Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fantasia The Next Generation

Many years ago I saw Fantasia at the Indian Hills theater with my friend Barb Briggs and her teenage brother.  At that time you could smoke in the  theater.   I'm not at all certain what Barb's brother was smoking.  I know I thought Fantasia was amazing.  As I went through college and beyond, every friend I had thought  people needed to be high to enjoy the film.  Today I watched it with my son.  And nothing could be further from the truth.

I expected James to be bored, but  I wanted him to hear the music.  From beginning to end he watched with attention, with the exception of the dancing hippos and alligators.  We were ready to have a perfect movie watching experience.  Then we had a break, and the ostriches and hippos and alligators  came out, and I lost him.

The truth is if we had gone straight to the end with the Night on Bald Mountain and the Ave Maria, then he would have gone clearly and purely from the dawn of the world to the dawn of Christianity.  But we had the detour through Greek Mythology.

Does anyone else see their own educational history in this?  You are cruising along, learning lots, and then you hit the Edith Hamilton at Freshman year, and all of a sudden your faith is shaken by the notion that resurrections have been a part of religion from the early Egyptians.

Suddenly you realize that every nation has anticipated the coming of a savior.  It's easy at that point to decide that Jesus is not that savior.  He's just the one some people in a tiny little country decided would be their savior.

If that were true, how did his particular religion last for 2000 years?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Incorruptible — Why the Devil Uses Abortion to Eliminate Down Syndrome

Incorruptible — Why the Devil Uses Abortion to Eliminate Down Syndrome Reading this article, I had my brother and his friends in mind. (Pat's autistic/retarded, but many of his friends have Downs.) Pat lives with us, and we see his friends on Friday nights. They have dinner, watch sports or a movie, and enjoy each others' company. The love and joy lost to families when these people are killed boggles the mind.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Stopping Divorce Before Marriage Happens.

Pope seeks fewer annulments
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI told priests Saturday to do a better job counseling would-be spouses to ensure their marriages last. Benedict made the comments in his annual speech to the Roman Rota, the Vatican tribunal that decides marriage annulments. An annulment is the process by which the church effectively declares that a marriage never took place. Better pre-marriage counseling, which the Catholic Church requires of the faithful, could help avoid a “vicious circle” of invalid marriages, he said.

Benedict XVI is taking a risk by saying marriage isn't for everyone.  And no, he is not just referring to homosexual marriage.  He's saying not every couple is ready for marriage, not every relationship should end in marriage, and for some couples, allowing marriage in the church is just asking for the annulment.  

I think  I can agree with what he is saying.  The problem is that if put into action,  priests would necessarily have to determine which couples should, and which couples should not, get married.  
I'm sure my husband and I would not have made that cut.  For as old as we were (mid-30s) at the time of our wedding, we were terribly immature in our spirituality.  We weren't practicing (me more than him, but that's not saying much).  We scoffed at those who were faithful.  We practiced and promoted all kinds of 'innocent' sinful behaviors.

The priest who led us through instruction stated in his homily during our wedding that he'd never experienced instruction with a couple like us.  He expressed some doubts about our union during the ceremony.  I flubbed the vows.  One of the guests in the receiving line said to me, "Well at least you can wear the dress again."

What none of this reflects is the deep commitment we had to each other.  All outward signs to the contrary, our marriage was the spark that rekindled our faith.  Neither one of us would have made it back without the other.

I don't know exactly what the priests would be looking for as indicators of whether to allow a marriage to proceed, but I hope they spend a lot of time in prayer about it.  Otherwise I fear couples will leave the church and never have the grace of the sacraments to strengthen them, as we did. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Abortion Laws and the Happiest States

Nebraska has been named the Happiest State in America:

We are also ranked 6th among the best pro-life states:

 The 2 sets of rankings do not match very well in terms of who is the happiest and most prolife, but they  do match well for which states are the unhappiest and most pro-choice.

This  correlation makes complete sense. 

For all of the hype about sleep deprivation, weight gain, and loss of 'me-time', babies generally bring joy if they are allowed to survive the womb.  We are shocked by those stories of people who abuse or hurt babies because they are so counter to our nature.  Most people smile at babies.  Most people try to make them laugh.  When holding the hand of a child, we smile if the baby grips us in return.  We know that the future of us is dependent on the existence of them.  And that gives us joy.

Caring for a child encourages responsible and steady behavior.  As a parent, most of us think twice about dangerous behavior, because we have someone more important to care for.  We watch what we say.  We keep jobs, and work through the tough times, because we have mouths to feed and roofs to maintain.  We avoid crisis situations in order to keep the whole family moving ahead.

It also seems to me that parents, the good ones anyway, are more likely to avoid debt and to save.  Parents save for retirement so they can play with grandchildren, and save for the education of the children they have.  If they go into debt, they do so in support of the children or the home.

I know I'm describing what the sophisticated and learned will discount as a hopeless fantasy land.  I have only this response:

This is the way I live.  This is the way most of my friends and family live.

Perhaps it is time to refocus our attention away from the exceptions (as seen on Oprah, The Today Show, The View, etc.) and toward the rule, as experienced here in this happy state.

Now I have to happily make my son finish his schoolwork and shovel the driveway.  Happiness doesn't mean never having to be a crabby taskmaster.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

More on Public Schools and Ped**ophiles

January 16, 2011

A Priest and an Altar Boy, Hah, Ha, Ha

By Randall Hoven
This past June, Pope Benedict XVI said the church must promise "to do everything possible" to ensure that the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests "will never occur again." 
But the president of the Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was not satisfied.  She said, "Right now, kids are being assaulted by priests and bishops are concealing the crimes.  And the pope continues taking no action to stop this."  She said that the pope still ignores the main problem: "the ongoing recklessness, deceit, and callousness of bishops who, even now, protect predators instead of children."

The executive director of the Women's Ordination Conference had an answer to the problem.  "We believe that if women had a say in the church, if there was more accountability and more transparency, [then] the men would have been held more accountable."

The issue of sexual abuse by Catholic priests is so commonplace that it is the subject of late-night "humor."

"I read this in the paper this morning: New York City has a priest shortage. So you see, there is some good news in the world. ... To give you an idea how bad it is, earlier today in Brooklyn an altar boy had to grope himself."
 - David Letterman

"As you've probably heard, the Pope has asked all the Cardinals to return to Rome. You know how they got them all to come back? They told them that there was going to be a performance by the Vienna Boys Choir."
 - Jay Leno

"The Cardinals will be staying at the Domus Sanctae Marthae, the new hotel at the Vatican, where turn down service means the bell boy isn't interested."
 - "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart

Let me take you on a journey into reality.  (Remember this starting point.)

In 2004, the U.S. Department of Education reported on the results of academic studies into the prevalence of sexual abuse in Catholic schools.

As a group, these studies present a wide range of estimates of the percentage of U.S. students subject to sexual misconduct by school staff and vary from 3.7 to 50.3 percent.  Because of its carefully drawn sample and survey methodology, the AAUW report that nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career presents the most accurate data available at this time.

Based on the assumption that the AAUW surveys accurately represent the experiences of all K-12 students, more than 4.5 million students are subject to sexual misconduct ... sometime between kindergarten and 12th grade.

Just last month, the Government Accountability Office reported on fifteen specific cases of sexual abuse in Catholic schools, showing that sexual abuse is ongoing and ignored even now.

The 15 cases GAO examined show that individuals with histories of sexual misconduct were hired or retained ... At least 11 of these 15 cases involve offenders who previously targeted children. Even more disturbing, in at least 6 cases, offenders used their new positions as school employees or volunteers to abuse more children.

We often hear how the Catholic priests and bishops excuse sexual offenders or merely pass them along from parish to parish.  The GAO confirmed such behavior.

A [school] compelled a teacher to resign after he accessed pornography on a school computer.  Although the school ... reported the abuse to child protective services, [an] administrator told another ... school seeking a reference that they would rehire the teacher "without reservation."  A second [school] also compelled him to resign, but his separation specifically directed all inquiries from future employers to the superintendent and agreed that he would provide a letter of recommendation.  This school ... also provided him with positive references.  He was eventually hired by a third [school], where he was convicted of sexually assaulting two students.

The GAO summarized the findings of the fifteen specific "cases of individuals with histories of sexual misconduct hired or retained."
In 10 of our 15 cases, school officials did not perform preemployment criminal history checks on prospective employees, including teachers, administrative staff, maintenance workers, volunteers, and contractors.  As a result, registered sex offenders were allowed to gain access to ... schools.  In 7 of these 10 cases, the offenders had been convicted for offenses against children and in at least 2 of the cases, they subsequently committed sexual crimes against children at the schools where they were working or volunteering.
In four of the cases we investigated, school officials allowed teachers who would have been subject to disciplinary action for sexual misconduct toward students to resign or otherwise separate from the school rather than face punishment.

That ends our little journey into reality.  (Remember this ending point.)

Now, I have a secret to tell you: everything in the above "journey into reality" (between the parenthetical starting and ending points) was about public schools, not Catholic ones.

The DoE report and the GAO report were real, but they were reporting primarily on public schools.  The 9.6% rate of "educator sexual misconduct" was based on surveys of public schools.  The estimate of 4.5 million children "subject to sexual misconduct" was based on those same surveys of public schools.

The quotes I used above did indeed come from those DoE and GAO reports.  I used brackets ([ ]) or ellipses (...) within the quotes only to disguise the identity of the schools or officials as public ones rather than Catholic ones.

In fact, the only false statements made in my "journey into reality" involved using the word "Catholic."  If you replace "Catholic" with "public" and replace the references to priests, bishops, and parishes with references to teachers, administrators, and school districts, the above journey accurately reflects the DoE and GAO reports.

The DoE report identified who the sexual offenders of schoolchildren are.

The U.S. Department of Education concluded that 4.5 million K-12 students are subjected to sexual misconduct from the types of people in the above list.  Do you find "priest" in that list?

Sexual misconduct occurs at some frequency in all types of power situations: teacher on student, parent on child, senior officer on enlisted, scout leader on scout, executive on intern, etc.  But there is no evidence that such a frequency is higher for priests.  Yet priests are virtually assumed guilty until proven innocent.

As usual, I see no attempt by people to get the facts.  We all just pile on like middle-school students and denigrate the kid who isn't currently popular.  For about two decades now, the unpopular kid is the priest -- all priests.  Make jokes about them.  Sue them.  Take their money.  Run Catholic parishes out of business and out of town.  Hah, hah, hah.

In the meantime, millions of kids are being sexually abused by their public school teachers, principals, counselors, and coaches.  And those public schools do little to weed out or punish the offenders; they often pass them along to other schools with positive job recommendations.  Where is the outrage about that?  Where are the jokes about that?  Is it only funny if the sexual offender wears a cleric's collar?

[Full disclosure: I am a lapsed Catholic, currently agnostic, who attended Catholic schools K-10.  Neither I nor anyone I knew in those schools was ever sexually approached, abused, molested, or mistreated in any way by any member of the clergy.  The nuns and priests who taught me took vows of celibacy, chastity, and poverty, and they received little pay and virtually nonexistent pensions.  However, they did make us memorize the times tables, do long division, and diagram sentences, none of which was very sexy for anyone involved.]

Friday, January 14, 2011

To Facebook or not to Facebook

When I first started my face-book page,  I wanted an avenue to stay in touch with some of my students.  I've always thought that the proof of a teacher's worth was the achievements of her students.  I have many who are managing to stay afloat in this lousy economy, one who spent 8 years working the Bush administration, one who is a playwright, one who is a campaign manager for congressional democrats, one who is a professional wrestler...

Then I dropped the page because students were using it as a way to complain about test scores, etc.

Now I'm back on facebook, mostly to look for old friends I haven't seen in years.  My friend Sue and I used to have a long distance cocktail hour once in a while.  We'd get a bottle of wine each, one in Omaha, one in San Fransisco, and talk on the phone for an hour or more as if we were hanging out for drinks.

I miss that a lot.

One of things that's hard about being a home-school mom is that you don't have the chance for those brief friendly chats that take place on the sidewalks before and after school with the other parents.  Instead, you email and blog about the school days with your colleagues.  It's virtual school sidewalk.

I guess that's why I'm on facebook again.  I hope to have a chance to catch up with friends, have a virtual cocktail hour once in a while, or a virtual 'bump' into an old fiend in the produce aisle. 

So if you've come here from face book, how about getting together for cocktails, or coffee?