Posts Tagged ‘education’

Because leaving is the answer to the Lenten riddle

March 15, 2015

This year has been an odd Lenten journey.  With an early Easter and the snowiest winter in Boston history, I know the grey piles of snow will abound on Easter morning when for (I think) the first time in my life, I will not be attending an Easter service.  I’m not sure if I’ll return to the church (that being said, I know I will go with a few people on specific occasions) as a member.  A few reasons, if only to clear my own mind:

  • You asked for membership dues. No, I am not kidding.  I pledged.  My pledge is my offering to the church for the operating budged.  The membership dues should be a fixed line item on the budget.  I understand the need for campaign funds, grant challenge funds; I gave to those as well.
  • I need ritual. Yes, this is a “free” church tradition but free-church does not mean the absence of ritual.  The extended dance version of the passing of the peace is not the only ritual.  Our liturgies are full of rituals.
  • Ok, look, I get gender inclusive language is a thing in the church right now. But like changing the national anthem, the changing of the words of The Lord’s Prayer ranks among one of the “traditions” that will make me scream internally or on social media.  Maybe I just have an advanced degree in feminist thought, but as a lesbian, I am not oppressed by the prayer.  Just don’t ask my Greek professor to relate my translation (it was pretty funny).  There is something sacred and holy about saying the words that your great-great-great grandparents said in worship.
  • I watched you embrace people into your church: you know, the young, married couples with/without kids, the couples, those under 30. I understand that churches (in general) see these as “growth” opportunities.  But I am still me:  I’m not sorry I come without a child, some days I wish I had a partner.
  • Every year, I checked the boxes saying where I was interested in serving in the church. Every year, I’d read about the nominating committee having a hard time finding people to fill positions (often ones I’d learn at the annual meeting, I’d expressed an interest in).  I was never asked to participate.  The one time I did participate, I was not re-appointed.  No reason given.  No feedback.
  • The extended dance version passing of the peace is the singular most hellacious experience I forced myself to endure for over 150 weeks. It is not introvert friendly.  It is not visitor friendly.
  • I have been to church twice maybe in the past six months. The minister called, we set up a time to talk.  The minister cancelled.  We rescheduled.  This went on for a few times.  I gave up: none of the reasons for cancellation were for pastoral or personal emergency.  It might be unfair on my part, but I felt like I was not valued.

I still think you are nice people.  I also think you are a clique.  It is sad.  I had hopes for you.  But as an introvert, you’ve left me with a few scars.  I use a lot of energy to attend church (probably due to number 6 above) and what I’ve found in this year’s Lenten journey is that my faith was not nurtured by your organization.


The Employment Road: Part II

February 5, 2012

At some point in my life, I realized I picked up the mantra, if it’s an honest job, there is nothing wrong with the work.  I still believe that statement.  I have learned, however, there are lunatics out there for bosses and that when given the chance, run.  I obtained a position with an individual who “sold ideas” (note, I’m still not clear what this means, what idea he sold, or really if we were on the same planet).  His great idea (at the time) was to make a database of all elected officials in the United States listing contact information, term and key issues.  I though the idea was flaky: he was basically making a PAC database and there are only several hundred, if not thousands out there based on a host of criteria.

I never thought I would need to clarify the world all.  I mean, it’s a pretty one-dimensional word:

1 a: the whole amount, quantity, or extent of <needed all the courage they had> <sat up all night> b: as much as possible <spoke in all seriousness>
2 a: every member or individual component of <all men will go> <all five children were present>
When I accepted the position, I roughly calculated the number of political offices nationwide and figured this was 6-8 months of solid work which would give the economy time to right itself.  This guy thought it could be done in a month.  After a week of work (during which we had 3 meetings to discuss the project – he was horrified that I expected to be paid for this since “I bought you coffee”), he didn’t understand why I wasn’t done with Alabama.  Our conversation went something like this:
Employer: I only have so much money budgeted for this project.  How long do you think this is going to take.
Me: 6-8 months depending on how accessible some of the local information is.
Employer:  I don’t have that funding! You need to go faster.  (so typical in project management)
Me: Uh, ok.  But you realize not everybody has a website?
Employer: Who doesn’t have a website?
At this point, I realize Mr.-I-Sell-Ideas is not the most astute person in the world.  After some back and forth, he decided that “all” meant all state houses, governors, and federal office holders and cities.  All cities.  I asked for his definition of the word city (I caught on):
Employer: You know, any town that is called a city.
Me: Do you have a population criteria?
Employer: Look, if it’s called a city I want it listed.
Me: Even the ones of 4,000 people or so?
Employer: There is no city with 4,000 people.
Me: Uh, yes, there are.  All over.
Employer: Not in Massachusetts.

School time

Yes, that is true.  Massachusetts does have population requirements for cities, town, village notations.  Most states do not.  Then we moved onto counties: how some states do not have counties, some states call the counties parishes (like churches? uh, yeah, same word but no, they are not churches. good, I thought that was against the law).  Once I went through about 15 hours of basic government principles including the election/retention/appointment of judges, I thought I could finally start.

I tackled the US House of Representatives first.

I had the list sorted by leadership then alphabetical order.

Employer: Why does it say she (Nancy Pelosi) is from California?

Me: She’s from the 8th District of California.

Employer:  You mean I didn’t vote against her?

Me: No, the Speaker is elected by the majority party in the house.

Employer: Do you think that is fair? I mean, I didn’t get to pick her!

I never tried to explain the President of the Senate concept. I think I’d still be at a Dunkin’ Donuts.  There were more bumps and bruises along the way: Nebraska’s unicarmate no political party legislature, Massachusetts senate seats being designed by parts of counties (Like Suffolk 3,4,5 and not MA Senate 1), Nevada legislature meeting every other year and the damn independents.  He didn’t like independents.  How did we know if they were Republicans or Democrats? And why did Tennessee have the Democrat-Repubican party? Pick one.

And on. And on.

I did get paid, he did go over budget.

A few months ago, he called me back.  I was working a contract and took a pass.  He tried to persuade me.  I gave him an outrageous hourly rate, demanded he withhold taxes, and a list of other insane things.  He wanted me to tell him how long it would take somebody else to do the job.  I said I had no idea.  Not even a clue? Nope.  Well, could I research it?  I figure if you can’t take the information I gave you, do a data/sort/header row/end of term in Excel, well, even my teach people about government streak had been tested.  I saw his position posted again on Cragislist.  I only hope the person who took the job had a lot of free time for sitting at Dunkin’ Donuts teaching somebody about government.

Oh, Right, College IS about Athletics

December 31, 2011

I admitt a more than a passing interest to collge football.  After the Penn State scandal, I’ve found my interest waning over the sport.  I still occasionally read on-line articles about the University of Tennessee Volunteers.  Earlier this week, a freshman wide receiver, DeAnthony Arnett, asked for an unconditional release from his scholarship to return to a school closer to home due to his father’s illness.  I don’t know the ins and outs but the comment section of the News Sentiel is lighting up on both sides of the argument.  Arnett went public with an open letter stating his reasons for wanting an unconditional release.  The letter states in part:

“My mom is in a finacial bond my father was forced to retire from his job at General Motors because of a Lung Diseas on Disability, so I started recieving social security checks for a monthly payment of 1100 a month. I was 14 years old when most of this occured so I was un able to recieve my own check until I turned 18 years old so she always controlled my money and she used that as part of her income. When I turned 18 years old the checks came in my name but my mom and I always shared the funds with her. When June came upon my graduation I  recieved a letter from the social security adminstration that my checks would be cut when I graduated so a 1100$ of income was taken from my mother household. She only attended one game this past season.

As this season went on I never was use to my parents not being at my games so it made the season a little harder for me but I still competed hard in my classes as my transcript grades from last semester were three B’s and C and I appeared in all 12 games as a true freshman this season working hard every weak to earn my playing time.”

UT is not the best school in Tennessee: the main campus is probably the 4th best in the state (private and public).  How did Arnett manage the grades he did? Better question: how did Arnett graduate from junior high, let alone high school? How did Arnett manage to qualify academically?  He may be a gifted wide receiver.  He may be a wonderful 19 year old kid.  Maybe I’m judging a book by its cover (or the standards of UT and other programs by one letter) but what on earth is going on in the public education system that allows spelling and grammar like the one Arnett wrote to be considered acceptable (as I am guessing this is close to his style of writing)? What happens to people like Arnett when the playing days are over and skills may not be there for the next level?

College athletics is a money making venture for  the schools.  It is fun for the alumni and students to attend games.  Make no bones about it: being a D-I college athlete is a full time job: to balance academics and athletics is nearly impossible (it is part of the reason the NCAA gives 5 years of scholarship dollars to complete a degree) which is why basketball programs like Duke, UT Lady Vols, the UConn women deserve a nod for very high graduation rates.  Not everybody who attends a university is going to come from equal academic backgrounds.  But the ability to write a basic (without glaring grammatical or spelling errors) letter to the editor of on a subject matter should be at the very least a requirement for graduation from high school.

Much has been debated (almost ad nauseum) about the rise of China, the slipping of the United States as an international power.  With an education system that allowed Arnett to graduate from high school and be admitted to a mid-ranked university with the writing skills he displayed is a national tragedy.  It’s time we put the money we spend on sports aside and use it towards education.  It is the very least we can do for a future.  While I hope Dooley grants the release, I also hope that Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State do not offer Arnett a scholarship: the kid simply doesn’t have the writing skills to compete at 2 of the top schools in the country in the classroom.

The wisdom of a 5 year old

May 15, 2011

I called my twin 5-year-old nieces this week to say “Happy Kindergarten Graduation” and see if they were excited about summer.  A bit of background, niece #3 all year has listed her favorite events of the kindergarten day as “lunch” and “recess” to the point that I found myself saying “aside from lunch and recess, what did you like about school today?” when talking to her.

me – to niece #3: “Are you glad to be finished with school?” (They ended on Thursday.)
niece #3: “I have to go back.”
me: “You do?” (thinking maybe they had ice storm make up days).
niece #3: “Yes, next year for first grade. You don’t just go to school for one year.”

I bit my cheeks to stop the laughter.  She was dead pan serious and not the least bit upset/disappointed that she had to go back again next year.  Yes, there is probably something to the fact that her brothers will be entering 10th and 8th grades in the fall, and her non-twin sister will be entering the 8th grade combined with the fact her mother is a teacher helped her make this correct assumption.

But what a metaphor.  Don’t stop learning.  Ever.  Be it from learning about social media, how to program the clock in the car or more in-depth: deciding to educate yourself from a variety of perspectives on an issue, a point in history (usually, there are 2 sides to most historical conflicts neither of which is the romanticized, mythological view-point that is generally passed off as history) or a pressing local issue.  Many people stop learning at the programming of the DVR (or other such tasks).

I remember trying to prepare how to answer my grandmother’s dreaded question of “what did you learn today?” as a tweener (nothing wasn’t an answer . . .).  Looking back, I see how a quest for knowledge, to constantly be learning something (from lousy tennis skills, to a  few knitting projects gone bad, to tossing a few pans from culinary experimentation gone terrifically wrong, to reading about WW II in the Pacific before the US involvement and more than a few nerd casts, I’m constantly learning) is instilled at an early age. Ok, granted my answer of how I know that lobsters mate for life did come from Phoebe on Friends and yes, I did defend my knowledge of this fact citing Phoebe, chances are I’m reading a few books on one topic, listening to nerdcasts on a second and watching some weird docudrama on a third.

But I still had a laugh on my by one of my 3 favorite protagonists; and found myself a bit jealous because in August, they all get shiny erasers, new pencils and skills to conquer.  It’s easy to stop learning except what is needed.  To quote Edmund Burke, “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”: it is very hard to do nothing when one keeps on learning, year after year.  Even if you don’t get the shiny erasers and trapper keepers (do they even make trapper keepers anymore?) in the fall.

Yup, and the door hit me on the way out. . . .

April 24, 2011

I don’t talk about my useless graduate degree much.  Mostly because it is raw, painful and probably the only real regret in my life.  The worst part of the entire experience happened this week: Holy Week. I don’t talk about it a ton … a lot of it doesn’t have words as much as just powerful emotions that I (very rarely) try to untangle.  I can’t tell you what the exact dates – meh, it was Holy Week and I don’t feel like looking it up on the calendar.

I used to love Maude Thursday: for me, it was/is one of the most forgotten aspects of the Christian story.  For me, it was the part of the tradition that allowed me the deepest point of connection: you know you are going to be betrayed (we’ve ALL been there), you know there is nothing you can do about it and you know the result is going to, well, suck. It’s the car spinning at you that you can’t avoid and you hope that everything will be ok (and in the story, well, it does wind up ok in a few days).  I’ll never forget the planning meeting before Holy Week.  I had an internship that left so much to be desired (an interim minister who didn’t want a student, who was forced to work with 2 students, a congregation that didn’t grasp the word ‘new’ and the highlight was an older woman of the congregation getting into a shouting match with the organist DURING a service).  I kept thinking smile, nod, survive, advance and every other coupling that worked.  Maude Thursday was to be the celebration then the betrayal. Perfect. My absolute favorite time of the church year. When the lights are dimmed and not another word is spoken until Sunday morning, the ‘death’ of the faith.  The leaving the darkened church and the knowledge that the next time the congregation gathered it would be in celebration.  I loved it.  I loved the bad things into something good (hey, I AM a Cubs fan!).

During the planning session, the minister said to me  didn’t have to attend. What? This is the most sacred time, the most important time, the essence of the faith. He didn’t want me there.  I was told 3 looked awkward so I should just skip the service and “do whatever.”  I was stunned. I managed to say I didn’t need to help with communion – he said I really didn’t need to be there.  I went, I took my seat next to the ministerial intern.  And lost every love I had of the church.  I had made a few calls during the week to people in the congregation: the moderator, the chair of my teaching committee, the director of my field education program: all said to go but there was nothing they could were willing to do about my lack of inclusion.

Christianity, and liberal christianity of the UCC type, is about inclusion. It’s about holding the door open and not saying a person is not needed.  And so I sat.  And tried to find a glimmer of something, anything that would remind me why I ever thought this was a good idea.  I was empty. It had been a long year and the actions of a handful were enough to make me walk away.  Easter Sunday, when people gather in churches world-wide, to hear sermons of hope, resurrection, renewal: this guy preached on the evils of alcohol. I still have the sermon.  I still can’t connect the dots; although since some of my friends have a party called ‘Drink Up: It’s Easter!’ I did have a laugh in my head about the stupidity of that sermon. . . .

I finished out the year, knowing I wasn’t welcomed, that nobody would speak up for me, defend me and when I did, I stood alone.  Some people have said I walked out. Maybe.  Maybe the door was held open and I just didn’t have the energy to prove my worth.  I’ve been to church a few times in the past 5 years (never on Easter).  It is oppressive.  I wonder if people are really welcoming; or if it’s merely words.  I wonder every time I make the student loan payment if somebody whose job it was to act as my advocate, advocated if I could at least sit in a church without feeling unwelcome.

And the crazy thing? It’s not my faith that I question. It’s the institution: the one created by humans.