Thursday, December 16

Dismissing Superman

Voices clamoring today for accountability in American education do so with good reason: Johnny can’t read. With real-time issues of global economics and an aggressive market place, literacy is essential for personal and national success. No one is claiming it isn’t. They just can’t agree how to go about it.

Recently a Superintendent for a local school district posted an open letter to parents on his district website in response to the newly released documentary, Waiting for Superman.

He acknowledged that parents may have serious concerns about the efficacy of public education after viewing the film (which presents appalling statistics, messy politics and ridiculous red tape inhibiting effective educational achievement in America’s schools). To counter their fears, he exerted considerable energy gushing and touting the many positive measures his district had committed towards preparing their children for the future. Amazingly, he admitted he had not seen the film himself, and had no intention to ever do so.

I would like to point Mr. Superintendent in three directions:

1) To the fact that plenty of parents are hugely aware that education in America is floundering. They don’t need a documentary to figure it out.

2) To Paul Tough’s book, “Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America”. Canada is also the radical educational prophet who coined the title phrase adopted by the documentary, Waiting For Superman.


3) To the bathroom mirror: He ain’t all that.

His rather arrogant side-step and parry is surprising, because evidence abounds to the contrary! Frustration is felt in all corners, across all demographics. A smorgasbord of companies who cater to the professional development and training of school administrators and teachers are assured total job security until Jesus comes again. Literally billions of federal and state dollars, funds solicited from Educational Foundations, even Presidential mandates and all the latest “edu-speak” fads offered as the consecrated value system of the day to save Johnny - have done nothing to change the problem. Johnny still can’t read.

From personal observation as a teacher’s aide for inner-city Creighton School District in Phoenix, Arizona about twelve years ago, I casually estimated 30% of the children in my combined first and second grade and third and fourth grade classes were below grade level in reading, and as such disappeared each week to special remedial tutoring designed to help them catch-up and integrate into grade level. None of them ever did. I know, I asked the Master’s degree educator who ran the program. Hard statistics studying students in Atlanta, Georgia, reveal an even more egregious figure: “Essentially two out of every five Atlanta students heading into high school are functionally illiterate -- unable to comprehend a work as simple as Anne of Greene Gables or even complete mathematical word problems such as "Marty has 6 red pencils, 4 green pencils, and 5 blue pencils.”

This dizzying dilemma of big money, revolving resources and endless teacher trainings, regardless of the urgency or enthusiasm placed on them - appear to only sporadically and superficially effect measurable change in what are truly dismal reading and writing scores. Beyond the scoring, is the critical attitude of children who don’t enjoy learning and reading. I venture to say there are a great number of teachers who likewise do not enjoy teaching, and who have lost the vision of what it is to capture a child’s imagination and vital learning perspective.

I submit a jump-start solution that no one would dare try because it is painfully simplistic. It is not a cure-all, only a jolt to charge literacy skills into action. It doesn’t cost a penny. It doesn’t require special training to initiate, or special curriculum to get started. There are no seminars, retreats or consulting venues to calendar, no high-tech equipment to install. Virtually all the necessary elements to begin the solution today are already in place in every classroom across the Nation.

  • Lock the copy room! Throw away the key. Return at least 60% of the time teacher’s aides spend with a copy machine or waiting in a long line to use the copy machine back to real face to face interaction with children, thanks to the sound of metal on metal.
  • Shove the student desks out of “educational clusters”, and back into straight rows.
This disastrous theory of good study habits by osmosis has got to go. Relieve the few capable students from the unfair burden of shouldering their less-capable classmates like a literal ball and chain. (I once asked my son’s teacher for his paycheck as his miniature teacher’s aide). Place a strict moratorium on every so-called “group learning activity” that celebrates kids becoming hap-hazard “hangers-on” instead of independent thinkers.
  • One student, one grade. Assign meaningful projects that assure an individual student will earn an individual grade. Students must understand reading and writing is wholly a solo acquisition! It can be experienced at some level in a group, but ultimately the doing of the deed is a personal, intimate thing.
  • Be honest with children. We must reverse the great disservice of the self-esteem movement which made common-sense a dirty word on school campuses. Telling a fourth grader he did “very well” when he couldn’t sound-out “had” is a cruel lie. Call it ‘911 Reading!’ and use forthright flag words such as, “Emergency!” and “Urgent!”. Embrace motivational phrases such as, “You need this skill like you need air to breathe!” and “Triumph is within your grasp!”

There is something crucially pertinent about the cognitive process required to copy whatever the teacher writes on the black board (or dry erase board) and accurately transfer it to a piece of paper. There is magic in the raw processing of language on such a brute and tactile level.

Each word automatically becomes precious; precious because the teacher must spend time writing it, and the student must take care to see it, transfer it to paper, and decode it. There is a wealth of synaptic activity that is honed and refined by the sheer volume of the task required. Practice makes perfect is an old adage that really works. Why? Because it does.

Naturally opposition to this proposal will be fierce. Kids today crave gadgetry and all the bells and whistles to stay focused. Um, don’t they? Has anyone considered perhaps their lack of focus is because they are not proficient readers, and we don’t expect them to be? An excerpt from a teacher/parent strategy outlines the dangers of copying from the board for some children:

  • Minimize copying from the board. This seems like such a straightforward task, but can be very difficult for some students. Copying from the board requires students to keep information in their heads as they transfer it from the board to the paper. The children have to keep track of what they last wrote, keep that in mind as they look back up at the board, find where they left of, look at the next few letters or words, carry the information back to the paper, and keep it in their heads long enough to finish writing it down.
  • Request that your child be assigned a "note buddy," a child in the class who takes complete notes and makes them available for your child to photocopy.

Did you think I was making this up? Did you catch what the student is hearing loud and clear? "This is too hard for you (and we don't believe you'll ever get it) - so let's have someone else do it for you!" Whenever I teach theatre arts or public speaking, I make sure I use action vocabulary. I say, 'This is unfamiliar to you. That's not the same thing as "too difficult". Do you remember what it was like when you were first learning to ride a bike?" (See where I'm going with that?) No kid ever agreed to give up trying to ride a two-wheeler just because we knew we would probably skin our knee once or twice. Why? Because we knew it was FUN. We believed it was a necessary skill! We saw all our friends riding up and down the street, and we wanted to do it, too. The point of no return has always been the running shove; there had to be momentum for us to balance on our own. Only then could we launch off into flight, free at last!

The self-esteem hijack has effectively removed an extremely basic and highly functional incentive ~ the TRUTH: Literacy is FUN. It is a necessary skill. It is the vehicle by which we think thoughts and express ourselves. There is no such thing as a "pedal buddy" in bike riding. Duh. If someone else is pedaling, you are not riding.

Classrooms in my 1960s childhood were conducted in straight rows of desks, with a decisive emphasis on literary neatness. If we copied our notes hastily, we might do the wrong page for homework and miss a grade. It was a mistake not oft repeated. Seating in rows, the teacher could almost instantly determine who was doing their own work, and who was attempting to rob from their neighbor. We didn’t need to group together and pretend celebrate our pretend team spirit to develop a pretend healthy self-esteem. We had self-esteem because we could read.

As for the mechanics of reading (which is already in play by the manual copying of text), have you seen some of the stuff they make kids read who are having trouble reading? I have. It stinks. It is laborious. It is deadly tedious. Whatever adventure by accident happens to be enjoyed by the reader is soundly crushed and strangled by exhaustive, redundant questions and workbook activities following the story. I get it; they are designed to encourage comprehension and retention. But seriously, I ask again: Is it relevant? No, it is anti-climactic. Is it effective? Clearly, it is not. Are these workbook style reading assignments (designed by educators instead of children’s authors) filled with inspirational language? Emphatically - NO, they are not.

Jane Yolen was interviewed this week on National Public Radio in honor of her 300th published book. She is often called the Hans Christian Anderson of American children’s literature. Her wildly popular 1987 Owl Moon

won the most prestigious children’s award, The Caldecott. Ms. Yolen ought to know a thing or two about children’s literature. “I think picture books should stretch children,” she explained, “they should be full of wonderful, amazing words.” Yet even a writer of her caliber must battle editors and publishers more and more over their objection to her choice of words in her manuscripts. They tell her she is “too literary”. One of her stories revolved around a stolen diamond lavaliere. The publisher insisted “necklace” would be easier for children to read. Yolen held her ground. Later, when she and the artist were on the book tour, every single school they visited had conducted a kid-vote on their favorite new word from her new book. The winner hands-down? Lavaliere.

Literacy is losing ground in large part because adults have lost faith in the remarkable capacity of children. Of course there are many other issues at play. Administrators who can’t remember what it smells like in a 5th grad classroom after recess are often oblivious to the nuts and bolts of the teacher’s world. Society is distressed. Respect for authority is waning. Family life is much more chaotic than it used to be, even privileged households have parents who fail to read bedtime stories to their children.

In other settings, such as what Geoffrey Canada discovered in the ghetto of Harlem, there is a deep culture of parents who are generationally deprived of healthy parenting models.

We should be true to our assertion that children matter. English as a second language is an obvious hurdle. Again, the common sense remedy is English emersion. A student who can read will catch up in other subjects, and quickly. We should vow never to produce another generation of students who went from Kindergarten to high school graduation in America - without a single word in English. Ever.

Making lists of what works against effective learning is easy. Having the courage to allow teachers to teach and being able to remove bad teachers and reward talented teachers is another topic entirely.

There ought to be JOY in learning! There ought to be much, much more of exploring the written magic of words, and speaking the song that beautiful language is. There ought to be passion and excitement and flavor every time language is heard or seen in American classrooms. A fundamental step in the right direction would be to envelop a classroom with language; on the tongue, on the printed page and from the end of a pencil.

Necessary language. Fun language. Imaginative language. Challenging, thinking language. It is a crime to decide in advance the capacity of children. We should assume with confidence that children are capable, and act with anticipation.

The adventure begins with a neatly printed white board, a blank ruled paper, a sharp number two pencil - and plenty of pink erasers. And we don’t need a Superman to accomplish this.


1) “Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest To Change Harlem And America”

by Paul Tough

2) The American Spectator

“The Kids Can’t Read” by RiShawn Biddle 6.21.2010

3) National Public Radio

Author Interviews: Jill Kaufman with Children’s Author Jane Yolen

4) Sixty Second Parent

“Reading With Toddlers”

5) About.Com

“Strategies to Help a Child Who Has Trouble Taking Notes in Class”

Monday, December 13


There are all kinds of punishments for children. Excuse me - corrective measures, positive discipline, incentives. Back in the 60s where I come from, we called it like it was: Punishment. Sitting in the corner, going to bed without dinner, writing “I will not throw spit wads in class” 100 times on the black board, washing your mouth out with soap, missing the Thursday night 8:30 PM to be continued episode of Star Trek (oh man!), even a belt across your backside - all culturally acceptable and highly effective forms of punishment for errant children. I was even paddled by the school principal with a ping pong paddle for being tardy.

I told him I was always late because my mom took my brother to private school before dropping me off (his form of ‘punishment’ for being adverse to public school standards), and I was too little to ride my bike to school. But instead of paddling my mom, Mr. Sands turned me over his knee. I couldn’t wait for second grade to be over with so I could ride my bike to school and be on time! Life’s lessons were often a ritualized endurance of the confusing consequences for getting in trouble.

There were some activities that should have merited punishment, but didn’t. It wasn’t my idea to put salt on the snails that crept innocently out on silver trails from the English ivy patch, but once my brother showed me the cool results, I was an active participant. The terrific bubbling and frothing that instantly ensued was boss. The gruesome casualties of our salty campaign littered the white concrete of our long driveway with sad, empty shells and miserably liquified bodies apart from them. Why we never considered what was being experienced on the snail’s end of things, is regrettable.

We (a loose term for my older brother, the neighbor kid Eric, and yours truly) clipped intricate tunnels in and out of the dense

oleander hedge that bordered the street, leaving a flap of outside branches to cleverly conceal the labyrinth inside. Next, munitions were carefully selected; cumquats nearly fully ripe are heavy enough to throw with considerable force and accuracy for significant distances. Biting the end of the fruit just before the throw was our equivalent of lock and load. If the cumquat was a little more ripe than usual, then the bite was like pulling the pin on a grenade. The splat upon impact was truly beautiful. Our target was the passing automobile. Any car would do. The obvious flaw in our battle strategy was the fact that Jellico Avenue was hardly well-traveled. It was very rare that any car would pass, and even rarer still that it would be someone we didn’t know. Apparently we didn’t think about that, either.

As the only girl in the corps, I was often assigned hazardous duty. This worked swell for the boys, because I was too young to realize I was being manipulated, and too eager to be one of the guys to notice the gross inequality of it. It was 1966, two whole years before the infamous ‘burning bra’ incident after the Miss America contest. I didn’t know I was being suppressed! So out I went, exposed in the street as the “look-out”. Once I alerted the happy crew to an approaching car, we assumed battle station positions within our oleander fortress. Pelting the unsuspecting car with a furious flurry of half-mutilated cumquats was ridiculously rewarding.

One day I dutifully emerged from the hedge to sound the “all clear”, but saw tail lights flash instead. The victim was backing up at a rapid rate, and we were without a contingency plan! I screamed warning and my fellows in arms quickly abandoned me. I flew across our front lawn after them, into the back yard past the garage and the woodpile and hopped the six foot chain link fence in my bare feet as if on wings. We all huddled in Eric’s old barn and breathlessly waited. After some time had elapsed, we guiltily ventured back to the scene of the crime. The target car was gone. But so was my brother’s brand new baseball bat he had left on the lawn. He couldn’t complain about it though, because it would expose our crime. A crime for a crime. He wept bitter tears. It seemed justice had been served, as much as we wished he hadn’t been required to give up his precious bat.

Other crimes were not as easily defined. I was messy.

My bedroom was a disaster zone. It took me forever to find stuff. Unfortunately, the difficulty in locating things correlated exactly to the degree to which I didn’t want to do something else related to it - such as go to school. Therefore, I was often the cause of insanely frustrating searches at the last minute for a book report, a library book or my envelope with the field trip money for my teacher. I tried to get my beagle Lucky to search and point, but he was pretty useless, and apparently not all that lucky, either. My mother was tired of a 5th grader who couldn’t find her school shoes.

The slippers were a Christmas gift. I think. They were not important. They were PINK. And fuzzy. Super fuzzy. Sluffing stupidly along in them was beyond awkward for the very reason of the afore-mentioned fuzziness. It felt like trying to walk with giant Hostess Marshmallow Snowballs on my feet - which would have been preferable; at least you can eat a Hostess Snowball. For a little girl who climbed trees and played army and tied strings to a June bug’s leg to see it fly in a circle, pink, fuzzy slippers were not very high on the list of ‘must haves’.

If I had to wear anything on my feet, it had better be rubber-soled Keds. Y’know, the run faster jump higher kind.

I knew the kid that was on one of the t.v. commercials, honest! You never got to see his face though, which was pretty disappointing. He did all the running and jumping required all right, and lots of close-ups of his amazing bright red Keds, but it ended up being some weird, hyper-active headless torso. I think even back then I had a knack for marketing. I definitely would have recommended that effort feature the kid’s head at least once.

One morning, after the customary search for my shoes was a bust, my mom ordered me into the car wearing the only thing I did have an even-steven pair of - the hideous pink, fuzzy Christmas slippers. This was certain death for a girl who already had too many things going against her: I could fit a nickel between my front teeth, I had freckles, and I was the very last girl picked for square dancing every Friday afternoon. No amount of tears or begging or dramatic conniptions could alter the course of fate; there would be sweet, pink vengeance for my mother, and it would be today. She practically had to kick me out of the Impala station wagon once we were alongside the curb next to the Lorne Street School bike racks. My heart was in my throat. I could see my entire class lined up outside our bungalow. For whatever reason, Mr. Lavin was uncharacteristically late letting them in. And now, just for good measure, I was forced to approach them wearing my pink, fuzzy slippers.

I was out in the open. The enemy was aware of my offensive approach, and they were prepared to receive me. Their laughter echoed between the buildings and carried across the four-square courts to my mortified self They pointed, the kids in the front of the line elbowing the kids in the back until everyone turned and leaned out of line to get a good, long look. Grimly, I trudged on - my school books pressed to my chest, two skinny little chicken legs underneath my drop-waist dress, and the hated slippers fuzzing out cheerfully at the end of my knee socks. I don’t remember if later in the school day my mom brought me my shoes, or if I had to wear the damn slippers for the entire day. It doesn’t matter anymore.

All I do remember for sure is that my closet was always clean and organized after that. And we never threw fruit at our neighbors again, and I think we imposed extinction on the local snail population, which pleased my dad.

The following year I would turn eleven and my mom would take me to the orthodontist and I would face my classmates wearing an ugly headgear, the style with the single band at the back of the neck. I had agreed to wearing it 24/7 because it would drastically decrease time with bands on my teeth. My first night wearing it hurt so bad I cried myself to sleep. I couldn’t eat anything but soup for a number of days. But this was one conflict I would not withdraw from. I was thankful to be getting braces, thankful to be done with my buck teeth I could fit a nickel in between. After the slippers, I felt rather untouchable to the taunts and jeers of kids at school about my very attractive headgear.

(can you say "mug shot"?)

I endured. I pretended I was a horse - my favorite animal of all time - and my nasty headgear was sort of a bit and bridle. In my mind I galloped majestically away from the stupid boys who said stupid things, and the mean girls who encouraged them.

Finally, in 7th grade and after what seemed like a life-time of anticipation and always being outside the popular crowd, the day arrived for my braces to be removed. The suffering was over - I was elated! My teeth were perfect! I ran my tongue across them. I bit them gingerly together - testing the occlusion. I looked at my reflection with my mouth open and closed. I could have cried, I was so happy. Everything about me seemed wonderfully different. I couldn’t wait to get back to school after my momentous final appointment with partially deaf Dr. Moffitt.

At the lunch table under the tree by the art room where I met my friends, I tried to act natural and wait for their reaction when they noticed I didn’t have the braces anymore. It took longer than I thought. What seemed screaming, front page news to me was indistinguishable to them. They chatted away, eating balogna or tuna sandwiches and draining their thermos each of cold milk. Finally, and a little disappointed, I had to point it out. “Look!” I said, smiling broadly. “See anything different?” A couple of friends were surprised they hadn’t noticed, and commented approvingly. Things were looking up. Until Mary interjected her two cents. I don’t even know why she was at our table, anyway. She was’t part of our usual lunch group. She was one of nine kids, and tough. “Your teeth look bigger. Too big,” she said. I explained it just appeared that way because the silver bands were not covering them up anymore. “No,” she insisted, louder, “that’s not it. Your teeth are just huge. You look ridiculous. And it’s annoying how you are opening your mouth and smiling a lot on purpose just to show us your big teeth.”

There should be a punishment for that.

Saturday, November 20


We have grown arrogant in our bubble of modern, American life. I am only three and four generations removed from a time when couples could expect to lose a third of their children before they reached maturity, and husbands could expect to lose a wife or two in childbirth. A day when typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet fever and malaria epidemics swept through housing complexes in city and rural communities with the same, grim toll.

We forget this.

I am of the generation of school children who received polio vaccinations one by one in the school nurse’s office. Our generation had family members and neighbors and people we knew who got polio; seeing kids with leg braces and corrective orthotics was not all that uncommon.

We forget this.

My own children have been very healthy. They have benefitted from the very best of Western medicine and technology. And, because the vast majority of our society was similarly protected by an impressive infrastructure which regulated safety and health standards from fluoridated city water to fire-resistant pajamas, we have lived a long time in a predominately stable environment.

But, we forget this, too.

It’s not that we don’t have issues. Cancer devastates, and plaques and neurofibrillary tangles high-jack mental acuity and fill nursing homes with vacant faces; lost lives still among the living. We are struggling with a virulent array of aggressive addictions and sexually-transmitted diseases which corrupt virtually every aspect of American life; everyone knows someone who has been hurt or families who have been decimated by these.

But what happens when a marginal infrastructure is toppled virtually over-night? When the matrix of social stability is just too fragile, too impoverished, too compromised to prevent absolute catastrophe?

Cholera happens.

I thought I knew about cholera, at least as much as can be casually understood. One reference in particular is special. In 1849, my Great Great Grandfather was on board a ship bound for one of the busiest immigration ports of the era; New Orleans. A convert to Mormonism, he was on his way to “Zion”. The voyage from Liverpool was difficult, but not uncommonly so, until the vessel was becalmed off the Florida Keys. For 21 days the sails hung flaccidly. Resources intended for a 26 day journey were severely compromised. Cholera erupted. Within hours the groans and agony of the dying filled the miserable hold.

Benjamin Peel, much to the terror of his young wife Nancy Turnbull, bravely attended to afflicted fellow passengers without thought for his own safety. Thirteen adults and fifteen children died in short order. Mercifully for many, death came within only two hours from the onset of illness. It is part of our cherished family lore that Benjamin and Nancy Peel were miraculously spared.

But then Haiti had an earthquake. The world family focused attention on her plight. Funding, specialists, relief workers and supplies have been invested in a broken place crushed by too many cultural failures long before a natural disaster took center stage. Officials watched anxiously for signs of contagion - a dreaded accompaniment to large scale refugee communal living. A Hurricane dumped further trouble on a miserable situation.

Then, reportedly, sewage from a Nepalese base contaminated the Artibonite River. Nepal is a part of the world where cholera is endemic. Haiti’s National Public Health Laboratory identified the cholera strain now ravaging Haiti as the same type typically found in South Asia. Sweden’s ambassador to Haiti fueled suspicions when he asserted his “diplomatic sources” traced the deadly cholera infection to Nepal. Violence erupted as a result.

How incongruous that U.N. peacekeepers may be the carriers that introduced this paralyzing plague! The waste management company responsible for draining the Nepalese septic tanks has also been accused in the disaster. It is an epidemic. With more than 220 cases a day in just one camp, rising to over 300 - 400 new cases a day, beds needed for cholera victims must increase from 1,900 to 3,000 in the next few days.

In a place that has never seen Cholera before, people are stoning officials who come to collect the bodies of the dead. Families abandon their dead on the streets, too terrified to touch them.

Now I know I know nothing at all about Cholera.

We cannot forget this.

Forgetting is dangerous.
Influxes of immigrant populations from developing countries who by-pass legal methods to enter the country have added a new demographic to social health in America. Wherever populations of immigrants are, so is a rocketing rise in diseases we thought we were done with a long time ago. TB, Hepatitis (all varieties), Typhoid (which can reside happily asymptomatic in a single carrier for years while actively infecting others) and unbelievably - Polio - are all blossoming among stable populations in the U.S. Common Chicken Pox and Measles are actually a serious problem again. The obvious alarm, of course, is that none of these potentially lethal diseases stay loyal to the host population.

An additional factor in our changing public health is the growing number of individuals who believe immunizations are not safe. Research has been very thorough in this regard, and so far aberrant side-effects (of significance) from routine immunizations are so incredibly rare, the numbers simply do not justify this aversion. Celebrities are very successful promoters, and Jenny McCarthy is prominent in the campaign to link immunizations to childhood Autism, for example. The fact remains, however, there is no viable science to her claims. Add this element of vulnerable population vs immunized population now compromised (most of our baby-boomer generation immunizations are expired; we should have a booster dose), and third world country microbial/viral ravages literally have an open door into our American “bubble”.

I am no biologist, and I am no germ-freak, either. All I know is we are a very forgetful society. The rising faction of those who revile against fluoride in city water sources as a toxic assault on the populace have forgotten that only two generations ago, it was accepted as the norm to lose all your teeth before you were 50. Public fluoridation put this appalling standard to a screeching halt. If something as simple as adding fluoride to drinking water has elevated public health so dramatically, yet is so thoroughly forgotten, what's next?

We turn on a tap with confidence. We drink out of any public water fountain without a second thought. We order food at restaurants and shop at warehouse-sized grocery stores, and hardly consider what contagion could lurk in our meal prepared by strangers. We shake hands, hug, touch common surfaces, and breathe common airspace - as we should! This is how Life is conducted.

But all that could change. Any number of instigators could turn our world upside down. It doesn't have to take a long, dysfunctional, suffering history such as Haiti's for it to be here, either. I wonder, how secure is our matrix?

More especially, I wonder if I could have done what my Great Great Grandfather did? I hope so.

Wednesday, November 3

A Case For The Eradication of Black Holes in Public Places

Have you ever intentionally placed something important in a logical and secure place, only to discover later - when you really need it, that it is no longer there? And, subject to an appropriate after-incident inquiry, there is no confession or explanation for the disappearance of said item by anyone in the vicinity? Traditionally this dilemma has been chalked up to human forgetfulness or lack of organizational skills. Yet such excuses are confounded when confronted with the very clear and distinct memory of placing the item exactly where it should be. The case seriously remains for the consideration of physics as the responsible principle.

A black hole is a theoretical entity of infinite spacetime curvature. The massive gravitational collapse of a dying star is presumed to initiate this “event horizon” effect, the so-called “point of no return” where nothing - not even light - is allowed to escape.
As the memory of where the coveted object was placed is not lost, and the placement of everything else that is not being searched for is still very much undisturbed, there is no clinical justification for conveniently assigning incidents like this to the frenzied effects of a forgetful mind. Investigating the extraordinary gravitational and radiatory forces at play ought to clarify the issue once and for all.

We have Einstein to thank for his theory of relativity which is key to understanding where the heck lost items have gone and why. While the likes of Einstein and Schwartzchild in 1916 grappled with metric solutions ( rs = 2GM/c2 = G is the gravitational constant, M is the mass, and c is the speed of light), generations of hard-working Americans are still searching long into the future for lost keys, left shoes, earrings, school book reports and important receipts. Scientific justification eases the discomfiture of losing things at the most inopportune moment somewhat. However, it does not return the missing item which is of course, the ultimate desire.

Examples of diabolical (and selective) physics are many. Statistics reveal 9 out of 10 times a person methodically searches a limited or contained space, such as a purse or backpack or car console, the sought for item is positively and absolutely un-found. It is not there. Vanished. Keep in mind, there is invariably no history of blindness, mental paralysis, sleep-walking nor any other physical impairment in he who searches. Yet, the 10th time an identical search in the identical space is meticulously directed with no variation in either the methodology or search sequence, the item suddenly and inexplicably is found. Acknowledging higher powers of quantum physics, this phenomenon quickly evaporates from the mysterious to the observable. It was never “lost”, but sucked into another dimension by the aforementioned and extremely powerful black hole event horizon effect. The fact that it, and precisely it alone was temporarily sucked into another dimension and later returned unharmed is for now an unexplored avenue of thoughtful consideration.

Similarly befuddling is the “group effort” effect. The searcher, having searched solo in vain, solicits the help of others in looking for the object desired. A detailed description of the same is obtained, and multiple searchers then disperse to look for it.

The rule of “the more the merrier” generally is a safe predictor of happy outcomes. But in the exercise of searching, more often than not the posse returns empty-handed.

What is the reason for this very curious result? Is it really plausible that three or four heads are not better than one? In the end, the original searcher is typically the one who does indeed find and secure the object after all the collaborative effort expended in

searching for it. The quirky nature of black holeness being what it is, intrigue diminishes as time and space bend just enough to surgically target and transport what was formerly safe and secure to that which is utterly and totally gone.

Exploring the ‘why’ of this macabre, obscenely discriminatory and indeed diabolical process (it is never an unimportant specimen that goes AWOL), pleads intelligent analysis as to what the qualifiers for the experience are:

    • Urgency: If time is of the essence, the sucking will begin immediately
    • Strained Resources: The degree to which important things disappear directly corresponds to a struggling bank account
    • Self-Image: If missing the thing will be construed as a dink to one’s moral character or personal work-ethic, sucking will occur
    • Cosmic Justice: The more aggressively a parent advocates personal responsibility and organization of the home environment, the more dramatic will be the disaster of whatever goes missing
    • Ownership: Anything that belongs to someone else, no matter how carefully it is transported or how deliberately it is housed, will be sucked into oblivion before you can say “mc >2
    • The *Jones-Idiot Boomerang Corollary: (*insert searcher’s name here) When the spectacular “return” of the thing hopelessly lost appears as if it had been in plain sight the whole time

In conclusion, nothing less than advanced quantum mechanics demands credit for the unsettling, even maddening search experience the less astronomically aware dismiss as “forgetfulness”. In the name of social sanity, it is only fitting we revitalize NASA and seriously invest in research which will protect us from this exceedingly insidious threat to homeland security.