Friday, July 31, 2015

Let's Be Powerful


This beauty distortion thing has been on my mind for a year, ever since I came across this post on the Arkansassy blog, containing one young woman's response to the 2013 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. Now, it's been almost a month since the 2014 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, and here I am thinking about it again. This girl seemed to make some pretty good points, but the whole post held a sense of discomfort.

The blog was titled "Real Women DON'T Have Curves," and was followed by the first line on the blog "...and real women have them." She makes the argument that if you were born with a vagina, you are a real woman. Okay, so no one can argue with that. Then she continues to say that even if you aren't born with a vagina, but identify as a woman, then you are a real woman. But there's already a pool of controversies in that statement alone. You've got the usual liberal vs. conservative views, Democrat vs. Republican... But let's focus on what view matters most to me.

God's.

If He didn't design you with a vagina, chances are high that He designed you to be a man. Or, at least, not a woman.

"If we're so quick to blame our genes for making us fat, why wouldn't genes be responsible for these women being skinny? They aren't 'clearly sick' or 'disgusting,' they just look different from us."

Okay, guilty. I'll be the first to admit that I throw around the physicality and lifestyle of skinny women, and I even identify as a "skinny woman." I am, in no way shape or form, fat, but the thought of women who are naturally skinny by genes, or hormones, or whatever, is unfathomable to me. It doesn't make sense because I am not built that way. Everyone blames genes for making people fat when they are defensive about their lifestyle choices, but when we see a thin woman, we tell her she needs to eat something. This point I understand. Women are not the same size or shape. There's nothing wrong with being fat if your health is not in danger, and no, there's nothing wrong with being skinny if your health is not in danger. This point makes sense! Then you keep reading.

While she is correct in saying that real women have curves and real women don't, she seems to think that you can't be skinny with curves. And that's wrong. She's only considering the idea of outward curves, completely ignoring the general population of women who have inward curves. I'm a size 2 with a flat stomach, so in theory I should look like those runway models. But I don't. I'm about 8 inches too short and my butt is about 12 inches too round in circumference. My body is an hour glass. My waist is small, but my boobs and butt make up for everything missing in the middle. Not to pride myself in that because I have just as many physical insecurities as the next gal, but I'm a "real woman" too. So, if I were Miss "Arkansassy," I wouldn't let my entire blog post ride on "real women" points that "real women" can prove wrong.

I understand her rant about fat women telling skinny women to eat a sandwich, because I am a victim of such slander myself. Many of my friends joke with me that I need to eat a sandwich. But the kicker is? I do. I love sandwiches! And fried chicken, and hamburgers, and I will argue any day that french fries are the best thing to ever exist on this God green earth. They are hands down my favorite food. But I won't be able to eat like that forever. I won't be able to eat that way when I am the age of Victoria's Secret models.

Miss Arkansassy kept repeating in her blog that the size of the woman doesn't matter, because we're all real women. But if it doesn't matter, why did she blog about it? Why am I blogging about it? Because it does matter. At least, it does to me, and to every other woman I've ever come in contact with.

"If you're a woman who thinks it's okay to tell a skinny woman that she needs to eat a sandwich, I hope you don't mind when that skinny woman tells you that you're a fat ass." 

Woah, woah, woah. Slow down, honey. Where did that even come from? We're getting a little defensive now. Not only was that statement completely uncalled for, but no woman should ever be told that she is too fat. Nor should any woman hear that she is too skinny. Wasn't that was the whole point of her blog? That no woman should feel put down about her weight, no matter how fat or skinny, because we're all "real women?" No woman should hear a single mention about her weight because there is so much more to her, unless there is something unhealthy about the way she is living. 

Just as there is concern for our friends and family who are becoming unhealthily obese, there is concern for our friends and family who are too skinny.

Obesity can cause diabetes, high blood pressure, high osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn), depression, infertility, menstrual irregularities, and even urinary stress incontinence. But being too skinny is a health risk as well. Alone with the usual concerns of workout obsessions and eating disorders, being too skinny can cause an increased risk of miscarriage, lung disease, infertility, ineffective immune systems, fatigue, anaemia, osteoporosis, hair loss, menstrual irregularities, and so much more. So why does being too skinny have just as many (if not more) health risks than being obese, if it is not as big of a concern? With that being said, take note that obesity is defined as a medical condition. Being too skinny is not. There is not even a term for being too skinny unless the poor girl has an eating disorder.

Yes, she's right. Fat women are real women. Skinny women are real women, too.

But you know who else is a real woman? A woman with an eating disorder. A woman who is obsessed with working out. A woman who is suffering the health risks of being too skinny because she is striving to be like underwear angels.

I read some of the comments from others following her blog. One woman seemed astonished that some girls didn't let their boyfriends watch it because she didn't see anything wrong with it. She saw strong, beautiful women and talented designers.

Let me just say now that if my boyfriend was over at my place and it was on, I would watch football with him before we watched the Victoria's Secret fashion show. If you know me, I hate football. I don't want him caught up fantasizing about the physicality of a woman that isn't me. Call me insecure, but I know I'm not alone. It's a legitimate concern. He is young like me, with raging hormones and I'm not naïve to that. He's incredibly mature and I trust him with everything in me, but men will be men. I won't even let him see me in my bra and underwear until there's a big ol' rock on my left hand, even if I was wearing giant fairy wings that matched my panties. I'm an extremely jealous person (and honestly, what girl isn't?), and I don't want him focusing on the physical aspect of a girl. Neither does God. That's not what makes her important. That's not what makes her beautiful. So if I could control it? No, we would not be watching. The same would go if I had a son or daughter. I don't want to teach my son that a beautiful woman consists of skinny model attributes. I wouldn't want to teach my breathtaking daughter that she has to look like a toothpick angel in her underwear to catch a man's attention.

And come on... Strong, beautiful women? Okay, talented designers I understand. I really do. I would give a standing ovation to those designers, especially if they worked with more fabric and designed whole outfits. They are incredibly skilled and talented individuals. But strong, beautiful women? That's not what I see. Those girls are basically strippers who can't dance. Instead, I see a standard that is unattainable to most girls. I see an absolute lie about what beauty really is in a woman. I see taunting models radiating within my TV screen, telling me (and every other girl) that if I don't look like them that I am failing as a woman. Many of these women are physically abused with specific diets to make sure they keep their job, are verbally abused by photographers and designers when their job is not done correctly, and are emotionally abused with all these opinions, billboards, social media posts, blogs, articles, you name it. They are slaves to the industry, much like a prostitute or porn star.

No offense to Victoria's Secret, but I would much rather be a fat woman with a loving heart than a skinny model made to be a sex icon. I would be more beautiful in God's eyes, and I would attract the right kind of Godly men. I don't see Victoria's Secret teaching young girls to be "strong, beautiful women." I see them teaching girls a distorted idea of beauty, and teaching boys that it is acceptable to lust after a woman he does not even know, simply by the way she looks.

It is slightly terrifying -- no, greatly disturbing -- to see how much must be done to transform a normal girl into a modern advertisement. Many have done these evolution videos, but none is more impactful than Dove's Evolution of Beauty.



Is this how we want our girls thinking they have to look, when even the girl in the advertisement didn't look like herself after the editing and photoshop?

I do not shop at Victoria's Secret. JC Penny's bras fit just as well, are far less expensive, and don't make me feel like a failure as a woman because I don't sit on my bed in my underwear biting the tip of my finger. I'm just another woman who needs to buy a bra. I disagree with what Victoria's Secret stands for, and have been troubled for a year about the defense of their company being publicized without bringing attention to what their company is doing to young women and young men, alike.

My boyfriend made an excellent point. "I'll bet that very few, if any, of those models naturally look the way they did on the runway." He nailed it. They diet. They work out. I'll bet most of them don't sit down for dinner with fried chicken and chocolate because they would lose their job if they did.

The problem does not lie with skinny women or fat women. The problem lies with society. A woman who is "too fat" is neglected, contemned, and hurt in this society, while a woman who is "too skinny" is considered to have received a thorough compliment. Victoria's Secret boosts this compliment by showing girls they must look like their models wearing their products to be sexy and attractive. And until I see a model in one of their ads that weighs over 130 pounds, I will not change that statement. I'll go even further. Until I see an advertisement that displays their plus sized line of underwear, I will not change that statement. They have a plus sized line of underwear, but they never put those posters outside the door to reel people in.

This problem that we associate with society is actually a problem direct from Satan himself. I'm not saying this to be over-dramatic. I read a book called Captivating by Stasi and John Eldredge with my youth group, about unveiling the mystery of a woman's soul. The book makes excellent points about a woman's dreams for romance, adventure, and the overwhelming desire to be beautiful.

The Eldredge's make an interesting point: Let's take it back to Adam and Eve. When God made Adam, he said that it wasn't right for man to be alone, so he made woman. He made Eve. She was the crown of creation, the last thing ever made. The world had everything but her, and without her, it was not complete. Eve was gorgeous. Eve was beautiful. Eve was what the world was missing. Because Eve was a woman. A woman! Just like you and me. Beauty is in our nature as women. It's the way we were designed, and each of us has beauty to unveil.

While we let that sink in, let's take a look at Satan. Does anyone else remember that his original name was Lucifer, and he was the angel of beauty? If you didn't know that, now you do. The devil was originally an angel, and he was the most beautiful creature in all of creation.

Until Eve.

Lucifer was not a woman. Eve was more beautiful than he could ever be, and he was jealous. Hear that ladies? The devil is jealous of us. Of us! Isn't that exciting? Isn't that wonderful? Doesn't that make you feel so powerful, so... victorious?

The key to this is jealousy. Satan is so incredibly jealous of us that he will do anything to corrupt the idea of a woman's beauty and destroy her confidence. After all, her confidence is a huge part of what makes her so beautiful. So he corrupts our society's idea of beauty, placing icons like Victoria's Secret models on billboards, TVs, and every mall known to man, to remind us of one more thing we are not; one more way that we fail. But that is an absolute lie. So my question is this:

Why do we, as girls, put down other girls, knowing how hard life can be, for a girl? 

"I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalms 139:14


Every woman is wonderful. Every woman is beautiful. Every woman is stunningly breathtakingly captivating. And if we would just have the confidence within ourselves, no model, no advertisement, no demon can stand in our way. It's what God wants for us, what our men want for us, and what we should want for ourselves. So let's not just be beautiful. Let's be confident. Let's be victorious. Let's be powerful.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I'm Coming Home

There aren't too many things in life stranger than a 19-year-old young woman strutting through the O'Hare airport in an Aladdin tank top with a stuffed bear strapped to her back and her nose stuck in a Jane Austin novel.

What makes it even stranger is that she is on her way to Philadelphia to spend the night with her cousins, and head into Manhattan tomorrow to see Aladdin on Broadway. How many 19-year-olds can say that their childhood dreams became a reality for their birthday?!

My first plane landed in Chicago at 7:05 p.m., and a potty break, 2 tram rides, a Starbucks drink, and 3 gate changes later, I'm sitting at gate B14 awaiting my second plane. Which departs at 9:29. So I have awhile...

Looking out my window as the plane took off, I couldn't help but think of all the differences in scenery. There was nothing but greenery; trees, fields, and the occasional road, but mostly hay bails. And flying into Chicago, it was absolutely majestic descending into skyscrapers that swallowed the plane.

I can't help but wonder what kind of view God has of the world. Is it the view we have from planes? Does He squint through clouds or does He see every block and street, square and lake, trail and tributary clearly? Or does He have a view like Google Earth? Where He can see and has knowledge of absolutely every single detail, but can zoom in on whatever he wants?

It's probably some God trick. He probably has a way of viewing the world in a way that He never thought to tell me, and probably doesn't think I need to know. But I believe that God gave us the ability to build planes so that we could not only feed our hunger for adventure, but also so that we may have a taste of what He sees; a chance to view everything he made in this world in its absolute entirety from a view we cannot get with our feet safely on the ground. This, to me, is the beauty of travel.

I love being on planes. There's nothing else to do but talk to a complete stranger to get to know another world, read a book to escape into another world, or to think so that we may marvel at the view of our own world when we do not otherwise take the time to do so. Flying is the only time I consider our world to be more extraordinary than that of a novel. Looking out the window of airplane is a privilege; it's where I do my best thinking because it's when I'm best at marveling. I'm terrible at noticing God's beauty unless I am happy, and I'm far happier when I'm on an adventure or in a big city than I am when I am at home bustling through my everyday life.

Even though I'm flying into Philadelphia instead of LaGuardia, the atmosphere is close to the same. And there is nothing more beautiful, no...astoundingly breathtaking, than flying into the city at night. I'm so glad that I did not have an early morning flight. Even though the wait would have been less excruciating, I would not be able to enjoy the city at the time I love it best. At night.

The sun is setting. It is almost dark here in Chicago at 8:33 p.m. My plane is being checked for maintenance and I will be boarding soon. I cannot wait to ascend into the night sky, and begin thinking again, before I slip away into the world of Emma, or slip further out of either world into a state of slumber.

My cousins, Les and John, will be waiting at the Philadelphia airport. As for now, my laptop will have to be powered down since I'm boarding soon. I'll write again once I'm home again, not in my hometown but where my heart belongs; in the city.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Frugal Guide to NYC


Somehow, my title has become the New York whisperer. I had family living in Brooklyn, friends from Manhattan, and have been there myself a few several times. I'm a total Broadway Baby who loves to dance, admire art, discover culture, and live up every moment in the city. Within the past two years I've had numerous people contact me with recommendations on where to stay, what to do, and most importantly, how to save money.

While planning my fifth outing in New York City with my family, I undoubtedly stumbled upon some unique gems. I'm in college, and while my family is fortunate enough to not count pennies, we are certainly watching our checkbook. Needless to say, my undying love for New York placed me in the position to plan our summer getaway with a limited budget. So in case anyone finds themselves in the same boat, I have compiled a list 10 ways to experience the Big Apple on a tight budget.

1) Book Your Stay in a Package. 
We just returned from a trip to New York in a weekend package for the 4th of July. Hotels, transportation, and activities are pricey anywhere, especially in New York City, but visiting during the summer brings a different crowd. Sure, it may be a strictly tourist crowd, but most of the locals have left the city for the summer so it is a prime time to experience NYC. Numerous travel agencies such as Travelocity, Expedia, and my personal favorite, TripAdvisor will help you find packages of hotels and flights with better rates during whichever allotted vacation time you choose. It doesn't have to be on a holiday, and they also provide lists and reviews of restaurants, tours, activities, and sightseeing opportunities that are available to you! 

2) Utilize Public Transportation!
Don't waste your time (and your cash) hailing a cab everywhere you go. They are almost always full and you will get stuck in traffic. It may seem like the easiest way to get around the city, but it is one of the least efficient and expensive methods of transportation. Instead, take a bus or the subway! Bus routes are more reliable than taxis because they are on a schedule, however, traffic is still traffic. So specifically during rush hour, check out the subways! They are incredibly efficient; just make sure you aren't a victim of the MTA tourist trap. Check out Why You Should Put $19.05 On Your MetroCard To Outsmart The MTA, and be aware that you'll have to do your own math. After this article was published, the MTA raised their one-ride rate to $2.75 instead of $2.50. And if you're comfortable with navigating crowded streets via cycle...don't overlook New York's newest form of public transportation, the CityBike!

3) Skip the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island Tour. 
If you only want a glance of the iconic monuments without spending your whole morning on a tour of the islands, take a free ride of the Staten Island Ferry. You will have a great view of both Liberty Island and Ellis Island, not to mention the gorgeous skyline of Lower Manhattan. (If interested in an in-depth tour of iconic locations, get them in a bundle and experience more! Check out NewYorkCityPASS.) 

4) Enter Your Name For Broadway Lottery Tickets. 
If you're a Broadway nut like I am, you know that the prices of Broadway tickets can be a couple hundred dollars per person. But if you're going to be in the city a few days, enter the lottery! Show up to the play/musical of your choice a couple of hours early and place your name in a drawing for tickets priced at $20-30. Half an hour later, if your name is drawn, you will have the option to purchase a limited number of tickets for the show. This is a great way to see big-hit Broadway shows for incredibly discounted rates. Make sure you bring cash, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

If you're a Broadway Baby who can splurge a little of their money, I highly recommend taking a tour. Tim Dolan at Broadway Up Close Walking Tours is a complete open book with an abundant knowledge of shows, theaters, actors, and history! He has hired a team of working actors to show you around the theatre district and give you a feel for what it takes to make yourself a Broadway star. The tours last an hour and forty-five minutes, but he was more than willing to answer some questions for a few minutes with us after the tour was over. He will answer everything from Broadway history to how much his rent costs, and if you have the money, be sure to look into the specific tour Broadway Up Close and Personal, where you can meet and have dinner with a cast member from the show you're going to see that day. 

5) Never Underestimate New York City Parks.
These are a far cry from the swing set in your neighborhood. Central Park is home to some amazing monuments, activities, and incredible play-spaces for the kids. It features Strawberry Fields, a zoo and carousel, and numerous amazing lawns to picnic on. If you're a theatre buff visiting in the summer, be sure to check out Shakespeare in the Park! Other well-known parks include Union Square, Battery Park, Bryant Park, and Washington Square Park, all free of charge!

6) Avoid Those Chain Restaurants. 
No one wants to get on Facebook to see you eating at the New York version of your Friday night
usual. Shake Shack is the only chain worth visiting (and believe me, it is worth visiting), but other chains will not give you the "New York experience." Ellen's Stardust Diner is a 50's themed restaurant with a waitstaff that sings Broadway showtunes. While it is an overpriced tourist attraction with okay-food, the atmosphere is incomparable. It will be one of your best New York memories, so if you're looking to splurge a little, do it here! But mainly, don't be afraid to try the food trucks. Contrary to popular belief, they aren't just hotdogs and pretzels, they can be trusted, and they are very, very good! If in town at the right time, don't pass up Smorgasburg in Brooklyn (also featured in other parts of NYC throughout the year). These street vendors are set up together offering and selling samples of food from all over the world, and our meal at the South Street Seaport Smorgasburg was the best meal we had there! 

7) Visit the New York Public Library!
They host all kinds of activities throughout the year. It is architecturally exquisite, furnished in the most elegant fashion, and is decorated to perfection. You may have seen portions of the building featured in numerous classic movies, and you can visit exhibits that you never knew they had: including the original Declaration of Independence, a Gutenberg Bible, and thousands of old maps. Be sure to check out the Reading Room while you're there! Visit their website for more information.

8) Hang Out At South Street Seaport.
South Street Seaport is an incredibly overlooked part of New York featuring shopping, dining, live music, and of course… A pier. This little getaway resembles more of a boardwalk than anything else in the city, and hosts many events throughout the year. I attended to watch the fireworks for the 4th of July this year, and have to say this is probably one of New York’s best kept secrets!

9) Do Your Research. 
Even the locals are still discovering new things to do and places to go, so deals are lurking in unseen places. Friday evenings at the Museum of Modern Art (featuring works by Picasso, Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and Monet) are free admission to the general public. TKTS discount booths hold incredibly discounted tickets for select Broadway shows. Central Park shows free movies in the summer, walking tours are available for certain parts of the city at no charge, and the High Line is a walkway of free, breathtaking views. Look into all your options before you go and you can find some really great deals! 

10) Explore! 
New York City is home to thousands of iconic locations, all free of charge! Times Square holds the M&M factory, Hershey’s Store, and many other unique shopping centers. The Toys R Us even has a ferris wheel inside, and a life-sized Barbie dream house holding tons of Barbie memorabilia. You can take a walk on the Brooklyn Bridge and 5th Avenue, experience Chinatown and Little Italy, stroll through the financial district and Rockefeller Plaza, and visit Grand Central Station. The 9/11 World Trade Center Memorial is also free at Ground Zero, and though the One World Trade Center Sky Deck and Museum are both ticketed events that cost some money, they are definitely something everyone should experience at least once. It was the most impactful, gut-wrenching experience I have ever been a part of.

Don’t feel like you have to plan every second of your vacation. After all, the best adventures in life are spontaneous! Feel free to contact me with any questions, or give your own suggestions right here! 

Have a great trip!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Prayers Asked and Answered


Dear my favorite Daddy, 
It's me again down here.
This time I don’t bring anything
That I want or that I fear.
I’m simply being curious,
A nosy child beyond my right;
But sometimes I kind of wonder,
What you think about at night.
And I wonder what it’s like up there,
In Heaven by your throne,
But mostly wonder why you made us,
When you began to feel alone.
And when you chose to make us,
Where did you choose to start?
How did you secure us,
So we wouldn’t fall apart?
And why did you choose the look you chose?
Who were you trying to please?
Though us humans look symmetrical,
Logic tends to disagree.
We were all given two eyes,
To see beauty from within.
We were each given two ears,
To hear and truly listen.
We are all given two lips
To speak good words of wisdom.
And we’re all given two hands
To help out your other children.
We’re all given two arms,
two legs, two hips, and two feet.
But we’re only given one heart,
That never fails to beat.
And maybe it’s not important,
But Daddy I really want to know.
Why give us two of everything,
And not complete the ratio?
Was this all part of your original plan,
Or was the other half somehow missed?
If it’s not meant to have a partner,
Then Daddy, why does it exist?

Oh my precious child,
you have so much more to learn.
You’re so naïve and ignorant,
But I appreciate your concern.
It’s never wrong to question,
Why things happen like they do,
But don’t you ever question,
The intricate plan I have for you.
Heaven’s a surprise for you,
But I can’t wait for you to see.
I can’t wait for that one day,
When you will be up here with me.
But you wonder why I made you?
Heaven’s boring by myself.
It’s not right to be alone,
Trapped or enclosed within a cell.
And of course my blessed child,
I have thought this process through.
I thought you understood,
That I’ll be looking out for you.
Everything I have created
Has a partner or a pair.
It’s not made out of selfishness
But out of love to always share.
I know you’re still a child,
So everything is still unknown.
But I promise you my child,
Nothing will ever be alone.
As you grow a little older
I promise things will change.
Your thoughts will all mature
And everything will seem less strange.
But as for now I will explain myself,
In the clearest way I can.
The heart is something special,
Unlike a leg or arm or hand.
Each one is made delicate with care,
And is specifically assigned,
Because it’s partner has been given out
To someone else for you to find.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Our Gifted Youth


I recently read an article entitled America Hates Its Gifted Kids, and I have to say, I was surprised. The original article can be found here. The author makes the argument that "it is no secret that when it comes to education, America gets a D minus." While I could see that statement being true, I do not necessarily agree. And no, it's not just because I'm a teacher.

The article does not simply argue that the American education system is a failure, but also that America is shorting its gifted students of their full potential. This is supposedly caused by all the focus on remedial students as a result of the No Child Left Behind Act. According to the article, the gifted students in our education system receive little/no attention because teachers' focus is guided toward the remedial students in hopes of boosting them to average levels, causing the United States as a nation to fall short in international comparison.

In the most recent global test — scored on a 1,000 point scale — the U.S. scored a 481 in math, 497 in science, and 498 in reading comprehension. That’s under 50% on that particular grading scale, so we don’t actually get a D minus. We get an F. According to that test. 

Tests are an incredibly inaccurate assessment of student knowledge, but that’s an argument for another day. The international averages for the same test were 491, 501, and 496. So chill out, because we really aren’t that far behind the average. No, we aren’t China, Japan, or even the Netherlands, who scored within the highest percentiles in each category. But why do we care so much about international comparison? Do we really care about the education of our children, or do we care more about the way we, as a nation, look in comparison to other nations?

I know, everyone wants to be the best, and the benefits of education are huge, even crucial in some cases. But America is known for its national pride, which radiates in everything from its economy to its schooling system. And right now, that education system is shorting the nation of looking good in comparison to other nations, and we will not have it.

Yes, I understand that a strong education is crucial to a nation’s survival. I’m a teacher, for God’s sake. America would not be able to function without the input of great leaders and advanced minds. But let’s take a step back for a moment and look at more immediate results. Our children.

Are they really gifted? Of course they are. All of them are. American educators have struggled for more than 40 years to define giftedness and even now, there is no universally agreed upon definition of what it means to be gifted. That’s because there isn’t one. No, we aren’t all engineers. No, we aren’t all researchers or physicists or on the way to a PhD. But we all have gifts. For some people, it’s art. I know I’m no National Merit Scholar, but if there was one talent I wish I had, I would draw. I’d pick being crafty and artsy over having a brilliant mathematician’s mind any day. For others, it’s people. This is not a stereotype; studies have shown that at least 70% of “gifted” employees do not have the communication skills to hold a job working with the general public. That’s why so many of these “great minds” work alone in their offices. So, are those people really gifted?

The answer is yes. But so are the people who have amazing people skills and didn’t score over a 30 on the ACT. There are lots of problems with the American education system, not just one. With so much focus on the remedial students, yes, the gifted children suffer. But if we start to focus on the gifted to carry our nation, we will leave the remedial alone to discover their gifts and develop their skills because we made them feel hopeless at school and inadequate as students. And most of them will never find these gifts without patient help. But let me present a new question. What’s wrong with being in the average range?

Nothing.

It has always blown my mind that so much focus is given to the gifted and the remedial, and no one even acknowledges the 87% average. Yes. 87%. Remember when they used to call kids out of class in elementary to participate in a gifted and talented program? And the room would clear out at least four or five people? Well, whether you were one of those kids or not, four or five people per classroom is a lot of people! Certainly more than the 8% that classify as “gifted” in high school. By the time these young students reach high school, very few of them have survived in their gifted programs. Is every child gifted by the definition of state standards? Heck no. I sure wasn’t. But does that mean that I (and the other 86.999% of people like me) have nothing to offer this world? Because if that were the case, then why are we even here?

Because the world needs us, too. It needs the artists, the writers, the musicians, the historians, and the kind-hearted. It needs the scientists, mathematicians, and engineers too, but it would not function without us.

On another note... Any mother would be proud of her children, regardless of what they do. But if they get a bumper sticker that says their kid is an honor student, hey, it never hurts! Right?

David Lubinski, a professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt University, said in a recent news release, “Gifted children are a precious human-capital resource.”

So mothers, how does that sound? How does it make you feel? Not any less proud of your kids, of course; not any less loving, but completely outraged! I love my students like my own children, and if I have learned anything in my studies and experiences, it is that children are not a resource. They are not a mind. They are not a test score.

Children are children. 

Full of imagination, creativity, and an overwhelming desire to learn and understand. And somewhere along the line, education became more about proving yourself on a scantron for the state and nation than the enjoyment of learning. And whose fault is that?

Ours! As teachers, as parents, as administrators and legislators; it is our fault. That we have created such a standard. Not a standard that is unattainable, but a standard that is so feared by students all over the nation that their desire to learn is destroyed. They hate going to school. They look forward to days off because they can either use it to relax to calm themselves of that test they just took, or use it as extra time to study for the next one. They look forward to summers, not because they’re lazy, but because we have destroyed their environment to actively, effectively, and enjoyably learn.

So no, we should not ignore our gifted children. We should teach them, challenge them, and love them the same way we do our other children. And no, we should not ignore our remedial children. We should be patient with them, devote extra time to them, and allow them to excel to the best of their abilities; however far that may be. And no, we should not ignore the average children. We should instruct them, guide them, and let them know they are not alone. With all the attention devoted to the remedial and the gifted, the majority of kids are left to fend for themselves. So maybe the problem is not the attention or neglect of the gifted and remedial, but the fact that not all students are being allowed to flourish.

The standardized system sucks. There’s no other way to put it. It’s too challenging for the remedial, too basic for the gifted, and too boring for the average. Why? Because it’s standardized! Parents, how would you feel if your child’s teacher walked up to you and said that your kid was nothing special? Students, how would you feel if teachers said you had to be just like everybody else? 

That’s what the standardized system calls for. Uniformity. But if no child is the same, how can we expect them to act the same, perform the same, and test the same? We can’t. There is no effective system for accurately measuring students’ knowledge because no student is the same. Each student would have to take a different test, and then the question would become how to compare students to each other.

But maybe we should just take the time to pay attention to them. Maybe a test score is not needed for us to see the areas they excel and the areas in which they need a little push. How can a creative mind who scored a 10 on the ACT be compared to an engineer who scored a 36 when the ACT only tests math, reading comprehension, grammar, and science? So to fix this issue, the ideal solution becomes adding sections to the test to make the exam more well-rounded. But if we made the ACT any longer to include business, strategy, music, art, etc., students would be outraged at the length of the test. The ACT is not an accurate measurement of the student. Neither is the SAT, the Benchmark, the ACTAAP, the IOWA, or any other test for that matter.

So before we go around blaming teachers for neglecting certain students, maybe we should take into consideration the education system that teachers are required to operate under. But whatever your view is of how to fix the American education system, before you shoot your mouth off about it, make sure you’re actively working to make a difference. Instead of gossiping to your friends about how it’s killing your child’s potential or writing articles about what teachers should do when you have no experience with education aside from the fact that you were labeled as a gifted child yourself years ago, why don’t you get off your butt and do something about it? Take action! No, you don’t have to be a teacher who alters all of her lesson plans to save the education of our nation’s youth. But educate yourself on the way the system functions. Find the flaws. Vote for necessary legislation. Elect officers that vow to do everything they can to somehow improve education and remove those that do not. If this problem is really as big as everyone says it is (and believe me, it is), then we should actively be doing something about it.