great upper cut. Instead it just seems sad and a bit.... less than macho.

Tonight I've tried it again, watching an endless series of interchangeable muscle bound guys and girls punch, kick, wrestle, and bounce off a hexagon shaped dog run. The rules make no sense to me. Apparently getting a guy in a position that Larry Craig would envy and not allowing him to move counts as a knock out. The fights last about 10 minutes, with about 9 minutes of that being pinning, holding, and thumb wrestling. The announcers wouldn't make the cut at ESPN's Tractor Pull Channel, and the ring interviewer, Stephen Quadros looks like Glenn Campbell's mugshot after a meth binge.

In short, I've come to the conclusion that Mixed Martial Arts is, like professional wrestling and soccer, not really a sport and I need something to up my testosterone quotient to make up for watching it again. Oh look, an episode of Grey's Anatomy on my DVR!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Edumacation

My daughter has been blessed with the tremendous gift of being smart. Don't ask me where she got it. Karen insists it is either from her or the cats. I think it might be from Dora the Explorer or perhaps the 8,000 hours of late night Family Guy that Maddie and I watched together when she was a year old.

Maddie is now in Jefferson County Public Schools. We decided to put her in Farmer Elementary which opened the year Maddie started Kindergarten. We put her in there with a rose colored vision that as parents in a new school, we'd be able to help shape the direction and vision for the school. We'd be able to help create a school that served Maddie's needs and those of her classmates. We'd be able to.....

Well, mostly we seem to just write checks.

Perhaps I'm spoiled by a misremembered past in Oldham County Schools. For those who don't remember, in 1975, Jefferson County Schools instituted forced busing. That happened to be the year that my parents moved here. Because of busing, we moved to Oldham County Schools, where my mother is fond of pointing out the science textbooks still said, "Someday man will land on the moon." The 4th grade spelling book my brother had was full of words he'd had in 2nd grade in Maryland. But soon the schools were so good that 120% of their students were getting full ride scholarships to Harvard. Or something like that. I just know I got a great education that enabled me to get a full tuition scholarship to Boston University. And despite being in the company of students who went to some of the best private and public schools in the country, I never felt inferior to them or less prepared for college than they were.

Not that there is a similar situation in Jefferson County Public Schools, but it is clear from the test scores and school report cards that there is a huge disparity in the best and worst schools in the county.

Some reasons are obvious. Lower income children have issues to contend with that higher income children do not. Disinterested parents. Parents who want to help but have to work just to keep food on the table. Disinterested peers and peer pressure that reinforce the thought that trying to get an education is stupid and/or pointless.

But honestly, what the hell is the excuse for those of us who make a decent living? Why do so many of us assume that sending $5 to the PTA or showing up in our child's classroom a couple of times a year is doing our part?

The Jefferson County School System is OUR school system. All residents pay taxes in some form or fashion to support the schools. As such, we should be working for and demanding that the schools work for us and for our children. We shouldn't simply do what so many of us want to do about any issue that seems larger than ourselves, and simply complain about it to our friends and neighbors.

If there is something that bothers you about your child's education, what have YOU done about it? Have you shown up at school? Have you talked to the teacher and principal? If it is an issue that you can't get resolved or affects other children in other schools, have you taken the time to contact your board member, or show to School Board meetings to voice your opinion?

Jefferson County isn't a backward county in a backwoods section of the state. We have lots of money and educated people here in Lousiville. We can and should do better for our city, our county, and most importantly, our children. And it can't be done if we just sit on our butts and complain in blog posts.

So who is with me?