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Friday, December 5, 2014

Child Abuse Prevention Book - A Free Downloadable Book for Children Ages 2-8

Previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network Sep 17, 2008

If you are one of the millions of viewers who remember Oprah Winfrey's program about the proliferation of child pornography and the devastation of its victims, which aired on September 15, 2008, you probably are one of the ones who asked Congress to pass Bill 1738, the PROTECT Our Children Act. The Protect Our Children Act of 2008, became law numbered Pub.L. 110-401. Signed by the president on October 13, 2008 – and enacted – its mission is to put child predators in jail.

We are closer now than ever to becoming fully aware of the magnitude of these heinous crimes. We haven't always been. And though some of us sleep while our children are being abused in the next room, others engage in denial that allows them to avoid acting upon their suspicions, to reject actual evidence or to repudiate cries for help. We need to WAKE UP! We need to hold ourselves responsible for OUR CHILDREN.

The first time I became conscious of child predators was when I watched a movie about the disappearance of Adam Walsh. I was pregnant with my fourth child. I felt compelled to act on my desire to prevent other parents from experiencing the anguish John Walsh and his wife Revé endured. I especially wanted to do something to protect my own children.

You Are The Boss of Your Body: A Guide to Preventing Child Sexual Abuse is not just a book; it is a collaborative effort that involved many people in the field of child psychology and/or child abuse prevention. Admittedly, I had hoped to make some money from the sale of the book and once had an interested publisher. The publishing house excused itself from publishing the book, however, because I used anatomically correct terminology. I figured that parents could substitute, "private parts," if they felt uncomfortable using the actual words. The publisher thought otherwise.

Because I felt the book was important, I published it myself, but as my expertise lies not in the field of promotion or sales, I made very little sales and gave away many copies.

Today, as the years speed by, the number of pedophiles increases. I no longer sell this book - I give it away. I want to help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual sadists.


You Are The Boss of Your Body: A Guide to Preventing Child Sexual Abuse teaches children, through examples, how to handle themselves in potentially abusive situations. Black and white photographs, taken by an award-winning photographer, create an element of realism. In the early 1980s I contacted the (now defunct) Child Abuse Prevention Speakers Bureau and, with their help, put together this book.

It addresses such issues as pornography ("nobody has the right to take your picture if you feel funny about doing it") and molestation by parents and others close to the child. (In referring to taking a bubble bath - "I like it when Daddy uses a nice, soft, fluffy washcloth. Once Daddy used just his hands. I didn't like it when he did that.")

Other subjects include, "Comfortable Touches-Uncomfortable Touches," "Tell Somebody-Until Somebody Listens," "Fun Secrets-Scary Secrets," "Strangers and People you Might Know," "Your Doctor," "Funny Feelings," and "School Days."

The harsh material is handled very delicately. If the child has never been molested or raped, she will not understand the nuances. For instance, the book discusses putting something in a child's mouth that isn't food. Most children will think in terms of toys. The child who has been molested will know otherwise.

The book is meant to empower your child, to give him or her a voice. I want children to know they have the power to tell somebody what is happening to them. This book repeatedly tells them that they are the bosses of their bodies and they have the right to protect themselves.


Child abusers, molesters, and rapists will manipulate their victims into believing that what they are doing is acceptable. We need to join forces to protect these precious children from the trauma of incest, rape, and molestation, because every time we address a new problem, child predators engineer new tactics.

People who genuinely care about children want to do something to protect these innocent lives. I am one of those people. While this book discusses most of the topics discussed on that September, 2008, Oprah program, it cannot possibly cover every issue. If a father slips Rohypnol into his wife's drink before forcing it upon his children, Mom will never know what is happening in her own home. How can I address that issue in a book for children? The only suggestion I can make, if you think rape or incest is happening in your home, is to install hidden cameras.

Other than Bill 1738, the only other suggestion I would make - if I had the authority to do so - would be to band together to protect these children.


Anybody interested in receiving a free downloadable PDF file of You Are The Boss of Your Body: A Guide to Preventing Child Sexual Abuse is welcome to click the links provided in this blog. I may not be able to prevent all children from losing their innocence, but I can try.


When you receive your downloadable PDF file, print it out, staple it together, and read it to your child. But don't just read the book; engage the child in discussing the book. Make it a conversation.

Let's work proactively to prevent child abuse and, if it is too late, to recognize the signs of abuse. The Tennyson Center for Children provides information on how to recognize signs of physical and sexual abuse and includes behavioral and physical indicators. It also tells you how to report suspected abuse. 

If you have neighbors, friends, or relatives who don't own a computer and want a copy, please print one for them. Share the book. Let's work together to protect our children from these manipulative sociopathic child abusers. If we can't stop child abuse, maybe together we can at least slow it down.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Evil Faces of Greed and Feeblemindedness

As single parents, we often find ourselves at the mercy of others, because we can’t always do everything by ourselves. This article was previously published on Yahoo Contributor Network, but situations like these continue to arise for a lot of us and so I offer it today in the hopes that you will pay attention to your own inner radar that will alert you to these types of evils.

In compliance with many of our laws, all of the names in the following stories have been changed to protect the guilty. All of the stories, however, are true.

Trickster Estates was a manufactured home community that provided beautifully paved roads, a large clubhouse, and a pool. When you purchased a home from them and asked them to be forthcoming about how often the rent went up, they lied. They didn’t want you to know that they brought in over $600,000 a month in lot rent.

Every year they raised the rent $25 per month, affording them an additional $25,000 every month. Of course, management didn’t tell you the rent was exorbitantly high, and they didn’t tell you that they raised the lot rent every year. They waited until you lived there a full year before they sent the new lease. By that time you were stuck, because your salary stayed the same but all of your expenses increased. You couldn’t afford to stay there, but you couldn’t afford to move either. Living in Trickster Estates would remind you of the song, Hotel California, "You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave!"

After having been lied to about the increases, and by paying so much lot rent, people could no longer afford to live there. Many senior citizens, duped into believing they were making a safe investment, abandoned their homes and ran to friends and relatives to save them from the greed. Trickster Estates lost the lot rent, but gained a new home to sell. And the taxes? Those were paid by the home owners. With more money in the pockets of management, because with only ten people on the payroll, you can imagine they each didn’t make $60,000 a month, owners and management had more money for investing and shopping.

Which brings me to the next story. While shopping at a department store, a woman by the name of Carol Sucks struck up a conversation with another woman she recognized as attending grammar school with her, though they weren't friends in school. Tracy remembered Carol and trusted this new friend, simply because they attended Catholic school together.

Over the months, Carol forged her way into Tracy's life by preying on Tracy's vulnerability and gullibility. Knowing that Tracy had a small child she was raising alone, but not caring about Tracy's monetary circumstances, Carol robbed Tracy of over $500, more than the amount of money Tracy made in two weeks.

Carol is one of those people masquerading as a "friend" who entraps her victims to support her lifestyles and her habits. With promises to pay back the money they steal or borrow, the Sucks of the world can live quite well.

Another evil presence, Christopher Wiesel, asked Jennifer to watch his children for him. His agreement with Jennifer was that he would pay her $35 a week per child over what the State was paying her. Though his eight-year-old son had an obvious personality disorder and his four-year-old daughter was in extreme need of affection, Jennifer agreed to care for his children during the summer months.

When the boy began sexually exploiting the other children in Jennifer's home, though, and Jennifer brought the incidents to the attention of the boy's stepmother, the children were immediately yanked out of the home. The stepmother insisted after every infraction, sexual or otherwise, that her stepson acted that way ONLY in Jennifer's home. Jennifer, however, knew the truth. She had spoken with other people who had cared for the boy and had seen him act out.

The State refused to pay the provider that month's worth of day care because on the last day of the month another provider began caring for the children. The Wiesels left owing over $600 to Jennifer. Jennifer was not allowed to know the name of the next provider, nor would the Wiesels respond to Jennifer's requests for payment.

The Wiesels will continue to prey on the loving commitment of day care providers by opting out of their own commitments. They will also be setting an example for their children to follow - ways to lie, cheat, and steal.

The Sucks and the Wiesels share a common defect, lack of conscience, which to most people proves that evil exists. The following story, however, goes beyond lack of conscience and into the realm of the truly pitiful facets of evil - no conscience combined with apathy so apparent, the man appears to be almost inhuman.

Paul Mouselouse purchased a mobile home on contract from an older woman name Annie. Annie's monthly income, including the $200 she expected to receive from Mr. Mouselouse each month, totaled less than she needed to pay her bills, but with help from her family, she somehow managed. After living in the home several months with promises to pay the mobile home park office their rent and with promises to pay Annie the mortgage, he managed to live rent-free for more than half a year.

Like the 1990 movie, Pacific Heights, that included actors Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, and Michael Keaton, this man moves from place to place, puts down a small deposit, and lives rent free for as long as it takes for the homeowner/manager to bring him to court. Just after he is served papers or just after he is alerted to the fact that he will be served papers, he moves and leaves no forwarding address, he changes his cell phone so that nobody can find him, he places his bills in names other than his own, he finds an under-the-table type of job, and he manages to exploit anybody who comes into contact with him, all for his own financial gain.

He will soon be renting from new landlords who are oblivious to his evilness. Annie wishes to warn the new landlords, but doesn't know who they are. What a role model this father is providing for his five children.

How do we protect ourselves from these kinds of evil? Being alert to activities of the evil-minded doesn't always work - incipient evil is hard to detect. Evidence that contracts will not be upheld is not always apparent. The best we can do is to thank God we are not them, that we are not like them, that we are better off without them in our lives, that we will recognize evil when it presents itself to us again, and that we will protect ourselves from that kind of evil.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

In Response to President Barack Obama's Request for Educational Innovation: School Restructuring Could Improve Student Learning in Our Race to the Top

This article was previously published on Yahoo! Contributor Network, February 11, 2011. Let me warn you – is is LONG. But everything in this article still applies, so if you're upset about the way our school system is structured and you agree with me that some very innovative restructuring needs to take place, please continue reading:

On January 25, 2011, in his State of the Union Address, President Barack Obama asked for innovation and creativity. And he challenged us: "...If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we'll show you the money."

I agree with President Obama when he states that "if we want to win the future - if we want innovation to produce jobs in America and not overseas - then we also have to win the race to educate our kids."

However when President Obama states that, "as many as a quarter of our students aren't even finishing high school," some drastic measures must be taken.

Why We Send Our Children to School
The reason we educate our children is because we want our children to learn how to think for themselves. We want to prepare them for life. We want them to be successful.
But what sense does it make for students to progress in accordance with the slowest learner in the class? And what sense does it make to slide students from grade to grade with only a D average?
If we truly want our children to be successful, we have to start thinking not only about the examples we are setting for our children and not only about our expectations of them, but also about how we plan to guide our children in ways that will improve their chances of creating successful, meaningful lives.
We have to ask if students are failing because they're stupid or if they are failing because our educational system fails to meet their needs?
What Defines Success
How do you define success? Money? Power? Beauty? Degrees? Certificates? Whatever your definition, success doesn't always happen by education alone. As a matter of fact, many successful people are high school dropouts. The reasons may vary, but often those students feel frustrated by the narrow learning environment in which they find themselves. What explains 126,330 students dropping out of school in the 2006-2007 school year (see source below)?
Schools place emphasis on reading, writing, spelling, math, science, history, and geography, but give little or no regard to music, physical activity, mechanics, building, or interpersonal skills.
Are educators placing more emphasis on passing than they are on learning?
The Goal of Education
While the goal of any educator is to teach children how to improve their cognitive skills by teaching them how to think for themselves, the goal should also be to teach them skills for which they are suited and in which they will feel successful.
From the first day of kindergarten, children come into the classroom with different skills. Some children are already capable of adding and subtracting while others don't even know how to count. Some children know how to write their names; others don't even know the letters of the alphabet.
Does that mean that children who know how to spell their names are superior in intelligence to children who never learned the skill? No.
It does mean, however, that those students who knew how to write their names were better prepared to enter kindergarten than were their fellow students.
Learning & Skills
What our educational system needs to recognize is that children have different skills sets, are at different stages in their cognitive development, exhibit different types of intelligences, and possess various learning styles.
According to Mark Smith (see source below), "Bringing forward evidence to show that at any one time a child may be at very different number development and spatial/visual maturation, Howard Gardner has successfully undermined the idea that knowledge at any one particular developmental stage hangs together in a structured whole."
Who is Howard Gardner?
Howard Gardner, Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard School of Education, is a man who disputes the belief that intelligence is a single entity that is inherited. According to Gardner, an increasing number of researchers believe "... that there exists a multitude of intelligences, quite independent of each other; that each intelligence has its own strengths and constraints..."
Howard, who graduated summa cum laude in 1965, studied the social sciences and investigated human nature - in particular, how people think. He believes that intelligence falls into different categories.
A Progressive Educational Model Requires Innovative Teaching and Recognition of Multiple Intelligences
Different types of intelligences, according to Howard are listed below, along with a brief explanation about each type:
Linguistic Intelligence
High linguistic intelligence allows individuals to express themselves well. They also have an ability to learn languages and are sensitive to spoken and written words. Writers and poets belong in this category.
Logical-mathematical Intelligence
The ability to analyze problems logically, recognize patterns, perform mathematical operations, and investigate scientifically (reason deductively), defines how people with logical-mathematical intelligence think. Scientists and inventors would fall into this category.
Musical Intelligence
People who perform, compose, and appreciate musical patterns and who have the capacity to recognize the differences in musical pitches, tones, and rhythms, comprise this category. Howard Gardner believes that some of these intelligences are connected, like this category and linguistic intelligence.
Because Gardner sees mental activity and physical activity as related, he believes that the ability to perform and coordinate body movements is a type of intelligence that requires people to use their bodies, or parts of their bodies, to solve physical movement problems. People agile in sporting activities, such as dancers and athletes fall into this category.
Spatial Intelligence
People who are adept at estimating distance and recognizing patterns in the area of space fall into this category. People with spatial intelligence think in three dimensions and have vivid imaginations. They are spatially oriented and able to manipulate images and puzzles. Sculptors, architects, and those in imagery careers exhibit spatial intelligence.
Interpersonal Intelligence
People who work well with others and who understand what motivates others, such as educators, salespeople, counselors and religious and political leaders exhibit interpersonal intelligence. They are good at communicating and may also be good at entertaining. Educators, social workers, and actors exemplify people with interpersonal intelligence.
Intra-personal Intelligence
The ability to understand oneself and what motivates oneself are examples of what constitutes intra-personal intelligence. People who are intra-personally intelligent understand their own feelings and fears. They could be philosophers or spiritual leaders. They would also work well in the field of psychology.
Existential Intelligence
Existential Intelligence is a type of intelligence that allows people to ponder, discuss, and tackle the deeper meanings of life and death. Philosophers are endowed with existential intelligence.
Naturalist Intelligence
People born with Naturalist Intelligence are concerned about nature and all things related to the natural world. Botanists, farmers, and geologists are examples of people born with Naturalist Intelligence.

Restricted Learning vs. Unlimited Learning
How many students would succeed in an environment where only music and kinesthetic (instead of only linguistic and mathematical) studies were taught? How many would fail?
Right now, what we offer students are only limited scholastic options. What if ALL students were given the opportunity to study classes that were geared more toward their own particular learning styles and intellectual preferences?
For example, instead of teaching only English, Math, History, Geography, and Science, with an occasional Physical Education class thrown in - as the education system stands now, educational institutions could include classes that might appeal to a broader range of students, such as:
Arts/Crafts/Patterns/Design, Building/Construction/Woodworking, English/Reading/Creative Writing, Ethics/Morals/Values, Farming/Gardening, Foreign Languages, Geography/Global Events, Health/Personal Hygiene, History/Current Events, Interpersonal Development Classes (including self-esteem motivational classes - click the link for ways to integrate self-esteem improvement methods with Interpersonal classes), Intra-personal Development Classes, Life Skills (i.e., cleaning, cooking, baking, paying bills), Math/Geometry/Algebra, Mechanics/Engineering, Music (appreciation and theory), Philosophy/Critical Thinking, Physical Education/Sports, and Science/Astronomy/Biology/Botany.
By offering more educational options and opportunities, students may find subjects that appeal to them and that hold their interest. When children proceed from one level to the next, they will discover the value of learning, and their desire for learning will move beyond the classroom and extend into adulthood.
Learning Styles
In addition to the different types of intelligences, another process contributes to the way students learn - learning styles. Until recently the different learning styles included the following ways students learned and retained information:
Students who learn visually understand what they are learning better when they are shown pictures and demonstrations.
Students who retain information better when they hear presentations learn better through auditory lessons.
Kinesthetic learners touch and feel in order to learn and retain information. A "hands-on" approach to learning is more effective for kinesthetic learners.
Richard M. Felder, Hoechst Celanese Professor of Chemical Engineering, and Barbara A. Soloman, Coordinator of Advising, First Year College at North Carolina State University, developed an additional list of the following learning styles:
Active and Reflective Learners
Active learners involve themselves in activities related to what they are learning while reflective learners, after learning lessons, take time to absorb the information. According to Felder, "Everybody is active sometimes and reflective sometimes."
Sensing and Intuitive Learners
Sensing individuals get the facts, use established methods to solve problems, are patient and practical, tend to memorize facts well, and prefer information that has a real-world connection, whereas Intuitive learners prefer discovering possibilities and relationships, abstractions and innovation. They don't like memorizing facts. Felder writes, that "Everybody is sensing sometimes and intuitive sometimes."
Visual and Verbal Learners
The only difference between this category and the categories mentioned above (Visual and Auditory separately) is the combination of the visual with the auditory. Felder and Soloman state that "Good learners are capable of processing information presented either visually or verbally."
Sequential and Global Learners
Sequential learners learn in a linear fashion, one step at a time, logically piecing information together, while Global learners see the whole picture first, grasping complexities without initially understanding how they understand what they have just learned.
Combined Learning Styles
Additional studies suggest that a combination of learning styles contributes to overall learning and the ability to retain information. Teachers around the globe are combining touch with sight and sound to provide a better learning experience for their students. Children who are exposed to a combination of learning styles tend to retain the information better than those students whose teachers merely recite monologues or require reading with no discussion.

Levels Instead of Grades
Providing the best learning environment for our children should be the goal of educators and parents. The way schools are structured today, though, some children enter school far more prepared than are their fellow students of the same grade. The teacher must teach the least prepared student while those who have already learned their lessons wait for the unprepared students to catch up.
Two of my grandchildren, for instance, already knew not only how to spell and write their names, but also how to recognize and write all of the letters of the alphabet before they entered kindergarten. One of my grandchildren already knew how to add and subtract on paper and in his head. Students who know the material being taught have to wait for the rest of the students to finish their assignments before they can move on.
If schools were structured with levels instead of grades (explanation below), kindergarten students who already knew how to read the alphabet would go to the level of learning for which they were most prepared.
In a levels learning environment, as opposed to a grades learning environment where entire groups of children go from grade to grade regardless of how well or how poorly they've done, children who excel in certain subjects in a levels learning environment, would be put into a level where they would most likely learn and not lose interest. Schools would be structured to accommodate the CHILD, not the grade.
Assessments of Progressive Levels Learning
Master Educators (explanation below) who possess the skills to transform our current grade system into a progressive learning system (levels learning) would establish the goals and guidelines for each level and would then structure each class to accommodate the various levels of learning.
Students entering school would take a test to assess their current level in each of the categories listed above (from Arts to Science).
Once their level was assessed, they would be placed into one of the following categories:
Entry Level
For beginners who know nothing about the subject being taught.
Beginner Level
For students who have some idea about and experience with the subject matter.
Intermediate Level
For students who have succeeded in learning everything that was expected of them in the Beginner Level.
Advance Level
For students who have succeeded in learning everything that was expected of them in the Intermediate Level.
Professional Level
For students who have succeeded in learning everything that was expected of them in the Advance level. The Professional Level would prepare students for a career.

Who are Master Educators?
Master Educators will comprise a group of assessment coordinators from a variety of disciplines who will create a blueprint for each level, design the goals that will bridge one level to the next, and construct the new learning levels from the ground up. They will then assess the success of schools that implement the new structure.
How many years would each level take?
Each level, depending upon the subject matter, could take anywhere from one to four years (or more) to complete.
Not every class would be taught every day. Like one successful school in Clifton, Illinois, students would learn in "blocks," with some classes being taught on Mondays and Wednesdays, while others would be taught on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and still others on Fridays, for instance. Some classes might be combined - ethics, for instance, could be interwoven with every class.
In a levels learning atmosphere, testing would still be necessary - grading, as it currently stands, would not. A simple pass/fail grading system would suffice, though teachers should comment on exemplary work.
The likelihood of cheating diminishes substantially when students receive only pass/fail grades. Students who fail would have to remain in one level until they met the requirements for passing that particular level (as determined by the Master Educators who designed the guidelines for each level).
Obviously students of various ages would share classrooms as each subject was explored. A five-year-old could likely find herself in class with an eight-year-old. A levels learning environment is geared toward recognizing and developing each child's strengths instead of grouping children together as a whole, based only on age.
Knowing the Basics
Master Educators would assess the specific levels each child should achieve in each subject. If the goal is truly to prepare children for adulthood and provide the best possible learning opportunities, parents and educators would be remiss if they neglected to address the basics. Academic basics should be mandatory and what necessitates "mandatory" would be determined by the Master Educators.
In a levels learning environment, instead of an entire class graduating from one grade to the next, students proficient in a variety of subjects would graduate to the next level. One student, for instance, might be at the entry level for English, the intermediate level for math, and the advance level for music. Each child progresses differently and would be educated according to his or her needs.
Example of Progressive Learning Levels
Instead of gearing learning toward the least prepared student, teachers would teach classes of students who are on the same level.
Take building classes, for example - students at the entry level might play with building blocks while learning colors, shapes, and sizes.
At the beginner level, students might build a variety of objects and learn about construction, the way homes are built, and the materials and tools needed for building them. They might also discuss famous buildings around the world.
At the intermediate level, students might be introduced to geometrical concepts as they produce angles, height, and depth.
At the advance level, students might study computer graphics programs and blueprints.
And at the professional level, students would learn about building in a way that prepares them for a career in the building field, possibly working as interns in their chosen profession.
Not every student would achieve the level of professional in all subjects.
Expectations & Implementation
All students should be required to learn how to speak and write English correctly, to add, subtract, multiply, and divide, to balance a check book, to read at a certain level, and to know as much about our Constitution as do immigrants who become U.S. citizens.
In order to provide a well-rounded education, students should experience at least the entry and beginner level of each class mentioned above (and beyond for some subjects). Certain expectations about learning and retention should remain as they are today, and schools should adhere to standards currently in use. The style of extending that knowledge, though, should change.
As the child advances, the structure of classes would become more focused. After a student completes the advance level, the educational emphasis should be placed on the professional level for which the child is most likely to succeed and in which the child shows interest.
The structure for teaching would have to change as well. Instead of teaching kindergarten through second grade, teachers might teach entry-level and beginner classes. Those who previously taught middle school might teach intermediate classes, while teachers who instructed high school students might want to teach the advance or professional level.
The best procedure for creating the type of learning environment for optimal success is the implementation of integrated subject matters. In teaching history, for example, instructors would expect students to write papers using correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
Science could include mathematical concepts, and history could cover music and art as part of its curriculum. Cooking/Baking is an obvious choice in helping students learn math skills along with life skills.

No Tolerance For Malicious Intentional Bullying
In order to create the type of ambiance that is critical for learning, strict adherence to a "No Tolerance" policy should be implemented for a variety of disruptive behaviors. Consequences should be clearly stated. In addition to any type of physical, verbal, or sexual abuse (bullying), no school should tolerate guns, drugs, cigarettes, or alcohol. Master Educators would establish rules for a No Tolerance policy and school administrators and educators, instead of ignoring those policies, would be required to strictly enforce the rules.
Pros of a Levels Learning Environment
Creative teachers will learn to combine lessons by incorporating current events with spelling, for instance, math with music or building with art - any variety of learning combination that will improve student performance and interest. As President Obama said, "What we can do - what America does better than anyone - is spark the creativity and imagination of our people." A levels learning environment will require teachers to be more creative.
Students would feel better about themselves if they knew they were learning something that gave them a sense of worthiness and independence. Absent for a lot of children today, especially those who slide from grade to grade feeling as if they are failures, is hope - hope for a better future. Classes geared toward preparing students for a career would give students a sense of accomplishment, self-worth, and hope.
Students equipped with interpersonal and intra-personal skills, who are "self aware" and "others aware" stand a better chance of interacting with their peers than do students in a grades level environment where all students of the same age graduate from grade to grade together even though a percentage of those students pass with only a D.
Only in the current school system do students interact all day with several children who are exactly the same age. In the work environment, in neighborhoods, in society in general, people of all ages interact with each other. In a levels learning environment, children will interact with other children of various ages.
Students who care about their schools and their learning environment and who enjoy learning will be less disruptive than students who "get by" from grade to grade and merely "pass" from grade to grade.
A levels learning environment would give students who might have failed in a grades level environment an opportunity to excel in ways they never thought possible. Also, students in a levels learning environment might be less inclined to bully or to be bullied.
Schools that recognize and honor the different intelligences and learning styles would be better able to place students in classes where they would most likely succeed.
Cons of a Levels Learning Environment
Too many parents are uninvolved in the education of their children. We have to hold parents accountable for encouraging education in the home. Forcing parents to read books to their children or to spend time with their children might be difficult, if not impossible, in some situations. The new levels learning environment should demand parental participation, and if schools can't get parents to participate, Master Educators should devise constructive ways to persuade parents to take an interest in their children or devise alternatives in cases where parents refuse to become involved in the lives of their children.
Another problem with a levels learning environment is that many people are frightened by change, even if the change is positive.
In a levels learning environment the educational system would have to be completely restructured, and instructors would have to completely revamp their classes in accordance with guidelines set by Master Educators.
Teachers would have to recognize the different intelligences and adapt their teaching techniques to accommodate students with different learning styles.
These "cons," however, could also be "pros."
Teacher Accountability in a Levels Learning Environment
Along with assessing student performance, teachers would have to be held accountable for their own actions as well. Students would grade the teacher.
Tenured teachers are not necessarily quality teachers. They should be tested every few years to maintain the integrity of the levels learning environment, and they should take advantage of learning opportunities presented to them through the school system. The world keeps changing, and education has no room for teachers who fail their students (pun intended). We need quality teachers who care about their students.
Teachers should also be paid in accordance to the importance society places on the education of our children. If we value our children and their education, we should value the teachers who instruct our children. Based on salary alone - as a nation - we appear to value actors and athletes far more than we do educators. We need to reevaluate our definition of "value."
How We Measure Importance
Pushing students from grade to grade with only a barely passing grade does nothing to improve a child's sense of self esteem, nor does it do anything to improve that child's chance at a successful career. We neglect so many of our children when we don't recognize how valuable their contribution to the world can be if only we encourage them, stimulate their desire to learn, and contribute to their self confidence.
Children see how the world measures importance. People who entertain us are highly valued. President Obama recognized their distorted perceptions when he said in his State of the Union Address, "We need to teach our kids that it's not just the winner of the Super Bowl who deserves to be celebrated, but the winner of the science fair; that success is not a function of fame or PR, but of hard work and discipline. Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don't meet this test. That's why instead of just pouring money into a system that's not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top."
In our "Race to the Top," we cannot ignore the 126,330 students who dropped out of school in the 2006-2007 school year, nor can we ignore the high number of students who continue to drop out of school. A country focused on excellence and achievement in its "Race to the Top" should consider each individual child as having merit and value. Our collaborative goal should be to nurture the talent that each child brings with him or her into the classroom and accompany each student down his or her own personal path to success.
A levels learning environment would measure each child's progress, gently guide each child from one level to the next, and reward that child with an American Dream that is not only a wish, but a promise - a promise we made to our children when we told them that they were "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness."
A levels learning environment will enable students to pursue their dreams, live the lives they were meant to live, and experience the freedom of choosing a career in which they will excel. It will teach them how to co-exist with people of all races and all religions. It will teach them not only to tolerate people who are different, but also to celebrate those differences.
President Obama continues to challenge educational institutions with his Race to the Top challenge, requesting $1.35 billion for the fiscal year 2011 budget. According to the government's own education site, "Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come."
In Closing
What I have offered here is a comprehensive program that is ambitious and optimistic but also achievable. Our current school systems fail far too many students, and I'm not talking about just grades. We need to challenge ourselves to come up with better alternatives to the current system of education, and we have to offer our children a brighter tomorrow.
If you believe learning in levels will improve the chances for educational success, is more beneficial than the current grades system, and provides more opportunities for children than a grades environment, please CLICK HERE to send an email to The White House. Leave a link to this article in your message, and explain why you think a learning levels environment would benefit children.
I leave you with one last comment made by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union Address: "So yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn't discourage us. It should challenge us."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Is Any Job Really Better Than No Job! – A Case for Raising the Minimum Wage

Previously published on Yahoo! Contributor Network on Jan 6, 2011 and updated for 2014

For the record, I want to say how much I DESPISE hearing those words. I raised four children, mostly by myself, with little and sometimes no child support. No way could I have made it on the salary I was making.

If it weren't for the generosity of my parents and one of my sisters, my children and I would have been living in roach-infested apartments, eating only Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese. What's really sad about what I just wrote is that many families do live in squalor or they don’t have a home at all, because they can't afford to live. How can we expect landlords to fix apartments when the rent doesn't even pay the mortgage?

I'm not defending slum landlords. I'm just pointing out the obvious - unless the government subsidizes an apartment, if tenants make minimum wage and the landlord wants to help out by offering low-income housing to people who can't afford anything better, something has to give. And sometimes that "something" is major, like a furnace or a refrigerator. Tenants who can't afford to live anywhere else, put up with the inconveniences, because they can't afford to move anywhere else.

My situation wasn't that bad, BECAUSE I had help. But my income was so insignificant, it barely made a dent into my bills.

And it wasn't that I wasn't working as hard as the next guy. In several places where I was employed, I was doing the work of three people. In one law firm for instance, when I left in tears because I just couldn't complete the work expected of one person, I later found out, because my sister took a job working for the same law firm, that they replaced me with three people.

At another job, I worked frantically to keep pace with the work, even while everybody kept asking, “Just exactly what does Theresa do?" So I devised a performance measurement process to discover just exactly how much work each person in my department was contributing to the overall workload. In addition to what the other employees had do to, I had an additional job that none of them had to perform. I showed the chart to my boss. 

My output, on the one job alone - the one that other employees had to perform - was three times that of the average employee. PLUS I had my other job - at the same place - during the same work hours. As you might imagine, when I left, the other employees felt the extreme load of extra work. I mention those examples to prove a point – that people who live below the poverty level aren’t necessarily lazy.

However, my pay scale was nowhere near what I needed to succeed in raising my children. Though I made just above minimum wage at some of my jobs, here's why I couldn’t make ends meet at so many others:

The federal minimum wage in 2009 was $7.25. Figuring on the LOW side, rent for a single parent of two children might have been close to $600 a month, food for three was minimally $200 a month. Babysitting was about $400, renters insurance was probably $50 a month, car insurance an addition $50 a month, and when you factor in electricity, phone, gas, heat, and water, you would probably have spent an additional $200. If you wanted cable, that's at least another $100. Gas for your car might have been another $75 a month. But let's leave out the cable, because cable is really not a necessity, is it?

A $15,080 year minimum wage salary equals $1,257/mo. Let's not forget to take out Uncle Sam's portion (approximately $188.55), which leaves you with about $1067 a month. And with deductions, you are left with...

- 600
- 200
- 400
- 50
- 50
- 200
- 75

...nothing AND you owe an additional $508 - $4,710 LESS PER YEAR (for an Illinois single parent raising 2 kids) than an EMPLOYED individual requires just to meet basic necessities. And remember, the costs I listed were probably so much lower than what people with two children would have paid, that you might have to add far more loss to the equation.

In any event, I have to ask, HOW is having a job making $508 less per month than you need to survive BETTER than not having a job at all? What is the tenant supposed to tell her landlord - "Sorry, I can't pay the rent - EVER - but at least I have a job." Or how about the utility companies? What happens when her children grow out of their clothes and shoes? When you make $508 less per month than you need to survive, you can't even afford items from the Salvation Army.

The employed person could better herself by going to school, but how will she pay for daycare and transportation? Granted some government programs are in effect for SOME individuals. If you want to go into nursing, for instance, you are guaranteed to find help, but the professions for which the government is willing to pay are limited.
Let's take the problem further. Can employers afford to pay more than minimum wage to their employees? Probably not. As it is, most employees have had benefits taken away from them, wage freezes put into effect, perks taken away, and yet they still show up for work every day.

They cut down, cut out, and still they can't meet the demands of life that require them to feed their children, clothe their children, and transport their children to the grocery store.

So what is the answer? Without a job, people have to go on public assistance. With a job, people can't afford to pay their bills and end up on the streets. If you can't afford to pay the bills for your home or apartment, you can't afford to live in your home.

Again, I ask, what is the answer?

I have a suggestion. What if the government expanded its list of eligible classes to include those for professions other than the limited ones they offer? Not everybody wants to be a farmer or a nurse.

And I would like to offer another ray of hope - a government job. Nowhere else will you find pay scales that increase, benefits that are in most cases superior to anything you would find in the private sector, and more job security than you would find anywhere else. If you can get through the initial phases of poverty, find government assistance to get you through that phase, find people who will agree to take care of your children (you could take care of theirs in exchange), you can find something that will bring you out of your conditions and into something better. (By the way, the government's retirement benefits are amazing.)

Even if the job is not what you had planned on doing with your life, you can train for other positions while you work. Eventually you can live the life you wanted to live. It will be tough, but aren't your circumstances tough now?

AND I have another idea – one that absolutely would NOT work because too many government officials would put a stop to it – allow individuals to sell home made items from the trunks of their cars or in front of their homes. Have them get a permit. Monitor their sales. Crazy, right? But I have to ask why some people are allowed to put open guitar cases in front of them while they play and get donations for their talents, when those of us who write books, crochet, paint, make jewelry, or build book cases are not allowed to do the same thing? 

Bottom line – is any job really better than no job? No. But planning and researching for a better way of life, and then implementing the strategies necessary for getting a better life is better than doing nothing.

By the way, if you’re against raising the minimum wage, I’d like to direct you to two sites listed below (notice how the minimum wage has not increased since 2009 (still $7.25 per hour), but the cost of living has risen nearly 8%. Think you can live on that? Take all your expenses and subtract them from the $1,067 I listed above. See how much you have left. To paraphrase Dr. Phil, “How would that work for you?”

Federal Minimum Wage Rates 
Cost of Living Calculator:
USA Jobs

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Power of Perception

Previously published on Yahoo! Contributor Network May 15, 2011

"We see things not as they are, but as we are. Our perception is shaped by our previous experiences." ~ Dennis Kimbro (motivational speaker and author)

Four people sit in a room witnessing the same event, yet come up with four completely different testimonies.

Two sisters, who grew up in the same household, paint very different portraits of their parents.

Twenty students share one teacher, yet describe him twenty different ways.

What accounts for these differences?
Perception. Perception colors our senses and our actions. Perception sometimes distorts or warps our thinking, too, and forever imprints our minds with images that explain why we think the way we do. Perception can also turn lives inside out.
Let me give you an example of how perception affected the life of one little boy.
When Ryan was 2 years old, he suddenly developed a paralyzing fear of mustaches, though at the time his mother didn't know that the reason for his terror was the sight of a mustache. At the age of 2, Ryan couldn't articulate to his mother the reason for his meltdowns. His reaction to seeing a mustache became so horrific that his mother had to stop taking him out in public, because she didn't know what brought on his panic attacks.
When it was time for Ryan to attend school, his mother was still perplexed by his behavior until he started voicing his fear of men with facial hair. And when he became a young adult, Ryan grew a beard because, he told his mother, facial hair was a sign of power.
Not until then did his mother remember the event that triggered his terror. It had taken place when Ryan was two years old, just prior to his outrageous change in behavior. Ryan's mother had left him and his baby sister in the care of one of her best friends. The friend had a boy Ryan's age, a daughter his baby sister's age, and two older children. She was also married.
One evening, the friend who cared for Ryan placed the children around the dinner table. Before cutting the meat into bite-sized portions, the mother brought the platter of meat around the table with her as she placed one uncut slice of meat on the plate of each toddler. She then placed the platter with the remaining meat in the center of the table directly in front of Ryan.
Ryan, who didn't like meat, picked up the uncut portion from his plate and placed it back on the platter.
It became a moment frozen in time, because that one movement caused a series of responses that catapulted Ryan into a state of sheer terror.
From out of nowhere the husband of the friend who was watching Ryan slammed his fist into the table next to where Ryan was sitting. Ryan looked up to see the man with the mustache glaring down at him. Everything from the table bounced, drinks spilled, and all of the little children sitting around the table stopped moving as the man with the mustache flared his nostrils and screamed down at Ryan, "IN THIS HOUSE WE DON'T TOUCH MEAT AND THEN THROW IT BACK ON THE PLATTER!"
Instantly Ryan shook convulsively. The timing of his mother's arrival at that exact moment couldn't have been better.
Ryan propelled himself from the table like a rocket, ran out of the front door across the lawn to his mother, and gripped her legs so hard she had a difficult time removing them from her so she could pick him up. The friend ran out behind Ryan to tell Ryan's mother what had just happened. Both friend and mother were outraged. But they had no idea how that one event would impact that little boy for the rest of Ryan's life.
Ryan had witnessed the man with the mustache explode in rage, all of it directed toward him, for a reason that made no sense to Ryan (nor would it make sense to any other rational human being). That one event probably still impacts that man decades later.
Though Ryan was only two years old at the time of the incident, until his mother remembered the event, she had no idea why her son's reaction to seeing men with mustaches was so violent. Because he was so young, Ryan couldn't have told anybody why he feared men with mustaches, and his mother had no way of knowing why he was paralyzed with fear at the sight of them.
Early impressions impact us.
How many times do we suddenly feel sad or angry without ever knowing why? How many of us have had something happen to us in our formative years that prevents us from moving forward? Scents, sights, sounds, tastes, and even textures can trigger an emotional reaction in us without us ever being aware of the memory that lies buried in our minds or the initial event that caused the reaction.
We may never know not only what happened to us, but also why we react to certain situations with fear or rage. Our perceptions of those early years remain somewhere in our minds awaiting the triggers that cause an emotional response.
Perception affects behavior.
When we were infants, our form of expression prohibited us from accurately conveying our emotions. By the time we were old enough to express ourselves in any meaningful way, we forgot our early experiences. But our experiences would have shown through our behavior. As adults we often have to determine from our behavior why our perceptions are sometimes distorted or exaggerated.
Fortunately, we have the ability to change not only our perceptions, but also our reactions to situations that caused our behavior to disrupt our lives.
What we see is based on what we have seen. What we think is based on what we have thought.
Because we bring with us our own life experiences, whether we are in a classroom, in a grocery store, or at work, each experience provides a different backdrop for our individual abilities to perceive not only what we see, but also what we hear.
Our thoughts about politics, religion, the proper way to raise children -- every thought we have is affected by our individual experiences, memories, and reactions to those experiences and memories. And what makes our experiences unique is our perception of those experiences.
Perception explains what happens when a crime is committed and several witnesses make conflicting statements. They were at the same place at the same time witnessing the same event, but what they saw was different from what their neighbors saw. A tiny woman, for example, might say the thief was over 6 feet tall, while a tall man might place the thief at well under 6 feet. People bring their own perspectives to the crime scene.
Perspective establishes perception.
We sometimes forget that our perception determines our view of life. We can't understand why others don't "see" the world as we see it. Our perceptions, as Dr. Dennis Kimbro points out, are based on our previous experiences. And the combination of our senses imprints our brains with a variety of stimuli so that if we experience a traumatic event at the same time we smell something appealing, for instance, our memory bank will hold the two together in such a way that when we again smell that same scent, our brain immediately feels the connection and responds accordingly.
Our perceptions also motivate our behavior. If you remember cigar-smoking Grandpa with fondness, the smell of a cigar will trigger that same tender feeling even when you are in the presence of somebody who isn't as loving as Grandpa used to be.
The Perception Experiment
If you don't believe that perception can impact your beliefs about the way you see the world, try this experiment:
Blindfold four people and sit them in a circle facing outward in four different directions. Give them each a pad of paper and a pencil. Take off their blindfolds and tell them that they are to write down everything they see, hear, smell, and think, looking only straight ahead. Ask them to be specific. While they are writing, tap different objects with your knuckle or finger nails. Spray various scents or light candles or incense.
The point of this experiment is to show how four different people can be in the same room at the same time and yet experience things differently because of their individual perspectives.
One of my philosophy college instructors conducted a completely different experiment on perception -- verbal perception. He gave one student a picture that none of the other students saw. He then asked the student to describe to four other students what was on the picture using only lines, angles, shapes, and space indicators in his instructions. He was not allowed to tell them anything else about the picture.
As you might imagine, instructions can be vague. None of the pictures accurately conveyed the image that appeared in the photograph, yet one of students' rendition bore a slight resemblance to the photograph.
Before your perceptions cause deleterious effects, examine your experiences and the perspective from which you perceived those experiences. You may discover emotions, memories, and triggers that will reveal to you why you respond to situations the way you do.
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Friday, October 10, 2014

Bullying and Accidental Death by a Sibling

When Sibling Rivalry Escalates to Sibling Abuse
Originally posted on Associated Content / Yahoo! Voices Nov 22, 2011

According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "After spousal killing, children killed by their parents are the most frequent type of family homicide." But children kill their parents, too, with fathers more likely to be killed by their children than mothers. And while not as frequently, brothers and sisters kill their siblings - "Brothers are more likely than sisters to kill a sibling," according to the same soure, but sisters kill their brothers, too, as you will soon discover.

The University of Michigan Health System states, "Experts estimate that three children in 100 are dangerously violent toward a brother or sister," but also references a 2005 study that "puts the number of assaults each year to children by a sibling at about 35 per 100 kids."

Statistics from the Bureau of Justice Statistics show that offenders as young as 6 years old and as old as 93 have killed a sibling. The stories are heart-wrenching. The stats will have to change, though, as you will see from the clips below:

From abclocal, "Jahmir allegedly stabbed his 16-year-old brother Anwan to death in the family's Lansdowne home last week. Police say the stabbing occurred during an argument between the brothers over whose turn it was to play a video game."

From philstar, "Also included in the charge sheet are Revilla's younger sister, Ma. Ramona Bautista, and three others who reportedly helped them plan and execute the crime - Glaiza Vista, Norwin de la Cruz, and a certain Bryan."

Google news scanned an archived news article from March 20, 1950, in Fresno, California, about a 14-year-old girl who murdered her twin sister and said, "I hated her. I don't feel bad because my sister is dead…I'd kill Sally again if I had the chance." Psychologists claimed it was a case of sibling rivalry. I say it went beyond sibling rivalry and escalated to sibling murder.
From wistv, "…Leroy followed his sister into a bedroom where an altercation occurred and the woman stabbed her brother once in the chest with a knife….Leroy was pronounced dead at the home."
From CBSnews, in June, 2011, "Kansas City police say a 5-year-old girl drowned an 18-month old toddler last Friday to stop his crying….The girl and the toddler, Jermane Johnson Jr., were both left in the care of a mentally handicapped teenager, who was sleeping at the time of the incident…"
Sibling rivalry is not new. Sisters and brothers have been quarreling since the beginning of time. Most of the rivalry eventually turns into friendship as the child matures, but with the proliferation of bullying, sibling rivalry has to be viewed and acted upon differently today.
When children in the 1950s threatened to kill each other, the threats were generally empty, though as you can see from the above report, siblings killing siblings did occur and has been occurring - Cain killed Abel after all. But violence appears to be escalating, and threats have to be taken seriously. A child who today says, "I'm going to kill my brother," might actually kill his brother.
Parents who think it's just a case of sibling rivalry need to pay attention to the signs. Arguments between siblings where one sibling competes for a superior position in attempting to win an argument is rivalry. Punching, hitting, kicking, scratching, pulling hair, slamming against the wall, knocking to the ground, and other physical actions that result in pain or injury, along with psychological torment, are all forms of bullying and abuse.
According to the University of Michigan Health System, parents should look for these signs when assessing the difference between sibling rivalry and sibling abuse:
Does the child avoid his or her sibling?
Has the child's sleeping habits or eating habits changed?
Does the child have nightmares?
Does the child act out abuse in play?
Does the child act in sexually inappropriate ways?
Is one child always the aggressor while one child is always the victim?
Has the roughness or violence escalated over time?
Any one of those questions answered positively could indicate abuse.
Sometimes the child who bullies his or her brothers and sisters at home is him- or herself a victim of bullying, possibly at school. Daughters and sons may be ashamed or embarrassed to admit to their parents that other kids are picking on them. Parents must pay attention to indications of sadness, depression, aggression, and changes in behavior.
Parents need to look at their own behavior, too, because children look upon their parents as role models. How parents discipline at home will impress children who will imitate their parents. However, the type of discipline parents use could be construed as abuse by others.
A father once told me, after the school had noticed bruises all over his son's body (which they discovered after I called them to tell them that the boy had been thrown against the wall by his father), that his actions were not abusive, because his father threw him against the wall all the time and he turned out OK.
Any physical action parents take against their children that results in bruises, cuts, or even psychological damage shows children that to take control and to be the boss, they must act physically violent. And when children are bullied at school, they may come home and take out their frustration, anger, and rage (at being the target of bullying) on a younger sibling.
Some children act so completely out of control their parents are left wondering what prompted the unacceptable behavior. It's time parents delved deeply into their child's life to discover the source of the frustration.
When I married for the second time, my daughter from my first marriage became unmanageable after the birth of my second child. But when the third child appeared, my oldest daughter became enraged.
After talking to counselors, I discovered that she was jealous. She had me all to herself for 11 years and now suddenly she felt she had been replaced - first by my (now ex) husband, then by her sister, followed by a brother, followed by another sister. The anger she felt at me for disrupting her life was targeted against her siblings, mostly her brother, whom she would torment by scaring when nobody was looking (a tactic she learned from my ex when she was in her room watching the Exorcist one night - he scratched the door to scare her - his scare tactic was more than effective - it scarred her for years).
Sometimes the best action for parents to take (as a last resort or when other children may be at risk) is to remove the child from the home, and though the child will resent the action, the child has to learn that bullying, threats to kill, and violence are unacceptable.
The University of Michigan Health System states, "Sibling abuse is the physical, emotional or sexual abuse of one sibling by another. The physical abuse can range from more mild forms of aggression between siblings, such as pushing and shoving, to very violent behavior such as using weapons.

Often parents don't see the abuse for what it is. As a rule, parents and society expect fights and aggression among siblings. Because of this, parents often don't see sibling abuse as a problem until serious harm occurs (emphasis mine)."
Dr. Vernon Wiehe, professor of social work at the University of Kentucky and author of Perilous Rivalry: When Siblings Become Abusive, offers the following effective parental response when parents suspect sibling abuse:
"First, bring all children involved into a problem-solving process. Get enough fact and feeling information to assess the problem accurately.
Restate the problem to make sure you understand it clearly.
Help children to arrive at a child-set goal. (Goals set by parents often become rules that children will not follow.)
Figure out alternative solutions to the problem.
Work together to set up a contract which states the rights and responsibilities of each child. Specify appropriate ways of acting and consequences should abusive behavior occur in the future. You can take steps to prevent sibling abuse. minimize (sic) the violence they see (and might emulate) (parenthesis added) by monitoring what your children watch on TV. Reward sensitive, positive behavior among brothers and sisters. Most importantly, make it a point to be a model of positive and esteem-building behavior."
Don't wait until the violence escalates to the point of death. Save both the victim and the aggressor. 
Sources: (National Institute of Health - MedlinePlus) (Bureau of Justice Statistics) (University of Michigan)
Photo credits: Author/auteur: Paul Gustave Doré Source: Scan from a Dutch bible. 
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