JOB ONE for the Veterans Administration

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Ford Motor was in big trouble.  The cars they produced were in a word horrible.  Today, they are one of the best domestic cars made.

How did they do it?  It was a program called “JOB ONE”.  I knew workers involved in  this program at the Lorain Ford assembly plant in Lorain Ohio.

Ford went to all their workers and asked how can we make a better product, and how can we do it more efficiently?  They told the workers that if their suggestions were instituted, they would get a cash bonus.  Workers i knew earned rewards from a few hundred dollard to a few thousand dollars for an individual suggestion.  Some workers earned more than one bonus.

Why is business and government so reticent to ask the people who do the job on a daily basis how the job can be done better?  Instead of blue ribbon committees, special committees, and high priced consultants from businessand Wall Street; I would suggest, ask, even beg that the Veterans Administration ask the people who do the job what needs to be done.

I hope that after decades, The V.A. and this President will finally ask those with real expertise how to get the job done best.  Could a few bonuses cost more than what is currently wasteed in political theatre and finger pointing?

I know I am an optimist, but maybe somebody in the V.A. or the government will think about a different way to approach this and other problems.

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CANNON FODDER?

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Based upon what we have seen our government do to our veterans for decades, the only conclusion is that all three branches view them as cannon fodder for the military, industrial, corporate, financial complex.  One Republican, the chairman of the committee, said basically in a letter to the veteran’s organizations after they testified before his subcommittee that they all were a bunch of self-serving whiners.  He also left the committee for the entirety of their presentations; returning at the end to dismiss them.

 

“ONLY THING THAT WILL STOP A BAD GUY WITH A GUN IS A GOOD GUY WITH A GUN”

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What if the good guy with a gun becomes a bad guy with a gun?

 

What if the good guy with a gun meets a bad guy with a bigger clip?

 

What if a good guy with a 22 meets a bad guy with a 38?

 

What if a good guy with a 38 meets a bad guy with a 45?

 

What if good guy with a 45 meets a bad guy with a grenade?

 

What if a good guy with a grenade meets a bad guy with an IED?

 

What if a good guy with an IED meets a bad guy with a drone?

 

What if a good guy with a drone meets a bad guy with an atom bomb?

 

WHAT IF WE REALIZE HOW RIDICULOUS THIS ARGUMENT BY THE NRA LEADERSHIP IS?

 

 

FINDING OUR POODLES

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With the aid of the Internet we quickly found AKC registered breeders. We selected a breeder who had puppies and set up a visit. We were as interested in the breeder and the kennel conditions as in the puppies. Down a county road, on a wooded two acre property we found two houses. As we approached the first residence it erupted with a cacophony of barking. A middle aged lady, the breeder, approached from the other residence. It turns out that the first house was the residence of the poodles. We were taken through the back door into the kitchen which had been converted to a grooming room. In a corner was a large pen with a rather large litter of puppies. They were all silver poodles with the exception of one white puppy. Before we got to selecting a puppy there appeared to be a series of questions as to whether we would be selected to get a puppy: Were we familiar with the breed? We’re we too old to raise them? (We were in our fifties.). Were we physically fit? Did we have young children in the house? Finally the last question. Does your husband like dogs? She then introduced us to Gentry, the stud for this litter. Gentry was a magnificent silver poodle. He immediately came over to be petted, and petted, and petted. He obviously used to being the center of attention. She put him up on the grooming table so we could continue uninterrupted and meet the bitch of the litter, a small white female Chenile, who was as timid as Gentry was outgoing. Finally it was time to move over to the pen and meet the puppies.

All the puppies clamored at the side of the pen to be picked up except one. The single white poodle sat in the corner of the pen watching the fracas and growling when his litter mates came near. (Let it be noted that in the multitude of discussions about this addition to our family, my only criteria was that the dog would not be white. White dogs are very difficult to keep white and take a lot of grooming to keep them white.) That said, the breeder lifted the puppies one by one from the cage and handed them to my wife who took the wriggly puppies. I stood aside petting Gentry, keeping him occupied.

One by one she held the puppies and put them down on the floor. Finally, the breeder reached to the farthest corner of the pen to retrieve the white puppy and handed him to my wife. The place he had been guarding on the newspaper was completely dry an free from puddles of puppy pee. I guess if I was white, I’d keep and protect a clean spot for myself. She handed the white puppy to my wife. This puppy didn’t wiggle about, but nestled in my wife’s arms, putting his head over her shoulder.

baby fletch

Guess what color poodle we ended up with? In the mean time I looked down at my feet to find a poodle puppy napping on each foot. We had picked our pup, now all we had to do was wait for him to be old enough to be separated from his mother.

While we were waiting our white puppywas busy. There were visits to the vet to verify that he had no problems, shots, and a visit from the breeder’s trainer to check for potential show dogs.

Life can never be simple. The breeder called to say that she didn’t want to sell the white poodle because he would make the best dog for show. We had a contract; she wanted out. As a compromise we would keep our dog, but show it. He would no longer be a companion dog, but a show dog. It seemed like a good solution — to someone who knew nothing about showing dogs.

We had no idea what we were getting into and more importantly what we were getting our little white puppy into. We had to come up with a name for his AKC registration. That name had to include the breeders AKC name. We ran into conflict immediately. We named him after the owner of Saint Croix Leap, Fletcher Evan Pence. Saint Croix Leap on the island of Saint Croix.  He loved his dogs and large women.  He made objects from recycled mahogany trees. This was not a name she wanted to follow her kennel’s name. We prevailed.

Fletcher Evan Pence became our beloved Fletchie. The most important thing with showing poodles is the fur. What this meant for us was making sure that interaction with other dogs didn’t damage the fur.  It also meant daily groomings. It meant limited socialization. We did what we were told; until we met the trainer. The trainer explained the training and showing process, we became less and less enthusiastic. The dogs are loaded in a truck with cages stacked along both sides and transported from one show to the next until they get their points. She took us into a dark barn where the dogs she trained were caged and kept. As we entered, the dogs started barking. She grabbed a plastic baseball bat and hit against the cages. The sound was deafening and the dogs whimpered to silence. The trainers husband came out. I told him Fletcher could be a little stubborn. He said he would take that out of him. On the way home we decided that we would not be showing our dog.

Three years later we were in Las Vegas at a campground next to Circus Circus when one of these trainers pulled in with a semi truck of show dogs. Pens were set up in the sun on the asphalt in 100 degree heat and the dogs were brought out in rotation for their fresh air. We knew we had made the right decision.

Since we both worked, we decided we should have a second dog, and the two dogs could keep each other company.

Enter Alfie, Alpha Centauri Last Flight Out. I was looking for a red poodle this time. I never learn. We visited kennels specializing in red, apricot, silver, and black poodles. One by one they were viewed as unacceptable for various reasons. By now, since my schedule was more flexible, I was doing the visits. I pulled into the driveway of a modest home in a rural area. I rang the door bell and once again was met with a cacophony of barking. The door opened and a middle aged woman stood in front of a half dozen standard poodles of various colors. She turned to the dogs, “it’s ok, go play.”. The dogs turned and sacheted back to whatever they were doing. She asked me to wait by the garage door. It opened and out scampered five white puppies straight to me. One black puppy shot right past me and went pouncing into the flower bed. She explained that he loved to catch the little lizards so common in Florida. He was to be our Alfie, focused hunter, two speeds – off and full on, climber of trees, catcher of moles, digger of holes, and lover of everyone and every dog. He saw only the good till he was shown otherwise.

Alfie

 

Next:  The Poodle House

 

WHY STANDARD POODLES?

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I had been blessed with having a number of dogs share my life.

There was Pepper, a small mixed breed, who had followed me home after much encouragement and was returned to his owner the next day.

There was Paladin, a black and white miniature collie, who suffered from epilepsy and had to be put down.

There was Sandy, a cocker spaniel, who became my closest friend, companion and confidant.  He was with me a couple of years.  Sandy was as the saying goes, “as dumb as a box of rocks”, but we loved each other.  I can still remember his scent as i hugged him and cried into his fur.  Unfortunately, Sandy was also a chicken thief and murderer which is why I found him dead on our front porch obviously poisoned.

Star was the dog of my adult family.  She was a cross between an Irish Setter and a Golden Retriever.  She was supposed to be my son’s dog; but you know how that goes.  She became the dog of my wife and I.  Among her credits are:  she ate a sofa down to the wood frame, in chasing a squirrel she broke a number nine wire with her chest, she caught possum, chipmunk, groundhog.  She had two crowning achievements though.  during a picnic celebrating our son’s baptism party with the grandparents and neighbors she brought to the table, one at a time, a half eaten mother rabbit and four of her babies.  The other was hypnotiizing birds to catch them. We watched her lie very still and gently tap her front paws on at a time on the ground.  The birds would walk right up between her paws and she would catch them.

As she aged, she developed arthritis in her back.  I had an auto accident because of which i had a debilitating back injury.  We walked together; it was more like we hobbled along together both realizing that if we didn’t keep moving we wouldn’t be able to move at all.  Her spine finally collapsed and the vet was kind enough to put her down in her home with her head cradled in my wifes lap.  She went peacefully with those that she loved and who loved her.

It took us ten years to be ready to bring another dog into our lives.

My wife was complaining that she missed having a dog to welcome her unconditionally when she came home from work.  I offered to lick her face; but I could not get my tail to wag, try as i might.

So, what kind of dog?  I was a huge fan of John Steinbeck and had read his autobiographical  travelogue, Travels With Charlie.  Steinbeck had decided, in his later years, to revisit all the places that he had lived and write about how the country had changed.  His traveling companion on this journey was a black standard poodle named “Charlie”, short for Charlemagne.  I loved the traits exhibited by Charlie on this adventure and with research found that these traits were characteristic of the breed.  They were one of the brightest breeds, active, friendly, family oriented, great hunters, and protective.

Next came the search for a standard poodle.

Educational Revolution

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The Animal School: A Fable by George Reaves

Once upon a time the animals decided they must do something heroic to meet the problems of a “new world” so they organized a school. They had adopted an activity curriculum consisting of running, climbing, swimming and flying.

To make it easier to administer the curriculum, all the animals took all the subjects.

The duck was excellent in swimming. In fact, better than his instructor. But he made only passing grades in flying and was very poor in running. Since he was slow in running, he had to stay after school and also drop swimming in order to practice running. This was kept up until his webbed feet were badly worn and he was only average in swimming.But average was acceptable in school so nobody worried about that, except the duck.

The rabbit started at the top of the class in running but had a nervous breakdown because of so much makeup work in swimming.

The squirrel was excellent in climbing until he developed frustration in the flying class where his teacher made him start from the ground up instead of the treetop down. He also developed a “charlie horse” from overexertion and then got a C in climbing and D in running.

The eagle was a problem child and was disciplined severely. In the climbing class, he beat all the others to the top of the tree but insisted on using his own way to get there.

At the end of the year, an abnormal eel that could swim exceeding well and also run, climb and fly a little had the highest average and was valedictorian.

The prairie dogs stayed out of school and fought the tax levy because the administration would not add digging and burrowing to the curriculum. They apprenticed their children to a badger and later joined the groundhogs and gophers to start a successful private school.

* * * *

This little fable completely changed my views of teaching. We all, each of as individuals, have skills at which we excel and skills at which we, to use the vernacular, suck. And yet, all students were expected to excel in all skill areas. Suddenly I realized why two thirds of my classes were bored or potential discipline problems.

One third were bored and potential discipline problems because they were skilled in my subject, and yet they had to wait for the other two thirds to continue.

One third were bored and potential discipline problems because they were unskilled in my subject, were always lost, and couldn’t keep up with the rest of the class.

The final third cruised along while wondering why the other two thirds were unhappy and causing problems. The traditional solution was to give additional work to both outlying groups. No matter what you call it, additional work feels like punishment to a teenager.

We are wasting our time and money as well as doing our children, society, and doing taxpayers a disservice when we try to improve our educational system in the United States.

Of Model Ts and Corvettes

Over my thirty plus years in teaching, I have seen many “fixes” forced on our educational system. You have experienced them also, whether as a parent or a student. Do you remember: phonics, new math, and new science grants? I particularly remember in high school getting new science lab equipment one year, and the school district not being able to fund the program over the long term. I loved science, and it killed me to see all that lab equipment setting idle because federal funding was gone.

Each of the programs above, and I would add the integration of technology, is like putting a Corvette engine in a Model T and expecting it to go ninety miles an hour. The car would destroy itself before it ever reached the the desired goal of ninety miles an hour. Isn’t that exactly what has happened to our educational system. The harder we have tried to make reach our goals the worse it has become.

It’s time for educational revolution. The system can not be improved without these basic changes.

REVOLUTION NOT EVOLUTION

(A NOT SO MODEST PROPOSAL)

STEP 1

Make all education competency based; not based upon age or grade level. Currently, school is like a prison sentence without a chance of parole. Everyone does their twelve years, no less. I have seen schools where students have completed all the required courses and electives and still not be allowed to graduate until they have put in the whole twelve years.

Every student should take every course at his own pace until he completes the competencies required by the state or national government or employers. They may be in beginning reading, advanced math and biology. They may be taking one course at a time or they may be taking several courses at once. There should be no age limit for people to begin or continue taking courses in public schools. If an eighty year old woman wants to study literature, she should be able to take the course. If a thirty year old man want to take book keeping or accounting for his small business, he should be able to. If a six year old is interested in rocketry, he should be able to study it.

STEP 2

Get rid of the nine month school year.  The U.S. educational system is based on an agrarian society. Guess what? We haven’t been an agrarian society for decades if not centuries. Being based upon an agrarian society, we only have school nine months out of the year. Name me a business large, small, service, manufacturing or agricultural that lays off its workers and shuts down down its facilities for three months out of the year. We need to make the school calendar be three hundred and sixty-five days a year, and we need to make the facility available twenty four hours a day. When rooms are not being used for classes, they may be used by community organizations for a small fee to cover electric, janitorial and security. Students may attend as many days a year as they want. Teachers may teach as many days a year as they want. They would be compensated for the extra months they teach and wouldn’t need to find another job during breaks and the summer. Parents would be able to better plan their work schedules and child care.

Step 3

Use technology to its fullest.  Now that we are competency based and school and teachers are available all year around, lets use technology. Technology will allow students to proceed at their own pace. Teaches will be able to serve as mentors to the learning process instead of lock stepping students of varied abilities and interest through a one size fits all curriculum. Stop wasting money on textbooks which are out of date before they are published. Go digital. With the money saved provide every student with a laptop or tablet. If you are worried about getting them back, charge a fee. For those students or parents that cannot afford to either buy or rent, have a business partner step up. Don’t buy technology. Lease it. It changes too rapidly; and will be too expensive to update. Use free technology from the internet like Kahn Academy and Next Vista for Learning.

STEP 4

Everyone needs to be involved.  Get parents, grandparents, the business community and the general public involved. Get everyone involved. Get civic organizations to use the school facilities. Get adults using the gym for basketball, volleyball, community dances. Everyone should know where the schools in their community are. Encourage everyone to come to school to get involved in courses whether their eight or eighty. Find out what people want to learn and provide them with the opportunity.

Step 5

We must have two education systems. The states can keep their state schools, but there will be federal “charter” schools which adhere to common core principals. I have long heard about how the federal government should stay out of state issues. I agree wholeheartedly. The federal government would have the right to run federal charter schools any way it wanted. The states would have the right to run their state schools however they wanted.

The federal government would fund their charter schools with federal tax dollars.

The states could fund their schools however they wanted but without federal tax dollars. No state monies would be used to fund federal charter schools and no federal funds would be used to finance individual state public, private or state chartered schools. Parents would be able to choose whether to send their children to federal charter schools which were funded by federal tax dollars or state schools funded by state tax dollars.

At last the hue and cry against big government involvement in education would be addressed. States could have all the charter schools they wanted. States could write whatever curriculum they wanted with or without evolution. The states could teach that climate change is not backed by science. States could once again manipulate who goes to what schools because the parents would have a choice.

I am looking forward to your comments, particularly questions, suggestions, criticisms to help improve our educational system.

 

FOR LOVE OF DOGS

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We lost both our boys within the last year.  Alfie, the black standard poodle on my left, just weeks ago.  Fletchie on my right we lost a year ago.  We were truly blessed to have them in our lives.  They loved being read to, even if there weren’t any pictures.  They were as different as the color of their coats.  As i am able, I will share their amazing personalities and stories, mostly for our benefit as catharsis.