Thursday, August 21, 2014

The ALS Challenge

The ALS challenge is to dump ice water on your head and post it on social media to promote donations to the charity. It is quite the understatement to say it has gone viral. Everyone is doing it and posting video.

They’re getting it wrong. The challenge is to donate money or dump ice water on your head. If you dump ice water, take a video, and post it, you’re telling the world you’re a piker, a chiseler, a miser—you didn’t donate.

A friend told me that actually the challenge is to give $100 and the failure to give that sum meant the ice water. Also, that many people are doing both. Another friend said that ALS has received $5 million dollars from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Is that actual cash-in-hand or pledges?

Nevertheless, there’s something deeper about the challenge—a greater issue—to look at, especially for Christians.

Jesus said, “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before others, to be seen by them … when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by people … when you give to the needy, do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing, so that your giving may be done in secret ….” (From the Sermon on the Mount.)

Let’s update for technology. Do not show off your charity with cell phone videos, as hypocrites do via Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, to be admired by your friends. When you give to the needy, do not let your cell phone record what your hands are doing, so that your giving may be done in secret. That way the God you believe in will reward you.

How about it, Christians? Is it time to hit the delete key?

Really, why are you doing it? To be popular? If the trend hadn’t gone viral, you couldn’t care less? You have to join the crowd? Everyone’s doing it, right?

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few will find it.”

Does anyone know what research ALS will do with the money? What are you funding? Does it contradict your values if they are conducting research with embryonic stem cells from aborted fetuses? Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. Have you done your homework?

“Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

I am neither, but I won’t jump on a bandwagon before I think through the action and issues to decide if it is right for me. Sorry to spoil your fun, but my challenge (I can’t resist the irony) is that you do so before accepting the Ice Bucket Challenge.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Harry Potter's Influence on Millenials

The Question: Did Harry Potter influence the political views of millennials?

(A millennial is someone coming of age during the 90s—the generation that came after Generation X and the Baby Boomers.)

The Facebook post suggests that Harry Potter did: It turned millennials against the administration of G.W. Bush, helped elect Obama, and made an entire generation turn rock-hard liberal.

I disagree. First, we are moving beyond the conservative/liberal divide. People previously divided are converging in opinions and ideals on issues as they recognize common ground. Political factions and parties will always be with us, but realignment will happen. Not a shift between Democrats and Republicans, but something more fundamental.

For example, education. Both major parties are for the 20 year old reform agenda that is destroying public schools. A huge backlash is in motion. This is one of several issues that will redefine us as we push onward into the postmodern world.

But this was supposed to be a fun post. Harry Potter, you know? Tarantellagra to make a fool dance! Rictusempra for all those who can’t stand to be tickled. And for you comment trolls: Peskipiksi pesternomi!

What I liked about J.K.Rowling’s narrative was that it induced one to be skeptical of government authority. She introduced a new generation to the consequences that could occur should corruption enter government and reach to the highest levels.

Further, even when government’s intentions were good, the overregulation was hilarious and instructive. Do we really need government to decide how thick the bottom of our cooking pots should be? Why should they hold power over who can use a certain type of transport? And the bureaucracy of inane departments: isn’t there a subtle message about limits on government scope?

Often as I read Harry Potter I would laugh out loud about the subversive message Rowling sent her readers. Pompous ministers were mocked; ridiculous regulation was laughed at by the most popular characters. Power-hungry politicians were questioned even if they wanted too much power to do what was right and moral.

European-style socialist government was disrespected. That’s a good thing.

Rowling attacked the evils of racism, totalitarianism, and intolerance. She promoted diversity and looking at others as equal in social status: Dobby is a free elf.

 I’m afraid the early Boomers are a disappointment and the later ones don’t offer much either. As one of the latter group, I can talk about my generation. Look to the young.

Did Harry influence them? I certainly hope so.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We Don't Know

I'm late with my Sunday post, and I apologize. But here it is:

We don’t know. We don’t know what happened. The one witness has told one story; the police, a very different story. Given the fact that the police changed their story every few hours, telling a new version, we are justified in treating their version with great skepticism.

But we simply do not know. Hopefully, as independent and objective agencies investigate, the true unfolding of events that hot Saturday in Ferguson, Missouri will be discovered.

Maybe someone on that street was watching through the curtains. Maybe someone stepped onto their porch and got their phone out in time to video. If so, maybe we’ll get a better idea of exactly what happened.

But until we do, we must admit we don’t know. However, having said that, I take up a greater theme.

I don’t know what the causes were, but we all know the result. What I have to say in response is this:

The killing of black boys must stop.

The how doesn’t matter: whether it is drug-related violence in the ‘hood, arguments at the club over girls, unreasonable fear in a convenience-store parking lot, overly aggressive action by a neighborhood watch volunteer, a cop in the middle of the street, one truth must stand out.

The killing of black boys must stop.

The who doesn’t matter: young black men in gang-related competition, middle-aged white men afraid to be in a city they don’t know, Hispanic neighborhood watchers reacting to break-ins, or police, one truth must be told.

The killing of black boys must stop.

When will we pick up a blue pencil, scribble 33 and circle it (the editor’s mark that an article is complete and ready for print), and end the long list of names: Michael Brown, Jordan Davis, Treyvon Martin …

The killing of black boys must stop.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Fixed Mindset of Education Reform or Why It Can Never Succeed

For today's offering, I direct you to the blog "Education Matters," written by Chris Guerriri, a public school teacher in Jacksonville, Florida. I occasionally guest post in his blog and it is where most of my education writing appears first.

I hope you visit his blog. There is much useful information, spirited opinion, and analysis there.

Greg Sampson

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Your Kid Is Too Damn Scared to Learn

Nine years ago I wrote this as I began my career in education:

Your Kid Is Too Damn Scared To Learn

I see their faces in my sleep; I see their faces when I wake. They melt into the walls; they are grey shapes: formless, bland, uninteresting. It's a deliberate decision. They work on not being noticed. They never smile. They never raise a hand. They hide their personality. They try to be shadows.

They are the weak. They are small: their genetic program of growth not yet activated. Their mass is less than 100 pounds. They are the small. And they are prey for the big and the strong.

Your kid's school is one place where Darwinism reigns without a rival. No wonder so many people will not consider alternative theories on the origin of life. Darwinism is it: survival of the fit, the big, the strong, the predator.

Middle school is full of stay-behind kids. President Bush's legislation on improving schools is misnamed. It is not “No Child Left Behind;” it is No Child Moves Forward. No Child moves ahead with their age group unless they have met the requirements for promotion.

You might think that the schools would have special programs for children that never pass 6th or 7th grade. When they get to be 15, 16, or 17, you might think they would be taken out of Middle School to keep up with their peers, emotionally, developmentally, but in programs geared to their failure to advance in grade level.

They are not. They are left behind (oh, the irony!) because of policy made by the Duval County School Board. They are left behind, 6 foot plus in height, 180, 190, or 200 pounds plus in weight, the cocks of the walk, Or the dominant hens of the coop. They are left behind to prey on your children, whose only crime is to pass every grade level as they advance in age.

Your child copes by becoming as invisible as possible. What other hope is there for someone under five feet in height, one hundred pound in weight, than to go unnoticed?

I teach your children. I see them doodle in their notebooks, pick at the point of their pencils, stare at their desks. They make a token effort at their work, but futility rules their faces. Their expression says, “Don't look at me; don't call on me. I don't know; I can't.”

I stand at the door of my classroom and they enter and leave without my seeing them. They are specialists in unseen movement. That's their survival strategy in the jungle of Middle School: to be unseen.

Today I can report we have progress. Because of standard-based promotion programs under the previous superintendent, many of the over-aged students have been moved into high school with their peers. The problem may reappear because the current superintendent has ended that program. Evening school, where students retake the failed course, was attended by less than half of the students who needed it during the previous school eyar.

We have programs in place--I call them hurry-up programs--to help students multiple years behind graduation to get caught up. We have progress.

But bullying remains a problem, a huge problem, Darwinism defines our hallways, and no, charter school advocates, you don't offer a sanctuary, it's just as bad in your schools. Monday we open schools in most Florida counties and the message is important: If children are afraid for their safety, they cannot focus on their learning.

Let's do a great job of protection this year!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

News Sources

I’m often asked how I keep up with events and a list of news sources for what I read.

Before I provide my list, the primary quality is an insatiable curiosity about current events and a thirst to read. I prefer reading over television and radio because I can go at my own pace, stop and reread something that didn’t quite make sense, evaluate the source and look for bias in the author, and pause to think about what’s being said.
Non-print media doesn’t provide that opportunity. The audience is forced to go at the pace of the newscast, can’t pause to think, can’t go back to make sure they heard an item correctly, and therefore often absorb the bias of the reporter without realizing it.
Most of my reading is done on the Internet. I use mostly free sources because media companies have not figured out how a business model that makes economic sense to consumers. For example, my hometown newspaper began their paywall by asking for $12.95 a month for internet access. For another dollar a month, they will drive by my house every morning and throw a traditional ink-on-paper newspaper in my driveway.
Most people think like me: It costs much more than one dollar for ink, paper, power to run the printing press, and vehicle expenses for that traditional newspaper. The publisher is trying to rip off consumers and I refuse to comply.
That’s why I was delighted when the Washington Post offered internet access for $20 a year. That’s a deal I can accept. I would be willing to subscribe to another four or five sources at that rate. If newspapers would rethink their offers, they could increase revenue from the internet immensely.

Now my list:
1.       Washington Post online as described above. I have access to everything the paper offers and prints.
2.       Local TV and news radio internet sites. The stories are concise and mostly help me keep up with events in my area.
3.       Newsola: an internet news aggregator that draws stories from Google News. Size and color show importance and newness of the items as well as categorize items into world, nation, financial, entertainment, and technology.
4.       Worldcrunch: when U.S. media do not report events in other parts of the world that interest me. Worldcrunch is an aggregator from foreign media sources.
5.       Newsmax magazine.
6.       Email lists. These change from time to time depending on the importance of their content and the level of bias in the source. I do not mind a slant or spin; I expect it. This is why I read from liberal and conservative newsletters. With input from all sides, I evaluate the information, tease out the truth, and come to my own conclusions. However, over time email newsletters tend to deteriorate. Either the frequency is interrupted and delivery becomes erratic or the author begins to force his perspective onto every item. When the newsletter makes judgments about the news based on whether the author approves of the person, not the actions of the person, it has crossed a line and I drop it.
7.       Radio news that I hear as I drive to and from work.
8.       Yahoo/ATT home page. Yahoo may be second-rate as a search engine, but its other services are first rate. It’s a good place for keeping up with general events.

I haven’t tried Buzzfeed because I think of it as a humor site. Most of my interaction with Buzzfeed comes from postings on Facebook. However, I have heard that it has built itself into a reputable site for authentic news. I will have to check it out and maybe add it to my list.

I may have a few others, but my attention to them is infrequent enough that they do not come to mind. If I remember one, I will amend this post.

What are your sources? Put them in the comments and I’ll check them out.


One hundred years ago in this month of August, German troops raced through Belgium, wheeled towards France, and nearly overran Paris before the Western Front settled into the trenches of northern France where the horror of the world’s first industrialized war would take place over the next four years. The aftermath of this war still defines our world.
One particular way is the national boundaries that define political rule by governments. For Europe and the Middle East, these boundaries were determined by the victorious powers (notably, Britain and France) during the peace negotiations that followed the suspension of hostilities on November 11, 1918.
The victorious powers dismantled the empires of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman dynasty. They reduced the territory of Germany and Russia as they created independent nations in Eastern Europe: Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Poland, Finland, and the Baltic states. They moved territory from one nation to another, e.g. Transylvania was moved from Hungary to Romania.

                                      1914 Europe:                                    1921 Europe:


The victorious Allied powers did not redraw these maps out of altruistic motives. They operated out of the Great Powers theory and their desire to expand their colonial empires. Germany and Russia were whittled down to reduce their power; Austria-Hungary was dismantled to end its Great Power status. That left Britain and France as the two major powers to direct the course of European affairs, or so they thought.
The Ottoman empire was dismantled to further the colonial empires of Britain and France with a view to gaining control over the oil assets of the Middle East. By this time, Europe was well aware of the economic importance of oil and where oil could be found.
Provinces and territories were conglomerated toward this end. Ethnic groups were united where they should have been left apart. Proof of this is shown by the merger of Czechs and Slovaks. Once Czechoslovakia escaped the control of Moscow, the two peoples separated. Yugoslavia went through the same process, but was unable to do so amicably.
Those dissolutions were the beginning. Much of what we now witness is the further undoing of these borders that were drawn unwisely. The Ukraine conflict is another story and will need a separate post. But what we see in Iraq is the undoing of three Ottoman provinces that were combined into one colonial territory to place the oil assets under one political rule. Iraq is separating into its three original provinces, each struggling to exist apart from the others yet wishing to dominate the rest: the Shiite south aligned with Iran, the Sunni middle, and the Kurdish north.

In the future, we should expect more unraveling of the redrawn boundaries. Although western Europe is firmly settled, the rest is in play. We often think the Second World War is the one that determined the course of our history, but it is the First World War, better known overseas as the Great War, that continues to influence the conflicts of our times.