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Sep. 3rd, 2013

Back to School

Last week I started classes for this semester, and I'm already exhausted. I know I say that twice a year, every year, but this time it seemed like it happened faster than it usually does, and it's especially marked by the fact that I only have classes four days a week, as opposed to last semester, where I had classes six days a week (I had Saturday class). But last semester I had one class a day. Now, most days I have two or three classes a day, and on Thursdays I'm basically either in class or commuting from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM with some really awkwardly-placed breaks in there. I have a five-hour break between my second and third classes, but most of that time is battling rush hour traffic to get to the satellite campus in the next county over. Which can take anywhere from forty-five minutes to three hours depending on traffic and any other circumstances. Once it took me five hours to get home because some fool got in an accident on the one-lane part of the road and blocked traffic from both sides. I think my mother was about ready to call the FBI.

But that's not really important. Today, at least in my district, the kids from kindergarten to the 12th grade went back to school. Unfortunately it wasn't an easy way for them to get back to school this year, and some of them are probably facing today in an entirely new school due to redistricting. Apparently, due to explosive population growth in our area over the past few years, they're shuffling around the school boundaries for the kids. But... I don't really see what that is supposed to do, because the same amount of kids is still going to be there, and the schools were already overcrowded to begin with. At my high school, things were already reaching critical mass while I was there, and to hear my younger brother tell it, it's only gotten worse. However, apparently the redistricting was supposed to make my brother attend school at another high school not too far from where we are... which was worse-off on the overcrowding than our high school. They decided to defer the incoming transfer to next year's incoming class, but I honestly do not think it is going to make a difference. What they really need to do is build another school, but oh t3h noez, the budget constraints! We can't build another school, we can't buy new textbooks that were printed sometime in the 21st century, oh and of course we can't actually fund anything useful. Let's throw money at the sports and buy bigass television sets instead! Yeah!

...can you tell I've been talking to my brother and his friends? I had to pick them up from track practice today and they ranted at me the whole way home.

Jun. 2nd, 2011

Keeping Connections

This is an easy thing to forget, but one should never forget where they came from, where the people that care about them are. After what has basically been an entire year in hell, I went back to the high school I graduated from last June, to visit some of the people I actually miss who worked there. A few of my friends wanted to go, so I went as well, hoping that I would see some of the teachers I liked, and the people who I am proud to consider my friends who are employed there, not as teachers, but as administrative staff.

I had forgotten how nice it is to be surrounded by people who actually give a flying fuck what happens to you, and who want to see you succeed. At university? Fuck you, you're just another number, another person who's paying them the money that they crave so they can spend another 1/2 billion dollars on useless things that no one is probably ever going to use (like a chapel- I go to a secular university. Why the hell do we need to spend half a billion dollars on what is essentially a church when this is a secular state university? I don't know either). Not that everyone at the university doesn't care, but considering the “welcome back” I got today? It almost makes me want to go fake my documents and put me as two years younger than I actually am so that I can go back and have one more year at high school.

Don't get me wrong- high school sucked. It started at a ridiculously early time in the morning, and they made us do a lot of useless things that have absolutely no impact on real life, or even your life in college. It's really not fun. But if you don't burn your bridges, and know who to make connections with, then it will serve you well in the long run.

You all know about my difficulties finding a job. But because I didn't just go “fuck you, I'm out” when I graduated, I still have people who are willing to vouch for my character, and even keep an eye out for job openings that might accept me. These are the people who send me emails every now and then asking me if I'm doing OK.

But it is also painful, going back, and seeing how much everything has changed. My former teachers are exhausted- you could see it in their eyes. It was also hard, realizing that if he hadn't been killed in an accident, my friend would have been working today and graduating in a week and a half. I knew that he was gone, and I had this same sort of revelation back in late April, when he would have turned 18, but today, it just really hit me in a way that it hadn't since I went to visit his grave site.

I don't even really know what I'm trying to say anymore, other than that even if you hate where you are, look for the people who care about you. Don't burn your bridges, if you can avoid it. Even if you do cross someone, or a couple of someones, don't write off the people who you like, and who like you. I could have made that mistake (someday I'll type up that story, but not tonight. That's a story I need to be in the right mood to talk about, and I'm too depressed tonight), but I didn't.

And now, even though things have changed so much- time has gone by, I've moved on, people have passed away- there is still something for me to come back to.

May. 20th, 2011

Support Damon Fowler

*Sigh* Today I Was going to do a fun write-up of my day (I spent most of the day trying to get to a shopping district in the middle of the mess of construction that is typical of the area that my parents live in and almost running over a bunch of orange cones randomly strewn across the highway for no reason, and ending up going in circles for an hour), but then this story was brought to my attention by an online friend, and since this has a lot more far-reaching consequences than me driving around in circles for an hour, this gets my attention today.

Damon Fowler was supposed to graduate from high school in Louisiana today. I haven't heard whether or not that happened, although I really hope that it went off without a hitch, and that he was safe today. See, Damon's school usually did a sectarian (Christian) prayer during the graduation, something which in violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution (given that he attends a public school), and he decided to contact his superintendent threatening to contact the ACLU if they continued with this tradition. In his words, “My reasoning behind it is that it’s emotionally stressing on anyone who isn’t Christian. No one else wanted to stand up for their constitutional right of having freedom of and FROM religion. I was also hoping to encourage other atheists to come out and be heard. I’m one of maybe three atheists in this town that I currently know of. One of the others is afraid to come out of the (atheist) closet.” And, the school district grudgingly agreed. Mainly because they didn't want to end up paying for Damon's college education. Of course, though, word got out that he was the one who got the district to put a stop to the prayer. And damn, was the entire town butthurt.

Among the ranks of those with hurt butts was Damon's English teacher, Mitzi Quinn. Not only is her grasp of standard English grammar... well, sketchy, especially for an English teacher (and trust me, if I can pick up on your bad grammar, it's pretty bad), she has the temerity to go out and publicly trash a student, saying, ““And what’s even more sad is this is a student who really hasn’t contributed anything to graduation or to their classmates.”

Now, uh, I'm sorry, but that's just incredibly unprofessional. I know that teachers talk smack about their students when they think no one is listening (I used to work for my former school district, and teachers like to gossip, just like everyone else). They talk about how Bobby sucks at math, and how Susie is really annoying, and how Jane and George won't stop making out in the hallway, and how Sam is getting expelled next week for stealing Tom's iPod. Just like anyone else, teachers like to gossip. They also talk about how Lily is a little bitch, and how they'd really like to kick Jesse for always talking back. While that might not be the most professional way of handling it, it's generally accepted that what gets said in the staff lounge stays in the staff lounge. They're not barging all over the metro area yelling to anyone who will listen their complaints about their students. At least, not if they don't want to get fired.

But Mitzi Quinn? She told her complaints to the town newspaper, basically calling this student a lazy heathen bastard, only in not so many words. Since the climate in town is already very hostile to Damon, this is just adding fuel to the fire.

Sadly, even Damon's mother refuses to speak to him for this transgression of wanting his school to follow the Constitution. And just to spite him, one of his classmates delivered a very long, rambling Christian prayer to the cheers of the entire auditorium. How very dare he! It's not like the First Amendment is the law all over the country or anything... oh wait. Oops. It is.

I graduated from high school last year. My school's chosen speech-giver planned to go to Liberty University to become a Baptist minister. You'd think he of all people would be liable to throw a bunch of religious references in his speech, but he didn't. The most he did was thank God in his list of people who'd helped him become what he was today, along with his mom, dad, and favorite history teacher. Of course, I went to school in an urban area, surrounded by students of many different faiths. Trying to include a sectarian prayer would likely result in a mass walkout by Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, non-religious, and pagan students, of which I knew several from each group. It just wouldn't have been stood for.

Unfortunately, though, when you go to school in an apparent hivemind, you don't get Constitutional rights. Screw that! I'm sorry, but I thought this was America, not Saudi Arabia. You can't go around forcing everyone to pray to the same god that you do. I'm an atheistic-leaning agnostic, but I have many friends of many different faiths. They respect my beliefs, and I respect theirs. It works pretty well- I get to go to a lot of holiday parties, and everyone generally gets along really well (well, except for the one time someone dropped their cell phone in the chip dip, that was awkward and the phone owner got irrationally angry). But all of those times? They're at private residences, and having religious ceremonies on private property is perfectly acceptable. But you can't do it on public property, it's tantamount to the government enforcing a religion on its people.

I wonder if everyone who was so hot to trot on this prayer would be cool with it if Muslim students decided to pray an Islamic prayer in front of everyone? Or if Buddhist students decided to pray aloud? What about if Jewish students brought their rabbi in to pray? Somehow I don't think that would go over as well. What if I wanted to pray to the Underpants Gnome? Somehow I don't think they would appreciate that very much either.

Either way, I wish the best to Damon, and hope that he does contact the ACLU. I hope that Mitzi Quinn is fired, for being an unprofessional bitch. And I hope that Damon stays safe for his last few days in his hometown.

Friendly Atheist's coverage
WWJTD's coverage
Bastrop Enterprise (the town newspaper's) article, containing Mitzi Quinn's statements