Thursday, December 24, 2015

Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last

When I woke up this Christmas Eve morning, I shared with my wife that I was going to write a blog post today concerning how quickly time is passing and the need for us to appreciate every holiday that comes along because the truth of the matter is, none of us know when it will be the last time that we will be celebrating any particular holiday. This holds especially true for traditional family holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, New Year's, Fourth of July and of course birthdays. Life is short even if you are blessed enough to live one hundred years, so enjoy as much of it as you can. When I say "last time," I am speaking specifically about death. Even I as the author of the post don't know if tomorrow will be my last Christmas alive or not.

Each Christmas or any of the other days that we pause from our every day mundane routines must be appreciated and celebrated with family and friends as if it were the last time that you or I will have the opportunity to share on that particular day. Truth be told, none of us know if tomorrow (12/25/15) will be our last Christmas or not or if January 1, 2016 will be our last celebration of entering a new year. I don't write this post to be morbid, morose or a "Debbie Downer," but I do write it to challenge us to be more grateful and appreciative of our time spent with our loved ones, may it be family or friends. I don't know about you, but when I hear of someone that I know of passing or transitioning, my mind immediately goes back to the last time I saw him or her and in many instances the last holiday function that we were together.

The time is out for holding grudges, being mean, staying stuck in the past, not speaking to each other, and every other negative action that one could regret when a family member or friend is gone. As I said, I had already intended to write this post today, but what really confirmed it for me was when I ran into an eighth grade classmate in what we both considered an obscure place. It was in a corner supermarket that we happened to run into each other. It just happened so that his son was getting his hair cut in a barber shop in the same little strip mall where the supermarket is located and he had stopped in to pick up something while his son was waiting his turn. My wife and I stopped there to pick up a few last minute Christmas Eve food items and lo and behold as I turned around, my classmate was standing right in front of me.  We both exclaimed, "What are the chances of seeing each other here?," yet obviously they were pretty good because there we stood. We had not seen each other in five years since our thirtieth high school class reunion. We laughed and reminisced and shared with each other just how good it was to be alive and to be able to see each other. We were genuinely happy and grateful to have crossed paths today, in fact, I told my wife that seeing Wayne, made my day.

It also brought me back to my original intent to write this post concerning our appreciating people and life. As each year passes, we are losing more and more of our loved ones and at some point we will be gone too. So I say all of this to say, truly and deeply enjoy this pause over the next week or so with family and friends. If there is someone out there who you are estranged, do everything you can to make amends. Live, Love, Laugh and be appreciative of the lives around you. Your parents, your siblings, your spouses, your cousins, your grandparents, your aunts, your uncles and so on and so on and so on. Show some love this holiday season even to someone who may be angry or holding a grudge against you. It does not cost a thing to be a decent human being.

With all of that said, have a Merry Christmas and if I do not post again before the new year, have a Happy New Year. You are invited to listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. The show is web streamed around the world on gobrave.org and heard locally in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 & @readingcircle01 and to visit my website on www.thereadingcircle01.com. May you live as long as you want and not want as long as you live. Live each day as if it were your last, because one day it will be. Something to critically think about.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Lighten Up!


At a Washington press dinner thirty years ago, fun-loving Washington Redskins running back John Riggins turned to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and jovially barked, "Lighten up, Sandy, you're too tight!" If there was such a thing as going "viral" in 1985, Riggins' quip went viral. 

I relate and understand exactly where Mr. Riggins was coming from as I often tell people to lighten up as well. You see, I too love to laugh and have always been considered "Happy-Go-Lucky." In fact, I was nominated to that category in my high school yearbook by my classmates. I am often told that I laugh and/or smile regardless of how bad the situation may be. Yes, I tend to see the humor even in the most morbid of circumstances. So when someone appears tight or heavy burdened to me, I tend to offer the same advice as the former Redskins running back.

As I was thinking about those words today, it dawned on me that "Lighten Up" could be construed in more than one way. Most often we think of lightening up as taking the weight off or loosening up hence the B part of Mr. Riggins' quip of "you're too tight."  In other words, you are too serious or too rigid. But it came to me today that "lighten up" could also be interpreted as one who needs to rid themselves of the darkness that is inside of them. Depression is darkness. Anger is darkness. Fear is darkness. Jealousy is darkness. Bitterness is darkness. Holding a grudge is darkness and this list does not stop here.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in one of his speeches that "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that."  There are many parts of the Bible that mention light as detailed below:
  • Psalms 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.
  • Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
  • Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
  • John 1:5 And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.
  • John 8:12 Then spoke Jesus again to them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that follows me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.
  • John 12:35 Then Jesus said to them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come on you: for he that walks in darkness knows not where he goes.
  • Ephesians 5:14 Why he said, Awake you that sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.
  • James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no fickleness, neither shadow of turning.
  • 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that you should show forth the praises of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvelous light;
  • 1 John 1:7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
  • Revelation 21:23 And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.  
So it would behoove all of us to "LIGHTEN UP" in order to bring some light to a dark world that is getting darker. Recent headlines such as Suicide bombing in Nigeria kills 8, Mali hotel attack: Gunmen barged in, shot at 'anything that moved' Cameroon: At least 6 killed in suspected Boko Haram suicide bombings and Paris Terror Attacks  illustrate for us just how dark our world is.

One common denominator for both definitions of  lighten up is laughter and humor. A sense of humor and laughing drives darkness from within as well as loosens up those who are tense, always serious, and rigid. According to a study by psychologists Herbert Lefcourt, of the University of Waterloo, and Rod Martin, Ph.D., now at the University of Western Ontario.Stressed-out folks with a strong sense of humor become less depressed and anxious than those whose sense of humor is less well developed. In this article printed in its entirety appearing on the MAYO CLINIC website we learn the following about laughter/humor and its benefits.

By Mayo Clinic Staff 
 When it comes to relieving stress, more giggles and guffaws are just what the doctor ordered. Here's why.
Whether you're guiltily guffawing at an episode of "South Park" or quietly giggling at the latest New Yorker cartoon, laughing does you good. Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that's no joke. 
 Stress relief from laughter
 A good sense of humor can't cure all ailments, but data are mounting about the positive things laughter can do.
 Short-term benefitsA good laugh has great short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn't just lighten your load mentally, it actually induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:
  • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
  • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response and increases your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
  • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress. 
Long-term effects
 Laughter isn't just a quick pick-me-up, though. It's also good for you over the long haul. Laughter may:
  • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. In contrast, positive thoughts actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses.
  • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers. Laughter may also break the pain-spasm cycle common to some muscle disorders.
  • Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
  • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression, sometimes due to chronic illnesses. Laughter can help lessen your depression and anxiety and make you feel happier.
Improve your sense of humor
Are you afraid you have an underdeveloped — or nonexistent — funny bone? No problem. Humor can be learned. In fact, developing or refining your sense of humor may be easier than you think.
  • Put humor on your horizon. Find a few simple items, such as photos or comic strips that make you chuckle. Then hang them up at home or in your office. Keep funny movies or comedy albums on hand for when you need an added humor boost.
  • Laugh and the world laughs with you. Find a way to laugh about your own situations and watch your stress begin to fade away. Even if it feels forced at first, practice laughing. It does your body good.
  • Share a laugh. Make it a habit to spend time with friends who make you laugh. And then return the favor by sharing funny stories or jokes with those around you.
  • Knock-knock. Browse through your local bookstore or library's selection of joke books and get a few rib ticklers in your repertoire that you can share with friends.
  • Know what isn't funny. Don't laugh at the expense of others. Some forms of humor aren't appropriate. Use your best judgment to discern a good joke from a bad, or hurtful, one.
Laughter is the best medicine
Go ahead and give it a try. Turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile and then give a laugh, even if it feels a little forced. Once you've had your chuckle, take stock of how you're feeling. Are your muscles a little less tense? Do you feel more relaxed or buoyant? That's the natural wonder of laughing at work.
So let's all follow the advice offered by John Riggins 30 years ago and "Lighten Up" in both senses of the phrase. Let's unburden ourselves with some things that we can let go of. Let's not be so tight and rigid because at the end of the day, it really is not that serious. We must also free ourselves of emotions such as depression to rid the darkness inside of us so that we can be light bearers in the world.

If you are a light, when you walk in a room, everyone will know it. When you are making life better for someone else, you are being a light. When you are just fun to be around, you are being a light. Reiterating Dr. King's quote,  "Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that." Let's go out there and be some light.

Something to critically think about. You are invited to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and readingcircle01.



Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Who Signed Me Up For This?

I begin this post by saying this is one of the longest stretches of time between posts (August 16 - November 11)  since I began The Critical Thinker some years ago . I guess one could say I just have not been in the mood for writing because certainly there is more than enough to write for us to critically think about. I feel as if The Critical Thinker has been missing in action.

Educators reading this will agree that we all have humorous stories based on situations occurring with our students, families, and colleagues that range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Teachers and administrators commonly lament that at the end of their careers they could write a book, and those sentiments are true. As we meet with each other, we share stories about what has happened in our classrooms and in our buildings that in some instances seem unbelievable but are indeed true. While many of the stories are humorous or horrifying, they also in some instances contain a bigger life lesson embedded within. With all of that said, I'm sharing one of these stories with you that for me has a life lesson interpretation within it. This story always brings a hearty laugh between me and my colleague Nancy when we reference it with each other. In fact, the question appearing in the title of this post has become a code between me and Nancy when something  is said or done in our business that does not make sense (Shhh...that's our little secret).

The story goes like this...... there was a student who was as cute as they come; however, he could be as troublesome as he was cute. Each year our school was the recipient of toys donated by a magnanimous organization who visited our school with Santa Claus. The generous donors would solicit the name of each child and some possible ideas as to what toys to bring. This would happen as early as September or October. Throughout the months leading up to the Christmas holidays, teachers would constantly remind their students about the Santa Claus visit and how their behavior could impact what gifts they received from him. The old story about the lump of coal was shared repeatedly with the students particularly those who chose not to follow the rules and our little handsome friend heard this story probably more than most; however, he chose to ignore the warnings.

One day after experiencing the actions of this student, his teacher came to me and said I know how to help this student understand the connection between his actions and consequences and the lesson will be learned when Santa Claus is here.  Well, the big day arrived! All of the lower grade students were brought into a large room in the school that had been decorated with colorful lights, tinsel, a Christmas tree and gorgeously decorated gifts. In the center of it all was the big Santa Claus chair with Santa Claus seated in it. As the children entered the room their eyes widened, their smiles broadened, and their squeals heightened. Excitement was in the air! Each teacher lined his/her class up alongside the Santa chair and each child to his/her delight spoke with the jolly white bearded man one by one. At the end of each conversation, Santa Claus gave the child a gift which ranged from a bicycle, video game, board game, doll, skateboard, to a deck of cards. If you have read this far, I am sure you have figured out which gift our little friend received.

After each class received their gifts, they were asked to assemble for a group picture. As our little friend’s class grouped to take their picture, the children stood proudly with their gifts with the exception of our little friend. With a slight stutter he turned and asked the question, "Who, who signed me up for this?" The teacher looked at me with the smile of a Cheshire Cat and as our eyes met, I knew the answer to the young man's question.

I share this story because oftentimes in life, we also ask "Who signed me up for this?," not realizing that it was our own choices and decisions that brought us whatever we received causing us to ask that question.and others such as "Why the heck am I experiencing THIS in my life?," or "Why ME? Why NOW? Why THIS?"  I'm sure we have all said, "What? You've GOT to be kidding!" Just like the student whose behavior caused the teacher to select the deck of cards for him compared with a bicycle for one of  his classmates, our choices bring about our outcomes. We reap what we sow and this student reaped a deck of cards for what his behavior had sewn from September through December.

I love metaphors and parables as they contain meanings beyond the surface. As things get challenging for me and Nancy as we lead our respective schools, we will look at each other in meetings and laugh as we both say "Who signed me up for this?" In the final analysis, the truth of the matter is, we sign ourselves up for whatever we receive based on our choices and decisions. We must ask ourselves what am I sowing? And once we have honestly answered that question for ourselves, we must then choose wisely. Something to critically think about.

I invite you to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. Eastern time on gobrave.org and WP88.7 FM as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. Lastly, follow me on YouTube and  download The Reading Circle mobile app on Itunes or Google.



Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Door Must Be Opened And We Must Be Prepared To Walk Through It



"I don't want nobody
To give me nothing
Open up the door
I'll get it myself"
James Brown - I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I'll Get It Myself) Lyrics | MetroLyrics 

I awoke this morning to the news that long-time civil rights activist, Julian Bond, died Saturday night at the age of 75. According to CNN, Bond passed away after a brief illness in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. As I learned of this news, I thought to myself that we are losing our civil rights leaders and activists one by one and rightfully so as many of them were in their teens and early twenties, sixty years ago, placing most, if not all of them in their seventies, eighties, and nineties years of age.

It occurred to me that the torch never really was passed. In fact, not only was the torch never passed, our message or methodology was never updated to meet the challenges faced in the 21st century. Reverends Jessie Jackson who is 73 and Al Sharpton who is 60, both have contributed in their own ways at least in their minds to fight the many "isms" using and in some cases abusing the models and tactics set forth in the fifties and sixties; yet, there really has not been as a collective body anything close to the efforts made by the men and women of the civil rights movement who are now moving or have moved from labor to reward through death.

The question is always asked and has been asked since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, who will step up and lead us now that Dr. King is gone? In some respects it is forty seven years later and we are still asking that question. In the meantime, many of our foot soldiers from that day are passing away just as Mr. Bond did Saturday night.

In my mind and at this point, I believe the more important question than who will step up and lead us? is, are we preparing ourselves to get for ourselves when the door is opened? James Brown, The Godfather of Soul aptly wrote it when he said "Open up the door, I'll get it myself."  But are we preparing ourselves to get it for ourselves?

Some may ask, well, what do you mean by preparing ourselves? and that's a great question. I mean, taking our education seriously; putting forth a spirit and desire for excellence in everything that we do; acquiring the required skills to be employable and/or entrepreneurial in the 21st century and how about just reading, researching and thinking to make informed decisions. When do we realize that our leaders who did that mighty work are now aged and passing away? When do we individually step up to make not only our own lives better, but the lives of others better as well? When do we move the ball further as our civil rights leaders set us up to do?

The list of our civil rights leaders and activists who are dying is growing longer each year and their methods and tactics were for such a time as that. Our methods today must include our looking to ourselves to do for ourselves and that only happens when we prepare ourselves. If you want to honor the lives of, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Julian Bond, Edward Brooke, Thurgood Marshall, Shirley Chisolm, Dorothy Height, Marian Wright Edelman, Coretta Scott King, Marva Collins, and so many others........ take education seriously. Acquire skills that are needed in 2015 and beyond and then learn some more. Work hard and smart. Make excellence your standard and do not lower it for anyone. Stop being content with not knowing how to read or ever breaking the assistance cycle. Start voting, even if it is for dogcatcher, make your vote/voice count. Fathers support YOUR children whether you are with their mother or not as no judge ought to have to force you to support your children financially or emotionally. Young ladies, stop classifying yourself as a "Bad Bitch," and stop dealing with men who refer to you as a bitch, thot (that hoe over there) or hoe (whore).  Boys and men, pull those pants up! As we ought not to have to know that you have on blue and white striped boxers. Stop killing each other. Enough is enough.

We all must become our own abolitionists and activists. I close as I opened with the words of The Godfather of Soul, none other than James Brown when he penned and sang, "I don't want nobody to give me nothing. Open up the door, I'll get it myself." The only thing I will add to that is, once you get it, be willing to help someone else get it for themselves too. Something to critically think about.

Listen to me live each Saturday around the world on gobrave.org and in northern NJ on FM radio WP88.7 FM as the host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01 and on Instagram @readingcircle01. Visit my website at www.thereadingcircle01.com and subscribe to my YouTube Channel Marc Medley.


Friday, August 14, 2015

Some Things Just Don't Make Sense - Customers Ought To Be Priority One

Bank Teller Stations
 I don't know about you,  but it never ceases to amaze me how in business, the very positions that are needed for great customer service are now always the least filled. I say this because it has been my experience in these past years to walk into a bank and find two tellers working with a line of customers standing outside of the door. What really makes this scenario all the more ridiculous is that you have one person standing at the door acting as a greeter and another just walking around aimlessly with a clipboard or tablet device. Then you see a flurry of people walking in and out of doors punching in secret codes/combinations with nothing being done at least to the knowledge of the customers patiently and impatiently waiting on the now longer line. I often question, wouldn't it make more customer service and business sense to have the greeter and others wandering around the building aimlessly to fill the unmanned teller slots? There will be four or five teller stations with only two tellers working and the other three stations closed; yet, there is a greeter and others just walking back and forth. I've noticed this same phenomenon in supermarkets and department stores. There will be two cashier check out lines open with fifteen with the lights off letting customers know that they are closed and don't let one of the two that is open have a break or is at the end of his/her shift.

I am well aware of the automated teller machine (ATM) technology at banks and the automated self-serve payment options at most if not all supermarkets and department stores now; however, in my opinion it is just not good customer service to have all of these people milling around when they could be assisting customers with checking out or taking care of their banking needs. I for one am not a fan of the self-service automated payment machines and would rather interact with a human being. Now mind you, I am very tech savvy and I am highly capable of scanning my item(s) through the machine and then inserting my money or credit/debit card into the slot. That's not the point. The point is customer service is being terribly sacrificed with the very limited amount of teller windows and check out lines open in these banks and stores. I am sure that I am not the only one who feels this way, so I don't quite understand why the CEO's, directors, supervisors, managers, etc. etc. are not more mindful of this. I find it hard to believe that the store or bank managers don't see the looks of aggravation on customers faces as they have to wait in these long lines to be served.

Perhaps one day, bank and store managers will wake up and realize that true customer service is not occurring with only two teller windows open when there are five or six available. That true customer service is not occurring in a supermarket or department store when there are nearly twenty check out lines with only two cashiers open ringing up the purchases of customers. I don't know about you, but I would rather have the greeter behind the window helping customers as a teller than just standing around saying "Welcome to.........." when I walk in the door. I would feel much more welcome if I could see an ample number of employees actually serving customers instead of walking around trying to look busy. The same holds true for the department stores and supermarkets. As I said, maybe it is just me, but I don't think so.

Something to critically think about. Listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET around the world on gobrave.org and locally in northern N.J. on FM radio, WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. I am also on Instagram IG readingcircle01. I also invite you to subscribe to my YouTube Channel Marc Medley.












Thursday, August 13, 2015

In a Crazy World, the Sane Person Is the Idiot (From the book DESTINATION SUCCESS)

One of the books I am currently reading is DESTINATION SUCCESS by Dwight Bain, and as I was reading I came across this story Mr. Bain shares that speaks to our plight today. I am going to share the story verbatim with the hopes that it will give you something to critically think about. 

     There once was a king of a small country who seemed to have it all. He was greatly loved by his family and all the citizens in his kingdom. He was wealthy , powerful, and wise. Everyone respected and admired  this king. Because of the partnership he had built with his countrymen, there was a great deal of peace and prosperity in the land. It was as if things couldn't get better. 
     That is, things seemed perfect until one night when an enemy of the king poisoned the village water supply. Now this poison didn't kill a person instantly; rather, it slowly made one go insane. Over a period of days, the poison could cause a person to become either violent or totally apathetic-- and sometimes both. It caused a person not to remember much from his or her past.
     The saddest part of this was that the king was the only one who didn't drink from the village well, since he had his own private water supply in his castle.  So this king, drinking the pure, unpoisoned water, had no idea why things so radically changed between him and the villagers. Within days they weren't the same. They either sat all day and did nothing or went from place to place creating angry conflicts with everyone they met.
     No one figured out that the water was poisoned until one day when the conflict and inactivity levels were almost intolerable. That day the king  received a letter from his enemy mocking him. Then he instantly knew what had happened. He finally had all the puzzle pieces of the impossible situation, so he thought that he would just share this news with the villagers to get things back to normal. Perhaps they could work together to figure out a way to solve this crisis in the kingdom. He hurried to tell them about his conclusions, and then he read aloud the note from his enemies. But they didn't seem to care at all.  
     Not one villager believed him or even wanted to listen. They were actually having fun being irresponsible. They liked their lives of apathy and anger. They didn't want anyone to change things back to a way of life they couldn't remember or even imagine anymore, so nothing changed -- nothing except the villagers' total disregard for their king.  They didn't trust his authority or like his rules, and they didn't like the consequences he implied would happen if they didn't change. They were so distant and aggressive that the king feared for his very life.  
     The pressure grew, and it became apparent that the king was going to have to make a decision: leave the kingdom or drink the water. 
     Think about it. If you were facing the same situation, what would you do? Take a risk to leave everything you knew and move on as a vagabond to start over in some other place? Or take an even bigger risk and drink the poison to be just like everyone else and be named the king of the fools? 
Consider this for a moment. What if the standard society placed on "normal" thinking was wrong? What if "normal" behavior wasn't healthy at all? What if it was poison? What if everyone was doing something "normal" but it was crazy--would you go along with the crowd?


I encourage you to purchase or download a copy of DESTINATION SUCCESS as it is a motivational and inspirational read. Certainly the story about the poison water is something to critically think about. I invite you to listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET around the world on www.gobrave.org and locally in the northern NJ area on WP88.7 FM when I interview authors such as Dwight Bain and follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. Likewise you are invited to subscribe to my YouTube channel Marc Medley and find me on Instagram IG readingcircle01.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Where I Stand on Whose Lives Matter

 For the past months we have been hearing about how “Black Lives Matter,” “Police Lives Matter,” Gay and Lesbian Lives Matter,” “Fetus’ Lives Matter,” “Women’s Lives Matter,” and so forth and so on. The truth of the matter is, ALL LIVES MATTER; however, I am not naive enough to believe that all lives have mattered in the past or for that matter ALL lives matter now. In fact, the reason each group began segmenting themselves and crying out that their particular group’s lives mattered is because each group is feeling ignored or as if their lives do not matter because they are a part of a certain group.

When you really critically think about it, why should any group have to cry out that their lives matter? Isn’t the fact that we are all human beings enough to make our lives matter? Apparently not. Let’s take a look at this from a Biblical perspective. Let’s connect a few Biblical dots to see how they tie in with us today. In Matthew Chapters 18 and 19 we get a very clear view of how all lives matter when Jesus explains to his disciples that we are to become like children and that whoever takes the lowly position of a child is the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven (that’s all lives). In another scenario people brought little children (remember, children represent us)  to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them but his disciples tried to turn the people with the children away (their lives didn’t matter in the disciples eyes). When Jesus saw and heard this he said to the disciples, “Let the little children (that’s all lives) come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”  Jesus further shares with the disciples “See that you do not despise one of these little ones (again that’s us… all lives). For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.”  He then goes on to tell a story of a wandering sheep.

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? (In other words, all lives matter).  And if he finds it, truly I tell you, he is happier about that one sheep (all lives matter) than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones (Black lives, White Lives, Hispanic Lives, Asian Lives, Police Lives, LGBT Lives, Women’s Lives, etc. etc. etc.) should perish (all lives matter).

By now I hope you see where I am going with this and you are not thrown by the use of biblical scenarios to illustrate my point. The message that Jesus was seeking to convey to his disciples then is why I side with the "All Lives Matter" crew now. Just think about how ridiculous it is that we have to carve out a slogan per group about whose lives matter. It’s ashamed that groups of human beings have been made to feel and are being made to feel that their lives do not matter. As a human race we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for consciously or subconsciously sending  messages that any life does not matter. We are all human beings who actually have more similarities than we do differences, and instead of celebrating our differences, we are always vilifying them. When does enough become enough? The differences that we have do not make any life more or less valuable. So at the end of the day, I stand with the "All Lives Matter" crowd and we as a people need to recognize that so that all of the individual groups will not feel the need to have a hash tag yelling at the world that their lives matter. Something to critically think about. I invite you to join me each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. as I web stream around the world on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ/NY on WP88.7 FM as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley. I also invite you to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Super Bowl Champion Burgess Owens Appears on The Reading Circle with Mar...

Friday, July 31, 2015

Don't Be Fooled, God Does Indeed Get Angry - Are We The Stiff-Necked People of Our Time?

Are We The Stiff-Necked People of Our Time?

The Golden Calf 
Exodus 32
New International Version (NIV) 


When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”

2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.”

3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron.

4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.”

6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.

7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.

8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’

9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.

10 Now leave me alone so that my anger may burn against them and that I may destroy them. Then I will make you into a great nation.”


11 But Moses sought the favor of the Lord his God. “Lord,” he said, “why should your anger burn against your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with great power and a mighty hand?

 12 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘It was with evil intent that he brought them out, to kill them in the mountains and to wipe them off the face of the earth’? Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.

13 Remember your servants Abraham, Isaac and Israel, to whom you swore by your own self: ‘I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.’”

14 Then the Lord relented and did not bring on his people the disaster he had threatened.

15 Moses turned and went down the mountain with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands. They were inscribed on both sides, front and back.

16 The tablets were the work of God; the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

17 When Joshua heard the noise of the people shouting, he said to Moses, “There is the sound of war in the camp.”

18 Moses replied:

“It is not the sound of victory,
    it is not the sound of defeat;
    it is the sound of singing that I hear.”

19 When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.

20 And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.

21 He said to Aaron, “What did these people do to you, that you led them into such great sin?”

22 “Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil.

23 They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’

24 So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!”

25 Moses saw that the people were running wild and that Aaron had let them get out of control and so become a laughingstock to their enemies.

26 So he stood at the entrance to the camp and said, “Whoever is for the Lord, come to me.” And all the Levites rallied to him.

27 Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’”

28 The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died.

29 Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

31 So Moses went back to the Lord and said, “Oh, what a great sin these people have committed! They have made themselves gods of gold.

32 But now, please forgive their sin—but if not, then blot me out of the book you have written.”

33 The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book.

34 Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”

35 And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made.

Critical Thinker question, with everything going on in the world today, have we become the stiff-necked people of our time?  Something to critically think about. You are invited to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET on gobrave.org as the host of  The Reading Circle and follow on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Apology


THE APOLOGY
 "They beat me and I called you to save me, but you couldn't.. so I secretly resented you.They took our babies and sold them, I begged you to save us.. but you couldn't .. so I secretly blamed you.. They raped me, and I cried out for you to protect me, but you couldn't.....So I stopped trusting you... You were supposed to be my man.. my provider.. my protector but when I needed you.. you couldn't be there... so I hated you...How could I let you tell me what to do.When massa could protect me more than you..How could I submit to you when you are forced to submit to massa? So to protect myself I submitted to the one who could protect me and our children. I stopped trusting you..I stopped loving you.. I stopped honoring you.. I stopped valuing you and in turn I became valueless to you. I didn't see the frustration in your eyes when our children were sold.. I didn't hear your silent cries when I was beaten. I didn't see your anger when I was being ravished. I didn't understand that you held your emotions to be strong for me. I thought you didn't care.. but you wanted to be there. You wanted to protect me, but massa made it so you couldn't so I would trust him more than you. I didn't see the hidden hands shaping our destiny.. all I saw was my pain.. and the feeling that you neglected me.. For all the times I blamed you, I'm sorry. For the resentment and distrust I've held against you for centuries, I'm sorry. For the times I've let you down. For all the times I've broken your spirit with my words and my actions. For the times I openly rejected you, and tried to control you, because I thought less of you.. I'm sorry.. Massa had a plan that he said would work for 400 years.. 400 years is over now. My eyes are wide open... I see the king in you... Please forgive my wrongs and see your queen in me."" via @PhotoRepost_app — with Caroline Arnold.

This was posted by Haley White on Facebook and I thought it was so powerful, that I would post it here in The Critical Thinker. Reading through this piece ought to definitely give us something to critically think about. Join me live each Saturday morning at 6 a.m. ET on gobrave.org and WP88.7 FM as host of The Reading Circle. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Thoughts As An African American Male After Viewing Lee Daniels' THE BUTLER

Ever since viewing Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER, I’ve been trying to determine what angle I was going to take when writing this post, as I knew from the opening scene that I would be giving my commentary on the parallelisms between the obvious system of that time and now. For many, I am sure you may be amused by the fact that I am just seeing this much acclaimed film that was released in 2013, but that only speaks to how much time I personally give to movie and television watching. It is rare that I invest my time in movie or television watching because most of what is offered to us is garbage in my opinion.  Having heard so much about this film upon its release, I was intrigued when Netflix sent me the notification that it was now available on its streaming service and decided to watch it the other night.

From the opening scene I was riveted (the only other movie opening that impacted me so, was from A Time to Kill) and will not give it away for those who have not seen the movie as of yet. Suffice it to say that it was a common depiction of events that occurred between slaves and slave owners in the south during that period of time. As I watched, my mind immediately recognized the symbolism and parallelism between the events blatantly displayed in the film and the reality to this day. The emasculation of the African American male; the psychological and emotional destruction of the African American female and child; and the intentional separation of African American family unit are among the few atrocities that leaped off of the screen right away.  While this is not the first time that I have viewed films illustrating that time in history, it once again reminded me that while the actions of that time period were obvious, conscious and overt, that nothing has really changed other than now the same atrocities are occurring, only in a concealed, subconscious, and covert manner.

The opening of THE BUTLER forced me to realize once again how psychologically damaged generationally African Americans are based on the inhumane acts forced upon them as human beings, by human beings;  messed up psyches that could very well be in the words of President Obama, in our [African Americans] “DNA.”  Such psychologically damaging acts as the rape of African American women at will or the killing of African American men in front of their children and women (who in all likelihood had just been forced upon by their slave-owner). Yet, in spite of it all, the African American race has still managed to survive. When you think about the horrors perpetrated by humans upon humans (only because of the color of their skin), you can’t help but think, no wonder they [African Americans] appear to be so jacked up.  If indeed those horrible acts did make their way into our “DNA,” could it [being jacked up] not be understood?  Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not one for excuse making or excusing any aberrant behavior by anybody whether black or white, but can you see where the “systems” that were put in place then and are still in place now are getting us what we are getting?

I am not well versed on our current welfare assistance system, but I do remember (and maybe it is still this way) a time when in order for the mother to receive the assistance, a man could not be in the home. In fact, social workers would visit to ensure that there was no male presence in the home (emasculation of the male, separation of the family).  Think about that and how it parallels the events that took place during slavery. The male was often sold to another part of the state leaving his wife children.  This same welfare assistance system also did not allow the mother to obtain any type of income or else she would lose the aid. Wouldn’t it have made more sense to have the family stay together with both parents working with maybe a needed financial supplement to ensure that the basic needs of the family were met? What type of system forces the male to not be present? Then we now wonder why so many African American men have chosen to not be present in the lives of their families. They’ve been systematically cultured this way and are then blamed for being that way.

When discussing thoughts such as these that I am sharing in this post with friends, family and colleagues, many have said that I am looking too deep into the movie or event (I took real issue with the roles Denzel Washington and Halle Berry received Oscar Awards for).  I beg to differ. THE BUTLER was filled with historical and current insights as to why we are experiencing what we are experiencing in 2015, the racial hatred; the killings; the hypocrisy; the duplicity; and the overall lack of concern for mankind. In the words of the 1984 Prego ad, "It's in there."  There is a point in the film where the African American servants talk about this need to have two faces, one when they are serving and the other when they are not in the presence of those who they are serving. Is that much different today? It really caused me to think.

I encourage you who are reading this post to view Lee Daniels’ THE BUTLER and to indeed look beyond its entertainment value to see how conditions during the time frame depicted (which was not that long ago by the way) are not much different than now.  Interestingly enough, as I write this post, it seems as if we as a country (and world for that matter) are moving away from concealed, subconscious, and covert acts and back to obvious, conscious and overt. Don't believe me? Listen to the commentary and look at the actions. Just look at the news. There is so much more that could be written or said, but I will close here with a quote from Colin Powell's former State Department chief of staff, Lawrence Wilkerson. 

“The real reason a considerable portion of my party [Republican] wants President Obama out of the White House has nothing to do with the content of his character, nothing to do with his competence as commander-in-chief and president, and everything to do with the color of his skin,” 

And the beat goes on. Something to critically think about…………  Hear me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET, as host of The Reading Circle with Marc Medley, streamed around the world on gobrave.org and heard locally in northern NJ on WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

We’ve Been “Huxtabled!”



Bill Cosby has admitted to getting prescription Quaaludes to give to women he wanted to have sex with, newly released documents show. (CNN)

Cosby titled a book COME ON PEOPLE and since I love a play on words, I would have to say Come on Bill! As strange as this may seem, this post is not about bashing Bill Cosby even though he may deserve bashing, but more about, what goes on in the mind of someone who sex is so important that he or she feels that he/she must take it from someone against his/her will or knowledge. It's also about self esteem and how we must stop all of this celebrity worship and placing our entertainers and athletes on pedestals.

I am truly disappointed in the latest developments because I sourced Bill Cosby on many occasions concerning education and the need for African Americans to take more responsibility for their own actions and consequences. I particularly championed Mr. Cosby’s Pound Cake Speech delivered in May 2004 during an NAACP awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision as I agreed with his message wholeheartedly.
Now unfortunately, all of his positive messages will be lost or discredited because of him the messenger. He as the messenger now negates his message. But this post is not about Bill Cosby as much as it is about the minds of the "Bill’s" and "Billeta’s" out there whose self esteem is so low that he or she feels that he/she must force a sexual encounter on someone. This post is also about us who are so star struck and so fame driven that we will go along with anything and anyone to get that “lucky break.”

As the father of four daughters, the thought of someone slipping a mickey or a pill to them for them to pass out in order to have sex with them without their knowledge, is appalling! Was The Coz’s self esteem so low that he believed these women would not have sex with him just because of who he was as a person, not to mention a celebrity? Did he honestly believe that because he was Bill Cosby that he was entitled to take any woman he wanted to sleep with whether she wanted to sleep with him or not? We are partly at fault because we mere mortals just ridiculously fawn all over “celebrities." I am sure having sex with just about any groupie woman would have been possible for Mr. Cosby without him having to drug her just because he was a comedian/TV/movie star.
.
There are so many issues involved in this sad saga including the lack of self esteem and celebrity worship. Athletes, actors, actresses, politicians, etc. etc. are all human beings. The only difference is they make a whole lot more money and are seen by a whole lot more people as they do their job which happens to be on screen or playing with a ball in front of a crowd of people.  Sadly, most of the women involved in this Cosby mess were seeking that big break. Many of the victims had actually traveled around the country with Cosby because of his celebrity status and connections. Of course they did not expect to be drugged, but the potential for the casting couch was always there as it always is.

We must teach our children not to worship entertainers and athletes and to see them as human beings. The Cosby revelation once again shows us that fame and fortune are not all that they are cracked up to be. Because entertainers and athletes are humans too, they are subject to flaws and failures like anyone else. My disappointment with Mr. Cosby does not stem from judgment, but because of all the positive messages and images that are now overshadowed because of this scandal and because of the pain all of those women suffered as a result of his actions.

It’s a sad day for everyone involved. My heart goes out to the women and I truly hope that this is the overused “Wake up Call” cliché for our women (and men for that matter) of what can happen on a date. Do not take a drink from anyone. Always stay with your drinks and food and never take any pills offered by anybody. Something to critically think about. You are invited to hear me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET around the world on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ on WP88.7 FM as the host of The Reading Circle. You are also invited to visit my website at www.thereadingcircle01.com and follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01.

How to Avoid Raising Codependent Kids - All Pro Dad

How to Avoid Raising Codependent Kids - All Pro Dad : All Pro Dad

by Derek Maul



It may not seem like a big deal today, but shielding kids from consequences can have long-term consequences for parents. The following true story connects the dots on how we literally can’t afford to raise codependent kids or be enabling parents.



The quarter in which the Florida housing market crashed was also the quarter my friend’s brother Bill closed on a house he clearly couldn’t afford. He financed 110% of the purchase price, spent the extra cash on cosmetic upgrades, immediately put the house back on the market, and waited for his big payday. Bill’s salary wouldn’t nearly cover the mortgage, so his parents bailed him out. Within a year, the house tanked 40% of its value – long story short – Bill lost both the house and $50,000 of his parents’ money.



Bill is 45 years old, and he’s gone through a lot of his parents’ savings over the past 25 years; but there’s little chance he’ll change until they’re as broke as he is. Why? Because they’ve been codependent since the enabling started in the first grade.



It started small, such as Mom doing his chores so Bill wouldn’t get in trouble with Dad. Quickly, it moved to homework cover-ups and “science project by parent.” Then it graduated to Mom covering when he skipped school; Dad lying to the police when he wrecked a car he didn’t have permission to drive; and increasingly large financial defaults. By the time Mom and Dad let Bill move back home after failing college (no questions asked), he felt entitled to every bailout that came his way. The bailouts just kept getting bigger.



Naturally, we’re all concerned about keeping our kids safe and happy. But we raise our children to fly, not flop around the nest. [Tweet This] One day, we’re going to have to let go and, when we do, it’s a good idea to make sure they’re equipped and ready. Or they’ll end up like Bill: pushing 50 years of age and still suffering from failure to thrive.



1. Expect more of them:


We all tend to rise to the level of expectation. A two-year-old can learn to pick up toys. A three-year-old can help to set the table. A four-year-old can take dirty clothes to the laundry room and learn how to operate the machine. The more, and the earlier, we train children to contribute, the more self-reliance will become a part of their DNA.



2. Allow (managed) natural consequences:


Typically, there is no better learning tool than to experience the consequence of behavior. A five-year-old refuses to clean up the toys in the middle of the floor? The toys visit the attic for a prescribed amount of time. A ten-year-old curses? Get a dictionary, then handwrite five acceptable words that mean the same thing, plus their complete definitions. Establish a direct line between behavior and a real world result.



3. Be consistent:


Mom and Dad need to be on the same page because learning thrives where children know what to expect. When children understand that what they do, or do not do, makes a consistent and measurable difference in the quality of their life. They will become more likely to accept responsibility for themselves and work to impact the outcome more favorably.



4. Be clear:

Leave no doubt as to the outcome when encouraging children to accept responsibility. Then having made ourselves clear, we need to follow through. This is why it’s important not to threaten beyond our willingness to enforce. If we say, for example, “If you do that again, I will take away your phone for a month,” but then only take it away for one day, we have created a problem.



5. Trust them:


Having made ourselves clear, we must demonstrate trust by getting out of the way. We can’t expect a child to grow if we treat them as if they are incapable of doing what we ask. When they succeed, we congratulate. If they fail, we follow through on consequences because we believe they could have done better.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

5 Bad Kid Behavior Issues That You Need to Break Early - All Pro Dad : All Pro Dad

5 Bad Kid Behavior Issues That You Need to Break Early - All Pro Dad : All Pro Dad



I hate going to the dentist. I know it’s necessary, but I always put it off. It is the last thing I want to spend money on. After several years of avoiding it, I was forced to make an appointment because of intense tooth pain. The result was exactly what I expected. Small cavities had grown into larger decay which eventually led to infection. Ultimately, smaller and cheaper cavity fixes turned into an expensive double root canal with two crowns. Routine checkups and maintenance would have prevented all of it.



In the same way, kids can develop bad habits early. Engaging those habits with consistent correction and guidance can be tiring. It can take thought and energy that can wear parents out. However, if left unchecked, they can grow into major problems down the line. It is important to engage the problem now in order to save us and them from more intense pain in the future. Here are some bad kid behavior issues that you need to break early.



1. Lying

This leads to a life of secrecy. Growth and maturity come when we deal honestly with our mistakes and shortcomings. We learn responsibility by owning it. Others see us as dependable, faithful, and authentic. Trust is built leading to healthy relationships. Lying has the opposite effect. Distrust and immaturity take root. On a personal level, in our house, my kids know that this is offense receives the steepest consequence because it, more than anything, causes relational separation in the family.



2. Disrespectful to Authority

We are all people under authority in some way or another. Parents, teachers, government officials, elders, bosses, and police officers are some of the authorities in our lives. An attitude of disrespecting authority creates a dangerous habit in a child. It will lead to an attitude of entitlement and a lack of proper humility. They will end up suffering for it as their options are limited. Children need to learn a respectful disposition to those in authority over them. This doesn’t mean they can’t disagree with that authority or challenge it, particularly when the authority abuses its power. However, it is important to teach children to always submit to or challenge authority with grace and respect.



3. Unkind Words

Words are important. Clearly, the words we choose affect those they are directed towards. Unkind words cause deep wounds in people. However, they can also lead our general attitude or our feelings about someone. I once made a decision to go an entire year saying only positive things about someone I had a hard time getting along with. After the year, I felt completely different about that person. There may be time to disagree, argue, or even fight, but there is never a reason to be unkind. The earlier our kids develop a vocabulary of kind words the better.



4. Aggressive Behavior

Intervene as soon as possible to prevent other children or animals from being hurt. There are many reasons for a child exhibiting aggressive behavior. It is important to find out the reason by observing and listening. Many times, it is a coping mechanism in dealing with stress or feelings of insecurity. If the behavior is allowed or reinforced, it will continue. It is best to stop it immediately when it happens, remain calm, listen to the child, and enforce consistent nonphysical consequences.



5. Laziness

Children need to be taught to take responsibility for themselves early. [Tweet This] Otherwise, they can come to expect that their parents will do everything for them. Instilling a good work ethic starts by giving them chores to do around the house at a young age. Start by teaching them to make their bed and clean up their toys daily. When they develop a habit of taking care of their things, add a chore pertaining to a common area. Encourage and reward their work only when it deserves it. This will teach them to value and strive for good work. Starting as early as possible will make all the difference.

Monday, May 25, 2015

On This Memorial Day, I Agree With The Veteran Who Said "I'm a veteran, and I hate 'Happy Memorial Day'"

George Washington Memorial Park, Paramus, NJ
I open this post in concurrence with the following quotes from Jennie Haskamp, a Marine Corps veteran who continued to work for the Corps as a civilian after leaving active duty in 2006. They are taken from a recent Commentary in the Chicago Tribune.

"That's when it hit me. I'm angry. I've come to realize people think Memorial Day is the official start of summer. It's grilled meat, super-duper discounts, a day (or two) off work, beer, potato salad and porches draped in bunting."
 "I'm frustrated by people all over the country who view the day as anything but a day to remember our WAR DEAD. I hate hearing "Happy Memorial Day."
"It's not Veteran's Day. It's not military appreciation day. Don't thank me for my service. Please don't thank me for my service. It's take the time to pay homage to the men and women who died while wearing the cloth of this nation you're so freely enjoying today, day."
"It's the one day on the American calendar meant to exemplify what it costs to be American and to be free. . . and we've turned it into a day off work, a tent sale and a keg of beer."
"I hope you enjoy your weekend — but I hope you pause to remember, too."
I totally agree with Ms. Haskamp, for when we look to the authority of definitions, Merriam-Webster, for the definition of the word memorial, it says serving to preserve remembrance. In other words Memorial Day is a day that is set aside for us to remember our military men and women who paid the ultimate price with the voluntary giving of their lives while representing the United States of America in battle/war. Sadly, Memorial Day, like too many of our holidays (The word holiday comes from the Old English word hāligdæg (hālig "holy" + dæg "day") has become reduced to gimmicky marketing and sales days with their true meanings never being truly recognized.  

For me, I personally believe that we ought to pause from time to time to remember all of our loved ones who have passed away or transitioned from this life, as each of them have contributed in one way or another to those of us who are still alive. I often visit the grave sites of family members, friends and national heroes just to remember them and to say "Thank You" for their contribution to the world and to my life. I've been to the burial sites of notables such as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Joe Louis, Malcolm X, and Paul Robeson, just to name a few and not to mention the final resting places of my many family and friends. While I more than realize that the burial grounds represent the physical earthly remains minus the spirit (the true being of the person), by visiting the sites, it is my way of preserving remembrance. In fact, depending on the design of the cemetery, I have no issue with breaking out my portable chair and sitting for a little while. I do this from time to time at my father's grave which is in the George Washington Memorial Park in Paramus, NJ, a cemetery that truly is more like a park where all of the markers are flat bronzed plaques in the ground compared with the traditional image of being surrounded by large above ground stone monuments. The experience really is like it's tag line describes as A Haven of Tranquility in a Turbulent World and a wonderful place to reflect and remember. Many find this practice strange, causing me to often question, why is it that cemeteries can draw in some people, yet repel others? Death is a part of life.

So on this Memorial Day, I too ask that you move beyond the marketing, hoopla and sound bites and seriously remember a fallen soldier or soldiers and then take it a step further and reflect upon the contribution of all of your family and friends who have passed away. Mentally and/or verbally thank them aloud for having been in your life and for their historical significance in it. Whether it was on the world-wide level such as a Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or on a local level such as an immediate family member, thank them or say a prayer for their spirits and wish them continued peace in their rest. "Ashay." Something to critically think about.

You are invited to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. EDT, world-wide on gobrave.org and locally in the Northern N.J. area on WP88.7 FM. You are also invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01 and visit my website at www.thereadingcircle01.com.





Saturday, May 9, 2015

What Is This Thing Called "Fair?"

Not everyone receiving the same thing, but what each needs
"That's not fair!" "He's/she's not fair!"  As an educator, I hear this lament a lot and I am sure if you are like me, you have heard it as well and perhaps even have thought it yourself. In fact, what prompted this post was a student who came to me complaining that his being admonished for playing around in class was unfair, since some of his classmates were also playing around. He felt it was unfair of his teacher to correct him and was more concerned about the others who did not get caught doing the wrong thing, which was playing in a class that they were not supposed to have been playing in. I listened as he emotionally plead his case as to why he should not have been chastised and have been able to keep on doing the wrong thing simply because the others were not chastised. Now, mind you, the others had not been seen/caught, and he had. For that moment, the others had gotten away with their wrongdoing and he had not; so therefore, he felt that it was "not fair" that he had to be spoken to. Not fair that he had to receive consequences.

I listened quietly until he was through and then I responded with a paraphrase from the first line in the book The Road Less Traveled by M.Scott Peck, M.D. where he opens with these three words. "Life is Difficult." Dr. Peck goes on to say in the first paragraph:

"This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult -- once we truly understand and accept it -- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."

I explained this concept to my student inserting the word "fair" where Dr. Peck used the word "difficult." In other words, I shared with the young man, that life is not fair and once he learned to accept that, the fact that life is not fair no longer matters and that he would stop looking for it to be. With all of that said, it caused me to reflect upon this notion of fair;what it is and what it is not because I believe once we get a better understanding of what fair is and what fair is not, it will no longer matter and we will be able to move on.

The best definition for fair that I have learned during my travels says:
"Fair isn't about everybody getting the same thing.....fair is everybody getting what they need in order to be successful." 
Hence the young man's and probably most of our source of confusion and frustration. He felt that since he was being chastised, that either all of his comrades should have also been chastised or none of them should have been chastised, meaning everyone should have gotten the same thing. He didn't realize that the teacher was giving him what he needed to be successful and that maybe the others may have received some other consequence if they were indeed caught. I further shared with the young man that if his little buddies that he was playing with did not get caught this time, that if they were to continue that behavior, it would just be a matter of time before their consequences would catch up with them. In short, I shared with him that maybe this was his time to get caught and the next time if the same scenario arose, it might be one of this friends who would be admonished instead of him.

Just like that sixth grader, many of us adults bemoan the same thing. We often say "that's not fair" just like the young man in this story. We bewail it to our employers, our co-workers, our spouses, our children, to law enforcement, our parents and even to God.......'THAT'S NOT FAIR!" usually followed by "Why me?"

As Dr. Peck would suggest and I agree with, if we were to understand that life is not meant to be fair, the better off we would all be. If we were to truly understand the definition above, we would be better parents, children, employees, citizens, students, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, supervisors, etc. etc.etc. In my opinion, the definition says it best when it articulates the difference between everyone getting the same thing and everyone getting what they need. There is a difference. I'll leave you with that, as that difference is something to critically think about. Let us transcend this notion of fair.

You are invited to join me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. EDT on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ on WP88.7 FM, follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. "Like" my Facebook page 'Reading Circle' and visit my website www.thereadingcircle01.com.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Is Integrity a Thing of the Past?



Educators were convicted April 1 of racketeering and other lesser crimes related to inflating test scores of children from struggling schools. One teacher was acquitted.  CNN
Pacquiao faces possible sanctions for shoulder injury. Boxer, who lost to Mayweather, failed to disclose an 'old' shoulder injury. Aljazeera

Tom Brady likely knew of 'inappropriate activities,' Deflategate report says  CNN

These are just three recent examples that caused me to ask the question, Is integrity a thing of the past? I ask that because it seems that in no arena do we find anything to be what it's supposed to be. People are telling us one thing and doing another. I often hear the question is chivalry dead?, but I think the more important question is the one I am asking here in this post. Where has our integrity gone? Think about the tainted records of Bobby Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, Roger Clemons, Mark McGuire, Bernie Madoff, Kenneth Lay, Jeffrey Skilling, and the list could go on and on, enough to fill this entire post with just names alone. All who have broken the trust of the public......our trust.

Integrity is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as (1) the quality of being honest and fair (2) the state of being complete or whole. Where has this quality gone? Do we want to win so bad that we are willing to do anything? Do we want to be rich so bad that we are willing to do anything? Do we want to be famous so bad that we are willing to do anything? Apparently so.

In Atlanta, educators were so consumed with a system that required students to be proficient, they were driven to alter test results in order to what they thought, keep their jobs or obtain their increment/raise. As a fellow educator, I can understand their desperation; however, as that old adage goes, "Two wrongs don't make a right."  Is an educational system that focuses so much on test scores wrong? In my view, yes. Is altering the results of student test scores wrong. In my view yes. Whether it is education, sports, business, law enforcement, government, politics, religion, or whatever, where has our integrity gone? Integrity has become like "Where's Waldo?"  Where's Integrity? Unlike Where's Waldo, integrity is far more important and if we've lost that, we've lost close to everything.

I don't have the answer, but I do know this, we have got to do better than this because if we don't, we are going to fall just like the Roman Empire and any other empire that fell due to the lack of morals. integrity, and compassion. I often hear that chivalry is not dead and I pray to God that integrity is not dead either. Something to critically think about.

Hear me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. EDT on gobrave.org and locally on WP88.7 FM. You are invited to follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and readingcircle01. Like my fan page on Facebook at Reading Circle and visit my website at thereadingcircle01.com  

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Tape Is Never Rolled Back Far Enough

For those of you who are old enough to remember Warner Wolf with his tag line phrase of "Let's go to the videotape," you'll appreciate my metaphor in the title of this post. In 2015, we have more video tape than ever before to take a look at because of the presence of cameras installed everywhere you can possibly imagine, yet our crime rates and botched arrests are not decreasing. In just about every case that comes to mind, there is video evidence, and in some instances even what we see in the video is not enough to get a conviction of the wrong doing. But this post is not about getting a conviction based on videotape evidence but more about taking a look at the events that led up to an arrest gone wrong to begin with. In other words, rolling the tape back a little further than what we are always presented with.

In every major case that is publicized in the news, the focus is always on the arrest gone wrong; what is perceived as police brutality, or in many instances truly is police brutality, but the focus is never placed on the events that led up to the encounter to begin with. This is why I say the tape is never rolled back far enough. Had the alleged perpetrator not done anything to cross the police path to begin with, there would not have been a need for an arrest or a scuffle. We need to stop being in denial and overlooking the fact that every illegal activity that occurred or was thought to be occurring is what caused the encounter from the start. It is rare that I've seen or heard of a case of an innocent citizen that has no record or had not done anything wrong have a fatal encounter with law enforcement. In nearly 100% of these cases, the perpetrator now turned victim did something he or she was not supposed to have been doing. I am not suggesting that anyone, whether they were doing right or wrong, deserve to be mistreated or killed, but I am asking us to look further back at the root of the issue, which is the person was doing something illegal. The illegality of the act precipitating the police encounter is never brought into the discussion.

As citizens, we must stop doing any activity that will bring us into an encounter with law enforcement. We must stop stealing; we must stop selling drugs; we must stop prostituting; we must stop vandalizing, and any other activity that is against the law, for it is the illegal activities that keeps us crossing the path of the police, and once you've crossed that path there is no telling what is going to happen. Please be clear, I am not defending rogue police officers whatsoever, because they are just as wrong as the perpetrators they are attempting to capture. Right is right, and wrong is wrong, regardless of whether you are wearing a uniform and a badge or not.

I keep hearing that the lack of opportunity is at the root of why so many of our teenagers are having to deal with law enforcement and I tend to disagree with that statement somewhat because I do not believe it is the lack of opportunity; I believe it is the lack of preparation to take advantage of the opportunities that are available. If you are not prepared educationally, you will not be able to take advantage of the opportunities that exist in 2015. We are no longer in a time where you can drop out of high school and work in a factory, as the factories do not exist. We are no longer in a time where one can quit school and be able to get a well paying job. With that being said, our young people must gain as much education as they can get in order for them to be prepared to take advantage of the types of opportunities that exist in 2015. The types of opportunities that exist in 2015 require one to be able to read, and read well. The types of opportunities that exist in 2015 require one to be able to comprehend and to be able to think. No longer are there the assembly lines where one does not have to think but be able to do something physically. So it's not a matter of the lack of opportunity in my view, as much as it is the lack of preparation to take advantage of the opportunities that are here in 2015. Most of the opportunities in 2015 require some computer skills; require being able to read what's on the computer screen and require being able to make decisions based on the information that is provided.

When I looked at the video and the photos of the teenagers taking part in the riots in Baltimore, not too many of those photographed looked as if they were prepared to take advantage of any opportunity that might be available in Baltimore in 2015. I am not judging; however, based on those videos and photographs, it did not appear to be a massive amount of young people(or old for that matter) who looked like they had prepared themselves to take advantage of the types of jobs and careers that are offered in 2015.

Our young people must take education seriously and we cannot continue to wait for opportunities to be made for us as we must become educated and make opportunities for ourselves. We must work to stop people from committing crimes so that there will be no need for them to be a victim of police brutality. We must stop breaking the law....PERIOD. Stop stealing the cars. Stop carrying the guns. Stop robbing the stores. Stop mugging the senior citizens. Stop raping the women. Just stop breaking the law and we won't have to keep seeing these cases of alleged criminals becoming victims. I end with two quotes from Malcolm X where he says "Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today" and  "The future belongs to those who prepare for it today." Something to critically think about. You can hear me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. EDT on gobrave.org and locally in northern NJ on WP88.7 FM. You can follow me on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01. Let us stop the madness. May Baltimore be the last.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Read A Framework For Understanding Poverty By Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D.

About three weeks ago I was in a meeting with my assistant superintendents and the deputy superintendent of my school district and we were discussing the school of which I serve as principal. I was explaining to them the various challenges we face as the school is seated in what is probably the lowest economic area of the city. As we were chatting, one of the assistant superintendents asked me if I had ever read the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Dr. Ruby K. Payne?, in fact, because she knows that I am a voracious reader, she erroneously assumed that I had read it. I told her I had not. She then went on to tell me that she highly recommended that I read the book particularly in light of the school that I serve. I thanked her for the recommendation and when I left the meeting, I immediately downloaded the book on my iPad via the Kindle App. As I began reading the book, I clearly understood why it was recommended to me. Dr. Payne was indeed describing my children and all I had to do was change the names to protect the guilty. Her case studies were reflective of my students and there is no doubt in my mind that for many of them, what she described is their reality.

Each case study became more and more heart wrenching for me as I pictured in my mind some of the faces I look into each day as I move about my school and as they are sent to the main office. The book moved me so much, that it will be one of the first books that I order for the entire teaching staff of my school for the 2015-2016 school year (the only reason I am not ordering it now, is because our budget is closed). Nevertheless, there are some exercises outlined in the book that I will be taking our staff through to help them get a better appreciation for the students they are serving. It is only through getting a better understanding of the reality of the students we serve, will we be able to develop the compassion and the relationships necessary to reach them academically. I am not looking for us to excuse the students' behavior because they are impoverished; however, I am looking for us to better understand what may be driving the behavior we experience from our students on a day-to-day basis. Perhaps with a better understanding and appreciation for the plight of our children, we will rethink how we speak to them; rethink what we say to them; and be more conscious of our body language and sarcasm. Students will not learn from people who they feel do not care about them.

I am not finished reading A Framework for Understanding Poverty and some of the parts that I have read have choked me up and in some instances brought me to tears as I thought about my students who are homeless; who have been sexually abused; who are raising their little brothers and sisters; who are home by themselves at night, and on and on and on. You name the ill and I am willing to bet that I have a student or students who are or have experienced it.

So like my assistant superintendent who recommended the book A Framework for Understanding Poverty  to me, I likewise recommend the book to anyone who is reading this post. It is a great book for self-reflection regardless of what economic class you may be in. It is particularly important for educators but it is not just for educators. If we all acted upon or thought about what we learned from this book, we would treat people better. We would not snub our nose down on anyone because while we don't know their story, we would have a better appreciation for what they may have gone through or are going through. So as The Critical Thinker, The Principal and the host of The Reading Circle, I recommend that everyone reading these words get a copy of A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne, Ph.D. Something to critically think about. I invite you to listen to me live each Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET as the host of The Reading Circle on gobrave.org and locally on WP88.7 FM. I also invite you to follow on Twitter @thinkcritical01 and @readingcircle01.