Saturday, July 20, 2013

Look Your Age

I've always looked about three years younger than I actually am. When I was ten, people said I looked seven. I went to a 7-9 middle school. As a ninth grader, the only thing I looked forward to for high school was no longer being mistaken for a seventh grader.
When I actually got there, it seemed that people didn't care as much. Nobody asked what grade was in. Half of my classes were entirely made up of sophomores. The other half had an even enough mix that nobody cared.
But when they did ask, they thought I was a junior. I still don't know why. I'm five foot one, 110 lbs., and I don't overdo makeup. Even my physics teacher believed it until I told her I wasn't taking the ACT. That's toward the end of the year. Doesn't she have a list of our grade levels somewhere?
I didn't care when people mistook me for a junior. I took it as a compliment, even though that normally goes against what I believe in. Maybe they just assume SOPHOMORE=IDIOT. Sitting next to someone in class for a quarter tells you more about someone than their age.
Erica Smith
I don't usually post pictures of myself, but you're probably wondering how I look now.  I took it about a year ago and I'm wearing more makeup than I usually do. It's from my facebook profile. I'm too lazy to go find a camera right now. Still, it's a pretty good indicator of how I look.
Then I realized it doesn't work during the summer. One night I went to a party where everyone was my age, give or take a year, and a boy thought I was the host's little sister.
A few weeks later, I went to a church youth activity and saw a tall guy wearing boots and a cowboy hat. I would've thought he was older than me if he weren't standing next to my friend Hanna. I started talking to them. I learned that his name is Ryan, he'll be a sophomore like Hanna, he might start at my school in the fall, and he once pretended to be eighteen when a cop pulled him over.
Sophomore usually means fifteen, but not always. Hanna's still fourteen thanks to a September birthday. So I thought I'd ask him.
Me: "Are you fifteen?"
Ryan: "Yeah. How old are you?"
Me: "Sixteen."
Ryan: "No you're not."
Me: (turns away) "Hey, Lily! How old am I?"
Lily: "Uh...sixteen?"
Then today I went shopping with my mom. The saleswoman asked if I was school shopping and what grade I was going to. She looked like a college student, or maybe a college graduate working in retail for a summer while she figured out what to do with her life.
Me: "I'll be a junior."
Her: "A junior? Like in high school?"
Me: (Is there any other kind?) "Yes."
Her: "No way! I'm a senior. You look way younger. Trust me, that's a good thing. People were always telling me I look older. Now people walk up to me and ask if I'm thirteen."
You know what? I've decided I'll stop caring. Age doesn't even matter once you hit twenty five. Most adults just round it off to a decade: "He's in his fifties." That's why my stock answer with adults is usually, "Younger than you think I am but older than I look." They don't tell me their age to the year. They don't need to know mine.
At school, I'm seventeen. Outside, I'm thirteen. Online, I'm usually a generic adult. Apparently it doesn't occur to people that there are teenagers on the Internet.
Think whatever you want.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Teenage Boys Save Young Girl

Last Thursday, two teenage boys from Lancaster, Pennsylvania rescued a five year old girl from her kidnapper. How did they do it? They chased down his car. On bikes. After fifteen minutes, the man gave up and pushed her out. She ran to the boys, hugged them, and said "I need to talk to my Mommy."
When asked what he'd have done if the kidnapper hadn't stopped, Temar Boggs (15) said he'd probably jump on the car.
That takes guts. Watch and learn.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rated G for Juvenile?

Last week I went to see Despicable Me 2 with my family. I liked the first one and worried the sequel wouldn't live up to it. Well, it was okay. My main disappointment was Margo. In the first movie, she acts like a surrogate mother to Edith and Agnes. They've grown up in  an orphanage with no love from the woman in charge. She doesn't trust Gru and continues to protect them after the adoption. Eventually Gru shapes up and decides to be a father.
Bring on the sequel. With Gru as her dad, she has a chance to be a normal girl. A normal teenage girl. Though her age is never given, it's implied in the way she discovers texting and boys. She even abandons her sisters in the mall to go on a date with a boy she's known less than two minutes. Margo from the first movie would never do that. Her character just decayed. 
But hey, at least they don't pull the child in distress gambit like the first movie. The girls are quite capable of defending themselves, whether they're using nunchuks or jelly guns.
A few days later my dad found Hotel Transylvania on demand. My mom wandered into the living room just in time to watch the last ten minutes. She asked for a plot summary, so I told her,"It's like The Little Mermaid, but with vampires."
My dad laughed and said the description fit it perfectly. But the more I thought about it, it doesn't. The Little Mermaid is about Ariel falling in love with a human, going against her father's wishes, and leaving her safe sea haven.
Hotel Transylvania is about Dracula building a safe haven for Mavis, tricking her into staying inside, and trying to stop her from falling for a human.
Dracula is the protagonist. Not Mavis, his 118 year old daughter. I'm not going to complain about that. Giving the lead role to Mavis would be like making King Triton the main character of The Little Mermaid. It's not their movie.
But these are kids movies. Why does the lead role always go to an adult? Even Ariel is more of a woman than a girl. She's 16, yes, but apparently that's old enough to get married.
My dad says its to save the adults in the audience from boredom. They pay for the tickets, after all. Makes sense. But child doesn't mean juvenile. I know a woman who cried during the season finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's TV-Y7. Look at Phineas and Ferb, one of the only Disney Channel shows worth watching. The creators have even stated, "We make this cartoon for ourselves. We don't make it for the children; we just don't exclude them." Most of the clever jokes, pop cultural references, and wordplay will go over young viewer's heads, but they can still appreciate the songs and palatypus fights.
Age doesn't determine quality. You don't need to dumb it down, kids know how to enjoy a show. So long as it's a show worth watching.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

A Year in Review: What's Wrong with Public Education

We did it. Another year of school and we survived. Three months of freedom. With each year of school, the less I believe in the educational system. Here are my top three peeves. Feel free to chime in with your own.
Attendance School

This is my school's euphemism for detention. If you're late to class, detention. If you sluff, detention. I have a 94% in English.  That should be an A, but I was two minutes late to class one day. It's first period. Sometimes my carpool's late. Thirty seconds late to class = two hours in attendance school. Now I have to do detention just as if I sluffed or I won't get a grade in that class. If I were a senior, I wouldn't be able to graduate.

The machine you are currently staring at is called a computer. News flash, it's a machine. It has no opinions and no knowledge of the outside world.
So logically, we should use it to grade persuasive essays.
MyAccess reads through essays and gives you points for long words and long sentences. You get docked if you put "who" for "whom" or piss off spell check. I went to Oquirrh Hills Middle School. Typing that will take you down a few notches. And if your name is Allisynne, Lakyn, or Ensley, you can't even put your name on it.
One boy fed it a perfectly good Finding Nemo essay full of whoms and long sentences. He got a 6 (100%). That didn't have anything to do with the essay topic, but the computer didn't care.
It doesn't stop there. For awhile, there was a glitch that gave you a 6 for putting Jesus in your essay. My friend typed "In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen" for her concluding sentence. Six. Can't argue with Jesus.
Common Core
It's supposed to revolutionize the math and language arts programs. As far as I can tell, it's only managed to demolish math. So far.
Here's the old system, tried, tested, and true: Math 7. Pre-Algebra. Algebra 1. Geometry. Algebra 2. You go through most of those in middle school. In high school you'll take calculus and pre-calculus.
Then somebody got the bright idea to shove it all into one. The theory is we'll learn geometry and algebra in the same year. The new classes have vague names like "Secondary Mathematics 2H."
Brilliant idea, right? So brilliant that they jumped into this curriculum right away in 2011. No need to worry about textbooks or tests. Nope, the brilliance will take care of itself.
I didn't have a textbook for my entire freshman year. It hasn't been written yet. A few months ago, they came up with this:

For those of you who can't remember school, math books are supposed to look like this:

This is what I had in eighth grade, before common core. Heavy but useful. Definitely not spiral bound. Produced by an actual company and not the district.  Halfway through this school year, my seventh grade brother finally got a textbook. It looks like this:

But enough with the textbook rants. They haven't even bothered to create an end of year test for us. So, we get off free? Focus on our other tests?
They do what they did with my brother's math book. Recycle the old stuff. We took the same test two years in a row. This year, someone in the educational system grew a brain cell and we got off without a test.
If you're not going to be an architect or engineer, you only need to know math to pass the tests. What was I supposed to learn this year?

The public education system is failing. I'm all to aware with that. Most of the arguments you read focus on funding and administration. Money and legislation are like oxygen. We don't make it ourselves and we have no idea where it comes from, but it's vital as it's invisible.
We may not understand the technicalities. We certainly don't know the statistics. What we know is school. Unlike the school superintendent who hides in a comfy office behind a laptop, this is our life. We see education with a clipboard to block our view.
We're affected by education reform the same way a thirteen year old leukemia patient is affected by the health care bill. Just like her, we have no control over what happens in our lives. Because we're too stupid to understand the technical side of things. We know nothing.
They give us our little student organizations, peppy kids who wear cardigans and paint posters for assemblies. But no power. Speaking up only earns you a detention. What we need is actual influence or education will march on the same way it always has. 

Thursday, July 4, 2013


With the fourth of July coming up, I've been thinking a lot about the meaning of the word independence.
During the Revolutionary War, America was often compared to a child that had outgrown its Mother England.
It's really a good comparison.
When adults tell you to be independent, they're talking about doing more chores and getting a minimum wage job at some burger place. Yes, financial independence is important. You need it if you plan to live on your own someday. But the American Revolution wasn't a polite, "Hello, Mother England. You know how we've been supplying you with raw goods and a market for your products? Turns out, we can manage on our own. Oh, and those taxes? They're actually hurting us economically. So we'll just be our own country now. Thanks for the help."
No, it was more along the lines of, "We don't want your tea! We don't want your taxes! Get off our land before we shoot you."
This Independence Day, be thankful for your liberty and celebrate your personal independence. You're not just a teenager, your an American teenager, and that's something to be proud of. We have a proud heritage. Our country is far from perfect but it's one of the most free in the world.
We've been called "the next generation". They say the future is in our hands. That's wrong. It's our world now, and we have the power to shape it.
So stand up for yourself. Stand up for your passion. Leave this world better than you found it. It doesn't matter that the adults of today and yesterday have dragged your country into debt and dysfunction. We have a proud legacy and it's our right to keep it going.

I posted this song last year and don't see why I shouldn't do it again. Happy Birthday, America!