A race to the bottom: Which state will be the last to legalize same sex marriage?

Over the weekend, a judge overturned Alaska’s ban on same sex marriage.

On Tuesday, Alaska and North Carolina began issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples for the first time.

Thirty states and Washington, D.C. now allow some form of marriage for same-sex couples.

Can you believe it? This seemed impossible just a few years ago, and now a  majority of Americans live in states that permit same sex marriage.


The states that are still resisting same sex marriage must understand by now that resisting is only delaying the inevitable.


As the number of states in which same sex marriage is still illegal continues to shrink, we have to ask ourselves:

Which state will be last to legalize same sex marriage? And does that state want to carry the stigma of being the last to recognize this right?

Depending on how you define integration, Alabama, Arkansas, or Mississippi were the last states to integrate their school systems. Alabama has the unfortunate honor of often being thought of as the last to integrate, with Governor George Wallace refusing to do so until the military intervened and forced his hand.


Isn’t that amazing? The military had to forcibly integrate schools in Alabama and other parts of the South.

I can’t imagine that the people of Alabama are proud of this moment in their history.

Alabama is one of 20 states that in which same sex marriage is illegal. It’s currently engaged in a race to the bottom.

Which state will earn the unfortunate distinction of being the last to allow this basic human right? If these politicians in these final 20 states were smart, they would try like hell to avoid being the last. It’s an honor that no state should want.

Unfortunately, intelligence and wisdom tend to be in short supply when it comes to the bigots and hypocrites who struggle to keep these bans in place, so it’s likely to be a shortsighted, clawing, ugly battle to determine which state is run by the largest percentage of them.

Posted in Current Affairs, History/Politics | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Teachers: Stop commenting, positively or negatively, on your student’s physical appearance. It’s only hurting them.

As an elementary school teacher, I have made it my policy for more than a decade to avoid commenting on a student’s physical appearance. A student’s appearance should be the last thing of concern to a teacher, but more importantly, these comments, even when positive, can be damaging and hurtful to kids.


This policy has been scoffed at by many of my friends and colleagues. I have been laughed at and criticized for my position. Told that I am taking things too far. Becoming too politically correct.

Yet I have articulated this position to every class of students over the past ten years, and I have never had a single student scoff or laugh or even question my policy. Every single student has appreciated and supported my position. Some of have tried to adopt it as well. 

It’s only adults who think I’m dumb.

Up until this point, I haven’t cared. I know I’m right. I know I’m doing right by my students. I’m accustomed to suffering fools gladly.

Then I watched Meaghan Ramsey’s TED Talk “Why thinking you’re ugly is bad for you.”

It turns out that Ramsey would agree with me. She would support my position. Endorse it, even.

In her own words:

“Why can’t we compliment people based upon their effort and actions and not their appearance?”

After listening to Meaghan Ramsey’s talk and learning more about the incredible struggles that young people face when it comes to physical appearance and body image, I decided that it’s no longer good enough to simply ignore my detractors. I need to change their minds. Convince them otherwise. Make them see the light. 

I want my policy of refraining from commenting on a student’s physical appearance to become a policy that all teachers adopt. I want this to be a policy that educators embrace and champion.  

If you are a teacher, I ask you to consider adopting this policy for yourself. Watch Ramsey’s TED Talk. Read my original post on the issue, which outlines my rationale. Ask yourself if there is any reason in the world to compliment the pretty dress or the new haircut in your classroom today. Of all the finite minutes that we have to spend with our students, do you want to use even a tiny fraction of that time talking about wardrobe choices and hairstyles?

Is that the culture you want in your classroom?   

If you agree with me, I ask you to do more than simply adopt the policy yourself. I ask that you become a champion for this policy as well.

  • Talk to your colleagues.
  • Forward them this blog post.
  • Share this blog post via your social media channels.
  • Pass along Meaghan Ramsey’s TED Talk.
  • Find like minded people who will support you, and when they cannot be found, convince them to be like minded.

Even better, talk to your students. They are likely to be more supportive of this policy than many of the adults with whom you work. Enlist the support of the kids. Turn them into the spokespeople for this issue.

If students rise up and demand that teachers stop commenting on their physical appearance, both positive or otherwise, things would change overnight.

I plan on doing my part as well. I have already reached out to several TED conferences, asking if I can speak on this issue. If you know of someone hosting a conference let me know.

Whenever I am standing in front of a group of teachers (which happens more often than you would think), I will speak about my policy, tangentially if necessary, and ask them to adopt it for themselves.

I’ll look for outlets with larger audiences who will publish my thoughts on this issue. Magazines. Journals. Online resources.

I will seek to change minds and convince teachers that this is the right thing to do.

And it’s not easy. When I first adopted this policy for myself, it took months to train myself to refrain from commenting on physical appearance, and I was never one to mention physical appearance to begin with. I had to reframe my thinking and construct strategies to avoid situations where complimenting a student’s physical appearance almost seemed necessary.

When a student walks into my classroom and asks if I like her new haircut, I had to learn to say, “I didn’t notice your hair at all, but I loved the way you didn’t give up when we were solving those problems in math yesterday. Persistence is going to get you far in life.”

That’s a hard transition to make. It feels incredibly awkward at first. It’s still a little awkward. Explaining my rationale to my students helped, but it was still a long road to where I am today.

Get on the road now. Don’t delay. And spread the word.

It’s the right thing to do. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.

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Hemingway was an idiot. Write sober.

It sounds clever, and the association between writing and the consumption of alcohol is a powerful and lasting one, but I disagree with Hemingway on this one. Frankly, I think he was an idiot when it came to this idea.

How about we all just write and edit sober and do our best work instead?


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John Steinbeck was an unrealistically and obscenely mature man


Posted in The Writing Process | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Mystery of Prince Rupert’s Drop: A small piece of glass made amazing

This is six of the most fascinating six minutes of video on the Internet today. Both in terms of subject and presentation.

Stop and watch.

The Prince Rupert Drop is named after Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who I recommend you don’t spend any time reading about lest you end up feeling terrible about your own accomplishments.


The man was ridiculous.

For example, he was a soldier from a young age, fighting against Spain in the Netherlands during the Eighty Years’ War and against the Holy Roman Emperor in Germany during the Thirty Years’ War. At the age of 23, he was appointed commander of the Royalist cavalry during the English Civil War. He surrendered after the fall of Bristol and was banished from England. He served under Louis XIV of France against Spain, and then as a Royalist privateer in the Caribbean. Following the Restoration, Rupert returned to England, becoming a senior British naval commander during the Second and Third Anglo-Dutch wars.

That doesn’t even touch on his role as a colonial governor in Canada, founding member of the Royal Society of Science, and his work as a scientist, inventor, and artist. The man was also a cypher, a manufacturer of weaponry, and a metallurgist.

I’m all for over achieving, but Prince Rupert took it to an obscene level.

But he left us with, among other things, the Prince Rupert Drop.

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“I didn’t have enough time.”

Remember: When you say you didn’t have enough time, you are actually saying that there are other things more important to you.

On your list of priorities, other things were higher on the list than the thing you didn’t have time to complete.

“I didn’t have enough time” actually means it wasn’t important enough to me.

“I didn’t have enough time” means it wasn’t fun, distracting, profitable, or urgent enough to place it at the top of my list.

My friend, Bill, recently quoted something that I apparently say often enough to be quoted:

“You can sleep seven hours a night and not write a book, or you can sleep six hours a night and become an author.” 

I like this one better. It’s one of my favorites:


But it’s true. If you wake up one hour earlier than you currently do and spend that time writing, you’ll have yourself a book in a year or two. But if you are looking for more time to accomplish your goals, there are things in your life that you can probably eliminate before sleep.

The average American watches five hours of television a day. So much of this is spent watching shows and (even worse) the reruns of shows that will be entirely forgotten six months later.     

The average American spends three hours per day on social media. Where did that time come from? What did we do before social media was born? Weren’t we just as busy ten years ago when Facebook and Twitter and Instagram didn’t exist for most of us?

It’s perfectly acceptable to say that you didn’t have enough time to do something, but remember that time is (for most of us) simply a matter of choice and allocation. Most of us are blessed with a certain amount of free time each day. This time should be viewed as the most precious commodity we possess. More important than the money in our bank accounts or the things we own.

Choose how you spend that leisure time for carefully than anything else in your life. It is the most important choice that you make every day. Don’t allow things like television and social media mindlessly fill the time for you as it does for so many.

“I didn’t have enough time” often means that you didn’t make thoughtful choices about how to spend your time and allowed your non-decisions to determine the course of your life.

Posted in Productivity Tip | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

“Guess what?” You sound like an idiot when you say “Guess what?”


No. Check that. Demand:

Remove the rhetorical “Guess what? from your lexicon immediately.


Not every “Guess what?” is bad. “Guess what?” is perfectly acceptable much of the time.

But the rhetorical “Guess what?” is never acceptable. 

“My boss wants us to do so-and-so? Well, guess what? It will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.”

No. Stop it. Almost all rhetorical questions are annoying, but the “Guess what?” rhetorical question is especially so, since the people who use it seem to use it all the time.

Remove the “Guess what?” from the previous example and the only thing that changes is the perceived intelligence of the speaker.

“My boss wants us to do so-and-so? Well, it will be a cold day in hell before that ever happens.”

See what I mean? It’s a cleaner sentence. It’s more economic. But most important, it eliminates the cloying, under confident, needy sentiment that “Guess what?” brings to an argument. “Guess what?” implies that the listener needs to be more actively engaged than he or she already is. “Guess what?” suggests a false sense of audience participation. “Guess what?” hints at a speaker who is concerned with his or her ability to garner your attention.

“Guess what?” screams of desperation.

No more. Rid yourself of this verbal tick. This rhetorical blunder. This wasteful, purposeless, annoying turn of phrase.

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Learning to be a grandfather from the best

I feel so blessed to be able to watch the way that my father-in-law interacts with my children. Whenever possible, he is on the ground, crawling around, playing with their toys, giving of his time and self in order to occupy an important and meaningful space in their world.

The world seems to stop spinning when Clara and Charlie are with their grandfather. He is present entirely for them.

Both of my kids love their Gramps a great deal. It’s no surprise.

If and when I am a grandfather someday, I hope to be as present and giving and loved as he is with his grandchildren.  

 image image image image

Posted in Family | 2 Comments

Funnier than some big budget comedies

It’s a GE commercial designed to sell light bulbs.


Nevertheless, it’s honestly funnier than a lot of movies that I’ve seen.

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How I establish the rules of my classroom

A teacher recently asked me if my students and I collaborate on the rules of my classroom at the beginning of the year.

Actually, the teacher used the word “norms” instead of rules, because norms is quite the buzzword these days. One of these words that filters into education for a while, only to be replaced at some point by the next big thing.

My students and I do not collaborate on the rules of the classroom. The notion of teachers and students collaborating on rules is a popular one. Some teachers spend days establishing the rules (or norms) of their classroom through a collaborative process with their students. Such a process reportedly produces a greater level of ownership and buy-in from students.


I don’t do this.

Unless students are allowed to establish rules such as “Homework is optional” and “Candy will be made available upon request,” the rules that these classes decide upon always look conspicuously like the rules in every other classroom in every school in America.

My system is simple:

I establish the rules of the classroom. Then I encourage students to find ways to dodge, circumvent, or alter these rules without getting caught and punished.

It’s much more fun this way.

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