Friday, November 2, 2018

Political Junk Mail

I received a flyer from the Utah State Democratic Committee in the mail today that was addressed to me "or current resident." Atop the flyer were the words "Michelle Szetela's Voter Report Card For The 2018 General Election," below which was stated: "According to public records, you haven't voted all the time," then stressing the importance of voting.

There was also a handy color-coded comparison chart with three charts, apparently meant to indicate and compare my level of voting involvement with my neighborhood: Perfect (with five gray bars); me (with three green bars); and Neighborhood (with three gray bars).

According to said flyer, I have a "good" voter turnout rating which is "about average compared to [my] neighbors." I'm sure it's possible I missed quite a few elections during the eight or so years I lived in New York, especially because I never bothered to get a New York State driver's license, but given that (a) I have voted in every single election since moving to Utah in September 2010 (thanks to permanent vote-by-mail measures, for which I signed up immediately upon moving to Utah); and (b) this flyer was addressed to me "or current resident," I question the legitimacy and accuracy of this flyer.

Thankfully, I can "improve [my] score" by voting! Thank goodness. Good thing I mailed in that ballot last week!

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Women's Ordination

Today I learned that:
It was only a hundred years ago that canon law decreed that [Catholic] cardinals had to be ordained...[T]he 1917 Code of Canon Law was looking for a way of curbing abuses in the making of cardinals. Some men had little knowledge of theology and others were, well, very young. Before that, the College of Cardinals was made up of both ordained and lay men...Being a cardinal is one of those roles in the church for which, theoretically, you do not have to be ordained.*
One of the arguments I hear against ordaining women is that none of Jesus' 12 apostles was a woman. And, of course, St. Paul argued against the ordination of women:
I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. Further, Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed. But she will be saved through motherhood, provided women persevere in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (New American Bible, Revised Edition, 1 Tim 12-15) **
In the Middle East at the time of Jesus' life, socially and culturally, women having public personas would have been unacceptable. A footnote in the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible notes that Paul's prohibition is not an absolute one:
that applies to all circumstances, but one that excludes women from the teaching ministry exercised by ordained clergymen (1 Cor 14:34-35). Paul is not denying the equal dignity of men and women in Christ (Gal3:28) or the propriety of women in praying and prophesying within the context of worship (1 Cor 11:5). Women perform an invaluable service when they teach the faith in other contexts by their words and Christian example. (Tit 2:3-4). According to Church teaching, Paul forbids women to exercise the official function of teaching in the Christian Assembly (Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Inter Insigniores, 4).
The Middle East of 2,000 years ago is hardly the contemporary standard for acceptable behavior when it comes to women's rights or abilities. Even now, there's such a variety of rights being granted to women in the Middle East that it would be difficult to argue for a standard of equal rights. (On a personal note, one of my grandfathers, whose parents emigrated from Syria, himself didn't see the point of my graduating from high school because, to his mind, women didn't need that education. Neither he nor my grandmother had graduated from high school; I'm not sure they made it out of middle school. Fortunately, my father - and mother - strongly disagreed.)

* Keenan, James. “If We Want to Reform the Church, Let's Make Women Cardinals.” National Catholic Reporter, 8 Sept. 2018,
** The New American Bible, Revised Edition. United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 8 Sept. 2018,

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Thoughts on Mother's Day

I don’t understand this inclination to wish all mothers a happy mother’s day just because we’re women. I hate Mother’s Day. I hate being wished a Happy Mother’s Day especially by people who know I have no children. I don't want to automatically be given a flower on Mother’s Day because I’m a woman. I hate the wishes for a Happy Mother’s Day “to all those who wanted children but don’t have them or whose hearts are sore.”

I dislike platitudes. I don’t want to get an email or text from someone who’s “thinking of [me] today.” Don’t automatically text or e-mail women this thought. Some will appreciate it; others won’t. Unless you know, keep your own counsel - certainly stop posting it publicly. 

For many women, not having had children is not a sensitive subject. Many women who haven’t had children have made a decision not to; for others, it’s a much less sensitive issue - it’s just something that happened that way, like graduating from a certain college or living in a specific part of the world. For still others, it’s like being poked in a bruised area. I don’t need these thoughts of yours; I have enough of my own. I don’t want to hear TMI details about your pregnancy.  Tell me you’re pregnant; I’m delighted for you! I’ll even buy you a present if we’re friends. But I can’t hear all the nitty gritty details.

Just stop. Stop wishing all women a happy mother’s day just because they’re women, or even all your women friends who have children. Wish your own mother or grandmother a joyous mother’s day. I am not your mother and neither are most other women. I don’t want a response to this post. I just want you to think about the automatically generated “Happy Mother’s Day!” greetings that abound and to think about your role in those wishes.

I'll call my mother on Mother's Day because I love her and we're close, but there's no need to wish her a happy day on FaceBook. I'll do it privately. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Unpaid Labor

I've been quiet on the blogging front, largely because I write as a means of either sharing travel adventures, or writing to process that which is on my mind. Earlier today, a former classmate shared "Want to Be a 'Volunteer Adjunct'? Southern Illinois U. is Hiring," which is exactly as it sounds like: It looks like Southern Illinois University is trying to hire part-time/contingent faculty and not pay them. Those who would would "join the SIU Graduate Faculty in a zero-time (adjunct) status." Those who accept these "three-year positions might serve on graduate students' thesis committees, teach graduate or undergraduate lectures, or collaborate on research projects."

I want to note that I primarily teach Concurrent Enrollment classes at my high school, and I genuinely love it. I love that I can combine a background in secondary education (not ARL - getting my teaching license by going through a teacher education program as an undergrad) with my background in first-year composition (FYC); this is, I think, an extremely rare combination, which made it really difficult to get a full-time job. It took me eight years after graduating with my undergraduate degree, until I was finally hired because of this experience, as opposed to being underemployed, because I had too much of the wrong type of experience.

I like to think I helped build up the two FYC classes that are now offered at the school where I teach. The teacher who taught one of the classes was not interested, and for a variety of reasons, her students would drop her class. (In the second part of the year, she had two students in her class.) Two years ago, I taught four sections of English 1010 (Introduction to Writing), two classes per semester; last year, I taught four sections of English 1010 and three sections of English 2010 (Intermediate Writing). This year, I taught five sections of English 1010 and three sections of English 2010.

Next year, I'll teach six sections of English 1010 and four sections of English 2010. The schedule may change, but I'm the only teacher in the school teaching, or able to teach these classes.

I am considered a Concurrent Enrollment Adjunct, although I also teach English 1010 and 2010 at the local community college, so I'm two different types of adjunct for the same community college, and I'll be teaching at least 11 of these courses next year. I'm paid a $200/course stipend as a Concurrent Enrollment Adjunct from the community college.

I'm a big fan of community colleges; my education started at one, as did my teaching career (serendipitously, my first teaching job was at the same community college I attended and graduated from after high school). I've been an adjunct at three different colleges - four, if one counts the university that offered me a one-semester graduate student fellowship. My job is definitely being outsourced, and for me, it's worked out wonderfully, given how strongly I support concurrent enrollment programs, but I have to wonder what the connection is between concurrent enrollment, not paying adjunct (effectively looking for a highly educated, even-more-underpaid faculty), and the (attempted?) shenanigans put forth by Southern Illinois University.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Case Against Stevens-Henager College

Late in the year last year, a guest speaker from Stevens-Henager College came in to talk to my Concurrent Enrollment students about career preparation. She used my classroom projector to show samples of resumés and cover letters, and led discussions on interview skills also. The only part of this part of her talk that was out of date was her recommendation to include a career objective, a detail that's outdated. 

However, she started her presentation talking about Stevens-Henegar College itself, which I really did not appreciate, partly because I did not want her espousing a particular college to a captive audience. And then I noticed her use use of logical fallacies.

She mentioned that the average time to complete an Associates is four years, but at her school it takes 20 months. What she didn't mention that for those whom it takes four years, it's often because they're also working, or raising a family, etc., whereas she said nothing about those who might take breaks at her college. The audience is different; few schools offer Associate degrees (mostly community colleges, which accepts a wider range of students whose life situations, because they are older, may be more complicated than for younger students ). Not only that, but students often take more classes than are actually required for graduation (I did, as an undergrad: I didn't look at my classes that transferred from the college where I earned my associates to the college where I'd later earn by bachelor's degree).

The speaker did not mention that one of the reasons that the average degree completion time is so short is that students did not take any breaks; students did not have time off between semesters. To some of my classes did the speaker mention that students do not take as many general education classes as they do at Stevens-Henegar College, but she disparaged taking classes like bowling because, as her argument went, "When will you ever use or need these classes?" This is partly true; if a student takes a particular class, she may never use that information ever again, but there are multiple reasons for taking these classes:
  • You may, in fact, wind up using something you learned from these classes, but you won't know until you take that class, nor will you necessarily know what you will need to know right away.
  • You may discover an aptitude for the subject, or you may discover that you thought you had an aptitude but not to the extent you thought. (I discovered this when I briefly minored in physical anthropology, a subject I continue to find fascinating, but which, after barely passing the introductory class, I dropped.)
  • You may actually enjoy the class.
In other words, not everything will have a directly professional or personal application, but there might be elements that are, in fact, professionally or personally relevant. You don't need to have a degree in music performance to have this be an important part of your life.

A few students had questions about transfer credits; Stevens-Henegar College never accepts transfer credits, nor do their credits tend to transfer.

I will not allow representatives from Stevens-Henegar College back into my classroom; I did not appreciate my students being held captive to learn about a college that withheld information. Fortunately, I was able to talk to all my Concurrent Enrollment classes about this, and their excitement about completing a degree in such a short amount of time all but evaporated.

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Problems with HOAs

There are an ever-increasing amount reasons I really dislike our current living arrangements. Our house itself is fine, if a bit small for us at the moment, but it's in a good location. I don't especially like that we're a gated community; this means that on a regular basis, packages don't get delivered because the delivery dudes can't get in. Usually we know we're expecting a package, but not always, and of course it's not practical to never leave the house because we might be getting an unexpected delivery.

Rather, it's the HOA itself that I really have begun to strongly dislike. As an entity, its passive-aggressive board dictates behavior that is unnecessary; half the time I feel like a small child. A few examples:

  • A few years ago, our trashcan broke (the lid fell off). Ed called around and discovered that the garbage company would replace the can for free, but we'd have to leave it out. Our HOA charges people $25 if the trashcan is left out more than (I think) 24 hours after trash pickup, so Ed called the HOA and left a voicemail explaining why the trashcan would be left outside. Unfortunately, the garbage company blipped and didn't get us a new trashcan right away, and someone from the HOA board came by, took a picture, and printed up a notice with a copy of this picture, and stuck it to our trashcan saying that the next time we didn't take in our trashcan, we'd be charged $25. Ed's car was parked in the driveway, so at least one of us was home. Instead of knocking on our door, we got a note.
  • One of our neighbors likes to restore old cars; he has (or had) one of those VW Beetles from the '60s he'd been working on for some time. The car was in his garage; he never kept tools on his driveway, and he never used any of the guest parking spots - he always kept his cars parked in his own driveway. Yet it was mentioned in multiple newsletters that restoring any car, even in one's garage, was not permitted.
  • Finally, in a newsletter we received just today, according to "governing documents," storing anything in a garage that prevents you from parking your vehicles in the garage is a violation. A garage can't be used for storage, in other words. (I'm sure there are people who store nothing in their garage, but I also know plenty of people who store things in their garage. We certainly do. Units in our housing development don't have attics or basements.)
I've really begun looking forward to moving.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Quitting Principals vs. Quitting Schools vs. Quitting Teaching

In response to "Teachers Quit Principals, Not Schools," in which the author argued that teachers leave because of poor leadership, I would say the following: I'm absolutely certain that this is absolutely true in some cases, but sweeping generalizations that encompass an argument that all teachers leave schools for a single reason oversimplifies the issue. Schools are cultural fits, and it can take several tries to find a school with a culture that matches an individual teacher, which is why it's a bit sad when young, inexperienced teachers believe that because they didn't like teaching at one particular school, they don't like the profession, period.

If you're an older first-time teacher, one who has worked in other fields or industries prior to teaching, or you've taught at different schools, you may understand the distinction. You come to realize that because one job was terrible doesn't mean that all jobs are terrible. That professional experience, whether gained from teaching or simply from having worked at multiple jobs, is invaluable in making that distinction. Teachers ostensibly incorporate self-reflection into our teaching, teaching students how to reflect on their learning, and needing to reflect on our own teaching methods; yet teachers can be just as bad at reflecting on an experience and admitting hard truths to themselves.

Sometimes a school just isn't a good fit. Sometimes the administration is not good (one school at which I've taught had unethical administrators who passed failing students without consulting the teachers); sometimes teachers don't agree with how administrators lead and direct the school; sometimes teachers act unprofessionally and don't fulfill the terms of a contract; sometimes teachers just aren't very good at their jobs; sometimes there's not even any one particular thing wrong, or there's not anything even "wrong" as such - it's a matter of personality and fit. And sometimes teachers leave teaching altogether for better-paying pastures, or their professional interests change, or various other reasons have less to do with education and more to do with external factors. It's an oversimplification to imply that all teachers "quit principals." Teachers quit teaching, not necessarily people.