Month: October 1997

Hey, Bill! Stand In The Gap!

Everyone gripes about the public schools in Seattle. Parents want more control of curriculum, educators want more parental involvement in the learning process, students would like to not be treated like idiots, and public administrators want higher test scores from students.

Recent surveys have revealed an “education-economic gap,” meaning that poorer students tend to have lower test scores. (No! Really?) 43% of Seattle’s school children live below the federal poverty line, in a city where the cost of living continues to skyrocket. It’s beginning to worry Superintendent John Stanford, who’s sensitive about keeping up his image as the General Schwarzkopf of the public school system.

Stanford recognizes the obvious facts: “For many kids, we have to buy them clothes, see that they eat, ensure that they have transportation, that they can get clean, get psychological help, physical therapy. Once we get through those things, we get to the academics.”

But he quickly switches gears and starts talking the same PR crap that won him a hefty book contract. He ignores the “economic gap” and cites solutions to what he calls the “achievement gap,” including standardized tests, new academic programs, special tutoring, summer schools, teacher training, toughening the curriculum, etc.–all the usual garbage we’ve heard before. Nice ideas, but they’re cough medicine for a hemorrhaging economic wound.

Other politicians and legislators are the same. They all want higher test scores, while ignoring the problems posed by poverty, racism, and the needs of bilingual children. It’s time to challenge our legislators to do something really daring…more daring than the new astronauts arriving at the Mir space station. More daring than thousands of Christian airheads praying to Keep their Promises on the White House lawn.

To all the lazy public figures out there, we should say: “Hey, you guys…” (they are still mostly male) “…it’s time to prove that you’re real men. Senator Slade Gorton, stand in the gap!”

We mean the poverty gap, of course. Some politicians call it the “wage gap.” Whatever. Our national congressmen just voted themselves a $3,000 pay raise, while the bottom 20% of us had our pay drop in the last decade. Because of our congressmen’s inflated incomes–not to mention the lucrative lobbying careers and corporate board appointments to come–folks like Slade can really make a difference. Hey, Slade, if you give up $130,000 of your $137,000 annual salary, you could close that gap between you and the poorest children in the U.S. Stand in the gap!

Let’s not stop at lawmakers. Corporate CEOs, corporate managers, and shareholders must do their part, too. What has Bill Gates done for poor school kids lately? Not much.

Recently Bill set up a foundation to help schools serving low-income students purchase computers. Not good enough, Bill. The first schools to take these computers have suffered from problems with staff (the teachers, staff, and administrators have to pay for expensive training classes), access (one or two computers for how many kids?), and the usual problems with substandard software (Windows, of course). Clearly this was Bill’s way to capture a niche market for Microsoft, not an effort to do anything for children.

But Bill had another plan to help. He bought Leonardo DaVinci’s notebooks and arranged for their display at the Seattle Art Museum. That, of course, ensured poor kids would be turned away, except on “Free Thursdays,” when they have to elbow past starving adults to get a look at it. This does not cut it, Bill.

Not one to miss a photo-op, Gates invited our daily paper, the Seattle Times/P-I, to snap pictures of him surrounded by a selected group of fifth- graders. They got a special, wide-eyed preview of the exhibit, wherein Gates extolled the wonders of becoming pre-adolescent Microsoft consumers.

Barf! Bill, I dare you: stand in the gap! How many billions in stock options can you cash in and then give away within a 24-hour period? Can you teach those fifth-graders something besides outright prostitution, after having used them to bolster your public image and sell more software? A real man wouldn’t use porn to recoup the fortune he spent to acquire a work of art. He would give it away for free, then dip into his bank account, get rid of all his extraneous billions, turn his palatial house into a shelter for abused women, and move to Federal Way. He would stand in the gap!

Craig McCaw, founder of McCaw Cellular, recently gave away $1 million to a foundation that teaches high school students to tutor younger children in basic reading skills. C’mon, Craig, a measly million? What’s the deal!? You’re worth hundreds of millions. Details of the divorce proceedings with your ex-wife, Wendy, showed that you’re not the self-made millionaire you always claimed to be. You actually inherited your first millions from your parents, then set up your telecommunications empire. You could at least show these poor kids the same respect and generosity Mom and Dad showed you. Start giving and don’t stop till you’re down below the median income of $30,000 per year, Craig. Stand in that gap!

Just because the gap’s as wide as the Grand Canyon–and is getting wider every day–is no excuse. Until rich folks start jumping in to fill that mile-wide poverty gulch, they better keep their mouths shut about “educating the poor,” and the “achievement gap.” First things first.

Detour!

Many women wish there were a few, basic signals to tell us when we’re about to enter a really bad relationship with a man. If only a road sign would pop up somewhere along the way (“Do Not Enter,” for instance), so we can back up and get out just in time. Something needs to replace the awful advice we get from TV, movies, magazines, and books about relationships and men.

The media is full of images of gullible, trusting women who fall for and then spend years trying to please some abusive jerk (often he’s the “hero”). These women always end up living miserably-ever-after in a world where nothing they do or say is important. Of course, the Never-Never Land of TV never portrays the long-term consequences that women suffer in the real world when they give abusive men the benefit of the doubt.

We’ve all seen or heard about an abused woman who always believes what her abuser says, always accepts that it’s not his fault, and knows he’ll change eventually. She’s trying to fit a media and cultural ideal of feminine behavior, while ignoring her own better judgment. It’s time for women to turn off the TV and listen to our own instincts and the advice of other women.

We are not responsible when some jackass takes a swing at us, yet we need to be prepared to say “no” when a particular type of man treats us badly. We can’t always predict when violence will happen or even who it will come from, but we can be on the alert for the road signs that say “Warning: Certifiable Asshole Ahead.”

Here’s a list of a few “CAUTION: FUCKING LOSER” signs, to help us get in touch with our natural instincts for self-preservation. Be prepared to dump him and run if you encounter any of the following:

1. You find out the man you’re dating has no friends, and his relatives either won’t speak to him or have all left town.

2. He invites you to his apartment and you notice big, fist-sized holes in the wall.

3. His friends (all male, of course) call him by some cute nickname: Crazy Joe, Screwy Louie, Slammer, Punch Drunk, Killer, Slap Happy…you get the drift.

4. He hates his mom. He hates his grandma. He hates his sister. He hates his female co-workers. He really hates his ex-wife. He will eventually hate you, too.

5. He takes a lot of pills. He says they’re vitamins, but they all come out of the same prescription bottle with no label on it.

6. He likes guns. He has the damn things laying around everywhere: on the kitchen table, on the sofa, on the night stand next to the bed, or on the front seat of the car. He never answers the door unless he has a gun tucked in the back waistband of his pants. Don’t wait for an argument to happen before you decide to leave–do it now. Change your name, too. Radical cosmetic surgery is advisable. And remember that the world is not as hostile as he claims it is–his paranoia was a problem before he bought all the guns.

7. By the end of the first date, he’s already talking about marriage. This guy thinks you’re a piece of property–i.e., possession is 9/10ths of the law in regard to “ownership.” Excuse yourself to go to the bathroom, then climb out the window. Always carry enough money for a cab or bus fare. If he calls you again, change your phone number.

8. You never see him sober. He needs a drink just to loosen up and talk to you. And remember, just because you never see him drink anything doesn’t mean he’s not an alcoholic. The aroma is a dead give-away. So is a perpetually red face. If he can’t remember your name, stumbles or drops things a lot, talks too loud, slurs his words, laughs too much, and smells like piss, send him packing.

9. You have sex with him for the first time. He immediately gets up, pulls on his pants, his shirt, and his shoes, looks at his watch, puts on his coat, says he has to drive his mother to the grocery store, and leaves. He calls you back the next night for more fun. Hang up on him and unplug the telephone.

10. You have sex with him, but he never stays the whole night. He waits for you to go to sleep, then he leaves. Months later, when you’re standing in line at the courthouse to take out the restraining order, it dawns on you why he never stayed till morning. You can’t get a restraining order against someone who hasn’t spent at least one complete night at your home. Now, why would he have known that?

11. After you move in with him, you find out that his method of cleaning involves throwing every loose thing of his and yours into a big box and hiding it somewhere else where you’ll never find it again. Of course, he knows where it all is…and if you want something you’ll have to ask him for it!

12. When you decide to leave, he begs you to stay. He pouts, he snivels, he threatens. He may threaten before he thinks about trying the pouting, snivelling part. Don’t fall for it. Phrases like “you can’t make it without me,” and “don’t come crying to me when you need help,” are a dead giveaway that you’ve made the right decision.

13. When you decide to leave, he gets violent. He trashes your things. He scares the shit out of you, and may even hit you…until you give in and tell him you’ll stay. If you think or know that he’s capable of this, you must leave right away, but do it quietly, while he’s at work or passed out. Listen to your instincts–seize the first safe opportunity to flee. Take only what you need–just your coat and purse and money, and do not waste time packing. Get in the car, on the bus, in a cab, on an airplane, whatever. Just don’t hesitate and don’t let him catch you. Oh, and don’t go back for your stuff. “Stuff” can be replaced. You can’t. Congratulate yourself for getting out in the nick of time.

We all know what happens when women don’t get out in time. We read about that in the newspaper every day: “Ex-husband kills wife, then kills himself” (he’s her “ex,” but she’s still his little wifey, even in death!). You know what those marriage vows say: “til death do us part.” Well, abusive guys really believe that.

Women can’t afford to.

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