The Top Ten Ways to Select the Republican Candidate for President

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Oy Vey! Does the Republican Party have a problem! It’s the large and unwieldy field of aspiring presidential nominees, all of whom want to appear in upcoming debates. But space is limited. Who should be left out? Who should get the call? And how should that be determined? Such a dilemma!

A Modest Proposal
The answer is simple. Have candidates compete on the Nation’s top reality TV shows. It’s a format they should all feel comfortable with. The GOP, after all, has had a long and contentious relationship with reality. And reality shows are to reality what Fox News is to news.

The qualities we are looking for and the challenges… Drum roll please!
#10: Loveable Ignorance

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Can’t distinguish an opinion from a fact? Consider that a plus. In this game, it pays to be a dumb-ass. Three things: Deficit is really spelled with a “c.” There really is no “e” at the end of “potato.” Now what was that third thing?

#9: Specialized Knowledge

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You really have to know something however. What better than a substantial grasp of trivial information and a lack of understanding as to how those isolated facts actually relate to one another, or the larger context in which they exist? Most important of all is your ability to answer a question with a question.

#8: Down-Home Persona

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Where’s Joe the plumber when we really need him? Demonstrate your ability to create the facade of ordinariness. Live in a duck blind. Shoot your partner inadvertently in the head without killing him. Be one of the people, a down-home non-pretentious kind of guy, dislike modern technology, disdain formal education, hate gays, extol your Christian heritage, not reveal your entitled background. Ignore charges by those who claim to have known you “before you were a virgin.”

#7: A Trim and Sleek Image

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How fast can you discard embarrassing baggage without causing a stir? It begins with your ability to maintain a trim physical image despite suffering through a series of greasy spoon specials, fried chicken dinners and pancake breakfasts.* That’s only one aspect of this grueling challenge, however. You also have to avoid discussing matters of substance. There’s no place for weighty issues if you hope to wage a successful campaign. Discard them as fast as you did the pounds.

*Note: Tummy tucks not allowed.

#6: Financial Acumen

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Every viable candidate has to fully understand the world of commerce — how money works and how to work with it. Create a cockamamie product, pass it off as something viable; and proceed to convince a group of high bank-rollers to invest in it. Your product is actually a piece of crap, but that shouldn’t really matter. It’s only a pretext for getting their support. The only thing that matters is you. That it is what they are really buying into, and it is your job is to convince them that that it is in their best interests to do so, e.g., you really understand that things do go better with Koch.

#5: Guts and Grit

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Test your ability to improvise on the run, negotiate foreign landscapes and confront unforeseen challenges. Traversing several continents, you will participate in: a scavenger hunt in Benghazi, leap into a corporate polluted river, bungee jump across an oil spill, sit for a home-made video, clad in an orange jumpsuit in the middle of a desert, and host a social luncheon of spare ribs and beer with Sunnis and Shiites at a Ramadi Inn.

#4: Thrift and Parsimony

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Show the voters in no uncertain terms how little the average person really needs in order to have a healthy and fulfilling life. Working from a random selection of food scavenged from a dumpster, concoct a nutritious five course meal,* representing all major food groups, to be served to others.

*Note: Ketchup does not count as a vegetable.

#3: Obliviousness

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Demonstrate how easily a person can shut out the real world and ignore real world conditions. Live for a week in a boarded up house in the Middle of Detroit, as part of a collective with residents of the area, work in a fast-food joint and bear responsibility for several underage children. Your ability to adjust to these conditions and be at home with them will be judged by the residents who will vote members off as they cease to adapt.

#2a: Flexibility and Openness to Change

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How easily can you accept erasure of your past and the creation of a new public image? A professional Spin Doctor will work his miraculous skills on you, transforming your drab ordinary self into a glamorous and attractive personage. Roll with the punches as he redoes all previous positions, including statements in print, public utterances and voting record, making embarrassing blemishes vanish in a flash — especially those gained in earlier primaries. Winners will feel neither shame nor discomfort as they segue comfortably into their new policy positions and new persona.

#2b: Nimbleness and Dexterity

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You can’t represent the party well without being able to evade major issues and promote wedge issues with panache.This means being able to think on your feet; avoid missteps, stay a step ahead of the media by keeping your foot out of your mouth, and doing a quick shuffle while answering questions. Above all, avoid stepping on the toes of supporters.

# 1: Je ne sais quoi

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Do you really have that certain something? Enough to woo and win the hand of a charming young vixen?… Guess who?

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The Problem with Sweets: The Whole Tooth and Nothing But…

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Isn’t it time you did something to curb your passion for sugar—those sumptuous calorie-laden desserts you just love to hate? Not your fault, you say? Just blame it on your sweet tooth (c.1390), “the liking or taste for sweet or sugary foods,” a term which originally referred to other delicacies as well.

Teeth have long carried the burden of character and associated with more than just biting and chewing. Since Chaucer’s time, they’ve also been linked to a sense of taste. When you had cold teeth, you were hungry. When you loved the tooth, you loved eating, making things toothsome, “savory” and “flavorful.”

You should have known better when you first cut your eyeteeth, those directly under the eye, your adult set, at 11-12 years. It did after all mark your entrance into adulthood. Cutting your eyeteeth (early18thC.) was testimony to your “gaining knowledge or discretion.”

Having your eyeteeth might make you worldly wise, but unfortunately, it doesn’t help when you finally got to be long in the tooth (19thC.), “getting on in years,” your gums often receding with age, making the teeth look longer.

Hopefully, this information is something you can sink your teeth into. Don’t bite my head if it doesn’t.

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Where the Wild Things Are

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What’s boffo today?  It’s anything deemed by the unknown arbiters of success to be “very good.” The term is thought to have originated with the Hollywood trade magazine Variety, using the word in headlines as shorthand for a hit show, or in “boffo box office” returns. It’s a true Americanism whose roots are unknown. Boffo today is buff, though the two words are in no way related.

We have opera buffs, sport buffs, film buffs, and cooking buffs,  and internet gaming buffs– folks who are all enthusiasts of a particular area of human endeavor. The first ones were fire-buffs (c.19thC.) — those fascinated with the glamour and excitement of fires and fire-fighting.

What made them buffs was that firemen once slept on the floor in buffalo skin robes and wore buffalo skin overcoats and uniforms the yellowish color of tanned buffalo hides.

Being in the buff derives from the buffaloes’ treated hides which resemble our bare skin. When in the buff, we’re dressed in only our own hide – making devotees of nudism into, buff-buffs. Those who make it to the gym regularly pride themselves on being buff, their body being so well toned, they would look great even without clothes.

Buffaloes themselves were the first to be buffaloed, slaughtered into extinction on the American frontier. Hunters aimed for a clear kill of the dominant bulls in a herd, avoiding a stampede, leaving other members of the herd to be passively picked off one at a time.

Those who are buffs are also often easily buffaloed, incapable of clear-headed action and vulnerable to manipulation and herd instinct. This has left many a buff with few legitimate beefs, yet another story altogether.

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How Dumb Are You?

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In this the age of political correctness, you never call out anyone who could be mentally challenged.   Even the nincompoop is off limits.  Every dummy and his brother have long been believed that he comes from the Latin non compos mentis, “with one’s mind not composed.”

Further study, however, reveals that he more likely derives from the Dutch poep, “fool’ or “clown.” As to the nincom? Well, there’s always the once common name “Nicodemus,” used the same way that Tom is used in “tomfoolery.” Or better yet, the Dutch nicht, “niece” or “female cousin,” plus om, “with,” “on,” or “about.”  Putting them together leaves you with “a relative of a fool” as in “I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”  It’s nothing more than a bit of guilt by association. Hey, nothing personal. It’s all relative.

Some prefer the abbreviated version, making him into a ninny shortening nincompoop, thereby making him more endearing or “innocent.” Or you could simply treat him as a variation of the Spanish niño, “an inexperienced child.”

Anyway you cut it, he’s still a few fries short of a happy meal, a can or two short of a six-pack, a doughnut short of a dozen, and a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

If you’d like your comments to cut closer to home: The light is on but no one is home. The stairs don’t reach all the way to the attic, and the elevator doesn’t go to the top.

Still doesn’t get it? That’s understandable.

He transmits, but he doesn’t receive. …Over and out.

Mother’s Day Addendum

Fred Burks for PEERS and WantToKnow.info calls to our attention even more delightful and pertinent information about Mother’s Day which we would like to share with you.

A beautifully composed Mother’s Day video explores the history and origins of this special day. The inspiring four-minute video below features caring mothers from around the world talking about the importance of Mother’s Day and its origins.

To explore the origins of Mother’s Day, we travel back over 100 years in time to 1908, where we meet Anna Jarvis, a woman who strangely enough never married nor had children. In a very meaningful way, Mother’s Day was her child.

Ms. Jarvis created Mother’s Day to celebrate her own mother, a caring, dedicated activist, and world-class mother. As stated in an MSNBC article on the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day, “by all accounts, Jarvis’ mother Ann was a community activist who worked to heal the divisions in north-central West Virginia following the Civil War, and to promote improved sanitation by creating Mothers Friendship Clubs.”

Just six years after its birth, a 1914 resolution by President Woodrow Wilson turned Mother’s Day into a national institution. Yet with its rapidly growing popularity, Anna Jarvis became increasingly upset with its rapid commercialization.

Later in her life, Ms. Jarvis stated that she “wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of control.” As stated in the MSNBC article, “before she died in 1948, she protested at a Mother’s Day celebration in New York, and was arrested for disturbing the peace.”

As you watch the beautiful video below, consider letting go of the commercialization and stepping back into the pure spirit and intention upon which Mother’s Day was originally founded. What better way to honor our mothers and the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis.

Read the text of the original Mother’s Day proclamation below. And as you celebrate Mother’s Day this year, consider honoring both Anna Jarvis and your own mother. Notice where you might want to commercialize this special day. Then choose instead to invite back the spirit of its origin as you honor your mother or your own motherhood. And if you are a mother, I wish you a most warm and beautiful Mother’s Day. Thanks so much to all mothers for bringing us into this life here and for nurturing and supporting us to shine our light in the world.

 

Mother’s Day Proclamation

Note: The below text was written in 1870 as a reaction to the carnage of the US Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War by Julia Ward Howe, mother of Mother’s Day founder Anna Jarvis.

Again, in the sight of the Christian world, have the skill and power of two great nations exhausted themselves in mutual murder. Again have the sacred questions of international justice been committed to the fatal mediation of military weapons. In this day of progress, in this century of light, the ambition of rulers has been allowed to barter the dear interests of domestic life for the bloody exchanges of the battle field.

Thus men have done. Thus men will do. But women need no longer be made a party to proceedings which fill the globe with grief and horror. Despite the assumptions of physical force, the mother has a sacred and commanding word to say to the sons who owe their life to her suffering. That word should now be heard, and answered to as never before.

Arise, then, Christian women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be that of water or of tears! Say firmly: We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies. Our husbands shall not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.

We, women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country, to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with our own. It says: Disarm, disarm! The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor violence vindicate possession. As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war, let women now leave all that may be left of home for a great and earnest day of council.

Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead. Let them then solemnly take council with each other as to the means whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man, each bearing after his own kind the sacred impress, not of Caesar, but of God.

In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women, without limit of nationality, may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient, and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions, the great and general interests of peace.

Teaching the Children of Poverty: A Short Trip From Italy, Brazil, New Zealand, Selma, and Washington, D.C to Baltimore

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I can’t believe we’re having this conversation, but let’s try.

The events of 50 years ago which culminated at the Edmund Pettus Bridge were dramatically recreated in the film Selma. The very same issues are now being played out in real time on our television sets in the events transpiring over the past several days on the streets of Baltimore. Both serve as reminders of the work yet to be done to achieve a more equitable and just society.

Hillary Clinton acknowledged this reality, saying, “We have to come to terms with some hard truths about race and justice in America” — to which we would add, “Why stop there? What about the schooling of children of color from poverty backgrounds? Don’t we also need to come to terms with some hard truths about race and education as well?”

Who, however, will depict their plight? Who will speak for the children?

What better voice than the children themselves?

Italy

“Dear Miss,

You don’t remember me or my name. You have flunked so many of us. On the other hand I have often had thoughts about you, and the other teachers, and about the institution which you call ‘school’ and about the kids that you flunk. You flunk us right out into the fields and factories and there you forget us.”

Thus began Letter to a Teacher (Lettera a una professoressa) by the Schoolboys of Barbiana, a book in the form of a letter addressed to a composite teacher, by eight students speaking with a single voice.

All were students in a small school, located in a remote Italian village of about twenty farmhouses in the hills of the Mugello region, in Tuscany.

The school was the brainchild of Lorenzo Milani (1923-1967), a progressive educator, journalist and priest who created it as an alternative educational setting for poor children who had been pushed out from traditional schooling. Born into poor families, these schoolboys had been told by former teachers that their futures were limited. Most had either flunked out of school or were bitterly discouraged with the way they were taught.

It began with 10 peasant students, schoolboys, 11 to 13 years old and a rigorous schedule of eight hours of work per day, six to seven days a week and later grew to 20 students, with the older students teaching the younger ones.

The school was quite different than anything the children had previously experienced. Under Milani’s guidance, they learned how to write and think for themselves. They also learned to overcome their social-class limitations. The school respected the boys as learners and honored their backgrounds.

It s curriculum included the analysis and discussion of the children’s own lives, which included a year-long project (coordinated by Milani) about their experiences in the school system, a two-tiered authoritarian structure based on business-like management models which emphasized testing and grades, was cluttered with irrelevant curricula, placed an emphasis on rote learning and grill and drill, and had as its central mission, the sorting and classification of children by class for a future dead-end role in society.

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The letter is an eloquent diatribe of the children’s own experiences in the public schools and the favoritism and class-bias of the entire educational system. It is one of the most simple but most forceful pieces of writing of the 20th century on school and social class and a powerful, indictment of how schools are complicit in perpetuating social injustice.

Brazil

That very same year (1966), Paolo Freire’s classic work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed was published. Freire had worked for years with the campesinos, “the shirtless ones,” those laboring in the fields of Brazil in efforts to raise adult literacy.

His approach to schooling also began with his students, integrating the mainsprings of their lives; their fears, hopes, aspirations, and concerns as the point of departure and the subject matter, dictating both classroom practice and the politics of the school.

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Rejecting the traditional banking approach–the staple of traditional education whereby inert material is simply deposited into the student’s account– he replaced it with a process that was mutual and dialogical, in which students continually questioned and took meaning from everything they learned.

In the process, they learned how to think democratically and to take control over their own education and their own life, emerging with an elevated personal, political and social consciousness, whereby they became the subjects, rather than objects, of the world.

This had implications on a much wider level as well. Education would be not apart from the world but a part of it. At its most effective, it would be transformative for both the learner and the society.

New Zealand

Four years later, Sylvia Ashton-Warner published her book, Teacher, recounting her experience teaching the Maori children of New Zealand.

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Her approach towards introducing primitive children to the world of words was simple yet direct.

They (the words) must be made out of the stuff of the child itself. I reach a hand into the mind of the child, bring out a handful of the stuff I find there, and use that as our first working material… And in this dynamic material within the familiarity and security of it, the Maori finds that words have intense meaning to him, from which cannot help but arise a love of reading. For it’s here, right in this first word, that the love of reading is born, and the longer his reading is organic the stronger it becomes, until by the time he arrives at the books of the new culture, he receives them as another joy rather than as labor. I know all this because I’ve done it.

The approach of Milani, Freire, and Ashton-Warner is far different than the philosophy which today dictates the education of urban kids (read poor black and brown children). Martin Haberman called it “The pedagogy of poverty.”

Rather than facilitating student ownership of the educational content or treating them as partners in it, content is directive, tightly controlled and superimposed from above.

It has powerful and varied advocates: Those who fear minorities and the poor and have low expectations for them; those obsessed with control; and those who themselves have been brutalized and marginalized by the process; as well as business and reform-oriented leaders working from their narrow world view, believing it to be the only way of structuring reality,

Call it what you may, the approach at its heart is racism, masquerading as hope, working to perpetuate the current social and political reality.

Washington D.C.

We are fast approaching the 50th anniversary, one of the single best-known pieces of social science research ever done on our schools. Named in deference to its senior author, sociologist, James Coleman, “The Coleman Report” is the second largest social science research project ever produced in this country’s history–an effort deemed “impressive,” even by today’s standards. The study was produced under the authority of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The resulting report, “Equality in Educational Opportunity,” was published in July 1966.

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The central finding of the report was that what occurred in a child’s home and in their neighborhood and though their interactions with peers were far greater determinants of academic success than anything schools might do. Few school-related “inputs” seemed to matter much in terms of overcoming the academic disparities which children brought with them. Only teachers’ verbal ability seemed to be linked to higher student test scores and improving student achievement.

That’s what people remember most about the report. What many took away from it was the notion that “schools don’t matter,” an argument which many politicians used in opposing further educational funding–an interpretation which was greatly oversimplified.

Virtually lost in its discussion was what the report found to be the next–most important determinant of academic achievement after family characteristics–a student’s sense of control over his or her own destiny.

If the motivational problems of the poor is to a significant degree rooted in the conviction, resulting from the experience of a rigid or chaotic home and street life, that they cannot influence the relevant parts of their environment, surely the efforts of school to prevent their reflecting on, evaluating, and attempting to influence the environment of the school itself, could only further confirm their belief in the fruitlessness of making any effort toward self-mastery.

If the primary cause of lack of motivation among the poor is their feeling that they cannot control their own destiny – that feeling can only be reinforced by placing them in highly politicized and manipulative programs of compensatory education whose success is largely defined in terms of percentage of students gotten into “quality” colleges.

Oh yes, the report also noted that African-American students in schools with mostly white students had a greater sense of control. But forget about that. The goal of school integration has long since passed us by.

Baltimore

The Baltimore school system ranked second among the nation’s 100 largest school districts in per pupil expenditures in fiscal year 2011, $15,483 per-pupil, second only to New York City’s$19,770. As reported in the Baltimore Sun: Respondents asked to grade the Baltimore public schools, gave it the equivalent of a grade-point average of 1.45, about a D-plus.

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How to address this disparity? Empowering the students might be a good place to start. Taking the lives of students seriously invariably leads to having to also take seriously the larger context in which schooling is played out. Empowering students goes hand in hand with empowering the community.

That is the challenge we face today.

Whoever is fond of the comfortable and fortunate stays out of politics, he does not want anything to change. To get to know the children of the poor, and to love politics, are one and the same thing. You cannot love human beings who are marked by unjust laws, and not work for other laws.
—-The Children of Barbiana

Larry Paros is a former high-school math and social-studies teacher. He was at the forefront of educational reform in the 1960s and ’70s, during which time he directed a unique project for talented underprivileged students at Yale and created and directed two urban experimental schools, cited by the U.S. Office of Education as “exemplary” and later replicated at more than 125 sites nationwide.

Have I Got Something to Tell You!

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You’re in the middle of an intense card game. Suddenly an onlooker bends over and whispers into your ear — a suggestion as to what to do next. Such distracting comments in the midst of a contest are known as kibitzing (c.1927). It’s a Yiddish word derived from the German, kiebitz (c.1908), a plover or lapwing, a bird conspicuously noted for its screaming cry.

If might kibitz a bit, I’d remind you that the word should not be confused with the kibbutz, an Israeli community organized around collectivist principles, deriving from the Hebrew qibbus, ‘gathering.’ A member of such a settlement, incidentally, is a kibbutznik as opposed to the meddlesome intruder – better known as a kibitzer.

Those who would put an end to this annoying practice or render it ineffective are said to put the kibosh on it (c.1832). Though it sounds like it also has Yiddish or Hebraic roots, this phrase more likely comes from the Gaelic, cie bas, ‘cap of death,’ referring either to the black cap worn by British judges when pronouncing the death sentence or to the hood put over the head of a guilty party about to be hanged. It all sounds pretty final to me.

“What’s really behind all this worthless information?” you ask. “What can we do with it?” If nothing else, you are left with a great tongue-twister: kibosh on kibitzing in the kibbutz.