Summer Reading, The Minimum Requirements

Harry Potter's Hermione Granger, an excellent student.

Harry Potter’s Hermione Granger, an excellent student.

As my children peruse the Summer Reading list I notice the difference between the Honors classes and the next level down, College Prep.  An overwhelming majority of the children from my kids’ school go to four year colleges, so it’s not a a matter of college bound versus non-college bound education, but the distinction in the assignments leaves a chasm.

For example, the Honors students must read two particular books.  The College Prep classes must only read one of them.

Reading almost anything over the Summer is good, though I understand why certain books should be required.  But let’s look at it from a kid’s point of view.  My daughter, for example, only sees this:

“So I only have to read one book, right?”

That’s it.  She’s read other books over the Summer for pleasure, but she sees no reason to consider reading anything on the school’s  list of recommended reads because, as it says in black and white, she only is required to read one book.  When I suggested that she could read another book on the list, her response was, “No, that’s for Honors class.”

“You could still read it,”  I suggested.

“No, that’s for Honors class.”

Well, there you go.

The result is that certain books are viewed by the college prep students as only for the Honors kids — even though all the kids are preparing for college.

Another result is that the “Honors” students read more, which helps them — more.   It doesn’t sit right with me.

Yet another result is that non-Honors students are discouraged not only from reading more than one book, but from being an Honors student at all.   To some kids, the difference in the requirements leads to the opinion,

“Why would I want to be in Honors?  They have to do more work.”

Wouldn’t it make sense to require either the same books or the same number of books from the recommended list?

Instead, the requirement  teaches my child to do the bare minimum, which, for her,  is just one book.

It just looks bad, Honors Students: two books, Everybody else: one book.   My kid is perfectly capable of reading two books assigned to her.  You don’t have to be in Honors to do that.

It should be two, two books for everyone, at least.

As a parent I encourage and reward reading and other academic work, but as a parent of a teen, I could use some help.  Somebody other than me needs to tell her.  If they had told her to read two books from a recommended list, I guarantee she would have done it.

Oh well, she might have liked Life of Pi.  Too bad she may never know.

Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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How Not To Apply For A Job


I was making one of my many trips to the paint store while I was working on one of my many home improvement projects.   I walked in the store and two men behind the counter were cracking up.   They had to struggle to pull themselves together to greet me.

I had to ask, “What’s so funny?”

One of the men apologized for his laughter and  explained that a man had just come into the store, asked for the manager, and said, simply,

“I hear you’re hiring and shit.”  

I joined in the laughter, after I confirmed what they said actually happened.

“Seriously?”  I asked.

“I swear to God,”  or some equivalent, was the answer.

It was funny, but it was also very sad.   How is it that a grown man does not know how to greet people properly, how to present himself to make a serious job inquiry?

More importantly, how would anyone who hasn’t been taught this learn?

I learned from my parents.  I was told to dress nicely and introduce myself and ask for an application and be ready with my information.   Clearly this man didn’t know or didn’t care.  He’ll be passed up for most jobs, except for maybe labor jobs that do not require any contact with the public.    But what’s even sadder is that he probably doesn’t even know why.

I wonder if he even knew that he’d added “and shit” to a sentence that didn’t need it?  Perhaps not.

This is why I don’t allow my children to swear in front of me.  I’m not a prude, it’s not a religious thing.  It’s so that they have had practice controlling their manner of speaking.  Like it or not (and contrary to Reality TV competition shows), there are  situations when we have to speak in a certain way or risk being eliminated from serious consideration.   Do I expect my children to never utter a bad word?   C’mon, seriously?  No, of course not.    But I do expect that they will be able to get through a job interview, a meeting, class, a debate while speaking properly and respectfully, and in a way that will not trigger laughter or pity?   Absolutely.  Can I get a Hell Yeah?  heh heh heh   (Oh the irony, I could have used the f-bomb but chose not to.)

I hope that  somehow, somewhere, someone tells the paint store “prospective employee”  how to inquire about a job,  or at the very least that he shouldn’t say, “I hear you’re hiring and shit.”   The dude was looking for work.  That’s a good thing, but he needs to be ready.

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So You Want My Facebook Password?

Reportedly, some Employers are asking prospective employees for Facebook passwords.  Not smart, and I’ll tell you why.

Remember the critically acclaimed, wildly popular,  academy award-winning and thoroughly enjoyable tear-jerker movie “Philadelphia” ?

“Philadelphia” is about Andrew Beckett,  a gay lawyer suffering from AIDS who was fired from his job at a white shoe law firm.   He brought suit, alleging that he was sabotaged and then terminated because of his illness.  The attorney, Andy, played impeccably by Tom Hanks, had not made his sexual orientation or illness public, and took great strides to hide the  symptoms of his disease, even using make-up to try  (unsuccessfully) to cover the tell-tale lesions on his face.

At a critical scene in the movie, just after the named partner at the law firm is served with papers of the lawsuit, he declares war on Andy. The head honcho countered a suggestion by another partner that they just settle it out by exclaiming,  “Andy brought  AIDS into our offices.”   In response to the suggestion  that a jury might decide that Andy has a case, Wheeler protests that “[Andy] was fired for incompetence, not because he has AIDS.“  Then he  accusingly asks his partner,

You didn’t know he was sick, did you, Bob?”

Holy shit! Did you, Bob?” added another lawyer.

Reluctantly, and non-convincingly, Bob responded, “No. . .  no, not — not really.”

The Corporate Defense Team, from Philadelphia.

Yeah, the employer knew.  Andy’s attorney proved it at trial despite the venerable  defense team’s  arguments that Andrew was successful in his deception.

Does it matter whether they knew?   Absolutely.

Ahh, because having proof that the employer knew is money in the bank for the victim, albeit in escrow.  Employers aren’t allowed to ask  religion, former drug addiction, association or membership in an ethnic group, pregnancy or plans to marry or have children, etc.   Not knowing protects the employer from being accused of wrongfully acting on the knowledge and it protects the employee from being discriminated against on these personal, not-job related,  characteristics.

Employers asking for access to Facebook pages designated as private gets them the answers to all those questions they aren’t allowed to ask directly.  And it makes one less thing an employee has to prove in a discrimination case.   All the employee would have to do is say, “Yeah,the employer  knew because they asked for my Facebook login  information and it’s all right there on my profile, with posts from all my gay, Jewish, Muslim, or drug addicted friends, plus  my post that I’m five days late.  They knew I have [insert condition here] and that’s why I didn’t get the job or why I was forced to work in the basement, wearing a mask.”

Just like in the movie Philadelphia many a case is won or lost based on that little fact – Did the employer even know?   This is why smart employers, or actually law-abiding employers, don’t ask about these things.  (There are some jobs that require a more thorough background check, but most do not.)

So, those  employers out there asking interviewees for Facebook passwords are, in my humble opinion, idiots.  They are inviting arguments like, “Oh I was a wonderful candidate until you saw on my Facebook profile that my husband is black or that my partner is HIV positive, or that I don’t believe in God,  or  I want to have children, or that I attend AA meetings even though I’m 689 days sober.”

Employers just shouldn’t ask for Facebook passwords.   It’s bad business.  If they do, I’d love to hear and potential Employee respond with,

Seriously?” while fumbling, looking for paper upon which to write the password,  and adding,  “I have a lot of stuff on there about my faith and some things I’ve been dealing with.

While writing down the password the potential employee could add,

There’s no way you can look at it without seeing all that stuff, that’s why I keep it my page private.  Some people are funny about . . .  some things . . .  but I need to be able to share the matters that are important to me with people who are important to me, even if they are aren’t important to everybody.  You understand.

Then, he/she can reach across the desk, holding  out the paper with the password,  look the interviewer straight in the eyes and state,

I really believe I’m the best candidate for this job and I’m looking forward to becoming a member of the team here.   I’m just really surprised that you want to know . . . so much.”  And, after a pause,   “But here, if you really need to know . . .


Humph. Potential employers asking for Facebook passwords — that’s  just crazy talk.  Employers who do this are —well, just  crazy.  But you know who’s not crazy?  The employee who receives the request.   The employer just handed him/her  job security — or a nice settlement for discriminatory failure to hire.

So let’s all  pad our Facebook profile with information that shows our religion, marital, parental, disability, pregnancy status, along with our  ethnic background and those of our loved ones.  Put all your stuff out there — oh wait a minute, it’s Facebook  — you already have all your business right there in blue and white! If the employer makes you share it  and if you get treated like crap because of it (or even arguably because of it)  and you  sue them, well — they had it coming.

The Cell Block Tango, from the movie Chicago

The Cell Block Tango, from the movie Chicago

Or, perhaps,  just link this post to your wall and allow access, baby!    Ha!


And by the way, none of the above should be construed as legal advice.  . . .  I’m just sayin’ . . .

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