Say It Ain’t So, Joe?

America’s pastime.
Cracker Jacks and hot dogs.
Iced cold sodas and even colder beers.
Three hours of pure Americana– a timeless sport of modern heroes.
The strike of the ball, the swing of the bat, the crowd.
A coalescence of all walks of like coming together to cheer on the home team.

Danger.  Danger.  Warning, Will Robinson.  Warning, Will Robinson.

A coalescence?
Absolutely in 1950.
Definitely in 1980.
Probably in 2000.

It is almost impossible for an average American family to attend a ball game.  I find this reality to be somewhat of a tragedy, a precursor signaling the onset of the “us and them” attitudes of the rich and average.

We are a family of five.  My husband and I both work full-time.  We pay our mortgage, our car payments, and our taxes.  We find enough money to support the kids’ activities, and in the summer, when the city is bustling, we want to get involved and have our children experience life for all it has to offer.  We want them to feel a kinship with their fellow Clevelanders and become true enthusiasts and supporters of all this city has to offer.

“Let’s go to a ballgame!” 

What a great idea!

Then I look at ticket prices.

Within the last five years, what used to be a twenty dollar ticket  has skyrocketed to $55.00 a seat.  How do I justify spending close to $300.00 just to walk through the door (I’m taking into account Ticketmaster charges and parking)?   Once I factor in concessions, we are probably looking at another $100.00.  What middle class American family can afford to attend multiple games in the summer knowing this is what they will be spending?   Sure, we could go to one, maybe even two, but I LOVE baseball and I want to attend more than that!

I try to rationalize.

It’s only money.  Sounds good until I look at my checking account and sure wish I had an extra four bills to put toward the landscaping project in the backyard.

Tom and I could just go.  Well dang it, that defeats the whole “family” thing I’ve got going on.

We could pawn two off at a time, and only take one at a time.  Yes, we could do that, but the bonds of sisterhood can be formed over a blustering rendition of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that lands them all beaming on the jumbotron.

So, I am left with a few options: break the bank or skip the game and feel a slight sense of guilt because I cannot afford to give my children what I want them to have.

I guess baseball has finally entered into the arena with all other major league sports.  The problem is that no other sport plays 164 games in regular season.  The other sports can charge more because in a world of supply and demand, there are less seats in relation to the length of the season.  When taking into consideration they Browns only play eight home games, it is much easier to rationalize a more expensive seat.

Maybe the sport of baseball will remember that they need me to be able to bring my girls to five or six games a year so that they will develop into the baseball aficionados that I am, and someday, want to share the love of the sport with their own children.

Our family used to try to support the Indians a few times a year.  However, it seems impossible.  Maybe its just a sign of the times.  Baseball has moved itself into the realm of the other major markets who aren’t looking at “the family” as their customer any longer.

Sometimes, when I want to be able to embrace the spirit of sitting in the ballpark, I feel as if I have been tricked.  I feel as disappointed as that young fan standing outside the courthouse in 1920; the boy who thought of Joe Jackson as a paladin: a regular guy living out a dream one home run at a time.  However, it was a ruse, a curveball of the greatest proportions.  “Say it ain’t so Joe.”  Maybe, the greed of Joe Jackson has always been the driving stimulus of our sport, and I have been tricked into believing they were playing for me, my city, and for the love of the game itself.



Education Matters

Ever since I was a little girl, I knew that my education mattered.  You know how I knew?  My mother and father told me it did, and then they reminded me over and over and over again.  My mother worked hard to receive her masters when I was a child; my father, ironically, dropped out of high school and received his GED after he married my mother in 1963.  He was not a stupid man, he made poor decisions, and when I was growing up, he read constantly and fervently.  He may not have ever attended college, but I guarantee you he read as much as, if not more, than most college graduates.  Thus, I grew up in a home where my mother worked toward an education, and my father, understanding what he missed, taught my brother and me that learning mattered.

I was taught that an education was not a gift, it was earned.  I was told that the only way to really become educated was to read and to study.  I knew to memorize facts.  I was told to learn history, otherwise, I was warned, it would repeat itself. No one signed a homework notebook and no one logged-on daily to check my grades.  My parents trusted that I would want an education because I understood that an education would allow me to advance in a world where hard work paid off.  I worked hard and studied hard, and I still believe an education matters.

However, in the 21st Century, I am unsure if the same message is being spread.  I look at the world’s educational framework, and frankly, I am aghast.  When did public education become the pariah?  When did parents who are without an understanding of pedagogy decide that they could teach children better in their own homes?  When did the charter school become better than the public school?  When did the distrust of educators begin?

Frankly, as a public educator who spent twelve years of learning  in Catholic, private, expensive schools, I feel that I have the background to pass judgment.  The difference between education “then and now” is not the schools, it is the structure of society.  Societal demands seem to dictate that everyone is college bound; that everyone deserves an A; that the schools and the teachers are the ones to blame; and that the child should get everything she needs during the school day– including an education, guidance, morality, life lessons, encouragement, motivation, and structure– without tearing down the child’s self-esteem and hinting that maybe the way to an A is through hard work.  Yes, we are, for whatever reason, babying the generation at hand, and by no certain terms, is this going to benefit either society or these children in the future.  Adult children stay at home longer, expect financial and medical support longer, and think that they should have it easier because society puts such pressure on educators to get children to feel good about themselves that we have forgotten that sometimes, disappointment is the best motivator.  However, because of the .0001% who feel depressed when they lose (we will call this “the squeaky wheel syndrome”), we cannot allow anyone to know what it feels like to fail. In the educational realm, self-esteem trumps personal integrity and hard work.

As a parent and an educator, I can say this:  I expect hard work.  I do not think everyone deserves an A.  I think that reading anything and everything increases a child’s comprehension, vocabulary development, knowledge retention, and critical thinking.  I do not think that “practicing skills” takes the place of really knowing information.  How can a child prove that he or she can critically think if she does not have the insight and background to prove it?

As a parent and an educator, I will say that a child can and will learn in the public school environment.  I feel distraught for parents who think they are doing their own children a disservice if they send them to the local public schools.  This year,  I finally chose to send my children to the local public schools; for the first few years of their educations, I had them enrolled in the local Catholic school (my own issues with Catholic guilt).  I pulled them out because I felt that in the Cleveland area, these schools are succeeding on the reputations they developed in the 1960s and 1970s, when public schools in Ohio did not have regulations or federal support and mandates.  Catholic schools were the exception, now they are not allowing children to grow and benefit the way public schools can.  When my daughter’s friend was pulled by her parents from our Catholic school in fourth grade, I was aghast.  Even though I worked hard as a public-school teacher, I fed into the stereotype of the superiority of our little Catholic school.  Four years later, I see the difference!   Her daughter was as much as a go-getter and hard-worker as my daughter.  This year upon entering public school, because my daughter was not afforded the math skills to succeed by her previous school, she struggled through Algebra and worked hard to maintain a B- average.  Her friend, the one who left in fourth grade, was in Pre-Calc. as an Eighth-Grader– something I know Carson could have done had she not been held back by the uniform education strategies of her former “elite” school.

Recently, a colleague of mine asked her AP European History class a question about the European Union.  She asked the students to understand the EU from both an economical and a political standpoint.  She asked the students to pick one historical figure who would have approved of the ideas of the EU.  Of the nineteen students in her class, only one had done the research.  Only one had the background knowledge to critically think and answer Napoleon Bonaparte.  The rest, well, they were sure that they were a Google search away from the answer because they have been indoctrinated into the mindset that to have the skill to analyze is more important than the knowledge analyzed. However, they could not look this answer up; they needed the knowledge to synthesize information and formulate a response.  We, as a society, have allowed for students to believe that they are always just a Google search away, and that is not going to lend for critical thinking or produce the future leaders of this world.

Education matters.  It is an amalgam: a melding of parental support; personal motivation, through both success and failure; and societal support and trust in the people hired to educate children.

The business model does not work in education. The trend to  test excessively will not make the children smarter.  What will work is what has always worked: even in the 21st technological age, what matters is the teachers in the classroom, the kids, and the parents who constantly remind them that with hard work, they will receive an education.  And no matter what, they need to know that they have control of their education, and if they want it, it will matter.

21st Century Childhood Allowance: Contracted Labor

A few weeks back, I wrote a blog about motivating my children to do work around the house.  None of them are very motivated, and I have found in the past that offering a blanketed amount for a week’s worth of duties left me with less money in my wallet for less than par performances.

My two younger daughters, nine and eleven-years old respectively, have finally learned that saving money for something they really want has a higher sense of gratification than running to the dollar aisle at Target every time she has a buck or two.  Maggie recently saved for a Captain America Build-A-Bear, and Lizzie saved for an American Girl gymnastics set.  However, they have each learned that without a regular way of earning money, it is difficult to set her sights on something big because she is unable to make a timeline and work toward that goal.

This morning, after a very long conversation with Lizzie, the nine-year old, I decided to reinstitute allowance.  However, I refuse to allow for the handing over of moneys for the same level of effort I am getting at present.  Hence, I drew up two unique contracts for each girl, I had their father act as witness and legal advisor, and he, on their behalf, agreed to the wording and terms of my contract.

They have been signed.  Schedules have been made, and who knows what the results will be.   Hopefully, the girls will learn that their performance effects their pay; they will learn that economic survival is about one’s willingness to perform; and they will learn that earning money is actually rewarding and can lead to an early retirement!

Here is Lizzie’s contract:  (Moms, feel free to borrow my idea!)

I, ______________________________, not bound by the contract of habeas corpus, do agree that by the signing of this said legal document, that I will do my best to perform each activity listed so that I can earn a fair wage in the Huffer household.

I understand that by signing this document that I am aware that if I perform each activity to the best of my ability, I will be awarded a bonus for each activity a week. Likewise, I understand that if I do not meet said criteria, not only do I forfeit my bonus, but that my weekly allotment will be less because of my laziness.

In addition, mother and/or father have the right to ask me to take on an up to two extra duties a day that do not meet the requirements for compensation. These duties include, but are not limited to: picking up wet towels, taking paper to the paper pile, hang up my coat, taking cans and glass to recycling, etc.

If at any point I feel that I am asked to do an activity that is time consuming, it is in my legal right to negotiate for compensation for said activity.

Compensation Schedule:

I will make my bed and pick up my floor every morning for $.25. At the end of the week, if I have performed said activity each morning, I will have earned $1.75. However, I may also earn a bonus $.25 for performing this job for seven consecutive days, taking my earnings for said activity for the week to $2.00.

I will at the end of each evening, pick up all of my belongings off of the kitchen table, the tables in the living room, the living room floor, and the basement floor and put them in their specified locations: books should return to the book bag, toys to their proper location, and any other belongings should be placed NEATLY in my room. This assignment will also earn me $.25 a day with a bonus of $.25 at the end of the week if I perform my activity for seven consecutive days.

I will empty the dishwasher every day. As with the other activities, I will earn $.25 a day with a bonus at the end of the week of $.25, after I have executed my responsibility for seven consecutive days.

Lastly, on laundry day, I will be afforded $.50 for putting all of my laundry away NEATLY and appropriately. I must bring down my hamper to have my clothes washed, and I must bring down all hangars in my closet that are not supporting my clothing at the time.

If I perform all of these activities each week, I have the opportunity to earn $6.50 a week. However, I understand that my pay is solely based on my diligence to perform each activity each day.


Print your name ____________________________                    Date _______________________________________


Signature _________________________________                     Witness _____________________________________


Mother ___________________________________