Monthly Archives: August 2010

Civics 101

Civics 101

In every secondary and college social studies classroom across the nation, students are responding to the following assignment:

Analyze the United States Constitution.

When was the last time you even read the United States Constitution, let alone did an analysis? Listening to Fox News does not count as your source of constitutional thought.

The Constitution, unlike the other famous American document, the Declaration of Independence, went through many drafts before the Founding Fathers reached compromises. The D of I was written by the Founding Fathers’ Salutatorian, Thomas Jefferson. Tom only had to do a couple of do overs. It was that tricky equality phrase, but they were all pretty certain about the declaring war on Mother England.

But the Founding Fathers’ Valedictorian, James Madison, had to use lots quills and ink.  That is why the Constitution is called a constitution of compromise.

Let’s take a look. The United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. It is the shortest and oldest written constitution of any sovereign state. The Constitution consists of a preamble, seven original articles, twenty-seven amendments, and a paragraph certifying its enactment by the constitutional convention. The first ten amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

The document defines the three branches of our government. The Legislative Branch of the government with a bicameral Congress; an Executive Branch led by the President and a Judicial Branch headed by the Supreme Court. It provides the organizational structure and outlines the powers of each branch. It also reserves numerous rights for the individual states, thereby establishing the United States’ federal system of government.

The Constitution for the United States is the supreme law of the land.

But how did this document come to be what it is? Everybody who anybody was gathered in Philadelphia. The Virginia Plan was introduced by governor of Virginia, Edmund Randolph.  He and his supporters wanted a strong national government that was highly centralized. This government would have veto power over the states’ laws.

Of course this plan angered those who cringed at the vision of a central government swallowing state sovereignty.  Remember this is 1787, not today. I told you not to use Fox News as your Constitutional source.

Delegates from smaller states rallied around proposals offered by New Jersey delegate William Paterson. The “New Jersey resolutions” called only for a revision of the articles (that would be the Articles of Confederation) to enable the Congress more easily to raise revenues and regulate commerce. It also provided that acts of Congress and ratified treaties be “the supreme law of the States.”

Well that was quite a reduction of powers for the national government. It could coin money, take control of trade, ratified treaties and Congressional acts would be the supreme law.

Of course neither the big states nor the little states were happy. Of course they did agree on Alexander Hamilton’ plan.  They threw it out. He envisioned a king or monarch.  In fact he actually called the British government “the best in the world.” Hamilton’s plan was thrown out probably because it had something to do with a government who historically chopped off the heads of its rulers when the people are not happy. But that is just a guess.

Stalemate, Deadlock, Impasse, Gridlock, Standstill, Log jam. Oh wait I got the tea party goals mixed up.  Eventually, they compromised and give us a bicameral legislative branch with one level of Congress with two senators elected per state and one level of Congress whose members are elected according to population.

But that was nothing compared The Great Compromise. How were slaves to be counted?  This was that tricky little section side stepped in the Declaration of Independence. After much debate and hair pulling or wig pulling, the framers of the constitution finally compromised, agreeing that direct taxation be according to representation and that the representation of the lower house be based on the white inhabitants and three-fifths of the “other people.”

With that little detail worked out things seemed to be moving pleasantly along. That is until it was time for the states to ratify or agree with what was written. As written, the document divided the thirteen former colonies into The Federalists – those who favor a strong central federal government with many powers – and The AntiFederalists – those who favor a smaller federal government and more rights for the individual states. These two highly polarized schools of thought divided the nation. And so it is today.

This polarization looked like the entire newly proposed government would be a failure even before it got started. But remember this is a document of compromise. To satisfy the states, ten amendments were added. They are called the Bill of Rights.

Today, since everybody seems to be screaming about their violation of the BoR, that is where we will begin next time with the First Amendment.

With All Due Respect

With all due respect to Elizabeth Gilbert, Julia Roberts, my friends I went with to see the movie and the millions who found comfort in the book, Eat, Pray & Love.

I got the message – the need to find yourself.  What did not come across clearly in the movie was the intense difficulty in doing so. Granted, I did not – OK could not – read the book. I tried. And not just once. I just do not read that genre of books. Part of the finding yourself process is finding the process for yourself.  I don’t want anyone to provide a process for me to try.  It is my life and therefore it must be my process.

Just because my favorite food is Mexican does not mean that I am going to live in Mexico for an extended period of time. That would be called “Eat, Shoot & Vamos.”

Mine would more likely be called Eat, Drink & Sleep as evidenced by a disappropriate number of red wine bottles in the recycle bucket compared to the number of permanent occupants. Besides I have done the eat, pray & love in less than 24 hours and much cheaper than traveling to three countries.

What I don’t get is the merchandise exploitation. Did you know the Home Shopping Network had 72 non-stop hours of EPL merchandise the day the movie opened?  I bet gay men were giddy with their American Express cards.

You could order shower gels from all three countries.  I don’t want to smell like Italian ice cream.  I really do not want to smell like any fragrance or aroma from India. In playing word association, when one says “India” I still think of Slum Dog Millionaire.

I do not want an EPL dream journal or an EPL pillow case to put it under. Nor do I want a bracelet with different colored crystals – one for each country. I am certain I do not need those items to find myself.  A good friend, a bottle of wine and time usually does the trick.  If that doesn’t work there is always therapy.

Here is one thing I did like about the book.  She got somebody else to pay for the trip while she went and found herself. That I could do.

AYUHSOO – Day Two – Grade Five

AYUHSOO – Day Two – Grade Five

Place: The As Yet Unnamed Home School Of One – Day Two of School

Fifth Grade

Good Morning, Boys and Girls! Today we begin our practice sessions for the state assessments. That is a really big word and a deep money pit industry called tests.  Today we are going practice our writing skills.

In just a moment, I will give you the assignment, also call The Prompt, on the white board.  Please note this is not a racist statement.  It is the name of the board.  Besides for years it was called a blackboard and no body complained. Then you have the rest of the day to write an essay answering the prompt.

Pay attention to punctuation and spelling. Write in complete sentences. You will not have to demonstrate these critical skills in other content areas, including other tests in language arts.

Those of you who do not speak English may read the prompt in Spanish, or any one of eight languages available, on the board in the back of the classroom.

Those of you who are unable to read at all, sit quietly until the special education people come by which might be next month.

Now stand up and pledge allegiance to the Texas flag as required by state law.


Listen carefully as I read EXACTLY, word for word, from the state approval testing instructional manual.  I will read the prompt in English only.

“Tell about something you did the week before school started.”

Let me remind you this is VERY important. Your ability to pass these tests is very important to your future. Those of you who are unable to pass these assessments will probably not be very successful in life.  Good luck.

The Week Before School Started

The week before school started I went to see a movie. It was called Eat, Pray and Love.  It starred Julie Roberts.  She is pretty.

It is about this woman who goes to Italy and eats a lot of spaghetti.  Then she goes to India to pray at Hindu temples. I think they were Hindu. There were these blue statues with four arms at the door. It might have been Smurfs. I am glad she did not go to India to eat. With all due respect, their food tastes like crap.

Then she went to Bali to love. Bali is where they have tsunamis. I don’t know that I would have gone to an island named after a bra. I would rather go to Hawaii and they kinda look the same. But she meets a man and falls in love and they leave on a boat. He was that creepy evil man in No Country For Old Men.  I liked him better in this movie.

That was the end.  My conclusion is: If she had gone to India and it had a tsunami, she could have prayed with the Swami Tsunami.



Correction. Make that “Welcome Back Student” since I am the only student in The As Yet Unnamed Home School of One (AYUHSOO). Based on popular demand, as opposed to unpopular demand, AYUHSOO is back in session. Like most of the schools in Texas today is our first day back to school.

To refresh your memory shortly after my retirement of 33 years of education I decided I would open my own home school. I have almost all of the necessary credentials to run a school. I have a LIFETIME Texas teaching certificate and mid-management certificate. So I can be both teacher and campus administrator.

I am G/T trained and I am Technology Applications certified and ESL certified; I have scored – We don’t call it GRADING – TAKS tests.

I have a United States Passport, a Texas driver’s license and a Texas motorcycle license. I am a life-long learner.

I realize I am, and forever will be, nine hours shy of obtaining my superintendency certificate. However, I do know some who recently received such as certificate and I am certain the necessary legal issues for consulting could be obtained should the need for a superintendent arise.

Before I continue I must provide this disclaimer: I am not currently, nor have I ever been employed by Williamson County.  It’s a little Travis county inside joke.

So where have I been and what have I done?

I was a foreign exchange student studying on the little known island off the coast of Lethargy called Hammock. I was there on a fellowship studying at The University of Boredum.

One of my classes was horticulture and gardening. However, due to circumstances beyond my control my final report was called The Dingo Ate My Baby and the Deer Ate My Hibiscus.  My $25.00, allegedly deer resistance hibiscus that had 13 blooms on it.

I studied birding and rodents that live in trees.  While I did somewhat better in combination bird and squirrel feeder course unfortunately, Urban Bambi ate this too. Next summer I plan to enroll in Urban Bambi and The B. B. Gun with a grant from PETA.

However, I did do better in the horticultural department on my next attempt.  As you can see these blooms are environmentally safe, self sustaining, and extraordinary cost effective.

These are called the Fighting Texas Aggie Daisies. This one is just called fall flowers.

My schedule for schoolthis time is: Golf; Current Events;  PE WII; Independent Study

Notice there are no times or days. The AYUHSOO is one of those uber liberal arts types schools. Classes begin when the student arrives. However check back for Day Two at the AYUHSOO when the student critiques the movie,  Eat. Pray and Love. Other activities this year include actually naming the school and the selection of a mascot. I hope you will come back for those too.  Constituent input will be needed.