There has been quite a bit going on lately that has caused me to think about what we consider education in this country right now. Mississippi’s school system has recently been outed for the racist, homophobic set up that it is. As if the treatment of Constance McMillen wasn’t enough it has come to light that a Nettleton school has race requirements for who can run for class officers. I am embarrassed at my state’s behavior in these cases. Yet, we are not alone in our disregard for the needs of students. A recent report has shown that fewer than half of all black males graduate from high school.

“…the rate at which Black males are being pushed out of school and into the pipeline to prison far exceeds the rate at which they are graduating…”

The findings are in the 2010 Schott Foundation Report and although they do mention some individual successes in New Jersey and Maryland the reality is dismal. How did we get here? Substandard curriculum, bullies, drugs, overcrowded schools, poorly trained and inexperienced teachers, how did it all go down the tubes so fast? It seems like we had an education system the world could envy not too long ago. Yet, today I look around and we are truly failing these children. Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, all have predictably low graduation rates for black males but even states like Colorado and Washington are falling down on the job. Overall drop-out rates have risen for the second year in a row. In the midst of this failure we are cutting education. The economic meltdown America has experienced has caused state revenues to drop by astounding proportions. School districts long ago stopped trimming fat and started cutting into the real meat of our system.

If ever there was a time ripe for reform this is it. We need it. We won’t be able to compete in the new world economy without it. With that in mind I would like to introduce my readers (all four of you:) ) to John Taylor Gatto.

John Taylor Gatto

Gatto is the New York Teacher of the Year who quit on the Op-Ed page of the Wall Street Journal back in ’91 and went to work trying to reform our education system. In his Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling he says, “I taught for thirty years in some of the worst schools in Manhattan, and in some of the best, and during that time, I became an expert in boredom.” His body of work presents some very good ideas about how we got here. There is plenty of blame to go around, too. Students are bored, teachers are bored, why wouldn’t they be? Teachers themselves are products of the same sucky schools that are failing our children now. As Gatto says, “By the time I finally retired in 1991, 1 had more than enough reason to think of our schools-with their long-term, cell-block-style, forced confinement of both students and teachers-as virtual factories of childishness.” I couldn’t agree more. The remarkable thing is it was all set up like this. Gatto offers evidence that “From the beginning, there was purpose behind forced schooling, purpose which had nothing to do with what parents, kids, or communities wanted. Instead, it was forged out of what a highly centralized corporate economy and system of finance bent on internationalizing itself was thought to need; that, and what a strong, centralized political State needed, too. School was looked upon from the first decade of the twentieth century as a branch of industry and a tool of governance.” You can read his essay Some Lessons From the Underground History of American Education for some great quotes on this. Quotes like Woodrow Wilson:

We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.

The bottom line seems to be that we have arrived at the current state of affairs by no accident and it is only by intense effort at change that we will lift ourselves from this slippery slope of systemic failure. We have to accept that this is not just about parental failings, nor about money, nor about teacher training and salaries. It’s an entire way of life we have to rethink. We do not need schools to prepare children for manual labor jobs anymore. We do not need childhood unnaturally lengthened. We do need real education, not just compulsory prison for those under 18. Gatto has described the system as a “diseased empire.” All empires crumble, this one’s time is at hand if we care about our future. Do what you can. Read, learn, promote change, release your children from the bonds of school, but make no mistake, the people who set this system up had no problem jamming your children into their scheme- one size fits all- No child Left Alone. Their lofty visions are not humane ones. I like how Gatto puts it,

“only the fresh air from millions upon millions of freely made choices will create the educational climate we need to realize a better destiny…..But here is a warning: should we ever agree to honor the singularity of children which forced schooling contravenes, if we ever agree to set the minds of children free, we should understand they would make a world that would create and re-create itself exponentially, a world complex beyond the power of any group of managers to manage. Such free beings would have to be self-managing. And the future would never again be easily predictable.”

We must deconstruct forced schooling, minimize indoctrination, free universal libraries, sponsored apprenticeships for the young that want them, maximize access to tools, labs, mentors. “Reform” is not enough to save us, the entire notion of schooling must be changed.

The hungry, tired, Fancher-Baker emigrant wagon train had stopped in the Mountain Meadows area to rest and to graze their cattle. It was the last stop before the hard desert crossing. They had come from Arkansas and were headed to California under the leadership of Colonel Alexander Fancher who had already made the trip twice. The 140 member party was fairly prosperous and very well-equipped. They had originally planned to resupply at Salt Lake City and they arrived low on supplies. They waited outside Salt Lake City for about a week as other groups caught up with them. Here the groups huddled up to decide which route to take across the Great Basin to California. If they went north they had to cross the Sierra Nevadas. This put them in danger of getting stuck in the snow, in the mountains as the infamous Donner party had. If they went south they had to go through the Mohave Desert to get to California. The party was unable to resupply in Salt Lake as planned, though. Instead of trade, the party was met with an attitude of paranoia and anger in the Mormon settlements. So they continued south.

Beginning back in 1851, a number of federal officers, fearing for their safety, left their Utah appointments. This made President Buchanan think that the Mormons were near rebellion. President Buchanan said, “…there no longer remains any government in Utah but the despotism of Brigham Young.” The general public didn’t like the nature of the theocracy under Young, either. The Army was sent to re-establish order. The Mormons, filled with apocalyptic mania from the preaching of the Mormon Reformation, prepared for siege. The settlers were ordered to abandon their homes and fields and consolidate with the main body of the church in northern and central Utah. All LDS missionaries serving in the US and Europe were recalled. Young issued a statement,” Martial law is hereby declared to exist in the Territory….and no person shall be allowed to pass or repass into, through or from this territory without a permit from the proper officer.” Young said, ”If they persist in sending troops here I want people in the west and in the east to understand that it will not be safe for them to cross the plains.” The settlers were ordered to sell no goods to any emigrants and to begin stockpiling.

The Fancher Baker party left Salt Lake empty-handed and went on to Cedar City. Cedar City was the last “stop for gas” so to speak on the road to California. They needed grain ground and supplies and had money to buy it. Again the emigrants were told no. It was in Cedar City that someone claimed to have recognized a member of the party as being in on the murder of the popular Mormon leader Parley Pratt. Pratt had been killed in Arkansas a few months earlier by one of his wives’ former husband, Hector McLean. Eleanor, the wife in question, had taken the couple’s children and fled with the Mormon, yet the Mormon community still viewed his death as martyrdom. The angry and highly paranoid Cedar City leaders were not willing to let the matter go. They planned to call out the local militia to pursue and arrest the men.

The Mormons had been listening to the blood atonement preaching of the Reformation. The idea of blood atonement, is that in cases of serious personal sin it is the murder of the sinner and the literal mixing of his blood with the earth that results in forgiveness. Young preached the idea of blood atonement fervently,“I have no wife whom I love so well that I would not put a javelin through her heart, and I would do it with clean hands….” Then in September 1856, he said, “I know that there are transgressors, who, if they knew themselves and the only condition upon which they can obtain forgiveness, would beg of their brethren to shed their blood,” and, “…suppose that he has committed a sin that he knows will deprive him of that exaltation which he desires, and that he cannot attain to it without the shedding of his blood, and also knows that by having his blood shed he will atone for that sin, and be saved and exalted with the Gods, is there a man or woman in this house but what would say, ‘shed my blood that I may be saved and exalted with the Gods’ ? Will you love your brothers or sisters likewise, when they have committed a sin that cannot be atoned for without the shedding of their blood? Will you love that man or woman well enough to shed their blood? That is what Jesus Christ meant. He never told a man or woman to love their enemies in their wickedness, never. He never intended any such thing..” In another sermon he says, “I could refer you to plenty of instances where men, have been righteously slain, in order to atone for their sins. I have known a great many men who have left this Church for whom there is no chance whatever for exaltation, but if their blood had been spilled, it would have been better. That is the way to love mankind.”

By the time the party had made camp in the Mountain Meadows region they were tired, they hadn’t even circled the wagons, to start with. The local Native Americans, the Paiutes, were generally peaceful. Although they occasionally picked off emigrants’ stock for food; they didn’t make large attacks. Early on the morning of September 7th the party was attacked. They circled the wagons and hunkered down to defend themselves against what they thought were Native Americans.

As Mark Twain wrote:

“The whole United States rang with its horrors. A large party of Mormons, painted and tricked out as Indians, overtook the train of emigrant wagons some three hundred miles south of Salt Lake City, and made an attack. But the emigrants threw up earthworks, made fortresses of their wagons, and defended themselves gallantly and successfully for five days! Your Missouri or Arkansas gentleman is not much afraid of the sort of scurvy apologies for “Indians” which the southern part of Utah affords. He would stand up and fight five hundred of them. At the end of the five days the Mormons tried military strategy. They retired to the upper end of the ‘Meadows,’ resumed civilized apparel, washed off their paint, and then, heavily armed, drove down in wagons to the beleaguered emigrants, bearing a flag of truce! When the emigrants saw white men coming they threw down their guns and welcomed them with cheer after cheer….”


John Doyle Lee

That pretty much tells it all as only Twain could. On Friday, September 11, two Mormon militiamen approached the Fancher wagons with a white flag. One of them, John D. Lee, was a high profile Mormon. Brother-in-law to Brigham Young, he served in the LDS’s secret police force, the Danites, back in Missouri and in the Council of Fifty. He was also an influential Indian agent and militia officer. When he told the party he had negotiated with the Paiutes so they could be escorted to safety in Cedar City in return for their livestock and supplies being given to the Indians, the scared emigrants took him at his word. They debated what to do; the men did not want to lay down their weapons. However, in the end, they accepted the terms. The Arkansas men reluctantly and with heavy hearts laid their guns in a wagon. They were certain this would mean their deaths, but they didn’t know what else to do, they had been under siege for five days with little water and the wounded were dying.

The youngest children and wounded left the wagon corral first, driven in two wagons, followed by women and children on foot. The men and older boys went last, each with an armed Mormon escort. They followed the Mormons out of the fortifications and began the march to their deaths. When the signal, a shot fired in the air, was given, each Mormon turned and executed the unarmed man next to him. The Mormons with the two wagons in front murdered the wounded. In the end 120 people including 50 children lay dead. The bodies were then looted for valuables and left to rot. The cattle, cash, and wagons were divided among the Mormons.

According to Mormonism, children are not accountable for their sins until after the age of eight, so seventeen children under eight were spared and given to Mormon families. The children were taken to the home of Rachel Hamblin. She later described how the children arrived “in the darkness of night, two of the children cruelly mangled and the most of them with their parents’ blood still wet upon their clothes, and all of them shrieking with terror and grief and anguish.”

Sara Baker, a survivor later wrote, “you wouldn’t forget it, either, if you saw your own mother topple over in the wagon beside you, with a big red splotch getting bigger and bigger on the front of her calico dress.” In 1859, a young survivor told his playmate, “My father was killed by Indians, when they washed their faces they were white men.”

Plans to blame the Paiutes began almost immediately. Pratt had actually been killed two weeks after the party left Arkansas, and people were horrified as word of the massacre traveled. It became impossible to maintain secrecy. Young concealed evidence from the beginning. He stated after the massacre that god had taken vengeance on the Fancher-Baker party. In Cedar City, Utah, the church leaders told members to ignore dead bodies and go about their business. It was 1859, before the children were returned to their relatives. The Mormons also gave back a bill for $7000, for their care. The first major report was also done in 1859, by Brevet Major Carleton of the US Army. He reported his findings to Congress and buried the remains and marked it with piled rocks topped by a wooden cross on which he inscribed, “Vengeance is mine: I will repay, saith the Lord.” Brigham Young and his men tore down the monument, and over the next century, it would be rebuilt and destroyed several times.


Philip Klingensmith, Mormon Bishop

The 1872, confession of Philip Klingensmith (pictured, right), a Mormon bishop at the time and a private in the Utah military was significant. It probably resulted in the 1874 indictments of nine men for the massacre. Needless to say, Brigham Young was not among them, in fact he continued his shadowy, theocratic government for some time. Only John D. Lee was tried. He was convicted by an all Mormon jury looking to put the matter to rest. He was executed by firing squad in accordance with their blood atonement doctrine. Another indicted man turned state’s evidence, and others spent years on the run. Faithful LDS members took an Oath of Vengeance against the murderers of the prophets. So these Mormons considered it their religious duty to kill the prophets’ murderers when they came across them. Lee was not the only person responsible for the massacre, not by a long shot. Isaac C. Haight, the stake president (a stake is an administrative unit comparable to a diocese in Catholicism) and senior regional militia leader of the Mormon militia, was in on it. In Lee’s 1877,Confession he says George A. Smith was sent to southern Utah to direct the massacre. They wanted no witnesses or reprisals.

The belief in blood atonement continues. Although, the LDS denounced it in 1978, FLDS, leader Warren Jeffs expects to be able to perform it in the future. Rulon Jeffs, father of Warren Jeffs, told his followers in 1997, “This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; and if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on the earth in order that he may be saved, spill it.” The cover-up attempts by the church continue as well. In August of 1999, a backhoe accidentally scooped up the bones of 28 of the massacre victims. Utah state law says they have to be studied. Forensic anthropologist Shannon Novak from the University of Utah and her colleagues did study them. She found entrance and exit holes in the skulls of men that could only have come from gunshots fired at close range. The women and children found died of blunt force. Of more than 2,600 bone fragments none had evidence of knives used to scalp, behead, or cut the throats, or trauma from arrows. This would seem to clear the Paiutes. “Prior to this analysis, what was known about the massacre was often based on second-hand information, polemical newspaper accounts, and the testimony of known killers,” said Novak. “Furthermore, what had come to be merely an abstract historical event, the ‘tragedy at Mountain Meadows,’ now became a mass murder of specific men, women, and children with proper names and histories.” Novak’s work was stopped by order of the governor, Mike Leavitt, whose grandfather participated in the massacre. Leavitt ordered the bones re-interred before the study was finished.

Religious terrorism is not new to our time and the attack on the World Trade Center was not our first 9/11. In fact, the massacre of the emigrants by the Mormons was the worst incidence of terrorism on American soil until the Oklahoma City bombing.

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Bagley, Will, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, 2002, University of Oklahoma Press
Brown-Hovelt, Luscinia and Himelfarb, Elizabeth J. Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1999 Archaeological Institute of America
Fisher, Alyssa, A Sight Which Can Never Be Forgotten, September 16, 2003, Archaeological Institute of America
Gibbs, Josiah, Mountain Meadows Massacre, 1910, Salt Lake Tribune Publishing Co.
Najacht, Norma, FLDS reinstituting blood atonement, Custer County Chronicle, May 2006
Turley, Jr., Richard E., The Mountain Meadows Massacre, Ensign, 2007,

By Kahlil Gibran

Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable. 

Evie at rest

Miniature Monday

Have you seen these little guys? Miniature horses are becoming more and more popular as pets. I think they are adorable. This little one is a member of the family that lives up the street from my grandmother. It pretty much stays in their yard munching grass, seeming quite content but some people are even training them as assistance animals, like guide dogs. As much as I like the idea of these little guys I do worry about the trend of miniaturizing animals. I will never forget the disgust I felt one day as I paused outside a Petsmart to see a mini-dachshund only to have his owner comment about how he got way bigger than they had wanted. Animals are not supposed to be accessories, they are companions, friends even, but not accessories. Miniaturizing brings health problems, inevitably. If you are interested in such a pet I hope you will adopt. Apparently many of these little horses are killed every year, just like dogs and cats there aren’t enough homes. For more information or to donate to rescue there’s Chance’s Mini Horse Rescue, AngelWings Pony Rescue and Sanctuary, and Painted Promise Ranch just to name a few.

Am I Boring My Dog? is Edie Jarolim’s first foray into the world of dog care books. We dog lovers most likely know Ms. Jarolim from The Bark magazine but she’s also written for Your Dog and she’s the pet travel correspondent for KVOA-TV.

I love the way this book is organized. It’s very reader-friendly; you can approach it in a cover to cover fashion or flip through and read just the nugget you need at that particular moment. As easy as it is to digest it’s not at all boring. Ms. Jarolim’s unique sense of humor and practical advice make it a pleasure to read. Its individual questions and answers are grouped into ten sections with each section covering an area such as food, grooming, or games.

It’s a perfect book for anyone in the “thinking about getting a dog” stage as it covers topics such as “should I get a mixed breed or a pure breed?” One thing that sets this book and Jarolim apart from other dog care books and their authors is that Jarolim goes a step further and tackles the harder material as well, like “What if I get a dog who doesn’t like me”. Then in a brilliant observation of what the reader needs she lightens the mood with some funny-because-you-know-it’s-true points on why you should get a dog rather than a cat. It’s like that throughout the book, good information sprinkled with well-placed wit.

It’s not only a book for those new to the wide world of dogs, though. Even old hands can find some new and useful information in this gem of a book. Sections like “what should I look for and look out for in a groomer” and “what do I need to know about car travel with my dog” can teach any old dog (guardian) some new tricks.

Yet, even though the book includes information of lots of different topics it’s quite focused. You won’t be overloaded or bombarded with stats. Jarolim says in her introduction, “My prime focus is on the relationship between one person and one dog, with other people pretty much serving as support staff,” and she does keep that focus with style.

The icing on the cake so to speak is Edie Jarolim’s story. The author herself is a recent convert to dogism. Recent though it may be it’s quite a heartwarming journey from dogless Manhattan PhD to rescuer of Frankie, a terrier with his own tale. The residual effect of the author’s recent journey into dogdom reflects in her writing. The enthusiasm is contagious. You’ll want to get a copy of Am I Boring My Dog? for your dog loving friends and one for yourself as well.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old time is still a-flying :
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer ;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may go marry :
For having lost but once your prime
You may for ever tarry.
~Robert Herrick

Flappy Anyone?

Who, me?

Who, me?

She doesn’t look deadly does she? Those big brown eyes staring up at you and the soft fur. Yet, to a dog toy she’s certain death. It doesn’t really matter which toy, either. She’s equally destructive with an expensive boutique pull toy as with a dollar store stuffed toy. That’s why when I heard about the Flappy from the guys at Who’s Your Dachshund I knew I had to give it a shot. There are two other dogs in the house who would like to have a toy, too. When Chloe, the guilty party shown there, gets done with her toys, she moves on to theirs. We find the stuffing and squeaky parts all over the house. Occasionally they are found in the middle of the night, too when it’s dark and you can’t be sure what you just stepped in. Ahh, the joys of the dachsie.
So, once I found out about the Flappy a trip to Petsmart was on. I know I have issues with Petsmart too. I always check to see if the little rats and hamsters have water. I do think their efforts to have adoptions at the stores are good though. In my area though they were the only place to find the Flappy, so I headed out.
They have five kinds of Flappys in four sizes: The Ruffy, Fleecie, Floatie, Flossy and Fluffy Floppies. (Wow! That’s a mouthful!) As you can imagine the Floatie one floats. It’s perfect for water play. They have squeakers and rope in the case of the Flossy or flappy ends for the rest of them. The website does say no toy is indestructible, but in all honesty I have never had a toy hold up the way this one has. We got the Ruffy in a medium. Although Chloe is a mini, she’s a chewer and always up for a game of tug of war. It’s made of this canvas weave that seems to not let her teeth punch through quite as easily. It also doesn’t seem to get too slobbery when playing with her. I don’t know about you but the plastic toys get so slobbery so fast they get gross to play with. When it does get gross you can wash it. Oh yeah, it made it through the washer and dryer a time or two now, already. Out of the many toys we have tried from the Kong to the old standard pull toys to Nylabones, this has been a keeper. Ben and the guys at Who’s You’re Dachshund were right about this.

Chloe celebrates her Tug of War win.

Chloe celebrates her Tug of War win.

The poor dog, in life the the firmest friend,

The first to welcome, foremost to defend,

Whose honest heart is still the master’s own,

Who labours, fights, lives, breathes for him alone,

Unhonour’d falls, unnoticed all his worth,

Denied in heaven the soul he held on earth,

While man, vain insect hopes to be forgiven,

And claims himself a sole exclusive heaven.

Lord Byron

Inscription on the monument of his

Newfoundland dog, 1808

The "you woke me up for this?" look.

The "you woke me up for this?" look.