Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Another Two Hour Delay

Five a.m. the phone rings. We get the message that sleet and ice have covered some roads in our county and we are on a two hour delay for the second time this week.

The dog wants out.

I caught the coffee pot just as it started to drip and save that pot of coffee for later.

Five phone calls and back to bed and, maybe, to sleep...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Week Before Christmas at School

I wrote yesterday about the two hour delay we had at school. Apart from the snow, I suppose that is the last ordinary day of the calendar year...

Today the kids marched in the Christmas Parade that the city of Anawalt has each year. It's not much of a parade, but then it's not that much of a city. Don't get me wrong. It's a nice city. It's just small - maybe a few hundred people in the incorporated area.

We take the kids down the hill to where they get on the school buses and walk the quarter mile or so to the downtown block. The city's police car leads the parade, with the mayor inside. The city's fire department brings up the rear. The kids march by grades. Parents and grandparents, aunts, uncles and neighbors wave and take pictures. We walk around the block. The kids wave and sing songs. And we walk back up to the school.

The whole thing takes about 90 minutes.

Last year the kids all met Santa and got a present at the city hall. This year Santa came to the school after the parade...

Tomorrow is the Christmas program at the school. We'll pack the gym with parents and the kids will sign.

Thursday we're taking the kids to the movies - a reward for performance in the Accelerated Reader program. School buses will carry us the hour across the mountains to Mercer Mall in Bluefield. We'll watch Alvin and the Chipmunks (oh just shot me) and eat lunch at Chick Filet. Then we'll ride the yellow school buses back across the mountains and try not to lose our lunches on those twisty mountain roads. We're supposed to be back by 2pm and then class Christmas parties start at 2:30.

Friday there are no kids, but a few will show up for make up work. then there will be a faculty senate meeting and those sorts of things.

I have until Friday to make out a purchase order to spend $200. I can't seem to get that done.

Then it's 11 days off.

It's easy to think of this as a wasted week. But that begs the question of why we have schools. Sure it's about learning. But it's also about community and socialization.

We walked through a tradition today. Traditions are good (at least they can be) - even if they do interfer with instruction for a day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Two Hour Delay...

Today we had a two hour delay. Snow...

At my house in Tazewell County we got about four inches of snow in the 18 hours before school started today. It stopped sometime in the wee hours of the morning. The cold was pretty bitter by our local standards: temps in the teens, wind-chill in the single digits.

We got the call on the delay Sunday night. That's always nice. Usually someone calls you at 5am to tell you that you don't have to get up and then asks you to call one or two more people before you go back to sleep. You walk to the kitchen, look at the call list on your fridge, make your calls, reset the timer on the coffee pot, reset your alarm, and take your freezing butt back to bed. Maybe you sleep some more; maybe you don't.

Our normal schedule is core subjects before noon, interventions in the afternoon. But since school lost two hours we dropped the interventions and moved the first two hours of core subjects up into the afternoon. That creates a little confusion.

On a delay everyone comes in late - including the person that lights our coal furnace, it was 51 in my classroom at 9am. But quitting time we'd made it up to 68F.

That's a two hour delay. There'll be more this ear...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The Scariest Candidate for President: Ron Paul

If you listen to National Public Radio like I do, you probably heard a lot this week about GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. Among my favorite sound bites, there was the description of how jut a few weeks ago Huckabee was in a tight race with Margin of Error. Now he seems to have gotten the part in the Conservative play that Fred Thompson was trying out for.

No one really knows what he'd really stand for as President. He took a soft view of immigration as governor and is now promoting a hard line on the issue. He wants to cut taxes as President (don't they all?), but his GOP rivals want to make him out to be a tax-and-spend liberal while governor. And then there's religion...

As tempting as it is to talk about Huckabee at the moment, the most frightening candidate on the campaign trail today is not Mike Huckabee. Its GOP candidate Ron Paul. His political positions are both extreme and dichotomous:
  • He would overturn Roe v. Wade, paving the way for states to outlaw abortion.
  • He would abolish the U.S. Department of Education (along with a large number of other federal agencies).
  • He would work to legalize marijuana.
  • He would pull U.S. troops out of Iraq (the only GOP candidate to make that claim).
  • He would do away with Medicare and Medicaid.
  • He would have America withdraw from both the United Nations and NATO.
His positions are dichotomous to such an extent that it would easy to call him schizophrenic. But that's not really true. He may draw from both the far left and far right, but he holds his positions with unwavering consistency.

Who is Ron Paul? Think of Barry Goldwater having a child with Frank Zappa: that's Ron Paul.

The 10-term Texas Congressman and obstetrician has been on the November ballot for President once before. He beat Zappa for the Libertarian Party's nomination in 1988.

The guiding principal of Ron Paul's political philosophy is simple. If the U.S. Constitution doesn't expressly grant the federal government the right or responsibility to dabble in something, then it should get out.

That philosophy has earned him the nickname "Dr. No" because he casts a no vote on almost so many issues, like appropriations bills for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. He voted "no" on the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2007. He voted "no" on implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. You get the idea...

Time to make another pot...Paul has been criticized (perhaps ridiculed would be a better word) for his position on the economy and on monetary policy. In his view, the government shouldn't be involved in either. Ron Paul would close the Federal Reserve. Most other countries (and all of our main competitors in the world market) would have central banks that could manipulate their currencies and set monetary policies; America would not.

Ron Paul's position on taxation is not unique to him. But he would close the IRS, eliminate income taxes for individuals and corporations, and create a federal sales tax that (to start) would be about 23%. A recent NPR story on Huckabee examines some of the flaws of that "fair tax" plan. Their conclusion was that the poor in America would be a little better off under the plan (provided the "pre-bate" provision of the plan actually worked), but that the rich would be much better off and the big losers would be America's middle class.

So picture an America where much of the work of the federal government simply stopped. Welfare, education, health laws, etc. would differ greatly from one state to the next and the federal government would have almost no power. No one could whine about FEMA doing a bad job after the next hurricane because FEMA wouldn't come at all. And while it might be legal to smoke marijuana to relieve the pain associated with your chemotherapy, Medicare wouldn't pay for it (or anything else) because Medicare wouldn't exist.

Not yet convinced that Ron Paul is the most frightening candidate? Go back 35 years and consider what the 1970's might have been like if Paul's suggestions now on NATO had been followed then. My bet is that we'd all be speaking Russian today, or at least trying to learn it so that we could get a job in our own country...