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Category Archives: school

The leader of the children of the damned

Through most of my teen years, I was a fairly quiet, bullied kid.

Except for the time I bullied someone myself.

And, because I have always been a go-big-or-go-home person, I didn’t choose a kid to bully. Oh, no, not me.

I chose a TEACHER.

Mr. P was fresh out of teachers’ college when he showed up in our seventh grade classroom. He looked like a J. Crew model. He was all preppy cashmere sweaters and perfectly blowdried blonde hair and way too many very-white teeth. He laughed heartily. He had pink cheeks and sparkly eyes.

Immediately, my class decided they must destroy him.

Why we came to this decision, I’m not sure. We were a small school in a farm town. Did he represent the other, and we feared that? Was he too gung-ho? Was he trying too hard? Was he just TOO DAMN BLONDE?

I’m not sure why the rest of the class didn’t like him, but my dislike of him was twofold.

First, historically, teachers had been my only safe place. Especially English teachers. They praised my writing and they called on me when no one else would answer their questions because they knew I’d done the reading (hell, I’d probably finished the book on the first day) and they were kind when the kids weren’t.

Mr. P. wasn’t. For whatever reason, he had no time to be kind to the quiet, bullied kid. He graded me more harshly than I thought I deserved (whether or not I was right, I’m not sure – I was twelve, what the hell did I know) and snapped at me quite often in class. He also forced me to participate in things that other teachers would let slide – things where I had to talk in front of the class. Which was my biggest fear. And when I asked him, as I always did, if there was a way I could get around such a thing, he SNEERED at me.

This didn’t fly with the shy, but snotty about her intelligence, kid that I was.

The second reason was a lot more selfish.

All of the other kids were doing it. Dammit, I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be cool SO BADLY. Even though I knew, on some level, I never would be, this seemed like a way to be cool.

It was hard to be cool when you were the school's Napoleon Dynamite, yo.

It was hard to be cool when you were the school’s Napoleon Dynamite, yo.

So I led the class in a campaign of terror against Mr. P.

See, I was quiet, and I was shy…but I was smart as hell. And I read. A lot. I had ideas about how to be cruel to people that the other kids hadn’t even THOUGHT of. (Mostly because they’d taught them to me by being cruel to me all those years.)

Things we did to Mr. P. over the two years we tormented him, that I can remember:

  • all brought apples back from lunch and, one at a time, loudly rolled them up the aisles at his desk when his back was turned and pretended we didn’t know where they came from
  • he brought in an “heirloom mug” to teach us the meaning of the word heirloom (I’m pretty sure seventh graders don’t need an object lesson for such a thing) and one of my classmates broke it (this was NOT on me, I’d just like to make that clear, but I did laugh along with everyone else)
  • we refused to answer any questions in class, raise our hands, etc., until he instituted “participation points” and we were FORCED to, but then we’d answer briefly and in snotty tones
  • we had a class spelling bee, and he was SO EXCITED, and I knew I could win, but just didn’t give a shit, so when it was down to me and another kid I refused to continue spelling and he was all “BUT THE PRIZE IS A CANDY BAR!” all sad-eyed and I laughed like he’d offered me a mudpie and said “you can’t do better than that?” and sat down
  • and, our coup de grace, another student and I took the musical thingy out of a musical birthday card and hid it under his desk, so there was this tinny “happy birthday” music playing all day, and he was all “WHAT IS THAT MUSIC” and everyone pretended they couldn’t hear it and we walked past on a free period and saw that he’d torn all the drawers out of his desk and was sitting in his chair and he was CRYING.

After that, it wasn’t as much fun anymore. I mean, seriously, we made this guy CRY. We BROKE an ADULT.

The worst part, though (I KNOW, there’s a WORSE THING) was that he’d started a junior-high drama club. He actually got me into acting. I should be thanking the poor guy for this, you know? So in seventh grade, we did Heidi. I was Heidi’s bitchy aunt. I sprained my ankle so badly the day before the show I couldn’t perform and my understudy had to go on for me and I was HEARTBROKEN.

In eighth grade, we did The Diary of Anne Frank (I know, this guy was really optimistic about our talent – well, until we got through with him) and I was Anne’s mother. (Yes, I always got cast in the parent roles, or the bitchy roles. I apparently have always looked old and always read bitchy.) In news of ZOMG, my crush was in the play, too (but I didn’t know at the time he was only in the show because HIS crush was playing his wife. Sigh.) At this point, we had bullied Mr. P. to a point of constant nerves. He was no longer cashmere sweaters and perfect hair; he was more often greasy and sweaty, he’d grown a weird, patchy beard, and he had this constant thousand-yard stare.

I’m not sure what, exactly, happened, the night he had the nervous breakdown. We were acting jerky, I’m sure…but keep in mind we were 13- and 14-year-olds. That’s how those kids act, usually. They’re bundles of hormones and jackassery.

I just remember him screaming “THIS PLAY IS CANCELLED!” and it was an hour before the afterschool bus was coming, and he stormed out of the auditorium, and we kind of whispered and then crept out into the lobby to use the pay phone to call our parents to see if they could pick us up early and he was sitting in the lobby, looking furiously through a phone book and rocking.

“What are you doing, Mr. P.?” one of the kids asked him.

“I AM LOOKING FOR BICYCLE STORES,” he said. “I’m going to RIDE a BIKE across the COUNTRY and eat nothing but BEANS for the rest of my LIFE.”

The kids we were thought this was HYSTERICAL. The woman I am now is HORRIFIED. (Seriously, though, we were kids. The word “beans” made us think of “farts” and “farts” was SO FUNNY. Come on, it still kind of is.)

This was near the end of the school year. He did finish out the school year, but the play didn’t happen, and he didn’t come back the following year (his tormentors – us – had moved onto high school at that point, so he’d have probably been safe, but I can’t blame him that he wanted nothing more to do with my school.)

I seriously think back on this time and cringe.

I was TERRIBLE. I wasn’t the only one – we were all little sharks who had scented blood – but a lot of these things wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t said “hey, why don’t we try…” because THOSE KIDS WOULD NOT HAVE THOUGHT OF THEM. I had no empathy for this poor man, who was new in town, new to his job, and probably trying really hard. And who knows why he was (what I perceived to be) dickish to me? Maybe he was trying to get me to work harder; maybe he wanted me to be able to talk in front of people, and thought this was the best way to go about it. Who knows.

I know. I was twelve, and I was a lonely bullied kid. I did a lot of things that were, in retrospect, not good choices. (I also made some brave choices, but the bad ones probably equaled those out.) But this poor guy, sincerely. And he talked me into acting! Which changed the whole course of my life! And my actions (well, mine and others, but I totally egged those other kids on) MADE THE MAN QUIT TEACHING!

I still feel terrible about this. I’ve totally tried to find him on Facebook and on Google and I cannot. I sadly imagine he is still riding solo across the country on his bike, subsisting on nothing but legumes, like a Forrest Gump without a Jenny to come home to. He’s probably about 50 now. Still pedaling. Trying to escape the mean kids and the tinkling “happy birthday” that won’t leave him alone and just…won’t…stop.

Mr. P., it’s too late, and it won’t fix anything now, but I am very, very sorry for the time I decided the best way to deal with an adult was to bully him into a nervous breakdown and to make him quit his job. As an adult now, I know how mean children can be, and I sincerely cringe at that child I used to be. You have no reason to forgive me (and I am quite sure you’re probably never going to read this – what are the odds, right?) but I do hope you’re well, and you found your happiness somewhere, and you were able to forget about those two terrible years in the late 80s when the children of the damned of upstate New York used you as a punching bag.

(I promise I’m doing penance for this on the regular, now. I’m nice to old people AND animals AND children and one time I found a lost kid in the Target and totally brought him up to the customer service desk so he wasn’t stolen by a pervert and his dad tried to give me money and cried. I REALLY AM TRYING TO MAKE UP FOR MY PAST TRANSGRESSIONS.)

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When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.

Dad yells at me all the time about this.

“THAT BLOG IS SUCKING UP YOUR LIFE!” he says. “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON IN THE WORLD AROUND YOU!”

Mostly he’s yelling because I don’t know what’s happening on Fox News, but he has a point. I don’t usually know what’s up in the world. I mean, if it’s something HUGE, I do. Because it gets posted on Facebook or something. Or someone is talking about it at work. Or Dad yells at me about not knowing about it when I call him. (Listen, though, a lot of what he yells about are things like “DON’T YOU KNOW THAT IF YOU HAVE A LIBRARY CARD THE GOVERNMENT TRACKS YOUR EVERY MOVE?” This explains, in Dad’s mind, why he doesn’t have a library card. I said, “Dad, you don’t read books, I think this explains why you don’t have a library card, not the government thing…” and he was all “NO NO GOVERNMENT TRACKERS!!!” so I dropped it.)

Oh, look at the old-fashioned card! I like this. I would like a hundred of these. I'd make them into wallpaper. Think of the history!

Oh, look at the old-fashioned card! I like this. I would like a hundred of these. I’d make them into wallpaper. Think of the history!

So we get to thank Mom for telling me about the news story I’m talking about today. Thank you, Mom, for understanding I don’t have time to watch the news. Well, I suppose I COULD watch the news. But it’s kind of depressing and if I do watch the news, I watch the local news. I like to know what’s happening around me, I guess. I used to keep up with the news on Twitter. I should probably get back into that someday. I miss you, Twitter, I’m sorry I’ve been ghosty. I’ll come back someday. I’ll put on a pretty dress and everything. Witty repartee. Sarcastic asides. It’ll be great.

Today, Mom said, “Did you hear someone got kicked out of school for poetry?” and NO, I had not heard that. (It was like a week ago. Probably you all know about this. I guess it was on the Today Show or something. Who watches the Today Show? People who work different shifts than I do. People who don’t work. I don’t know, I don’t watch the Today Show.)

So I looked it up on the internet. Which was kind of a difficult task because Mom was all, “It was a student from Vermont and it happened yesterday” and it was actually a student from California and it happened two days after Christmas…but it’s Mom, she has kind of a strange sense of reality at times. I don’t get it from the neighbors, you know.

So for those of you who aren’t in the world, like me, here’s the scoop.

A seventeen-year-old student in San Francisco wrote a poem about the school shooting in Connecticut. It wasn’t for an assignment. According to what I’ve read online, one of her teachers “found” it – I have no idea what that means, did she drop it? Leave it somewhere? Throw it away and the teacher pulled it out of the trash? I find this whole thing suspect – and was SO SHOCKED by the content she brought it to the administration. The student was promptly suspended, and it will be decided when school starts on Monday if she’s expelled or not.

What did she say, in this poem that wasn’t even turned in as part of an assignment?

“I understand the killings in Connecticut. I know why he pulled the trigger.”

The school said they have a “zero tolerance approach to violence, the threat of violence” and a “violation of any one of these rules can result in dismissal from school.”

They are also called the Life Learning Academy, so already I’m sure they’re some sort of crunchy granola hippie school, yo. They are also somewhere called “Treasure Island.” I feel like this is not a real school.

"We are often tossed, but we never sink." I feel like this is a euphemism for something.

“We are often tossed, but we never sink.” I feel like this is a euphemism for something.

OK, now, I’ve rambled a little bit. What thoughts have you got in your mind about this girl’s poem, hmm?

I don’t especially want to talk about the tragedy in Connecticut. I’ve avoided it up until now, for the most part.

Here’s the thing. Do you think everyone that writes not only believes everything they write, they act on everything they write? And do the school administrators believe that?

Even the seventeen-year-old girl was all, "It's like Stephen King. He doesn't act on everything HE writes." EVEN THE KID GETS THIS. COME ON, PEOPLE.

Even the seventeen-year-old girl was all, “It’s like Stephen King. He doesn’t act on everything HE writes.” EVEN THE KID GETS THIS. COME ON, PEOPLE.

The girl’s poem went on to talk about how we live in a society that causes such things to happen. It didn’t lionize a mentally-ill man who walked into a school and murdered people. It was a piece of creative writing. One, I think it is important to note (again), that she wrote for herself, not for a class assignment.

I write a lot of things I don’t publish. Things that aren’t for anyone’s eyes but mine. A lot of this stuff is so I can work out the twisty place that is my head. Some of it’s poetry, some of it’s diary-type stuff, some of it’s rambly shit, but it’s mine. And if anyone read it, I would ALSO probably be suspended. FROM ALL THE PLACES. And possibly LIFE.

Was she trying to work out in her mind how such a thing could have happened? Maybe.

Also, the girl was seventeen. The tortured poetry that came out of me when I was seventeen…well, I don’t know if anyone wants to talk about that. For the love of Pete, you all remember seventeen, right? EVERYTHING is doom and gloom and you push EVERYTHING to the edge and ALL THE THINGS SEEM SO SO SERIOUS AND DIRE. Seventeen! I wouldn’t go back there for all the money in the world. Or a date with Ewan McGregor, even.

"Not even for ME, Amy?" "No, not even you, my beloved Ewan. Not even you."

“Not even for ME, Amy?” “No, not even you, my beloved Ewan. Not even you.”

I don’t think she was saying she understood how someone could walk into a school and start shooting children. I think she was saying she understood how things could get to that point.

And I don’t think that’s any different from how hard it is for me, all these years later, to think or talk about what happened at Columbine, because as bad as I feel for everyone who died (and I do, oh, how I do, please don’t think I don’t) I feel bad for the two boys who were pushed far enough that one day they decided that the only way to make that stop was to take guns to school.

Because I’ve been pushed that far. I spend eight years of my life being pushed that far. I never brought a gun to school, but I’m not going to tell you I didn’t have some severely violent fantasies. You get pushed, you know? You just get pushed and pushed and pushed and you can’t do anything about it and you can’t get out of the situation and you start thinking thoughts that aren’t even your own. Crazy thoughts. Thoughts about self-harm and thoughts about harming others. And some people do that, and some don’t, and I’m not passing judgement on those of us who made it through that and those of us who didn’t. And the people that find it so easy to vilify bullied students who handle it in a violent way – well, I have to assume they’ve never been in that situation.

So could I have written a similar poem about Columbine? Yes. Absolutely.

Should this kid be kicked out of school for this? No. She should not. She didn’t walk around inciting violence. She had no history of violence. She wrote a poem. For (from what I can tell from these articles, although it’s strange and vague) herself. And now she’s facing expulsion.

Where do we draw the line? What are we teaching our kids with things like this? That censorship is ok? That they should keep things all bottled up inside? That certain things are ok and certain things are art and certain things aren’t? Not to create? Not to have feelings? That some feelings are valid and some are wrong?

Let's let her decide big questions like this for herself in college, ok? That's where big questions belong.

Let’s let her decide big questions like this for herself in college, ok? That’s where big questions belong.

I don’t know. I don’t know what to even say about this. She didn’t say people deserved to die; she didn’t celebrate death. She simply empathized. She said she understood how such things could happen in our society.

And in certain situations, I understand it as well. I think anyone who was bullied can’t help but put themselves in this situation.

She seems to be handling it well. She’s a self-possessed kiddo. Good for her. At seventeen, I would have been curled up in a little ball of weepery on the floor. (Or shouting at someone in charge. I randomly had rabble-rouser moments in my teens. Once I staged a huge sit-in because I thought something was unfair. Looking back, it was a ridiculous thing – they cancelled our class trip because of the misbehavior of the class before us, and I thought that was unfair to us, because WE weren’t the ones that misbehaved – but I was very good at leading people, apparently. Or people just wanted to not go to class. Or when I’m on a tear, I’m all kinds of charismatic. Because almost the entire class participated in that. And I was totally the one who got in trouble for organizing it. I’m still kind of proud of that.)

There was a lot of grown-up Amy hiding out in wee-Amy, waiting to get out and play. I like to think back on that and smile.

There was a lot of grown-up Amy hiding out in wee-Amy, waiting to get out and play. I like to think back on that and smile.

There are a lot of things wrong here in this country. We’re broken in a lot of ways. Let’s not compound that by stifling our artists, ok? Let’s not kill the dreamers and the thinkers and the creators. Let’s not do that. Because if we do that, if we take that step, we’re lost. If we  stifle all that is beautiful in the world, what’s left? A world I don’t want to live in. A world with nothing left to look forward to. A world with no hope left in it, like Pandora’s box if she didn’t close it quickly enough.

Let’s close the box before the hope gets out. We don’t have much left, we need to hang onto something.

(Title is a quote by Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko. Thought we should have a poet for the title today.)


I got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight…

I’ve been so busy I totally missed back-to-school time! What WILL the kids do without my back-to-school fashion roundup, I ask you? I mean, they’re probably going back to school this week wearing pajamas, all, “AMY DIDN’T TELL US WHAT TO WEAR” and that makes me SO SAD. I’m sorry, youth of America. I’ve been busy working and working and working and sometimes sleeping. I know I’ve let you down. Here, I’ll fix it. Better late than never. I hope some of these things are still on the shelves.

BACK TO SCHOOL 2012 FASHION STAPLES
(via random websites on the interwebs that all say they know what’s up)

Boyfriend jeans

I like that you have to peg the legs. We did this when I was in school. TWENTY YEARS AGO. What was old is now new! I AM COOL AGAIN! (Pee ess I was never cool.)

Apparently this is what they call jeans that are all slouchy and distressed and fit all loose. I don’t have an issue with these. They look comfortable. Although I don’t think you could actually wear your boyfriend’s jeans. They wouldn’t fit. How often do people date someone that’s exactly the same size as them? Also, high school boys smell weird and you shouldn’t be getting naked with them anyway, you’re only a kid. Stop that.

Skinny jeans

I guess you don’t sit down when wearing these. That would make taking classes a little difficult.

This website calls skinny jeans “Spanx you can wear on the outside!” and I think that’s misleading because the point of Spanx is that your clothes cover up the Spanx and also all of your random fat-rolls that are thrown asunder by the Spanx. If you’re wearing your Spanx on the outside, people will see all MANNER of ills. Also, I feel like skinny jeans are cutting off circulation to your hooha, and you’re going to want that for teen sex. Also, look, there’s like scientific proof that skinny jeans are bad for your health. SCIENCE KIDS! It’s not just a class you take after homeroom! Skinny jeans pinch one of the nerves in your outer thigh and make your legs tingly, not the good kind of tingly like when Jimmy McGee walks by in his letter sweater, either. (What? Kids don’t wear letter sweaters anymore? Shut up, I don’t know.) So I’m saying no no no nein on the skinny jeans, even though they’re supposedly what all the cool kids wear. Who wants to be a cool kid, anyway? If you watch any afterschool specials, the cool kids always die from driving while texting or whatever anyway.

Leggings/jeggings

These look so tight. Look at the pocket on the left, it’s all poking up out of protest.

STOP TRYING TO MAKE FETCH HAPPEN. IT’S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Oh, wait, shit, fetch happened? These stupid things are actually popular? Ugh, I feel like if you wore these you’re walking around with only tights on. They make me nervous. I didn’t understand them last hear and I don’t understand them now. Just don’t wear them. Ignore them and maybe they’ll go away.

Accessories

ZOMG THIS WEAR THIS. Because when the other kids see this, you’re totally elected queen of the prom. No question about it.

This site tells me that bangle bracelets, big brooches, and wicker handbags are all the rage. GRANDMA DID YOU WRITE THIS? Seriously, if these things are in style, my grandmother is CUTTING EDGE BABY. I don’t know too many teens but the ones I do know aren’t wearing grandma-chic. Ignore this tip. If you wear these things, people are going to laugh at you. THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU, CARRIE! THEY’RE ALL GOING TO LAUGH AT YOU!

Boots

Here we read that thigh-high boots are in for 2012. You know who else wore thigh-high boots? Vivian Ward.

She says who..she says when…she says…who…

I don’t think you need to be wearing thigh-high stripper boots to high school. If you want to wear them on your time off, that’s your call, but you’ve got like 80 more years of your life to be skeezy, so why don’t you wait a few years? Wear practical shoes to school. I don’t even know that any of us wore heels when I was in school. We wore sneakers. Sometimes we wore flats, if we were dressed up. Is dressing like a teenage prostitute the thing? We here at Lucy’s Football do not approve of you looking like a teenage prostitute. We think you are much too classy for that.

Puffed shoulders

Adorable, if you’re built like a waif ballerina, I guess.

Apparently, puffed shoulders are the thing? I don’t approve. What do you think this is, the 30s, and we’re all in leg o’mutton sleeves?

Let me know when these come back into style, I’m going to hide in the closet.

No no no. This is foolish. Listen, I feel like a lot of these tips come from Gossip Girl. YES. The clothes on Gossip Girl are gorgeous. But they’re totally impractical and no one dresses like that. Everyone thinks they’re a Serena or a Blair but in all actuality everyone’s either a Vanessa or a Dorota. You know it’s true.

Superdistressed jeans

Oh, come on now. Really? Really, truly?

Um. These are a mess and if you want jeans that are a mess I’ll give you every pair of jeans I’ve thrown away after spilling something on them that I can’t get out of them. You look like you had an accident while bleaching evidence of a tub-murder out of the hotel where you work. When I was a wee Amy, I wanted jeans that were acid-washed and my mom said the same thing to me and I was all “PARENTS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND” and now I understand. Sorry, Mom. These look ridiculous.

A natural, clear complexion

Because skin like this just HAPPENS. Or you can buy it over the counter, like NAILPOLISH.

OH THIS IS AN EASY ONE BECAUSE YOU CAN BUY IT ANYWHERE! Ugh, come on, what the hell? Listen. Some of us (I’m not pointing FINGERS, here, but ME ME ME) had something catastrophic happen when puberty set in, and the acne fairy visited. Now, I know you’re all saying “oh, yep, me too, Amy, me too.” No. I’m not saying once and a while I had a little zit like in the Judy Blume books. I’m saying, you know those terrible before-and-after photos they show on the Proactiv commercials that are probably photoshopped where the person looks like he or she was ground zero at a nuclear bomb test site? NEWS FLASH. There’s a slight change they’re not photoshopped. Because SOME PEOPLE (ahem me ahem) looked like that in their teen years. Well, some of the teen years. It got so bad that my parents shelled out major buckaroos and brought me to a fancy-schmancy dermatologist who prescribed me the medication that saved my remaining two marbles of teenage self-esteem. However, I’m pretty sure it will cause birth defects to any future children, so I’m not having any. Among other reasons. So for five years, I used this medication religiously, and it worked SO WELL that people were all “UGH AMY HAS THE BEST SKIN” which made me laugh and laugh because it was all a TRICK brought on my MEDICATION and I don’t use it anymore because the side effects were that I couldn’t go in the sun ever and it randomly made pieces of my face peel off and plus it was very expensive, and after the teen years my face stopped revolting (and BEING so revolting) for the most part, but now sometimes randomly I’ll break out, like my face will say, HA HA, just wanted to let you know I’M STILL HERE YOU JERK, and I’ll sigh and say YOU STUPID GENETICS. So, in case you were wondering, kids, I know people tell you that acne stops when you’re out of your teen years but it’s totally a lie. My mom’s in her sixties and still breaks out. Sorry. I hate to break it to you (HA GOOD ONE! Break!), but it’s true. Some of us are just more blessed than others in the ways of disgusting breakouts.

Anyway, it’s mean to put “glowy skin” on a list of things kids need for back-to-school. Because it’s not like all the kids can just get that. It’s genetics. And it’s who can afford the fancy dermatologist who’s willing to prescribe medication that’s not quite legal in the States yet. THANK YOU DOCTOR WHATEVER YOUR NAME WAS!

Yes, there’s a possibility I went to Dr. Nick.

So there you have it, kids. Apparently, you need to wear stripper boots and tight tight pants and shirts with poofy upper-arm areas and my grandma’s jewelry. You are going to look ridiculous, so I suggest as soon as you put all of this on, you take it all off again, put on some nice khakis and a t-shirt with something geeky on it and a pair of comfy Chucks, and you go back to school RELAXED. And if one of the chicks walks by with puffy sleeves and stripper boots you can laugh and laugh because you KNOW she’s going to eat it on the stairs. Those stairs are slippery, yo.

Comfy and classic. You can’t go wrong.

HAPPY BACK TO SCHOOL KIDDOS! Learn all the things! Have all the fun! Be nice to each other, please!


Don’t know much about a science book…don’t know much about the French I took…

We’ve been having a lot of posts that make poor Andreas’s blood pressure go up lately and I’m worried I might kill my Science Fellow.

Listen, how would I live with myself? Andreas is one of my favorite people in all the land. In ANY land. He always makes me laugh, and he checks in with me to see how my day is going, and he has a lovely family, and he’s so smart and sciency. My life is such a better place with Andreas in it. What would I do if I killed him off because I made him so angry his whole head exploded because of women’s rights issues or ill-informed American politicians thinking we have a uterine defense system to stop rapist-sperm? Oh, wait, sorry, LEGITIMATE rapist-sperm, not the other kind. Let’s make sure we’re clear.

You know you have the right friends when they email you things such as this. Thank you, R.!

Anyway, as an apology for upsetting Andreas lately, I promised him I would write him a sciency post. One that DOESN’T make his head explode. An ACTUAL sciency post. Andreas totally deserves this, because even though these posts have upset him? He totally still reads them. And comments. That’s a true friend, right there. You all deserve an Andreas.

Today, we’re going to talk about something for TWO people I love: both Andreas AND me! We’re talking about both science AND language. Science for Andreas and language for me. (Bonus: Andreas is also keen on language, and I’m also keen on science, so really, this is a win all around for everyone. WINNING FOR ALL!!!!1!)

Lots to discuss today, my little Footballians. And also Andreas! Thank you for not dying, Andreas. If you do die, please be kind and wait until after I’m dead. I’d much rather not live in a world without you in it. Thank you in advance!

First: children and language and books and school.

I think at this point, everyone’s aware of the benefits of reading to children at a very young age, right? They even say that reading to your pregnant belly (or your lady-friend’s pregnant belly, I don’t want to be sexist) before your baby is born is beneficial – I mean, the kid doesn’t come out knowing the plot of the story, but he or she is more bonded with you, knows the sound of your voice, possibly has a little better-developed brain area. But science totally PROVES we need to be reading to our kiddos! And also that it sets them up to be lifetime readers! So you need to get those books out. If you don’t have kids, find a kid! Read to a kid! Recently, a friend who will remain nameless because I don’t know that it’s public information totally let me long-distance borrow her kiddos and read to them via webcam. IT WAS THE BEST. I read them a book I loved when I was a wee Amy and I had the BEST TIME. (And they seemed to enjoy themselves, as well.) Thank you, top-secret friend who let me borrow your amazing kiddos that I love to pieces and want to give the biggest hugs to! Man, I wish The Nephew was closer. I would read to him every DAY.

Aw! Reading to kids = one of the best things in all the world.

Anyway, per these two articles from one of my FAVORITE sciency websites, Science Daily (who doesn’t want science DAILY? I totally do!) what kiddos learn in preschool influences them for their whole lives. Interesting, right? Apparently, kids that were not only with peers who communicate better but in classrooms where the teachers encourage communication are better prepared for life; and kids that are in preschool classrooms where books and literacy are encouraged, as well as homes where the same thing is happening, learn to appreciate and love books. But we already kind of knew these things, I think. It’s nice that science backs them up.

Look, it’s like a wee Amy! Aw!

I would just like to say, to my kindergarten teacher (I want to say her name was Miss Sears, but it’s been 33 years since I started kindergarten, ZOMG I AM SO OLD) who was CONSTANTLY squelching my tendencies to chatter away to classmates: BOO ON YOU. Science has proven you should have ENCOURAGED my verbosity. INSTEAD, you made me feel EMBARRASSED.

A regular day in kindergarten would go thusly:

I would chatter away to one of the kids at my long table at a time I was not supposed to chatter away. I WAS SO EXCITED ABOUT LIFE AND BEING AROUND PEOPLE.

My name would be put in a punishment box on the blackboard. I would be very embarrassed. I would attempt to stay silent because I hated to be in trouble.

About ten minutes later, I couldn’t control myself anymore, so I’d start talking again. I would get a check after my name. Strike two! Ooh, TWICE as embarrassing. I’d get all red-faced and try VERY VERY hard to be quiet.

Chatter, chatter, chatter. Like a magpie, I was! Like a little baby adorable unable-to-shut-it magpie.

About ten minutes later, what’s this? Wee Amy’s chattering away again. ANOTHER CHECK! Strike three. Three strikes meant you had to sit out during playtime and didn’t get to play in the big crawl-through tunnel, or with the dress-up clothing. UGH WORST.

What was I doing ten minutes later? If you guessed chattering, you’d be right. Listen, I couldn’t control myself. That meant I got my name CIRCLED, and the punishment for that was I had to sleep next to the smelly kid during naptime. That was, apparently, the worst punishment my kindergarten teacher could think of back in the late 70s. Can you even imagine such a thing now? That poor kid. His family didn’t have much money. It wasn’t his fault he smelled weird. He had to have known he was being used as a punishment. That’s really terrible.

Anyway, you’d think I’d have learned my lesson, but I totally never did, and never have. I’m still just as loud and irrepressible. Mostly I think what I learned is that I don’t like being told what to do. Sorry, Miss Sears which may or may not have been your name because I don’t remember it at all because THIRTY-THREE YEARS SIGH.

Me then, me now. Some things don’t change.

Anyway, the second article also tells us that not ONLY does reading and discussing literature with kids from a young age, both in a home and school setting, set them up for future success, but speaking to children using adult vocabulary is also extremely beneficial. I am here to attest to this, not only on a personal level, but on a vicarious level. I will tell you stories! To illustrate! When I was little, my parents did not (still don’t) believe in baby-talk. They thought it was annoying. I don’t know that they knew that there was SCIENCE behind it, but they didn’t do it. I was brought up on adult vocabulary from a very young age. I remember when I was young – four, maybe? five? – seeing the word “Arkansas” on a box of my father’s, and telling him, “Ar-kansas? Why is Kansas spelled like this?” and he laughed, but very nicely, and explained that although it had the word “Kansas” in it, and was a state, it had nothing to do with Kansas and was actually pronounced differently. He was always so proud when I figured something out on my own. You don’t do kids any favors when you talk to them all “boo boo wubby bubby” because who the hell’s brain are you helping develop then? They’re not CARTOON characters. They’re CHILDREN. You need to give them every advantage in the whole world. Stop talking to them like they’re Teletubbies.

Your children are not primary-colored nonsense-spouting creatures. Don’t talk to them like they are.

Second, vicariously: I refuse to talk to The Nephew like he’s a baby. Even when he WAS a baby. I mean, I don’t use a total serious grownup VOICE with him, because my grownup voice is low for a lady and can be a little scary for a kiddo, so I try to use a nicer, lighter voice. But I use my real vocabulary. (I leave out the cusses. I’m not a complete dummy.) The Nephew REVELS in big words. The last time I was home, he did something wacky – I don’t remember what it was – and looked at me with his little happy face to see what I thought of that and I said, “Well! Isn’t THAT a confusing development!” and he LAUGHED. He was SO DELIGHTED. “A confusing development!” he said. The kiddo loves grownup words. They just tickle him. I like to imagine that there’s a little of Aunt Amy in there, and that’s what’s driving his complete and total love of language. (His mom also loves to read, so I SUPPOSE I could credit it to her…but it makes me happy to grab onto it for myself. I’m a little greedy, please forgive.)

On a related note, this article says that households where multiple languages are spoken provide children with better emotional development. Again, nice that there’s science, but I’m pretty sure we’ve always known that it benefits kids to learn multiple languages from a young age. I learned MANY words in other languages from a young age. Ready? I will totally share them with you. “Scheiße!” “Danke schön, Fräulein!” “Biergarten!” “Marteau!” “Peligro!” (The first three are, I’m fairly sure, all the German my dad learned while stationed there in the Army (please apologize if any of those are spelled incorrectly), the next is the French word for “hammer” which, for some reason, is the only word my dad remembers his almost-wholly-French-speaking grandfather saying to him. I’m pretty sure my great-grandfather knew more words than the word for “hammer” but that’s all my dad remembers him saying, and the last is a word I remember from Sesame Street.) I’m being sarcastic, of course, about all my foreign-language learning as a kiddo. I knew very little foreign language as a kid. I learned a little in school (Oui, oui! J’ai étudié le français pendant sept ans à l’école!) and I’ve forgotten more French than I learned in all those years of work. But I can still muddle my way through it, if I need to and it’s pretty basic. The Nephew watches a lot of Dora and Ni Hao, Kai-Lan so I think he’s going to be super-prepared to meet the global economy. Even though when he watches Ni Hao, Kai-Lan my dad and brother say, “PROPAGANDA! THE TEEVEE IS TRYING TO TURN HIM INTO A COMMIE!” and The Nephew looks at me with a barely-constrained eye-rolly look and I think, oh, kid, you’re learning that look really early, aren’t you?

TURNING THE NEPHEW INTO A COMMIE! Side note: someone called my answering service the other day and said “ni hao!” so I knew they were Chinese! WINNING FOREIGN LANGUAGES!

By the way, that article says the following: “For example, a native Finnish speaker may be more likely to use English to tell her children that she loves them because it is uncommon to explicitly express emotions in Finnish.” Andreas! Is that a true thing about Finland? Oh, shit. I would never fit in there! I express my emotions ALL THE DAMN TIME. In words, in actions, in type, in LOUD SPEAKING WAYS. Are Finns not overly emotive? Aw! Finns! You should talk more about your emotions. It’s good to get that stuff out. It makes people feel good and makes YOU feel good!

This popped up when I Googled “Finnish.” Andreas, are people wearing such things in your land? Hmm.

This is getting crazy long and I have MORE things to discuss. SO MUCH SCIENCE. And language! Science and language! (I feel sad these articles are light on science. Bad job, Science Daily.)

This article tells us that the language we use can affect our mood. I kind of love that. First: talking about a situation, even if it’s scary or bad, can make you feel better about it. That seems kind of self-explanatory – I think everyone knows that talking about something is better than keeping it all bottled up. I think science has backed that up for a while now. (My problem is, I talk about the silly little shit all the livelong day, but the serious shit, which I suppose is the stuff that I could BENEFIT talking about, I refuse to discuss. Don’t even ask. I won’t do it. I don’t feel it’s anyone’s business but my own. Aren’t most people like that, though? We all have some serious shit we aren’t comfortable blabbing about, even us chatty-chat bloggers. Or do you all talk about every single thing in your lives? I’m honestly curious.)

The article also says if you want to be less of a gloomy Gus, talk about bad things (even if they’re ongoing) in the past tense, and good things (even if they haven’t happened yet) in the present tense. It’s apparently supposed to do something positive to your brain and make you less grumpy. I think it would make me more grumpy to be less precise with my language. I don’t want to say something’s ended if it’s still ongoing, because that would be wrong, and also a lie. I hate saying things that aren’t true if I have any control over it. It might be sciency but I think it wouldn’t work on me.

And finally, here, we have an article about how scientists are trying to learn animal languages, because they finally realized that if gorillas and parrots can learn English, we should be able to learn animal-languages. I WANT TO LEARN ANIMAL-LANGUAGE. Sometimes I meow at Dumbcat. If I hit just the right tone, he totally responds. I have no idea what I’m saying to him, or if I’m insulting him or what kind of conversation we’re having, but it’s a fun little game we play. YES YES I know I spend a lot of time with my cat. Shush, you. You would too, if your cat was this awesome. As I write this, he has curled up as small and tight as possible, and he is SNORING LIKE A CHAINSAW. All superglued to my leg. He loves unemployment, this cat. Oh, Dumbcat, eventually I need to go back to work, buddy.

Anyway, the article says they’re learning to talk prairie dog. That’s all well and good, but I want to learn to talk Dumbcat. Let me know when you’ve cracked the code of how to talk Dumbcat, science-types. I’ll be pleased to get that news. I think he has a lot to tell me.

These prairie dogs are speaking the language of lurrrrve.

Andreas! Happy sciency news with many tangents. Nothing that will get your blood pressure up or your head exploding. How’d I do? HAVE A LOVELY SUNDAY ANDREAS! And also, don’t die! Ever! Thank you!


Johnny has three oranges. Susie has two apples. How long will Susie burn in hell for being a temptress?

I have never been to Louisiana, but I’ve always wanted to go. Not for stupid Mardi Gras reasons – I think crowds of that magnitude and bead-throwing and all those drunk people would make me insane and nervous – but because it seems like it might be kind of a magical place. I’ve read a lot of books about it, and watched a lot of movies and documentaries, and I love the architecture and the water and the food and the accents and the hometown pride and mystery. It’s one of the top places I want to bon vivant, someday.

I mean, look how pretty this is!

Don’t you think I would have the best time bon vivanting here? Yes. It’s all gothic and moody and haunted-looking. Plus: beignets!

They’re like fried dough, WHENEVER YOU WANT THEM!

And, gumbo!

ALL THE SPICINESS! And seafood! Nom!

Anyway, someday I will go to New Orleans (but not during Mardi Gras, because drunk tourists are not my thing, yo) and will do ALL the bon vivanting. And eating of delicious spicy foods.

Anyway, in the past couple of days, I found a couple of very worrisome Louisiana articles online that made me nervous about my magical bon-vivanting state. What’s going on, Louisiana? You’re making me worried.

Apparently, Louisiana recently passed a law allowing charter schools. Charter schools are schools that are not public schools, but kids can still go to them and get an education. And they still get public funding. We have them here in New York. Some people hate them and think they’re the end of the world as we know it and some people think they’re the best things ever. I don’t know anything about them because I don’t have children. There are a lot of people who think the public school system in this country is broken and this is a good fix. I can’t find any sort of comprehensive list of what states are best or worst with public schools or charter schools so I can put all the statistics on you, unfortunately. Because I really like statistics. Apparently, Louisiana’s public school system is very bad. Like, over half of the schools are failing some sort of rating system of public schools. So, that’s kind of sad. No one likes that.

Anyway, I’m totally not here to pass judgement on charter schools. Maybe they work for some people, I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t have kids. And I’m not sending Dumbcat to school. He’d hate that. He’d be very nervous around all those other cats and hide in the arts and crafts closet all day long and get paint on his fur, it’d be terrible for him. Poor fella.

ZOMG cat school! This would be the best charter school ever!

But I read an article that at least 19 0f these Louisiana charter schools are going to be using the “Bob Jones University Press” textbooks to teach their students. They can do that, I guess. They’re allowed to use whatever books they want. Which seems weird, but whatever. What is the Bob Jones University Press? Well, remember we talked about the Creation Museum? It’s like the Creation Museum threw up all over a textbook, which is then used to teach our students. I’d link you to their site, but I don’t wanna, and it’s my damn blog. I’ll just let you know that the masthead on the website says “Christ-centered resources for education, edification, and evangelism.” They even use God to teach Algebra. From their new Algebra textbook series: “Biblical truths and principles are taught through Dominion Modeling exercises that illustrate how mathematics is used to serve others and glorify God.” Math is used to serve others and glorify God! Oh, my. Just, oh, my. They have books for every grade from kindergarten to college (even college! how handy!) and also have some excellent music glorifying God. Because other music is filled with sinfulness, of course. Especially showtunes. They’re ultra-sinful. Which is why I love them.

This excellent article found some important things that will be taught to the young, malleable minds of Louisiana, using the teachings of good old Bob Jones (who I’d never heard of, but apparently, he was some sort of loud tent-preacher who founded a university where you can learn…um…I guess to be a loud tent-preacher? I don’t know, and he died in the 60s. He also said that to oppose segregation was to oppose the will of God. So he was a racist fella, too, which is always nice.)

This photo looks like it would be next to “milquetoast” in the dictionary. I would think a racist religious shouter would have crazier eyes.

So, want to see what some of the youth of Louisiana will be learning at these 19 charter schools?

  • Dinosaurs and humans lived on the earth at the same time, because God created the animals and men all in the same week, THE BIBLE SAYS SO DAMMIT
  • Most slaveholders were kind and slaves loved being owned by them. They’ve gotten a bad rap in history.
  • The KKK isn’t in existence for racial reasons. It’s there for education, religion, and reform. Again, it’s gotten a bad rap.
  • The Great Depression never happened, and The Grapes of Wrathwas a lying piece of propaganda.

    LIES LIES PROPAGANDA LIES

  • Even though slaves “loved being owned”, the texts say that allowing abortion is akin to “allowing men to own slaves.” So…um…babies love being aborted? I am confused by your logic. Sorry! “Logic.”
  • Satan’s latest trick is Communism, and it is how he will hurl all of us into eternal hellfire. Yes, these books were written recently, not in the 50s.
  • Mark Twain and Emily Dickinson don’t show enough respect for authoreteh so they won’t be taught. Sorry, kiddos. No “Hope is the thing with feathers” for you.

    Dickinson, you anti-authority hussy!

  • What do homosexuals, rapists, and pedophiles have in common? They should all be given the same rights.
  • Environmentalists want to destroy the global economy. (I don’t know, either.)
  • World unification is the first step to the rapture, the Four Horsemen, and probably plagues of locusts. LOCUSTS!

    Locusts, you guys. Effing LOCUSTS!

I – um.

These things are going to be taught to our kids in school, you guys.

Now, listen. I know about Catholic school. In Catholic school (as far as I understand, anyway) you have regular classes, and then you have a SEPARATE religion class. And I think you go to daily mass. Someone can correct me if I misunderstand how this works, but I’m pretty sure you don’t get your religion all smish-smashed into your history class or your English class or your math class all “you got chocolate in my peanut butter YOU GOT PEANUT BUTTER IN MY CHOCOLATE” style.

*gasp* Snack foods in my OTHER snack foods ZOMG!

(Or do you? Yell at me if I’m wrong. I went to a heatheny public school. NO RELIGION WAS ALLOWED. Except, well, hell, 99.9% of us were Catholic and went to church together anyway, so it might as well have been a Catholic school. It was a small town.)

It’s one thing to teach religion in school. It’s quite another to teach a., blatant misrepresentations of the truth, and b., hate.

Kids have these little malleable brain-areas. You tell them something, and if they love you and trust you? They TOTALLY believe you. For example: when I was a wee one, I asked my dad, “What are those things?”

You’ve seen these things, right? They’re orange balls on the power lines.

My dad said, “Basketballs.” He was obviously kidding. (They’re safety markers or safety balls, and they’re mostly used to alert planes of power lines. One site I checked says they also alert birds to the wires.) But yeah, to a 4-year-old, they kind of look like basketballs.

Now, whenever I see these things, even though I know damn well what they are, the very first thing that crosses my mind, EVERY SINGLE TIME? “Basketballs.”

Now, that’s a minor thing. I can think for myself. I did the research, and I know damn well they’re not basketballs and he was kidding. (And it’s not like he told me something dangerous, offensive, racist, or hateful.) But it proves a point. I went about three years thinking that, somehow, for some reason, someone had put basketballs on the power lines.

If I thought such a thing, you can be damn sure these kids hearing, day in and day out, that slavery was a good thing, the KKK is a community service organization, and that gay people are the same as rapist pedophiles, from adults in authority that the know and trust, are going to believe it. You have to be CAREFUL what you tell kids! They believe EVERYTHING! I’m so cautious what I say to The Nephew, because if I’m not careful about my sarcasm (which pops out all unbeknownst-to-me all the time like a ghost in the closet) he’s going to believe something I say in jest one of these days, and then say it to some kid at daycare, and get mocked, and how terrible would I feel? The MOST terrible, is how terrible, sheesh!

Are they going to continue to believe it? Well, not all of them. I was brought up a Republican Catholic, and…well…I’m not either of those things now. Some people are able to think for themselves once they grow up (or even while it’s happening – some of us are really, really authority-challenging and stubborn.) I was lucky enough to go to just the right college and meet just the right group of people once I graduated who very gently explained that maybe there were more things out there than what I’d been shown, growing up. But there are some people – people I know – who believe that what they were taught, growing up, is how it is. Who just accept what they’re taught as fact and that’s the way it is and swallow the status quo like a delicious bon bon. That’s what worries me. That we’re producing generations and generations of kids with the wrong information, who are being taught to hate. And there’s nothing we can do about it, you know?

Look at this face. Do you really want to teach this little face to hate? Really?

Then I read a little about the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal, who apparently, at one point, was one of the front-runners for ol’ Mitt’s VP nod. I find that hard to believe. Here, I’ll show you why.

OK, quick, why wouldn’t Mitt choose him for VP? He’s not a white guy with a stick up his ass, of course. Don’t be absurd.

Anyway, so this is Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana. This article seems to not only prove he was at one point batshit crazy, but apparently is still quite proud of it.

Apparently in college, Jindal’s female friend – NOT HIS GIRLFRIEND! Christians can’t have girlfriends! They get MARRIED if they want to be romantic! Sheesh, come on! – was possessed by a demon? So he and his friends locked her in a dorm room and forced her to submit to an exorcism. Even though she didn’t want it and the campus preacher, when approached by it, was all, “NOPE. No exorcisms, guys, come on.”

THE POWER OF COLLEGE COMPELS YOU!

Selected quotes from Jindal himself, who is quite proud of his work shunning Satan:

“…whether by plan or coincidence, Susan chose the perfect opportunity to attempt an escape. She suddenly leapt up and ran for the door, despite the many hands holding her down.”

(I feel kind of terrible for Susan. Also, the article says she was being treated for cancer at the time. I’m wondering how much of her “demon possession” wasn’t just “she was exhausted from chemo and radiation and possibly not as cheerful as Jindal and Co. might have liked from fellow Soldiers of Christ.” Also, “many hands holding her down?” I’d have bitten, scratched, kicked, whatever it took. I don’t take well to being restrained. No no no Charlie.)

“Running out of options, UCF had turned to a rival campus Christian group for spiritual tactics. The preacher had denied our request for assistance and recommended that we not confront the demon; his suggestion was a little late. I still wonder if the good preacher was too settled to be roused from bed, or if this supposed expert doubted his own ability to confront whatever harassed Susan.”

(Ooh, Jindal’s totally casting aspersions on this guy and calling him lazy. Also, a “rival” group? Heh. They’re totally all Sharks and Jets over there. The other preacher – and Susan – are the only two sane people in this narrative.)

When you’re an exorcist, you’re an exorcist all the way…

“At first, Susan responded to biblical passages with curses and profanities. Mixed in with her vile attacks were short and desperate pleas for help.”

(Please let me explain what Susan was saying. “Fucking let me GO, you fucking insane LOONIES! SOMEONE HELP ME I’M LOCKED IN MY DORM ROOM WITH THE GOD SQUAD!” Curses/profanities/pleas for help. You’re welcome.)

OK, we all did crazy shit in college. Well, that’s a broad generalization. *I* did crazy shit in college. Maybe you behaved yourself, I don’t know. Most people I know did crazy shit in college. Most of it I have no qualms talking about now. In a self-deprecating tone, like a “college, you know? What can you do?” way. THIS GUY IS STILL PROUD HE PERFORMED A BACK-ALLEY EXORCISM.

Um. This is worrisome. Totally worrisome. Also, it kind of explains why he’s not doing anything to stop these God-schools from operating (although it doesn’t really look like he could, probably – if it’s an “approved” curriculum, and it seems pretty much anything passes THAT hurdle, they can get the funding and they can teach the material.)

Louisiana! You are a state of many exciting things like delicious foods and haunted hotels and many species of tree frogs and parishes and bayous and laissez-ing the bon temps rouler! WHAT IS GOING ON? Please stop it. You’re making me worried. I may have to choose to bon vivant elsewhere someday when I am a very famous bon vivanter and that would just make me sad, because as of right now, I’m afraid if I stepped foot in your state, I’d be met by a crowd of creepy blonde children, led by your governor, and I’d be fed to an alligator or something. *shudder*

WE BELIEVE WHAT WE ARE TAUGHT IN SCHOOL FOREVER


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