Archive for the ‘Scarecrow’ Category


Face Book always wants to know what’s on your mind. Most FB followers are less interested in what’s really on your mind, preferring to see selfies, cat videos, and quotes about how much they love third cousins (pease like and share).  A blog, on the other hand encourages you to speak your mind. So, what’s on my mind?  Roads. Those taken and those not taken.

When I think about roads, two thoughts immediately come to mind.  The classic Robert Frost poem and M. Scott Peck’s best seller “The Road Less Traveled.”

Apparently L. Frank Baum was not interested in the road conundrum. When Dorothy met the Scarecrow she was not at a crossroad.  She didn’t wonder which way to go. She and the Scarecrow engaged in the usual blah-blah-blah and in short order were off to see the Wizard.  (I believe the yellow brick road Dorothy was traveling on was her road less traveled.)

For whatever reason, the filmmakers wanted Dorothy to have to make a choice.  It’s funny, but after all the pondering, the movie lacks any dialogue on why Dorothy and the Scarecrow did take the road they eventually took.

Looking back on my highway I can say without fear of contradiction that choosing the road to take is not a once-in-a-lifetime event.  In fact we are constantly having to choose the road to take. Sometimes we take the well-traveled road and less frequently we take the less-traveled road.

Every semester when I begin teaching the one course I teach, I ponder the question of which road to take.  Every semester I am greeted with twenty new faces.

I am teaching the GPS generation.  They were born knowing where they wanted to go and they seem to know exactly what road/s they have to take to get there…wherever there is.

I am the scarecrow they meet on the road.  To be honest, most students do not want to engage in conversation let alone take me down and invite me to travel along with them.

The dilemma I face every semester is do I act like a brainless scarecrow? Do I just smile, go through the academic motions and keep my big mouth shut? Or. Or. Or do I rip myself off the wood frame and open my big mouth?

Why would I want to do that?  Because I believe that letting them go their merry way toward Corporate City without asking them to think about the journey would not only be a mistake, I would be missing an  opportunity to shake them up a little.

My greatest fear is that the current generation is actually lost. And that’s not a bad thing.  They should be lost, or at least they should think long and hard about the yellow brick road in their life. The current generation is so directed, so pampered and so content that rather than ask hard questions about their journey, all they want is for you, the teacher, to see they graduate with an EZPass.

I have no doubt that the students in my class will succeed.  They have been well-taught. They know what to do and how to do it to succeed. They are determined.

I am a speed bump.  I want my students to think. I want my students to question and to challenge beliefs they have taken for granted. I want them to believe they have a choice.  I want them to understand that consequences come both from taking action and from choosing to be inactive.  (You can neve escape from consequences.)

In the end I also want my students to realize that the most important thing is to make sure the road they travel is THEIR road because THEIR road is one that has never been traveled on.

It’s all about seizing opportunites. But we all need to remember that opportunity is not a lenghty visitor.

A bumper sticker from my college days gave me some food for thought: Remember, wherever you go there YOU are.

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I’m in the state of confusion, the 51st state of the Union where I seem to have taken up permanent residence.  Lately I’m very confused about the definition of words we toss around with reckless abandon.  Words like Democrat and Republican, in my opinion, are totally useless words that should be banned from use in private or public.  But words like conservative and liberal are two words that need some attention.

The dictionary defines the two this way as adjectives:

liberal – open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.
conservative – holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

The “troubling” words in the liberal definition are “willing to discard,” because discard is so close in meaning to toss or throw away like a piece of trash. The words “cautious about change” in the definition of conservative are, in my opinion, less offensive, but can easily be used to stop progress.

What I hate about the two words, aside from their lame definitions, is the fact that both words have driven a wedge between us.

I am a conservative.  I conserve water, energy, and natural resources.  I am a liberal. I am liberal with the time I spend helping other people, in using my money to help the less fortunate, and in praising people when praise is deserved.

But, I am not so cautious about change, when change is beneficial to us all, even if it might benefit some more than others.  I am not willing to discard traditional values without some gut-wrenching decision-making because, as Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.

I have no problem embracing relationships of and between genders. I have no problem with people who are working hard to legalize marijuana. I am a big supporter when it comes to making sure everyone’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are defended. I am not a big, vocal proponent of abortion, but, I am against making it illegal because that won’t work.  Does that mean I’m too weak to defend the lives of the unborn? No.  It just means that I think a woman does have a right to make a decision despite the fact that I believe life is life…but a life has to be wanted, and I don’t buy the argument about so many couples want to adopt children.  (The issue is far too complex to fit into a blog.)

But I also fear that we are living in a society where anything goes without giving a second thought to traditional values that perhaps might  have some permanence and universal viability. These values, in my opinion, include respect, honesty, tolerance, selflessness, compassion, etc.  My conservative genes believe that today it is hard to maintain values in a world that spins on an axis of entitlement.

When I was in college during the big anti-war movement of the 60s, I was amazed how a “liberal” student could come home from a peace march and turn up his stereo to a deafening volume, but would say “fuck off” to a conservative, aka, hawk, when asked if the stereo could be scaled back.

I sometimes believe that extreme liberals and conservatives make it hard for all of us to create a world of mutual respect and admiration.  There are numerous forks in the road and we have to believe that not all of the roads to the left need be taken nor should we take all of the roads to the right. As a secular people we have to understand that our rights can be found in our founding documents. As a secular people we also need to know that we have a right to make changes in our laws and that our “laws” are not necessarily sacred.

Progress is not a dirty word. It does not, pardon the expression, trump, using our heads or following our hearts in the pursuit of creating a just world.  It does mean it is going to take a lot of internal courage to support justice for all.


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oz box

In my opinion, back to school ads should be banned until the last week of August. Summer should be a school-free zone where children can be children.

Other than getting a new pair of shoes, six # two pencils, a Bic pen, a marble composition book and a hair cut, I never got what I wanted, or perhaps I should say, needed before starting back to school. I wanted and needed a place where my natural curiosity could blossom. What I didn’t need was a place filled with pot holes deliberately placed to trip me up. And that’s what school was to me when I was a kid.  It was a place I dreaded because I wasn’t a good student.  Like a batter who has a full count with the bases loaded, bottom of the ninth with two outs…I chocked.

I hated spelling lists. I hated multiplication sheets. I hated text books of all subjects. I even hated lunch because the grape jelly in my peanut butter sandwich leaked through the white Wonder bread.

A school is just a place. And while it has the potential of being a great place for learning, I fear we have forced our teachers to replace teaching with teaching to a test. Instead of making learning a fantastic journey we have made it a long and boring trek.

L. Frank Baum did not have a school in Oz, but he did make a comment on education, a comment I call into question. Talking to the scarecrow he said, “Why, anybody can have a brain. That’s a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they have one thing you haven’t got: a diploma.”

I have no problem with what he said about the brain, but I do have a problem with him saying that the only thing that makes a difference is a “diploma.”

Having spent the last 15 years teaching on the college level I have come to the conclusion that all that matters is the diploma or the degree. One of the problems with a college degree is that it’s like a mattress. You can’t actually compare mattresses because they all hide behind different funny names that mean absolutely…nothing.

It’s almost as difficult to compare college degrees, especially if you are comparing a degree given in 1970 when I got mine and with a degree given to a recent grad. The courses I had to take to earn my degree are not the ones a 2016 grad had to take.

Not that my courses were better because they weren’t. In fact my courses didn’t prepare me an iota for a job, let alone a career.  Today’s grad has taken very career specific courses coupled with internships that have prepared the grad for an entry-level job.

I believe we learn what we need to learn and what we want to learn. We need to learn and to master certain  skills to navigate the rough seas of life. Our little dingy can be flooded if we don’t have a handle on some of the more practical “things.”

Unfortunately, the list of what we have to learn has been lengthened to include only job skills. And while we do need to learn what it takes to be proficient in the field of our choice, many of us don’t make any time in our lives to learn what we want to learn.

And I fear that’s happened because our lives are so frenetic and the marketplace is so competitive that we no longer have time for broad learning that is fueled by yearning.

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ruby bowl

From professionals to pundits the money was on the Monkey Men to win the 2016 Ruby Bowl…and for good reason.  The Monkey Men had a perfect season while the Munchkins struggled early on in the season and critics said they only made it to the Bowl game because their division had a lackluster season…at best.

But when the two teams met on the gridiron, the game took on a life of its own. The Monkey Men’s star quarterback was no match for the Munchkin’s strong defensive efforts. No matter what the Monkey Men did when they had the ball they couldn’t take control of the game.

When the Ruby Bowl game was over, it left the Scarecrow scratching his head. “It wasn’t supposed to happen this way. I don’t know what went wrong.”

The Tin Man pulled the Scarecrow aside and said, “In life what we think should happen always doesn’t happen and it’s not because something went wrong. It’s because something went right.”

There’s a lesson to be learned here. On the YBR we can’t look back on what happened and let it influence what might happen. It just goes to show that an upset in not always upsetting for everyone.

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May you think more deeply, more objectively and in particular….more openly,because there’s
nothing worse than a mind closed to new ideas and new ways of thinking.

tin man

May you learn the real meaning of love and understand that
a heart is not measured by how much you love, but how much you are loved…and
to be loved you have to be willing to have your heart broken.


May you have the courage not only to stand up for what is wrong,
but the courage to speak up and out about what is right. Remember, it’s
a lot easier to swim up-stream with the masses, than it is to
paddle down stream…alone.

wizard commencement

May you learn to see your gifts and learn to use them
for a greater good.


You’ve always had the power inside you. There’s no app for that.


Always remember: There IS no place like home!

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Fork in road

Whoopi Goldberg, the host of ABC’s “The View,” opened today’s show (10/10/2014) by making a simple, straightforward statement. Since I never intended on quoting her, I can only hope my capsule summary of her opening remarks retains the spirit of her actual words: We have hundreds of good cops all across the country doing a good job. But there seem to be some cops who are not doing a good job.

Whoopi went on to explain that there have been a number of videos catching bad cops in action and that these cops are making it bad for good cops.

Whoopi Goldberg is one of the few celebrities who makes a concerted effort to be “fair and balanced.”  She has some strong opinions, but she always expresses them in a way that you can see where she is coming from.  Unlike the Wizard of Oz who was ultimately unmasked , Whoopi would, in my opinion, make a good Wizard of Oz.

If I could have a conversation with Whoopi, I would hasten to bring up a point we sometimes forget as we approach a forked road on the YBR.

There is no denying that bad cops are making big, bad headlines. Not only that, but their antics are being broadcast on television and uploaded to YouTube. Though only a small percentage of cops ever make the headlines, they are creating a tsunami of sorts that is racial by nature…and perhaps, design.

Whoopi’s remarks and the view-versation that followed reminded me of the Tolstoy line in Anna Karenina:  “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Now, you might be wondering, what does that quote have to do with Whoopi’s remark about good cops/bad cops.

Now, you might be wondering, what does that quote have to do with Whoopi’s remark about good cops/bad cops. Think about it this way: All good cops are alike; each bad cop is bad in his/her own way.

To make it more relevant, think about this.  When you pick up a newspaper, go to your favorite internet site for news, turn on the radio, or catch the broadcast news and what do you find?  If there was an accident, there will be a story about it.  But will there be any stories about the drivers who didn’t have an accident? If a cat gets stuck in a tree and is helped down, the story will find its way into print. If the cat got down on his own power…you’ll never read about it.

Get my point?  Bad news sells. Good news, doesn’t.  On the same day that one bad cop somewhere out there takes the law into his own hands, there are hundreds of cops stopping crimes, making legal arrests….and in short, protecting us by doing what they swore they would do when they became cops.

Unfortunately, good cop stories rarely, if ever, make headlines.

Bottom line: Bad cops make good copy. Good cops make pr, and we all hate pr because it’s so contrived.

So, when a really bad cop-story takes the nation by storm, we all join in and voice are opinions, especially if it involves a white cop and a person of color.  Because such stories get so much press, we seem to forget what Whoopi said about all the good cops out there.

There is no room in any police force for a bad cop. And the law should be upheld when it has been proven…in a court of law, not the court of public opinion, that a bad cop has violated the rights of a citizen of any color.

We are at a fork in the road. Our heads are being filled with stories that seem to force us to take sides. Too many of us go blindly down one road because it fits the story we want to believe.

Let’s not forget that there are far more good cops than there are bad ones. Let’s also remember that we can never make excuses for a bad cop doing bad things.

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If the tension in the Middle East, the barbarism of ISIS, the world economy and the breakdown of security in America weren’t enough for us to deal with, we can now add Ebola to our plate of concerns. While Oz was known to have its problems…houses fallng from the sky, bad witches making serious threats, flying monkeys, etc., our problems are weighing down our fragile spirits.

What we are in desperate need of is a hero. Perhaps more than one is needed, but other than going to our favorite deli and ordering one, where in the world are we going to find the perfect hero? In the White House? In the halls of Congress? In the corridors of the Fortune 500? Among religious leaders? In Hollywood?

You know the lyric from the pop tune “looking for love in all the wrong place?”  Well, if we going looking for a hero in some of the aforementioned places, we’ll be looking in all the wrong places.

It’s very important to understand that while we think of our times as “the best of times and the worst of times<” we are not alone in our thinking.  There has never been a time in human history that did not try men’s souls. Humanity seems to have a pretty crappy track record in many regards.  In the last century alone there were over 270 wars, civil and otherwise, around the world, with a los of over 77 million people.  How many of those who were casualties of war might have been the hero the world was looking for?  And as fearful as we are of the possible spread of Ebola, consider the millions of people who died during the raging spread of the Spanish Flu (1918/19). How many heroes did we bury in early graves?

Today Americans are looking to the man in the White House for the hero we want to save the world.  Guess what?  The hero we need is not living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And that’s not meant to be an attack on President Obama. Considering the number of problems he’s facing at home and abroad, it is totally unfair for us to expect him to wave a magic wand and make all our problems go away.

Diseases, a bad economy and internal strife can all be dealt with if we put aside our prejudices and political beliefs. We can help turn the course of humanity in the right direction if we follow the yellow brick road…a raod paved with kindness, consideration and compassion.

But, it’s going to take a lot more than that to end the hatred the seems to be growing like a cancer around the world.  We will not find a cure for this cancer if we attack it with closed minds.  That doesn’t mean we have to condone any of the heinous acts committed in the name of religion. What we have to do is face some hard, cold facts.  Religion is, in my opinion, the cause of most of our problems. Not that religion is wrong, per se, but it is the stringent list of doctrines and sometimes archaic beliefs that instead of opening our hearts, bind them with heavy chains.

People are continually debating over wether or not the Koran calls for the blood of infidels. The debate is futile, because if even only one person is a “believer” of such an inhuman doctrine, there is a chance that such a belief will be embraced by hundreds, thousands and even millions.

Wanting a hero is a noble belief, but we have to be careful for what we wish for, because the perfect hero might not necessarily be an American, nor might such a fantastic hero actually be on board with everything we believe.

Alas. Our journey for the perfect hero is more than likely going to end up the way it did for Dorothy when, with the help of Toto, unmasked the less than great and powerful Wizard of Oz.

The real hero is inside each and every one of us. Every opportunity we have to be selfless and act for the good of others with no expectations, is one small step in finding the perfect hero. – Eleanor Roosevelt

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