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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.

American Education?

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.

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