28 March 2010
But if teachers are inspiring and motivating their students, as they should, then they have nothing to worry about. No Child Left Behind was one of the worst initiatives in American education, and it’s time this country does something to improve student performance. All NCLB accomplished was to ensure that American students fall behind students in the rest of the world.
Along with NCLB, we have schools that have made it policy not to fail students or hold them back when they don’t perform at their grade level. If students fail to complete a report or assignment on time, it’s OK; they can turn it in any time before the end of the year, and they’ll receive full credit for it. In fact, if students don't do anything, many schools still give them a 50 percent. Tell me, in what job in the real world can an employee do nothing and miss deadlines yet still keep his or her job? Schools should be preparing students for the real world, and at this rate, I don’t want to work with the kind of people our schools are turning out.
NCLB is completely unrealistic. Sure, those students look good on paper, but they’re not learning the things they should be, and they’re not performing in a way that will prepare them for the real world. These schools that make their students look good on paper are as bad as people who purchase a degree from a diploma mill — and that’s an offense for which employees can be fired or forced to resign. One day, I’m going to have to work with or even for these lazy bastards.
Frankly, I think making teachers responsible for students’ performance is a good step. Granted, appreciation for learning and education starts in the home, and many of today’s parents are so desperate to ensure that their children’s feelings aren’t hurt or that their children are seen as unique and special snowflakes (what I call Snowflake Syndrome) that they are concentrating on things other than the value of education. For example, in recent years, schools have caved in to parents’ demands, going so far as to eliminate valedictorian and salutatorian honors, refusing to hold kids back when they should, and taking all power away from schools.
Perhaps if teachers are responsible for student performance, schools will reclaim the power and respect they once had. Parents, your children are not unique and special snowflakes. They should be expected to turn in reports and assignments, and if they don’t, then their grades should certainly suffer. They should be held back a grade if they are not academically or emotionally ready for the next grade. And they should be able to pass standardized tests in line with those given to students in other countries.
My fear is what we’re in for in the future. If the United States turns out a bunch of dummies for enough years, we’re going to fall noticeably behind the rest of the world in everything else. Our employees will be lazy and stupid, and that can’t possibly bring anything good for this country. If you were a CEO, would you hire lazy, stupid people, or would you look to people in other parts of the world who are intelligent, well-educated and hardworking?
So, yes, I think making teachers responsible for their students’ education is necessary. At the same time, schools need to stop letting parents call the shots. It’s high time the United States focuses on educating its children and preparing them for the real world before the rest of the world surpasses us so far that we can’t possibly compete.
14 March 2010
It might seem petty to some, but when you actually look at the list, you find clichés, vague language, redundancies and inaccurate speech.
Even though words like “flee,” “seek” and “pedestrian” are words that add color to a news report, I think WGN-AM is trying to get back to the basics of journalism. And that’s not a bad thing.
Back in the old days of journalism, before the news became pure entertainment and celebrities and athletes were the hottest news topic, journalism was supposed to be objective, using plain language to inform the public about what was happening. In fact, back in those days, a news story was supposed to be written at an eighth-grade level. That’s right — no flowery words, just plain, easy language that everyone could understand.
Journalists were also taught to remain objective. In fact, this was always one of the main tenets of journalism. Objectivity. Allow the readers, or listeners, as they may be, to learn the information and form their own opinions.
Some of the words on WGN-AM’s list strip the objectivity from a news story, subtly injecting the reporter’s opinion or estimation into the story. For example, “flee,” suggests that someone ran away to escape danger. So, consider what is inferred if a criminal “flees” from police. “Laud” means praise, but it’s a high form of praise — and is it really the journalist’s job to tell you the degree of praise, or should you be able to use the facts to determine that yourself? When reporters say that a situation “went terribly wrong,” you should ask, “terribly wrong according to whom?” That, my friends, is a matter of opinion. So is whether something is “good” or “bad” news. You can use the “according to whom” question on several items on the list: senseless murder, untimely death, no brainer and many more.
Let’s look at some of the clichés that WGN-AM attacked on its list: after the break, as expected, best-kept secret (this one fits both the previous non-objective list and the cliché list), campaign trail, clash with police, death toll, giving 110 percent, going forward, icon, in a surprise move, in other news, killing spree, manhunt, perfect storm, shots rang out, the fact of the matter, time for a break, touch base, under siege, underwent surgery, we’ll be right back, lend a helping hand. These aren’t your classic clichés, but they have become the clichés of broadcast news. If you listen to the news for half an hour, you’ll hear several of these. And that makes them tired, overused and trite. They’re not the hallmark of any good writing, let alone news writing.
How about the redundancies and oxymorons that WGN-AM wants to eliminate? I’m all for this, and I wish Omaha broadcast news reporters would take a look at this list: 5 a.m. in the morning, area residents, at this point in time, close proximity, complete surprise, completely (any word), definitely possible, fatal death, medical hospital and sketchy details.
Then we have the words that make me wonder why in the world broadcasters started using them in the first place: bare naked, mispronunciations of “double-you” and “hundred,” mispronunciations of Iraq and Iran, informed sources say (find your sources and identify them), killing spree, mother of all (anything), shower activity, sources say (who are those sources?), stay tuned, to be fair (journalists are supposed to be fair and objective), torrential rain, white stuff, and you folks.
When I read the list of banned words and phrases, I realized that I could make a logical case against every one of them.
So, while some are criticizing Michaels for issuing a petty list when he ought to be working on something more important, like running the company, he might be starting to revamp the company from the ground up starting with the reporting. That, after all, is what earns the station listeners, to which advertisers pay for access. Maybe Michaels isn’t off his rocker; maybe he sees objective reporting without all of the colorful clichés that plague today’s newscasts as something that listeners will appreciate.
Frankly, it’s time journalists get back to basics. It’s time the definition of news switches from what celebrity romance is rumored to be occurring to what is happening in our cities and nation. I’ve been hoping for many years that journalism would undergo a major overhaul. Maybe WGN-AM’s list of banned words and phrases is the start.
07 March 2010
I do find sports boring and dull, a waste of time when there are so much more interesting things to be doing. But it’s sports’ fans bizarre obsession with their favorite games, teams and players that is really sickening.
Do golf fans love Woods because he’s a fantastic, gifted golfer, or do they love him because he’s faithful to his wife? I would think they adore and admire him for the way he plays the sport, so, going on this line of thinking, why does his personal life matter? Why does anyone care whether he cheats on his wife? That doesn’t affect the way he plays golf, nor does it make him any worse on the golf course.
The Tiger Woods ordeal has brought into focus the fact that Americans spend far too much time idolizing athletes and celebrities. Not only do we want athletes and movie stars who are great at their trade, but we also want them to be perfect in every way so that we can hoist them upon pedestals, worship them and pay them stupid amounts of money. Then, once we discover that they are merely humans making human mistakes and living human lives, we feel they’ve let us down. And if those nasty rumors turn out to be true, then we will snatch away our love for them as quickly as we gave it to them because they are no longer worthy of our worship.
But were they ever?
Why can’t Americans be happy simply admiring someone for their gifts and talents? No, we must become involved with every aspect of the person’s life. We pay paparazzi to invade celebrities’ homes and their lives and their families so we can feel like we know them, like they are close personal friends. We spend millions of dollars every year on celebrity rag magazines that strive to make us feel like we’re entitled to know everything about this celebrity or that athlete. But they aren’t our friends, and their lives aren’t our business.
After Christmas, Amazon.com gave me a free two-month subscription to Us Weekly, a notorious rag celebrity magazine. I do like to look at the pretty dresses that stars wear, and sure, the “Fashion Police” section is a guilty pleasure. But I could finish an issue of Us Weekly in 15 minutes flat because I didn’t read it. I’d flip through the photos and throw the magazine in the trash. By contrast, it takes me a full week (or more) to get through a copy of The Week and about three weeks for National Geographic. I noticed that Us Weekly has a section that shows stars acting “just like us.” That feature lasts two or three pages, so it must be popular. People want to see stars toting around their kids or shopping at Target, yet they get pissed off when stars really do act like real people and get fat, cheat or get a DUI.
A decade ago, Americans weren’t satisfied merely probing into the lives of celebrities and athletes. TV producers decided we should get an inside look at real people, too, and reality television dawned. But rather than giving insight into the lives of real people, reality TV sets up a stage — like 10 very different people from very different walks of life living together in one house — and transforms these regular Joes into mini-celebrities. Now, we’re obsessed with people who have earned our admiration on the big screen and on the field, as well those who are willing to do anything to experience their five minutes of fame on reality television.
It’s sick, really.
So when an athlete like Tiger Woods is found out to be a cheating scoundrel, we have idolized him so much, taught our children to be just like him, that we become angry with him for letting us down and teaching our children bad habits.
In reality, we should be teaching our children to value themselves, to strive to be their own best, to make their own dreams come true — not encouraging them to become just like Tiger Woods or the actor or singer of the moment.
Sure, Woods could be a young golfer’s inspiration, but he shouldn’t be a young golfer’s obsession. He should never have been idolized and worshipped. He should have always been viewed as a human with an extraordinary talent for golf. Whether he cheats on his wife should be looked at as just another human who fucked up. It never should have been made national news. I, who have absolutely no interest in sports or the lives of celebrities, should not know as much as I do about the Tiger Woods scandal merely through osmosis.
Something is wrong with people who obsess about celebrities and athletes rather than looking at their own lives and selves. To sit around and discuss celebrities as though you just talked to them on the phone, calling them by their first names and gossiping about the supposedly intimate details reported in trash magazines, is a sad existence. I wish people would put so much effort into improving themselves, teaching their children respect and responsibility, or improving the way they treat others.
Americans need to consider their obsession with athletes and celebrities and get a grip on reality. Hollywood isn’t reality. Rag celeb magazines aren’t news or journalism. Reality TV is garbage. And celebrities aren’t gods and goddesses worthy of worship. They are human. Some might deserve to be appreciated for their talents, but they also need to be allowed to make mistakes and live their lives in peace.
01 March 2010
What is the point of this senseless messaging? Is it there to make me feel good about being a woman who has to tolerate cramps, moodiness and ick factor every month? Because, really, those stupid messages just make me want to throw the tampon across the room.
The companies that print these messages on their wrappers call them “mood-lifting messages.” Really? Because this little whit of so-called inspiration isn’t lifting my mood. Prozac and Vicodin lift my mood when I’m menstrual and crampy.
Several years ago a feminine hygiene company called Dittie started this trend. Its big selling point is that its tampons and pantiliners have “sassy messages” that are supposed to make you feel good. Well, these messages certainly don’t stop the cramps or bleeding, so I can tell you, they don’t make me feel good. What I need during “that time of the month” are prescription drugs, not cutesy little messages that piss me off.