Bullying is a very real and present problem in our society – but it is not a new one. It has only been made new by the ever present existence of social media and societal attention to the problem. It has been made manifest by facebook, twitter and our ever-alarming reliance on our personal hand held devices. Suicides, murders, beatings and malicious woundings have become mainstream in our daily lives, living out their everyday dance along with American Idol on the Today Show and other such icons of our American culture.

What can we do about it? There are so many things that we, as educators, can do about it. There are so many things that you, as parents, can do about it. But, at this moment in time, I am reminded of my own childhood. I was small, intelligent and rather bookish. The only thing that has changed since then is I am rather large, less intelligent – but still rather bookish. I would really rather have a great book, a few friends and my family around me than be the star of the football team. Or the star of anything, for that matter.

But it was my fate, as an early teenager, to meet a young man who hated me with every inch of his soul. Always a target, I managed to avoid most beatings by remaining quiet, out of sight, and out of mind. This changed abruptly with the insertion of an eighteen year old delinquent into my life. Much can be said about the circumstances which resulted in him being kicked out of school, sent to a foster home and forcibly enrolled in my school. I’m certain that his home life was not the best of environments for a young man to be in. His inevitable bruises and black eyes were tantamount to his treatment, yet that was a small comfort in the hell into which I was plunged.

My first beating at his hands was when I was thirteen. There was a very cute girl in my school that I was quite smitten with, although she was a bit older than me. One evening at a parent/teacher conference she and I were going over our homework when I realized that we were not alone in the classroom. I looked up to find the bully, looking much the worse for wear, in the room with us. He shut the door. “I’m going to kill you, faggot.” I really didn’t know exactly what a faggot was, outside of the fact that it generally referred to a piece of firewood. It was several years before I grasped the term. All I knew was that I was seriously in harm’s way.

But it is not in my heritage to back down, or to avoid such a conflict. Standing maybe five-eight, weighing in at maybe one-hundred forty pounds, I had split wood, carried water, dug postholes and farmed all my life. I was actually dangerous and didn’t know it. My Dad always warned me against conflict, but tempered the advice with: “He who gets there with the most, first, wins.” I carried his advice to the letter. I drove across the room in a fury, with red in my eyes, and hit him as hard as I possibly could.

Did I mention he was perhaps fifty pound heavier than me? Four to five years older? Accustomed to violence on every side? I barely made a dent, but a dent I did make. He was shocked, and astonished, carrying his shaking hands to his bleeding nose. I mistakenly thought for one moment that I had won, that maybe I had carried my threat of violence through on some note into his abused soul. I was wrong.

Minutes later my cute little wanna be girlfriend was screaming through the school, convinced that I was being killed. I wasn’t so sure myself. I was being pummeled, kicked, beaten and bloodied all in a giant mess of a fight that I never wanted to be in the first place. But, I stubbornly stood my ground as best I could. After all, I was in shape. I was a farm boy. I had helped kill pigs and chickens. I had hoed the ground with the best of them. My dad called me Abraham, after my penchant for splitting wood. I was tough. I fought him, bleeding and determined, as best I could.

I was beaten.

The teachers and parents drug him off me, spitting blood and cursing at the younger kid who had defied him in front of the other students. Oh, yes. We had witnesses. The other students, held terrorized on his watch, were silently watching.

But I didn’t quit.

So began our war, always with me sullen and beaten, bloodied and winless. I would fight him anywhere, under any circumstances, without a care for how it would turn out. I think he began to tire of my endless antagonism – but he started it.

He was also destined to finish it. On Fridays, we would meet during the summer at a makeshift basketball court located a few miles from my house. We all had motorcycles, of some sort; mine usually faster than anyone else due to my Dad, who was a wizard at engine modification. Seriously, he could make a fortune, if he so chose, in scooter modifications. We would meet after work, since all of us worked, even as teenagers, and play full court pick-up basketball until we were exhausted, or until the lights went out.

One evening, in late June, the bully arrived more terrible than ever. His face was a mass of bruises and his limp was evident. He had been beaten. Brutally. He was also determined to take it out on me, the runt of the bunch. But this summer was different. I had been working: Hard. Hours upon hours of sledgehammer and maul work, reducing big rocks into smaller ones and stumps into firewood. I was tough. Different. Confident.

I made a line drive to the basket and was bumped hard. For the first time, I didn’t shy away from contact, but retaliated, fighting to the bucket and I was rewarded with a swish and two points. I ran backwards right away, ready for the fight. He gathered the ball and drove straight at me. I feigned left, went right, and stole the ball. He came for me. His face in a storm of rage, with purple and blue bruises mottling his countenance. I weighed my options, hefted the ball and with three deliberate steps aiding the blow – smashed him in the face with the basketball.

To this day, they still talk about that moment, as does he. We called the emergency squad and my Dad from a neighbor’s house, and he kept most of his teeth. He was treated for a concussion and released. I will never forget the moment, when my Dad took my hand and led me out of that emergency room, a room that I had so often frequented due to my passion for motocross and a general lack of good sense. I looked back at the bully, reduced to nothing, and saw his dad slap him across his already swollen face.

I am forever grateful to my parents for a safe, loving and caring environment. Thank you, so much. To all of you educators – take pity on the rowdy, the unloved and the uncared for. They need your help.

Sweetbreads and Diesel Engines

It was that first drop that I never got used to. That freefall of maybe six to eighteen inches as the safety clamps released on the way to sending fifty to a hundred men roughly 1800 feet underground. The spools of wire rope, on a three-way redundant safety system, were always pre-stretched and dynamic. Any climber knows that dynamic is good, static is bad. Dynamic means that when you fall, as all climbers do at some point in their careers, when you hit the end of the line at 9.8 meters per second squared, rather than break every single bone in your body, the line stretches and accommodates your mass, slowing your fall before it stops it.

We were climbing one bright spring day in 2003 in the Sierra Nevada’s on an unnamed route just North of Lake Tahoe on the California side. My climbing partner was perhaps, no definitely, a bit over eager. She was an experienced climber, and a bit arrogant about it. I think that anyone who routinely offers their life up to a multitude of uncontrollable circumstances tends to be a bit arrogant, until that day. When you realize that you are indeed, vulnerable, and yes, you can be hurt, badly, and sometimes, that is worse than death.

This day, we were climbing an unbolted route. Which means that our protection was based on placing nuts, cams and other climbing devices into crevasses, vugs, cracks and other breaks in an otherwise unblemished face of granite to protect ourselves in case of a fall. The rock was super textured and the day was gorgeous. Despite the chill, we had stripped down to our base layers and were concentrated on speed. I was on the lead, as this was a relatively easy portion of the climb. I had climbed probably twenty feet or so since my last cam, but I was unworried. Lake Tahoe glistened in the sun to my left, resembling a giant blue diamond – maybe one that has been bought, but not yet picked up by the customer, who is now scrambling to put together the money to make good on his attempt to impress the gorgeous woman to his left at the diamond auction.

Maybe it was the thought of the gorgeous woman. Maybe it was a slight mental hesitation. For whatever the reason, I fell. Sometimes, you know you are going to fall when you are climbing. Most of the time. You can feel it, a hesitation, a lack of concentration, a fatigue…you can warn your partner, and most of the time, the fall is harmless. This time, I just fell. No warning shout, no mental lead on the fall, just off into space. If you’ve climbed twenty feet out from your last piece of protection, then you fall forty feet. Do the math. I twisted as I fell, wanting to shout to my partner, but she knew. As I fell towards her, I saw that she was impossibly setting a new cam and roping into it as a fourth catch on her belay. Then the last cam that I set popped out. I experienced a brief hesitation in my flight, and then continued down another twenty feet.

I obviously didn’t die that day, nor did my partner. Her belay held, and, nerves shot, we rappelled down to safety and flat ground. I never really wanted to climb again. Top roping, sure…a little mountaineering, yes. Climbing, no.

The same holds true for coal mining. As I said before, I never got used to that drop. We would load onto the cage, equipped with a grated floor that allowed you to actually see the drop into which you were descending, along with chains overhead to hang onto to help with balance, and begin our ride into the depths of the mountain. Freefalling your first six inches of 1800 feet is no way to begin a shift, in my opinion. Nobody liked it. Some men would pray, loudly, for God to protect us during the course of work, which of course is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. Others would crack the most foul jokes I have ever heard. Some, like myself, would distance themselves and get ready for the descent. One young engineer actually fainted.

It was here, in this most inhospitable environment, that I met my first foodie. A grim, scary, giant scarred grey-bearded hulk of a man. If I had called him a foodie, a term that likely had not been coined at that time, he would have likely broken my nose and that would have ended our relationship. With a booming voice and an unmatched knack for leading men, he could have a team assembled and divert disaster in a moment’s notice. He once fired a young engineering intern for “Breathing up good air.” You could be a “Waste of blood, an embarrassment to your mother, a pisshole in the snow.” He had thousands of insults, which he reserved for those that he referred to as – Lazy. If you worked hard, jumped to his commands and put your heart on the line, then he would respect you. Otherwise, you went to another team.

It was this scary mammoth of a man who introduced me to the fact that men can also be cooks, and be proud of it. In my family, my mother cooked. The women cooked. The men did not. I grew up cooking with my mother and my grandmothers, but sadly, at that time in my life I had started to shy away from it. This man reinforced that it was cool to cook. He was a farmer, a butcher, a slow food advocate, hated fast food with all his soul and grew, slaughtered and butchered probably 98% of what he ate. Long since divorced and a self-proclaimed bachelor for life, he kept an airtight case in his locker underground with cooking utensils. A cast iron skillet, a dutch oven, tongs, a razor sharp knife and aluminum foil.

He could wax poetic about the tender cuts of meat encountered while butchering, which he would chop and eat raw, with eggs and chives. He would bring in sweetbreads and wrap them in aluminum foil with garlic and duck fat and let them roast in the diesel engines of our equipment for a decadent treat. He was largely regarded as crazy by his superiors, but we, his followers, worshipped him.

The best, though, was when his tomatoes ripened. Oh, my God. He grew heirloom tomatoes every year, started from his own seeds. My mother baked the best sourdough bread that mankind has ever experienced, and the marriage of those two items was heavenly. We would thickly slice the bread; slather it with mayo, and then top with cheese, thick slices of home-cured ham and then big, thick, juicy slices of tomato. Glistening and colorful, in yellow, red, green, purple and deep, dark red, they would shine in our headlights like jewels. Then we would place that great cast iron skillet on the screamingly hot engine manifold of the diesel engine, melt a little lard, and fry the single best sandwich I have ever eaten.

So, along with broken ribs, toes, welders flash, a broken nose and a bit of black lung, I carried from that place a renewed resolve to cook, and to always, no matter the environment, eat well. My mining hat is off to you, you crazy throwback to an age in which men were men and were not ashamed of it. Thank you.

those moments….

What makes us who we are as adults? What is it, that defining moment that shapes who and what we will become? Was there a moment in Hitler’s life, albeit small and remote, that shaped his essence into becoming the monster that he became? I don’t believe that there is a moment. I believe that there are a multitude of moments, placed together in a sequence that we don’t understand, that shapes us into what and who, we are, as adults. Then there are a multitude of moments and decisions after we become adults, as defined as those of us over eighteen, which shape us towards the other sixty or so years of our lives.

One of mine was shortly after my eighteenth birthday. I had been enrolled in a private school shortly after my graduation from high school at the age of sixteen. I lasted exactly seven hours after my parents left before I fled to other pastures, namely those that were occupied by my girlfriend at the time. I was expelled from that worthless institution with a GPA of zero. This was a fact that haunted me for years, and ultimately culminated in my not being granted a seat in the military academy. I was psychologically evaluated and the report was, “Mr. Matney, when under duress, will not obey commands from his higher officers, but will instead do what he thinks is necessary.” Huh. I could have told them that without two days of standardized tests and fill in the blank bubble sheets.

My moment was when I donned a mining hat, given to me by a man I simply knew as Grizzard. He was a great mentor, and shielded me from the hazing that was common in coal mining. Without my mother’s knowledge, I accepted a job in a punch mouth coal mine in deep southwestern Virginia, near the Kentucky border. The mine height was 42 inches. The hat was referred to as a low vein hat, common with workers who toiled in the relatively shallow mines that expelled into the side of a mountain, – hence the term, punch mouth mine. I had three choices when Grizzard gave me my hat. Leave it black. Paint it red, to signify that I was an apprentice, or what is called a “Mater Head” (Tomato head – in reference to the color), or, in an ultimate act of defiance, I could paint it white. White hats were what all of the company men wore. Bosses, Vice Presidents, visiting engineers, surveyors…they all wore white.

I was not one of those men. I had been thrown out of college and was toiling to bring my GPA back up enough to get into Virginia Tech at a local community college while I was working. I left my hat black.

I was accepted into Virginia Tech in 1994. I had no money, no place to live and I was terrified. My uncle fronted me the cost of my first year of tuition. I don’t think I would have gone otherwise. I had tried for years to get a job with a large coal operation in a longwall position, but I had no inside positions, no connections, no way to get in. So, one day, at Virginia Tech, I discovered that Consol, the company with which I had tried so hard to get a job with, was on campus interviewing for interns. I sprinted to the mining department.

Since I was a geology major, I was not accepted into the interview process. I begged. I explained my mining experience – all to no avail. A simple minded big haired stupid sexist administrative assistant smugly reminded me that I was not qualified to be interviewed as I was not an engineering major. I reminded her – I am a coal miner. The son of a coal miner. A grandson of a coal miner. A great-grandson of a coal miner. We have been miners since the dawn of time. She smiled the smile of the opportunist for oppression, with lipstick on her teeth, and reminded me that I was not an engineering major, and therefore, could not be considered for an internship. I withdrew.

But I did not quit. In my best, and only, suit, I waited. Just outside the doors to the mining engineering department. Just down the hall from the only bathroom on the floor. All day.

Around three p.m., a man exited the double door to the room that housed the troll with the lipstick on her teeth, patted his tie, adjusted his belt, and fled to the men’s room. Without a thought in my brain, I followed.

He was at the urinal when I spoke. I’ve never been known for timely deliveries. I proposed to my wife outside a construction site after a carefully planned proposal was disrupted due to my nerves and outright stubbornness. – Are you with Consol? He glared at me, probably disturbed by my intrusion into his space. He zipped. Washed his hands, and stared at me in the mirror. “Yes. I am.” We both waited, poker faced. He dried his hands, still watching me carefully. I was anguished over my suit. I stepped forward. “My name is Ron, I am a coal miner, and I would like to work for you.”

So it was like that I came to work for a major energy conglomerate 2,000 feet underground. I was hired that day, in the bathroom, without an interview. Maybe that was my interview. All I know is that, the evening after, in the light of a new moon as the cicadas sang and the peach blossoms floated off my mother’s trees – I painted my hat white. That was the moment that changed my life. Forever.

Oddfellas Cantina – Floyd, Virginia

I was in a complete funk this morning. It has rained for two straight days and I am trying to get my garden completed before Laura’s photo shoot on Friday, which is looking like it’s not going to happen. I’m in the rain with a slate bar (google it) attempting to dig yet another post hole, which has since notched up a bit to ten feet in what I feel will be a vain attempt to keep the deer out. I haven’t seen much of the sneaky bastards since our coyote invasion, but I have a nagging suspicion that they will be immediately drawn to heirloom tomatoes, potato sprouts from Utah, fresh wild garlic and all the other assorted plants that we are trying to grow in our raised garden beds.

The geologist in me is a bit fascinated by the variety that I am finding in the holes dug for various bushes, posts, and foundations. Red Fat Clay, alluvial stones, flint, chert….you name it, I’m finding it. I’m also cursing the day we decided having a farm, albeit small, on a ridge in Giles County seemed like a good idea. I’m coated with red clay, hopelessly sliding around and the dog is trying, in his doggy way, to help. Which is frustrating as I watch him merrily prance across the just planted beds with carefully cultivated seeds and just sprouted seedlings, all in the sport of playing with a plastic bottle that must, oh, just must, be buried at the far end of the garden area.

Then I look around. The mist is rising off the river. A squirrel is merrily barking at some distance from me. My tools are all around me. My 95 pound yellow lab is now sniffing at something that I will never understand with my human senses, something no doubt enhanced by the plastic bottle that he has managed to somehow recycle. I’ll likely be dealing with the effects of that particular oddity tomorrow, but for now, he’s in good shape. I look at my woodshed, wondering how much, and in what order I should put up the hardwood that grows all around us and I gather from numerous sources. And, (as a writer, you should never begin your sentences with and) I realize – this is a good life.

As I stand in the rain, with my slate bar, wondering where to plant Laura’s lilies, I am mentally transported, for just a moment, to Reno, NV. It was there that I journeyed, albeit temporarily, to work on a NASA grant for planetary-plastic-elastic-tip-deformation-mechanics. Yeah. I roll that way. For all of you whose head just hit your keyboard, I’m right there with you. That was the most frustrating, irritating job in the world. Ok…maybe the second most. But, it was a great experience! I punched a vampire in the head (more on that later), was arrested for jogging and absolutely fell in love with Chimichangas. Did I spell that right? Probably not. But it is so much fun to say, right? There was a food truck on the walk home from the University to my apartment, which was a very cool apartment, if I must say so, and they had the best Chimichangas ever. Or so I thought.

Until I went to Oddfellas Cantina in Floyd, Virginia. Until yesterday, I always needed an excuse to go to Floyd. After all, it is about an hour’s drive from our house, in the middle of nowhere, to Floyd, which is also in the middle of nowhere. The coolest thing is, though, if you live in the middle of nowhere, is giving directions. In this case, it is: Get off the 114 exit off I-81 North. Make a left. Drive to the stoplight. Park. You’re there. I love this place. So, with clay covered clothes and a partially recycled water bottle in my future, I call my adventurous wife and we head out on a brief road trip.

Oddfellas has the best Chimichangas in the world. Period. If I were wealthy, I would have them delivered to my house. By Salma Hayek. But I’m not, and Laura would be really mad (that’s my wife, if you are wondering) if Salma arrived at our house with a Chimichanga. George Clooney would be ok, but Salma, no. We take a scenic route, admiring the rain, so gently falling and I arrive yet again at the conclusion that this is one of the most beautiful places on earth. We duck into Oddfellas and wait a bit to be seated – by the same waitress that I have been seated by for the last six years. That is an accomplishment in an area that is not quite vagrant, but populated by college students. It is in the middle of blackberry winter, so Laura is freezing. She orders a cup of seafood stew…then things become decadent.

These guys get all their seafood from the same purveyors as I do; Indigo farms. In short, it’s fresh. The soup arrives immediately, and Laura has to take it from me for a picture. She is warmed immediately, and we notice that local, wild oyster mushrooms are on the menu. Oh, yes. We’ll take some. We don’t really even talk. We just eat. The mushrooms are sublime. Laura is busily destroying the bread basket when I knock over my iced tea, an admitted obsession of mine: the tea, not the spilling. I am horrified, despite the limited number of guests at such an early hour, but the server helps me clean and I notice a tiny Yin-Yang symbol in the floor. Wow. I’m now glad I spilled my tea. I order, of course, a Chimichanga, with local beef, and Laura orders a Blue Crab and Arugula Salad. Whew. It is amazing.

I can’t say too much about the restaurant. It is worth every second that you spend in the journey to get there. There are so many unique features in the place itself, down to their homemade cookies, which Laura is obsessed over, and the music venues that they promote. Go to Floyd, eat, have fun and for God’s sake, get the Chimichanga. Even if you just take it home.

The Bank Food and Drink – Pearisburg, VA

I haven’t had much in the way of opportunity to post lately. I have one week off from work and school before they both start up again – I’m using this time to work. I grew up in construction and coal mining, and, honestly, I miss hard manual labor. Those of you that do it every day will scoff, and understandably so. I sit behind a desk and have done so for over ten years. I can tell you this: It is not healthy to sit behind a desk. So has begun my marathon of brute physical labor and exercise to whip my fat ass back into some semblance of shape. But in the meantime, I’ll keep eating!

We had the wonderful opportunity last Wednesday to take a quick journey over to the newly re-opened restaurant in Pearisburg, VA, The Bank Food and Drink. This has always been one of our favorites, and we were seriously impressed by all that they have done. Owner Linda Hayes has poured her heart and soul into this place, and you can tell. One thing that I have always loved about the place is the unique seating. It can be completely private and totally romantic, or they can re-arrange tables and seating for a more casual and family style dining experience in minutes. The colors are now more muted and soothing, with local art throughout the restaurant. Front house manager Rachel Isley seated us immediately in a secluded little area with a great view of the main foyer and after discovering my love for bourbon, immediately suggested a unique drink with Makers Mark, orange juice and candied ginger! I don’t know the proportions, but I would have never thought to put those ingredients together! Laura, laughingly remembering my obsession with orange juice in Italy (where it was often up to five euros a glass!!!), said – How could you not like it!

The menu is simple and pleasing, with fresh ingredients that can be prepared quickly and with precision. We started with crispy pork belly, which Laura was a bit apprehensive about. In the words of Anthony Bourdain – Life does not suck. Not right now. Not with crispy pork belly on a bed of creamy grits and crawfish. Oh, no, life is good, in fact, divine. The texture of the grits was such that I actually thought it was Risotto. And the pork….words fail me.

I switch to the homemade lemonade, which I am a complete sucker for in any circumstances and order a New York Strip. I very rarely order steak in restaurants, preferring to cook it myself. I order it medium rare – just on the rare side. It’s almost never done correctly – something that I was happily wrong about here. Chef Michael Behmoiras knocked this out of the park. Perfectly seared, seasoned and cooked. With sides of carrots and peas, I was a happy, happy man. Laura chose Braised Short Ribs with creamy polenta and was just as thrilled with hers as I was with mine, although I do admit I could not stay out of her polenta. She tried to stab me with her fork but I was too fast.

The ambiance is soothing, the drive is beautiful and the confidence and abilities of the staff are off the charts. Go, enjoy – and try the crispy pork belly!

The Bank Food and Drink on Urbanspoon

Musings of an Educator – Reflections of a Broken System

I’m currently surveying the mess that is my office. Three expandable files stuffed to overflowing with papers from this semester’s worth of peer reviewed papers, homework, writing and reading responses, plus textbooks are threatening to gobble not only my desk, but the floor. That’s after I organized everything. I realize that I now live my life in notebooks. They scatter the floor and my shelves, in no particular order, but I am reassured that if I’ve had a thought, I will be able to find it. My laptop is no longer dependable and all my backups are on memory sticks, or as we call them, thumb drives. I’ve always wondered why we call them thumb drives. I guess it’s because we use our thumbs to insert them into the appropriate drive on our computers, but then wouldn’t we call everything thumb (insert word)? Wouldn’t a steering wheel be a thumb wheel? A remote control a thumb control? Of course, that would contradict as it would suggest that the remote controls our thumbs, but one could argue that it actually does. Once again, I must digress.

I’ve always been overwhelmed at the prospect of writing a novel. A hundred or so single spaced, eleven font pages has the prospect of going to war in medieval times armed with a slingshot and a shovel. Painful, and eventually you’ll lose. Yet, as I go through what I have written this semester, including this blog, I realize that I have written enough to comprise two novels, or part of a trilogy, provided it was more on the order of hunger games and not Lord of the Rings. Dr. Morrison, if you are reading this, there are two errors in the former sentence, in direct contrast with APA guidelines. Please be kind.

This semester has been rife with stress and difficulty, yet rewarding in the knowledge gleaned. Before this semester, the words assessment strategy, teaching pedagogy, hemogenic teaching paradigms and stratified educational systems would mean very little to me. It was a sobering and thought provoking semester, yet one that convinced me that I have made the right decision in choosing, so late in my career, to be a teacher. I have been blessed with intelligent and thought-provoking peers, engaged in many heated discussions and I want to thank my professors at Radford University for their insight, guidance and constructive criticism. I have been challenged intellectually and I have learned, for the first time in my life, to partake in a heated discussion without resorting to petty name-calling or losses in judgment due to my inherited lack of control over my temper. Although I have been very close.

I have learned the difference in teaching and assessment strategies and I have been challenged to analyze the pros and cons of each. I have chosen my thesis topic in Native American studies, particularly the effects of their culture, history and environmental conditions on the success of students within our own society. I have been profoundly shaken by our general inattention to the ethnic stratification of an entire group of people in modern America. It has shaken my faith in our government and our political system to my core.

Yet, I am undeterred in my goal to become a teacher. For any change to happen within our educational system, and within our society as a whole, it must start with us, as educators. We must not lose sight of the dream, hopefully at least partially unselfish, that made us pursue such an underappreciated career. We are ultimately in this profession not to become wealthy (insert laugh here), nor famous; nor should we have pursued it in some mistaken sense of entitlement. Instead, we should pursue this career, and our pedagogies with the unwavering commitment to make a difference in some student’s life. A professor of engineering told me not long ago that he preferred to teach college, as the miscreants and underachievers have been weeded out by the educational process and the application of standardized teaching to determine which student is worthy of a higher education. I say, and emphatically, NO! I would prefer to teach those that are struggling, those that need my help, and those that need and can utilize a safe and caring classroom and witness their rise to their own capabilities. That should be the American dream. To provide each and every student with the opportunity to be what they can be and what they want to be.