Thursday, March 26, 2015

HOW TO ORDER YOUR CHAPTERS

Imagine you have written nine chapters. What order shall they be put in?

If you are telling a story, as fiction or a memoir, you could tell it chronologically, a principle which dictates the chapter order. Often, this is not the most interesting arrangement, and you will likely start with a chapter that grabs attention, as well as sets the theme or a theme of the piece. That leaves you with the rest of the chapters to put in order.

You have more choices than you may be comfortable analyzing. Mathematics tells us that N chapters have N factorial = N! = (N)(N-1)…(1) possible orderings. For N=5 chapters this becomes 5!=5*4*3*2*1=120 possible orderings. N=9 chapters have 362,880 possible orderings. No wonder the choice can be difficult!

To simplify your problem, you need a method to your madness. Break the work up into major sections, then order within the sections. With N=9, three sections of 3 chapters each, the possibilities are 3!=6 orderings for each section, 6*6*6=216 for all the combinations of these when taken together, and 6 times this if the section orders are also free to be chosen, a real improvement. 

So, finding a principle on which to base the ordering is a plus for the writer, and for the reader, and breaking the work into sections simplifies the ordering choice even more.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

"Naughty Movie..." from KIDNAPPED TWICE

NAUGHTY MOVIE

During my first marriage, I had a close friend who had a little girl who was the same age as my son. There was what I called a “naughty” movie that my husband and his friends had watched the night before. The film and the projector were left at our mobile home. Both my friend and I had no idea what it was, so we hung a white sheet on the wall and set up this film. As we finally figured out how to get this movie going, we both were shocked at what the movie actually was. We were in the process of turning this trashy movie off when my brother-in-law came in the door and looked down the hall and saw our sheet with the movie being played!

I never forgot that day, and I’m sure my friend did not either. Neither of us knew beforehand that movies like that existed. The fact that my brother-in-law thought that my friend and I were watching such a thing embarrasses me to this day. After I left that marriage, my friend was not allowed to see me any more. That’s the way it was in those days: husbands called the shots!

A few years later, a friend with three children was living with an alcoholic husband. She left him and asked if she could stay with me for awhile. I took her in with the children. To this day that husband blames me for his failed marriage.

In trying to deal with the problems in my life now, I sometimes ask myself the same questions that Aunt Jennie had asked me, “So is this my last chance to try to fix these problems? Do I end up losing everything again?” I don’t have any answers anymore. I find it very hard to smile. The few things that once could make me smile very seldom do now.

DIVORCING MARTY

I started planning to leave my first husband when he broke his toe going through the doorway of our son’s bedroom to throw our son onto his bed because our son had walked in front of the television when Marty was watching it. All the other marital problems did not matter any more. No one was going to hurt my son ever!

I started by buying a clothes dryer and setting up a good babysitter to stay with my son while I was at work. My son would be starting kindergarten in September for half-days, so it would work for me to have a sitter for half a day. Marty was always on the road driving his truck, but his attitude was: what happened yesterday was done…why are you upset today?

I put all of my husband’s belongings on my porch and told him I was filing for divorce. I had changed the locks, so that he could not get in. It was Halloween, and I was out with my son trick-or-treating. My neighbor let me know when Marty was gone so that I could return home.

That next Sunday, I took my son to church, and when I went home, Marty was parked there, waiting for me, so I kept on going.

I had to hide in different motels for approximately a week. My son was not going to school, because he was with me. I got a restraining order, which finally got Marty to leave me alone, for awhile.

MARTY AND THE INCOME TAX CHECK

When I purchased the mobile home, my grandfather helped me with part of the purchase price. The remainder was a loan through a bank. When Marty had wanted to borrow $1400 from the bank and he put my mobile home up for collateral, there was no problem. He told me that when our income tax refund check came, we would pay off the loan.

When the refund came, I took it to the bank and paid off the loan. When Marty asked me if the refund check came, I told him that it had and that I paid off the loan. Marty got into the car and started chasing me around the five mobile homes, trying to run me over. There were no trees or other objects that I could hide behind, so as not to get hit. It wasn’t over until a couple of men who realized what was happening came out and stopped Marty! Obviously, he had other plans for that income tax refund.

MY LATE EX-HUSBAND

After my son’s father and I got divorced, there was an incident that took place that made the local newspapers. There was a company that had many large machines on its site. A gang of men went to the property and did a lot of damage. It did not take long before the police arrested some of the men, one of whom was my ex-husband.

Before this happened, my ex had brought my son home on a Sunday night and handed me $200 in $20 bills. I was very happy with the money, as he never paid child support. He then told me to switch the 20s with petty cash money where I worked and return the switched money to him, as what he was giving me were counterfeit. I gave him back the money!

Despite these criminal activities, he was able to stay out of jail by turning state’s evidence. For many years after this, I was petrified that someone would try to kill my ex during a time when my son was with him.

My ex started going out with a pretty girl who lived right up the street from me. She was very nice, and after their relationship got serious, she came to me to ask what had happened to break up our marriage. I often wonder what would’ve happened if I had told her the truth. Instead, I told her that we were just too young when we married.

This girl and my ex got married but did not live happily ever after. That marriage ended also. I know he really loved her, but he just could not change enough to make a marriage work.

My ex had to have heart surgery, done at a well-known hospital. I cannot remember what was his problem, but the surgeon told him that after the operation he had a heart of a 25-year-old. So that’s exactly what he did after the operation: lived as though he were a 25-year-old. Everything he should not have done, he did! Five years later he died doing what he loved doing, sitting behind the wheel of his truck. Thank God it was parked. He never got to see his grandchildren, for whom he would have been a fine grandfather. Sad!

As I write this, I just received a telephone call from my eldest granddaughter, Claire, telling me she has been accepted by the college in Maine that she most wants to attend. I’m so happy for her and want her to have a happy and full life. I pray for this for my three granddaughters every day.

Holidays are also when I do think of my son’s father. The one thing in life I think he would’ve done with love and done well would have been to be a grandfather. I think he would have been a great one.

I also think of my own father. He had one grandson, my son, but he never had a close relationship with him. I often had holiday celebrations at my home, and he and my son would see each other during these times. In later years, my son would have these holidays celebrated at his house. My father would attend, but he and my son never had the warm relationship of grandfather to grandson. So sad!

Now my brother has a beautiful baby boy. I somehow know that my own father, although deceased, is looking after my brother and his family. I would have liked to see our father with his new grandson.

How many mistakes we all make in our lives! If only we could go back and fix them, how wonderful that would be!

I am writing this section at Christmastime, that time of year when my father was dying in the hospital. My brother, my brother’s mother, and I would go every day to the hospital. The holidays have not been the same since then. My brother’s little boy was born in December, which has eased the pain somewhat for my brother and his mother.

My own pain has been eating away at me for many years. I am working at dealing with it by writing this. Sometimes I think it’s working, sometimes not. I must say at this point, that meeting with my writing partner, Douglas Cooper, every week has been very helpful to me: he has been through, and is still going through, so much in his own life, I know that he understands what I am saying, even if it comes out wrong. He just knows, and I know that he knows.


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We are serializing on this blog the memoir KIDNAPPED TWICE: Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and Douglas Winslow Cooper, published by Outskirts Press, available as a paperback and ebook from OP and amazon.com and other online booksellers.

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. Stepchildren, like Mary, are much more often the targets of such abuse than other children.

My coaching-editing-writing site is http://writeyourbookwithme.com.


 

"Metamorphosis," Ch. 23 from BUT...AT WHAT COST

In the previous chapter I listed some questions which when answered are, to me, evidence of our continuing moral decline. Others may not see my examples as moral issues. I do. I further believe a diverse, democratic republic can survive only if a majority adhere to the same basic moral and ethical standards.

In a brief political conversation with my doctor, he said, “Politics is just opinion.” Yes, Doctor, beliefs (political or otherwise) are opinions; however, some beliefs are true. There are provable facts that should influence beliefs. If political beliefs are based on scientific, historical, and statistical evidence and not ideology, there is a very good chance one’s opinions are, in fact, true. There are some ultimate truths in this world and many are provable. Isn’t that the standard by which we should judge our politicians: that what they claim is, in fact, true?

By the end of the nineties, I was very critical of the changes in many of our prevalent cultural beliefs. I saw a country in moral decline. I’ve recounted some of them in previous chapters: higher divorce rates, more promiscuity, a declining education system, and a declining black ghetto culture, to name a few. However, I had never connected these unwanted results to political policies.

It wasn’t until my father became a political junky and listened to talk show Conservative, Rush Limbaugh, every day that I was forced to pay attention. As I recall, neither Rush nor my dad approached their political beliefs through the same lens I did – human nature, neuroscience and group psychology didn’t enter into their rationales. We were, however, distressed by the same things: the increasing lack of personal responsibility for one’s actions (the blame game), the proliferation of frivolous lawsuits, the apparent absence of critical thinking and common sense, affirmative action, trophies for losers, and diversity initiatives.

These guys who were upset at the same things that bothered me were Republicans… so I guessed I was a Republican too. I swear, I didn’t know. It was a completely unexpected revelation. I simply hadn’t known which political party stood for what. I was grossly uninformed or misinformed about all things political, so had never made those connections.

I have been accused of reading only those books which agree with my philosophy. That’s mostly true of my current reading list, but it wasn’t true when I was forming my beliefs. My life philosophy grew from my experiences – all of them – ranging from living with only adults in a poor neighborhood to tutoring immigrants. I have rejected much of what has been the accepted orthodoxies my whole life when they haven’t made sense to me. Because of my personal studies of biological, psychological and sociological disciplines (and from having common sense), I rejected feminist dogma. Men and women are NOT different only because of the way they’re socialized; they’re born different. I rejected much of the self-esteem dogma: asserting one’s group identity has little to do with self-anything, unless the group is the honor society.

I rejected the diversity dogma on many levels: bad behaviors should never be accepted no matter who is doing them. It’s best to judge only individuals, but sometimes whole groups of individuals tend to demonstrate the same unwanted qualities that we as a society must reject. It’s human nature to both be friendly toward AND a bit suspicious of strangers. The whole cry for accepting diversity unconditionally is nonsense.

Reasonable people behave reasonably, and supposing that most folks these days need to be forced to accept minor differences such as skin color is ludicrous. We respond primarily to present circumstances, not to old biases. We don’t still hate the Japanese and the Germans because of World War II. Old biases die a natural death and new ones arise when circumstances demand. It’s human nature.

In the beginning of this book, I said the disdain rained on me for my presumed political views by family members and a good friend prompted this memoir. Our disagreements were surely due to our seeing the world from different perspectives. Suffice it to say our motivations are exactly the same: being able to raise our children in a non-racist America. The ways by which we hope to achieve that end are miles apart… and have unfortunately become too sensitive an area to discuss.

My friend Dave has no dogs in the race, so I’ll use him to demonstrate just how divisive and alienating political tactics can be. Dave and I were in the middle of our once-a-year phone conversation when he said, “You are such a Republican!” At first, I didn’t get it at all. I wondered what I had said to get that response. I reviewed. We were talking about older women letting themselves go – not caring so much about how they looked. (Guilty.)

I had laughed and said, “You should have seen Jean and me on our last trip. We just rolled out of bed, brushed our teeth and headed out the door. So what? Nobody saw us but a Pakistani in a turban and a couple of truck drivers.” Apparently, that’s what had drawn his response.

I couldn’t believe it. What was wrong with saying “Pakistani in a turban?” I figured the “word police” were working overtime again, but I said (because I never was any good at clever come backs), “Yes, I am.” I wasn’t really mad about my being called a Republican, but the more I thought about it, the more confused I got. What on earth does my describing someone’s ethnicity have to do with my being a Republican? It makes no sense. Was “in a turban” the problem? I don’t have anything against Sikhs. Ashley’s doctor is a Sikh, and I had a very pleasant Sikh student. If I have a bias, it’s a positive one.

First, why did Dave presume a negative bias on my part? Does he dislike Sikhs, so presumed I did too? More likely – no one in his world (ultra-PC California) is allowed to describe any person who is “different” without being presumed a bigot.

Second, how did my presumed bigotry translate to being a Republican? Where is that connection? Dave has known me for more than forty years, but it wasn’t until I told him I joined the Tea Party that he effectively accused me of being a bigot. It was an automatic designation for him, so I’d like to know his reasoning… if there was any reasoning involved. I don’t think there was – his was an automatic response. Bigot= Republican, and vice-versa. Why, Dave? Was discounting the opinion of a Sikh who was a stranger to me somehow worse than discounting the opinions of truck drivers who were also strangers to me? My point was: Jean and I didn’t care what people we would never see again might think about how we looked in our traveling duds. To make that point, I described the people who saw us. No more, no less. His perception of me was wholly presumptive – and false and insulting!


Where do these mostly unfounded, unproved, presumptuous, and false perceptions come from? In this particular case, I believe they came directly from the Left’s political tactics. Since the sixties, that has been a primary political strategy of theirs: to label Republicans “racists.” Hey, it worked on me, too. It’s dead-easy to win over uninformed, but well-meaning, people to your side that way. Because of my affection for Rod, I became aware, saw the unfairness and believed the rhetoric without any further thought. I didn’t know the history of either political party, their rationales, or anything else. I didn’t know, for example, that Democrats had run the segregationist, Jim Crow, South. I just saw a lot of political ads at election time – all of which were pure rhetoric. Democrats, apparently, were better at the racial rhetoric, and that was the issue I cared most about. Slam dunk!


Long before I had any serious interest in politics, I started making the connections between psychological advice-mongers and false perceptions. Next, I started making connections between PC mandates and unwanted educational outcomes. The “enemy” in my mind was junk social science. It wasn’t until I fully understood the influences of memes, culturally imposed beliefs, and our natural tendencies to conform to the norm, that I connected these bits of knowledge to purposeful, political strategies and tactics. Obviously, the propagandists knew what they were doing. They knew what buttons to push for each group they were trying to reach or keep.

In short, my evolution from Democrat to Republican grew from knowledge gained in other areas (neuropsychology, group psychology, human nature, etc.), and my subsequent recognition that the policies of the Democrat Party were, in fact, causing or exacerbating most of the unwanted results I was seeing: the sustained delusion of rampant racism in America, a failing educational system, and the creation and maintenance of a very dysfunctional black ghetto culture.

When the underlying premise of a social experiment is wrong, unexpected results will follow. In my view, instead of achieving parity, the Left’s instituted policies achieved further racial and political alienation. As soon as I looked back and noted how race relations and assimilation had progressed under the old (naturally formed) rules, I had to conclude that for many, it’s gotten much worse under the new rules. I count myself with those for whom it has gotten worse, but the real victims are those whose trespasses have been automatically forgiven – poor black people.

The only question left for me was: Did the Left know what it was doing or not? Were the consequences of their policies intended or accidental?


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We are serializing on this blog Judy Axtell's memoir, BUT...AT WHAT COST, available in paperback from its publisher, Outskirts Press, as well as from online booksellers like amazon.com and bn.com. I am proud to have been her coach and editor for the book.

My coaching-writing-editing site is http://writeyourbookwithme.com.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

"Meeting and Marrying Marty,": from KIDNAPPED TWICE


Within a few weeks after I returned to live with my father and Ann, I met my the man who was to become my first husband, at my third full-time job, American Felt Company in Newburgh, NY. I was working as the billing clerk for this large company. I would have to go out to the shipping department to get the shipping invoices so I could bill them. One day I walked out to get an invoice, and a tall, very handsome man was standing at the shipping desk waiting for the paperwork for the product he had just picked up.

He smiled at me, and we soon started dating. He was very charming and someone I thought I could have a future with. It was during a very challenging time for me, as I had just moved back to my father's house. The fire had taken place, and I was trying to survive having Ann again in my life. I knew I would not mind living somewhere else.

What I was seeing in Marty is what I wanted to see. He had a lot of friends, and I was flattered that someone that good-looking would want to go out with me. I never saw what I should have seen.

Within about a half a year, we got married. It took only a couple of weeks after that before I knew there were problems. He lost his job, and it was up to me to pay the bills, as I was the only one working.

Soon I was pregnant with my son, and I was sick every day. It was rough. We were living in a three-family house when I gave birth.

Approximately a year later, I was looking for a mobile home. My grandfather helped me purchase one, which we moved into. That mobile home would be my son's and my home for many years, and I was able to purchase land to move it to.

WEDDING GIFT MONEY

When I got married, my father was counting money as I was getting ready to go away. He looked at me and said that it was the money left over from money that my grandfather had given him to pay for the wedding. He said he was keeping it, as he needed it. He said he could not give me anything for a gift. How about a card, Dad?

MATERNITY, MARTY, MARTY, AND ME

We lived in a three-story house. A husband and wife were on the first floor. The sister of that wife lived with her husband on the second floor. My husband and I lived on the third floor.

There was very little privacy. The people on the floors below us could see whoever came or went from our apartment.

I went into labor with our baby, a son, also named Marty. When the day came to leave the hospital and go home with my baby, my husband sent one of his friends to pick me up from the hospital to bring me home.

I had never met this friend before, and his coming to get me was a shock. A few years later, my husband admitted to me that he did not come himself because he had to clean up our apartment. He and his friend had entertained other women there while I was in the hospital.

I was hurt and embarrassed. Not only had he been disloyal to me while I was giving birth, but also the living situation with the other families was such that all the people who were living in that house knew what had gone on while I was in the hospital.

Many years later, that friend of my husband sat me down and confessed that he was very sorry for what they had done.

Quickly, my life centered around my son and no one else!

AFFAIRS TO FORGET

My first marriage was hell right from the very beginning– so much pain.

My husband had many affairs: with next-door neighbors, babysitters, and women on the road when he traveled, even my friends, at least I had thought they were my friends. Once I received a telephone call from a girl who said that I used to baby-sit for her when I was younger. She told me that my husband was leaving me for her.

I remember asking my husband once if he loved me. He said he did not, but that if he ever did, I would be the first one to know.

One of our neighbors’ homes burned down. The husband sent his wife and son to stay with relatives, and we took him in so that he would be able to get to work in the town where we lived. This was to be until they could make other plans, as all of this happened unexpectedly. The man slept on our pull-out couch.

One night my husband came home. I was asleep in my room, my son in his, and my neighbor in the living room. I had taken a bath before I went to bed, as I always did. My husband could not get in the house; he had forgotten his key. When I finally heard him knocking, I got up and unlocked the door. He wanted to know what I was doing. I told him I had taken a bath and was sleeping. He went to the bathroom, felt the bathtub, said it was dry, so that I must’ve been fooling around with the neighbor, which was shocking not only to me but also to the neighbor.

After my husband stopped yelling, he went to a friend’s house and told them I was having an affair with the neighbor. That spread like wildfire, so this neighbor left and stayed with another friend!

Actually, when I finally broke up the marriage, my husband started writing letters to me and calling me, telling me how much he loved me. How totally insane it all was! After a few years went by, my husband and I became civil– friends even– and I could say I actually liked him…as long as I was not married to him.

My son did exactly what I had done, in his own life: everything that his father did or did not do my son did the opposite. My son is a wonderful father to his three daughters.

For many years I was unaware that my son’s father and grandmother, my mother-in-law, were saying bad things about me to him. I really do not know if I would have done anything differently if I had known this. I do know my son and I had a few tough years when he was in high school. Was this because of what he was being told? His father never paid child support, which was only $25 a week. I came up with that figure, as I felt it would be enough, given that I had a job. That was what the judge then ordered.

Each one of these affairs– or I’ll call them “incidents”– the neighbors, friends, babysitters I walked in on, and all the others I either found out about or he told me about later, after a few years had passed. Why he told me, I do not know.

One night my son was sick and his medication was at a drugstore. My husband, Marty, said he would pick up the meds. I waited and waited, yet no Marty, no meds. I had a Corvair at the time. I bundled my son up and put him in a blanket. I got in the car and started down the road and smoke came into the car so badly that I had to pull over and get my son out. The night was one of those very dark nights with no streetlights on the road. I could not see anything, as it was pitch black. Trying to carry my son and walking in the dark was very frightening. My son kept sliding down in the wrapping. It was very slippery. I finally made it home and started calling for my husband at different places where I thought he might be. There were no cell phones in those days. He was at a bar in town. I never got over this, as the meds were for our son, not for me!

There was an accident while I was still married to my son’s father. He had a large truck. I was working, and he took our son for a ride in the truck, then left him in the truck while he stopped somewhere to visit someone. I came home from work to find there was no one at home, but the truck was there. I walked over to my neighbor’s house, only to see that my son’s finger was wrapped in many layers of bandages. I asked what had happened and was told that my son had stuck his finger in a fan. I undid the wrapping on the finger to inspect it. It looked very, very bad. His finger was mangled. I took him to the hospital, the beginning of many trips to the surgeon who operated on the finger.

I’m not saying that my son never got hurt on my watch, but it never happened due to leaving him alone in a vehicle!

My son’s father’s mother and father were very good to my son. They were good grandparents. His grandfather died many years ago. His grandmother is still living. My son is making arrangements to have his grandmother live next to him and his family. He’s a wonderful son and grandson. We both agree it’s the right thing to do. I know it will be hard at times for him, but he will handle it.

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We are serializing Kidnapped Twice: Then Betrayed and Abandoned, by Mary E. Seaman and myself. The memoir tells of a terrible childhood followed by decades of slow recovery from it. Outskirts Press published it, and it can be obtained through them and through amazon.com and other on-line booksellers, in paperback or ebook format.

My writing-editing-coaching site is http://writeyourbookwithme.com.

"Uh,Oh, Politics," Ch.23 of memoir BUT...AT WHAT COST

I’ve been reading Dr. Charles Krauthammer’s book, Things That Matter. In it he visits all sorts of topics that are not overtly political – most are not “talking points” of either party – but, nevertheless, how anyone views each topic, be it art or dogs or language, can more or less define his political leanings. You see, life is politics. Unfortunately, there is no facet of your life that won’t be touched by those in charge of regulating it. Therefore, it’s best if each of us figures out what matters, why it matters, and to what degree it matters.

In the following chapters I will try to show what matters to me, why it matters, and to what degree it matters. It is up to the reader to decide which political party better represents the values that matter to him. For me, there is no question. I usually align with Conservative and/or Libertarian principles and policies. Maybe your priorities are different from mine; I get that. But, be aware before you pull the lever, that your choice will have consequences. You should use your common sense to figure out what those consequences might be and the effects they might have on the things that matter to you.

You should know what your party of choice stands for, why they stand for it, and to what extremes they will go to accomplish their goals. If you don’t assess your priorities and fully understand your options, you probably shouldn’t vote!

I liked the good old days. I’m not foolish enough to want to take back the technical advances and knowledge gained since then, but I sure as heck would like to get back to the good old days where values and morality are concerned. I can’t trace every technical advancement directly to a subsequent change in morality (as with the pill), but I can trace many changes in morality back to the political acceptance of new cultural beliefs. Culture and politics go hand-in-hand, each reinforcing the effects of the other.

It used to be that people were ashamed to go on the public dole. Most people had too much pride to admit they needed financial help and worked harder to prove they didn’t. Not so true, anymore. Many people seem more willing to abandon their previously held moral values (taking care of one’s self and family) for the chance to get something for nothing. I see that as a pretty dramatic change in cultural belief to have happened in just fifty years or so. It took a concerted effort to achieve that change in moral thinking – a political effort, I think.

A person I respected once said on the subject of morality, “Unless a behavior is illegal, you shouldn’t judge the person.” Really? Morality, ethics and values don’t matter? If something is legal, it’s okay? Well, I can think of many actions that are legal, but wrong. I no longer respect that person’s opinion very much – well intentioned, maybe, but somewhat shallow and knee-jerk.

Sometimes, legislators and judges get it wrong and sometimes morality can’t be or shouldn’t be legislated because it’s none of the government’s business – and/or it’s unconstitutional. In the U.S.A., religion has declined as an influencing factor on moral choice, and the media have more or less defined and prescribed the new morality – which at best, is very wishy-washy on right and wrong unless it suits their political agenda.

I know scores of people whose views of morality have changed over the years – some for the better (on race), but most for the worse. There have always been people with different values from mine, and some with few, if any, recognizable values at all, but there are more of them now… in every area of life, and across the entire economic spectrum. It seems moral and ethical considerations have all but been abandoned. Those of us who would return a buck when given too much change are laughed at instead of admired; we are considered “suckers” for not taking advantage of mistakes or available government programs.

Many cheat on applications. In fact, ways to cheat are offered on applications… if you qualify as part of an “underachieving” minority group, for example, checking that box might give you a leg up in being accepted in college or being hired. Why? What does ethnicity have to do with anything relevant to performance or diversity when you’ve never been near a reservation or a ghetto or experienced any presumed hardship from being a minority group member? It’s all so phony – done to inflate the “make-nice” and performance statistics. Is that ethical? No way is it ethical. Manipulating statistics for any reason is legal, but WRONG! And nobody seems to care.

Elizabeth Warren is the best modern example I can think of to demonstrate and measure the increase in this kind of unethical behavior. It was wrong for Harvard to tout her as a Native American employee; it was wrong for her to try to take advantage of her heritage when it’s irrelevant, and it was wrong for the electorate of Massachusetts to not give a damn when they elected her to the Senate. Maybe she didn’t lie exactly, but neither did she or the voters recognize the inherent unfairness of pursuing such a policy. Fifty years ago more folks would have noticed and cared. Now, they don’t – “Everybody does it” is everyone’s excuse for a behavior each knows is wrong. Our young people are being trained to be immoral. I don’t know what Elizabeth Warren’s motivation was, but lots of white kids filling out college applications don’t hesitate to check any box that might gain them an advantage – and why wouldn’t they? They’re routinely screwed by affirmative action policies, so become willing to “level the playing field” for themselves. I don’t blame them (I guess), but it makes me very sad that we’ve created a society that has made unethical choices not only acceptable, but officially condoned.

How many folks look for and get government hand-outs and are proud instead of ashamed? How many women think they deserve the same salary as a man even though they’re less qualified and probably work fewer hours (e.g., through maternity leave and sick days) than a man holding the same position?

Having a child and not getting married is legal, as it should be. But is it acceptable to do this over and over again while being on welfare? Taking unemployment benefits and not looking for a job is done, too. Well, that’s not actually legal, but who’s going to find out? In many circles, these bad behaviors have become acceptable behaviors – despite all the economic problems these behaviors will necessarily cause in any country.

In my opinion, our moral decline – that is the acceptance of destructive and unethical behavior – one way or another – has caused most of our educational decline, our fiscal decline, and the rising disparity in incomes and outcomes; a disparity, by the way, which should be completely expected in an intellectually and morally diverse community.

I know it is hopelessly old-fashioned of me to expect young people not to be promiscuous. With the pill and abortions readily available, and sex being a primal urge, I guess promiscuity is hard to avoid these days. I even hesitate to call it a moral issue. In the biblical sense, it is, but I don’t view it as wrong in and of itself. It’s what comes after the promiscuity that’s often wrong and causes all the problems.

A friend of mine has two grandchildren, young men, who are in the middle of custody battles. In each case, the wife and girlfriend bowed out of the relationship after a minimal trial run, and apparently with few second thoughts. The kids and the fathers are suffering greatly. Personally, I don’t think these two girls, and I hesitate to call them women because of their selfishness, tried hard enough. They did not think of the kids’ welfare or their mates’ welfare, only their own momentary needs and interests. I expect more than that from adults with adult responsibilities. Our society, however, does not. More often, we change our laws and cultural expectations to suit the new morality – even though the new morality is driving the country into the ground.

The following chapters, I hope, will demonstrate how the political policies of the Left have caused many of the changes in our moral and ethical (culturally imposed) expectations. Policies have consequences… and it is best to acknowledge how those policies are born. Most often, they are not born out of genuine need for change; they are generated from propaganda and advertising.

For example, people didn’t always use deodorant. Some self-interested entity (deodorant manufacturers) convinced us we needed it – that body odor is bad. Those ads worked. Smelling good became a cultural expectation, and now almost everyone wears it or suffers the consequences of rejection.

Politics operates the same way – convince unwary, potential buyers they need something. It doesn’t particularly matter if they need it or not; they just have to think they do. Just like deodorant, counseling, PC mantras, climate change initiatives, or any other product, people first must be convinced it’s necessary. Our job, as consumers of political rhetoric, is to recognize if the need is real or not. Usually, it’s not. It’s a manufactured need created to secure a voting bloc. That’s why politicians so often speak from both sides of their mouths. What’s good for one group isn’t always good for the rest of us… or I might add, for anyone – including the group it’s framed for. Read on, please.

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We are serializing Judy Axtell's memoir, But...at What Cost, published by Outskirts Press and available from on-line booksellers like amazon.com. I am proud to have coached Judy and edited the book.

My writing-editing-coaching site is http://writeyourbookwithme.com.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Stepchildren at Risk: the Cinderella Effect

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.


A step-daughter or step-son is about 100 times more likely to suffer child abuse or even murder than is a child who is the offspring of the two parents. This shocking statistic holds pretty much around the world and can best be explained by the tendency of parents to further the well-being of those related to them genetically, in line with the premises of sociobiology and evolution.

The hundred-fold increase in child abuse associated with step-parenting has been a major theme of the research work done by Professors Martin Daly and the late Margo Wilson. They presented their work in their 1998 book, The Truth about Cinderella, and defended its genetic / evolutionary arguments at length in a review article [Daly and Wilson, 2008].

With more divorces and separations, spouses are being replaced by stepparents and "lovers," putting children at greater risk.

Reference:

Daly M. & Wilson M. (2008) Is the “Cinderella effect” controversial? A case study of evolution-minded research and critiques thereof. Pp. 381-398 in C.B. Crawford & D. Krebs, eds., Foundations of Evolutionary Psychology. Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum


 


Saturday, March 7, 2015

"End of an Era," Ch. 20 of BUT...AT WHAT COST

Because of my experience with ESL (English as a Second Language) and my contributions to developing new techniques, the powers in the agency had asked me to become a tutor trainer. I went through the extensive training and was gradually added to the ranks. I was moving up, and eventually, I and the other mucky-mucks gradually instituted what we hoped was a better program that concentrated more on techniques and resource material than on “why Juan needs help.” The original program (the one I had taken) had emphasized something all of us already knew – that Juan did, indeed, need help. That was why we were there.

It took years, and there is always room for improvement, but by 2010 we had it the way we wanted it. Enter the State of New York. They wanted us to install a comprehensive, state-wide tutor training program with guaranteed funding. In other words, do it our way, or else no money. I went to their seminars and evaluated their plans. Soon after, I handed in my resignation:

“To Whom It May Concern:

“It is with great regret I resign my position at Literacy Orange (LO). I have worked hard, helped many, learned a lot, and thoroughly enjoyed my nearly ten-year association with students, tutors and staff. I believe in our mission ‘to improve lives through literacy,’ but over the years I have watched that mission countermanded by the dictates of funding agencies and now Literacy New York (LNY). Put simply, I refuse to jump through hoops in order to comply with demands I find unnecessary, burdensome, expensive and intrusive.

“But this isn’t about me. I fear for the future of Literacy Orange. In my opinion, it is about to be regulated out of existence. Five of us represented LO at White Eagle for three days of training in LNY’s new tutor-training initiative. Not cheap. On our return we learned those seminars were just the beginning. A much bigger time and financial investment would be required to participate. (This came as a complete surprise to all the attendees and in my opinion was a deceitful withholding of information.) I have no doubt their demands will continue… every module they complete, every tweak they recommend may necessitate expenditures for further training. I suspect their new bureaucratic demands may require the hiring of more employees too. And to whose benefit?

“Requiring competent, experienced trainers to change their training programs to one that is in all likelihood inferior is crazy! Yes, there are parts of their program that could be incorporated into affiliates’ courses, but I have no confidence that LNY’s arbitrary choices are any better than ours. Having to hire employees to file irrelevant data (test scores and hours) is not cost effective. Suffice it to say, I think it’s not in anyone’s best interest for LO to allow itself to be held hostage by funding agencies and/or parent organizations. The more they require, the more it costs. The more it costs, the more funding we need. It’s an unsustainable circle that I fear will ultimately destroy LO. Bigger is NOT better.

“I think the community would be better served if LO used ‘KISS’ (keep it simple, stupid) as its guiding motto. Tutoring is not rocket science. I’m certain I could take any willing and able adult off the street, talk to him for an hour, hand him a copy of ‘Side by Side’ (the best instruction manual I’ve found) and send him on his way. The only things a literacy agency really needs to supply for the tutors of ESL are students and some resource materials.

“Our paid staff is caring, hard-working and very competent, but I think we’ve reached a point that most of the services they provide are neither cost-effective nor relevant to student or tutor performance. I believe we could spend less than half the money now spent and still maintain the same results… if overseeing bodies would butt out (if you’ll excuse the expression).

“I know… therein lies the rub. Non-profits in general and LO specifically are in the untenable position of existing at the mercy of self-appointed ‘experts’ and politicians whose missions may be different from our own. We simply want to help people and they want to get measurable, statistically meaningful results. Well, the dedication of tutors (and their impact on their students’ lives) isn’t measurable. Tutors are often mentors. Before students gain competency, tutors may help register children in school or talk to a doctor or read a lease. The list is endless. Most tutors do much, much more than teach reading and/or English. And I, for one, would hate to see that change. LNY’s stated goal is to make the affiliates ‘more professional.’ What does that mean? I fear it means they want us to be more like BOCES; they already compare our results to those of BOCES (which is another point to add to the ‘crazy’ list). In my opinion, ‘professionalizing’ would irreparably damage the heart and soul of Literacy Orange. We were not intended to be a professional organization nor do we need to be to achieve our mission.

“In closing, I must note that I have committed to the October training (if we use the old program). I will, of course, honor that commitment if you so choose, but not as an employee. I am a volunteer; that’s all I ever wanted to be.

“Sincerely,

Judy Axtell”

So, I am left with my fond memories, a wealth of cultural knowledge, invaluable insights, “priceless” friendships, and few regrets.
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We are serializing Judy Axtell's memoir, But...at What Cost. In this chapter, Judy is on her journey from liberal to conservative, and she finds bureaucracy too constricting. I am proud to have coached and edited for the book, which is published by Outskirts Press and is available in paperback through amazon.com, other on-line book sellers, and Outskirts Press.

My writing-coaching-editing site is http://writeyourbookwithme.com.