Christmas 2018

20 Dec

Have you  been out shopping lately, or are you doing the purchases online, like many Americans?  The stores are crazy-busy and the children are wailing up a storm, “I want thaaaaaaaat.”  The other day, I saw a new mom with her two-week old infant in her arms.  She was trying to shop while tending to the little one.  It seemed the world around me ceased to exist.  What is it about babies that just seems to captivate us?

Babies have a way of finding ways into the alcoves of our souls, the very places where things are known only to God.  They crawl right up into those hidden areas and something quite miraculous happens. Those little ones open us wide to the world, while teaching us a little more each day about God.   Think about it. Who can touch us more deeply than a newborn baby?

One baby in a room of adults reduces most of us to mere functional illiterates–and by choice!  We become entranced by the bald-headed, toothless, drooling squirmers, and quite mesmerized by their attempts to make sense of the insensible.

I remember talking to my own children: “You wan Dada to bwing your baba or bankie?”

I won’t go into all the baby talk, or nicknames my wife and I had for our children.  Some of them are hilarious, to be sure.  If you are as we are, you might still find the urge to pop open one of these phrases from time-to-time, just for the sake of reaction.  There aren’t too many of us that are able to hold back baby-talk when face-to-face with a little life in our presence.  It is almost expected.

I often wonder if grown adults talk to the aged the same way.  After all, both ends of life’s continuum quite resemble each other.  However, that discussion is for another time.  In the presence of babies, we sing and tell stories.  For some, these practices begin while the baby is in utero.  We talk to them, and we pray for them.  After they are born, we teach them nursery rhymes and, as they grow into toddlers, tell them stories of our childhood (and maybe just a bit embellished), and instruct them in right and wrong, as well as share in affection and closing prayers at bedtime.

Remember those fun days?  I am referring to the fun days before they sat on the sides of their beds and cried for no reasons at all, or got quiet when they realize as teenagers that they are held accountable.  Recall the moments when we asked them, “What’s wrong,” only to hear in return, “Nothin”?  I surely remember them!  In fact, there are times I’d like to sit on the side of my own bed and cry a little for myself, these days.  It is sometimes a good thing to feel sorry for ourselves, as adults, at least for fifteen minutes, before someone asks for money, or the cell phone rings.

However, I am left to wonder: Why is it that babies bring out the best in us?  I remember their giggles, tiny dimples, gummy smiles, flailing hands and stubby toes, their splashing arms and legs during baths–capped off by their pudgy, solid, yet wrinkly feet.  All of this serves to remind us of life’s simplicities and basic human needs.  Babies also remind us of the necessity of the protection they need, their fragile states, and complete dependency.  The trust they place in adults is astounding.  However, they learn quickly.  Once they figure out that we are not perfect, all things begin to change.  If you are like I am, you are torn by those early years, sometimes longing for them again–but happy also not to have to repeat those long nights, illnesses, doctors’ visits, and the like.

Have you ever wished for your children to stay little forever.  Have you ever spoken that desire?  Nah!  There are grandchildren for those reasons.  Right?  Babies are signals of life.  Life must moves onward.  Babies are reminders that the future is already in the “present”–and the word-play is intended.  I think you know to which “present” I refer.  Babies comprise the past through one’s DNA and heritage.  They consume the present and they embody the future.  Babies are the miracles that are united from one sperm and one egg–gestating over time–to become the “other” us. With each birth of our children, we are reminded that “WE” are with us. We are connected and that’s that.

Here in this supposedly sophisticated twenty-first century, we tend to place things, such as child birth—which have the sense of the miraculous—onto the realm of the ordinary.  But that is pedestrian.  Each conception brings into existence a unique entity, a person of the most distinct, individual “being.”  The truth is we are all unique and the mold is broken with each one of us. However, we have this little nature thing, with which to contend. Moreover, therein lays the problem!

Imagine for a moment that your teenage daughter comes home one day and tells you that she is impressed in her spirit about something incredibly unique.  What if she tells you that an angel of God had told her that she was specially favored among all other young teenagers of the day? Assume, then, that sometime later she informs you that she is pregnant, yet maintains that she was still a virgin–untouched by any man sexually.

To make matters more concerning, imagine your single, teenage daughter had been engaged to a man more than twice her age–and that the engagement was going to be broken by the man, once he discovers your daughter is pregnant. I know, I know . . . I can imagine your faces now. Yet, I do think you know where I am going with this.

Philosopher Paul C. Vitz asks us to “Consider that Mary was pregnant with Jesus today.” I also ask us to do the same.  What are the chances that some of the parents of this pregnant teenage girl would shuffle her off to the local Planned Parenthood clinic?  What would her friends and contemporaries say?  Speaking as one who was conceived prior to marriage, I rather identify with that last statement, in terms of its implications.  Know what I mean?

No, I am not claiming divinity, personally–but divinity as a delicacy, now that stuff is freakin’ awesome! (It is approaching Christmas, after all)  The prophet Isaiah (ca 800 BC) stated: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) A miracle baby son, a virgin, and the name translated to mean “God with us” (Immanuel) Hmmmm. Most interesting.

The disciple Matthew Levi (1st century AD), the tax gatherer wrote: “And Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her, desired to put her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place that which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet shall be fulfilled . . .” (Matthew 1:19-24)

The Christmas holiday (derived from “holy-day”) is about the advent of Jesus, the baby, and the beginning of His earthly pilgrimage.  The birth occurred more than likely during the summer months and there was no snow.  That reminds me, what happens in Australia and Africa, during December in the Southern Hemisphere?  I hope Santa’s varicosities aren’t too apparent with those pasty legs of his, filling out those speedo-like shorts.

John 1 speaks also to this illustrious Christmas event: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1: 1, 14).

This baby Jesus is the gift that keeps on reminding us of our flesh and mortality. The baby reminds us of our beginning and the blessings we are to others.  However, why do we keep Him in a manger?  Why is Christmas about Jesus as a baby only?  Is it because there is no room in the “inn of our hearts?”  Maybe it reflects the reality that babies are no threat.  Babies do not challenge the way we live.  Babies are the miracle gifts in-and-of-themselves. Nevertheless, babies do grow up into young adults and then enter mature adulthood.  Baby Jesus becomes a challenge to people’s supposed sovereignty.

Apparently King Herod also had serious concerns about the baby Jesus, for he had all male children slaughtered, age-two and under.  This infanticide occurred in Bethlehem and its surrounding environs (Matthew 2:16).  Herod feared all of this talk about the birth of a king, a Messiah, would diminish his sovereignty over the land.  As a result, the child Jesus and His parents went to Egypt until King Herod had died.  Afterwards, they returned to their homeland. One interesting piece of trivia from the Hebrew language is quite telling. The name “Beth-lehem,” can actually be interpreted “House of Bread.”  Now I am singing, “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” . . .

Later Jesus was given the title “Bread of life,” and communion would be taken at “the Last Supper,” to symbolize His crucified and broken body.

Part of the communion remembrance today using crackers or bread illustrates the “broken bread” of life.  Who would have ever thought that the bread of life would have been born in a house of bread?  All of this is derived from the Christmas story?  Yes indeed!  Another point of interest was that when the wise men came to visit Jesus, He was already a toddler.  The Magi were the ones who tipped off Herod, and this was the reason for the age-2 on down slaughter of the innocents.

Therefore, yes we celebrate the baby Jesus.  Nevertheless, we really should be celebrating the toddler, at least in my mind.  But no toddler I know would stay in a crib, let alone a feeding trough for animals.  I know my own kids did not. As far as my kids were concerned, they kept jumping out, falling on their heads, or something along those lines. That might explain a few things.  Now my father’s statements to me in my youth ring more clearly.  He would ask rhetorically, “What is the matter with you? Did you play too many football games without a helmet?” I never figured out “how many” was too many.  But back to Jesus.

Some 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, his infancy still influences the world. While some wanted to make Him an Earthly Excellency, believers see Him as their All-Sufficiency, beginning with infancy. The commemoration of Jesus’ birth is the real reason we celebrate the giving of “gifts” to each other.  Jesus is the ultimate gift to the world.  The reason for the season is ultimately for His pleasin’.

A second gift was given to us by the resurrected Jesus, just prior to His ascension. Luke, the physician, records in Acts 1:3: “. . . He also presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days, and speaking of the things to come . . . He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised . . . ” Jesus told His followers: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever” (John 14:15-16). The Holy Spirit is the gift that keeps on giving.

During this festive season of holidays, may we Christians celebrate like never before.  May we live and love like never before. The baby has grown, lived, and He has changed the world through his death, resurrection and ascension. Don’t you think it is time to be Christ-like in ways that show we also have left our own “Christian cribs?” My apologies to the hip-hop community.

Dear friend, let us celebrate the holiday as He is NOW in our lives. May we look back to the past, while living in the present–knowing that we have a future with Him.  May our baby-talk, and baby-walk grow into a mature, contagious conversation, coupled with a powerful Christian walk.  May this walk evidence movement in the right direction, prompted by the Spirit and evidence by the fruit of the Spirit.

No, I did not imply fruitcake. Unlike “divinity,” THAT stuff is so nasty, and is the evil twin doorstop with the yule log.

Thank you for reading!  I thought I would share a little reminder about why this time of year is extra-special for me and many others.

OK, where’s my egg-nog?

Happy 2018 all!

A Few Thoughts for Parents and Teachers about Generation Z

14 Aug
By Ernie Zarra, Ph.D.
August 17, 2017
Generation Z is in a great spot. Emerging generations always seems to have so much going for them and, in this respect, the current generation of young people is no different. If you are a parent of a Gen Z student, have you considered what it would be like to be young, again: Really, really, young again—and be thrust directly in the midst of those raging hormones and unpredictable Gen Z emotions? I am learning to stay away from mirrors these days. However, I do wonder whether
George Bernard Shaw is correct when he writes, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” This is an interesting concept to consider.
One of the things that Generation Z has going for it is an intrinsic motivation to play. And play they do, which brings consequences on many levels. Gen Y is making every effort to stay in the game, as well. The average student in Gen Z will spend hundreds-to-thousands of hours online by the time they are eighteen years of age, just playing and playing some more. Interestingly enough, Gen Z works daily on typing skills, literary interpretations, and drawing rapid conclusions, expressed in a video or a “deeply provocative” 140 characters. I know. This is not really funny.
Seriously, essential to understanding Gen Z is to understand how serious they are about remaining in touch with friends throughout their days, often interrupting other classes, so as not to miss the latest emoji, Instagram, or Snapchat. While in classes, all educators just have to understand that students are immediately compelled to send photos, messages, or provide their friends the answers to quizzes or tests. Friends are in need and, after all, they were all taught to work in pairs and groups to solve problems, from Kindergarten through high school.
Text messaging has done away with the need for handwriting and passing notes to fellow students. Stealth recordings are made wherever the Gen Z student chooses, whether at home or on school campuses, and hardly anyone one can stop these recordings from being immediately shared on the Internet. Any student that needs to talk to one of their parents, or any parents that want to get a message to their Gen Z child, is just seconds away. What educator wants to step in an interrupt the “It’s my mom, I have to take this phone call?”
In fact, becoming a viral sensation is easy as an excuse to go to the restroom and then a student can make all the phone calls desired with no one around. While in the restroom, if there are other students present, one could also test out the phone’s camera and video to see if its pixels are adequate for immediately uploading to Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook accounts. Additional play-action occurs with faces changed with apps that add dog faces or circus-mirror-like distortions to photos. Yes, Gen Z loves to play.
These supposed skills may be wonderful for social media and friends, but writing skills are plummeting to dire levels. That being said, maybe Gen Z parents might want to press their children into thinking about a career in research and rehabilitation of arthritis of the thumbs, or vertebrae subluxation of the neck.
Long gone are the days of pagers, typewriters, Gigapets, Tomagatchies, Furbies, Transformers, Beanie Babies, Care Bears, Pokemon cards, and other dated machines and toys. Changes in technology always bring about new choices. How many veteran educators remember the duplicating spirits of the mimeograph machines, or the horrendous chalk dust, and overhead projector blue hand syndrome? Now, all we do is squeak along with whiteboard marker, delirious from their fumes.
Times have changed and they have changed for parents as well as for educators. They have not changed for students of Gen Z. Like precious generations before them, all they know is what they know in their present, and their brief generational history. Parents realize what educators realize. The main reason times have changed is because culture has changed.
One of the major cultural changes, of course, is in the explosion of educational and personal technologies and the impacts these have on the developing brains of Gen Z children—and this where education is seriously impacted.
Parents today have extreme pressures placed upon them, with routines of work, school, extra-curricular activities, church—you name it! When a child of a previous generation needed to be disciplined, the child was sent to his or her room. There was little to occupy the boredom. There are some differences with today’s children, however.
Getting “grounded” today may not equate to such a detriment to one’s behavior. For example, Gen Z children sent to their rooms for discipline might realize an open invitation for an awesome time. Parents today have to contend with smart phones, Wi-Fi, hotspots, computers, instant messaging, cable-television, iPads, DVD players and video games. Gen Z students are often affected by family concerns. For example, if they have to split their time between two parents in different homes, their sense of discipline can often be skewed. Therefore, one home’s discipline may be another home’s joyride. Inconsistent values that are communicated often confuse even the resilient of students.
This shows up in both large and small ways. For example, in high school and college, plagiarism is rampant. Students copy and paste documents together from the Internet, including sharing files, hacking into social media accounts, or creating pages to poke fun at faculty and staff. Technology has made it easier to cheat, and this cheating is not relegated only to students. The popular MTV cable program “Catfish” is a good example of the extent some would go to use the Internet to deceive. Then, of course, there is the newer moniker of “fake news,” that has led to classes on Internet literacy. One student’s sketchy work ethic can now be classified as another person’s innovation and fun.
Schools should take some of the blame for Gen Z’s weaknesses in the areas just mentioned. The “think, pair, share,” of classroom collaboration did little for the unmotivated students. But just think! If parents all became young again, we could work together in groups and turn in assignments derived from collaborative efforts, all sharing in the fruits of the reward. Everyone gets an “A,” and that one overachiever can be our equalizer.
Being young again would also mean being “normcore” stylish. Or, we could just wear our hats and hoodies in classes, claiming our heads are cold, while budded and listening to our favorite tunes. If we were young again and our parents allowed us to have smart phones and iPads, what is so wrong with using them whenever we would so desire? We would just be entitled to them.
Bernard Shaw concluded that “Youth is wasted on the young.” While it is true we can never go back, make no mistake about it. As things go today, parents are often megabytes in a terabyte world—while many Gen Z kids’ heads are in the iCloud.

Who Is Actually Winning?

16 Jun
       I am just wondering about something, and I offer no apologies to Charlie Sheen. But who is actually winning online with personal attacks and daily negativity. Most of what happens in the headlines anymore, it seems, has some connection to social media, or is fanned by the same. So, this has me thinking. As the author of several books, all of which discuss some relevance of social media to generations and American culture in general, I am concerned how we might back away from our online presence and face the real world.
       Do many of us respond to personal attacks in our daily lives, face-to-face, as we do online–especially from political foes? The ad hominem (against the person) attacks have to end because they keep our emotional states heightened. I bet, if you are like the average Internet social media addict, you have had more than one occasion when you simply could not close out your page, or “x-out” of your browser, without just one more post. This compulsion has consequences for us all. One of these consequences is our interpersonal relationships with flesh and bone humans.
       How many of us have lost friendships in the real world, over politics? Now compare this to our online presence. The latter is the cause of many an “unfriending,” or even familiar disputes unlike those we would dare bring to the table each night.
       I wonder just how many of us would have the temerity to go toe-to-toe with an adversary in real-life, as we do on our social media pages. For example, Twitter is a wasteland of insults and negativity. People relish the ability to craft a well-posted 140 characters.
However, if we stop and think about our post prior to “tweeting,” we might reconsider.
Are we intent to insult and correct people as we would in 140 characters offline and elsewhere? Do we really think that because we do not know people that others we do know are not seeing anything we write?
I am totally aware many of us do not want to give what we view as “hypocrites and double-standard practitioners” a leg-up with what is posted. We are told to fight back! We cannot let those liberals or conservative win.
       But how would we handle this in real-life? My hunch is most of us are not as aggressive with others in real life. Therefore, if we would avoid that kind of conflict in real-life, yet undertake the conflict on social media, then isn’t that also hypocritical and a double-standard in-and-of-itself. I think it amazes people to see that we accuse others of doing, is often the foundation of our own shortcomings.
       Far too many of us we have discovered the ease of giving in to a new temptation–the temptation to incite, foist, fester, and even drop F-bombs, as we attempt to even the score. But what is the reason we give in? It cannot be anonymity, because there truly is non online. it cannot be because we are always right in what we write or how we come across. I think we give in because we do not have to read much at-length. We simply have to respond with the first thoughts that come into our heads. If emotions are also involved, it is even easier to respond. No one I know would stick around a place where they were not “liked,” for days, weeks, and even years.
       Admit it. We really like being “liked,” on social media–especially by people whom we have never met. On some level, we find more than a modicum of importance–the temptation to think our input is greater than even the clock-looking website onto which we post.
       OK, bottom line questions: Who actually is winning the online back-and-forth? And who cares? Is the soul of America being made great again by our actions? What about the children that are watching us? Are they learning all the wrong tactics when there is disagreement?
       If we expect the next generation, Gen Z, to use the Internet wisely and appropriately, then should we not be about the business of exemplars?
       OK, lecture from Dr. Z. to be continued . . . Are you taking notes? **wink**
       Your thoughts?

Coming June 1, 2017

16 Apr

The Entitled Generation 2017

Teaching and Reaching Generation Z

20 Feb

Group of young people

Youth is Served

Generation Z is in a great spot.  Emerging generations always seems to have so much going for them and, in this respect, the current generation of young people is no different.  As parents, have you ever wondered what it would be like to be young, again: really, really, young again—and be thrust directly in the midst of those raging hormones and unpredictable emotions?  I am learning to stay away from mirrors these days.  However, I do wonder whether George Bernard Shaw is correct when he writes, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”  This is an interesting concept to consider.

One of the things that Generation Z has going for it is the intrinsic motivation to play.  And play they do, which brings consequences on many levels.  Some of these consequences are addressed in the pages of my upcoming book on parenting:  Helping Parents Understand the Minds and Hearts of Generation Z.  I will be referring both to this book, and its companion volume, throughout this blog piece.

Likewise, parents and teachers have many similarities, and some of these are addressed in both this book and my companion work The Entitled Generation:  Helping Teachers Teach and Reach the Hearts and Minds of Generation Z.  For parents, the growth of their children is front and center, brimming with drama and often accompanied by challenges of sibling rivalry.  As teachers, although we can never really go back in time, teaching the same age group and grade levels every year somehow perceptively circumvents the reality that we are getting older.  Parents understand aging, but teachers live with a perception that the time clock is somehow in neutral and that, year-in-and-year-out, relevance and vibrancy still exist. z

Sorry to be the bearer of such bad news, but today’s young people seem to have it made.  Youth is served.  But “didn’t every generation of young people have it made?”  Indeed, there is a point to be made for each emerging generation apparently being better off than previous generations.  Before the reader draws the wrong conclusions, a bit of a sarcastic foray is in order—the likes of which both parents and teachers will identify.

The average person in Gen Z will spend hundreds-to-thousands of hours online by the time they are eighteen years of age, just playing and playing some more.  Gen Z works daily on typing skills, literary interpretations, and drawing rapid conclusions, expressed in a video or a deep 140 characters.  An essential to Gen Z is to remain in touch with friends throughout their days, often interrupting other classes, so as not to miss the latest “LOL.”  At school, teachers just have to understand that students are immediately compelled to send photos, messages or answers to quizzes or tests.  Friends are in need, after all!

Text messaging has done away with the need for writing and passing notes to fellow students.  Stealth recordings are made wherever the Gen Z student chooses, whether at home or on school campuses, and hardly anyone one can stop these recordings from being immediately shared on the Internet.  Any student that needs to talk to one of their parents, or any parents that want to get a message to their Gen Z child, is just seconds away.  “If it is my mom, I have to take this call!”


While in class, all anyone needs is an excuse to go to the restroom and then a student can make all the phone calls desired with no one around.  Gen Z have to check in with their boss, or swim coach, to be certain not to leave a very important voicemail unheard.  While in the restroom, if there are other students present, one could also test out the phone’s camera and video to see if its pixels are adequate for immediately uploading to a Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook account.  Faces can always be changed with apps that allow dog faces or circus-mirror-like distortions.  Yes, Gen Z loves to play.

These supposed skills may be wonderful for social media and friends, but writing skills are plummeting to dire levels.  Gen Z parents might want to press their children into thinking about a career in research and rehabilitation of arthritis of the thumbs.


Changes in Technology Bring New Choices

Long gone are the days of pagers, typewriters, gigapets, Tomagatchies, Furbies and other machines and toys.  Parents remember those.  How many veteran teachers remember the duplicating spirits of the mimeograph machine, or the horrendous chalk dust, and overhead projector blue hand syndrome?  Now, teachers just deal with whiteboard marker fumes all day.

Times have changed and they have changed for parents as well as for teachers.  They have not changed for students of Gen Z.  Like precious generations before them, all they know is what they know in the present.  Parents realize what teachers realize:  the main reason times have changed is because culture has changed.  One of the major cultural changes, of course, is in the explosion of educational and personal technologies and the impacts these have on the developing brains of Gen Z children.  Parents can read all about this in chapters three and four of my book titled, Helping Parents Understand the Minds and Hearts of Generation Z.

Parents today have extreme pressures placed upon them, with routines of work, school, extra-curricular activities, church—you name it!  When a child of a previous generation needed to be disciplined, the child was sent to his or her room.  There was little to occupy the boredom.  There are some differences with today’s children, however.  Getting “grounded” today may not equate to such a detriment.  In fact, Gen Z children sent to their rooms for discipline might realize an open invitation for an awesome time.  Parents today have to contend with smart phones, computers, instant messaging, cable-television, iPads, DVD players and video games.  The matter is exacerbated if Gen Z children have to split their time between two parents, in different homes.  One home’s discipline may be another home’s panacea.  If these equate to grounding, we all should shudder to see full flight!  Changes in technology bring new choices to parenting.

Another wonderful thing about being young is that parents and teachers are virtually clueless when students copy and paste documents together from the Internet, including sharing files and pirated music.  The “think, pair, share,” of classroom collaboration did little for the unmotivated students.  But just think!  If parents all became young again, we would be taught to work together in groups and turn in assignments derived from collaborative efforts, all sharing in the fruits of the reward.  Everyone gets an “A.”

Being young again would also mean being “normcore” stylish.  Or, we could just wear our hats and hoodies in classes, claiming our heads are cold, while budded and listening to our favorite tunes.  If we were young again and our parents allowed us to have smart phones and iPads, what is so wrong with using them whenever we would so desire?  We would just be entitled to them.

Shaw concluded that “Youth is wasted on the young.”  Couple that with another of his famous sayings, “I want to be all used up when I die,” and Gen Z might begin to realize its role in the lives of parents and teachers.  Make no mistake about it: parents are gigabytes in a terabyte world—while their Gen Z kids’ heads are in the Cloud.

How About Some Manners?

Assemble a large group of people together in one location and watch the displays of manners.  At times when my awareness is heightened, I ask myself, are things really as bad as they seem on social media?  Are people, young and old, really this rude—and must we tolerate these behaviors in our schools and at home?  The first question parents should ask any of their Gen Z children’s teachers is “How is my child’s behavior in class?”  The chances are that children willing to practice rudeness and lack of control at school, are probably not much better at home.  Respect is first and foremost about obedience to people and rules.  Gen Z has grown into respecting self over others, seen gloriously in the identity movements encouraged by culture, including the promotion of the same at some schools.

I am curious as to when things changed enough to tolerate the wearing of baseball-type caps inside buildings, such as restaurants, churches, and in school classrooms?  Also, would someone tell me why T-shirts and bare feet are allowed on golf courses? What is this Gen Z world coming to, these days?  Where are they learning all of these practices?


Some younger Gen Z children scream in stores and are allowed to roam freely, touching most everything in sight.  Are we teaching our young people to think of anyone but themselves?  Don’t look now, but we are all somewhat part of the culture affecting Gen Z.  Are families so stressed out that precious little time is spent actually drawing contrasts in culture for children?  Has anyone else noticed that a smaller amount of people actually hold doors open for others?  What about the phrases, “Excuse me,” “Thank you” and, “You are welcome?” Apparently, these phrases are becoming parliamentary dinosaurs, in favor of the phrase, “No problem.”  Also, few people return lost items to those whom they know, let alone to strangers.

How will Gen Z learn honesty if no one shows them how to be honest?  If they do return an item at all, most people feel entitled to lift anything of value, because of their “good deed” according to some self-oriented “finders-keepers, losers-weepers” notion.  Gen Z will, however post all of these good deeds online, drawing attention to themselves, so the world can see how splendid their actions appear.

Do parents really want their young people filling their minds with abusive talk about women, especially preached by today’s entertainment industry?  Are these neo-American cultural norms for Gen Z?  Take heart!  The independent spirit demonstrated by Gen Z children can be harnessed for good.  Chapter five of my book suggests partnering strategies and methods to assist parents in understanding the minds and hearts of today’s children.

The biblical Golden Rule:  “Do unto others as we would have them do unto us,” seems to have changed meanings today. The current meaning reads more like “Do unto others before they do unto you.”  This shift would make the late Anton Szandor LaVey smile, for this is the humanist tenet he boldly proclaimed in The Satanic Bible, in founding the Church of Satan in 1969, at Daly City, California.  Talk about cultural contrasts!


Ralph Waldo Emerson noted: “Good manners are made up of petty sacrifices.” I think Emerson was onto something.  If parents, teachers, coaches and other adults do not model acceptable, positive manners, where can we expect the younger generation to learn them? Seriously, what is lost by wearing a belt, pulling up one’s sagging pants, or speaking without profanity?  Social media allows culture to impact Gen Z immediately and also allows them to share in the culture, almost as quickly.

Accepting the Challenge

Now where do we place the blame for what many see as a breach of manners in our culture today?  We would all like to pin it on one group or another, and maybe some of that might be justified. However, there is no discounting the reality that there just seems to be a spirit of rudeness that stretches across our culture.  The world saw this in the recent presidential election and our nation sees it in the form of protest on college campuses.  Technology is right in the middle lending to this incivility.  Participation in social media assists in chipping away some of the moral fabric that even the best of families practice.

So here’s the challenge.  Manners, like character and morality, are best discussed at times when openness and peace exist. There is a greater acceptance and understanding in times of peace.  These are what educators call “teachable moments” and they exist for us all.  Teachable moments must begin at early ages and be practiced consistently and from within the fabric of the family.  But difficulty exists there, too, when standards of behavior on weekends differ from weekday standards.  Holding Gen Z accountable may be difficult, but it is critical for the present and for the future of America.

Where can we look for help?  Is it the media?  Schools? The entertainment industry?  Given the changes in the political landscape in 2017, we are left to wonder about the future shifts of education in America.  Maybe, we should all retreat to the Internet for 12-hour sessions of online video gaming to occupy our time until it is all figured out.  After all, who needs an imagination, when one can use a programmer’s imagination for guidance?

In terms of the problems, certainly, we all can continue to blame the traditional whipping posts. There are no easy pinpoints on this one.  But we can begin to shape the world one person at a time.  Gen Z is worth the effort.  Answers do lie in the possibilities of all of our cultural agencies working together—including faith organizations.  But we must ask a serious question:  Is it likely that the cultural wealth of America’s past can once again become valuable over the present fractures in culture, resulting in selfishness, identity politics, and material wealth?  That remains to be seen.

In Gen Z, we have made America young again.  The advice in this book will be helpful toward understanding these wonderful youth.  Parents might even feel a bit younger, themselves, after reading this book.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Regardless, there are some solutions to the issues parents face today.  All things considered, while the nation discordantly adjusts to Making America Great Again, let us not forget Generation Z and the previous generations of Americans which made America great in their own rights.  Here’s to Generation Z and to the greatness that comes next!

This original blog has been inspired from my upcoming books on Generation Z.  These books can be found at, on Amazon, and ordered online and at any brick and mortar store.  Both are due to be released on June 1, 2o17

Some Complaints from Teachers

21 Sep


Has anyone ever checked to see how many bureaucrats and politicians have their children in public schools in their districts?   If they are going to tell their constituents what to do in education, and truly want to be representative of them, then maybe they should be required to place their kids in their local public schools.  Most teachers are sensible creatures.  Most are obedient and tow-the-line.  However, schools are at breaking points.

One of the more serious complaints I am hearing from teachers–especially from those here in California–is that special education students are now mainstreamed and taking so much time away from other students. What this has done to the classrooms is this: Mainstreaming has taken teachers away from doing their jobs effectively, and in some states teachers are being evaluated by the job they do. Did anyone consider the rigors of Common Core, teacher evaluations, and special education students when they made this change in law and policy?

Some of the other complaints and concerns that have come in from colleagues are found in the following:

The premise is that over 80% of special education students can perform at the same levels as all other students, if teachers modify instruction for them, make workload accommodations, and deal with their disciplinary behavioral issues uniquely. That sure sounds like many special education students cannot perform at the same levels as other students in the class.

There are so many concerns with this type of policy, especially in CA. It is prevalent in high schools, as well, given that a prime motivator is to graduate students at any cost. Without special education modifications, many special education students would not make it to graduation.

First, teachers are not special education experts.

Second, students are not competing at the same levels when modifications and special accommodations are made in regular classrooms.

Third, in some California districts, one cannot grade a special education student any grade lower than a C-. Even with this, the students fall farther and farther behind.

Honestly, given the lack of challenge teachers now provide some special education students, if I was a parent of a special education student–and knowing the stress of deadlines and regular assessments–I think it would do more harm than good for my child to be in a classroom both without modification and with it. In classes around the nation, nearly one-third of each class roster contains special education students.

Fourth, regular classroom teachers are not trained in special education strategies, disciplinary methods for challenging behavioral issues and violence, or spending large amounts of tutorial time one-on-one with special education students. Teachers that have to do so, do so at the detriment of the other students in their classes.

Fifth, most special education students need “special” education, not “regular” education. What happens is that classrooms dumb-down the learning, so as not to lose everyone by either the pace or the requirements.

Our public school classrooms are flooded with students who would be better served in their own focused programs. Students in regular classrooms are being shortchanged by the time spent on students which need special attention, special accommodation, conferences regularly, and the students themselves are given so many accommodations that they are actually learning that they can do whatever they want and the system must comply. Essentially, our public schools are a mess and we are reinforcing and enabling.

In closing, teachers that are speaking out apparently have a lot to say. Is it any wonder then, that teachers are leaving the profession in large numbers nationally? This trend is terribly disturbing for the so-called “profession” that I love.

Ramp up the rigors and show grit. Learn how to change mindsets and bring down those with anxiety and rebellious temper flare-ups.

Do so while modifying your classroom rigors, not stressing out the students, and modifying expectations and work output.

Sounds like two ships passing in the night.

Continue to speak out teachers . . . In the meantime . . .

Just call me Dr. Common Sense. 🙂


The state seeks to include students with disabilities in funding for high-needs students.

The Number of Inappropriate Teacher-Student Relationships Keeps Rising, and So Do Arrests: Professional Development Needed!

18 Sep


Head’s up to all public school districts, and private schools.

When it comes to establishing relationships–including the proper use of communications technology and social media between students, teachers, coaches, and administrators–and even with parents, there is a terrific blurring of personal and professional boundaries.

My book Teacher-Student Relationships:  Crossing into the Emotional, Physical, and Sexual Realms is a guide to reduce the problems, by enhancing the boundaries and calling into account the higher calling of teachers, coaches, and administrators.  The book details the problems associated with inappropriate relationships and offers solutions to make education a much safer place for all.


I am available to assist faculty and students to discern where the boundaries are at this time of confusion on many fronts, between teachers and the pupils and athletes they are charged to teach, protect, and mentor in their classes, or on the fields.

Feel free to email me at, or post a comment here.  I will return messages.

Please click the following link, to read about the serious abuse issue occurring in the nation, but particularly Texas.  My work is quoted and I am referred to repeatedly, in the piece.

Bloomfield High School Class of 1973 Memorial Dedication Page

16 Sep


Bengals Forever:  A memorial tribute to those that have left us.

UPDATED:  September 2018


Memories, the 1973 Bloomfield High School Yearbook

Cover designed by Patricia Anselmo Daly (’73)


Desiring light but enveloping darkness

You search for the beauty

And the life

And the meaning.

~Colette Natalie Lisacchi (’73)

Gone, but never forgotten . . . 


“No good work is done anywhere without aid from the Father of Lights.”

~C. S. Lewis

Poem for his Friends

So my friend you’re feelin’ down

Someone you once knew is gone

Farther than the longest mile

Gone without a word.

Life is a sacred gift

Taken back for no reason

Going faster than it came

leaving only a sigh.

How you doin’ friend we’re thinkin’ of you

Hold your head up in the morning sun

Look down upon us from wherever you may be

Your life hasn’t stopped, it’s just begun.

So your friends’ memories are never gone.

Sometimes lost but always found

And as time passes day by day

Sooner than you think you’ll meet again.

So my friend, don’t let it bring you down

He is better off then we are here.

So my friend, don’t let it bring you down

He is watching over us somewhere.

~Kenneth J. Brill (’73)

John Mitchell Adams

Mass to be Held Today for John Mitchell Adams.
A Mass will be held this morning for John Mitchell Adams, 18 son of Mr. and Mrs. Kelty Adams of 26 Olive
Street, at St. Anthony’s Church, Franklin Avenue, Belleville.  The youth was reported missing in heavy seas at Seaside Heights last Thursday, and presumed drowned. Marine police and Coast Guard boats searched through Sunday.  The accident occurred about 7:40 p.m. off of the Summer Street beach.  Mr. Adams and two other youths were on a raft which was upset by a wave. Mr. Adams was swept away but the two other youths managed to get to shore.  Born in Wyatt, MO., Mr. Adams moved with his family to Connecticut, then to East Orange and Bloomfield. John Adams attended Clifford Scott High School in East Orange for two years and Bloomfield High School for two years and was a member of the BHS graduating class of 1973.  He had been sworn into the Naval Reserves and was supposed to report for duty on 1. He planned to spend two weeks with friends at the shore first.  In addition to his parents, members of the youth’s family include two sisters, Mary Louise, 19 and Angela, 15 at home; his maternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Alphonse Condito of 91 Watsessing Avenue, and his paternal grandfather, John W. Adams of the Olive Street address.  Obituary; John Mitchell Adams.pdf.  See link below.

Phyllis (Angelo) Piccirillo

David Aspen

Patricia Caruso

Patrick Cervasio

Thomas W. Corcoran (Drama Club; Acting Club; Vice President; All-School Production; Student Prints; Photography Staff; Chess Club; Intramural Basketball; Intramural Volleyball; Camera Club)

Thomas W. Corcoran, on Monday, September 15, 2003, of Upper Montclair, NJ, husband of Patricia Barry Corcoran, father of Maureen, Leigh Ann, and Heather Corcoran, all of Upper Montclair, son of the late Charles andVirginia Corcoran, brother of Charles of Middlesex, also survived by 15 sisters-in-law and brothers-in-law, as well as 23 nieces and nephews.  Relatives and friends are invited to attend the funeral from The O’BOYLE FUNERAL HOME, 309 Broad Street, Bloomfield, NJ, Friday at 9:00 am.  The funeral service will be held at Riverside Community Church, 50 Union Avenue, Nutley, at 10:30am. Internment Immaculate Conception Cemetery.  Friends may call Thursday 2-4 and 7-9 pm.  For those who wish, in lieu of flowers,contributions may be made to the Jennifer Swift Feldman Foundation, 60 Bellevue Avenue, Upper Montclair, NJ  07043, or the Riverside Community Church.

Kathy Dell’Osso

Michele Mary De Vito

Howard S. Dieterle (J.V. Baseball; Varsity Basketball; Intramural Volleyball)

John Dull

Timothy Dwyer

Stephen Figurelli

Karen E. Fleisher (Display Committee; Guidance Worker) 

Al R. Fleming

William F. Giammearse

Edward A. Gleason

Kevin Robert Greener (Library Council, Display Committee; Wrestling. Outdoor Track)

Maralyce “Molly” Henchey

Maralyce (Molly) Henchey of Montclair, N.J., died on Nov. 21, 2010, at Father Hudson House, Elizabeth, N.J. She was 55 years old. Relatives and friends are invited to a memorial service to celebrate her life on Saturday, Dec. 4, from 12 to 2 p.m. at Frank Halpin’s Brookdale Funeral Home, 1284 Broad St., Bloomfield, N.J. Maralyce was a 1976 graduate of Ramapo College with a degree in psychology. She was an avid gardener. Maralyce was the beloved daughter of the late Ann and William
Henchey; dear sister of Monica Ginsberg of Randolph, N.J., and Michael Henchey and Lawrence Henchey, both of Montclair, and loving aunt of Aaron and Ethan Ginsberg. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Father Hudson House, 111
Dehart Place, Elizabeth, N.J. 07202, in her memory.

Norajean Hughes (Home Economics Club; History Club)

Robert L. Juliano (Outdoor Track)

Joan Kabasakalian (German Club; National Honor Society)

Charles S. Karsh (Valedictorian; History Club; Creative Writing Club; Ecology Club; Treasurer; Key Club; National Honor Society)

Carol Lynn Koslosky (Football Program)

Paul Krie

Donald Robert Krentz (Intramural Basketball)

Joseph P. LaBadia (Varsity Football, Golf, Italian Club; Varsity “B” Club; Intramural basketball);  Birth Date:  11 June 1954; Death Date:  22 April 2005; Localities:  Big canoe, Pickens, Jasper, Georgia, 30143

Kathleen Ann Lataro (Home Economics Club)

Dorothy Ann Leggins

John Lloyd

Thomas James Madden

Daniel Peter McGrath


Daniel McGrath Retired Bloomfield fireman Daniel McGrath, 61, of Longs, S.C., passed away on Aug. 7, 2016. Relatives and friends are invited to attend a celebration of his life at the O’Boyle Funeral Home, 309 Broad St., Bloomfield, N.J., on Tuesday, Sept. 6, from 5 to 7 p.m. Please express condolences at Born in Newark, N.J., Daniel lived in Bloomfield and the last eight years in Longs. He was a retired fireman in Bloomfield for 20 years. Daniel was the brother of Gerard, Terrance, and Susan.

Nancy E. McLaughlin (Home Economics Club; MEMORIES ’73; Literary Staff; Future Nurses of America; National Honor Society; Recording Secretary; Junior Red Cross Representative; Delegate to the Citizenship Institute; S. G. A.; Homeroom Representative)

Henry George Meininger


Henry George Meininger USMC veteran and former Caldwell police lieutenant, 61 Henry George Meininger, 61, of Blairstown, N.J., for the past two years, formerly of West Milford, N.J., passed away Sept. 9, 2016, at Morristown Medical Center, Morristown, N.J. A visitation will be held from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m., today, Monday, Sept. 12, at Newbaker Funeral Home, 200 Route 94, Blairstown. A funeral service will take place at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Free Evangelical Church, 11 Lambert Rd., Blairstown. Henry was born on Dec. 9, 1954, in Bloomfield, N.J., to John H. and Phyllis (Lawson) Meininger. He was a graduate of Bloomfield High School, served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1974-1977. He retired as a police lieutenant of the Caldwell, N.J., police force, and later as accident investigator instructor. Henry attended the Free Evangelical Church in Blairstown, and was involved with the Solid Rock Day Camp in West Milford, N.J., where he was an instructor of archery and paintball. He is survived by his wife, Christine (Kongsberg) Meininger; three daughters, Anna Pascarella, Krista Dailey, and Amanda Meininger; three grandchildren, and a sister, Phyllis Bedotto. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made in Henry’s name to either The Solid Rock Day Camp, 37 Stevens Rd., West Milford, N.J. 07480 or the Shiloh Bible Camp, 753 Burnt Meadow Rd., Hewitt, N.J. 07421.

Gerald Oliveto

Richard Pelosi

Joseph Pezzino (Sophomore Football; Varsity Football; J. V. Baseball; Varsity Baseball)

Kathy Pologonia

John Puttorak

James “Jimmie” Quine

James Thomas Romanowski (Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Cross Country, Intramural Basketball)

Bernice J. Ryblewski (Art Club)

Alfred Michael Saia (Intramural Basketball and Volleyball)

Vincent Michael Salvatore (C. I. E.)

Armond Sasso (J. V. Basketball; Varsity Basketball; Varsity Baseball)

Richard A. Saunders

John Scalise (Camera Club; Homeroom Representative)

Thomas Phillip Scaringello

Marla Scott

Dennis Brian Slattery (Electronics Club; Homeroom Representative; Intramural basketball; Intramural Volleyball)

Richard Soper


Richard Soper Loving father, son, brother Richard Soper died unexpectedly in his home in Bloomfield, N.J., on Nov. 21, 2016, from complications of cancer. A memorial will be held at First Presbyterian Church on the Green on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, with visitation at 1 p.m., followed by the service at 2 p.m. Arrangements are by Van Tassel Funeral Home, Richard was a loving father, son and brother. He was a man of integrity who endured many challenges in his life. His gruff exterior masked a very loving heart. Richard was born in Bad Axe, Mich., on Nov. 15, 1955, to Ruth Louise (Emery) Soper and Ward Orin Soper. When the family moved back to Bloomfield, Richard was educated in the Bloomfield school system. In 1972 Richard was given an award for bravery when he rescued his maternal grandmother from a home fire. He married in his twenties and was blessed with beautiful daughters, Georgann and Annatalie Soper, whom he loved very much. After living in Florida for a few years, Richard returned to Bloomfield to take devoted care of his parents. He was a loyal employee of Terry Drugs, then Esquire Big and Tall, until his retirement a few years ago. Richard is survived by his mother, Ruth; daughters, Georgann and Annatalie, and sister, Cheryl. He was predeceased by his father, Ward; grandmother, Louise Emery, and brother and sister, Ward Arthur Soper and Sandra Louise Soper. Richard will be greatly missed by those who knew and loved him very much.

Published in Star-Ledger on Dec. 2, 2016– See more at:

Theresa Spano (Pep Club; German Club; Future Teachers Club; Gym Club; S. G. A.; Dramatics Club; G. A. A.; Cheerleading Squad, Speedball; Basketball; Volleyball)

Terry Spano, Rockette and performing arts school founder, of Roseland, 53 Terry Spano, 53, of Roseland passed into eternal rest Thursday in Hackensack University Medical Center, after fighting a courageous battle for four yeares against ovarian cancer. Services will be conducted from the LaMonica Memorial Home, 145 E. Mount Pleasant Ave., Livingston, on Monday, Sept. 29, at 9a.m., followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 10 a.m. in Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church, Roseland. Interment will follow in Gate of Heaven Cemetery, East Hanover. Visitation is on Sunday form 1 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m.  Terry was born in Newark, the daughter of the late Michael and Carmella Spano.  She was raised in Bloomfield and moved to Roseland in 1984. A 1973 graduate of Bloomfield Senior High School, Terry auditioned in her senior year and was accepted into the world famous Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. This began a 23-year career that took her all over the world. Terry began her love of dancing at four years of age as a student of the Perry and Keller Dance Studio in East Orange. At Radio City Music Hall, she danced with such famous stars as Liza Minelli, Peter Allen, Liberace, Ginger Rogers and Gwen Verdon. She also starred in the made-for-television movie ‘Legs’, the life of a Rockette, print ads for’I Love New York’, and the feature film, ‘Annie’. In 1988, Terry was chosen to be one of eight Rockettes to co-star with Chita Rivera on a world tour of the revival of the Broadway hit of Cole Porter’s ‘Can Can’. This 2 1/2 year tour took Terry around the U.S. and all over the world to London, Paris, Germany, Australia and for three months, Japan. Terry was a 30-year member of the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists, Actors Equity and the Screen Actors Guild, voting every year for the Academy Awards. She retired from Radio City Music Hall in 1996 and became the founder and artistic director of the the Roseland School of Performing Arts, showcasing the development of young students in the area several times a year. Through these experiences, Terry gave others her courage to dream of a life in the performing arts. In June 2007, Terry was chosen Citizen of the Year by the Roseland Chapter of Unico National for her outstanding devotion and dedication to the Roseland community. She is survived by her husband of 28 years, John Higgins of Roseland; her brother, Michael Spano Jr. and his wife, Angela, and sons, Ryan, Gino and Michael, all of Roseland, and her many loving family members. In lieu of flowers, donations in Terry’s memory would be appreciated and can be sent to The Sisters of Saint Joseph, St. Joseph’s Villa, 110 W. Wissahickon Ave., Flourtown, Pa. 19031.

Richard Staub

Richard P. Staub, 54, passed away on Saturday, October 11, 2008. A memorial mass will be held on Saturday, October 25, 2008 at St. Mary’sChurch, 17 Msgr. Owens Pl., Nutley at 1:00 p.m. To send condolences and to sign the guestbook, please visit  Mr. Staub, formerly from Bloomfield and Florida, currently lived in Nutley and was a butcher and meat manager for Pathmark and ShopRite. Richard is survived by his former wife Louise Staub and his beloved son Richard Ryan Staub. He is also survived by his brothers Joseph Staub; David Staub and his wife Karen; John Staub and his wife Lisa. Richard is also survived by his sisters Mary Hoover, Theresa Sheldon and her husband Gary; Peggy Caruso and her husband John. He is also survived by many loving nieces, nephews and life-long friends.  Arrangements by the Biondi Funeral Home of Nutley, NJ.

Linda Tibbetts

Vincent Henry Tucciarone

Edwin D. Whelpley (Electronics Club; Chips and Sparks Club)

Gail Wilks (Visovsky)

Robert William Williams (Outdoor Track)

Is Suicide Ever Right?

17 Jun

I would like to open a discussion on the topic of a person taking his or her life. We call it by the term “suicide.” The suicide recently, of a friend has spurred the revisiting of an older post. On the heels of California becoming the fifth state to legalize a “right to die” for patients, the events of this trying week beg the question: Is suicide ever the right thing to do?
Before I move into a bit of conversation, I would like us to make certain to spend a little extra time lingering over those hugs with our kids, spouses, families, and friends. We must state our love in words and in actions. One never knows how long we have on this earth, which leads me to the next point. The facts are that even with all of these loving expressions, we live in a world that is tainted by evil and sin. We live in bodies that are faulty, and riddled with chemical imbalances, at times. We are frail and all of us one breath from the end of life here on earth. We also live in a world that would swallow us up, as a vortex vanquishes its volume. The pressures are great on us all.
For me, there is no mistaking the fact that evil exists, and that some people are tempted by internal and external forces to end their lives. The culture of death and abuse in which we live is pervasive. Many young people are not seeing their futures as full of purpose, and that is our fault as Americans. There is also no mistaking the fact that there are other factors that can cause people to “feel” hopeless, and convince themselves there is only one way to deal with this hopelessness. These feelings are real. These feelings are heightened beyond reality, sometimes. They are feelings, nonetheless. I am left to wonder the extent that biology plays into depression and destructive thoughts.
With that last query in mind, I know firsthand the thyroid deficiencies that cause irrational thoughts and bizarre behaviors. I am aware of the depression that haunts some people, due to chemical imbalances, bipolarism, or PTSDs–and even child sexual abuse. The threat of suicide by all should be taken seriously by loved ones and friends. A person living with “harmed and fractured insides” sometimes believes that such harm is a norm and that what we would call “additional harm” may be viewed as that person’s “additional norm.” When this happens, something is wrong inside the person. Add to this some form of chemical or substance abuse, and the brain is all cross-circuited, and emotions are imbalanced. The brain both affects and is affected by biology and chemistry. Emotions and the brain are inseparable, especially so for girls and women.
As a Christian man, I can assure you that praying for people is the right thing to do. Miracles do occur. I have seen some. But God gives us common sense also, and sometimes prayer has to be coupled with professional assistance and treatment. Asking a person to simply pray their way out of depression, or for healing from a fractured youth is one thing. Walking through these issues has to be accomplished by the person first admitting there is a problem. This is where there is often a hang up.
As quickly as we go to the doctor for a physical disease, the same should be done for something problematic emotionally and mentally. However, getting the right help with the right worldview is critical. I am no physician, and certainly I am not a psychotherapist. But I am a man of common sense and signs of trouble are perceptible if we take the time to see them and act accordingly. They are easily missed, and even more easily dismissed–until it is too late. Having said all of this, permit me to address some issues for additional conversational purposes.
First, Jesus, in offering up His life and being in command of the moment it ended, has been accused of suicide by some critics. I would like to know the differences between giving up one’s life by choice, and ending one’s life by choice. They are both ends of life by choice. Is it in the purpose that we consider one not as suicide and the other, as such? Love to know your thoughts.
Second, if a military person charges directly into the line of fire, we call this person a hero—even if it means his life is ended. Is this suicide to do so, knowing the outcome is certain death? On the other hand, again, is it in the purpose for which the life ended that allows the removal of the label of suicide? Can it ever be heroic for a person to take his or her own life, albeit for a higher cause–even if it means pain in the present? I have heard people say, “They would be better off without me, in the long run.” Some people actually think they are choosing a higher path, in their own minds. That is the issue. They see this negative as a positive. In a disabled mental or emotional state, one’s mind can confuse purposeful actions.
Therefore, third, is it possible for a person to be in such a confused state that ending his or her own life is to be viewed as equal to sacrifice for a higher cause? The converse of this is whether suicide is a cheap and selfish way out of problems a person sees not end to, and it is ultimately purposeless, irrational, and devoid of anything heroic. I have always said, if those who kill themselves by their own choice, could float above the room in which their family and friends gather, and see the devastation and grief their actions leave behind in the people they claim to love, they might very well wish to un-choose their actions. Yes, this is only speculation. But, we struggle to understand reasons why people would be tormented by thoughts of death and destruction.
If we trace the family history, sometimes is seems as if others in the family’s past have also committed the destructive act. But this is not always the case for the first person in the family to carry out the act. But now there is a precedent and a bridge crossed for others to more easily justify the action for themselves. I have heard people say, “I have suicidal thoughts because my mom and grandfather committed suicide.”
Some argue this is a spiritual issue. Others argue it is genetic and that mental illnesses are passed on. I think there is a sensible position in the middle, where both explanations might can fit as factors. Certainly drugs can cause a person to commit irrational acts—whether prescription or not. We must understand that death is not a part of life, like a nap from which we awaken later. Death is the cessation of physical life. Taking one’s life with the hope that there is an eternal life, lessens the value of this temple we are given–the very house of the Holy Spirit and new creations, at that! This leads me to the ultimate question: If the last act committed by a Christian is a sin—in the case of suicide, which a crime against oneself and a sin to God, as well as the stumbling other believers—does this person find himself in the presence of the Lord, and ultimately heaven? I do not know the answer to this question. I have my beliefs and these are strong beliefs–but I simply do not know. This is where my faith comes in.
I did not originate life and I do not control its ends and the eternal state of created souls. Certainly we cannot practice anything we want at any time, and think our lives are in line with the Almighty. What is more, we cannot expect those in their right minds, who rake their lives, to be accountable. Inasmuch as a small child’s brain is not fully developed to be accountable for his or her actions, I also believe there are probably some adults whose brains, hearts, and minds are so injured that they are not accountable for their actions, either. My only dilemma is whether or not all suicides fit this accountability factor. Again, that’s up to the Almighty.
In summation, here are six questions to consider:
(1) How is killing another the same, or different from killing self? Is killing still killing?
(2) If suicide ever justified for the believer, if it means saving someone else from harm?
(3) Is suicide an unpardonable sin, since the person deceased cannot repent and ask for forgiveness, after the fact?
(4) Is there purposeful suicide to alleviate suffering, whereby the person saves others from having to deal with the individual any longer?
(5) If a physician assists in a patient’s suicide, by his or her choice, is that really suicide, or murder—or both?
(6) What reasons are there biblically, and what theological context is there, to say categorically that suicide keeps one out of heaven, or does not keep one from heaven?
Thanks for reading and thanks, in advance, for your comments. Please keep them respectful.

Education Recommendations for Federal and State Agencies

7 May

The following list of fifteen recommendations is not exhaustive, but rather a starting point for federal and state level governments.  This list is provided to these bureaucracies as they consider future development and implementation of education programs that come packaged with national implications.
Recommendation #1: Transparency. Transparency would have provided the necessary debate and open sharing of costs, benefits, and public concerns.  Changing programs from one thing to something else should never been undertaken without open discussions. Understand that government does not know best, but that an honest and open government that lifts up people to the changes they view as best is a government of the people. Such a government works best.
Recommendation #2: Remain Politically Neutral. Remove the political aspects of agenda from partisanship and political maneuvering. Validate Americans, and not political parties.
Recommendation #3: Focus on Students First. Focus efforts to change education upon students and families, and not the types of jobs required for future corporate employers.
Recommendation #4: Consider the Arts, Music, and Trades. Consider how all the areas not included in Common Core standards can be incorporated.  After all, students in America are not students in Europe or Asia.
Recommendation #5: Place Less Emphasis on International Assessments.  Be wary of utilizing international assessments for the basis of changing entire systems of education in the United States.
Recommendation #6: Avoid a National Curriculum. Steer completely clear of any discussion of a nationalized curriculum, or a one-size-fits-all area of content. The United States is not Europe, and many foreign nations that have national curricula have lower academic performance than America.
Recommendation #7: Develop More Accurate Domestic Assessments.  Understand that assessments are not the picture of whole persons; they are snapshots and moments in time. Reliance on imperfect assessments does not tell the whole story about American education. Continue development of more and better domestic assessments.
Recommendation #8: Empower States to Step Up. Enable states to compete for federal grants to establish exciting and different programs that include trades, technology, and innovative careers geared toward the future.  Empower entrepreneurialism, beginning in elementary school.
Recommendation #9: Do Not Force All Students into a College Mold.  Understand not all students are college bound and that forcing students into a federal blueprint for education is perceived as control and not as freedom to choose.
Recommendation #10: Allow States to Structure Teacher Accountability.  Allow states to hold their own teachers accountable for education. Allow universities and colleges of education to ramp up their requirements to enter programs of teacher training. There should be no federal punishment for teachers struggling to finds ways to educate the masses in inner cities.
Recommendation #11: Provide Block Grants for Trade and Tech School Startups.  Support states with block grants, so high schools can partner with businesses and create jobs for those who wish to work in high school, as they train for a trade, or experiment with business start-ups online.
Recommendation #12: Attract the Best and Brightest to Teaching.  Mount a campaign to attract the best and brightest to colleges and universities to train to become teachers.  Focus on demand, not just supply. Find those called to teach and invest in their lives.
Recommendation #13: Cease Partisan Argumentation. Cease the side-taking and partisan bickering over the direction of education. Allow more local control of decisions on education. Enable states to work together to create regional hubs of excellence, so that regional certification can be added to state certification. In the process, focus attention on impoverished areas and bring communities and families together to brainstorm ways to move forward.
Recommendation #14: Be Proud of Our American Heritage.  No nation is perfect.  Do not be ashamed of America’s Judeo-Christian heritage, as it provides a mooring to our purpose as a nation.  Students need a sense of purpose for their existence.  Not everything in American education should be about individuality. Common good should also be in the equation.
Recommendation #15: Recognize School Choice. Recognize that there are models of schools that meet the needs of families throughout the nation.  Support these families for their choices. Whether public schools, private schools, private religious schools, or homeschools, support all of them and encourage all models that parents deem best for their children.


*Excerpted from Ernest J. Zarra, III, The Wrong Direction for Today’s Schools:  The Impact of Common Core on American Education.  Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, pp. 260-262.

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