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Friday, February 28, 2014

Plastic Beauty: Young Girls Getting Booty Work and Thigh Gaps

Plastic surgery -- it's a miracle, a godsend for those who need it to fix deformities and to repair damaged parts; however, it's also a blight on humanity for those obsessed to have their conception of a "perfect body." Consider one positive plastic surgery: the rise in breast reconstruction surgeries that is especially encouraging for breast cancer patients seeking to advance their quality of life. But, also consider-nip and-tuck, cosmetic plastic surgeries performed for fashionable body modification. Young people, especially teen girls, now see a variety of procedures as necessary to look beautiful and to be accepted.

According to teen psychologist Barbara Greenberg, statistics show that 80 percent of girls dislike their bodies by the time they are 17 years old. That, combined with a tendency to over share, makes teen girls vulnerable to even the most subtle messages. And, the "message" of using plastic surgery to achieve the sexy body prevalent in the fashion of the day is quickly becoming more commonly accepted as an "instant" fix and a less stressful alternative to exercise and proper diet.

Even more frightening than the acceptance by teens of a singular, media-driven "image" of a beautiful girl is the view by plastic surgeons that any number of cosmetic changes to a patient's physical appearance are perfectly normal, good medical procedures that solve very serious psychological deficiencies. Let me expand this view.

Butt Augmentation

Butt augmentations are on the rise. Nearly 10,000 procedures took place in 2013, an increase of 16 percent from 2012. At a cost of $7,000 to $14,000 in the United States, girls are choosing to spend money to enhance their buttocks.

The rising popularity of butt enhancement operations coupled with an underground of unlicensed practitioners leads to people seeking budget ways to get bigger booties, and, to no one's surprise, these surgeries can and do often go awry.

The surgery is typically performed through incisions that run down in between the buttocks in order to hide scarring after surgery. Semi-solid silicone implants are strategically placed in the buttocks in order to provide a fuller, curvier contour.

According to Dr. Sydney Coleman, an Assistant Professor of Surgery at NYU and a specialist on fat-grafting cosmetic procedures, many off-license practitioners don’t have the skills or the time to do the procedure correctly.

“You really should know what you’re doing when you’re moving fat around,” Coleman said. “You can’t just squirt in a glob. You have to put in little amounts with each pass. If you squirt in a blob, the center dies and you get fat necrosis, which can lead to infection. For someone to do it properly it takes at least 2 and a half to 4 hours. People in a spa are not going to do that.”

The biggest culprit in post-augmentation illnesses and even death is industrial silicone injections. “This type of silicone’s never been approved for use for anything except injecting into a retina after retinal detachment surgery,” Coleman explained. “As used off-label, especially in the buttock, it’s extremely unstable.” Commercial-grade silicone injections aren’t approved by the FDA, and can cause permanent disfigurement and even death as the product migrates into the bloodstream and lungs.

And, to put it frankly, the surgery is a "pain in the ass." In post-surgery, you will need to wear a binder garment for three weeks to allow proper healing. You will not be able to lie down; however, sitting and walking is acceptable. You may return to light duty work in one week and resume exercise and normal activities in six weeks.

Why butt lifting and butt fat transfer? Plastic surgeons will say girls have procedures for "a shapelier, sexier, and more voluminous body contour." The results often prove impermanent and rather merely satisfy a short-term desire of the patient to remedy aesthetic shortcomings.

Thigh Gap

In humans, a thigh gap is a gap between the thighs when standing upright with both feet touching. Some women aspire to this for reasons of a perceived increase in attractiveness, with some considering it a sign of femininity and fragility. And, now some go as far as to say it symbolizes "the ideal body shape."

According to The Times of India, few women are able to form thigh gaps naturally and attempts to develop one typically involve unhealthy diets.

The phrase and subject became a topic of widespread news coverage in December 2013 after the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. As a result, hundreds of blogs, Twitter accounts and memes in the West were created, and images of thigh gaps featured in "thinspiration" blogs. There's even a Twitter account that someone made for super models' thigh gap. It has almost 3,000 followers.

(Barbara Greenberg. "The Thigh Gap -- A Disturbing New Trend Among Teen Girls." February 11, 2013)

The result? Many teenage girls have taken the view that the bigger the gap, the more beautiful the girl and have resorted to starving themselves in order to obtain it. We know teen girls are the group most likely to develop eating disorders and especially to develop anorexia nervosa.

Why are so many girls obsessed with the idea of a thigh gap? Psychotherapist Kimberly Moffit told The Toronto Sun: “It’s a way for young women to quantify their beauty and prove to themselves that they are attractive – especially if they don’t feel that way on the inside.” The thigh gap is a trend
that represents a potentially unhealthy way to appease young girls and their wishes to be skinnier or the skinniest.

The gap? The natural fact is that some girls have it and some girls don’t, and some girls, despite their efforts to achieve it, will never have it. Just because a girl doesn't have a space between her legs doesn’t mean she is overweight. Many thin girls don’t have thigh gaps. Girls trying to achieve a gap may be fighting genetics. Medically speaking, a thigh gap has more to do with a wide pelvis than with weight. Fat, muscle, and bone structure all can play a role in whether a girl has a thigh gap.

Some girls are not using diet to get a gap, but, instead, they are seeking surgical medical help.

A whole horde of young girls, not to mention adult women are turning to surgical procedures like Cool Sculpting to achieve the thigh gap effect. Here is the method used in this procedure: An ice-cold wand applied to the inner thighs basically freezes away the fat cells. Cool Sculpting costs $700 per thigh.

And, of course, some girls turn to thigh liposuction to achieve results. For inner thigh liposuction, girls can expect to pay between $2,000-$5,000. If they are considering outer thigh liposuction, they
can expect to pay between $1,600-$5,000 for the procedure.
My View

An unhealthy, misguided girl is not a sexy or a pretty girl. Insane efforts to achieve "beautiful conformity" that actually detract from natural, God-given beauty, which, by the way, is inherent in so many different physical forms and features, are fake, insincere, self-initiated escapes that prevent women from finding their greater beauty -- enhancing and intelligently using their own, unique sensual appeal. Unhealthiness can be frailness of body or weakness of mind. Both detract from beauty.

I've always believed a woman's outward beauty begins with a sweet smile, a pleasant voice, and warm, alluring eye contact. As far as breasts, butts, and gaps between the legs, different men are attracted to different body parts in every conceivable form for mysterious reasons no doctor can adequately contrive.

I content many of the "hot" women by today's standards present themselves as untouchable, painted and molded works of self-conceived perfection who merely display themselves without the slightest sensual knowledge or exotic appeal. To me, an attractive woman who exhibits heart, soul, and brains with grace, mystery, and innocence understands lasting beauty.

In a world of selfies, it’s easy for girls to compare themselves not just to teens in their high schools but to every other female on the Internet, making self-esteem issues more equal opportunity than ever before. Instagram and Tumblr provide plenty of material for comparison.

Having a thigh gap or a booty pop have become status symbols. So are money, power, and friends in high places. Those who demand status symbols have to live with the consequences. How much gap and booty and money are necessary to be accepted?

These symbols often require that a human must sacrifice to achieve them. In the case of cosmetic plastic surgeries, those intent on "getting cut" to gain phony acceptance inevitably lose more than just unwanted flesh in the process.

"I find it interesting that 16-year-olds are having plastic surgery. People in their 40s used to think, 'I'm aging, I have to do something about it.' Now, children are deciding they don't like the way they look."

--Jane Seymour

Thursday, February 27, 2014

And Baby Makes Four... 3-Parent Babies Are "In the Wings" For the Wombs of Americans

"U.S. health officials are weighing whether to approve trials of a pioneering in vitro fertilization technique using DNA from three people in an attempt to prevent illnesses like muscular dystrophy and respiratory problems. The proposed treatment would allow a woman to have a baby without passing on diseases of the mitochondria, the 'powerhouses' that drive cells.

"The procedure is 'not without its risks, but it's treating a disease,' medical ethicist Art Caplan told CNN's 'New Day' on Wednesday. Preventing a disease that can be passed down for generations would be ethical 'as long as it proves to be safe,' he said.

"'These little embryos, these are people born with a disease, they can't make power. You're giving them a new battery. That's a therapy. I think that's a humane ethical thing to do,' said Caplan, the director of medical ethics at New York University's Langone Medical Center.

"'Where we get into the sticky part is, what if you get past transplanting batteries and start to say, 'While we're at it, why don't we make you taller, stronger, faster or smarter?'"

(Matt Smith. "FDA Considering '3-Parent Babies.'" CNN. February 26, 2014) 

Mitochondrial disorders are inherited from the mother. In the procedure under discussion in Washington, genetic material from the nucleus of a mother's egg or an embryo gets transferred to a donor egg or embryo that's had its nuclear DNA removed.

The new embryo will contain nuclear DNA from the intended father and mother, as well as healthy mitochondrial DNA from the donor embryo -- effectively creating a "three-parent" baby.

My View

An ethical dilemma left contested is, do these potential benefits for both patients compensate for the potential harm? Is this 3-parent procedure ethical? Possibly, in this context. I understand the need to prevent horrific genetic defects. However, the approval could open the door for high-tech consumer eugenics. To use a coined phrase, this may be a procedure that could lead the way to producing "designer babies." Is this argument just a slippery slope? I think not.

The use of three-parent IVF could alter the human species and, at the same time, allow experimentation on non-consenting human subjects (children born via the technique). One must consider the procedures that lead to the birth of genetically modified children as "manufactured products."

While such bans would alter the direction of treatment for birth defects, no one is certain about the psychological effects and the physical damage to children with three genetic parents. No one is really certain whether the child could still inherit mutated mtDNA from the maternal nuclei.

(J. Cohen, R. Scott, T. Schimmel, J. Levron, S. Willadsen. 1997. "Birth of infant after transfer of anucleate donor oocyte cytoplasm into recipient eggs." Lancet 350. 1997)

Bioethics is the study of typically controversial ethics brought about by advances in biology and medicine. Bioethics involves moral discernment as it relates to medical policy, practice, and research.
Some bioethicists would narrow ethical evaluation only to the morality of medical treatments or to technological  innovations, and the timing of medical treatment of humans. Others would broaden the scope of ethical evaluation to include the morality of all actions that might help or harm organisms capable of feeling fear.
If the FDA allows clinical trials, she warned, it would introduce "a regime of high-tech consumer eugenics" and represent "the first time a government body had okayed genetic changes for humans and their descendants." - See more at:
Although the panel has not been asked to consider legal or ethical issues, members of the public focused on those. Speakers warned the panel that use of three-parent IVF "could alter the human species," represented "an unprecedented level of experimentation on non-consenting human subjects" (meaning any children born via the technique), and "could open the door to genetically modified children" who would be "manufactured products." - See more at:

Without sounding overly apocalyptic about the ultimate ability to design babies that meet wants and whims, we must always look back to the evil Master Race ideology of the Nazis. Then, eugenics  came to play a prominent role in this racial thought as a way to improve and maintain the "purity" of the Aryan master race.

And, yes, even in the United State, the concept of "master race" arose within the context of master-slave race relations in the slavery-based society of historical America -- particularly in the South in the mid-19th century. Read these lines from The Hireling and the Slave (1855), a verse written by William J. Grayson, a U.S. Representative from South Carolina and a noted poet of the time:  

"For these great ends hath Heaven’s supreme command
Brought the black savage from his native land,
Trains for each purpose his barbarian mind,
By slavery tamed, enlightened, and refined;
Instructs him, from a master-race, to draw
Wise modes of polity and forms of law,
Imbues his soul with faith, his heart with love,
Shapes all his life by dictates from above"

The sociological approach assumes that biology alone is not able to successfully enable human reproduction. Medical ethicist Dr. David King, director and founder of Human Genetics Alert, says the issue has become clouded in political rhetoric, and that this medical argument is a smokescreen for what is essentially a social problem.

"Egg donation avoids complications [from cytoplasmic transfer] in a straightforward way, but it doesn't allow the mother to be genetically related to the child," says King. "And that's what this is all about."

"People defend the practice of cytoplasmic transfer by talking about saving dying babies," he says.

"It's emotional blackmail, really, that goes on in all these debates. Because people don't want to acknowledge that you already have a perfectly safe technique to avoid these risks to babies: egg donation."

He adds, "Basic medical ethics tells us that you don't take significant medical risks unless there is a significant medical benefit. You wouldn't normally subject a child to so many medical risks unless there was no alternative."

Besides, he warns, cytoplasmic transfer is similar to cloning — with the potential for similarly disastrous results.

"We've seen this with the cloned farm animals," he says. "In very many of those cases, either the embryos don't develop at all or the fetus died before birth, or at birth. Or they have grown to twice the normal size. There have been all kinds of problems."

( "'3-Parent Babies': The Future of Babymaking? April 25, 2013) 

The fictional account of man's journey into creating life is the stuff of Mary Shelley in hter famous novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. The good doctor himself utters these lines in Chapter 3 as he relates how his chemistry professor, M. Waldman, ignited in him an irrepressible desire to gain knowledge of the secret of life.

"'So much has been done,' exclaimed the soul of Frankenstein -- 'more, far more, will I achieve; treading in the steps already marked, I will pioneer a new way, explore unknown powers, and unfold to the world the deepest mysteries of creation.'"

The assertive quality of  Dr. Frankenstein's statement foreshadows the fact that his passion will not be tempered by any consideration of the possible horrific consequences of his search for knowledge. He is content to foray into unknown knowledge to “pioneer a new way” and to make progress beyond established limits.

Why stop at 3-parent babies? Is four too few? Is fifteen too many? Who determines what needs to be accomplished and what needs to be forbidden?

The FDA? I shiver to think about this. God help us all if the ultimate cloning decisions rest in the bloody hands of the Big Pharma controlled governmental body responsible for the widespread epidemic of opiate addiction. The work smells of profits, lobbyists, and an honest desire to control the demographics of America through conscious manipulation of lawmakers. Go ahead, call me an alarmist and a crazy man, but first, read the facts for yourself.

I'll end this entry with the words of Dean Koontz, American author who has sold well over 450 million copies of his suspense thrillers such as Demon Seed, Invasion, and Strangers. Koontz relates... 

"... it seemed to me appropriate to update the Frankenstein legend to our time. We live in hubristic age, when politicians imagine themselves to me messiahs and when many in the sciences frankly discuss their dreams of creating a 'post-human' civilization of genetically engineered supermen, ignorant of the fact that like minds have often come before them and have left no legacy but death, destruction, and despair." 

Just remember, many assume the living dead creation was the monster Frankenstein, when, in truth, Frankenstein was the monstrous doctor who created the poor, wandering outcast. Mercy, mercy.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Reality, I Don't "Feel" Your Drama

In this age when young males named "Hunter" are vegans and young females named "Grace" are head-to-toe-tattooed tribal warriors, I continue to scratch my head and wonder. I have given up on understanding the world as it is. At age 63, I find myself content to stand aside and observe while the young, busy people flex, text, and sext. In the meantime, I am lucky to maintain a weak grip on this rambling wreck of a planet as the centrifuge spins faster and faster.

I don't believe people are necessarily doing everything "wrong," it's just that, in my view, people are doing so much that is frivolous. I don't want to be a 21st century, responsible human being.

Here is a little list of some things I just don't want to do to keep abreast of the times:

1. I don't want to use all the latest technological advances to know what everyone else is doing every minute of the day. Save me the immediacy and triviality that lead to bad drama.

2. I don't want to use all the latest technological advances to tell everyone else what I am doing every minute of the day. I like privacy and a modicum of secrecy to guard my devious errors.

3. I don't want use to employ my right of free expression and be accused of stating opinions that upset every other Thomas, Richard, and Mary just because these folks might be offended by alternate thinking. Get over it. I refuse to let the Sameness Disease control every word that exits my lips.

4. I don't want to be a judgmental hypocrite chosen to protect and defend everyone else from bullies, from unkind comments, from Godless attitudes, from hurt feelings, from not reading directions, and from their own lazy indifference to every danger from a bruised knee while recklessly riding a skateboard to a serious concussion while voluntarily playing organized football. At this point, please employ Webster's for the definition of "risk."

5. I don't want to be modern by loving fashion, body modification, open sexuality, duck-call-tooting hillbillies, Amish-Mafia kingpins, alligator-slaying Cajuns, junk-collecting pickers, ghost-chasing investigators, house-sharing rich kids, and Honey Boo Boo. And, I know, her last name is Thompson. I can only hang my head and hope we share no DNA.

6. In fact, I don't want to be bothered by all the things others want me to do with my time UNLESS we can do them together with mutual respect, spend our time wisely and efficiently as we do them, and do them in such a manner that individuality comes to the fore and allows us the freedom to enjoy the genuine, eye-to-eye company of each other. 

Well, I guess that about sums up my feelings for the day. Now, if you choose, you can get back to the  app you downloaded, the latest Paris Hilton episode, or your Facebook update. I guess my boat floats in some pretty uncharted waters these days. But, the seas I choose are pretty serene and reminiscent of times past. Welcome aboard and anchors aweigh! Our entertainment today is provided by the gifted poet and activist, Maya Angelou. Caged birds are still singing... hop onboard.

Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

Maya Angelou, written in 1978

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Considering the Real Dope on Medical Dope

"The medical use of marijuana is limited because different strains of the plant contain different amounts of various compounds, which makes effects hard to predict. Medical researchers have isolated substances from the plant (cannabinoids) that can be used in precise doses alone and in combinations with other medicines to achieve more predictable effects. 

"Certain cannabinoid drugs have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to relieve nausea and vomiting, to relieve pain, and to increase appetite in people with diseases such as cancer and AIDS. Other marijuana extracts are still being tested.   Researchers also report that THC decreases pressure within the eyes, therefore reducing the severity of glaucoma."

(Research from the NIH: The National Institute on Drug Abuse)

Marijuana, itself, isn't an FDA-approved medication although THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, is approved. Some states have approved medical marijuana to ease the symptoms of these various health problems. Currently these 20 states -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington -- as well as the District of Columbia, approve and regulate its medical use.

According to the American Cancer Society, some chemically pure drugs based on marijuana compounds have been approved by the FDA. Here are known approvals:

* The active ingredient THC has been available by prescription as dronabinol in pill or suppository form since 1985.

* A second drug, nabilone, is much like a cannabinoid. It is also a prescription drug, and is sometimes used when other drugs fail to reduce nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy.

* More recently, a chemically pure mixture of THC and cannabidiol (CBD) called Sativex® was made into a mouth spray. This prescription spray has been approved in Canada and parts of Europe to relieve pain linked to cancer as well as muscle spasms and pain from multiple sclerosis. As of 2012, the spray has not been approved in the U.S., scientists are testing it in clinical trials to determine if it will help relieve cancer pain.

 (The American Cancer Society. 2014)

Some supporters also claim that marijuana has anti-bacterial properties, inhibits tumor growth, and enlarges the airways, which they believe can ease the severity of asthma attacks. Others claim that marijuana can be used to control seizures and muscle spasms in people who have epilepsy and spinal cord injuries. 

Local News

Tara Cordle, of Wheelersburg, started researching possible methods of treatment of her 8-year-old son, Waylon Jenkins. In 2012, Waylon began having problems with Viral Encephalitis, which left him with brain damage. He is also suffering from intractable epilepsy.

Cordle is currently gathering signatures on a petition and doing public speaking in support of putting the use of medical marijuana on the ballot. She claims her son's condition spurred her into action. Cordle believes the knowledge she is spreading about legalization of medical marijuana is the key to understanding its great potential.

Cordle has postponed possible brain surgery on her son in an attempt to try to legalize medicinal marijuana before she commits to electing this irreversible surgery. She claims she was "never the kind of person to support legalization for any reason" until Waylon contracted his problems.

“I’m not for potheads being able to get high, because there is something different in medical marijuana, where parts of it that get you high are taken out and the medical parts that can help are there.”

Cordle said her son is currently on five medications, and she claims many have too many adverse side effects to work well. One med, hemp oil, seems to help. She said that she currently has her son on hemp oil to treat his epilepsy, but feels, through her research, that the actual drug would be better. She has given Waylon hemp oil for nearly 30 days, and she reports the improvement has been "a game changer for them."

Here is another similar article from the Chicago Tribune about the positive effects of medical marijuana extract for a child's epileptic seizures:

Dr. Adams' Opinion

Scioto County Health Commissioner Aaron Adams said he is against the legalization of marijuana because he believes it is a gateway drug. He believes the debate on legalization of medical marijuana needs to be extended until more thorough research has been completed.

"... I oppose that (legalization), because we are trying to get a handle on the problems in Scioto County with prescription drugs that have been flipped over to heroin. We’ve really got a lot of problems,” he said.

Adams went on to say we don’t know how medicinal marijuana can be used, particularly for epilepsy.

“I’m for what’s doing best for patients to make them feel better, whether it is a benign pain situation or malignant pain, I think we need to do the best we can, but not understanding the full medicinal potential of that [marijuana], and I don’t know. I think we need to look into that very closely,” he said.

Adams said a variant of medicinal marijuana is being used already -- a drug called Marinol used for loss of appetite associated with weight loss in patients with AIDS. Adams said many local cancer patients are prescribed Marinol as an appetite booster and an anti-nausea medication.

Sheriff Donini's Opinion

Scioto County Sheriff Marty Donini said he also disagrees with the legalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

“There are enough other medications out there that can be used to get the same effects that they say marijuana allegedly does for medical reasons. That (legalization) I’m against,” he said.
Donini said that since he has no experience with legalized marijuana use, he can only speculate on the outcome it would have on the community.

“It’s going to be a little bit like the pain clinics. It is just going to be a hassle,” he said. “We’re going to find people with bags of marijuana and prescriptions where it was prescribed to them. It may not be on the same scale as the pain clinics, but I believe it would result in basically the same way.”

Donini said that before the local pain clinics were shut down, an increase in crime rate occurred and said “nine times out of ten” local incidents involve an addict.

"... the only thing I can say is if it is marijuana then it is marijuana. I’m not going to change my position. I’m a former certified DARE officer and I have a belief marijuana isn’t good. There are other medicines out there that doctors can prescribe without opening Pandora’s Box,” Donini said.

(Joseph Pratt. "Wheelersburg Mother Advocating Medicinal Marijuana For Her Son." 
The Portsmouth Daily Times. February 25, 2014)

The Bottom Line

This is an issue that draws a lot of fire. This is what I mean: Either people are totally against legalization for any purpose, or they are wildly in favor of widespread governmental approval for dispensing the substance.

One should be cautious when researching the issue of legalizing marijuana because, usually, the positive reports stem from special interest groups, liberal politicos, and those who stand to profit from sales. But, to be fair in judgment of pros and cons, marijuana can cause health concerns, but it has been the victim of a lot of unfair demonization.

Occasional marijuana use is rarely seriously harmful. I believe, any ill effects of legalizing the substance should not be considered the same as the health epidemic caused by deadly opiates such as legal OxyContin and illegal heroin. Comparing apples and oranges -- comparing marijuana and opiates. OK, OK, I know it's a cliche. And, when I see them as different, I am speaking of immediate, deadly differences.

Is pot a "gateway" drug? In other words, does smoking marijuana make someone more likely to try hard stuff like cocaine, heroin, and ecstasy? The jury is still out, but the public must realize "gateways" can be traced to drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, and numerous other behaviors that lower a person's resistance to engaging in a vice. Smoking, drinking, and taking illegal substances are all not merely habits but also potentially harmful vices. Do we need to add to our list of sources that can, and do, lead to the detrimental of society?

I understand why people want to cross argue their "freedom" as it relates to "legalization." And, it's easy to see why when the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are approximately 88,000 deaths attributable to excessive alcohol use each year in the United States.

Yes, alcohol -- legal, highly advertised, commonly consumed alcohol. I drink some and cannot defend my occasional imbibing against statistics like that.

In fact, alcohol use is the 3rd leading lifestyle-related cause of death for the nation. Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.5 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death.

The question of whether to legalize medical use of marijuana is not simple to answer. Undoubtedly, many would misuse the "medical" definition and acquire the legalized drug for pleasure. More crime, illness, and lost production would surely result if marijuana were to be legalized. Yet, aren't these problems already exacerbated by legal alcohol and by legal drugs and by legal smoking and even by legal gambling?

I refuse to take a stand, knowing only that our society is too dependent on most everything to escape reality and understanding many "wait in the wings" to abuse the best intentions of chemists and healers. I want Waylon to get better, no matter the stigma of the treatment. If he were my son, I know I would fight to end his pain and suffering. Good luck to Mrs. Cordle in her struggles to acquire safe, effective medication for her son.

I will close by saying that marijuana use and drinking while driving are "dirty little secrets" openly  engaged in by many in our home county. I know of coverups for those in high positions receiving violations for using pot and violations for driving while intoxicated. I know of governmental organizations such as branches of our local enforcement who don't even require drug testing. If that isn't a crock! You cannot hide the facts of engaging in dangerous vices from the adult public or from the youth.

Youth model adult behaviors. I know that last year's PRIDE survey of eight Scioto County school districts revealed that 32 percent of 10th graders and 44 percent of 12th consumed alcohol in the last 30 days. I also know the survey reported that 25 percent of 10th graders and 22 percent of 12 graders smoked marijuana in the last 30 days. Most of these figures are much higher than the national average.

DARE alone evidently isn't the answer to lowering these figures and decreasing possible dependency and addiction. A pill, a joint, a syringe, a beer -- none hold danger in their actual "being." What does make our county particularly ill and decidedly dependent is the lack of direction, refusal to accept needed change, and total commitment to parity and justice. 

People are employing pills, syringes, joints, and alcohol now with great frequency. The safety controls and medical concerns of the people must be met. Educating the public about the dangerous results of using vices is the only hope that some little seed ignites self-discipline needed to save lives.

"Medical marijuana" sounds suspicious but not nearly as suspicious as prescription opioid pain killers, pill mills, or imported heroin. Or, for that matter, not nearly as suspicious as those greedy people in love with money and power willing to prey upon innocent others. There are wolves among us. If you intend to protect your loved ones, be vigilant, questioning, and informative.

I know people here often assume guns and security will guard against the worst bandits. Damn it, they'll just "blow away" their problems and stick to their guns. I think they are wrong. Changes begin in the brain. Educating people to make informed, logical decisions is much more effective than bullets when it comes to handling most serious threats at hand.

Kids and adults are currently consuming marijuana. The report in the Times explores another side of the issue of consumption. I would rather see people who need the substance obtain some legal form of the drug than to see all this pretense that the smoke is not currently "rolling on the river." I guess those with connections and position don't worry anyhow. Damn, I hate hypocrisy. It always strikes its hardest blows at the needy and poor.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

"Johnny Failed!": The Hysteria Over Public School Accountability

Today? Let's explore the present state of public education. In particular, let's concentrate on the public school teacher. First, I would like you to read the following two paragraphs very carefully.

"I thought that maybe a third grade teacher in NC should weigh in on this. I can only speak for what is occurring in my county, but here is what I am up against: I have to complete all reading 3D data within an approximate 2 week period. This involves a three minute fill in the blank test (whole class), three one minute timed reads with three one minute retells of each read, and a diagnosis of a students independent reading level by testing their reading, writing, and oral comprehension of leveled passages. The writing consists of two questions which are scored against a rubric and you must take the LOWER of the two scores. This must be completed on every student in my class.

"In addition, our school opted to give EVERY child the portfolio assessment. Why? Because there are many reasons why a child might fail an EOG test. Some may not be good test takers, some may be sick, some may misalign the test, others may have something happen to them or their family but their parents decide to send them to school anyway because of the test. 

"I cannot tell you how many children have been sent into my room feverish, throwing up, having little to no sleep due to a family emergency, etc. Therefore, every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, our students will take an assessment based on whatever standard the county has stated we are testing on that particular week at least until we get to a review week where students will be retesting on the tests they failed."

 (Diane Ravitch. "A Third Grade Teacher in North Carolina: What It Is Like To Teach
in My State."Diane Ravitch's Blog. February 22, 2014)

Similar cries of despair are echoing in school systems across the country. Since I am a retired Language Arts teacher familiar with the impact of testing and accountability in Ohio, I will add my views to those of others currently employed in education. The news is not good. The public school system in America remains in a state of red alert as teachers work under extreme frenzy with constant warnings of severe "evaluation threats."

I taught last in 2001, and I hear from other teachers working now that most "things" related to actual classroom content instruction are getting worse by the year. My perspective of over ten years absence creates some doubt about what I about to say; however, I can assure you I did experience many related changes I considered to be extremely bothersome towards the end of my teaching career. What once was a pleasant atmosphere turned into a nightmare of extra duties and mounting mountains of paperwork. At the end of my career, I found too little emphasis on good teaching and too much concern about minute-to-minute accountability.

I know many teachers blame proficiency testing for many, if not all, of their worst ills: loss of in-depth instruction, the ever-mounting demand for review of material, and an overwhelming pressure on both staff and students to assure every student achieves maximum test scores. Believe me, I understand the culpable stress caused by proficiency testing and by the rest of the hoopla over improving performance. I happen to disagree that testing deserves so much attention. The proper education of children requires equal amounts of tailored instruction, specific practice, review, and fair evaluation.

If you read the paragraphs from the third grade teacher in North Carolina, can feel her disgust and empathize with her fear. But, I believe much of the terror people feel is mass hysteria caused by the following:

* Too much self-imposed, knee-jerk testing by bureaucratic State Education Departments caused by  media-fed public mistrust,

* Constant intimidation of staff by overzealous administrators who induce unnecessary fear as they threaten ending teachers' livelihoods and careers unless they achieve high scores,

* Ridiculous attempts by instructors to achieve the impossible task of cramming years of past instruction into limited yearly review aimed at 100% accountability and vast improvement for all,

* Managing the enormous preparation, paperwork, time schedule, and overblown attention school systems face to prove completion of the task of applying standard, proficiency levels of attainment,

* And, perhaps, most of all, the "snow job" bought by a general public that the American public school system must better compete with other nations' extremely selective and vastly different  educational systems.

Let me expand on the "we need to do what Japan does" theory. Tremendous differences in culture, extracurricular activities, and time spent in class alone create huge differences between getting a State education in Japan and getting a State education in America.

In Japan, an incompetent education is considered the fault of the family, and shame rests on families not capable of providing remedial help to their incompetent school-aged children to reach higher levels of achievement. And, Japanese students are also tested to see if they even deserve to enter high school and college. Those children that don’t pass this test attend career-orientated schools.

As a person who served on the Ohio Proficiency Rangefinder Committee for a dozen or so years, I believe I possess some insight that might help alleviate some pain and worry. At least, I can assure you I have scored thousands upon thousands of Ninth Grade Proficiency papers myself, and I have been privileged to study and employ rubrics that determine the actual scores.

The testing process -- from administration to scoring -- is not rocket science. I can assure you that if a ninth grader was not writing on a "proficient" (middle of the road, if you will) ninth-grade level, the test merely revealed this truth.

The hysteria associated with low scores was not a "fault" of the test, but rather the undue craze was generated because the test revealed that a great number of students had not displayed -- for whatever reason -- adequate writing skills. In the case of non-attainment of necessary skills, the problem might have stemmed from a number of various sources that needed immediate attention including deficient school districts, administrators, teachers, students, and, yes, even societal bodies such as families.

First, let's define the word proficiency as it relates to these tests in Ohio. In general the word is defined as a graded "advancement in knowledge or skill." Proficiency in any subject is an objective that must be included in day-to-day curriculum. It should neither be ignored nor overblown into a tremendous task that actually detracts from the attention to higher levels of performance.

Supplying the excellent teaching of proficient-level content is the duty of the schools while its attainment is an obligation of students. Hard work supplies proficiency -- try instructing and being responsible for the continuing advancement of over 100 high school students a day. When a student doesn't use initiative, brains, and industry to purchase his or her "necessary" proficiency, no teacher or other school personnel can force the learning into the child. In any system of education, there will always be below-grade-level, immature, unwilling learners.

In education, the term proficiency is used in a variety of ways, most commonly in reference to (1) proficiency levels, scales, and cut-off scores on standardized tests and other forms of assessment, (2) students achieving or failing to achieve proficiency levels determined by tests and assessments, and (3) students demonstrating or failing to demonstrate proficiency in relation to learning methods.

Reread the paragraphs written by the teacher from Carolina. Her school must be hell. But, I believe data, tests, diagnoses, and the like are not inherently frightening. Nothing instills fear into these things except the humans entrusted to insuring students are adequately prepared for the evaluations and State requirements.

My question is "Why the fear and fuss about what is normally just a part of teaching the curriculum?" For the answer, I look toward time. Now, teachers barely have time to teach the curriculum. Adding silly tasks created by outside pressures dedicated to believing no one should accept the fact that a significant number of American human beings do fail only fuels the fires of teacher burnout. For Christ's sake, no one already worries more about failing kids than teachers. Yet, they should be allowed to accept this unpleasant reality without excessive stress generated from State systems.

Every little record keeping, evaluation-providing, uber-reporting, accountability-overkill detail takes time. Teachers become frightened, even paranoid, because they simply have little time to develop and employ their skills of classroom teaching. We constantly lose great teachers who enjoy the art of classroom instruction because the system has made them more clerk than professional instructor. In a word, many, like our friend from North Carolina, view their profession with distrust.

Hell, these days, teachers are always expected to perform unnecessary clerical tasks and to complete mountains of administrative paperwork they know will go unread, and, instead, be filed on an "appropriate" shelf in a closet where dust will accumulate and space will diminish.

New requirements are generated by the State Department of Education, passed into law, and then handed down to school districts all over the state. It's a complicated game of political and social appeasement. Everyone tries to keep up with changing demands from superiors, then authoritatively "pass the buck" of responsibility until it reaches its last and lowest level -- the level requiring the most attention and labor -- the already overburdened classroom teachers and their students.

Excuses, like kidneys, are rampant; everyone has a couple or at least one, for the educational hysteria. Finger pointing within the profession is so common that it's a wonder every school employee has not been blinded by the flurry of flying digitus secundi. And, the frightful condition has been this way for decades now, yet it only seems to be getting worse.

Many experienced teachers who once enjoyed the classroom and found time to present subject material with thorough, creatively designed lessons now find themselves awash in this insane record keeping, grading, planning, testing, and attempting to cover the buttocks of a system notorious for trying to stretch a "thong" of resources to cover a whale tail of nasty badonkadonk.

Jesus help us. Teachers are on meds. Kids are throwing up. Administrators are trying to find even easier positions (if that is possible). Mothers and fathers are suing schools because their genius sons and daughter get an "F." In a Louisiana middle school where my son taught last year, the Teacher of the Year 2013 quit because she couldn't handle the pressure of spending countless hours to duplicate her award-winning performance.

If you don't believe good teaching is art produced primarily by sensitive, well-intentioned, creative individuals, you should spend more time visiting the classrooms of a fully functioning American public school (And, perhaps, less time sitting in the stands of gymnasiums and stadiums watching the performance of those you believe represent the their best interests).

Enough is enough! Administrators and teachers -- reduce the stress by finding out exactly what is missing in your proficiency quest and limit review for the almighty tests to reasonable limits. I know this by experience: If you teach seniors in high school, you can't cram twelve years of test preparation into a couple of weeks or in a couple of months, for that matter. Besides, every day reviewing for proficiency levels takes away from covering necessary new studies. Proficiency test scores may show some improvement while the advanced curriculum stagnates and eventually dies.

Yet, unfortunately, objective test scores and performance indexes are now paramount in the eyes of a State government filled with people who never even experienced the pressures of such critical  educational evaluation themselves. Somehow, the Department of Education, thanks to pressure from those who know nothing about the development of critical thinking and reasoning, attempts both to upgrade acquisition of knowledge and "water it down" in order that no one is "left behind" or failing.

Young people must learn to be more responsible despite their resistance and their insistence upon copping an attitude of "that teacher doesn't know how to teach" or "Mrs. Filbert doesn't like me." Students live in a world of expanding knowledge spurred by technology that Super Sizes educational requirements in all classes. Kids must use their computers to attain new knowledge and to practice skills other than game-playing and texting excellence of hand-eye coordination. The great delivery system and the right materials are at hand, but they must be employed in the name of scholarship.

In addition, things like regularly attending class, copying down assignments, taking notes, learning theory, studying, reading, doing homework, and making up missed assignments are essential elements of all students' necessary contributions in the "give and take" relationship between teachers and students. Sometimes, 50/50 is the best ratio of effort given by both -- the proportions depend upon the difficulty of the assignment and the complexity of the independent study required by completing a lesson.

Let me pose a couple of questions to the disbelieving general public that blames all the problems in education entirely upon classroom teachers.

* Do you believe a teacher can fail because he or she doesn't do their job? I do. I have seen teachers who should never have been hired in the first place. But, by the same token, do you believe a student can fail because he or she is not trying, not even caring about working up to their potential? 

I believe that student should receive a failing grade and continue to receive failing grades until living up to their part of the educational "contract." That is the purpose of using the letter "F" to designate the performance and achievement of a school kid. Giving a student a grade teaches them nothing. Demanding that they continue their best efforts to deserve their grade is one mark of a great teacher.

* Do you believe in trial and error as an important instrument for learning? I do. Believe me, when I started teaching, the university program had not prepared me adequately to teach in public high school. My first year of teaching, I thought I knew it all until I experienced day after day of major problems and minor successes. I was scared crapless and trying everything I could to keep my head above water and to honestly teach an effective lesson.

Brains and educational degrees only go so far when you close your classroom door. The fact is you teach people with much higher IQ's than you. (And, you learn to love that, by the way.)You must learn the craft through experience. Failure and the motivation to not fail again are essential to any real success. Why should it be any different for kids in school who put out little or no effort? They fail, but they must learn not to. When I had an "F" student achieve a "D," I was usually happier than when I witnessed the perennial "A" student do their typical, excellent work. Both were great encouragement to keep teaching.

Here is an undeniable fact: after high school graduation, when students enter the homo sapien-eating-homo sapien, real world, they experience the shocking revelation that professors, bosses, and associates want good results and really don't give a flying fuck about how many times failure interrupts their understanding or their progress. The "teachers" of the real world don't lose sleep over the fact that Timmy or Jane is having difficulty with work. Those who don't adjust either fall until they reach a lower level of comfortable existence or pick themselves up and rise to greater heights by diligently acquiring difficult skills necessary to excel.

What To Do To Remain Healthy In the Classroom

I have spoken much about this before -- since teachers are the last and only link of instruction for those who need concentrated remediation before testing, they must find the most important areas to review and then teach the exact strategies to help their students pass critical evaluations. Although the State issues study guides and sample papers, I believe many teachers do NOT know how the tests are really scored and what specific areas typically "fail" students who need review concentration.

For a rather stilted example, a kid may know the function of a three-part essay but possess little or no knowledge of tools often employed to construct a cohesive, well-developed thesis. I have read hundreds and hundreds of papers written by obviously intelligent students with no clue that imperative elaboration of an written idea requires details, examples, and facts. Teaching this can be as simple as offering techniques of developing the  "who, what, when, where, how, which, and why" of ideas. Check out this amazing simple yet tremendously important lesson here:

Teachers in the trenches fighting untold obstacles to educate their students deserve respect. Just in case you happen to be a critic of teachers and their work in public education, I would like you to consider what I believe "waters down" the profession. I know many of you consider teaching an easy job done by unskilled "babysitters" who have wonderful work hours, summers off, and decent pay. People who make such generalizations about teachers are guilty of adding to a ridiculous, false, damaging image of those who deserve more esteem.

Any good teacher knows some "bad apples" exist in his midst. Most could care less if some method were employed to cut them from the system. Yet, isn't that the reality in all professions? Lazy, worthless workers are present in all employs. But, when you throw the effective teacher out with all the "dirty bath water," you injure our most precious resource: the child who represents a brighter future for America. I believe we should get real, return to encouraging great teachers to "teach" not "file" and let them show all skeptics that we are still the undisputed leaders of educating the free thinkers of the world.


Scioto Bloom-Vernon Local SD

Reading 63 88.9 12.7 31.7 44.4 6.3 4.8

  Mathematics 63 87.3 44.4 23.8 19.0 7.9 4.8

  Writing 63 84.1 0.0 38.1 46.0 12.7 3.2

  Science 63 79.4 28.6 19.0 31.7 15.9 4.8

  Social Studies 63 77.8 27.0 12.7 38.1 9.5 12.7

  All Five 63 69.8

  Clay Local SD

Reading 52 92.3 7.7 28.8 55.8 3.8 3.8

  Mathematics 52 82.7 36.5 23.1 23.1 7.7 9.6

  Writing 52 69.2 0.0 26.9 42.3 26.9 3.8

  Science 52 73.1 11.5 26.9 34.6 23.1 3.8

  Social Studies 52 78.8 26.9 13.5 38.5 13.5 7.7

  All Five 52 57.7

  Green Local SD

Reading 47 87.2 19.1 31.9 36.2 10.6 2.1

  Mathematics 47 80.9 46.8 14.9 19.1 12.8 6.4

  Writing 47 72.3 0.0 31.9 40.4 25.5 2.1

  Science 47 76.6 21.3 27.7 27.7 17.0 6.4

  Social Studies 47 89.4 46.8 19.1 23.4 8.5 2.1

  All Five 47 68.1

  Minford Local SD

Reading 107 89.7 17.8 34.6 37.4 2.8 7.5

  Mathematics 107 79.4 41.1 19.6 18.7 13.1 7.5

  Writing 107 84.1 0.9 51.4 31.8 8.4 7.5

  Science 107 78.5 26.2 28.0 24.3 15.9 5.6

  Social Studies 107 86.9 47.7 19.6 19.6 5.6 7.5

  All Five 107 69.2

  New Boston Local SD

Reading 38 71.1 15.8 21.1 34.2 18.4 10.5

  Mathematics 38 78.9 28.9 18.4 31.6 5.3 15.8

  Writing 38 73.7 0.0 26.3 47.4 21.1 5.3

  Science 38 57.9 15.8 5.3 36.8 23.7 18.4

  Social Studies 38 63.2 34.2 10.5 18.4 13.2 23.7

  All Five 38 50.0

  Northwest Local SD

Reading 119 84.9 12.6 26.1 46.2 5.9 9.2

  Mathematics 119 82.4 34.5 21.8 26.1 8.4 9.2

  Writing 119 84.9 0.0 29.4 55.5 7.6 7.6

  Science 119 66.4 13.4 15.1 37.8 24.4 9.2

  Social Studies 119 73.9 23.5 16.8 33.6 15.1 10.9

  All Five 119 59.7

  Portsmouth City SD

Reading 124 79.0 9.7 29.8 39.5 8.9 12.1

  Mathematics 124 75.0 35.5 19.4 20.2 11.3 13.7

  Writing 124 75.8 0.0 25.0 50.8 15.3 8.9

  Science 124 54.0 10.5 16.1 27.4 30.6 15.3

  Social Studies 124 78.2 28.2 19.4 30.6 9.7 12.1

  All Five 124 46.8

  Valley Local SD

Reading 73 84.9 12.3 31.5 41.1 5.5 9.6

  Mathematics 73 84.9 41.1 24.7 19.2 9.6 5.5

  Writing 73 80.8 1.4 43.8 35.6 13.7 5.5

  Science 73 67.1 24.7 16.4 26.0 23.3 9.6

  Social Studies 73 74.0 30.1 12.3 31.5 16.4 9.6

  All Five 73 63.0

  Washington-Nile Local SD

Reading 108 83.3 13.9 39.8 29.6 9.3 7.4

  Mathematics 108 84.3 37.0 24.1 23.1 5.6 10.2

  Writing 108 81.5 0.9 34.3 46.3 8.3 10.2

  Science 108 71.3 24.1 19.4 27.8 17.6 11.1

  Social Studies 108 73.1 34.3 18.5 20.4 11.1 15.7

  All Five 108 63.9

  Wheelersburg Local SD

Reading 115 94.8 22.6 53.0 19.1 2.6 2.6

  Mathematics 115 90.4 52.2 25.2 13.0 5.2 4.3

  Writing 115 97.4 9.6 71.3 16.5 0.9 1.7

  Science 115 88.7 41.7 17.4 29.6 8.7 2.6

  Social Studies 115 92.2 64.3 20.0 7.8 3.5 4.3

  All Five 115 85.2

Districts with fewer than 10 students tested in any subject are not listed; their results are included in the totals.
Results are not reported for a subject if the number of students tested is less than 10. The data are replaced by *.
Community schools are included in the public totals; individual schools are listed in another report.
Pct. Prof. or Above = percent proficient or above; this meets the graduation standard.
Percent Adv. = percent advanced; Percent Accel. = percent accelerated; Percent Prof. = percent proficient.
All Five = students took all five tests; Pct. Prof.or Above = percent met graduation standard on all five tests.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis: Renaissance "Working Girl"

After a post on Facebook, I was kind of "forced" to defend my choice of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as a super woman and an incredible human being, not as some believe -- an indifferent, fashionable object of attention. I understand some think her affluent condition supports the view of an "easy life of privilege." I believe this view is both unfair and ill conceived. Jackie was one of a kind, a legend who would have preferred to be "just herself."

Young ladies, I think you would do well to find your model in the life of Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Allow me to tell you a few things about her.

Jackie possessed a fine intellect. She attended Vassar College (freshman and sophomore years, college) 1947-1949; University of Grenoble and Sorbonne, Paris, France (junior year abroad program through Smith College), 1949-1950; George Washington University, Washington, D.C. (senior year, college), B.A. French literature, 1950-951; Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (American history continuing education classes), 1954.

According to her Selwa Showker Roosevelt, one of her friends at Vassar, "she had a very broad mind… She had incredible beauty, but never pushed herself forefront… She had a great sense of humor. Even then, she had a star quality – you just knew something wonderful was going to happen to her!… She was the most glamorous person I had ever met, and yet the nicest."

In 1951 Jackie beat out more than twelve hundred of the college women in America to take first place in Vogue's Prix de Paris competition, with her essay on "People I Wish I Had Known." Carol Phillips, managing editor of Vogue commented on her essay: "Each paper is excellent – there is no exception. She is a writer… my only worry is that she might marry some day – and go off on one of those horses she speaks about."

Following college graduation, Jacqueline first become a photojournalist for the Washington Times-Herald. She quickly became a leading light of the local social circles attending many high profile social engagements. It was at such dinner parties that she met then senator John F. Kennedy. They shortly became engaged and married in 1953 in Newport, Rhode Island.

Shortly after her marriage, Jacqueline suffered a miscarriage and then her first daughter was born still born. She had another three children, the last of whom died aged just two years old. Her two children who survived into childhood were Caroline Bouvier Kennedy and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

In 1960, John F. Kennedy ran for presidency. Jacqueline did not play an very active role in his campaign because she was pregnant during the election. But, she did support her husband from her home by answering letters and giving interviews for TV and newspapers.

As the First Lady, Jackie's contributions to the arts and to the preservation of American cultural heritage and historic architecture are enormous. For example -- she was responsible for the historical restoration of the White House. She also initiated a Congressional bill establishing that White House furnishings would be the property of the Smithsonian Institution, rather than available to departing ex-presidents to claim as their own.

Jacqueline wrote an introduction to "The White House: A Historical Guide," and she also developed the idea of a filmed tour of the White House that she would conduct. The tour was broadcast on Valentine's Day 1962, and it was eventually distributed to 106 countries.

In 1962, Jackie was given a special Trustees Award at the 14th Emmy Awards show for her work in producing the exquisitely filmed tour of the White House.

 Mr. K evidently likes this Western Ideal.

Many do not realize how active Jacqueline became in governmental affairs. She was known privately to provide the President with withering assessments of political figures with whom he was negotiating, whether it was Pentagon brass or the Soviet Politburo. Jackie was also known to supply the literary allusions for many of JFK's now-famous speeches.

How can anyone deny her superior communication and negotiation skills? Jacqueline's social charm and grace endeared her to the public and also to visiting leaders. She forged personal friendships with world leaders, including France's Charles DeGaulle, India's Jawaharlal Nehru, Pakistan's Ayub Kahn, England's Harold McMillan, subtly furthering the interests of the President and the U.S. In South American nations.

Jackie even influenced relations during the Cold War. When the Russian Premier, Nikita Khrushchev visited with the Kennedy's in Vienna, he made a point of wanting to shake the hand of Jacqueline before that of her husband, the most powerful man in the Free World. It seems Nikita did not include  one beautiful American in his famous Communist promise: "We will bury you!"

Jacqueline genuinely employed her intelligence and glamor with great aplomb. She made short speeches in Italian, French, Portuguese and Spanish to ethnic constituents for the re-election of JFK. It seemed she was a vital force for American diplomacy. JFK once quipped: "I am the man who accompanied Jacqueline Kennedy to Paris, and I have enjoyed it." 

Jackie also made speeches (some in Spanish) hailing the promise of the Administration's Peace Corps. Believing that her husband's most important accomplishment was his 1963 Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, days after his assassination she penned a remarkable letter to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, calling on him to remain committed to nuclear arms reduction and urge smaller nations to do likewise.

Letitia Baldridge, who was Mrs. Kennedy's chief of staff and social secretary in the White House, remembered Jackie's sense of humor. "She had such a wit. She would have been terrible if she hadn't been so funny. She imitated people, heads of state, after everyone had left a White House dinner. Their accents, the way they talked. She was a cutup. Behind the closed doors, she'd dance a jig." 

Jacqueline is widely considered to be the First Lady who transformed the White House and rewrote the role of president’s wife.

Even with the enormous attention focused on JFK, Jackie, and their Camelot existence, she maintained her preference to secure as much privacy as possible for herself and for her children. While she had a deep sense of obligation to her country, her first priorities were to be a good wife to her husband and a good mother to her children, Caroline and John. She once told a reporter that "if you bungle raising your children, I don't think whatever else you do well matters very much."

Caroline was six and John three when their father was murdered. Despite her overwhelming grief, Jackie possessed too much strength of character to let the events ruin her. For the sake of her children she kept their life and upbringing as normal as possible. She explained: "They’ve got to grow up without thinking back to their father’s murder. They’ve got to grow up intelligently, attuned to life in a very important way. And that’s the way I want to live my life, too." 

Washington Post writer DeNeen L. Brown explains the tragic dilemma which Jacqueline lived: 

"It is in this frame that she will be frozen for years — young, pink suit, tragedy, martyred wife. It is from this image that she will try to move on. But viewers will always go back and watch. She became a figure trapped in the public’s fascination.

“'She was present at a scene of martyrdom and an intimate witness, vulnerable to that moment, escaping death herself,' said Wayne Koestenbaum, author of Jackie Under My Skin: Interpreting An Icon. 'It sealed her fate as part of a tragic, fascinating spectacle that played in millions of minds.'"

How did Jackie manage it? She took control with unbelievable poise. Immediately, she began focusing on details of the funeral and shaping her husband’s legacy. She wanted him remembered as a hero, and modeled his funeral procession after that of President Lincoln.

But, in the midst of public insatiable and often crude hunger for unparalleled detail, she coveted privacy for herself and her family, and she carefully doled out images. “My press relations will be minimum information,” she told her press secretary, Pamela Turnure, “given with maximum politeness.”

Jacqueline's steadiness and courage after her husband's assassination and funeral won her admiration around the world: she spent a year in mourning, making few public appearances during this time. Her motherly instincts in mind, Jackie said: "People have too many theories about rearing children. I believe simply in love, security and discipline." She endured her pain while comforting her children with incredible dignity despite being hounded relentlessly by the press. She was among the first to bring much-needed attention to the attacks of paparazzi-style photographers.

Then, in 1968, John's brother Robert was assassinated. Jackie had been very close to Robert, helping with his campaign. This traumatic event caused her to fear even more for the safety of her children in America. With this in mind, she decided to marry the wealthy Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis - despite being 20 years her senior.

“If they’re killing Kennedys, then my children are targets,” Jacqueline said, according to After Camelot: A Personal History of the Kennedy Family, 1968 to the Present. “I want to get out of this country.”

Jacqueline was forced to endure a rare bout of public criticism for her decision to marry. The tabloids began calling her “Jackie O.” On Onassis’s arm, she traveled Europe in sleek miniskirts and bouffant hair. She had become “the outsider” the public had once accused her of being, and the public was not pleased.

While the couple was never divorced, the marriage was widely regarded as over long before Mr. Onassis died in 1975, leaving Jackie a widow for the second time.

In the years following Mr. Onassis's death, Jackie built a 19-room house on 375 acres of ocean-front land on Martha's Vineyard. She spent considerable time there, as well as in Bernardsville, N.J., where she rented a place and rode horses. 

Make no mistake, Jackie, with all her wealth and fame, never quit working. In fact, back in 1979 Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was the only one of America’s fifty wealthiest women who worked. She said, "What is sad for women of my generation is that they weren't supposed to work if they had families. What were they going to do when the children are grown -- watch the raindrops coming down the window pane?"

Jackie resumed her career in the writing profession, but as an editor, first at Viking Press, and then at Doubleday; she often wrote the introduction to the books she edited and also worked on obtaining and laying out the illustrations. She was very productive, editing 10 to 12 books a year on performing arts and other subjects. She climbed the editorial ladder, closing book deals with celebrities, including Michael Jackson for Moonwalk.

At Doubleday, where she was eventually promoted to senior editor, Jacqueline was known as a gracious and unassuming colleague who had to pitch her stories at editorial meetings, just as everyone else did. She avoided the industry's active social scene, probably because she had so little need to expand her network of contacts. She was more likely to be seen visiting the New York Public Library than attending glitzy parties or traditional society events.

Of course, one must consider the outstanding civic involvement and achievement of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie led an historic preservation campaign to save from demolition and renovate Grand Central Terminal. Included among other civic activities in which she was further involved were the revitalization of the Broadway theater district, the Central Park Conservancy, the Literary Lions of the New York Public Library, the Metropolitan Museum's Egyptian wing and the Costume Institute, and the American Ballet Theater at Lincoln Center.

The Municipal Art Society of New York now presents the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Medal to an individual whose work and deeds have made an outstanding contribution to the city of New York.

Also, Jackie was instrumental in the academic direction of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

In December 1999, Jackie was among 18 included in Gallup's List of Widely Admired People of the 20th Century, from a poll conducted of the American people.

Jacqueline almost never granted interviews on her past, and for decades she did not speak publicly about Mr. Kennedy, his Presidency or their marriage. Robert D. McFadden of The New York Times writes:

 "Her silence about her past was always something of a mystery. Her family never spoke of it; out of loyalty or trepidation over her wrath, her closest friends shed no light on it and there was nothing authoritative to be learned beyond her inner circle."

Jackie looked to her grandchildren to add light and joy to her later years and loved to baby-sit once a week for Rose, Tatiana and Jack. "She was so wonderful with them," says her friend Rose Styron, a human-rights activist and the wife of writer William Styron. "She got such a kick out of watching them tumble and play together." On the day she died, she and friends looked at last year's snapshots from Jackie's Labor Day picnic on Martha's Vineyard and reminisced about teaching little Jack to sing "Itsy Bitsy Spider." 

Jacqueline Kennedy, 64, died of a form of cancer of the lymphatic system in 1994 at her Fifth Avenue apartment in New York. Outside, crowds mourned her death. Her funeral was private.

“Well, I think my biggest achievement is that, after going through a very difficult time, I consider myself comparatively sane.”

--Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, A Portrait in Her Own Words