Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hello, My Name is Not a Deadly Weapon

Note: This article does not pertain specifically to teenagers, but focuses on the rights of a child. And that's what I'm for, not just teenagers, but all young people. So please temporarily ignore the name of my blog.
This is the letter 'H' in American Sign Language.

H is the first letter of the word 'hunter'. A hunter is somebody who goes out into the wild and shoots deer.

It's also a given name. This is Hunter Spanjer, age three. He's deaf.

Naturally, most deaf people don't want to spell out their entire names. So they come up with a sign that represents them, usually some variation on the first and last letters. This is the letter R:

Hunter crosses his forefinger and middle finger and waves them around. That's the name he's used ever since he was six months old.
Which looks kind of like a gun. Fitting. This way, I think, will help people remember he's not Harlan or Howard or some other name. If he didn't cross his fingers, it would look even more like a gun.
The preschool's zero tolerance policy doesn't care. It remotely resembles a gun, so it's a violation. The school told him to change his name. His family is taking legal action to prevent that.
You know people are idiots when they can't even see the reasons behind their own policies. You cannot shoot anybody with a finger. Poke them, yes, whether your name's Hunter or Holly or Egbert.
What's really sad is people are having to justify it. "Oh, he's only three and a half. He doesn't know it looks threatening." "But that sign is registered with Signing Exact English." "But schools are supposed to protect freedom of speech."
How about this: Hunter's name is a name. I've met other Hunters, I've seen Talon and Battle used as first names. Mankiller, Archer, Knight, Kilpack, Butcher, Loveless, Diebold, and Bloodworth are all surnames. None of them have ever been banned to my knowledge. So why start now?

Monday, August 27, 2012

What I Learned Over Summer Vacation

School starts tomorrow. Back to homework. I've heard you forget up to 75% of what you learned during school over the summer. I don't trust statistics that end in the number 5, but that sounds like a decent rough estimate. But some of what you learn in school is so trivial, it deserves to  be replaced with the more valueable lessons you learn from real life. Here's what I learned over my summer vacation:
1. Nasturtium leaves are edible and taste like radishes.
2. I am incapable of mass producing blog posts.
3. I've been pronouncing the word 'inventory' wrong all these years.
4. Anything that seems original is most likely a parody. 
5. The average lifeguard can't name the founder of the Red Cross.
6. The nine year old standing next to him can because she did a report on Clara Barton.
7. Fire on the Mountain by Edward Abbey is the most boring, pointless, required reading book ever.
8. Night by Elie Wiesel is actually really good.
9. Listening to 'Wake Me Up Before You Go Go' at night will not help you fall asleep.
And, most importantly:
10. Don't start off a movie marathon with The Fellowship of the Rings: Special Extended Edition. Especially when none of you have read the books. 
With these crucial lessons, who needs school?

Saturday, August 25, 2012


Perhaps I could use one of these instead. Or maybe a messenger falcon.
Two weeks ago, my phone decided it was going to hide from me. I looked all over the house before my brother finally found it in the car, in the pouch on the back of a seat..
Not having a phone for a while reminded me painfully of how things were before I ever got it. That's my brother's life right now. He's twelve and thinks it's utterly unfair that I have one and he doesn't. I didn't get my first phone until I was fifteen, a hand me down from my older brother. I still am fifteen and I still using that same phone.
If you are a parent with a child nagging you for phone, here are some reasons (beyond scary kidnappers and peer pressure) that they might actually need one. And if you are the said child, well, here's some more arguments to nag your parents.
1. For when you're seeing a movie with your friends, who don't have cell phones either, and it ends half an hour early. This happened to me. We tried using a pay phone but weren't sure if we were supposed to dial or insert the money first. And then we discovered it was unplugged anyways. Finally my friend found a girl she knew from second grade. She owned a phone and we were able to call home. Sometimes it's not about all your friends having phones, but the complete opposite.
2. Awkwardness. Yes, there will always be other kids in the whole wide world, even in the whole wide school, who don't have phones. But there's ample oppurtinity for you to be the only one out of a group of six. Somebody suggests you exchange phone numbers for that project you're working on, or so you can see each other after camp, or so you can all make it to the right place at the right time. The paper comes to you and you have to put down your mom's number, even though you know they probably won't feel comfortable calling her. And when they do, she thinks it's strange that random teenagers are texting her and wants to know everything about them.
3. Sometimes you get stranded at school. This used to happen to me all the time. I'd stay after school to retake a quiz, staying until four. Then I'd stroll on down to the attendance office to use their phone, after all, that's what it's for, only to find that they'd closed up and gone home. So I'd backtrack to the classroom where I took the quiz and discover my teacher didn't stick around any longer than she needed to. On good days, I'd run into a friend who'd also been retaking a quiz and we'd ride home together.
On bad days, I'd have to borrow one from that boy from science class who's name I don't exactly know while his mom is waiting for him outside. Sorry for that inconvenience.
And then you have to go wait out front for your parents to pick you up. Some kids have been loitering around in front of the school for the past hours. You don't know any of them and they look kind of rough. So you slump down next to a bush and hope they won't notice at you. But you can't just sit there, you need to act like you're doing something, so you pretend to organize your backpack and wish you could text while you wait.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Wait, That's the World I Live In?

Today I saw an msn article entitled '75 reasons to feel old? How college freshmen view world'.
Being me, I clicked on it. First, let's take a moment to consider the horrible structure of that first sentence. Where did you go to journalism school, Dinesh Ramde?
The article discusses various changes they say the class of 2016 has always taken for granted.  Suitcases with wheels, women holding political office, those sort of things. I could agree with those. Yes, I've seen normal suitcases, my family owns a few, but those aren't the ones we use.
Then it claims we have no need for radios (unless, I don't know, you're in a car on your way to somewhere fun with lots of friends and want background music.).
Most of the article is in list format.
1. They should keep their eyes open for Justin Bieber or Dakota Fanning at freshman orientation.
Pretty sure he's not abandoning his multimillion dollar career to study. It also calls him our "peer" elsewhere in the article. Actually, I've never met the guy. Barack Obama has, though. I heard they met in support group.

2. They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of "electronic narcotics."
That's the third time it refers to internet addictions. Really, you have 74 other items on the list. No need to wear out the most stereotyped one.
3. The Biblical sources of terms such as "forbidden fruit," "the writing on the wall," "good Samaritan," and "the promised land" are unknown to most of them.
You really think none of us do? Yes, church attendence in America is at an all-time low. If our parents stop going to church, we never get exposed to the gospel.
8. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.
He was president when I was born. Bush took over when I was four. I think I first heard Clinton's name when I was ten.
10. On TV and in films, the ditzy dumb blonde female generally has been replaced by a couple of dumb and dumber males.
I've actually seen a lot of both.
18. Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.

I did laugh when I gazed at a used encyclopedia on my brother's shelf. "I always wanted one," he said. I have one of those. It's called the internet and it's free. At least I know where to go in a power outage.
28. Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy.
You haven't been to my house.
No, they aren't my brothers. But they could be.
35. Probably the most tribal generation in history, they despise being separated from contact with their similar-aged friends.
Now that's just insulting.


And just paragraphs ago they claimed we were alienating ourselves with our technology addictions.
They really need to have these articles written by actual teenagers. We live in the world adults can only study from behind a clipboard. Wait, no we don't. It's the same planet.

Monday, August 20, 2012


A few days ago I went The Odd Life of Timothy Green with my mom. It's a cute movie, but I thought it could have been more interesting if they focused more on Timothy and his relationship with his friend Joni. It's mostly a movie about the parents.
And then the credits rolled around. First came the unit production manager and a few other people nobody actually cares about. Why do their names always come first? No wonder people walk out with their popcorn the second it's over.
After those guys came Jennifer Garner, who plays the mom, and Joel Edgerton, the dad. C.J. Adams is third. And he's the Timothy Green of the movie.

They don't even have his name on the poster. Couldn't that lead to some confusion as to which one of the guys plays Timothy?
For Finding Nemo, the credits go in this order: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, and Alexander Gould. Marline, Dori, Nemo. Title kid comes last again.
Then again, the movie's called Finding Nemo. Though Nemo has his adventures in the dentist's fish tank, the plot is about Dori and Marlin's quest to rescue him.
Love that movie.
Then there's HUGO. I have to confess I haven't actually seen it yet, but I did read the book. I'm pretty sure it's better. There are lots of movies out there, but I haven't seen anything quite like The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Is it a novel, a graphic novel, or the world's longest picture book?                  
Plus it looks impressive when you lug it around.
But on the credits, Christopher Lee comes first. He's not nearly important as the actors who play Hugo and Isabelle.

This could be because child actors tend to be less famous than their adult costars. But come on, these are all the title characters!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

I is for Ikea

I couldn't think of a good general topic for the letter I, so this is going to be a personal story.
Back in eight grade, my friends and I used to have these mostly theoretical discussions on ways to be kicked out of Walmart. We came up with at least thirty different ways ranging from paying for expensive item in pennies to climbing inside a freezer and eating the popsicles. We meant to put them into action sometime but never actually got around to it.
Last week, my friends and I were talking about ikea. Namely how long it would take us to get kicked out. So we agreed on a date and time (tomorrow, high noonish sharp), got an adult to drive us, explained to each other what high noon meant, and met up for a day of adventure.
Unfortunately, my friend who would have had the most fun (and creativity) getting kicked out had a migraine. We didn't want her to miss out, so we just walked around and decided to do it some other time.
Actually, we walked around, talked, admired the fine quality furniture, pretended to eat off a beautifully set table, and staged a sword fight with the feather dusters.
I like to imagine we looked something like this.
They had a few hundred of those wooden artist models on display. We posed them so they looked like they were fighting or dancing or arguing.
I actually bought one. I was sure I'd regret it if I walked out without one. Now I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with it.
Ikea has a rather large selection of closets. We checked inside each person sized one in case Narnia was hiding behind it.
It wasn't.
My friend Hanna and I hid in one of the wardrobes. We wanted to see how long it took our other friends to realize we were missing and search for us. Turns out, they had the same idea. 
Which gave us a better idea: hide and seek in Ikea. 
I'm pretty sure I got some weird looks as I stood facing a row of lamps with my hands over my eyes and counted to thirty. I know I did get some as I squeezed in between a shelf and a wall. I thought I would be able to fit in it.
Most people seem to think all teenagers spend their days getting drunk, spray painting train cars, and robbing the occasional gas station. Yes, some of us do these things in our spare time. As do some adults. But in average, boring lives like mine, this is as close to mischief as we get. 
We're not nearly as extreme as you think we are.
Though that would be fun.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not Again

I'm going to take a brief departure from my alphabet parade to vent about school. In eleven days I have to go back. My days will go from carefree and unproductive to waking up early and going through school days half awake because I stayed up late doing homework. And because my district has ninth graders in middle school, it will be my first real year in high school. Bottom of the heap again. Just like seventh grade. That was not an enjoyable experience.
You'd think I'd at least be allowed to put school out of my mind until the day arrives. But no. Back to school catalogs come out the first day of summer. The Olympics, the epitome of summer and celebration of hard work and adventure, were punctuated by commercials for jeans, crayons, and backpacks. And my local grocery store put on a "Back to Shcool Sale."
They spelled school wrong on the sign. Some people really need to take their own advice. Got that, Peterson's Marketplace?

Monday, August 13, 2012

H is for Homeschooling

I usually start off my alphabet posts with a definition or background explanation.
I think you all know what homeschooling. Schooling. At home.
Having never been homeschooled myself, I did a little research. I discovered a list of reasons for homeschooling from the National Education Statistic Center (can you imagine what it must be like to work there? Just as you thought you'd escaped school and headed for the real world).
Can give a child better education at home
Religious reasons
Poor learning environment at school
Family reasons
To develop character/morality
Object to what school teaches
School doesn't challenge child
Other problems with available schools
Child has special needs/learning disability
Child not old enough to enter school
What? If they're not old enough to go to school, they shouldn't be-oh, wait. I think I have a personal experience with that. People say the American public education system has twelve years of schooling. In reality, most people get fourteen, though kindergarten and preschool aren't legally required.
My friends think I'm weird because I never went to preschool. Neither did my three younger brothers. Our mother loved us, so she didn't get rid of us before she had to. She had these workbooks she used to teach  the basic things-numbers, shapes, the alphabet. That's what I did on Wednesdays. The rest of my young life was spent doing things I actually enjoyed-dancing, drawing, playing dolls, playing with my friends, playing computer games, and watching TV.
Only recently did I come to realize that most of the TV and all the computer games were educational. Sneaky public broadcasting programs. I never used the internet until I was eight and hardly watched Disney Channel until I was ten. I'll probably have to enter a real preschool someday to check, but I'm pretty sure I learned move from TV than I would have otherwise. Did you know who Elizabeth Freeman was when you were five? I think not.
So I guess I was homeschooled after all.
Homeschooling is illegal in several countries, including Brazil, Turkey, Sweden, Greece, and Germany. The only country I really know anything about is America because I happen to live here. While our educational system isn't exactly perfect, I put up with it for the price of social interaction. Not that I can't respect home based learning. That is how education started, after all. Schools are a relatively modern thing.
And if you can learn better at home, does public education become obsolete?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

G is for Gymnastics

Wait a second, I get a lot of views from Russia. I'd better add in another picture.

And to all of you racist morons out there who are upset because Gabby's black, replicate that position. Right now. But make sure to jump first. I will laugh as you scream in pain.
Now, I don't think I need to tell you what happened in London a few days ago. What you see in that second picture is a fine example of teamwork. Together, we both beat China. And to think we spent all those decades not getting along.
My parents want me to delete that last part because they're afraid somebody's going to aim a rocket at our house. But all the 2012 gymnasts were born after than era and I don't get many Chinese pageviews, so I'm not particularly concerned.
But really, don't. If you are Russian and I have upset you, leave a comment about Aliya Mustafina's other gold medal. For bars. Which is not all around. So it's not that special. But still special.
And that brings me to the part where I stop gloating and make this relevant. Believe it or not, I had this post planned out before I watched a single gymnastics event. Back when I thought China was going to win everything.
Everybody dreams of going to the Olympics when they're little. Sure, most of us end up sitting on the couch years later, watching from a couple thousand miles away, wishing we had muscles like that. But some people spend years working for a chance to compete. And for some of them, not as many years as you might think.
 When you get old, your body doesn't want to do this anymore:

So naturally enough, most athletes are young. Hiroshi Hotshetsu might argue on that. At the age of 71, he's the oldest Olympian to compete in 2012.

But the horse is doing a lot of the work here.
In 1981, the FIG decided to raise the minimum age from 15 to 16. You can still compete if you're turning 16 in the current calendar year. Kyla Ross of the US team is was born in October of 1996.
The stated reason is that gymnastics is extremely rough on the body and they don't want younger gymnasts to be injured. Lots of people object to that, though, and say they're really trying to level the playing field. Bela  Karolyi (coached Nadia Comeneci for Romania and now coaches the US) is famously against the regulation.
Younger gymnasts have several mental and physical advantages. They tend to be bolder and less fearful. Their bodies are lighter and more flexible. When they hit puberty, growth spurts and weight changes can through off their centers of gravity. And then there's four year gap. You can only compete for so long.
They're have been numerous cases of age falsification, most notably from North Korea, Romania, the Soviet Union back when it was the Soviet Union, and China. Yes, China. I'm sure that's going to come as a surprise to everyone. They have a twenty year old on their 2012 team who's only 4' 6'', or somewhere around 137 centimeters. Often it's the countries who decide to fake the gymnasts' age without their consent.
Way back in 1896, Dimitrios Loundras won a bronze medal with the Greek men's gymnastics team. He was ten.
Any sport is rough when you go at it with Olympic intensity and it's not a bad idea to protect children from danger. But if they can work themselves, defy their age and experience, is it right to prevent them from achieving greatness?
Yeah, yeah, I'm gloating again.

Monday, August 6, 2012

F is for Fetal Rights

I've never blogged about this before.  I understand if some of you don't get it. I'm supposed to be for teenager's rights, so what about the teenage girls who think they have the right to an abortion?
I am a fervent supporter of all young people's rights. What's younger than a baby? What's more of a right than life?
All human beings deserve to be treated like human beings, regardless of age.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

E is for Ephebiophobia

Does this picture send chlls down your spine?
Yes, one of those funny phobia words. You can laugh at them once and then forget how to spell it forever. Ephebiophobia, or the irrational fear of teenagers, can affect anybody. Teenagers included. I read recently about a teenaged girl who had to be homeschooled because she couldn't tolerate being around people her own age.
Even people who don't necessasrily have ephebiophobia can develop fear of young people. Usually, the first image to come to mind when you say "teenager" will look more like this:

Fear of youth can escalate into prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, restriction movements, and media-spread fear of teenagers gaining any sort of power in the world. So basically, it's synonymous with ageism.
When you look at it, that's what's behind almost every form of discrimination. Fear.
Memo to all adults out there: If you're going to develop a fear of something, at least make it good. Like this:

Or this:

Or perhaps this:

Not this:

We're too boring to be terrifying.