The Vagina Monologues Insult My Intelligence

You may remember recent reports that a second grade teacher had to prevent a parent from distributing vagina cookies to the class. I can’t deliver the story any better than the original, so here are a couple of excerpts:

Autumn Lily Speaker comes into the classroom with a pan full of treats. […]  “I decided you can use these to teach the kids about the woman’s vagina today”. Baffled and completely caught off guard I slowly peel the aluminum foil off the pan to behold a plethora of sugar cookie and frosting vaginas. Not just any old vagina, but ALL KINDS OF VAGINAS.

[…]

[P]erplexed I give the parent the most professional look I can muster and quietly reply “I’m sorry Autumn, but I can’t give these to my students. This just isn’t appropriate.” […] Autumn bursts with the fury of a thousand angry Andrea Dworkin’s and starts yelling in front of the class about how ‘I should be proud of my vagina’ and ‘I am settling for a women’s role in life’. Utterly bemused and frozen from shock all I can do is stand and stare at the woman as the word ‘vagina’ is yelled in front of my second grade class about 987,000 times.

It gets worse from there.  In a subsequent email, the parent implies that the children should learn how to pleasure the vagina and expresses hope that the teacher will be beaten by an abusive husband.

VM

This is what the Vagina Monologues ISN’T. Actresses proclaim the value of their vaginas; the genitals themselves don’t speak. Presumably. (Photo credit: Mattias Johansson)

News of the altercation eventually landed on Huffington Post and I’m surprised that HuffPost would feature a story that opens the floodgates for criticizing feminists.  I spent many years on college campuses and this incident reminds me of V Day.  “V Day,” or Vagina Day, is the campus feminists’ replacement for the standard February 14 holiday.  The feminists distribute vagina lollipops instead of vagina cookies and they urge “pride in your vagina” and the pleasuring thereof.  (In other words, the mother sounds like she just came from campus.)  V Day’s centerpiece is the performance of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues,” a piece that includes some value but also some pedophilia; however, proceeds are often donated to women’s support charities, which must be said in its defense.  Also to be said in its defense: Roseanne Barr performed the piece in her underwear a few years back, so there’s obviously some sweet stuff for the men too… in addition to the lollipops.  (Cool down.  This is a humor blog, remember?)

Long story short: this is what a lot of college students are being taught and the cupcake incident illustrates the unintended consequences of this well-intended V Day programming.  Just because it works in theory doesn’t mean it will work outside the university with young children, or with older children, or with adults, or with dead people.  (I take that back.  Maybe it would work with dead people because they lack brain function.)  It’s not the real world’s fault that the intellectual idealist’s ideas fall flat when removed from the academic cloister. Them students don’t remember the lesson right when they leave skool and then the kiddies hafta suffer.  The adults too.

The feminism that helps protect women on campus seems to have led at least this one mother to wish domestic violence on another woman.  The Women’s Studies professors would be so proud.

Grade Inflation Insults My Intelligence

I created this for a writing prompt I co-inspired. It’s based on the comics at Tabula Candida.

(Text version: Those who sleepwalk through their studies often find themselves on undeserved pedestals.  Eventually, they fall down the stairs in a bloody heap.  On the bright side, zombies will refuse to eat their emaciated brains.

History repeats itself every semester.  I’m not making this up, you know.)

Field Trips Insult My Intelligence

I wrote a parody of Maya Angelou’s poem “Still I Rise” as one of my earliest posts.  I liked the result but few people saw it because the blog was so new.  I’ve been meaning to write a sequel ever since.

That said, it’s time to revisit one of the cruelest topics I’ve ever dealt with: children and animals… so here’s another morbid poem.  (Admittedly, the original was better.)

You can take kids to the forest,
They will see a lot of flies.
You can tell them not to feed the bears,
But then some poor kid dies.

Can’t they listen to instructions?
Don’t they want to stay alive?
‘Cause they play like there’s no danger there
That they just cannot survive.

Just like George and like cats
Who are curious young guys,
Though his hope’s springing high,
Still, he dies.

Photo credit: VanBuren

Photo credit: VanBuren

Should we try for something safer?
Is the subway that bad too?
(Children falling in like teardrops
Ain’t what they’re supposed to do.)

We can try hard to restrain them,
We can offer them a prize,
‘Cause the third rail’s got some energy,
And it makes sure some kid dies.

Photo Credit: PDPhotos

Photo Credit: PDPhotos

We may choose to take the bus now
We may hope that no one fries
We may warn “That fence should not be climbed”
But always someone dies.

Does that image so upset you
That we’ll have to try the beach?
But there’s sharks there underwater,
When kids drown you’ll hear a screech.

Down to the depths of ocean’s floor,
He dies.
In through the teeth, they’re gnashing his brain,
He dies.
He’s a shark’s breakfast, bloody with pride,
Floating and bloating he flows with the tide.

Leaving behind cries of terror and fear,
He dies.
Into a stomach that’s wondrously clear,
He dies.
Bringing the flesh that his ancestors gave
He is the dream and the hope the sharks crave.
He dies.
He dies.
He dies.

The Common Core Insults My Intelligence

Originally posted on Facebook, this made it to the Yahoo homepage after making its way to Glenn Beck's website.  (Photo credit:  https://www.facebook.com/PatriotPost/photos/a.82108390913.80726.51560645913/10152143072400914/?type=1&stream_ref=10 )

Originally posted on Facebook, this made it to the Yahoo homepage after appearing on Glenn Beck’s website. (Photo credit: https://www.facebook.com/PatriotPost/photos/a.82108390913.80726.51560645913/10152143072400914/?type=1&stream_ref=10 )

 

Dear Frustrated Parent,

We, the educational minds behind the Common Core, regret your inability to understand your child’s math homework.  Although your educational credentials impressed us, we don’t understand why you can’t comprehend one basic concept:  counting on your fingers.

It’s so simple that even a child can do it.

You start by taking the first digit that’s being subtracted, the one in the 100’s slot, and jump 100 on the number line for each 100 being subtracted.  Then you do the same for the 10’s slot and finally for the 1’s slot.  As you can see, the number line represents nothing more than a sophisticated version of the tried-and-true natural bodily mathematical apparatus (a.k.a. digits) that you conservatives claim to love so much.

It’s not scary.  It’s traditional.

Just wait until your child reaches Trigonometry and you’ll discover how much easier these methods make things.  Calculating sines and cosines to three decimal places will excite our teenagers more than it ever has!

Moreover, we are saddened that you chose to mock our interest in developing the children’s writing skills.  If more of you engineers were literate and/or competent in your field, you would understand the value of recognizing errors and being able to communicate them so that they might be rectified.  Your letter demonstrates that you have not progressed beyond a rudimentary comprehension of the English language.  Thank goodness your child has us to help him achieve.

We thank you for your self-incriminating gesture.

Sincerely,

The Department of Education

 

Blogger’s notes:

I do not have a math or science degree and I was able to figure out the homework assignment… which doesn’t exactly shed a more positive light on it.

For the less mathematically inclined among you, one would not use subtraction to calculate sines and cosines.  Judging from the common core authors’ ignorance of what will be needed in higher math courses, I assume they would not have known this either.

Perhaps I’ll agree with Glenn Beck again in another 100 years or so.  I imagine it will be something along the lines of “Gee, this dirt isn’t very comfortable.”

Educational Fun Insults My Intelligence

I’m not one to say that kids should suffer in school, but there’s a limit to how much pleasure they should be given outside of recess.

Case in point: I saw a homework assignment that was developed and presumably promoted by an educational company or nonprofit, not by a teacher who might be incompetent.  (Calm down.  I’m not calling teachers incompetent.  It’s just that some bad seeds get through the cracks and stick around forever.)

Because the assignment was surely copyrighted, I didn’t make a copy to show you.  However, I did find a nifty website that allowed me to create a comparable activity.  And so without further ado, here it is.  Let me know how much you think the kids are learning from this because, after all, fun is always educational.

Can you find all 12 words and figure out the overall theme?  I’m making it harder by not telling you the words in advance.  That way, the surprise will make this entire exercise even more enjoyable, just as it should be.  I’ll cut the sarcasm now, I promise.


S P A C T X E G P N U D H T G
H I R N Q X C J X I Z I H N E
C F N D N R P Z H T T E D M N
I P W O L E Y K I L R D O T O
E O C X I P F W E E S H Y P C
R X Z R A T H R S H G T B S I
D X K O L C A I A K H A C L D
R S M F S D E V O N O E O U E
I T N U I N V C R O K D H W I
H U A Y S R E B M A H C S A G
T Y A T N M H X E H T W K A Z
O K A H H O L O C A U S T J J
M D N H C Z P O L T S E D Q N
T O P R M A V O T T E H G Q G
X H K R M B D O W C B O K N A

			

Recruiting Minors Insults My Intelligence

It’s a normal, average, uneventful eighth-grade day in Catholic school.  I find myself surrounded by classmates, desks, books, the Holy Ghost, and all the paraphernalia typically associated with such an environment.   In our parish, eighth grade was the year us little kiddies experienced the sacrament of Conformation.  (Oops!  That’s supposed to be Confirmation.) Confirmation focuses on conformity, which is why I got the name messed up.  One pledges to God that one will remain affiliated with the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church” for the rest of one’s days, confirming one’s baptismal vows and conforming to the church’s prescriptions.  It’s a big deal and the school treated it that way.

Fortunately, those of us attending the school didn’t have to exert any effort towards this end because confirmation classes took place in our regular religion course.  So… no outside time commitment except for attending the ceremony.  We didn’t have a priest or nun teaching the course, or anyone competent for that matter.  I think they had intentionally given our teacher this assignment so she couldn’t screw us up on the “important” subjects.

You have to love that logic in a Catholic school.

But this teacher did have one thing going for her.  Her manner and physical appearance resembled this lovely specimen:

Dana Carvey as The Church Lady

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To steer clear of copyright infringement, I shall refer to my teacher as Lady Church.

Lady Church was a pious little thing and I suppose that’s why the school didn’t fire her.  Every day in class, students would take turns reading one paragraph aloud from the textbook.  When a chapter ended, we took a test.  As you can see, not much teaching took place.

Usually.

One day, it was time for Lady Church to prepare us for our Confirmation interviews.  Before receiving the sacrament, we all had to pass an interview showing that we understood its significance and wanted to proceed.  After all, the sacrament was optional, to the extent that Catholic school students can permissibly abstain from religious proceedings at the center of a grade-bearing course.  Even the dabblers in Satan worship who I wrote about here didn’t refuse.  God bless the path of least resistance.

But I digress.   Lady Church had to prepare us for those interviews and the textbook did not include any relevant information.  Would she stand before us and stutter and stammer and pontificate incoherently?  Surprisingly, no.  Lady Church was one of the interviewers and she spoke to us directly in class that day, triumphantly providing us with the interview questions and correct answers.   Just memorize it and spit it back.

“Just memorize it and spit it back” pretty well sums up daily life in Catholic religion classes, at least in my experience.  But that’s not why I write today.  I was 13 or 14 at the time.  My decision-making capacities were, by law, insufficient for me to pursue relations with my sexy homeroom teacher.  I was not considered mature enough to drink alcohol responsibly and not old enough to make sufficiently informed political judgments to allow me to vote.  And if I had committed murder, my mental immaturity would have meant that I couldn’t be imprisoned beyond my 18th birthday.  However, 14-year-olds receive the “freedom” to “choose” whether they want to affiliate themselves with a religious institution (but not with a spouse) for life.  Or until they realize the lunacy of keeping a promise to a deity they don’t worship.  Or until they realize that few organizations besides their church let children make lifetime vows… and then hold them to their word.

Well isn’t that convenient?  Who could inspire such shenanigans?  Could it be Satan?

Sorry.  I couldn’t resist.  But… December 23rd has arrived and once again I’m preparing to observe what remains a secular holiday for me.  Lady Church is my holy ghost.

Unchanged Melodies Insult My Intelligence

Dies Irae

(Photo credit: suyensedai)

So…

This week’s Weekly Writing Challenge deals with how music has impacted or represents your life.  My regular readers already know to be afraid of this.  Very afraid.

Fortunately for you, those fears are well grounded.  Out of all the tunes ever written, you can probably guess what I’ll be writing about.  (Hint: it ain’t Wrecking Ball.)

Today’s post will discuss the Roman Catholic funerary hymn Dies Irae.  It just screams my personality, doesn’t it?

For those of you who don’t know the song, here’s a version that some monks performed:

Even though religion didn’t figure prominently in my home life, I attended Catholic schools growing up.  You might say that I absorbed more religion than vodka in school.  That’s vodka, not wine.  The Church endorses an occasional sip of wine from an early age.  So, I suppose I absorbed more alcohol than religion as a child and that’s why I became such an upstanding citizen.

Although the schools offered strong academics, the religious content droned on and on like the monks.  That’s not to say that the monks lack talent, but they, like theological instruction, don’t connect with listeners unless the listeners possess a preexisting desire to drink it in.  I didn’t have that.

Wine, on the other hand, connects whether you want it to or not.  That post will have to wait, though.

Back to the story: I graduated from high school and never attended church again except for weddings and funerals.  I no longer had to appear religion-friendly because I was no longer subject to religious expectations.  During these years, I picked up a CD with another version of Dies Irae… this time by a goth band called Mantus:

No, I never took on goth dress or anything like that.  In retrospect, though, I find it rather amusing that a goth band would choose to sing Catholic liturgical music, even if it was originally for funerals.  I suppose that means the band, much like myself, never became anti-religion in any real sense.  The updated hymn also makes for a more substantial listening experience than the mindless Satan worship that comes from so many cheap metal bands; I guess that’s why I’ve never gotten rid of my old goth-style music.  Goths appreciate the classics.

And then I reached graduate school, an experience that would suffice to send anyone into a greater depression than the average goth band depicts.  Fortunately, I stayed psychologically healthy and made it through to graduation.  And then I became unemployed.  Normally, unemployment is supposed to be depressing but I’ve somehow remained happy.  I guess it’s a lot easier to deal with new problems if you’re glad enough to be free of where you were.  Unfortunately, I can’t use that explanation in a job interview because it counts as badmouthing former employers.

I probably need not inform you that I discovered a more upbeat version of Dies Irae.    I may be in a morbid state of affairs but I’m still cheerful when my intelligence isn’t being insulted.  Anyway, here’s the song:

I presume you want me to finally explain the point of this whole post.  So, here we go: if your music doesn’t fit your life, change your playlist to something more suitable.  Change is liberating, and there’s something in the new tune that will hold an echo of the old… even if that echo is heresy to your earlier life.

Since I’m feeling generous, I’ll give you a second moral to the story: funerary music is much more enjoyable when it’s not being played at a funeral.

Self-Proclaimed Intellectuals Insult My Intelligence

I took German in college and one of the first readings in the intermediate course was called “A Table is a Table.”  In the story, an old man becomes bored with his surroundings and renames everything in his house.  Some amount of logic drives this; the names for everything are random conventions and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be called something else.

Deutsch: Rose mit Rauhreif / Eiskristallen

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But this isn’t a story about a rose by any other name.  By the end of the tale, the old man has become unable to communicate with anyone because no one shares his vocabulary.  The title serves as a warning: a table is a table.  Although the name “table” is random, the standardization works best.

I’m not opposing change per se, but I do see this pattern in the academic humanities of the past decade or more.  For instance, an “intellectual” is defined as someone who holds a particular set of political and social beliefs, regardless of whether the methods of acquiring those beliefs would legitimately be described as “intellectual.”  One sees this in politics as well; it’s convenient for some activists to conflate homophobia and religious views on sexuality as a way of winning sympathy.  The activists redefined “identity” as being the person and the sexual behavior, meaning that opposition to the sexual behavior is opposition to a person’s identity.  By that logic, the activist claims that the religious person’s call to “hate the sin but love the sinner” is disingenuous.  This causes conflict where none should exist.  (To be fair, there are quite a few religious folks who forget the love part of that statement.  That must be why Pope Francis’ comments are on the topic were so controversial.)

This points to a greater problem: the larger inability of the two sides to dialogue.  No shared vocabulary means no common ground.

A globe (Globus)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And that brings me to high school English classes in the U.S.  Specifically, world literature classes.  At many schools, “world literature” emphasizes works by Americans and Brits, plus a couple of continental Europeans (usually ancient Greeks) and usually topped off by Chinua Achebe and perhaps Gabriel Garcia-Marquez.

Is part of the world missing here?

Of course it is, unless I add Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.  But then again, Hesse was German/Swiss and only wrote about an Asian topic; that means I can’t count him as the token Asian.

So the world is now defined as white people and people who criticize white people.  (Remember, Hispanics are technically Caucasian.)   Does anyone else see a problem here?

The people who recognize the problem often prescribe a curriculum that replicates their opposition’s shortcomings.  The newly added texts add to the criticism of white people by others while eliminating “dead white males.”  If a text doesn’t follow the political ideals behind this curriculum, it is unacceptable because it reinforces current power structures.  Or something like that.

In the end, both sides have redefined “world” and have no common ground.  Unfortunately, they also can’t talk with the rest of the world  because no one seems to want to teach authentic foreign cultural traditions.  That’s too “subversive” for both sides.

To my non-U.S. readers: If you want to know why so few native-born Americans know anything about you, it’s because 49% define “world” as “Western world” while another 49% only define you as intellectual when you’re criticizing the Western world.  You are no longer a table.

This was my two percent’s worth.

Pen Pals Insult My Intelligence

A small United States Postal Service truck see...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To make something unpalatable to a sixth grader, assign it as homework.

My teacher didn’t quite realize this and decided to match all of her students with pen pals from far far away… but not far enough away to make the exercise interesting.  This was back before email had caught on, so we were using good old fashioned pen and paper.  And the first letter or two counted towards our grade.

To make matters worse, we wrote the initial letter before knowing who we were being matched with.  So, technically, we weren’t even writing to anyone. That’s always a good start.

And then someone finally did the pairing.  I don’t know what logic they used but I ended up with a basketball player.  That’s all I remember about her because she sent pictures of herself in uniform.  (This was with her first letter.)  Brilliant idea.  I had a baseball card collection a long time back but I was no athlete and no fan of watching sports.  And, generally speaking, I probably would have never chosen to befriend this girl.   She just wasn’t my type.

I don’t remember whether my teacher required us to write a second letter.  However, I do remember that I never wrote again after the requirement ended.   My teacher’s attempt to inspire regular writing might have worked better if someone in charge had known how to match pen pals effectively.

It would never have occurred to me that the person on the other side was expecting another reply.  I don’t know what she and her classmates were told about this whole pen pal thing, but hopefully our level of excitement hadn’t been misrepresented.  In any case, she eventually sent me a “why haven’t you written?” letter.  I don’t remember any details but I didn’t respond.  No one ever asked me if I wanted a pen pal and, since I was twelve and only understood the exercise as a homework assignment, I couldn’t understand why someone would be so into interacting sporadically with someone they had never met, have nothing in common with, and likely would never meet.

And then I received another letter from her in 11th or 12th grade.  With another picture, again in basketball uniform and with enormous hair.  If she was insinuating “look at this hot woman you missed out on,” I didn’t catch it.  Perhaps it’s because she still wasn’t my type.

And then she finished high school and became a porn star.

Just kidding.  I never heard from or about her again and I can’t say I’m disappointed.  It probably helps that I don’t have a personal Facebook account.  And I would love to leave you with a warm and fuzzy moral to this story but I don’t feel like it today.  So here’s what I’ve got:

Once upon a time, you could ignore “friends” you had never met and get away with it without encountering much creepiness.  Those were the good old days.

Educational Emotion Insults My Intelligence

When I was in high school, one of my teachers passionately advocated on poverty issues.  She didn’t invoke a political ideology, choosing to focus on people instead.  And she probably understood that politicizing education accomplishes little more than alienating half of one’s audience.

Unfortunately, her wisdom ended there.

Pizza, Frozen food

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One day she decided to explain how the grocery store experience differs for people on food stamps.  So she asked us to imagine the horror of going shopping and not being able to afford the fresh pizzas in the prepared foods section.  Food stamps only cover the frozen pizzas!    Looking back, it makes me wonder why poor people aren’t marching on Washington to demand freedom of choice.

Probably because they can’t afford the frozen pizzas either.

But if they can, could you please send some of those food stamps my way?

Fortunately, my teacher realized that poverty entails more than an absence of fresh Italian food.  Unfortunately, she didn’t know how to communicate that.  Soon after this, she decided to show a short video about global hunger… produced by Oxfam, I think.  I don’t remember any substantial content in the video (although my high school years were long ago) but I can still picture the oft-repeated catchphrase projected on the full screen: “CHRONIC PERSISTENT HUNGER.”  After the fifth time the narrator repeated this mantra, everyone’s eyes had gone numb from constant rolling.

One needs considerable skill to turn an audience against an anti-poverty message that contains no political provocation… even if that audience is a room full of teenagers.  But the teacher succeeded with that video because it didn’t even attempt to temper its exclusively emotional appeal.

And then the time came to discuss sustainable eating.  After pointing out how much grain it takes to raise an animal, my teacher suggested that everyone go on a diet of beans and rice.  According to her, it’s sufficiently nutritious and the unused grain could be used to feed impoverished nations.

Let’s forget for a moment that lots of food presently rots in silos and warehouses (etc.) and that our culinary decisions aren’t going to change that.  And let’s ignore the fact that my teacher probably wasn’t practicing what she preached.  Instead, let’s consider the sanity behind proposing food to teenagers solely on the basis of its nutritive value.  Or to adults for that matter.

Now think about Cajun or Indian food.  If she had cooked up a good recipe and given out samples, we would have gladly eaten it.  (We probably would have thought it tasted like chili.)   You catch more flies with garam masala than with pontification.

I think most of us will eat something if it tastes good and isn’t made from rat testicles.

And now I have something harder for you to swallow than rodent gonads.

The students were justified in gagging on the garbage we were being fed, even if opposition to eliminating poverty is morally suspect.  Minds that learn to embrace empty propaganda will continue to do so when the propaganda begins serving darker goals.

Sometimes the greatest enemy to positive social change is advocacy for social change.

Pass the bacon.

Classroom Pets Insult My Intelligence

English: An image of a Common goldfish

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You may put a fish in water
with a filter twice its size.
You may give it food two times a day
But still, of course, it dies.

Français : Hamster en cage (Femelle)

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does the hamster wheel upset you?
Does the cage foul up the room?
‘Cause he sprays like gushing oil wells
And creates some nasty fumes.

Just like Grandma’s older cats
That have used up their nine lives
Though the hamster climbs high
Still, it dies.

Crying child

(Photo credit: Creative Donkey)

Do you like to see kids mourning?
With bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by their soulful cries.

My son's pet snake

(Photo credit: Pahz)

Should the teacher now be braver?
Should she now go get a snake?
‘Cause reptiles’ lives are like gold mines
That can bend but never break.

She can shoot it up with vaccines
She can feed it lots of mice
It can shed its skin with feistiness
But still, of course, it dies.

Photo of a Florida Box Turtle (Terrapene carol...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Will this turtle pacify them
With its shell and beady eyes?
Will the children finally smile
At this old reptilian prize?

Out from the weight of its own shell
It dies.
Up from a cage that’s rooted in pain
It dies.
Children are crying, screaming, and mad
Welling and swelling they say they’ve been had
They bellow their grievance of anger and fear:
“It dies!”
They don’t stop, for it is perfectly clear
It dies
Regretting the gifts that their kids’ teacher gave
Dad dreams of a time when some pets could be saved.
It dies.
It dies.
It dies.