A Twelvemonth of Adventure : Great Books for Each Month of the Year

Posted in Writing on October 13, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

Disclaimer: I am American, so many of these recommendations are based in the cultures and seasons of my own country. That said, if you come from a different culture and want to add your own to my list, please feel free to add them in the comments! Thanks! ~JR

I was falling asleep last night when it hit me:

It’s almost Christmas.

As usual when I ruminate on this time of year, I thought then, in-tandem, of a particular book which, for me, goes hand-in-hand with the season. Then I wondered: is there a book that reminds me of every month of the year?

“Yes”, I replied to me. “The answer is yes.”

So, in the spirit of keeping my sanity while I wait for my beta readers to finish my manuscript, and in the spirit of keeping all of our sanity by reminding us that there WILL be a 2017 despite how it may feel right now, I’ve compiled a list of great books to read for each month of the year. (Of course, your mileage may vary.)

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January can be a depressing month. Between the freezing cold weather and the jarring sudden silence of bygone holiday bustle,  it can feel as silent and cold as a tomb. To combat those feelings of woebegone cheer, one must read a book that is warm and fun, exciting and lighthearted. For me, no stories fulfill these requirements quite like Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

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Many people liken Chaucer to Shakespeare or Dante, but he’s really much more like Monty Python. The Canterbury Tales was originally published in 1478, a time that most modern people liken to molasses running over an iceberg. During that time, 99.99% of literature, art, architecture, etc. etc. etc. was based on Christianity, so it’s no wonder one would assume these stories would be as well. But while the characters in Canterbury ARE on a religious pilgrimage, that fact is only discussed at the beginning as a backsetting to the stories themselves — which are as secular and hilarious as they can get.

Here is an excerpt to illustrate my point:

This Nicholas had risen for a piss,
And thought that it would carry on the jape
To have his arse kissed by this jack-a-nape.
And so he opened window hastily,
And put his arse out thereat, quietly,
Over the buttocks, showing the whole bum;
And thereto said this clerk, this Absalom,
“O speak, sweet bird, I know not where thou art.”
This Nicholas just then let fly a fart
As loud as it had been a thunder-clap,
And well-nigh blinded Absalom, poor chap;
But he was ready with his iron hot
And Nicholas right in the arse he got.

Translation: Nicholas, who’s sleeping with the Miller’s wife while he’s away, wakes up to take a pee and hears Absalom, another lover, out the window, calling for a kiss from her. So Nicholas goes over and sticks his butt out the window, which Absalom accidentally kisses in the dark. Angry at the joke made on him, Absalom burns Nicholas on the butt with a red-hot brand.

I love these stories because they show that even in the Dark Ages, humanity had a sense of humor. Plus, they’re great to read with a glass of rum while sitting by a fire on cold January nights when you need a good, warm laugh.

Here’s a link to a modernized version online. Enjoy!

feb

February is all about love… even if you’d rather it wasn’t. Sometimes Valentine’s Day can be pretty hard to go through, especially if you’re alone or your relationship is struggling. In fact, even if you’re madly in love romantically, it can be hard to feel love in the deepest month of winter when everything seems dead and people are seriously cranky… especially when you tell them “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Enter A Switfly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle.

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Though the third book in this amazing science fantasy series doesn’t get nearly as much press as its big sister, A Wrinkle in Time, for me no story can be more emotionally fulfilling. At its best, time travel can be a roller coaster of fun, adventure, and excitement, but A Switfly Tilting Planet tilts even the best of time travel on its edge, adding a roller-coaster level of love for and about our own human race that we could all stand to remember.

The intrepid Charles Wallace travels through time in this story, yes, but he does it through the eyes of the people who are living that time, and the whole point is to understand them — their struggles, their hopes and dreams — and how each of them adds their own love and light to the tapestry of humanity.

Romantic love also holds a place here, as Charles’ sister Meg is now married to Calvin and pregnant with their baby. And if you want classic romance, there’s nothing better than “Patrick’s Rune”,  the ancient poem that Madeline L’Engle skillfully weaves in and through the story itself:

At Tara to-day in this fateful hour
I place all Heaven with its power,
And the sun with its brightness,
And the snow with its whiteness,
And fire with all the strength it hath,
And lightning with its rapid wrath,
And the winds with their swiftness along their path,
And the sea with its deepness,
And the rocks with their steepness,
And the earth with its starkness:
All these I place,
By God’s almighty help and grace,
Between myself and the powers of darkness.

Seriously. If you’ve never read this book, get it. Read it. If any other story illustrates the abyssal depth of love better, I haven’t read it.

march

I see March as the early dawn of the year, when we’re just starting to see the sunlight poke above the treetops. It’s in March that the light at the end of the tunnel of winter begins to glow. After months cooped up inside we want to venture out, have adventures, and explore, but the weather is still not quite ready for all that.

For this reason, March is the perfect month for an epic fantasy marathon. Not only does it get us out of the house metaphorically, it also makes the days go by faster so that, when we’re finished reading, perhaps the world outside will be ready for us to have our own adventures.

Now, I could go the easy route and list Tolkein’s classic fantasy series here, but if you’re reading this, chances are you’ve read that already if not watched the films. Besides, you don’t need just four books (including The Hobbit in there) when you’re waiting out the end of winter — you need a serious series. Like, say 14 really long, intricate, teeth-sinking books.

Allow me to introduce to you Robert Jordan’s “Wheel of Time” series!

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You may already know of this series — it is pretty popular, after all — but whether you know of it or not, I’m still going to recommend it. For escaping into another world full of deep characters, magic, mystery, intrigue,  and adventure, you would be hard pressed to get better. Of course, if you have read this series all the way through multiple times, I have a great runner-up to offer which you probably haven’t read: The “Godslayer” Chronicles by James Clemens. Trust me, you’ll love it, too!

Victorian illustration and poem 'April showers Bring Forth May Flowers'

We all know April is rainy, but it’s the kind of rainy we don’t mind. Sometimes it’s cold rain, reminding us that the chill isn’t quite finished, but other times it’s warm, hearkening the coming of spring by melting whatever snow remains from the dying winter. If you’re going to see rain and sunshine at the same time, chances are you’ll see it in April. (And yes, that’s a thing.) April is a time of balance — between ice and water, storms and sun.

Thus, the perfect month for poetry.

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Poetry is the song of the soul. If any genre personifies the storm of emotions that April represents, it’s poetry. Up and down, hot and cold, love and hate, they’re all there.

The book I am recommending is, of course, only one of billions of books, tomes, scrolls, chapbooks, and anthologies that hold the poetry of the world. However, I recommend this book specifically for two reasons: one, if you don’t read a lot of poetry it’s a great shapshot of some of the greatest poems and poets of our time, and two, it comes with CDs of the poets reading their own work, including Tennyson, Plath, and even Whitman! Amazing recordings these are, though some are haunting in their antiquity, but absolutely perfect for transferring to mp3 files to listen to while out on a stroll during April’s gorgeous rain-dappled days.

Book city

Ahh May. It’s getting warm and dry now and we can go outside a lot more often. Most people do just that, beginning to stock their camping supplies and offering early-annual backyard BBQs to their friends and family. School is still in but everyone there — students and teachers alike — has the summer-itch. Kite-flying and skydiving reach an all-time high (see what I did there? Heh) in May as well. Energy is also high, as we feel the natural buzz of sunshine coursing through our veins.

So, what better to do in this energetic month of joy than revisit classic childhood favorites?

Book city

I wanted to keep this list one book per month, but to be fair if you’re an adult you can read these stories back-to-back no problem, and honestly as a lover of children’s literature I couldn’t choose just one. From  The Wizard of Oz to James and the Giant Peach; from Anne of Green Gables to Half Magic, reading in May should be full childlike fun and adventure. You can find a wonderfully exhaustive list of every book I would personally recommend here so you can truly enjoy May at its lighthearted and sunny best!

Silhouette field with aurora sky at night

I’m kind of partial to June. Maybe it’s because school is out and the kids are happy. Maybe it’s because my birthday falls almost in the middle of it, or maybe it’s just the way the sun shines high in the sky. For whatever reason, I think June is a pretty great month. During this time, however, people aren’t inclined to read much, as the beach is calling and camping is in full-swing. Warm enough to for swimming but not yet deathly-hot, outside is the place to be in June. So what book could I possibly recommend for this month of outdoor bliss?

Why, Scary Stories  to Tell in the Dark, of course!

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There is more than one book in this series, but the first is the one I’ll always remember. When the swimming is done, BBQ is over, and everyone is gathered around a flickering fire — the only light for miles around — nothing can beat reading out loud from the best of the best of scary campfire stories!

June may be pretty and bright, but when the lights go down we can all use a little shivery goodness.

july

July — Explosive month of fireworks and hot dogs. We’re getting into the swing of summer now, and it’s time for everyone to put on our patriotic smiles and wave our star-spangled banners high (well, in America anyway).

Of course these days it’s harder and harder to be proud of our country. Between oil spills and protests, bloated prisons and protests, and voter suppression and… protests, it seems we’re imploding in an antagonizingly slow but sure fashion. Still, no matter what side of the political fence we’re on, for the most part we all want to be proud of our country. After all, this is where we were born and like it or not, it’s how we identify to the world.

Is there any book that can help us get back to the sense of patriotism we want to feel when the fireworks roar in the sky? I’m sure there are many, actually, but my personal recommendation is Jerry Spinelli’s Maniac Magee.

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If you haven’t read this story, do it. Seriously. Technically it’s a children’s book (big surprise from me I know), but though it’s set forty years in the past, it tackles so many of the issues we still face today in the most optimistic way possible. I can’t do this story justice by way of explaining to you just how beautifully it illustrates the true American dream, so I’m posting two excerpts here for you instead:

It was the day of the worms. That first almost-warm, after-the-rainy-night day in April, when you bolt from your house to find yourself in a world of worms. They were as numerous here in the East End as they had been in the West. The sidewalks, the streets. The very places where they didn’t belong. Forlorn, marooned on concrete and asphalt, no place to burrow, April’s orphans….

For the life of him, he couldn’t figure why these East Enders called themselves black. He kept looking and looking, and the colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. But never licorice, which, to him, was real black.

Between fire hydrants, orphans, baseball, bullying, corner stores, and racism, Maniac Magee couldn’t be more American if it tried. But when you read about our country though the eyes of this bright, optimistic, hopeful boy, something of his outlook rubs off on you, and you can finally start to see the fireworks once more like you did as a child — with a bit of a spark of what patriotism is really all about.

Us.

Print

I always called August AAAAughust, because of how hot it gets. If February is the deep chill of winter, August is the molten coal-bath of summer. Most people are inside in August, not so much from a tiredness of summer as simple self-preservation.

Swimming is a must if one is outside — or at the very least running through a sprinkler — and nobody goes out the door without an armor-coat of super-strong sunscreen between their skin and the powerful rays of Solus. So what does one read in August, indoors while surrounded by fans and sipping iced tea?

The cool story of an even cooler girl, living in the hottest place around, of course!

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Weetzie Bat by Francesca Lia Block is an outstanding story of a girl with a fascinating life in the city of Angels (that’s Shangri-L.A. to you). Set in the 80’s, the story follows Weetzie and her best friend Dirk, two punk rock young adults with some of the most interesting fictional personalities I have ever seen. Their world is a hyper-reality of strange cars, genie wishes, witch babies and 50’s throwbacks.

Ahhh… Well, It’s difficult to really explain this story, so I’ll just say that you want to read it, and August is the best time to do so.

Trust me. 😉

set of business card with a calendar grid, and sights of London for business meetings

September! Just when we think we can’t take any more heat, the weather is turning cool again. Huzzah!

Honestly, Autumn is my favorite time of year. It’s crispy, everything smells like leaves and chimney smoke, and I get to dress in my hoodies and sweaters again. People are also reading once more as we sit in our chairs or couches, snuggling up at night with a warm cup of tea and maybe a furry friend at our feet.

But the hustle and bustle of everyday life is at its most meh in September as well, as we ruminate on past summer fun and worry over the coming excitement — and stress — of the holidays ahead. Stuck in the middle, September can be a real purgatory of the mundane…

Zzzz…

*Snort*

Oh! Hi! Man, I need an exciting story to rev things up! How about you?

Enter Mr. Stephen King.

Awww yiiis. This man has written SO many amazing stories that normally it would be hard to choose one. In fact, I have chosen eight. That’s right: when September blahs hit, nothing can quite cure them like the “Dark Tower” Series!

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Even if you’re not a fan of horror, I’d still recommend this series. Though there is obviously a horror element (it is Stephen King after all), the stories encompass so much more. Part western, part post-apocalypse, part dystopan, part sci-fi, and part fantasy, The “Dark Tower” series is a must for overcoming the September blahs. Just be sure to follow every twist and turn; it’s easy to get lost in Mid-World…

october

And now we come to October, the month of spooks and hallows. I could try to stoke my literary ego and twist the month into something else so that my choice isn’t predictable or cliche…

NAAAAAH!

Am I kidding? My FAVORITE holiday is Halloween! My favorite colors are orange and black. My favorite art style is goth-innocence. I am NOT going to pass this chance up. My only real problem is choosing.

 

Hmmm…

Ya know what? I’m gonna go all out with the one, the only, Bram Stoker, baby!

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As the home of Halloween, October deserves the very best, and among the great horror novels of our time Dracula is the king. If you have only ever seen any of the millions of adaptations done to Stoker’s classic since its publication in 1897, I implore you to read the original novel. You won’t be disappointed.

As a runner-up (because I can’t help myself with this), any of Anne Rice’s wonderful vampire novels are also a great bet to chill you on those creepy October nights! (Though I’m partial to Memnoch the Devil.)

november

For those who don’t know, I am Pagan. Celtic Pagan to be a bit more specific. What that means is that I honor the faeries as they are, which is a far cry from their image in most of American society. Wild, unpredictable, wise, and powerful, the faeries of the Tuatha Dé Danann are the literal embodiment of nature. For me, November is the embodiment of them.

November: the month of power and peace. Of stormy days and calming nights. Of stark beauty and muted decay. Of light and dark, crisp leaves and smooth mud. The month when flora and fauna either goes to sleep or dies, depending on its strength. November is not benevolent, nor is it malevolent. It does what needs to be done to keep nature strong and beautiful. It preserves the way things are, for the way things will become. This describes faeries to a “T”.

For this reason, I have chosen to veer a bit from my usual fiction picks and recommend a non-fiction work for November: Faeries by Brian Froud.

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Many would disagree on my label of “non-fiction” for this work, I realize. But for me it is 100% true. Take the book out to the center of a wood in November and read it, then tell me if it wasn’t the very best choice for this magikal month!

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And now we come back to December, the month that gave me this idea in the first place. I know the book and I know the reason, so let’s get to it!

There’s something mystical about Christmas, and for me that goes far deeper into history than the birth of Jesus. Yuletide has always been a time of mystery, magic, fire, and beauty, evoking feelings of peace, warmth, and comfort to those lucky enough to celebrate it in their own fashion. For me, only one book can evoke those same feelings even in the bright heat of June:

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising

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This story takes place during the Christmas season in an undefined time period somewhere between the 1940’s and the 1970’s. Old magik is undoubtedly a theme in the story, but moreso for me is the magic that Susan Cooper weaves into her Christmas scenes. Cooper evokes a strong sense of warmth, peace, and wonder with her caroling scenes especially, but also holiday comfort and familial love in the scenes where the hero — young Will — is at home with his family. Think the Weasleys Christmas at home, but with the ancient, Celtic magic of the Druids. Weaving true and ancient magic with the comfort of Christmas is the ultimate incantation to me — strong enough, even, to commit me to a blog that has literally taken all day to write.

And now we have gone all the way around the year. I hope you enjoy these stories year-round in your own life, and please add your own to the comments!

 

 

 

 

Not Enough: Four Reasons why I Can’t be Satisfied with Self-Publication.

Posted in Writing with tags , , , on September 27, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

“Why waste your time and energy on querying when you can self-publish?”

It’s a question I’ve grown used to over the years as I’ve posted on Facebook about my querying adventures… which always end in seemingly-obligatory rejection.  Because they love me, fellow writers, family, and friends all want to know the same thing:

“Why do this to yourself?” they ask. “It’s the digital age! You don’t have to deal with agents and publishers anymore!”

Actually, yes: I do. But it’s not always easy to explain why. After all, many writers have found great success in self-publishing, and it’s no longer a huge no-no even among the well-read.

Heck, I actually have self-published, even writing quite a few blog posts about my adventures. In fact, my self-publishing career has spanned longer than most know, as my very first self-publication came out way back in 1998: a story called The Veiling Society, which I wrote as a sophomore in high school (and — warning — reads like it). When print on demand came out, I was shocked and ecstatic, and jumped on the opportunity to show my stuff with Song of Spirit, and of course the “Guts & Glory” books.

But over the years I’ve found I have a few problems with the whole thing that I cannot shake. Maybe others have felt the same, I don’t know. But with so many asking the question, I feel the answer needs to be given in a detailed, rational way. So here goes: four reasons why I can’t be satisfied with self-publication.

1) I SUCK at Sales

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

Seriously. I couldn’t sell a glass of water in the desert. (I’d end up giving it away; people need to drink!) For this reason, my sales have never been anywhere near where they need to be in order for me to write full-time, and that is my goal. More than that, it’s my life’s dream. In order to make that work in self-publishing, I’d have to have a completely different personality — one that can sell — and I simply don’t.

There is one other way to sell enough books to make it viable — write a lot of them. The problem I have with that, to be perfectly blunt, is it’s simply not quality writing if I’m throwing out books every week like a machine. And I can’t put my name on something I’m not proud of.

2) I Write Kids’ Books

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

QUICK — think of a well-known children’s author whose stories are self-published.

Got nothing? Yeah, me too.

Most of the fellow writers who ask me about self-publication have one other thing in common: they write for adults and/or teenagers. And when it comes to publishing, their world is very different than my own.

Most self-published authors promote their work through social media and/or blogging. They can also go on small book tours, book groups and/or conventions where they can talk to their readers about the stories they both love.

My audience is a BIT harder to reach.

Children don’t read blogs, and while I can reach them through conventions, with a full-time job that has nothing to do with my writing, I honestly don’t have the money or time available to do as many as it would take to really get my name out there. Online, kids spend most of their time either on hugely corporate (AKA Disney) or educational websites, both of which are monitored and trusted by parents — and like Fort Knox to small-beans writers like me.

In order to reach my particular audience the way I need to, I have to have my books in libraries and schools.

School districts don’t trust self-published books (and as an educator myself I don’t blame them; there’s no regulation whatsoever and therefore no guarantee that the books are quality or even appropriate) and they don’t invite self-published authors to school visits, which are a huge source of revenue and promotion for kidlit authors. Unless one knows a librarian, public libraries aren’t much better.

In other words, if you write for kids, you’d better have a skeleton key of great magnitude in order to break through all of the doors between you and your readers. More often than not, that key is a big-five publisher.

3) I Still Need to Pay the Bills

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

I’m about to say something antithesis to many artists — including writers:

Money matters.

And self-publishing doesn’t make most people much money at all.

Now, I’m not talking about making billions of dollars. While that would be nice, it’s not really a huge item on my list. But what I DO want is to write… while keeping my electricity on. To write… while feeding my kids. To write… preferably under a roof of some kind.

Many of the writers who ask me about self-publishing are self-supporting. They either make enough from their books to pay the bills, are married to someone who pays the bills, or are content with writing on the side while they… pay the bills. I could go into this subject in an entirely different blog post, and maybe I will sometime, but for now I’ll leave it at this: in the end, I still need to pay the bills.

4) It’s Simply Not My Goal

Thirsty glasses looking for water on the desert.

When people ask me how long I’ve been writing, I honestly can’t tell them. Writing for my whole life is impossible, of course, but for as long as I can remember I’ve told stories, and for almost that long I’ve dreamed of a career in writing.

Not a hobby. Not a small business. A career.

For me, that means book tours and big name publishers. Children all over the world reading and talking about my books. And my biggest bucket list item: a Newberry Award.

Self-publishing has taught me a lot, and certainly by way of conventions opened up a wider gate into the publishing world than I had access to before, but it’s not my end goal. It never has been.

To be honest, it simply will never be good enough for me.

My goals have not changed: Scholastic or Penguin publication. Newberry Award-winner before I die. I have wanted these things for as long as I can remember. I still want them. I don’t see that ever changing.

I hope this helps, and that those of you who choose to self-publish aren’t offended. Some people are happy self-publishing. There are a lot of pros to it, for sure. It’s just not for me. How about you?

A Long Time Coming: 5 Reasons Why I Agree With the Closure of ITT Tech

Posted in ITT Tech with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

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On Tuesday, September 6th 2016, ITT Technical Institute closed its doors forever.

Like the students, faculty and staff alike had no warning from the school beforehand — we were all planning our Fall quarter like nothing was different — but somehow it wasn’t a surprise.

Let me rewind a bit for context. I taught at ITT Tech here in Spokane for the past four years. My core classes were composition I and II, though I was also given to teach communications, group theory, research methods, and miscellaneous others over the course of my time there.  When I began, I was so excited. I was going to be a TEACHER! Of COLLEGE! I was going to use everything in my arsenal, from reading as a kid to graduate school, to get those students pumped for composition!

That… was optimistic.

Of course as a comp teacher at a tech school, I didn’t expect my math-loving students to embrace my class with open arms. I was willing to work for their interest. I wanted to inspire them to go beyond what they thought they liked. I tutored, stayed up late at night to give my students detailed notes on their papers, and worked out alternative curriculum that would both interest and challenge them.

Turns out, the school itself didn’t care about any of that.

Before I begin the obligatory list-of-things for blogs these days, I want to make one thing perfectly clear: my campus was amazing. The dean worked with us, supported us, and challenged us daily. He bent over backwards to give us the tools we needed to actually teach our students, and was always on our side. My fellow faculty members were kind and patient to a “T, and our students — for the most part — were eager and excited to learn. NOTHING about my campus here in Spokane has ANYTHING to do with what I’m about to tell you: this was all corporate. And now that I am free… I am free to tell you everything.

Here goes…

5) Faculty was the Bottom Priority

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When I started at ITT Tech, I took for granted that I would have a desk. And a computer. And a phone. And supplies to do my job.

And I did.

And it was good. But also kind of expected. Yet, about a year in to my work there I found out that this was not the norm at all campuses. Not even at most. In fact, it was company policy that NO faculty members should have any of that. Yup. We weren’t supposed to have desks, or computers of our own, or phones… or anything, really. As for supplies, officially they grudgingly allowed us to use pens and paper.

Yes, you read that right: we almost weren’t even supposed to use company office supplies.

At my campus there were only three people with keys to the supply closet, none of whom were regular faculty, yet EVERYONE had keys to the faculty offices. In other words: ITT’s precious pens were locked safely away even from us, while our own personal effects could be taken by anyone with the wherewithal to follow a staffmember through the doors.

Staples were a precious commodity; we joked that they could be used as currency among us. When the corporate side of the campus decided they didn’t like their copier, they got a new one… and gave the old one to us. We didn’t like it either. Didn’t matter. It was ours. Oh — and we weren’t allowed to teach more than four classes a quarter — with four being rare — because full-time was too much of a commitment for corporate to make to their teachers.

If you’re curious as to how corporate expected us to do our jobs without desks or computers, I’ll tell you what was told to me when I asked that logical question: we were supposed to share a few communal computers and phones. That was all they expected us to need. After all, we didn’t have to do anything like prepare curriculum because…

4) The Curriculum Was Written For us… by a Madman

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Composition was a train wreck of tangled genres, unrealistic deadlines, and homework expectations that would have been impossible for a full time student to fulfill, let alone working adults with families and jobs. There was no review of grammar or sentence structure at all; the curriculum jumped right into teaching the students to write a memoir on day 1. Why a memoir? Beats me. I STILL haven’t figured that one out. Assignments were often due before the curriculum had their lessons scheduled. The final research papers — due in unit 8 — weren’t even discussed until unit 6. Quizzes didn’t match their keys, and worksheets didn’t match the books. I was expected to lead my students through a quarter of curriculum that felt more like a minefield-laden labyrinth of words and terms than anything resembling a lesson.

I will never forget my first quarter teaching group theory, when the final exam was so off from its key that everyone failed. (Especially since they ALL got the last ten questions wrong by not writing any answers at all… because the exam didn’t ask anything… even though the key answered the questions it hadn’t asked.) I ended up correcting the exams myself — for each of the fifty students in my class — and most of them passed.

Two years in, my amazing dean gave me the freedom to fix the curriculum to work for the students instead of against them (you know, like most schools do). Things ran much more smoothly after that. Still,the official policy was to follow that unfollowable curriculum to a “T”. I have NO idea how teachers at other campuses did it without themselves and their students going insane.

I do know one thing, though: crazy or not, we knew exactly which students would be joining us on that train in each and every class, because…

3) You Lived and Died on Attendance 

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QUICK! Guess what instructor paperwork mattered the most to corporate?

Assessments? No.
Gradebooks? Nope.
Homework corrections and notes for the students’ benefit? Nah.

Attendance?

Dingdingding! We have a winner!

Every once in a while I would forget to input the attendance during class because, well, I was kind of distracted by the whole teaching thing. (Weird, I know.) Every time this happened, I’d get an email first thing in the morning from my dean, asking me to get to it asap. He was always very laid back — way more than I would have been in his position — but I could read the urgency in every one of those emails like it was written in the simple words themselves. ATTENDANCE HAD TO BE INPUTTED ASAP.

We had meetings about how to raise our attendance practices. I kept detailed attendance records — double copied — both digitally and on paper. If a student was absent, we had to take their information to the front desk before the end of the first hour of class so that the receptionist could call them and see why they weren’t there. (Some instructors chose to do this calling themselves; I’ve always hated talking on the phone myself.) Emails had to be sent. Forms had to be filled out. Records had to be noted.

Every. Time. One. Student. Was. Absent.

We’re not talking about kids, here. We weren’t worried that little Timmy had been kidnapped or that little Suzy was skipping to smoke out back. We taught grown adults who were free to make their own choices, even if they were bad ones. In fact, students could literally come to class, tell me they had to go right then for whatever reason, and still be marked present, officially.

So why did it MATTER so much?

If you guessed money, you win. What you win I don’t know. Maybe a broken trophy with the word “JADED” scrawled across it in lipstick? Whatever. You win. Enjoy.

Anyway, yes. Every time a student was absent there was a chance they would remain so…and their financial aid money right along with them. Corporate was afraid that if we didn’t hound the crap out of them, they wouldn’t know how very badly we needed them in class… because we cared… about their education.

Yeah. About that…

2) The Finance Office Ruled All

noclassblack

I can’t tell you how many times I had to send students out of the classroom at the beginning of class to talk to the financial aid office. They missed lectures. They missed labs. They missed group activities.

They missed class. Sometimes hours of it.

But if a student got a red paper in my box, they had to go. No matter what. Classtime wasn’t as important as making damn sure their financial aid was in order so the school would get paid. If the finance officer needed them, they went. Even if that meant they waited outside the office for an hour while the rest of the class moved ahead of them.

Of course, that didn’t matter unless they actually wanted to know what I was teaching. They could pass the class even if they didn’t, because…

1) Academic Integrity was a Joke

nointegblack

Let me preface this one by saying that I had some amazing students. They worked hard. They wanted to learn. And that’s what makes me angry at ITT Tech especially: because none of that mattered.

Failing students wasn’t quite up there with failing to mark them present in class, but it was a close second. This had nothing to do with caring whether the students deserved to fail or not, just so we’re clear. The school didn’t care about that. What they did care about was that the students didn’t leave out of discouragement because they failed a class or two.

I had a conversation with a recruiter a few months ago, and he told me that they were discouraged from telling potential students that it was a school at all. In fact, they were to push emphasis on getting a job so hard that students came in thinking we were a temp agency of some sort, and were blown away that they had to do schoolwork in the first place.

Think about that in terms of academic integrity.

I never gave A’s where they weren’t deserved, but I am ashamed to say that fear of low retention scores drove me to raise some F’s to low D’s just to bump up my own passing numbers. Many of these students weren’t failing because the work was too hard, either — we were encouraged to do what we could to make it as easy as possible to pass — but simply because they didn’t care.

At all.

Let me say that again: students who didn’t care about the work they were doing were getting passing grades. Grades that told potential employers that they knew what they were doing… when they didn’t have a clue. And they didn’t care, because they knew the policies. They knew they’d get a degree no matter what because they were paying for it.

I was not the only teacher doing this. In fact, it was an epidemic because we had to. When you have a classroom of students who don’t want to be there, who feel duped into doing schoolwork in the first place, whose continued attendance is the only thing standing between you and your abysmal, but vital, paycheck — you do what you have to do to survive.

So let me make one thing clear: I FULLY SUPPORT the government’s decision in this matter. ITT Tech was a farce as a school. It contributed to the demise of secondary education in our country — education that I consider vital and honorable — and I’m glad it’s gone. Its death will pave the way to healing the value and depth of education in our country once more. I very much look forward to seeing that happen.

That said, I do hope that those students who worked so hard for so long to get degrees that are now worthless through no fault of their own, will be given a shot at proving that they are worth so much more than that POS of a school they attended.

Because they are.

And I want them to know that I am still here, cheering them on, from the other side of the crater ITT left in all of our lives.

By the way, I have worked for Gemiini Systems during the day for the past 6 months. When they found out about ITT, they stepped up and offered me more work. If you know anyone with children who have developmental disabilities please pass their website on. Thanks!

Purple

Posted in LGBTQ with tags , , , , , on September 8, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

purple

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What do we Berners do now?

Posted in politics with tags , , , on July 27, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

To my fellow Berners:

Most of you don’t know me personally, but we are family nonetheless. I have stood with you and with Bernie these past grueling months of soul-soaring highs and hope-crushing lows. I have waited in the freezing rain for hours just to hear him speak. I have felt the electricity of a room crack the moment he stepped inside. I have cried and cheered and argued online. I have been called a traitor to my country, a hopeless dreamer, a Nazi, and a child. I have endured just as you have endured, but hope kept us going. Hope not only in a better tomorrow, but in a politician who actually cared about us. One who listened and actually did what we needed him to do.

But yesterday, all that hope crashed and burned into dust.

I felt outraged, angry, and betrayed as our beloved Bernie just… gave away his votes. Months and MONTHS of hard work. Blood, sweat, tears, and hope… wasted. He gave away everything. And now we’re left with… what?

Hillary?

I’ve never been a fan of Hillary Clinton. The whole argument that you had to be for Clinton OR for Trump made me scream.

example2

But it has happened nonetheless. Hillary is the nominee who will go head-to-head with Donald Trump this November. So what do we, as Bernie supporters, do in the aftermath of the DNC hurricane? Is there anything left we can do short of showing solidarity in boycotting the whole thing with our fellows via a third party vote, writing in Bernie’s name, or not voting at all?

I am answering that question — the questions we are all asking ourselves individually — with an emphatic YES.

I got home from work last night to see my husband near tears. He, too, has supported Bernie passionately, and while I dislike Hillary, he might actually hate her. We sat together in silence, staring at the TV, for what seemed like hours. I don’t know who said it first, but it doesn’t matter. The moment the words were said, we knew it was true.

“We have to vote for Hillary.”

STOP!

You’re wanting to X this out, I know. You’re thinking me a traitor (I’m used to that by now), and a turncoat. You’re thinking I swallowed the Tang that the DNC sold at the convention. Nothing could be further from the truth. All I ask is that you read a little further. You can even rally against me in the comments if you want. Just, please read what I have to say first.

Thank you.

Let me first state that I hate this. I hate that I have to vote for her, and I hate that my Hillary-supporting friends are being condescending assholes about it. I hate that Bernie won’t be the president. I hate that nothing I feel about the DNC, Debbie W-S, or Hillary herself has changed, yet I still have to do this anyway.

Because Bernie was right before, and he’s still right now.

Bernie is not, and never has been, a stupid man. Nor has he EVER stepped down from what he believes in. I don’t believe either of those assessments of his means or his character are correct, not before, and not in this case. He cares more about the future of our country than he does his own image. He always has. It’s never been about him or you or me, but about us.

So, let’s talk about us.

I’ve heard and read many arguments against voting for Hillary. I even agree with many of them. These arguments tackle Hillary’s past decisions, the DNC’s betrayal, and playing the game of politics as usual. Here are a few of the most repeated ones, with rebuttal from yours truly (feel free to skip to your number one if you wish):

“Hillary Clinton stole the election! Why would we ever vote for her now?”

This was my own argument against her as well, so I’ll start here. At first I said that I would wait until the conference to decide whether I’d vote for Hillary if she won the nod. I was willing to set aside my dislike of her for the good of the country; if for no other reason than to stop Trump.

Then this happened.

Example1

I was angry, but the vindication I felt was much more powerful than even my anger. I knew the primaries had been rigged. I KNEW our votes had been stolen. I was livid and frustrated and ready to clean house right then and there! Nobody takes our votes! Nobody. Fear over Trump didn’t matter in the aftermath of such theft. After all, didn’t that make them pretty much the same evil?

But here’s the fact: we really don’t know what happened. Only the insiders really know. We have speculation, and there are certainly signs that point to voter fraud, but we also have this:
SymoneSandersTweets

As Bernie’s Press Secretary, Symone Sanders WAS there. She was in the heat of the campaign trail. She sent these Tweets during the convention, in a torrent of passionate begging for people to listen to her just as I’m asking you to listen to me. And she’s right — the emails don’t prove the election was stolen. I wanted them to SO BAD that I convinced myself they did, but the facts are the facts. I won’t assume anything for you.  That’s your right. But you can read the emails for yourself here and draw your own educated conclusion.

Exhibit B in this argument is voter fraud during state caucuses. This one is harder to refute, and honestly I don’t know if I can. My own gut still says it happened — there’s just too much to prove it, from the personal experiences of thousands of Bernie voters to the fact that Bill Clinton campaigned for Hillary on-site in West Roxbury, Mass. This is an argument that will keep going, I’m sure, and one that makes voting for Hillary feel like swallowing lead for me. But in the end it still doesn’t weigh as heavily as the reasons why I must do it. I will get to those reasons very soon, but first I want to tackle a few more arguments against voting for her.

“Hillary Clinton is a crook, a Murderer and a liar!”

This one interests me because it spreads a very broad definition over a pretty multifaceted political career. Has Hillary always voted the way I feel is right? Nope, but neither has she always voted against it. You’ll say that makes her a flip-flopper. Most politicians are; it’s the nature of the beast because things come up to change minds all the time, even the minds of politicians. You’ll say “yeah, money changes their minds”. I’ll agree with that; it would take someone pretty naive to say otherwise. But it’s not always money. As for getting money out of politics… well… we’ll get to that later.

However, in the end there are really only two major points repeated by those who use this argument: Benghazi and the Email Scandal.

The former has been beaten like a dead horse, and honestly I only ever saw conservatives use it against her until she decided to run for president. Besides, If a Republican-led investigation couldn’t find evidence, I’m thinking there really isn’t any. I mean, they really wanted to find evidence. Using a conservative talking point is not who we are, and she has been cleared of all charges repeatedly, so I won’t continue in that vein.

As for the latter, Wikileaks has made it nice and easy to come to your own conclusion as to whether the emails were dangerous or not. However, we do know that F.B.I Director James B. Comey has recommended no criminal charges be brought against her. He did say she was “extremely careless” (NY Times, 2016) but if that was a criminal offence, I’d have been given many life sentences by now. You may say you don’t trust the F.B.I., and I don’t blame you one lick, but here’s the thing: the fact is that the whole point of this investigation was to see if she had put our National Security at risk. That means the security of the whole nation — even you and me. I’m pretty sure that everyone — including the F.B.I. — takes personal safety pretty seriously, so if for no other reason, they would have been thorough just to make sure nothing would lead to their own possible demise. When you can count on nothing else, you can count on the human capacity for self-preservation. And contrary to popular belief, the F.B.I. is made of humans.

So, is Hillary a crook, a murderer, and a liar? Probably about as much as you or I. Maybe a bit more (she is a politician after all), but in the end I can’t dispute the result of years of investigations conducted by many different agencies and groups, all of which have led… nowhere.

“Hillary Clinton is the establishment and doesn’t care about any of us!”

This was another issue I had myself, and you’re partly correct. She is part of the establishment. She’s a politician. That’s kind of the definition of “establishment”. However, the second claim can be debated.

When I decided to vote for her, I realized I didn’t really know many facts about her political history — just opinions and thoughts — so I looked it up. Here are some of the bills she has introduced, backed, and/or voted on in her career, from Congress.gov:

S.182 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Paycheck Fairness Act: “…to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages” (Congress.gov, 2016).

S.181 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009: “…declare[s] that an unlawful employment practice occurs when: (1) a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted; (2) an individual becomes subject to the decision or practice; or (3) an individual is affected by application of the decision or practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid. Allows liability to accrue, and allows an aggrieved person to obtain relief, including recovery of back pay, for up to two years preceding the filing of the charge, where the unlawful employment practices that have occurred during the charge filing period are similar or related to practices that occurred outside the time for filing a charge” (Congress.gov, 2016).

S.211 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Calling for 2-1-1 Act of 2009: “Directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to award a grant to each state to carry out a program for making available throughout that state the 2-1-1 telephone service for information and referral on human services” (Congress.gov, 2016).

S.7 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Education Opportunity Act of 2009: “Expresses the sense of Congress that it should pass, and the President should sign into law, legislation that expands educational opportunities for all Americans by enhancing: (1) access to high-quality early childhood education, child care, and after school and extended learning services; (2) secondary and post-secondary graduation rates; (3) educational innovation, standards, and assessments; (4) the recruitment and retention of high-quality teachers by high-need schools; (5) mathematics and science instruction; and (6) federal grant aid and tax incentives to make higher education more affordable” (Congress.gov, 2016).

S.5 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Cleaner, Greener, and Smarter Act of 2009: “Calls for the enactment of legislation to improve the economy and the security of the United States by reducing U.S. dependence on foreign and unsustainable energy sources and the risks of global warming…” (Congress.gov, 2016).

S.4 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Homeowner Protection and Wall Street Accountability Act of 2009: “…stabilize[es] the housing market and assist[s] homeowners by imposing a temporary moratorium on foreclosures, removing impediments to the modification of distressed mortgages, creating tax and other incentives to help prevent foreclosures and encourage refinancing into affordable and sustainable mortgage solutions… ” (Congress.gov, 2016)

S.2 — 111th Congress (2009-2010)
Middle Class Opportunity Act of 2009: “…legislation to improve the lives of middle class families and provide them with greater opportunity to achieve the American dream by: (1) providing middle class tax relief while making the tax laws simpler and more reliable; (2) promoting investments in the new economy and enacting policies that create good, well-paying domestic jobs, and promoting families by improving the access and affordability of child and elder care; (3) enhancing the incentives and protections to help middle class families adequately meet their needs in retirement; (4) improving programs to help families acquire the education and training to be productive participants in the modern economy; (5) restoring fairness, prosperity, and economic security for working families by ensuring workers can exercise their rights to freely choose to form a union without employer interference; and (7) removing barriers to fair pay for all workers” (Congress.gov, 2016).

I did not quote the full text in most of them, but you can read them by clicking on each title. There are pages and pages of bills like these right here, of which Hillary has been a part since she began her political career. Go ahead and check them out for yourself. If she doesn’t care about us, she’s doing a pretty crappy job of showing it.

“Hillary Clinton did ____ and I hate her for it!”

This one’s for my beloved husband, and anyone else out there who is angry at Clinton for specific cases not mentioned above. My husband’s issue is Hillary’s involvement in a case on music censorship with Tipper Gore in 1984. I have done some research into this, and found that the facts are a bit different than he remembers.

The Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC), which created the “Parental Advisory” sticker, was founded by Tipper Gore and included Susan Baker (wife of then-Treasury Secretary James Baker), Pam Howar (wife of Realtor Raymond Howar) and Sally Nevius (wife of Washington City Council Chairman John Nevius) (Newsweek, 2015). Surprisingly to me, I have found no mentions of Hillary Clinton’s involvement in any reputable news source of the time.

I have, however, found some sources on Clinton’s interest in video game censorship in 2005. At the time, she introduced a bill to congress called the Family Entertainment Protection Act (FEPA), which prohibited any business from selling, renting, or permitting the sale or rental of any video game with “mature” or “adult only” ratings from the entertainment software ratings board to children under 17 (Congress.gov, 2006). This bill was not passed.

All that is to say, if you’re angry with Hillary Clinton for a particular thing she did in the past other than the major issues listed above, please do your own research. You may be perfectly correct… but you may not be. And even if you are, chances are very good that none of it holds a candle to the reasons why we must elect her anyway.

So, I have gone through the major arguments against Hillary that I have heard. There are probably others of which I am not aware, so if you have one please leave it in the comments section. For now, let’s get on with the most important part of this whole blog post:

Why vote for Hillary Clinton to be the next president?

I’m sure you’ve heard the quick arguments. You know, the ones that are easy to fight over, but not debate in any meaningful way? “Trump is EVIL!” is the number one reason going around. Hell, the DNC Convention itself has focused so much on that ONE point that it’s almost making me ill. I won’t focus on that because fear isn’t a reason anyone should be choosing their leadership. That goes down a scary road that I’m not even wanting to look down, let alone follow. Instead, I will tell you the three reasons I personally have for voting for her.

If you have gotten this far, now is NOT the time to stop reading.

Reason #3: Bernie is backing her

Yeah, I know. We don’t just do what Bernie says. I totally agree. But see, we followed him for reasons, and those reasons were based on one thing: we believed he was right. Do we still believe that? Do we really think he’s abandoned us after fighting for us in government for the vast majority of his life? And why? Because he’s being bribed? (I’m sorry, but that’s just laughable for anyone who has followed him at all.) Because he was coerced? Have you ever seen Bernie back down for any reason? I honestly believe that man would gladly take a bullet for us. Didn’t you believe that once too? He hasn’t given up on us. Let’s not give up on him.

This isn’t the strongest reason to vote for Hillary (hence it being last in the list), but it’s certainly something to think long and hard about.

Reason #2: The DNC Platform

We followed Bernie because we believed in what he said. He wanted to take on the big banks, strengthen the middle class, give free college tuition, and so much more. Why are you abandoning that now? Do you realize that by the strength of his followers — us — Bernie got almost everything he wanted — almost everything WE wanted — onto the official DNC Platform? You know, the one they voted for on Monday and passed?

“But”, you ask, “what is a political platform anyway, other than empty words?”

According to The Constitutional Rights Foundation which focuses on the education of political matters in America, a political platform is, “… a set of principles, goals, and strategies designed to address pressing political issues. Each party’s platform is broken down into ‘planks,’ or declarations that speak to each specific issue” (crf-usa.org, 2016). A platform is what a political party uses to explain to everyone exactly what they stand for. It’s used mostly in elections, and is not legally binding to any individual within the party, but we — and Bernie — can still hold them to it if we work TOGETHER.

See, Bernie supporters scared the DNC this year. They really had no idea how many progressives were tired of their crap until Bernie started stirring us up. And in politics, numbers matter, so they really want us to like them right now.

“Well yeah”, you say, “so it’s all campaign talk to make us happy; they won’t do anything they say when Hillary is elected.”

You’re absolutely correct to worry about this, as politicians are not known for their honesty, but you also have to remember that the Democrats will at least consider their platform in every decision (hence, why there are committees needed to draw them up and a vote is required to make them official), whereas the Republicans will consider theirs.

Speaking of Republicans, there are currently 247 Republicans in the House and 54 in the Senate who will fight against anything the progressives throw at them (as we have see time and time again these past 8 years). Check that against 186 Democrats in the House and 44 in the Senate (clerk.house.gov, 2016), and you can see how important it will be to vote downticket. That means voting at your local and state level, as well as federal, so that the progressives have a majority to work with Hillary on making things better for all of us (and it wouldn’t be bad if Bernie were to become the Senate Budget Comitte leader, either). After all, there are many Bernie supporters running for local office. Plus, the Democrats know we’re watching them now; big local wins for Bernie supporters and other independent progressives will only clinch that understanding.

The Democrats will be very careful during Hillary’s first term, thanks to us crazy Berniebots. 😉

The new Democratic Platform can be found here in full, but I want to focus on a few key points so you can see what’s really at stake…

Wages and Unions:

Bernie has always backed a $15 an hour starting wage. At first, Hillary only agreed to $12. For unions, Bernie has championed them and Hillary has also been for them. In fact, the largest labor union in America endorsed her.

Here’s the official stance as of Monday afternoon when the new platform was voted in:

“Democrats believe that the current minimum wage is a starvation wage and must be increased to a living wage. No one who works full time should have to raise a family in poverty. We believe that Americans should earn at least $15 an hour and have the right to form or join a union and will work in every way we can—in Congress and the federal government, in states and with the private sector—to reach this goal. We should raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour over time and index it, give all Americans the ability to join a union regardless of where they work, and create new ways for workers to have power in the economy so every worker can earn at least $15 an hour” (Democratic Party Platform, 2016).

Wall Street and Big Banks:

It’s always been a big part of Bernie’s platform that Wall Street needs stricter regulation and and big banks need to be broken up. Hillary, on the other hand, has had close dealings with both Wall Street and big banks for a long time. This is an issue that has divided us greatly. So what did the Democrats finally decide on?

“Democrats believe that no bank can be too big to fail and no executive too powerful to jail. Democrats will support stronger criminal laws and civil penalties for Wall Street criminals who prey on the public trust. We also support extending the statute of limitations for prosecuting major financial fraud, and providing the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission more resources to prosecute wrongdoing… We will protect and defend the Federal Reserve’s independence to carry out the dual mandate assigned to it by Congress—for both full employment and low inflation—against threats from new legislation. We will also reform the Federal Reserve to make it more representative of America as a whole, and we will fight to enhance its independence by ensuring that executives of financial institutions are not allowed to serve on the boards of regional Federal Reserve banks or to select members of those boards” (Democratic Party Platform, 2016).

Education Reform:

Bernie wanted free college tuition. His stance on K-12 education has been less sure, however. His official website doesn’t tackle it, but according to feelthebern.org, he felt that No Child Left Behind should be seriously overhauled, and that we need high-quality, affordable early childhood education. Hillary’s stance on education has been varied. In the 1980’s, she championed the use of testing to improve standards. In the 90’s, she added charter schools to her list of “do’s” (The New Yorker, 2016). She has since pulled away from the strict education reforms she backed, which have mostly failed, but what do the Democrats say?

“Democrats are unified in their strong belief that every student should be
able to go to college debt-free, and working families should not have to pay any tuition to go to public colleges and universities… We are also deeply committed to ensuring that we strike a better balance on testing so that it informs, but does not drive, instruction. To that end, we encourage states to develop a multiple measures approach to assessment, and we believe that standardized tests must be reliable and valid. We oppose high-stakes standardized tests that falsely and unfairly label students of color, students with disabilities and English Language Learners as failing; the use of standardized test scores as basis for refusing to fund schools or to close schools; and the use of student test scores in teacher and principal evaluations, a practice which has been repeatedly rejected by researchers. We support enabling parents to opt their children out of standardized tests without penalty for either the student or their school… Democrats oppose for-profit charter schools focused on making a profit off of public resources. We believe that high-quality public charter schools should provide options for parents, but should not replace or destabilize traditional public schools  (Democratic Party Platform, 2016).

Immigration:

Bernie’s stance on immigration was loud and clear. He was for Immigration reform that helped undocumented immigrants and their families. Possibly surprisingly, Hillary has agreed with most of his ideas for a while now. So the new platform shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, though it is pretty great:

“Democrats believe we need to urgently fix our broken immigration system—which tears families apart and keeps workers in the shadows—and create a path to citizenship for law-abiding families who are here, making a better life for their families and contributing to their communities and our country. We should repeal the 3-year, 10-year and permanent bars, which often force persons in mixed status families into the heartbreaking dilemma of either pursuing a green card by leaving the country and their loved ones behind, or remaining in the shadows. We will work with Congress to end the forced and prolonged expulsion from the country that these immigrants endure when trying to adjust their status” (Democratic Party Platform, 2016).

LGBTQ Rights:

Bernie has always been a proponent of LGBTQ rights. His platform was solidly for them, while Hillary’s history with the LGBTQ community has been spotty. So what do the Democrats officially say now?

“Democrats will fight for the continued development of sex discrimination law to cover LGBT people. We will also fight for comprehensive federal nondiscrimination protections for all LGBT Americans, to guarantee equal rights in areas such as housing, employment, public accommodations, credit, jury service, education, and federal funding. We will oppose all state efforts to discriminate against LGBT individuals, including legislation that restricts the right to access public spaces. We support a progressive vision of religious freedom that respects pluralism and rejects the misuse of religion to discriminate. We will combat LGBT youth homelessness and improve school climates. We will support LGBT elders, ensure access to necessary health care, and protect LGBT people from violence—including ending the crisis of violence against transgender Americans. We will also promote LGBT human rights and ensure America’s foreign policy is inclusive of LGBT people around the world” (Democratic Party Platform, 2016).

Money in Politics:

Bernie always said that we need to get money out of politics. This is why he didn’t have any super PACs in his campaign. What you may not know, is Hillary has said the same thing. The official platform says this:

“We will nominate and appoint regulators and officials who are not beholden to the industries they regulate—people with a track record of standing up to power and safeguarding the public trust. We will crack down on the revolving door between
the private sector—particularly Wall Street—and the federal government. We will ban golden parachutes for those taking government jobs. We will limit conflicts of interest by requiring bank and corporate regulators to recuse themselves from official work on particular matters that would directly benefit their former employers. And we will bar financial service regulators from lobbying their former colleagues for at least two years (Democratic Party Platform, 2016).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Please read it for yourself and decide. While party platforms aren’t binding, with Hillary this platform will be heavily considered in every piece of legislation. With Trump, this one will.

And please be reasonable… despite your 3rd party bid, reality says it will be him or her. It doesn’t matter how you or I feel about that. It’s a fact either way.

Reason #1: The Supreme Court

Four Supreme Court seats are expected to be available to replace within the next presidential administration. Four. There are currently eight seats total on the Supreme Court. That’s half of the court that makes major decisions that directly effect our lives. 

And in case you didn’t already know, it’s the president alone who appoints supreme court justices.

Oh, and he or she will appoint them for life.

This means that whoever the next president is will have the power to control laws and policy far beyond his or her administration. Even if Trump was only there for one term, his appointment of these justices would live on… and on… and on… for the rest of the judge’s lives.

Let that sink in.

Just to slam home how vital this is, here’s the kind of power the Supreme Court holds:

  • Bush v. Gore, 2000 (5-4 decision) No recount of the 2000 presidential election was feasible in a reasonable time period.
  • District of Columbia v. Heller, 2008 (5-4 decision) Citizens have a right to possess firearms at home for self-defense.
  • Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010 (5-4 decision) Corporations and unions can spend unlimited amounts in elections.
  • United States v. Windsor, 2013 (5-4 decision) Federal government must provide benefits to legally married same-sex couples.
  • Obergefell v. Hodges, 2015 (5-4 decision) Same-sex marriage is legalized across all 50 states.

So, there is my argument. Make of it what you will, but please step away from your emotions and outrage for just a moment, and ask yourself the hard question I had to ask too: “is my anger more important than the lives of millions?”

Thank you for reading.

The Dilemma of Online Writing Communities

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , on June 10, 2016 by Jessica Crichton

On the great advice of my big sister, I recently joined Wattpad. Like she predicted, I love it. The community is welcoming, the Wattpad people are nice and accommodating, and after only a couple of months on the site, “Tipani Walker and the Nightmare Knot” has 380 views and is a featured story on the main Adventure page. I’ll wholeheartedly recommend it to any aspiring or professional writer out there.

So why is the word “dilemma” in the title of this entry?

I’ll admit something I that hate about myself — I haven’t read much since I got a smartphone. It stinks, but lately I’ve spent more of my free time on Facebook and Twitter than reading, even though I literally have thousands of stories and books to choose from, not only on Wattpad but also Goodreads and through my writer friends. I could be reading all day, every day, if I had the time, and I can certainly spend most of my free time reading like I used to.

So why haven’t I?

It’s not an issue with the screen — I read Facebook and Twitter just fine all day without hurting my eyes. It’s not about an aversion to reviewing stories — I’ll review the stitches out of a story I love. It’s certainly not a lack of passion for the written word. That has NEVER been a problem of mine. I’ve been trying to figure out what’s wrong for a while now, and I finally think I have hit on the culprit.

Anonymity. Or rather, lack thereof.

See, when I read books as a kid or a teenager, or even an adult before the Internet went supersonic, I didn’t have to worry about whether I’d like the story or not. If I liked it, I could read it and find more books by the author. If I didn’t, I could just put it down and walk away. No muss. No fuss. The author wouldn’t know I didn’t like their book, and we’d both go on our merry way.

But things have changed, and oh BOY have they changed!

With online writing communities, people are always wanting you to read their stuff. That’s fine. That’s why I’m there, too, and I really do enjoy finding new, exciting stories to read. But here’s the issue — what if I don’t like their story? They’re right there online, and they know I’m reading their story. I can’t just put it down and walk away. If I do, at best they’ll be hurt and think I’m a jerk but never tell me, and at worst they’ll badger me for eons about what I loved about their story until I’m forced to tell them I hated it, and hurt their feelings. And this isn’t about reviewing, either. If I like something about a story but there are also issues, I have no problem giving a little advice if they want it.

This is about simply not liking the story. That’s it. I just don’t like it.

I can’t give constructive criticism on that because it’s my own opinion which has nothing to do with whether others will like it or not. Case in point: I have a lot of fellow writers friend me on Facebook, and many of them write romance. I won’t say I hate romance, because that’s a mean, mean word, but I will say most the time I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than read it. Does this make their stories worthless? Absolutely not. Do I read them? Absolutely not. I haven’t even read my best friend’s books for fear that the genre itself will make me hate them. Which would hurt her. Which I never, ever, ever want to do.

And therein lies my dilemma.

I can no longer simply enjoy or discard a story. With the internet comes a lack of anonymity that I once took for granted. This lack tints every word I read in “what-if-I-hate-it”, because I know the writer will want to hear my opinion. I certainly want to hear opinions on my own stories, too. And I’m a soft-hearted soul. Saying, “I’m sorry, I just didn’t like it” feels… bad. For me and for them. So, what is the solution? It can’t be not reading, which is what I’ve apparently defaulted to, so what can it be? I don’t know. What I do know is I have to fix this.

Because I miss reading like we’d all miss breathing.

Finally! A Simple Synopsis Generator!

Posted in Literature, Publication, Publishing, Writing with tags , , , on October 16, 2015 by Jessica Crichton

We’ve all struggled with it — the dreaded synopsis. I, personally, have such trouble with them because I tend to make my plots too complicated. Erm… well… convoluted is probably a better word.

ANYway, so most of you know I teach college composition. In the advanced comp class, I teach Toulmin’s Model of Argumentation. It’s a fill-in-the-blank, simple way to form a simple academic argument that’s easy to defend with reputable sources. I taught it last night for the millionth time, and on my way home from class I started to think: what if Toulmin’s Model was implemented for a fiction plot instead of an academic argument?

It’s now 6:30 AM, and after a full night of work, I have a synopsis generator that has worked, in the most simple form, for every story plot I’ve thrown at it… including my own. You can choose between a character-driven or plot-driven story. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments!

 

I’m pretty happy with my own results… even if it doesn’t really resemble Toulmin anymore. 🙂

Click Here to Download: PlotGenerator2015

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