Friday, May 18, 2007
My life is full and for those of you who are in my life, thank you. Yesterday a friend and I went down to Eugene to watch the prelims. Whether it was the track jacket or my limp, I was able to stand on top of the officials building to watch my son run. As my son took off with his baton the coaches started to say things like "look at that guy take off" and "watch him come up". I got to say, "yeah...he's good...and he's my son."
I forced my son to run track this year. I offered to cut off his private lessons, his trips to Portland for an orchestral group he plays with, and to leave him stranded with the school bus and lunch money--after his car was taken away unless he ran track. He went to track convinced that I was robbing him of quality time with WOW.
Now he's running for the State Championship.
When your Talented and Gifted (TAG) you're noticed by the school district. You're noted, then put away. The money is in the handicapped and whatever "minority" there is out there. If you're white and smart the system is stacked against you. No need to ask if the school district did any thing special for my son. No.
But being the younger son of two, this son has always been a special problem for me. His brother, being a number one, has always taken the shortest route to the solution to any problem. My oldest son is smart, direct and forgiving. Not always right, but what were you when your were 19 years old? He is, and always has been, brilliant. Yes, he was a National Merit Scholar. That kind of smart.
My younger son was "almost" that smart. He got beat out of the NMS award by a young man that we've all known for years. I used to coach their chess team. But when my son was playing in the nationals, the kid who beat him for NMS was losing every time the board went up. My son wanted to be less of a nerd. This other kid only had "nerddom" for solace. It was him and his mom. And between the two of them they've created a smart kid. A nerd. A chubby bubby. A kid that would remind you of me when I was that age. I was that NMS kid. Smart, but without a dad around, I found myself focusing on the things that made sense to me. Logic, language, mathematics and entertainment.
Having smart kids shouldn't have astounded me. I married a wonderfully smart woman. But the reality of having wonderfully smart kids never alerted me to the necessity of being a "wonderfully"² smart dad. Maybe there was a reason that my dad was never around!
In the past few weeks my youngest son has competed in the State Solo championships and now, in the State Track & Field Championships...and here's my point.
I forced my son to run this year. I require him to practise his instrument every day. I require him to get A's and will accept one or two B's each term. (With teachers nowadays not accepting B's will require you to go postal on the teachers. Some people should not be teaching. You go with the possible, not with the model.) As a high school junior he has completed his first year of college calculus. He took his SAT's two weeks ago. We're looking for early admission into his college of choice.
So what is the Talented and Gifted tag good for? Practically nothing. It won't mean any more money for your kid's education. It means more work for your school's administration. And there's no money there. It's a dead ender. Schools don't work on assesment of individual needs. They work on the least for the most. Any time you unionize the work force it's about pay and benefits to the worker. It has nothing to do with the product. Just ask Daimler Benz.
And so I look at my youngest son. TAG'd, but what does that mean?
His older brother, by two years, set every goal post out there. In all the assessment test, his older brother set the mark. My oldest son kept the school district alive with his math skills on test in the 4th, 7th and 10th grades. I kept thinking "Gauss?" but with a grain of salt. Maybe someday I'll share the story of pi. My youngest was always "the little brother". And as the years went by his quiet resentment was always a sotto voce complaint. Thankfully, his older brother left for college a year ago.
In the past year my youngest son has gone to state three times this school year. Once for soccer. Once for solo contest. Now, for track. His brother has gone for track, soccer and basketball. But, not all in the same year. My youngest son has become aware of what the tag "Talented and Gifted" means, but not in the way you or I would. Not as a condition. Not as a label. He is finally becoming aware that he is capable of producing excellence. Not because I forced him into it. But because he lived through it.
During solo contest he played an incredibly hard piece and left nothing on the table. He gave himself to the music. It was one of the more exhilirating musical experiences of my life. He and I shared that moment with one of his teachers. We can not look back. He knows how to blow. He can feel the music. He proved it.
Yesterday he ran. He left nothing on the table. He knows he can run. He proved it. And in a way that no tagging can prove it. He did it. He ran the table.
But! I forced him to do it. I told him what I expected. I even had a mom--one of his mother's friends--come up to me and tell me that I "can't force a child to run track, or do what he doesn't want to do". I kept my tongue. And, finally, I've been proven right. Yesterday my sons' mother came up to me and told me that my youngest had said, that if I hadn't forced him to run track, he wouldn't be there today. But I knew. I had faith in my son.
I have faith in my sons. I have faith in my family. I love.
I know it isn't rational. But there are times for faith. Sometimes the unexpected can occur. But you have to ask for it. And sometimes people can hate you for your choices. But if you believe in yourself, if you believe in the people you love, you can achieve what you've set out to achieve. I never want to associate myself with people who deny faith. I believe that faith, in yourself and in others, is required to make you, your family and your friends better than they are. It isn't rational. It isn't subject to empirical testing. But if you know a thing to be true, better to be defeated in proving it than to resign to defeat without testing your knowledge.
Never be afraid to do what is right. Or, better, never take the counsel of your fears. I hope you have, someday, tears like mine. They are, sweet.
¹I know that this song is about a "woman". Or, wife. But the words ring true. The last time I saw my best friend, about ten years ago, I flipped him off. I never saw him again. He and his wife died that weekend on his birthday. Don't forget to tell the people you love that you love them.
² I am not a wonderfully smart dad. I showed up at school for practises, I coached their teams when I could, I paid for their music lessons. I cared about them. I went, when possible to all of their games and all of their concerts. I yelled at them when my patience wore out. I've embarrassed them. I've forgiven them. And they have forgiven me.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
If you take a look at either the post above or the post below, you get a sense of what we're facing in the Long War.
Fortunately, your senator isn't bothered by any of this. The Muslims are having a simple disagreement. We have no vested interest in this squabble. Our senator doesn't see or care about the dangers of Islam. This, from his Press Release of this date:
“America’s patience in Iraq is exhausted and it is time for Iraq to govern and stabilize its own country. They will have our support, but we should not referee their civil war. We have the most advanced military in history and we need it taking down terror cells that want to bring harm to our country.”
And so Gordo goes to Iraq to meet the troops with his message of Liberation.
"This will be Senator Smith’s third trip to Iraq. He will lead a Congressional Delegation that includes U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA). The trip will include meetings with U.S. diplomatic and military leaders and Oregon troops. He will also travel to Jordan to take part in World Economic Forum discussions about regional security with the foreign ministers of Iraq and Iran. "
I just don't believe the senator has the spine to have a conversation with the foreign minister of Iran. I don't want him anywhere near anyone of any importance. I just want him to come home to Oregon and keep his mouth shut.
Monday, May 14, 2007
If you've grown up around Finns you may find it hard to believe that in the Old Country there are efforts to stifle criticism of Wahabi or Salafi Muslim extremists. Multi-culturalism has been tried in other countries, of course.
Most of us don't know the difference between Wahabi sects and Salafi sects. We do know that something is rotten in Denmark.
But tonight I've found something that you've probably never seen. Watch. Here, here, here and here. And remember, one man lost his life. One woman lost her country.