Transgenderism Marches Onward
There’s long been the transgender “T” at the end of LGBT, but focus remained on the lesbian “L” and the gay “G.” Until recently. Now that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay and lesbian marriages, transgenderism is the new hot topic. It’s unclear when the “B” that stands for bisexual will come to the forefront.
Although estimated to be a lifestyle chosen by fewer than 0.3% of the population, big changes at schools and in public spaces are underway to provide accommodations to transgender students, teachers, and staff. Sometimes those accommodations put others at risk.
Children as young as kindergarten are now exposed to questions of gender, and given confusing lessons that ask them whether they feel like a boy or a girl. Many say some children are being encouraged to disregard their actual biological sex.
Some parents and public officials believe the desires of a few are endangering the rights and safety of children. The impact on women’s rights according to Title IX, particularly in sports, could be called a war on women.
Some parents and politicians are pushing back against activists. Their efforts may have little chance of succeeding because the federal deck is stacked on the side of rejecting biology. On June 27, the Heritage Foundation received clarification from the Department of the Interior that the National Park system abides by President Obama’s transgender bathroom and shower policies. On June 30, another branch of government confirmed its denial of biological sex differences. The military will not only allow people to serve openly as whichever sex they choose, regardless of their physical attributes, but the military will also provide hormone therapy and sex-change operations.
NC Holding Fast
The Obama Justice Department and the Department of Education threatened to sue North Carolina if they didn’t comply and repeal HB-2, a law that requires males and females to use school facilities according to the sex listed on their birth certificates.
After the North Carolina legislature passed and the governor signed HB-2, the mainstream media began to relentlessly attack the state. Entertainers cancelled shows. The Department of Justice filed suit against North Carolina, demanding that the law be repealed.
North Carolina’s Republican Governor Pat McCrory made it known that he has no intention of repealing the law. In fact, on the same day the Justice Department filed suit against him, he filed a lawsuit against it.
More States Join NC Fight
When Obama issued a sweeping federal guideline meant to bully North Carolina and any other states that might not comply with his transgender vision, several states stood with North Carolina.
Texas, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have joined the lawsuit that North Carolina filed against the Obama administration. They accuse it of turning “educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over common sense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”
Teachers unions, activists with whom the union aligns, and federal officials want to transform the nation into a social justice battleground. The National Education Association (NEA) union is allied with various radical transgender organizations, including Gender Spectrum and the Trans Youth Equality Foundation.
The NEA states that children should be “addressed by the name and pronoun that corresponds to their gender identity” and that students should be told there doesn’t need to be a change on their records in order to change their gender identity. At many schools, parents have no part in gender identity changes; they are neither asked nor informed. It’s left up to the child and the school.
Making It Seem Accepted by All
Reports and polls about what other people think sometimes influence public opinion. If everyone else seems to accept something, some individuals will wonder if their thinking is somehow flawed, and question whether they should change their position.
A poll taken about North Carolina’s law stating people must use facilities according to their actual sex seemed to say that North Carolina residents resoundingly oppose the law. It was widely reported, including in the Los Angeles Times, that only 35% of North Carolinians support the law, making it seem like legislators passed and the governor signed a law that few in the state wanted. But those who read the actual poll question will discover the sneakiness of pollsters with an agenda.
In April, RABA Research pollsters asked 688 North Carolina voters: “Do you approve or disapprove of HB-2, the state’s new anti-transgender law?” Most people would certainly respond that they are against an “anti-transgender law.” Pollsters asked a loaded question that sought not public opinion, but confirmation of their preconceived opinion.
In May, a Rasmussen poll of 1,000 people indicated that 33% of those questioned support Obama’s Department of Education shared-bathroom policy. They found these results:
“Fifty percent (50%) of Democrats favor allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of the gender they identify with. Just 13% of Republicans and 30% of adults not affiliated with either of the major political parties agree.”
Pollsters asked this question: “Do you favor or oppose allowing transgender students to use the bathrooms of the opposite biological sex?” Among those who have school-aged children, those most affected by the policy, 55% opposed federally imposed shared bathrooms and 13% are “unsure.” This question only addressed bathrooms, not locker rooms and showers that are to be shared in the Obama administration transformation.
Last November, after the Obama administration directive about sharing all facilities to Illinois School District 211, Rasmussen asked the question, “Do you favor or oppose allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex?” The response was 64% negative. (RassmussenReports.com, 5-17-16 and 11-6-15)
Will Feminists Stand Up for Girls?
Only a few liberal voices seem to be worried about the safety and rights of young women. One is Kathleen Sloan, who formerly held leadership positions in the National Organization for Women. In an article she wrote opposing a proposal to add gender identity protections to the Delaware Constitution, Sloan says, “The politics of the gender identity movement that is sweeping the country is bringing with it a multitude of problems for women and girls.”
Sloan continues, “To women’s rights advocates and feminist leaders like me, laws that include gender identity raise a number of red flags for their unintended consequences for women.” Sloan is concerned about physical safety for women and girls, and “the loss of safe sex-segregated spaces such as public bathrooms, changing rooms, and even domestic violence shelters.” She says, “When access to such public spaces is based only on a subjective belief that one is a woman, this effectively allows men to claim a gender identity and enter women’s spaces at any time.” Sloan says, “I implore Delaware’s legislators to consider these realities and remove the gender identity portion of the equal protection bill; do it for women’s sake — your own, your partner’s, your daughter’s, and your sister’s.” (DailyWire.com, 6-24-16)
Women Athletes an Endangered Species
Another issue is men who feel like women competing against female athletes. Although Title IX has nothing to do with gender identity, government officials say protections for transgender students are guaranteed by that 1972 statute that was meant to assure females equal education and school sports participation and funding.
At a recent track meet in Alaska, a female who is usually a top competitor was beat out of a competition by a male whose gender identity tells him he’s a female. But he has the upper body strength, larger lung capacity, and all other male attributes that make him stronger and give him more endurance than most women.
Illinois Families Sue District
District 211 in Illinois is accommodating a male who wishes to be a female in the girls’ locker room with use of screens. Thirty-one parents and students are suing the district because they believe this is an infringement on the privacy of students.
The Obama administration threatened this district outside of Chicago with the withdrawal of federal funds and forced them to capitulate. For more complete coverage of this Illinois district’s dilemma, see Education Reporter April and May editions.
Regarding the change in military policy that makes the government responsible for so-called sex-change surgery, the Secretary of Defense claims it has something to do with the U.S. Constitution. The Heritage Foundation explains it differently, and in a way that applies to all the other transgender issues. On June 30, Heritage wrote at DailySignal.com: “This decision has nothing to do with the Constitution and everything to do with politics and a gender ideology run amok.”
Kentucky’s CC Adventure
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world and the chief private funder of Common Core standards, released a letter in May of 2016 in which the foundation’s CEO, Dr. Susan Desmond-Hellmann, addresses the philanthropy’s experiment with Common Core. She held up Kentucky as a poster child for Common Core. The only evidence of any success she cites is a small increase in ACT scores. Since the Gates Foundation brought up Kentucky, a closer look at the state is warranted.
Kentucky was so anxious to adopt Common Core that the state did so before the final drafts of the standards were even complete. Since 2010, Kentucky students and teachers have done everything Common Core demands. Early efforts were mounted to bring parents and citizens on board through public relations campaigns that were funded by the Gates Foundation. Common Core in Kentucky is called Kentucky Core Academic Standards, but it’s Common Core.
In November of 2011, the Gates Foundation gave the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce Foundation a grant of almost half-a-million dollars for K-12 Common Core promotion. The Chamber used some of the money to produce and disseminate a Common Core promotional video in which 75 business executives endorsed the standards.
In February of 2013, the Gates Foundation gave the University of Kentucky $1 million “to support the launch of a new Center for Innovation in Education to advance implementation of the Common Core and more personalized learning for students and teachers that will enable young people to graduate career and college ready.” Personalized learning is code for computer-directed learning, which in many cases demotes teachers to the position of room monitor.
In May of 2013, the Gates Foundation gave the National Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) $660,422 “to educate parents and communities on the Common Core State Standards and provide support for district leaders.” How much of this grant was funneled into Kentucky is unknown, but slick Kentucky-specific Common Core-promoting Microsoft Power Point presentations are available at the Kentucky PTA website.
In 2013, the Gates Foundation gave the National Education Association teachers union foundation a grant in the amount of $501,580, specifically “to support Common Core implementation in Kentucky.”
Any opposition to Common Core that there might have been in Kentucky was outgunned and outspent. Note that the Kentucky-specific NEA grant was in addition to the July of 2013 grant of $3.8 million that the Gates Foundation gave to the NEA Foundation, the purpose of which is listed as “to support a cohort of National Education Association Master Teachers in the development of Common Core-aligned lessons in K-5 mathematics and K-12 English Language Arts.” And that money is in addition to another July of 2013 grant of $3.2 million that the Gates Foundation gave to the NEA Foundation, purportedly “to support the capacity of state NEA affiliates to advance teaching and learning issues and student success in collaboration with local affiliates.” That’s a whole lot of 2013 cash given to the NEA teachers union by the Gates Foundation!
Despite the glut of cash from Gates given to various Common Core cheerleading squads, something has happened in Kentucky since 2010 — Common Core failed.
Gates Foundation CEO Desmond-Hellmann chose to tout Kentucky’s small increase in ACT scores in her annual letter. But despite slick promotions and diligent efforts on the part of Kentucky teachers to learn what Common Core is and how to comply, more than five years after implementation, the states’ students have registered no improvement on NAEP tests, the Nation’s Report Card. There was no correlative increase on the other college admission test, the SAT. This is especially convicting because non-educator David Coleman, the “architect of Common Core,” changed jobs in order to align SAT tests with Common Core.
At the beginning of 2016, Kentucky Republican legislators called repeal of Common Core their first priority. Republican Governor Matt Bevin ran a winning campaign focusing on opposition to Common Core. In fact, all four candidates in the Republican primary for governor opposed Common Core. When the Common Core-aligned tests were first administered in Kentucky in 2012, scores plummeted compared to previous state test results. Parents were assured that this was temporary because of new “higher, better” standards. But no improvement has occurred in the following years, either on state tests or on NAEP.
Results have been the worst for African-American students. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, testing in the spring of 2015 found that 33% of black students in elementary school were proficient in reading, versus 58% of white students. In math, the breakdown was 31% to 52%.
Dissatisfaction with Common Core is evident in Kentucky. The number of families choosing to homeschool continues to grow. One county lost so many students that they made plans to randomly audit homeschoolers in an attempt to find families’ efforts lacking, and then force students back into district schools. Once the Homeschool Legal DefenseAssociation (HSLDA) found out about this, they informed Clinton County that such audits would be illegal under state law. What Clinton County is after is the money they don’t get when a family homeschools. (The district also doesn’t have the expense of educating that child.) Homeschooling in Clinton County, Kentucky has grown at a rate of 10-15% over the past few years. This is a major increase considering the commitment and sacrifices a family makes in order to homeschool. Leaving free neighborhood public schools isn’t a decision parents make on a whim.
The Gates Foundation has admitted that the Common Core standards push isn’t working. But Gates and his ilk aren’t giving up. Instead, they’re putting the blame on teachers, on textbooks, and on bad implementation. What they’re not admitting is that standards created at the behest of billionaires and developed by mostly non-educators and imposed on teachers and students, without ever being approved by voters or parents, is a bad idea. (GatesFoundation.org) (DailyCaller.com, 1-8-16) (HechingerReport.org, 5-22-16) (HSLDA.org, 5-23-16)
Senior Prom 2.0
When students at one Florida high school were making plans for their own annual prom, they decided to also throw a party for residents of a local nursing home. Students at the Terra Environmental Research Institute (TERRA), a public, magnet high school in Miami-Dade County, Florida, provided men and women ranging in age from 80 to 101 with their very own “senior” prom.
The director of the Palace Nursing & Rehab Center in Miami said:
“Teenagers don’t see wrinkles. They don’t see frailty. They see someone new — someone they want to learn from. The elderly have so much knowledge to give to the students, and vice versa, the elderly need the young to bring the spirit.”
She added, “The kids did a great job.”
Students celebrated the event with 75 senior citizens and some of their family members. The party included a prom court, refreshments, music, and dancing, sometimes improvised a bit since some residents are in wheelchairs. A student wearing the school mascot wolf costume was on hand for the festivities.
TERRA’s 17-year-old student-government president said before the event that she hoped students would interact with residents and make them “feel special.” She said that the reason for the event was “just to show them that their community loves and cares about them.”
The high school principal said the students are “very, very kind.” She expressed her belief that it’s great when younger people show respect and care for their elders.
TERRA High School is open to Miami-Dade area applicants who want to specialize in Environmental Research, Biomedical Research, and/or Robotics and engineering. (ABCNews, 4-22-16)
Obama’s Odd Graduation Speech
Graduation speeches are a time when young people will listen to their elders. It’s an opportunity for older people to impart some hard-earned wisdom on young ears. On May 7, 2016, President
Barack Obama gave the Commencement Ceremony speech at Howard University in Washington, D.C. Students at the historically black college are 91% African-American, with an additional 3.5% “ n o n – r e s i d e n t alien,” some of which could be black foreigners. The rest of the student population is about 1.3% Asian, 1.5% white, and 2% American Indian or Alaskan Native, but the President’s remarks were aimed at African-Americans. He said, “[E]ven as we each embrace our own beautiful, unique, and valid versions of our blackness, remember the tie that does bind us as African-Americans — and that is our particular awareness of injustice and unfairness and struggle.”
Obama said, “America is a better place today than it was when I graduated from college.” He graduated from Columbia University in 1983. Obama told the graduates that at that time, “Our nation had gone through years of economic stagnation.” But he failed to tell students that was at the hands of hapless Democrat President Jimmy Carter. Obama also didn’t tell the graduates that it was the policies of Republican President Ronald Reagan that resuscitated the economy. Nor did he give Reagan credit for the fall of the Berlin Wall, although Obama mentioned that positive event in his speech.
The President exhorted graduates to always vote; it seems a given from the partisan tone of his speech that he means for them to vote for Democrats. After calling attention to “mass incarceration,” “criminal justice reform,” and “better policing,” he suggested:
“Mobilize the community, present them with a plan, work with them to bring about change, hold them accountable if they do not deliver. Passion is vital, but you’ve got to have a strategy. And your plan better include voting — not just some of the time, but all the time.”
Obama praised Black Lives Matter activists. He said:
“It’s thanks in large part to the activism of young people like many of you, from Black Twitter to Black Lives Matter, that America’s eyes have been opened — white, black, Democrat, Republican — to the real problems, for example, in our criminal justice system.”
He also gave lip-service support to police officers, who are the stated enemy of the Black Lives Matter movement, which maintains that officers target African-American citizens. Speaking about a racial profiling law and a law that police must record confessions on video, which he claims to have “helped” pass when he was an Illinois Senator, Obama said:
“I understood, as many of you do, the overwhelming majority of police officers are good, and honest, and courageous, and fair, and love the communities they serve. And we knew there were some bad apples, and that even the good cops with the best of intentions — including, by the way, African-American police officers — might have unconscious biases, as we all do.”
In his speech, Obama made the unusual choice to emphasize “luck.” He said:
“And that means we have to not only question the world as it is, and stand up for those African-Americans who haven’t been so lucky — because, yes, you’ve worked hard, but you’ve also been lucky. That’s a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they’ve been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did.” [sic]
The double negative “it wasn’t nothing” is odd wording when addressing young people on the day they celebrate their college education, where they presumably learned proper English (and that double negatives translate to a positive). Some might believe that to tell these new graduates that their accomplishments are the result of luck is bizarre. It’s nice that Obama gave some credit to God.
Obama offered a positive suggestion to universities and to college students, in general, when he suggested that they allow speakers who don’t toe the leftist line a place in their community discourse. He said, “There’s been a trend around the country of trying to get colleges to disinvite speakers with a different point of view, or disrupt a politician’s rally. Don’t do that — no matter how ridiculous or offensive you might find the things that come out of their mouths.” Then he said, “Because as my grandmother used to tell me, every time a fool speaks, they are just advertising their own ignorance.” It’s a shame that the president believes those who disagree with the liberal viewpoint are ignorant, and that he shared that outlook with these young people.
A Pew Research poll about race relations was released in June. One finding is that 61% of blacks believe “race relations are generally bad.” President Obama did his part to make sure that belief holds true for the Howard University graduates. He said, “I can guarantee you — you will have to deal with ignorance, hatred, racism, foolishness, trifling folks.” Some of their professors may have told these students the same thing. Let’s hope the graduates find their places in the world, and that they don’t have the experiences Obama expects them to have.
The full speech can be read at WhiteHouse.gov or watched on YouTube.
According to the March NEA Today, “the number of students who say they will major in education has reached its lowest point in 45 years,” with only 4.2% of students intending to major in education, compared to 11% in 2000. “Enrollment is down 53% over the past five years” in California teacher-training programs. The NEAteachers union claims young people “want to be teachers and union activists.” But National Public Radio reported in March of 2015 that potential teachers are turned off by “an increasingly bitter, politicized environment.” Other reasons for the decline include Common Core and a focus on high-stakes testing.
The board of the Encinitas School District in California, long a hotbed of debate over teaching yoga in schools, will devote $410k to pay yoga teachers. Increased funding angers parents who already lost a lawsuit that attempted to do away with yoga in schools because they believe it has religious implications. This expense is a particularly bitter pill to swallow in a cash-strapped district where parents volunteer to teach art to keep it in the curriculum. One parent says, “Accelerated math is no longer offered, lab science is not offered, reading specialists are funded by parents, music is funded by parents, art is taught by parents.” The Encinitas superintendent of schools serves on the advisory board for the Sonima Foundation, a yoga promoter. (10News.com, 6-21-16)
In a move “spearheaded by environmentalists,” the school board in Portland, Oregon, unanimously approved the removal of all textbooks that leave any room for debate about global warming, which they now call climate change. The resolution calls on the “school district to get rid of textbooks or other materials that cast doubt on whether climate change is occurring and that the activity of human beings is responsible.” Activists worry when some science textbooks contain “words like ‘might,’ ‘may’ and ‘could’ when talking about climate change.” The district will also develop “curriculum and educational opportunities that address climate change and climate justice in all Portland Public Schools.” (Portland Tribune, 5-19-16)
The National Association of Scholars’ critique of the College Board’s revised Advanced Placement European History course finds it to be a “hollowed out version of history.” The Disappearing Continent exposes the fact that “the history of religion, the history of liberty, and the history of Britain,” which should be at the heart of the standards, now “get minimal treatment.” (NAS.org, 6-14-16)
Book of the Month
Raising Kids Who Read: What Parents and Teachers Can Do, Daniel T. Willingham, Ph.D., Jossey-Bass Publishing, 2015, $26.95
Dr. Willingham is a University of Virginia professor, specializing in cognitive psychology in K-16 education or “the science of reading.” This book doesn’t just promote reading, but gives specific directions for making reading happen.
Not everyone will agree with all the author’s suggested tactics, and not every tip will suit every child. But this book is a treasure trove of ideas and strategies, among which are many that could be just the ticket to turn even reluctant children into reading enthusiasts.
Willingham compares the various activities from which children can choose and determines, “Only reading elicits your contribution to the experience by demanding you mentally create the world described.” He says the act of reading in and of itself is the best way to assure “good decoding, comprehension, and motivation.” What we need to know is how to get children to read, even if it’s not their first choice of activity. Some children must be taught that reading is a pleasurable activity.
The author is unwilling to accept that “some kids are just destined not to be readers.” He encourages teachers and parents to never give up and never “back off” trying to encourage children to love reading. He explains how children learn to read and why it’s important that they read proficiently and enjoy reading for recreation, as well as to find out information.
Specific recommendations to teachers and parents are divided into three sections, according to age: birth through preschool, K through second grade, and third grade and beyond.
When reading to very young children, show them the words and the pictures, how pages turn, and impart the general idea that we read from left to right. An expressive voice helps engage little people. Ham it up!
The kindergarten through second grade section offers many suggestions to get children reading and writing on their own. They include leaving notes for children around the house, having them bring in and sort the mail by recipient, and encouraging them to add items to the family grocery list.
At bedtime, parents can try asking, “What do we do at seven-o’clock?” This alternative to the command, “It’s bedtime,” encourages and models curiosity, participation, and interest.
Wellingham offers suggestions for encouraging what he calls the reluctant reader. He suggests a librarian might quiz the child about his interests and then be able to find matching books. He says, “Librarians are a vastly under appreciated resource.”
FOCUS: Charter Schools 25 Years Later — and What to Expect in the Future
by Nancy Bailey
Originally published at NancyBailey.com on June 5, 2016. Reprinted with permission.
“The charter movement has since expanded to include 43 states plus the District of Columbia, and over 2.5 million students — or about 5% of the total K-12 public student population.” Education Week
Charter schools are 25 years old. My, how time flies.
On June 3, 2016, Education Week printed an interview with Ember Reichgott Junge, the Democratic state senator who sponsored the charter school legislation first signed into law in Minnesota.
School reformers have always sold charter schools as exciting and groundbreaking schools, but, as most know, and as you can see from Reichgott Junge’s interview, charter schools, in general, never lived up to the hype.
Charter School Corruption
First, Reichgott Junge speaks a lot about how charter schools continue to need autonomy.
But if you search Google for “charter school corruption,” and any state with approved charter schools, you will find a lot of problems with autonomy.
That’s not to say there aren’t some decent charter schools. But the sad reality is that many individuals have used charter schools to bilk the country of tax dollars that were meant for real public schools. And we have seen little accountability.
How much money has been lost to corrupt charter operators? I’m not sure. One 2014 study by Integrity in Education found $100 million in tax dollars was wasted in just 15 states.
Charter Schools Lack Innovation
What everyone also knows is that, after 25 years, most charter schools have not turned out to be the laboratories of invention we were promised.
Most charters get tough on children and don’t teach those who have the largest number of difficulties. But that’s truly not innovation.
Even Reichgott Junge admits there is little innovation. Charter schools run much like traditional public schools. Almost everyone agrees that charter schools have not been the innovative schools they were supposed to be.
Teachers, who used to hear how charter schools would be schools that would fix what they couldn’t, can’t say that enough. Charter schools have done nothing innovative.
So why celebrate 25 years of mostly charter school failure?
Entrepreneurs — Not Educators
Reichgott Junge makes some excuses and claims sometimes charters don’t get the federal funding they need to let trained entrepreneurial leaders be innovative.
Note. Entrepreneurs is a business-like word.
The business sense in me says that is one of the problems with charter schools.
Why Have Charter Schools?
Also, the fact that in 25 years if charter schools haven’t been innovative or given public schools anything new to think about, isn’t it time to turn off the funding spigot?
If so-called entrepreneurs want to start a school—let them start a private school and invest their own money or the money of the venture philanthropists.
Instead, Reichgott Junge ponders whether it would be better to make charter operators present something unique, a detailed plan, before the charter was approved.
But wasn’t that the original plan in regard to charter schools?
Reichgott Junge seems to understand the detailed plan part. But her timing is both late and troubling.
She claims future innovation should mean charter schools and traditional public schools work together. This raises the question, why have charter schools at all?
Personalized Learning — The Future for ALL Schools!
But here is what she sees as the future. Reichgott Junge says, “I’m looking more towards the innovation of personalized learning, of project-based learning, of what I call the 21st century learning.”
And she emphasizes charters and traditional schools should work together on future innovation.
I think she is implying ALL schools need to do online personalized instruction.
“Personalized instruction” involves continually assessing student skills as they progress towards online goals. How data will be used has raised privacy concerns. While personalized learning enthusiasts claim teachers are still a part of student learning, the role of the teacher changes drastically. Teachers become facilitators who keep order in the classroom. Students are encouraged to self-manage their academic work and school progress.
What a jump! From 25 years of nothing unique to a future of more unproven experimentation! How much longer will it take the American people to demand their tax dollars be spent on quality public schooling instead of unproven tripe?
No celebration here.
Nancy Bailey is a former special education teacher who holds a B.S. an M.Ed, and a Ph.D. She says, “I left teaching due to the current reforms that are taking over the nation’s classrooms.” At her website NancyBailey.com, she explores the problems facing public education. Her second book, Losing America’s Schools: The Fight to Reclaim Public Education, has just been published by Rowman and Littlefield.
If a Police Officer Gave a Commencement Speech
by Tim “TC” Cotton
This is a condensed version of the Commencement Speech that Sergeant Tim Cotton of the Bangor, Maine Police Department would have given, had he been asked to give one. It was first posted on the department’s Facebook page on June 5, 2016, and is reprinted with permission.
Graduation. Off to college, trade school, the military, a new job, a road trip across
America. I would personally opt for the latter. Let it be known that ol’ TC has never been a true conformist. I think random travel with very few plans is the best thing for a headache. And believe me, the headaches are about to begin.
We know that high school is difficult. The thing is, as time goes on, you will look back and remember how great it was to have most of your days planned for you. A list of classes and break times. Practice for sports or drama or whatever other sanctioned endeavors you were involved in. In 10 years, it will be remembered as a pretty good gig.
Right now? Not so much. You are ready to spread your wings. I can almost hear the song, “I Believe I Can Fly.” Actually I can’t hear it at all because I really don’t like that song. It’s over-played and, I want to be honest with you, you can’t fly. Yes, the imagery is beautiful and I understand the good feelings it can bring. But I am going to recommend a great road trip song and I think the lyrics are more in line with my feelings about enjoying life and mucking through the bad days because, every now and then, you will have a great one.
It’s “Days Like These” by Asia. Add it to your music list and listen to the lyrics. Just do it. You don’t have to admit it to your friends. I understand that most of you were not born when this song came out. That makes it retro. Fully acceptable for hipsters.
Let me give you a few more tips. You might never listen to me if you ran into me at a graduation party because I would be eating too much onion dip and might (would) have residue of your aunt’s ambrosia salad stuck to the lapel of my leisure suit.
1. Gather up two twenty-dollar bills, two ten-dollar bills, and two five-dollar bills. Fold them very tightly and stuff them somewhere accessible. Not too accessible. Debit cards are fine but American cash will get someone to pull you out of a ditch, help you get a cab, purchase pizza, a bottle of water from a vendor, or a great concert tee shirt. Keep it for an emergency. Not for day-to-day expenses. Try to “almost” forget that you have it. It gives you confidence when the power goes out and ATMs don’t work.
2. Learn to check your own oil, windshield washer fluid, and air pressure in your tires. Make sure you can change your own tire in low light and wet conditions. It will be dark and raining when you have to do it. Trust me. When unscrupulous individuals are asked for help in some situations, they might take advantage. Better that you can do this on your own. If you think people are only trying to screw you over through the Internet and phone calls, think again. It has been going on in person for years.
3. Hug your parents. It’s embarrassing sometimes, but just do it. Give your mother and/or father a kiss. Tell them that you love them. If you can do this in front of all your friends, you will be able to speak in public when the time comes.
4. Learn to speak in front of groups. Hugging your parents in public will help you overcome the fear of public speaking. Public speaking will help you throughout the rest of you life.
5. When someone says, “Trust me,” back away slowly and reassess the situation.
As a police officer with hundreds of interviews under my belt, I’ll warn you about a few more phrases:
“Honest to God.”
“I will give you a special price but you need to buy it right now.”
“I’ll be right out.”
“To tell you the truth.”
“I don’t want to lie to you.”
“I think that’s all.” (This is always a lie).
You get the idea. Remember, these phrases are not always negative so make sure you look over the totality of the circumstances. Be careful and don’t trust everyone. Not everyone is worthy of your trust. Pay attention and surround yourself with people you do trust.
6. Treat people kindly. Look for people who need your help, not just people who ask for help. Sometimes the people that need help the most will not ask anyone. Pay attention.
7. When you meet someone for the first time and you don’t like them at all (this will happen), give them another chance. Some of my favorite people in the entire world are individuals that I did not like (at all) when I first met them. Most of my best friends did not like me at first.
8. Lastly, because I tend to go on way too long, treat the people that do the less desirable jobs better than the people doing the seemingly desirable jobs. Those are the people that make the rest of the world worth living in. Trust me. (Just this time because that was one of my warning phrases in #5).
Additionally, you can trust most cops. Seriously. When everything turns to crap and there is nowhere to go, find the police station. We tend to be helpful when people are in need. We won’t ask for your secret stash of cash. Don’t believe everything you see on T.V.
Keep your hands to yourself, leave other people’s things alone, and be kind to one another. The men and women of the Bangor Police Department will be here.
Sergeant Tim Cotton writes the Bangor, Maine Police Department’s Facebook commentary. He entertains and enlightens the page’s over 165,000 followers with his wit, humor, and wisdom. Readers and police also cooperate to solve local crimes. Sgt. Cotton has been a police officer for 28 years.