Monthly Archives: September 2009

Afraid of fear

Have you ever been afraid to go to sleep? I don’t mean afraid of ghosts or the boogey man or afraid of the dark, but afraid that if you do fall asleep, you won’t wake up? So you fight sleep as you lie awake in bed.

Recently, I’ve sometimes been afraid to fall asleep. No, I don’t mean that I’m afraid of the dark—although sometimes the dark can be pretty scary—or that I’m afraid someone is about to break into the house. What I mean is that I get these strange thoughts that I’ll stop breathing or that I’ll have a heart attack or some other health related issue like that will strike. Don’t ask me why. I think it is a combination of things actually.

First, I’m not a twenty-year old strapping young lad anymore. Second, I know that I don’t get the exercise that I used to get or that I need to get. I mean well, but for some reason the clock moves incredibly fast and I run out of time…and exercising tends to not be at the top of my list of things to do. Third, my kids are growing far too fast and I’m able to remember much of my own life at their age. A few years ago it wasn’t an issue because I really don’t remember being four. I do remember being fourteen! Further, it wasn’t that long ago!

BJ’s mom had a stroke when she was about my age. She lost partial use of one side of her body and she lost the ability to speak. Most of you that know me know that “talking” is something I’m inclined to do a lot of. There have been times when I’ve had a headache at night that I actually spoke aloud to see if I could still form words.

I don’t like that feeling, either, the one of being afraid of falling asleep.

It’s not that I’m afraid to die, either. I’m not afraid. No, I’m not saying I want to die now! I’m just saying I’m not afraid, not for me, anyway. I’m more worried about my family and what would happen to them after.

But I think that fear—some fear—is a pretty natural thing. Some people are afraid of heights; some of spiders; some of tight spaces. I even have a bit of claustrophobia myself. I don’t like getting on elevators. Let me rephrase. I don’t like getting on elevators by myself. If someone else gets on, I’m okay. Why? I dunno.

Maybe it’s just fear itself that I’m afraid of.

But every time I go that direction I’m reminded of the words of FDR: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

But sometimes, fear is kinda scary.



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Setting students up for mediocrity

Hot on the heels of my blog about the school board and how it would be best if I just ran everything, I had an interesting conversation with a Professor at Ole Miss. His children attend the same school as mine and we were discussing our school’s athletics when the conversation came around to Brett and the struggles he’s had early on this year and the conversation regarding changing to the 10-point grading system.

Brett was an A/B student last year (yes, you remember those posts from proud Daddy!) but he’s really struggled some early this year, bringing home grades that are…well, they’re not As or Bs. Brett approached me during my conversation with the Professor and we whooped for joy over a 100 he received that day on an Accelerated Reading test. The Professor asked if it was a 10 question test…it was.

He suggested the 10 question tests simply set the kids up to be average students. He further suggested the problem runs deep in public schools and that our school board won’t consider changing the grading system in our own school to put our kids on equal footing as those in the rest of the state.

I didn’t understand how a 10 question test on our current 8 point system was such a bad thing…so I asked him. In order for a student to receive an “A” on the current system, he must make a 93 or higher. On a 10 question test, each question is worth 10 points and thus a student must get every single question right in order to earn an A. There is no room for error. Miss one question and you get a 90, or a B. On the 10-point system—which the majority of schools in Mississippi now use except for Lafayette because some school board members believe “that’s just the way it’s always been around here,” and that’s a good thing—a student may still miss one question and receive an A. Why should students be expected to perform perfectly in order to receive an A? Very few of us, adults included, ever perform to perfection.

Until he’d explained it to me, I’d never considered it like that…and I’ve given my fair share of tests to students (although it was on the University level 10 point system). I was opposed to Lafayette keeping the 8-point system on the grounds of equality and equal footing for our students alone. Our kids must make better grades than those of their peers around the state of Mississippi, even across town at Oxford, in order to receive a grade of A. To some students, that might not matter. To the majority of them, however, a GPA with As will carry much more weight than a GPA with Bs…even if the number score is the same. The colleges will look at the letter grade, not the number grade.

It’s one of those issues that seems like a no-brainer to me and most of the parents I’ve talked with. The administration, hired by the school board, has even wisely recommended the change. Yet, the school board has now affected potential collegiate admission to nearly 800 students.

That’s messed up.

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Runnin’ schools

All who know me know I’m opposed to Federal intervention on so many levels. But sometimes I think school boards would be a higher caliber group if they were selected and not voted on. It often seems that the least qualified people are elected to board positions little better than the high school popularity contests we all experienced back then.

I’d never really given much thought to school boards until a couple of years ago. When we were living in Arkansas, the school board there was constantly a circus show. They made decisions not to benefit the school or the majority of students, but instead to—well, truthfully, I still don’t understand why. The more puzzling thing is that the circus performers continued to get elected: one of the members was re-elected even after his own children went to a different school! The school wasn’t good enough for his own child, but he could make decisions for that school? I still don’t understand why he was re-elected.

Here in Mississippi now, it looks like we might see the beginning of another circus. All over the state of Mississippi, schools are going to a 10-point grading system (90-100=A; 80-89=B; etc.). The reason, and it is a very good one, is that GPAs are determined not by the number grade, but by the letter grade. So, a student in the 10-point system can make a 92 and it’s an A; a student in the 8-point system, which Lafayette is on, can make a 92 and only earn a B. The “number” is the same, but the letter grade is different. At the end of the year, the student with the A gets 4 points for the course in the 10pt system and the student in the 8pt system gets a 3. So even though they scored the exact same, the student in the 10pt system comes out with a higher GPA.

This matters greatly to prospective colleges. Everyone knows that. Or, at least, anyone having any sort of involvement with universities and colleges. But, one of our incredibly backward board members was quoted in the paper as saying it doesn’t matter to colleges if I student has an A average or a B average. I dunno what state he lives in that colleges don’t care, but it’s not Mississippi. Granted, colleges and universities look at standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT, but that’s only part of the picture. If two students have the same score on the ACT and all other things are equal, who’s getting in, the A student or the B student?

Of course it doesn’t make that big a difference for A/B students. But for those students in the B/C/D range, it could make a huge difference in college admittance or not.

And the school administration—a great set of administrators, I should add—has even recommended the change. So the School Board “hires” these administrators as they believe they’re the best available, but then they ignore their recommendations? Doesn’t make much sense.

Which brings me back to someone with a little more sense needs to step in. The Government will do it if we don’t…but again, not sure how I feel about that!

They should just all ask me what to do!


Filed under Columns