Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Wish lists and Freedom

This is a rant. It is not going to be politically correct. It might even offend a few of you, so don't say I didn't warn you. (grin)

This is not really about politics, although it has become political, like so many other things. This is about stupidity. This is about the sad, litigious state of our nation. And I'm pretty tired of it.

This latest one carries some good and some bad, as you will see.

Today was Lily's first day of school. A few months ago, the school had posted teacher's "wish lists" for supplies that parents could purchase if they felt inclined or not. It was a wish list, not a "you must buy this" list. None of the teachers have ever made any parent feel like they were awful if they couldn't provide anything. It's understood, at least in our community, that some will be able to do it, and others won't. And I think all of us agree that the teachers shouldn't have to buy school supplies. (Where do our tax dollars go anyway? And that's another rant.)

Now, I do agree that it is wrong to require parents to pay for public education, to require parents to raise money for sports, music, the arts, etc, or the kids are penalized or threatened when the family just can't afford it. I also don't think we should have to buy school supplies like this, but I will shell out that $10-20 for them. (And, really, we pay taxes, so why are we being asked again? Where the hell did the money we paid in taxes go?) There is no question it is wrong, but going the other way is just as bad.

The other way? What other way? Well, because of a lawsuit, schools can't even tell the parents what they need and let the parents decide whether to raise the money, donate, or not. I'm not talking about for sports either. This is for anything.

That's right. Those wish lists (not a "required list") with things like erasers, Kleenex, pencils, crayons, and so on, had to be removed because it violated a court ruling. A teacher, or school, can't ask for volunteers because it violates this ruling. My father-in-law, a track coach, can't hand out the uniforms unless they are paid for by the student/student's family, but he can't tell the student or their family this. Now, if the parent asks to who to make the check out, he can tell them that. Nothing else.

So, um, so, um... WTF?

When I was in high school, pre-budgets woes--well, not really, there have ever been budget woes in CA schools as far as I can remember--if we wanted to wear the team swim suit, we had to buy it. It wasn't cheap either (usually about $60 for the girls and $15 for the boys. Oh, the inequity!). I don't think everyone wore one, but I honestly don't remember. Our parents weren't asked for school supplies; our schools were better; we had more kids per classroom; we had ESL students, but not separate classrooms or curriculum for them; there was no such thing as a teacher's aide; our teachers did music in the classroom as well as art; the kids were better behaved.

What the hell happened?

And I have digressed. This isn't about the state of the schools. This is about the inability to communicate. Last year, I remember Lily's school sending home this letter talking about how the school relies on every family to give the school $250/child attending that school to help it continue to do what it does. It didn't require it, but it did lay the guilt trip on pretty heavy.

It succeeded in pissing me off. (Guilt trips don't work well with me.) I donated what I could when I felt I could, and if I thought the program was worth donating too. Some programs I didn't agree with, so I didn't donate. And I didn't donate $250. We pay enough in property taxes as it is. It should be enough to cover the school. They'd also passed a tax that increased our property taxes to pay for the music and arts programs in our school. I voted against it. I would have supported it, but the measure did not protect the monies already slated toward these programs. Instead, we were just taxed more. You know what will happen to the monies that were originally set aside for these programs?


What do you think happened to those funds? No one's telling, but I can guess.

Again, I digress.

It reminds me of the one time I took the witness stand. I was one of the few bystanders, possibly the only one, who was willing to testify against a pilot who buzzed the Santa Monica Pier. After spending hours waiting to do nothing, I understand, but as a citizen, it was my duty to do so. So, wasted time or not, it was worth it. The pilot was convicted, as he should have been.

Anyway, back to topic, the defense lawyer got the judge to agree that the witnesses called to the stand could not say anything that would indicate we thought we under a terrorist attack, compare it to 9/11, and so on. This might sway the jurors and unduly play on their sympathies.

Um, I can honestly say that when I stood on that beach and watched the jet's wings miss the tops of the lamps by less than 10 feet, miss the Ferris wheel by less than 20 feet, and come up over the end of the pier with maybe 6 feet to spare when it pulled up, I did wonder if we were being attacked.

Top it off with the fact that the plane had no markings on it, but there was no question it was a fighter jet, of course I wondered if this was a terrorist attack. I'm sure all of the screaming people that scattered on the pier thought so too. Yet the judge agreed with the defense lawyer. When I testified, I couldn't use any "inflammatory language" to "sway the jurors."

In short, I couldn't tell them what I was really thinking at the time. How is that justice? Not that I wasn't able to get around this. I alluded to 9/11 without actually saying it, but still? I had to do that to get my point across?

For me, this is similar. Require it? No. Allow the schools to put it out there and leave it up to the community to decide? Yes. Penalize those who can't? No. Reward those who do? No.

But when, and where, does this madness stop? There are so many limits to what we can say and do anymore you have to wonder how free we are.


Faith said...

What are you trying to do to me, woman? I have so much to rant about in regards to this post and agreeing with you and there isn't enough space in comments, lol!

Seriously, tho, the school supplies and school policies is another of my hot buttons. Where does our taxes go, indeed?

JenA said...

My kids attend private school and several years ago they told us "Hey, there's not enough $$ to fund art, music and spanish." WTH was my response. So then they said if you want to save it we need an additional X amount per school year per student plus your tuition oh yeah and add in a book fee while you're at it. So scare the hell out of us, ask for more money and voila, we've saved the programs! I guess in a schemy, sinister way it worked but you're right, communication is the key. Just tell us, let us decide if we can do it and move on. Our school does have a wish list/apple tree thing where the parents can "pick an apple" and donate the item. Thanks for the post! Rant away baby!

Nicki said...

Ugh, so glad I don't go to public school anymore. Hell, I don't even go to college because of the unreasonable demands on books.

One year I spent 400$ out of my own pocket for an Art History book that I was assured would be worth almost three-quarters that at the end of the class.

When I turned it in at the end of the class, guess what? The edition had SUDDENLY changed, and now I could only get 1$ back for my book.

One dollar. As opposed to the 300$ or so they'd said it would be worth. So I kept the book, preferring to save my knowledge.

And what happened to that book? It was recently stolen. >_<

Nickie Asher said...

The public school system makes me want to puke. Period. The nuts have escaped and are running the show with schools and so much more in this country. Pathetic.

Faith said...

@ Nicki Asher - Public schools and politics will cause my blood to boil, so I totally relate to how you feel and I'm sure Marci does too.

Anthology Authors said...

Because I can't help myself, Faith. I had a rant about banks and bank fees in mind, but when I heard about this, I couldnt contain myself. LOL I wish you would rant with me. Misery loves company, after all. (g)

Anthology Authors said...

Thats what they do, Jen. They pull out that old fear tactic to get you to pony up. It's maddening. It's wrong. They all do it (government, schools, religions, etc.)

Miriam Newman said...

I guess they can't tell you where the money went that was slated for the art and music programs, either, right? How convenient.

Janie Emaus said...

It's certainly a sad state of affairs. Great rant!

Karenna Colcroft said...

My daughter, who's in eighth grade this year, brought home her supply list at the end of last year (along with the summer reading list). Since my ex-husband is supposed to buy some of the things my kids need, I told my daughter to bring him a copy of the list.

He called me up, "We got her all the notebooks and pencils and stuff, but why the hell are things like tissues and hand sanitizer on this list?"

Because our schools don't provide those things...and the teachers are spending so much of their own money on supplies that they can't afford tissues and hand sanitizer, apparently.

Our district charges an activity fee of $100 per year for each student who wants to join a club. It's a one-shot fee; once it's paid, it doesn't matter if the kid joins one club or twenty. Kids who get free or reduced lunches also get free or reduced activity fees. Last year, there was also a fee per child of $450 for EACH sport they participated in. This year, that fee's been cut to $275. It's ridiculous, and kids like mine whose families earn too much to qualify for reductions but not enough to actually pay the fees are left out.

Kate Richards said...

my mother was a legal secretary in the courts of a neighboring state and one of her jobs was to 'redact' tapes and video so nothing the lawyers didn't want seen was there when the jury saw it or heard it. Made her so angry and when she got called to jury duty she always said, not unless I can see ALL the evidence and surprisingly she was never picked.

Faith said...

@ Karenna - The school system we moved into last year has fees that the kids' other school never had. This one expects a $100 educational fee per child, and now parents have to pay a huge fee to play sports that's something like $300 per child. By starting this sports fee, many parents have pulled their kids out of sports because they can't afford yet another bill to pay when the economy is so bad in an already economically depressed area. My youngest dau is in 8th grade, too. She said her friends were talking about how angry their parents are over the sports fees. My dau doesn't play sports because it's just too much driving and gasoline for me to keep up with. Add a big sports fee to that? No way.

@ Marci - Oh, I can get on rants about school-related issues that would require a ream of paper to write it all out. I'll probably have one after this first 9-week school period is over and I "chat" with a few of the youngest girl's teacher. It'll be about how the school won't allow the kids to bring most of their books home when they have homework, yet the teachers expect the parent to read minds and know what the kid is doing based only on some vague or goofily worded questions on a sheet of paper.

Fiona McGier said...

My youngest graduated from public high school last year, and this year I have 3 in college. But I'm still glad I don't have to tap-dance for the local school district anymore. Public education has devolved because many parents have abdicated their responsibility to teach basic things like politeness, respect for elders, personal hygiene, sex ed, etc. so the schools have to pick up the slack.
But as a teacher you are faced with a classroom of kids who don't respect you enough to shut up and listen, or who feel empowered to threaten you because they know the school board will listen to their mom over your story, and yet they feel entitled to an "A" without doing more than breathing in your classroom.
So the "good old days" of good education in public schools were
dependent on being taught values and morality at home. Today's parents are too busy feeling guilty because they work so much, so they don't bother to discipline their kids. I'm not sure there is a solution that the "reality TV-obsessed" families of today will accept.
I swear if one more mom dragging pre-teen girls around the retail store I work in asks me where the "Kardashian collection" is, I'm gonna ask her, "Why? Are your girls aspiring to make a living having sex like those bimbos?"

Stephanie said...

I agree that is does really suck that the district can't supply the classes with hand sanitizer and tissues....ours asked for donations too. But it's not my daughter's teacher's fault and me spending the $2 I did on a bottle of sanitizer and a box of tissues did not break me. It is the principle of it...but if they don't have the stuff and the district won't supply it...who's losing out??? My kid. Or her teacher who would probably pay for the stuff out of her own pocket.

Faith said...

I nearly fainted when I saw my dau's 8th grade supply list sheet. Other than the basics like notebooks, pens, pencils, colored pencils and markers, she had a different supply list for each teacher's class.

And something else that really bugs me that I bet Marci will agree with, too, is since when did it become necessary that parents must buy a particular brand or style of a product? One teacher had a note on her list that stated all index cards had to have a spiral binding. Another wanted only Crayola brand colored pencils and markers. When people are on budgets, I think teachers push their luck by demanding specific brands and styles.

My grandfather was a techer for over 60 years. He said over and over that the educational system was going to go down the tubes because he was seeing changes in the 70s that didn't bode well. Heck, I have a couple of good teacher friends who retired early because they got sick of the gov bs that doesn't allow a teacher to teach or discipline.

Cassie Exline said...

Schools around here are the same. Doesn't seem right or fair.

Anthology Authors said...

Wow! I hit a hot button. I suppose I should hav eknown considering it's one for me too.

So, here's the thing: I disagree with hand sanitizer. I agree with washing your hands with regular soap and water, not anti-bacterial soap. Why? Triclosan. It has been proven over and over again that it doesn't really work. Matter of fact, it's bad for you. Japan at one point was mad for anti-bacterial soap. They discovered that their children were sicker when they used it.

It's also really bad for the environment, but God forbid we find out about it.

Anthology Authors said...

Faith and Karenna,

California cannot require that students pay a fee to attend. It's in our constitution, and ACLU went to court to ensure that. While I agree with not being charged more than we already are (public school is not free. Our taxes pay for it), this is the same ruling that keeps the schools and teachers from saying, "We need this. Do any of you want to provide it? You decide."


Anthology Authors said...

Oh, Kate, don't even get me started on the court system and admissible evidence. Oh, and the juries they pick. Yeah. It's sad. It's bad. It's criminal. There's no way it's justice.

Anthology Authors said...

Oh, Miriam, Miriam. We can guess where the money went. It certainly wasn't to the classrooms.

Anthology Authors said...

Nicki A,

There is good and bad in the public school system. We have some fabulous teachers at our local school. Lily's 2nd grade teacher is supposedly really good, but the curriculum... That leaves me speechless. Oh, and the amount of homework for second grade? Unbelievable!

Anthology Authors said...


At least where I live, more and more parents are teaching manners. This may just be my neighborhood and our school. The kids are well-behaved, at least in the elementary. The parents do not allow their kids to act like hoodlums or even be rude. Even teachers have said that there seems to be a shift. It's a breath of fresh air.

One can hope.

Anthology Authors said...

It is, Janie. Thank you!

Shaunna Wolf said...

Well, I don'[t teach anymore, main reason is that you are faced with a classroom of kids who think they can punch you in the face, and when they do you get put on the hot seat what did you do to provoke it?

Parents scream at you that everything their kid does is your fault and somehow they are not at fault at all.

It is a mess and honestly there have always been problems of one sort or another.

There used to be a text book rental fee at the start of the year. Somewhere that vanished. Now schools are lucky to have enough text books that are 20 years out of date. My son in HS had to share an algebra book, and when I bought one and he took it to school he got accused of stealing the book from the supply room. They told me that they had a limited supply of new books and they only replaced one of the shared books when one got lost or stolen or they could no longer tape it together.

I had to bring in the receipt for the book etc, then was told he shouldn't bring it to school because the other kids would "feel bad" he had a new book.

My daughter has been homeschooled since 2nd grade when we moved back from Germany, she was supposed to be moved to the 4th grade for the next year. I got told we don't do dumb things like that in the US, kids can't be moved ahead until 4th grade. The woman sneered at me, a real honest to god sneer.

The home school my daughter does in online, the "text books" are all up to date, and we don't have to deal with the garbage.

Patricia said...

Don't even get me started, Marci! I went to back-to-school night at my son's high school and the teacher said that she didn't assign homework because the kids wouldn't do it anyway. Talk about WTF!

Jim Greer said...

All of our kids are grown, and two have kids of their own. School stuff is way more complicated than it was when I went to school - sort of. We had a daily prayer, duck and cover drills and one of our classmates had to stand in the hall during the pledge because his parents objected for religious reasons.

Marci, you're playing my song about the courtroom. We teach our new cops that it's not reality, not especially logical and certainly not always just (on either side). It's a melodrama. There is the good guy (the cops, of course), the bad guy (the defense attorney. Did I have to?) and the damsel in distress is always justice. Now, if we could only get them to play a little ragtime piano during the proceeding we'd be all good!

jameskellogg said...

I hear you loud and clear, Marci. It's not much different in Colorado. How did we get here? It's called incrementalism. For a long time, schools have become less and less about education and more and more about political agendas. So it has gone with so many aspects of America.

I do a lot of political writing. I'm cheered by many, hated by others. That's the way it goes. If liberty is to be preserved, we must be educated and outspoken. I'm glad you're willing to speak your mind. You're not alone in your sentiments, and I suspect changes are forthcoming.

Anthology Authors said...


My favorite teacher, she taught 3rd grade, quit after 30-40 years (perhaps longer) because of the amount of discipline. She spent more time disciplining than she did teaching. It's incredibly sad because she was a wonderful teacher.

People are so concerned about how everyone else will feel and yet they accused him of stealing? That's rich!


My dad was called for jury duty many years ago. It was a civil case about construction. My father was a civil engineer. He'd been a foreman that built roads in the 60s around CA. He ran a plant that supplied rock, gravel, sand, asphalt and concrete to construction companies. Heck, we had trucks that poured footings for houses, driveways, and sidewalks. He knew CA building codes. Guess who was the first person the defense team wanted excluded from the jury?

Heaven forbid a juror should actually know something about the subject.


There are studies that show homework doesn't really help you. That being said, if they don't do their homework, fail them. Except failing isn't the bad thing it used to be when we were in school. It certainly doesn't stop you from moving into the next class up.

Ah, James, I tell my husband we have to speak up or no one will ever hear us.

Erica Freeman said...

It's interesting about that ruling. I hadn't heard about it yet but in Florida, they make those lists MANDATORY! The teacher will ask the kid each and every day when they're getting the missing items. On top of that, they TELL the kids what items to provide for parties and other happenings. Those just scraping by paycheck to paycheck have a horrible time doing wonder there's such demand for charity back to school drives.

It's just as bad, if not worse in high school because there are no reduced fees for poor kids. If they can't scrap up the money for uniforms and fees, they can't play. Now, they're making uniforms more and more expensive and adding more and more items so the middle class kids can't do sports either. Band isn't cheap either. Thank goodness I loved drama; it was the only thing available for poor kids.

Education shouldn't be restricted to those who can afford it but considering what's being done to schools and libraries, that's exactly what's happening.

Terri Talley Venters said...

Amen! It's Not as bad at Catholic schools, but our guilt is to a higher power.

Anthology Authors said...

Erica, that's awful. How can they make it mandatory? And, again, what are our taxes paying for if it's not the schools?

LOL, Terri. Catholics do have their own special brand of guilt. I'm so glad I'm not Catholic. (g)

Karenna Colcroft said...

@Faith, same here with the sports fees. My town is mostly middle-class to upper-middle, but there are a sizable percentage of families with lower incomes.

Last year, my pediatrician told me to put my younger daughter in some kind of sport to help with her posture and with her social skills (my daughter has high-functioning autism). I asked the pediatrician if she was willing to pay for that, since I couldn't afford it. She shut up.

I don't have a problem with schools asking that some supplies be provided by families, but at what point does a "free public" education stop deserving that name?