Archive | August, 2011

Maria Montessori: Moments in Women’s History

31 Aug

Maria Montessori

Happy Birthday, Maria Montessori.  Montessori founded a method and philosophy of education that specifically serves children by treating them as individuals.  The Montessori method is unique in that the teacher serves as a facilitator who treats each student as an individual with value who is competent to make important decisions. Pedagogically, the Montessori method operates from the perspective that children have “absorbent minds,” and need to be encouraged to sustain a natural curiosity.  Typically, Montessori schools go through approximately middle school age.

In 1907, Montessori opened her first school, Casa dei Bambini.  While a devout Catholic, Montessori never married the father of her son, Mario, just proving we are all complex human beings.  As an educator of over 20 years, I have been consistently impressed with students coming out of Montessori schools. I would strongly recommend reading Education and Peace, which does a marvelous job of articulating a pedagogical approach for global citizens.

Princess Diana

I would also like to talk about the late Princess Diana.  It was 14 years ago today that Princess Diana was killed in a car accident in Paris.  Diana was one of the very first celebrities to help combat the AIDS epidemic. During the height of fear in the 1980’s, Diana took the hand of a patient with AIDS helping to emphasize that one could not contract the virus through physical contact.  She also used her celebrity for the international campaign against landmines.  It would be nice to see more celebrities working for social justice and lending their voices for equality and to end discrimination. Diana certainly makes people like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry look absolutely pathetic!


Wednesday Word of the Week, August 31

31 Aug

Hurricanes in Vermont, what will they think of next?

This week’s Word is: STABILITY

a situation in which things happen as they should and there are no harmful changes – Macmillan Dictionary Online

For those of us in New England, recent climatic events have led us to question many assumptions about this concept. Storm winds and rain from HURRICANE

a severe tropical cyclone usually with heavy rains and winds moving a 73-136 knots – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Irene have wrought substantial havoc in my home state of Vermont and jarred my adopted state of Massachusetts. Dear Irene, please refer to the definition above. Vermont is not TROPICAL!

relating to or situated in or characteristic of the tropics (the region on either side of the equator) – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Flooding and power outages exceed anything most Vermonters have seen, certainly ranging beyond my nearly 30 years of experience. Fortunately, my family was 100 miles away, visiting my aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the storm was felt but hardly damaging. Mom’s return to Vermont may be delayed a bit until the power is back on, but the neighbors say the family home is safe. That, at least seems to be stable.

I have had a number of reasons to think about stability recently. As I noted in May, I recently uprooted my HOME. This has been a very positive experience and has helped me move forward with my life and nascent career, but it is a tumultuous thing nonetheless.

Far more jarring was having one of the central pillars of my life shaken hard. In mid-July, my grandfather suffered a massive stroke. While he is recovering well, having this great oak of a man enfeebled by a tiny clot was a humbling experience. Granddad has been the one steady constant in my life, and I am not ready to lose that element of stability. Ironically, his need for better access to medical care is what brought him, Mom, and me to my aunt’s home in Amherst and spared us Irene’s peripatetic thundering.

As I get my career on track, I am working three different jobs (not uncommon for my generation). My sudden need to be in Braintree, Amherst, and Reading alternately for unpredictable stretches of time caused one new employer to unceremoniously jettison me as “unreliable” despite my best efforts to communicate at least daily and carry as much work with me as possible. I understand the need to run a business soundly, but a lack of compassion is a hallmark of bad business to me. Once again, stability was undermined.

As I make the most of my other two wonderfully supportive and engaging jobs, as Granddad recovers faster than he was supposed to, as we breathe a sigh of relief that our home and our neighbors weathered the storm reasonably well, I feel very lucky. I also recognize that an element of stability about which I have previously written bolsters me throughout this turmoil. I have a support system a FAMILY, upon which I can draw. Let the weather turn bizarre, let the employer have no heart, I have a stability which is steadfast and reliable.

Regular readers will not be surprised that such a turn of thought led me to ponder the great buffoons of Teabaggistan and their CANDIDATES. Ron Paul just finished assuring the nation that we didn’t need a Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Kudos to President Obama for his visit to FEMA and his vocal support of their work, now under effective management.) Rick Perry tells us that Medicaid is unconstitutional. Michele Bachmann wants to cut the minimum wage and reduce unemployment benefits, all while assuring us that earthquakes and hurricanes are God’s way of asking for a smaller Federal budget.

How dare they! The role of government is to make things better for the citizens. Huge military budgets and ghastly corporate tax loopholes don’t do that. Logjams over ideology when Americans need jobs programs don’t do that. Wasting precious revenue persecuting the LGBT community doesn’t do that. Plotting ways to remove women’s control over their own health care doesn’t do that. The programs these men and women are targeting very clearly do provide care and support.

Given my life events of the past four months, each one of those absurd claims and cuts is deeply personal, and the personal is political. Any American who believes that these Republican candidates would be a President who would look out for their best interests is seriously lacking in

a condition in which someone’s mind or emotional state is healthy – Macmillan Dictionary Online


Helen Mirren and Notables in Women’s History

30 Aug

Our Dame Helen

As many of you know, Helen Mirren is the one woman that could turn me straight.  TSM celebrated the brilliant, beautiful, feisty Mirren during Women’s History Month. From her courageous role as DCI Jane Tennison in Prime Suspect where we see the hardships of pioneering women breaking into a male dominated field, to amazing performances as in Elizabeth I and then as Elizabeth II in The Queen, Mirren demonstrated her stellar talents while captivating our hearts.

Of course, when I saw the NPR article: Twenty Iconic Male Movie Roles in Which Helen Mirren Would Have Ruled, I knew I would have to do another blog post on our Dame Helen. Two of the roles NPR mentions I chuckled but categorically agree with: Helen Mirren is Obi-wan Kenobi, and I could absolutely see our Dame Helen as Howard Beale in Network.  Click here to see the full list of movies. Like Jane Tennison, Mirren is very aware of what it takes to survive in a culture that privileges men over women as Hollywood privileges youth over talent.

I also want to take some time to recognize two other women today.

Happy Birthday, Mary  Shelley.  Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and is best known for her novel, Frankenstein.  She also served as editor for her husband, Percy Shelley’s, poetry.

Nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose — a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.–Mary Shelley

Finally, I would like to say Happy Birthday to  Lillie Rosa Minoka-Hill.  Minoka Hill was the second Native American woman doctor in the United States, following Susan La Flesche Picotte.

Rick Santorum: Semi-Functioning Illiterate?

29 Aug

I Can't Stop Thinking About Gay Sex

Poor sad pathetic Rick (the P is silent) Santorum.  Santorum, a 2012 Republican Presidential candidate, has now said that the LGBT community has, “gone out on a jihad,” on him.  I don’t think he knows the meaning of the word jihad, just as he does not know the meaning of civil rights.  I am consistently amazed at how right wing bigots are able to play the “victim” card.

While in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Santorum went on and on about how the LGBT community has waged “a jihad” against him as he then spewed venom against us and against marriage equality. The ever clever Santorum, (I think I just spat up on my mouth a little) went on ad nauseam comparing napkins to marriage equality. Oy! I wish this man would quit listening to the voices in his head:

I said ‘this is a napkin,’This is a napkin. A napkin is what a napkin is. It isn’t a paper towel. It isn’t a car.’ You can call a napkin a car, but it doesn’t make it a car. You can call a paper towel a chair, but it doesn’t make it a chair. Marriage is what marriage is.

Let us examine this, shall we?  Can a napkin be a different color and still be a napkin? Can a napkin be made of different fibers, paper, wool, cotton, or silk and still be a napkin? Can a napkin come in different sizes and still be a napkin?  Seems to me that if two people love each other and want to make a commitment to each other, regardless of color, size, or age, we should call it marriage.  One must wonder why Santorum is so very preoccupied with the gay community?  If I didn’t know better, I would wonder if it is a case of unrequited love from his time with Dan Savage.

I wish we did have the super powers ascribed to us by village idiots like Rabbi Yehuda Levin and Pat Robertson.  I would not have bothered with Irene and an earthquake, I would have just performed a total makeover for Santorum, Bachmann and all the other bigots.  The makeover would have been so complete, I would have made them look like compassionate human beings with hearts–now that is some serious super powers!

Justice Prosser: “I didn’t mean to choke her.”

28 Aug

"oh, I barely choked her."

For those that follow TSM, you will remember the coverage we gave misogynist Justice David Prosser back in March of 2010, when he called  Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “bitch,” and threatened to “destroy” her.  Well, it appears that Prosser is intent on keeping his promise as he now goes after Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, by choking her.

Allow me to refresh your memories of the particulars back in June of this year. The Supreme Court of Wisconsin chose to uphold  Gov. Scott Walker’s  anti-public employee union legislation.  Prosser, the good conservative lap dog that he is, wanted to release the decision immediately as per his instructions from the state legislature. Chief Justice Abrahamson disagreed. Prosser and Abrahmson argued about this out side of Justice Bradley’s office, with Prosser standing outside of the office door. At this point, Prosser claims that Bradley “charged” at him and it was just a reflex that he grabbed her neck (Interesting reflex, given Prosser’s history).

There are many things about this scene that bother me, but Justice Patience Roggensack’s admonishment of Bradley pushed me over the edge: “Ann you do realize you goad him.”  Even if that were true, does this allow for physical attacks?  I’m sorry, but this is like saying if a woman dresses provocatively she deserves to be raped.  Are we to understand that Prosser should not be held responsible for his behavior?

Am I the only one that remembers Prosser’s words, “There will be a war against you and it will not be a ground war?”  This has gone way beyond partisan politics.  Bradley has repeatedly reported that she is worried about her safety–I know I would be as well. For more context, I share part of Bradley’s interview with police:

Justice Bradley stated her intention was to get close to him to make sure he knew that she meant it. Justice Bradley said she wanted to look him in the eyes and recalled that she did not point at his face, but was pointing over his right shoulder towards the door that was behind him.

Justice Bradley said it was at this point Justice Prosser grabbed her by the neck in what she described as a “choke hold.” Justice Bradley did not recall Justice Prosser squeezing or applying pressure around her neck. Justice Bradley could not describe how many seconds Justice Prosser’s hands were around her neck, but she did recall being able to yell something to the effect of, “Get your hands off my neck.”

Again, I maintain that it is immaterial how long Prosser had his hands around her neck.  You do not lay hands on another person!  My fear is that the fall out from this will be to blame Bradley, the woman, rather than hold Prosser accountable for his actions. As of Thursday, the special prosecutor said no charges would be filed.

I am disheartened that we still scapegoat women and other marginalized populations; have we no memory of Anita Hill?

Hero of the Week Award: August 26, Chely Wright

26 Aug

Hero of the Week

This week’s HWA comes with a hearty congratulations to country music star Chely Wright who married her fiancée, Lauren Blitzer, last Saturday, August 20. Wright was the first major country star to come out as LGBT. She did so knowing full well the impact it could have on her career. After years of trying to hide her sexual orientation, including a disastrous affair with the homophobic Brad Paisley, Wright decided in May 2010 to come out publicly. She cited the damage to her personal well-being from all the “lying and hiding” and her growing concern over all the bullying and suicides in the LGBTQ teen community.

She notes the irony of the country music community being so frequently opposed to homosexuality:

The thing that I don’t understand — the thing I find so … hilarious, actually, is the fact that the country music community, fine folk that they are (and that’s not sarcasm), openly supports and encourages things like alcoholism. So … being gay isn’t okay, but being a drunk is?

Since coming out, she has been a vocal LGBT rights activist and an articulate spokesperson for the community.

I hear the word ‘tolerance’—that some people are trying to teach people to be tolerant of gays. I’m not satisfied with that word. I am gay, and I am not seeking to be ‘tolerated’. One tolerates a toothache, rush-hour traffic, an annoying neighbor with a cluttered yard. I am not a negative to be tolerated.

Brava, Chely! Thank you for your bravery in coming out, your honesty in dealing with a hostile community, and your support of the most vulnerable LGBTQ Americans. May you and Lauren have a long and happy life together.

Bigot of the Week Award: August 26, Rabbi Yehuda Levin

26 Aug

Bigot of the Week

What a sad week.  There was no shortage of bigots to be found.  I need to thank friend and fellow blogger, True Confessions of a Female Motorcyclist, for inspiring me to write about this week’s BWA.  Apparently, the LGBT community is far more powerful than I even knew. I shall have to write the President of the Gay Agenda and let him know of our super powers.

Rabbi Yehuda Levin has now created a youtube video blaming gays for the earthquake on the east coast this week.  Apparently, we have also used our super powers to cause hurricane Irene.  His statements scapegoating gays certainly earns him the BWA.  The Bigot Levin was quoted as saying: “You have shaken your male member in a place where it doesn’t belong. I too will shake the earth.”  Is it me, or does he seem obsessed with what men are doing with our “members?”   While I hate to direct anyone to his youtube viedo, here it is if you feel compelled to witness his hate speech.

Because his comments are not only bigoted but completely insane, I am not even going to dignify them with a direct response.  My hope is that he and Mark Bachmann find each other and one day celebrate their love openly.

I also feel compelled to offer a dishonorable mention to this week’s BWA.  Thank you to my friend Jen Lockett for inspiring me to share this. Unfortunately, the homophobic bigot, Jerry Buell from Florida, was reinstated after posting hateful anti-gay comments on Facebook. While I certainly support his right to Free Speech and “will defend to the death to protect it,” I do not believe he should be in a classroom around students who would be guided by his views.  He is in a position of power and he is abusing that power.  His syllabus says:

I teach God’s truth, I make very few compromises. If you believe you may have a problem with that, get your schedule changed, ’cause I ain’t changing!

Buell has also said that his classroom is his “mission field.”  I think it is safe to say he will not be protecting LGBT students from bullying at his school.  As someone who was an educator for over 20 years, all I can say is that I’m disgusted with Buell and the Superintendent for reinstating him–I would not feel my child was safe near this bigot.

Female Pirate Legends: Women Forced to Live as Men

25 Aug

Anne Bonney and Mary Read

While there may have been other women pirates, the only documented history  we have of female pirates is that of the legendary Anne Bonney and Mary Read.  I came across this wonderful piece of history after reading my friend and fellow blogger’s post on The Tale of Pyrates.  Jennifer got me so intrigued by the life of these two women that I felt compelled to do some more research.

Anne Bonney came to the Caribbean with her new husband James Bonney, a marriage met with great disapproval from Anne’s father. James turned from Pirate to informant and thus lost Anne’s good opinion and her love.  Anne left James and joined notorious pirate Captain Jack Rackham.  Because Anne was breaking into a very male dominated “career” of piracy, she dressed in drag as a man while sailing with Rackham, as they preyed upon Spanish treasure ships off Cuba and Hispaniola.  Legend has it that Bonney took some time off to have a baby and then returned to piracy and left her child with friends in Cuba.

Mary Read had a very sad beginning to life. Her father disappeared and her mother ran out of money to take care of her daughter. Mary was sent to live with her grandmother.  However, because her grandmother hated girls so much, Mary was forced to live and dress as a young boy.

Not a big surprise that both Bonney and Read learned quite well that living as a man in the 18th century was far easier than living as a woman. In 1718, Read’s pirate ship was overtaken by Rackham’s and this is when Read joined the crew. It was not long before Bonney and Read discovered each other’s secret and became friends. According to legend, Read also took a male lover after she spared his life, after killing the man that was going to kill her soon to be new lover.

Jennifer does a great job of talking about the famous women pirates and points you to the Smithsonian article about them, which provides additional information than I have here.  Here is Jen’s blog.

Elmhurst College Ahead of the Curve in Civil Rights

25 Aug

Embraces LGBT Students

Thank you to my friend Tim Jung for inspiring me to write this story. In the wake of the brutal murder of yet another gay teen in Iowa less than a week ago, here is a story of hope and progress. Elmhurst College in Illinois has included questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity to their admissions application.

While students can opt out of answering the questions, those who do identify as part of the LGBT community may be eligible for a scholarship worth up to one-third of tuition.  Gary Rold, the Dean of Admissions, explains why Elmurst has included questions about LGBT identity on the admissions form :

Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement. This is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion but it’s an important part of who they are.  More importantly, he said, knowing students’ sexual orientation will help officials direct incoming students toward services or groups that might help them make an easier transition to college life. We try really hard to take good care of students, have them graduate and be successful citizens in the world. The only way you do that is to meet people where they really are.

Dartmouth and University of Pennsylvania have started to include LGBT-centered activities that students can look at joining upon admission. How refreshing to see a handful of college campuses working to embrace LGBT students. What a stark contrast to the bigoted Republican Presidential candidates signing a pledge to discriminate against us and treat as sub-human, a la Bachmann whose husband goes against APA best practices with his “reparative therapy.”   I am hopeful that Millennials like Tim Jung, Lex Kahn, and Maria Khan have had enough of the fear mongering bigoted homophobic tactics of the right wing and will prove to be the generation that makes a safer environment for all people.  For those of you in the LGBT community looking for a safe school, you may want to consider Elmhurst College. Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday Word of the Week, August 24

24 Aug

The smaller you are, the bigger your burden.

This week’s word is: INCREASE

to make something become larger in amount or number

Specifically an increase in TAX

an amount of money that you have to pay to the government that it uses to provide public services and pay for government institutions.


The modern Republican party, especially filtered through the Great Tea Bag, maintains that its members are adamantly opposed to any increases in taxes. This apparently simple fact has motivated two of the biggest political fights of the past year.

Last December, the Obama administration largely capitulated to anti-tax purists even before the House of Representatives moved to Teabagistan. In order to maintain unemployment benefits, Congress and the White House perpetuated the odious Bush tax cuts. Earlier this month, as part of the debt ceiling debacle, GOP leaders in Congress again refused to entertain any increases in revenue – especially tax rates – as part of any deal.

Seems like a pretty clear position, doesn’t it? Except that now, when the payroll tax deductions that were included in the December Nightmare are set to expire, GOP leaders refuse to discuss an extension. Take a look at this simple math: if a 2% reduction in taxes expires, then taxes go up by 2%. That is, by any reasonable definition, a tax increase.

What say the Republicans?

“We don’t need short-term gestures. We need long-term fundamental changes in our tax structure and our regulatory structure that people who create jobs can rely on,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., when asked about the payroll tax matter.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., “has never believed that this type of temporary tax relief is the best way to grow the economy,” said spokesman Brad Dayspring.

Except, of course, that both men voted for a short-term measure last December. What is the biggest difference between the two issues? The Bush tax cut extension primarily benefits the very wealthy. The payroll tax cut primarily benefits the middle class.

Tea Party members can bloviate all they like about keeping taxes low, government small, and Americans empowered. At the end of the day, however, the party they support only really seems to care about keeping taxes low for corporations and the super-rich. Everyone else can just pay up.

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