Ambidextrous Thoughts

This site is intended to offer research and commentary on current events covering a wide scope of topics. Over and over again, I see social media offering quick access to the latest news or trend, but often with very little thought or fact-checking put into it, which lends itself to misleading half-truths. The intent here is not to take a political side, but to discuss the differences expressed by many who use social media as their source of news and information. My aim is to look at both extremes of a topic, and try to find a way to come together. I welcome input and suggestions on subjects that you’d like to know more about. Some conversations may have a political theme, but I hope to discuss issues that affect our everyday life, whether it be what kind of education our children are really getting, why are medication prices spiraling out of control, are unions a help or a hindrance to our workers today, or what “entitlement” really means. Bookmark this spot and see how we do as we try to make a fair place to open discussions on the subjects that interest you most. By – JRBecker


Posted by on Oct 1, 2017 | 2 comments



I saw this comment online recently and decided to talk with my daughter, who worked in special needs education for a time. Through her insight, it occurred to me that I should post this on my blog.




I can’t fairly evaluate or comment directly about the events that took place with these two children. I don’t have enough information. Special needs kids do not have a one-size-fits-all solution.

Let’s look at some possibilities with the first incident; the exclusion of an autistic child from participating in a school trip. How old was the child? Was he taking a special needs class, and being integrated into the mainstream school population? [More about this later.] Did they even have a special needs class at that school? Was there anyone at the school trained in supervising autistic children on outings? Was at least one of his parents able to go along? As explained to me, autistic children are particularly sensitive to lights and sounds. Something most of us take for granted could send an autistic child into a panic where he could lash out, or run, or simply withdraw inside himself. It could be the bleat of a goat at the zoo, or a loud bang from the assembly line at a manufacturing plant. Would there be flashing colored lights at exhibits? These questions need to be asked, answered and evaluated based on the level of his autism, his general aptitude, and past behavior. Remember that there is a safety factor here. The safety of the other students, and also his own safety could be in jeopardy.

Let’s look at student number two, a Down’s syndrome child; removed from a dance class when she wasn’t able to keep up with the other students. Some of the first set of questions still apply. What was her age? Was she being integrated into the mainstream, or was she a full-time student on the regular agenda? Down’s syndrome children are known to be some of the kindest, most loving kids you can ever meet. They often do well in a regular, age appropriate classroom setting. That doesn’t mean they’re up to all the challenges that other students their age can cope with. Some studies show that children with Down’s syndrome require more practice with motor movements, whether in dance, exercise, or sports, and may have a learning delay due to physical ability with the central nervous system. Were her needs such that other students were being held back in a way that could impact their learning and performance? Possibly she should be moved into a less advanced dance class, where she could learn at a slower pace.

There are a number of other children that fall into the category of special needs. Kids with Asperger’s ( a variation of autism), ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder), ADD (Attention deficit disorder), vision impairment including dyslexia, hearing impairment, Tourette syndrome and multiple other conditions can fall into the category of special needs. Each of these children need to be placed where they can benefit most from the experience with the least disruption to the mainstream students’ learning processes. Many of these students recognize that they aren’t like the other students, but they still want and need friends and social activities. Go to this site to see famous celebrities who have battled dyslexia and other learning disorders.

In larger communities, most public schools have classrooms with teachers and teaching assistants who are trained in working with special needs kids. As these kids develop, each at their own pace, most schools try to integrate them into standard classrooms, which works to the benefit of both the individual child and the other students in the school. Let me explain. When children are separated because of a condition, the other students consider them “different” and therefore not as sociably desirable. Meanwhile, the child from the special needs class begins to feel left out, unwanted, and so on. By moving the students with disabilities or learning problems into some of the standardized classrooms, they become “less weird” to the other children, and often assimilate quite well into the new structure. Of course, some children will adapt easier than others, but overall, it’s been proven that as abilities develop, integration benefits the child and stimulates learning. That said, sometimes events arise where special considerations must be made. Each case is going to be different, but the main thing is to maintain the safety of all children at all times. Sometimes a child can only be moved into one or two classes. For instance, some children with autism can actually do advanced math, while still not ready to try out social skills in the gymnasium. Conversely, a child suffering with ADHD might well benefit from a good workout in the gym.

Unfortunately, all schools do not have the facilities to separate the students, especially in smaller communities. Surprisingly, Down’s syndrome children can often do quite well in generalized study. Many others can too, but some children end up being home-schooled or even sent to a school specific to their needs, such as a school for the deaf and blind. Often, these schools provide boarding during the school year, since the kids come from several towns.

So the important thing here is to realize that each child will have different abilities and needs. I’m not just talking about special needs kids. If you think back to your childhood days, you’ll probably remember a kid or two that got teased a lot because they were smart, and another who was teased for being “dumb.” Maybe one of them was you. This idea of integrating the special needs students into as much standardized education as they can handle can actually help solve some of the teasing from happening as the students learn that even kids you thought were less capable can indeed learn and be funny and interesting and smart in their own ways.

Next time you get a chance, take a look at your child’s school. Find out what classes are offered for special needs students. If there are none, ask why not. Talk to your kids and find out if they know any special needs kids, and ask how they interact together. Explain to your children how all people have problems… some are just more obvious than others.

Of course all kids want to be included in outings and fun activities. Many times that’s possible and encouraged. Just remember that there are other students, too. Everyone’s safety must come first. Without knowing the special circumstances of the individual child, forming an opinion and making a judgement call can cause more stress and more harm than good. And if “winning” is the only goal, then yes, these children are being left behind. But remember that in a competition, tryouts leave out everyone who isn’t qualified to be on the team. Possibly pointing this out to special needs children would help them understand the difference between competition and general play. Also, show film/video of special Olympic events, to encourage their efforts.

And finally, parents must rise to the challenge too, of teaching their own children – whether special needs or not – that getting to know people that are different than they are can be a wonderful and inspiring experience. If there are special needs kids in your child’s class, encourage them to include that person in on things like birthday parties, or games, or just joining them for lunch. — END

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Posted by on Apr 28, 2017 | 0 comments



(Junior/Senior year)

As adults, we don’t know how to fit political information into our schedules. If we haven’t gained political education before we graduate, we aren’t likely to for several more years. We glance at the news to catch the weather, or a sports score, but seldom do we sit down to watch the entire broadcast. Even worse, we spend less time listening to our political figures when they speak at a State of the State, or State of the Union Address, for instance. Even people who say they get their news online often read only the headline and a paragraph or two. Practically speaking, we elect our leaders and our representatives based on a picture, a few sentences we’ve randomly heard them speak, and a well-written biographical paragraph by a paid marketer. Some voters watch for the political ads and decide by what they see there, not realizing that these are nothing but mini-commercials by marketing strategists, selling you their product. Rarely do we think to look up an incumbent’s voting record or find out what their previous jobs were and what their business reputation was. The truth is, unless we take courses in college related to the political arena, most of us know very little about our government and how it operates. Once we leave high school, our lives become a whole new world of responsibilities with a job, and/or college classes. Many marry and begin families which brings in a whole new dimension of responsibility. We now have bills to pay, and of course we want a social life. We need a car, or a place to live… and on and on. High school prepares us for this new world with information that helps us make good choices, but does it prepare us to improve our lives and our worlds through the power of the vote?

Just about everyone knows who the president of the country is, even if they didn’t vote. However, it’s surprising how many don’t even know who the vice president is, let alone who their senators and congressional representatives are. Even locally, 20-somethings to 40-somethings often don’t know who is representing them in their state legislature, or who the governor is, or the mayor of their own city, let alone their council members. This is somewhat understandable, given that many families have both parents working, or are single-parent households. With children, there are doctor appointments, babysitters to schedule, laundry, meals, constant housecleaning, and general bill-paying. Then comes school registrations, parent-teacher meetings, sports, holiday shows, birthday parties and other parent-child activities… all while working a full-time job and trying to have some family time. Whew!

So the last year or two of high school (before all that starts) is the best time to teach some life skills that can lead to a better future for the student as he/she becomes an adult. First, we need to acknowledge that History is not the same as Civics, and a class in Government is completely different than either one.

HISTORY is mostly about the names of Kings, Queens, Presidents, Prime Ministers, Tribal Chiefs, Sheiks, Dictators and a few famous U. S. patriots and the dates of their birth, death, and times in power. It also focuses on wars and specific battles throughout the years.

CIVICS class is centered around the rights of citizens, mainly in the United States, and sometimes broken down to the state level. The Constitution is usually a part of this curriculum. Some voter information is usually included. It is an important course but it doesn’t teach much about how the government functions.

GOVERNMENT class is the study of how governments run, particularly in the United States. Besides learning about pacts and treaties and how they come to be, this course takes into account how the three branches of our federal government work (and the checks and balances this provides), and describes how policies and laws are made. Ideally, there is some overlap between government class and civics class, but one does not take the place of the other.

Today, civics classes are required as early as 7th grade. I don’t know about you, but I can’t remember a single class I had when I was 12. Boys were discovering girls, and girls were discovering that boys were noticing them. Sports were being introduced on a competitive level. I remember that elective classes were added to the curriculum, and most of us chose something that seemed like fun; possibly shop or home economics (back in those days), or music, art, or typing.

The civics classes in school today are usually half-credit classes, paired with some kind of local government class. While this is better than nothing, the message is sent that the workings of government really aren’t very important to the average citizen. The amount of time allotted doesn’t allow for the setting up of a mock government and studying the variety of issues our three main branches face. How can we expect our next generation to be inspired to become involved if they don’t even know how it works? How can they know how to vote if they don’t even know that senators and representatives can write and submit bills, but both the house and the senate must approve them and the president must sign them before they become law? (Yes, the president has a veto power which allows him to keep a bill from becoming law, but the veto can be overwritten if it goes back to congress and passes both the senate and house of representatives by 2/3 majority in each.) Instead, we believe a president can actually change the law at will, without understanding that he can only do that with the help of congress. In fact, most presidential candidates don’t even know the full extent of their limitations until they begin receiving briefings. (Many people also confuse Executive Orders with Laws. Executive Orders can only pertain to laws that are currently in existence.)

And then of course, any new laws (or orders) have to be legal. That is, laws cannot be made that go against the Constitution. Our judicial system is set up to prevent that from happening. There are legal ways to circumvent that, such as adding a constitutional amendment – something that is very difficult and requires a great deal of work in order to reach an agreement which will win the necessary backing of the individual states. First a proposal must be developed and must pass both branches of congress by 2/3 majority of each branch. Then the bill must be sent to the states where their legislatures must agree, by simple majority, to the amendment. Three quarters of all states must approve of the amendment. The president cannot veto any step of this process. ***For more on amendments, see the end of this article.

Did you know all this? More importantly, did you know all this the first dozen or so times that you voted?

Shouldn’t our future voters and leaders know that federal judges are appointed for life – not only the Supreme Court? Shouldn’t our newest voters understand that there is a hierarchy to the court system?

Shouldn’t our schools teach that even the executive branch of the government must meet the standards of the Constitution, and that our congress and judicial systems may be called on to determine if any new law or regulation is constitutional? Wouldn’t all this stick in their minds more, the closer they got to voting age?

Isn’t it up to us to talk to our state legislators, boards of education, and our school districts to try to encourage more involvement for our students so they can go into the world armed with the best information they can get? Wouldn’t we have a better world if the youngest adults were as informed as we’ve become after raising our families and then finally finding the time to actually learn about the amazing way our forefathers set up our democracy?

While researching data, I found that most requirement information is only current through 2013, so some states may have modified their requirements in either direction during the last 4 years. At this website, I noticed some states had actually dropped government from their requirements. Reference for graduation requirements Info:

According to the referenced website, only 4 states and the District of Columbia show a full credit required for U.S. Government – Idaho, Iowa, Maryland, and Nevada.

Fifteen others show Government at a full credit, but mixed with other subjects such as history or civics.

Nine states show no Government requirement at all – Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The other 22 states require only ½ credit, sometimes mixed in with other subjects such as local government or history, and of these, some offer the classes as early as 7th grade.

In early 2017, several states reviewed and have changed, or are considering changing requirements for graduation. You can look up your local Board of Education to find requirements and other graduation information. If you would like to see the next generation graduate as a better informed and more aware group of young adults, you can begin with your local school board. Let them know what you want!

**** A final consideration might be to require that all students pass a citizenship test prior to graduation. Why do we expect new U.S. citizens to know more about how our government works than the young people that have gone to school here their entire lives?

There are currently many petitions and proposals circulating for a 28th amendment. A few are:

  • Citizens United (campaign funding)
  • Time limits on congressional and senate votes for appointed positions such as the Supreme Court.
  • Social Security and healthcare as a right.
  • Term limits for members of the House and Senate.
  • More recently, limitations and requirements pertaining directly to the president, such as release of tax forms, medical records, and divestiture of business conflicts are being discussed.
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