Father’s Day: Mixed Emotions

Taken from Urlesque.com

It’s currently 12:28 AM, and I realize that it’s officially Father’s Day.  I want to recognize all of the fathers around the world who are making positive impacts in their children(s)’ lives.  There are many times where fathers get the brunt of a lot of criticism of not being there for their children, and overall not present.

I’m happy to say that I know a couple of my friends who are good fathers to their children; and I hope that they will remain good parents.  I have always believed that it takes more than one parent to raise a child.  The presence of a father figure is essential.  Now myself, I don’t have any kids as of yet, so I can’t really celebrate Father’s Day in its entirety.  As a matter of fact, I won’t be celebrating it much at all.

My Father’s Day will consists of these thoughts:  1. Where is my biological father? 2. Why couldn’t my step-father be the father figure that I desperately needed?

I’ve never gotten the chance to meet my biological father.  No letter, no phone call, no nothing.  Does it hurt?  Every time I think about it.  Why couldn’t he acknowledge me for being one of his own? I would always talk to my mother and ask why I never saw my biological father.  Even with the answers given to me, I feel that it’s absolutely no excuse to not see the son you help birthed into this world.  I don’t care if you decide to leave my mother relationship-wise:  at least show me that you care.  Unfortunately, he did not as he has not made any attempt to contact me.  I strongly feel as this point in my life even if I did meet him, I would never acknowledge him for more than just a man who brought me into this world, that’s all.  I would have some very hurtful things to say.

I watched the movie Taken the other day for the first time.  There were many different messages I took away from the movie.  The main message that I interpreted from the movie is that no matter how far (emotionally and physically) you are from your children, be there for them when they need you the most.  Bryan Mills, played by Liam Neeson, was there for his daughter, no matter if she was in a different household, or even if she was trapped in Paris, France.  That’s the type of love I never received.

To all of fathers out there:  be there for your children if it allows you to.  You know what, forget that:  be there no matter what. I know that when I have children, I will do everything in my power to lead my children in the right direction.  It’s a damn shame that many fathers don’t care to be there.  To the fathers that are doing good, I applaud you.  Happy Father’s Day.

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To College Graduates Looking For Jobs: Stay Optimistic

I recently graduated with my B.S. Degree in Information Systems Security back in March of this year, and what a relief it was.  It was the end of long reports, long study sessions, and lab assignments.  For people who I knew during my tenure at college, it was about that time for them to look for that new job.

Somewhere during the final couple of months, or even after graduation, a fresh new graduate is filling out applications and sending out resumes in hopes to find a job within their field of study.  Unfortunately, due to the conditions of the current economic market, more and more college graduates are unable to find jobs in their acclimated field due to less hiring by companies and older, experienced workers vying for those same positions.

According to articles such as this one from USA today, employers are set to hire a higher percentage of college graduates than in 2009.  However, with the current unemployment rate at 9.7% according to The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the fight for jobs is still going to be tough for most graduates, especially those without experience.

I personally know a couple a couple of graduates who graduated last year who went to graduate school because they could not obtain a job.  This makes me ponder the question:  Are college/universities doing enough to ensure students are prepared, or are students not making the best of their opportunities?  This question might need to be addressed in another blog post sometime in the future.

One thing that I will say right now to all college graduates currently looking for a job: Do not stress over the “statistics”, still go out and apply for jobs. What I mean by this is just because the news and the media are telling you that job opportunities might be slim pickings, do not hide in a ball and worry to death.  Still get out there and apply for the jobs you feel you are capable of obtaining.

In personal relation to this topic at hand, I will say that I am currently working in the field in Information Technology.  Back in 2007, I obtained my A.A. Degree in Network Information Systems.  Within less than two weeks of finishing school, I had a job within my field of study.  Yes, I understand that economic and job conditions have drastically changed since then, but some of the things that helped me back then can still apply to students graduating now.

Be Unique

With the increasing amount of people aiming for the same jobs as yourself, you must stay on top of the latest skills within your field.  For example, if your major is in Medicine, what are the current medical practices most needed?  If you are in the Information Technology field, what are current sought after technical skills?  If you can obtain a certification solidifying a needed skill, go for the test (and pass of course).  This tidbit of accolade could give you that needed push above the already stacked competition.

Remember: Stand out, don’t stand still.

Networking, Networking, and more Networking

I really don’t think I can stress this enough.  If you have sub-par social skills, I suggest you pick up some books, read some videos,  or socialize more often.  I know a lot of people within my field that were able to get their first jobs due to the people who already worked at the company of interest.  Some ways that you can build your professional network,

  • Conventions/Conferences pertaining to your field (NOTE:  make sure to develop/distribute business cards with your contact info.)
  • Job Fairs
  • Internet (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)
  • Professional Organizations

Readable Resumes Returns Reliable Results

Please make sure your resume is legible and easy to comprehend.  I can’t tell you how many people I know have lost job opportunities due to an unreadable resume.  Proofread your resume…two and three times over.  Include keywords that pertain to the job that you’re targeting.

Hiring managers don’t have much time to waste.  Trust me:  badly composed resume = lost opportunity.

The one thing I definitely want to get across is that you must go out and seize the opportunity, or you’ll most likely be left in the dust.  Do not wait for a job to land in you lap regardless of your college achievements.  Most importantly, do not panic, stay optimistic.

The Thought of Sacrifice

When you hear the word sacrifice, what comes to your mind?

We all have to make sacrifices in life.  Whether or not the sacrifices we make are one that we agree with, sometimes we have to give up something in order to help others who are less fortunate.

When’s the last time you made a sacrifice?  What is the sacrifice beneficial?  As I look back at the last couple years of my life, I can think of a lot of sacrifices that I have made that I felt would provide rewarding returns.  A majority of my sacrifices have been made for my family.  Honestly, I feel that when I need to make a choice in spite of what feels good to me, sometimes I initially don’t like the thought of making the choice.  However, once I see the good that my sacrifice has given, I feel good inside.

Think about this question:  Would you make the ultimate sacrifice for someone you love dearly?  Knowing that you would end up losing your own life, and knowing that you are making the choice to eventually protect/defend your loved ones, would you do it?

Think about the movie Seven Pounds for example.  The main character, Ben Thomas (Will Smith), ends up making the ultimate sacrifice in order to benefit other around him.  His organs were donated to others in order to help overcome their physical shortcomings.  Now, I understand that Ben Thomas’ circumstances that led up to his ultimate sacrifice was a little different, but the point is that he made a choice to better others.

Speaking of making a choice to better others, this brings up the thought of Utilitarianism.  Utilitarians aim to increase the amount of pleasure while minimizing suffering of other people.    Could a sacrifice that is set to increase pleasure (or good) for others around you be classified as a utilitarian effort?

In closing, we all make sacrifices.  Think of the sacrifices that your parents made in order to make sure you didn’t make the same mistakes they made when they were younger.  Think about other people who make sacrifices for you, whether you know it or not.

“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” – Napoleon Hill

I Am Thankful For…

Thankful – feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

For the last couple of nights, I have been in deep thought.  I had a chance to sit back and reflect on what has been my life.  For the most past, I will say that I have been very fortunate on how everything is turning out.  You know how during Thanksgiving holiday, you are at the table and you tell your family/friends what you are thankful for?  Don’t reflect on what you’re thankful for once a year, make it a regular habit.  For every time you are having a bad moment or day, always imagine that it could be a lot worse.  Imagine someone who has it a lot worse off than yourself.  Imagine someone who is less fortunate than you are.

I took the time to brainstorm some things that I am thankful for.  Here are the top five things I am thankful for:

Family

My immediate family has been the most supportive during my life journey.  No matter what hard times arise, I will always be thankful to have them around me.  I am thankful to have a family that loves me and manages to be behind me no matter the circumstance.

Strong Circle of Friends

You know they old saying friends come and go? I can honestly say that a good majority of the people who I call friends have come an stayed.  People that I have known since elementary school are still apart of my life, which I can be thankful.  I can be thankful for the many new people who I have met through college and professional endeavors as they have helped me to become a more confident and strong-willed individual.

A Young, but Successful Career

With the amount of college graduates not being able to find a job after graduation, I am thankful that I was able to get a job within my field after I received my first degree.  Ever since my first job within my field of study, I have been able to build upon my education and work experience in order to reach another plateau in my career.  I know that I have a long way to go to get to my destination, but I cannot be mad at the foundation that I have built so far.

Words from the Wise, or Experienced

Everyone makes mistakes in life.  However, the question is: Can you learn from other people in order to avoid making the same mistake?  I am thankful for the amounts of people who have given me guidance or even advice in order to make my situations better.  There are some people who are reluctant to give others advice or even lend a helping hand when needed, so I am fortunate for the ones who have given me guidance.

The Ability to Live Another Day

I don’t know when I’m going to leave this Earth for good, and I’m pretty sure the rest of you don’t know either.  This is why I am thankful to wake up and live another day.  Nothing is promised in life, except death.  I have learned to live each day with the utmost gratitude and be fortunate for the time that I have been given to live.

Now ask yourself:  What are you thankful for?

John Wooden: Winner, Leader, Inspirer

  • 10 NCAA Championships, won 7 in a row from 1967-1973
  • Orchestrated an 88-game winning streak at UCLA
  • Won 664 games over a span of 29 years in NCAA play; never had a losing season
  • Coached 4 undefeated seasons (all with UCLA)
  • 7-time Coach of the Year recipient
  • 1st person to be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as a player and a coach

I never saw one game coached live by John Wooden at all; I wasn’t even born when Wooden was coaching.  However, I have realized the groundwork that he has laid over time as college basketball coaches have tried to walk the same path.  What John Wooden has done for basketball (college & pros) is nothing less of remarkable.  Wooden got the opportunity to coach legendary players such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Walt Hazzard.

While many people are mourning the death of this basketball legend, many will also recognize the long list of accomplishments that John Wooden has gained on and off the basketball court.  Wooden was so important to the NCAA and college basketball that he has an award named after him recognizing the most outstanding college player within a given year.  Wooden’s body of work was just that:  outstanding.

I will use three words to sum up John Wooden:  Winner, Leader, Inspirer.

John Wooden:  1910-2010

The Told and Untold Theories of Decreasing Music Sales

Past and Present?

This past Saturday, I went to the CD store to buy two CDs:  Nas & Damian Marley – Distant Relatives and Outkast – Aquemini. One of the albums (Distant Relatives) was recently released within the past month, while the other album (Aquemini) has been out since 1998.  I already know what you’re probably thinking:  You are just listening to this classic album?  Yes, shame on me. 

Back to the point, there’s no doubt that the amount of people actually legitimately buying (no, buying from a third-party black market/friend/co-worker/great-uncle doesn’t count) music has sharply declined.  I am a religious reader of the Billboard and Nielsen Soundscan charts, so I paid attention to the album sales charts released today.  The number one album sold 63,000 copies.  Yes, you are reading that right: 63,000 copies.  This counts CDs bought from the store and from the Internet.  Rewind to this same time ten years ago; the number one album on the Billboard, Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP, sold 794,000 copies.  The week before, that same album sold 1.76 million in its debut week.  The Marshall Mathers LP, according to RIAA.com, has been certified 9x platinum in the United States.  Fast-forward back to 2010 and artists are barely able to reach gold status.  What is the cause for the lack of music sales?  Is there a sole group of people to blame? 

Note: To the readers, the following theories that I am about to explain are strictly theoretical based on my observations.  One, some, or all could be without a doubt factors in the decline of music sales. 

The “Burner” 

The minute that the first set of affordable CD burners was placed on the public market, all bets were off.  Now, I’m aware that CD burners have been available for some time; as early as 1988.  However, the price of a CD burner back in the late 80s cost a couple thousand dollars and weighed a couple thousand pounds.  Over time, CD burners and overall disc recording technology became cheaper to the public over time, reaching its focal point in the late 90s.  People could now take a legitimate CD and make an exact duplicate to give to whoever requested it.  Reminds you of those times in the past when you bought a new album on tape, and used your boombox to record the whole entire album on a blank tape (both sides).  The music industry did not have measures placed on music CDs, such as copy protection, until after the industry realized that high amounts of illegal CDs were being copied. 

Click, Click, Pass 

File sharing programs made the problem that much bigger.  From early file sharing programs such as Napster, Bearshare, and Kazaa, people could basically get any file or music in this case they wanted.  This was victory music to the ears of regular everyday citizens.  “Why buy the single on CD for $3.99 when I can just download it for free?” was the thought on millions of users’ minds.  For the artists and the overall music industry, it was like funeral music with the overbearing bagpipes playing in the background.  For standout protesters, such as Metallica and Madonna, it was the beginning of a digital war between the music industry and its customers.  Napster ended up getting sued for the illegal distribution of “intellectual property” and placed under the regulations of the U.S. District Court until the company filed for bankruptcy.  The RIAA began to make claims against those same regular everyday citizens for the illegal downloading of music.  From that point on, file sharing programs became available via freeware or shareware on the Internet regularly.  While most of the programs have been shut down, there are probably still a couple floating out there. 

Quality of Music 

Let’s be honest with ourselves:  Albums can be extremely mediocre or just downright bad.  Before the file-sharing programs and the CD burners, the only way that a fan or casual music listener could listen to an album was by actually purchasing it from the store.  A CD can range anywhere from $9.99 to $18.99 depending on the artist, promotion methods used, and the store.  If a person spends the amount of money to purchase an album and the overall quality is not up to expectations, the listener feel cheated.  The listener feels that the same amount of money could have been used on other useful purchases rather than a CD that doesn’t deliver.  Personally, there have been albums that I bought that definitely failed my expectations.  Why did I buy the CD in the first place?  It was usually because I was an avid listener of the artist, or the first (or even second) singles on the radio were decent enough for an album purchase. 

Now, with more websites that use streaming to play songs (e.g. Youtube, Pandora, Playlist, etc.), someone can listen to a couple of songs or the album in its entirety if they’re lucky before buying it.  There are still millions of people who still download music like they’re swiping that brand new credit card.  This leads me to my fourth theory. 

The Music Listeners Themselves 

In my last theory, I stated that the quality of, or lack of, music could prevent a consumer from actually buying the entire album.  What if the album superior in quality?  Better yet, what if the album is indeed a classic album?  In my opinion, if a person decided to listen to an album, and the overall conception is good, then the album should be purchased in order to support the artist.  However, in reality, people are still not buying the album(s). I find this to be a shame, no matter if the album can be found on a torrent website for free.  The artists work hard, or even above and beyond, to deliver a quality product for its faithful fans and overall music listeners alike.  The best that you can do is support the artist and BUY THE ALBUM.  It’s bad enough that an artist is lucky enough to see $.10 per album sold as profit; imagine what the profit is for an album that can’t even sell 500,000 copies (which is the current reality for many artists new or old). 

Something that I have noticed with saliency is the demographic that the album is targeted to.  Let’s examine Susan Boyle in this case.  Her debut album I Dreamed a Dream sold an impressive 701,000 copies according to Billboard.com in the first week.  In a total of six weeks, the album sold 3.1 million copies.  I totally understand that Susan Boyle was part of the successful show Britain’s Got Talent and even became a YouTube sensation.  However, who was her album mainly targeted to?  It was targeted to the older generation of music listeners that actually buys albums.  Boyle fits in the genre of Vocal, usually means that users of this genre consist of the older crowd.  I also understand that the album was released right in time for the holidays.  However, again, how many other albums within that time span sold as many units as Susan Boyle? 

With the majority of Hip-Hop, R&B, Pop, and even Rock albums that are released, who is the target?  The target is usually the younger generation.  Yes, the same generation that is extremely technology-dependent.  Not to confuse any readers; I also come from the same generation of tech-savvy masters.  Since we are so technology-dependent, this means that we can easily “get” the album before its even released in the stores.  Unfortunately, the same tech-savvy generation is the one that is carrying much of the blame for the lack of actual purchasing.  I don’t think all the blame should be placed on the younger generations just because of technological advances. 

The Record Company, Part 1 – Lack of Promotion 

Ever wondered why well-known artists with stability released a quality album that never reached expectations of sales?  Could the responsibility can laid solely on the consumers?  What if the consumers never knew the album was being released?  Bad promotion can do this to an artist or group.  There have been albums from artists that I follow that were released without the sense of a T.V./Internet ad or a radio single.  How is the artist expect to sell any units if promotion is lackluster? 

On the other hand, let’s take a look at Sade.  Sade’s album, Soldier of Love, was released earlier this year and sold over 500,000 copies in the first week.  This is without a hit single, and an abundance of ads and promotion.  Sade has been in the game for 20+ years.  Moral of the story here:  Quality over quantity, folks.  Quality over quantity. 

The Record Company, Part 2 – Lack of Artist Development 

I remember when the phrase “One Hit Wonder” was coined out of the blue, almost at a rarity.  Now, one-hit wonders are everywhere.  You’ll hear a new artist on the radio with a Top-10 single that’s heard all over the radio.  After that, the artist is no longer relevant in the industry.  The song itself (with the help of iTunes) could go platinum, but the album go reach double-copper status.  What ever happened to developing the artist to where a full, competent album was released? 

I think that way too many record companies are pushing to get that one major hit from an artist and that’s it.  The short-term success is way too appealing for companies to pass up, especially with the ability of Internet users to download the song legally through a music provider and make a profit.  With digital songs given RIAA certifications at a more consistent rate, the focus is more on the hit single, not the hit album.  I strongly believe that if artists were pushed to release all-around quality albums, then the fan support will be stronger, and a consistent fan base will be developed that will follow the artist/group throughout their career. 

Have music companies “stuck it” to its faithful listeners?  Think for a minute.  If the company knows that people are not buying albums based off declining music sales, then in their mind, what is the purpose of developing the artist properly?  What is the purpose of promoting quality?  What is the purpose of taking a risk on an artist that is predetermined to fail?  Take a look at the movie industry.  Why do you think a lot of music artists are heading more towards acting then singing?  It’s because the return on investment (ROI) is not what it used to be in the music industry. 

Conclusion 

So what am I trying to say?  I am not here to blame one entity, group, or person.  There is not one sole reason for the decline of album sales; more like a throng of factors leading up to this disaster.  Will album sales ever reach the status of the previous decades?  Only time will tell, but there’s a lot of work on multiple fronts that needs to be done in order to turn the tide.

Candy Tax with Bittersweet Controversy

I was reading a news article today on something that is causing somewhat a stir between groups of people (what topic doesn’t, honestly?).  It was an article talking about taxing candy.  There are currently two states that has made taxing candy a law, and those states are Colorado and Washington.  Here is the article.

There are many controversial issues surrounding the taxing on candy.  The first controversy is the criteria of candy.  According to the article posted above and The Washington’s Department of Revenue:

“Candy is a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners combined with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings and formed into bars, drops, or pieces. Candy does not require refrigeration. Candy does not include any preparation containing flour.

Flour is made from grain such as wheat, rice, corn, rye, oats, and barley.  Flour does not include flour substitutes, such as starch. Any product that lists flour as an ingredient on the nutritional facts label is not taxable as candy.”

The second controversy surrounding this tax (and the more important) is the use of the money coming from taxing these sugary treats.  Washington and other states are considering taxing candy in order to overcome their budget deficits.

Let’s address the first controversy, shall we?  The fine line between what is candy and what is not will be debated heavily.  Let’s take Kit Kat for example, which is made with flour.  According to the “criteria” of candy, Kit Kat would not be taxed.  Why?  Because it’s not considered as candy that can be taxed.  However, M&Ms would be taxed since the ingredients, as stated on the bag, does not contain flour.  How about Airheads?  As I’m looking at a bag of Airheads now, the ingredients do not specifically contain flour.  However, right below the ingredients, it specifically states Manufactured in a facility that processes wheat flour.” Should Airheads be taxed in this case then?

Well, after looking at the list of taxable and non-taxable candies according to Washington’s Department of Revenue, here is the status of Airheads (taken from http://dor.wa.gov/Docs/Pubs/ExciseTax/RetailSales_UseTax/CandyList.xls)

Airhead Pops Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads Singles Sour Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads Xtremes, Strawberry Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010
Airheads, Blue Raspberry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Checkstand Pack, Asst. Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Cherry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Green Apple Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Strawberry Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Watermelon Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, White Mystery Taxable Perfetti/Van Melle 5/6/2010
Airheads, Xtremes Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010
Airheads, Xtremes Sour Belts Tray Exempt Perfetti/Van Melle 5/26/2010

Sounds like a sticky situation indeed.  All Airheads Xtremes products are exempt from taxes.  After looking online on Airheads’ official website, it states that Xtremes contains wheat flour.  This would explain why some Airheads would be taxed, and why some are not.  I don’t think this is going to fly too well with the National Confectioners Association (Candy USA).

On to the second controversy:  Will the money gained from taxing candy actually be used to reduce the state’s budget deficit?  It’s no secret that many states believe in taxing products in order to gain financially.  It is worth it?  Let’s stick with Washington state again for this example.  According to numerous sources, including to The Sunshine Review and HearldNet, the state’s budget deficit is around $2.8 billion.  In my opinion, if this candy tax goes according to plan, and the amount of candy purchased by consumers stays at the same level, and the money is used to actually combat the state’s issues, then the candy tax is a good idea. If the money is put to other non useful purposes, then we have a problem, and the people will have a problem with the government.  The way Colorado and Washington plays out the implementation of the tax will be looked at by other state governments, trust me.

The candy tax could be served for purposes; one overt and one covert.  The overt purpose would be to reduce the state budget deficit.  What about the covert purpose, the purpose that is not known by the general public.  The covert purpose could be to limit the amount of candy consumed by children in order to promote a healthier way of living.  Remember how cigarettes were taxed to an oblivion?  Many people will argue that cigarettes were highly taxed in order to make people re-consider paying a high amount of money on them.  Could this be the same with candy?  Could candy be taxed to the point that children, or even adults, re-consider paying a certain amount for the sugary goodness?  I highly doubt it, considering the average price for candy such as a pack of Skittles or Starburst is still cheap.

I will be interested to see how this all plays out.  The new tax is supposed to take effect in Washington on June 1st, 2010 (tomorrow).  My state of Maryland is also trying to find ways to cut our huge budget deficit; I wonder if they’re paying attention.

Motivation: What Motivates You?

Motivation -the state or condition of being motivated; something that motivates; inducement; incentive.

Ask yourself this simple question: What motivates you?  Think about for a little bit.  There is something that motivates each and every one of us.  Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, there could be a wide range of factors that equates one to get a job done.

I hear people saying that others around them gives them motivation.  People who won’t stop at nothing to prove that you cannot succeed; people who believe that they are superior to your existence; people who say that you cannot accomplish something just because they could not do it themselves.  There finally comes a point where you feel that you have to prove yourself to others who doubted you.  You start working extra hard to overcome the naysayers.  This is where motivation kicks in.

Your sources of motivation could come personally; more specifically: family members.  This relates to me very specifically, especially when I lost my cousin lost his life to senseless violence.  This event motivated me in two ways:  1. To stay close with my family members no matter what constraints lie between us; 2. To succeed in college in remembrance of my fallen family member.

One last source of motivation that I will talk about is regarding the future.  What does the future hold for you if you accomplish your goal?  For example, do you see yourself coming out better financially?  Do you see yourself improving physically?  Motivation can come from realizing the end result of all the preparation and work you will need to sacrifice.

Overall, motivation can come from many different sources.  I tend to find something all the time to motivate me.  I tend to be more focused when I’m motivated.  As T.I. said in the song Motivation:

“If God with me, who could be against me sucka? Can’t make me suffer, just make me tougher (It’s motivation)”

Schools Cheating to Get Ahead?

I was watching TV a couple of days ago and I saw a story regarding an elementary school and cheating test scores.  After further investigation, the school was George Washington Elementary School located in Baltimore, Maryland (my hometown).  Here’s an excerpt of the story below (full story can be viewed here). 

A Baltimore elementary school principal’s professional license has been revoked after officials found widespread cheating on state tests at her school.Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said the test tampering occurred in 2008 at George Washington Elementary School. 

The 18-month investigation included a review of hundreds of test booklets that revealed a “pattern of erasures changing incorrect answers to correct,” according to a release from the city school system. The tests were taken by students in grades 3, 4 and 5. 

Further down the article, the drastic change in test scores from one year to another is explained 

“The district said the probe was triggered by the dramatic shift in test results from 2004, when reading scores were at 47.6 percent and math scores were at 67.9, to 2007, when reading scores soared to 100 percent and math scores went up to 98.9 percent.” 

Since I live in Baltimore and I hear about the constant struggles of the Baltimore City school system, this piece of news deals a significant blow to a failing school system.  I personally don’t understand what can be gained from teachers, or better yet the administration, changing answers on a state exam.  There can be a point made that the school can gain financially by the strength of excellent test scores with the likes of better funding. 

However, how do the kids gain anything from this?  Most kids will think that their answers are correct and that they understand the material being presented to them.  This is unfortunately not the case.  I thought that the focus was on teaching children, even if they were to make mistakes; not giving children false hope by secretly changing answers. 

The investigation led to then-principal Susan Burgess being stripped of her professional license.  There is one SMALL problem: Burgess retired in the spring.  Should Burgess be held responsible for the actions of the school teachers who changed the scores?  In my opinion, I believe so.  As the leader of George Washington Elementary, or any school for the matter, you are responsible for making sure nothing like this occurs.  You are responsible for keeping your faculty in line to prevent a catastrophic event like this. 

I would find it very hard to believe that the principal didn’t know anything about this going on at the time, so the excuse of her possibly not knowing is nonsense.  At the same time, who else should be held accountable?  Teachers? School Board? Parents?  Blame could be pointed to a lot of areas. 

I haven’t done any research on this same type of story being reported in other schools or states, but I believe that there’s a possibility of this happening elsewhere.  I just hope that this is a small rate of this actually happening, for education sake.

My Evasion(s) From Reality

Evasion – physical or mental escape; an act or instance of escaping, avoiding, or shirking something

Let’s face it:  life can get very difficult.  Things such as school, family, work and its environment, and death and really affect one’s mindset on the way they view life.  All of these things have recently affected me one way or another.  Instead of laying in a puddle of my own misery, there are things that help me overcome what we know as reality.  Here are my top three things I use as temporary evasion from reality:

1. Music

I honestly don’t know where I would be if it was not for the calming relaxation that music gives me.  I have a collection of music for any type of mood that I’m in at the time; ranging from happy to sad to depressed.  Once I put those headphones on, my mind takes a temporary trip from it all to embellish in a life without worries; a life without fear; a life without pain.  To listen to an artist and interpret the message that is being conveyed makes you feel that he/she has been down the same path before.  Music has honestly helped me relieve some stress from everyday life.  Music is more powerful that many people might think because you, as the audience, have the power to mold that song’s message into something that relates to you.

2. Writing

Writing has been my metier for as long as I can remember.  Whether it was that one paragraph assignment back in elementary school, or that fifteen-page essay in college, I just love to write my thoughts out on a piece of paper.  I will honestly say that I am not the type of individual who consistently speaks his mind regarding something.  However, when I write my thoughts down, I believe that my words will have equal significance as verbal communication.  I know that blogging as not the same as writing on a physical piece of paper, but this also helps me get out messages that I’m trying to deliver to an audience of people.

3. Gym

Going to the gym and working out serves me well, especially when I feel angry or tense.  Instead of directing my anger towards someone who doesn’t deserve it, why not just do some physical exercises to relieve some ailing feelings.  The gym serves me well in lowering my stress level and building up muscle.  That’s killing two birds with one stone.

In a physical sense, you’re in the same place as your problems.  On the other hand, your mind is in its own mental paradise for a temporary period of time.  It’s true that life can throw us a curveball, but you can’t make it past home plate with a nervous approach.  Sometimes we need to step back and walk for a little.  Once we re-approach our situation, our swing towards life’s problems will be more sound, and success will point us in the right direction.  I believe we all have evasions or escapes; use it to your advantage.