Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Clear water of the Wakulla River, yet alligators sun on the shore
The Age of Greed and Narcissism is bound to be the label future writers lay upon our times. The favored few float easy upon their boon of corporate welfare (NAFTA, GATT, WTO) while the rest of the country continues to dodge the detritus assaulting them (loss of jobs, homes, and health insurance as a consequence of their greed and the politicians who sold out their constituents for a "mess of potage"). Those decisions resulted in the 2008 economic debacle and yet the bail out went to the Wall Street fat cats that caused the problem. Self-absorbed personalities in this group remind me of District 1 of Panem in the Hunger Games, without honor, dignity, any sense of responsibility, yet with a singular claim to -- not personal morality-- but social justice -- a finger in the air to see what is current wisdom -- then hailed as heroes for indulging in another round of public introspection and revelation, always seeking the public adulation of a television audience and social media.

Meanwhile, the average American struggles to find a job that will support a family, to keep their family together with a roof over their heads, to feed their children. Many fight honorably to keep America free.

So today I praise the men and women who honor their vows, who put family first, who honor God without attempting to make Him into their own image. They will probably not be appear on television because their lives are full and focused on what really matters.

Sadly we look more and more like the time written of in the Bible when "All the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes." Judges 21:25

Monday, May 4, 2015

Jean Hancher's review of Mint Juleps and Murder

Love this review recently posted by Jean Hancher

Mint Juleps and Murder is the second in Sharman Ramsey’s Mint Julep Mysteries Trilogy. When most southern women in their sixties are sipping sweet tea and fanning themselves with their church bulletins, Dabney Rankin and Sophia Ransom, two widowed sisters, find themselves living life in the fast lane sipping mint juleps.  Their TV show, Partying on the Plantation, has succeeding beyond anyone’s imagination.  Since both sisters lacked culinary skills, their initial success was a result of some disastrous missteps in the beginning that sent the show to the top in the ratings chart.  The show was such a hit that they had no difficulty in attracting celebrity guests who really can cook to join their zany cast. Their nonexistent gardens complemented their nonexistent culinary skills, but when news got out that they were going to film a TV series in the Palmer, Alabama, the whole town wanted to get in on the action. Harvey Banks, a retired judge and the head of the Master Gardeners in Cox County was among many who came to the sisters’ rescue.  Betty Lee Simmons, the wife of the local Episcopal priest, was one of the few who came without a hidden agenda. Frederika Amos, the widow of a prominent doctor, seemed to be more interested in Harvey than in gardening.  Her sister was married to Harvey’s twin brother, Senator Hartwell Banks. With the enthusiastic support of the whole town and soaring ratings, what could possibly go wrong? Everything, to put it mildly.

Dabney is not only haunted by dreams, she begins to attract unwanted attention. Dabney learns that Ruby T., a local icon, has managed to get Sadie Summer to agree to come to Palmer to do a charity review. The fact that Dabney is already sufficiently challenged doesn’t keep her from bribing Ruby T. to letting her join the review.  Ruby T. is used to telling it like it is, “You skinny white girls just can’t carry it off.”  Ruby patiently tries to teach Dabney attitude and moves and tells her she has to get in shape. This leads to Dabney’s jogging which leads to Dabney being grabbed from behind, chloroformed, and dumped in a well. She is rescued, only to have another attempt on her life as she is driving Dabnabbit, her turquoise golf cart with pink leather seats, rhinestones around the top, and pink glow bars. Her children thought this was the perfect sixtieth birthday present. The shot missed, but now family and law enforcement combine to protect our heroine.  Drugs, a suicide that may not have been a suicide, and a Pinkerton trunk may be clues, but no one can connect the dots. Why is someone out to kill her?  Another attempt on her life, a surveillance team that spies on a philandering priest, and a successful kidnapping lead to a surprising ending.  Ramsey uses that sleigh of hand that mystery writers use to leave their readers shaking their heads and musing, “I didn’t see that coming.” Amid barbeque, Soul Sisters, and dancing, readers will laugh with Dabney as she cooks and dances her way to the top of the charts and into her readers’ hearts.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Sunday School Lesson "He's Alive"

Just want to share the joy. I have been sitting here preparing to teach the lesson on John 20: 19-23 on Sunday at the Asbury Sunday School Class at the First Methodist Church in Panama City. This is definitely NOT an easy lesson and I have been concerned that I might not understand it well enough to share. Then I woke up Tuesday morning singing "He's Alive." I decided the Lord thought that song ought to open the lesson. I dug through my song tapes and found the tape. This morning I've been singing along to the tape in preparation for one of the hardest lessons I have ever studied to share with others, praising God, and thanking Him for His Holy Word and gift of the risen Savior. We'll be in the Trinity Center, Room 10, if any of you are visiting PC and would like to come and share in the wonder you are welcome. What Jesus did for Peter is available to us all!

Library Foundation and Books Alive

I attended my second Board meeting for the Bay County Library Foundation today. Plans for an exciting expanded Books Alive 2016 are under way. I hope my author friends will consider adding Panama City to their book tours. We are so much more than Spring Break!!!! and More information about how to become a participating author, editor, agent or blogger will be on our website soon. Contact me at for more information. Great plans are on the horizon!

Mothers are all slightly insane

My husband's mother, Hilda Ramsey, had been afflicted with Alzheimers for several years when the three of us took a ride, probably down the Azalea Trail, his mother's favorite time of year. I'll never forget being stopped at the intersection of Woodland and Main when Joe commented on a conversation he'd had recently with his Aunt Cassie (Ramsey), then around 80. 
He said, "Her memory is amazing!" 
"She never had any children," Mom stated matter-of-factly from the back seat. At that moment her mind was working on all cylinders.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Capstone Educator and Concerns

I got my new Capstone Educator, publication of the University of Alabama College of Education, my alma mater, and was introduced to new faculty members and the new goals of the College of Education. The title Passion Changes Everything: the next generation of faculty, gives kudos to the eduspeak of the apparent new guru (Music Man) of education, Sir Ken Robinson ( Has the Music Man's think system become simply passion? You don't just have to think positive thoughts, you must be passionate about them! 

This new slew of professors will now be demonstrating and  training aspiring teachers how NOT to teach directly.  "The professor can no longer be the 'sage on the stage," the author writes. Today's teacher must be a "guide on the side" -- and with passion! 

It looks as if we are now embarking upon a new brand of old education gimmicks. We've been here before with Outcome Based Education, Whole Language, etc.  This gimmick will simply be more of the same with expensive high tech devices that become obsolete within a year. The author tells that "Today the classroom is necessarily more dynamic and more conversational than in the past and is inevitably linked to online resources."

I wonder just how experienced and successful these fresh faced new professors are in the classroom as measured by what parents expect schools and teachers to do -- or have they merely mastered the psychobabble necessary for acquiring a PH.D. in Education. Did they become disillusioned in the classroom and decide to move on to higher education? Or have they actually spent any time in the classroom?

It was sequential learning and direct instruction that got us to the moon. Then Ken Goodman in 1967 published "Reading: a Psycholinguistic Guessing Game," revolutionized reading instruction and brought teachers out for professional hootenannies in support of the liberation of the classroom and teachers. Sequential learning and direct instruction has now been pushed further down the trash bin in colleges of education and extremely high illiteracy rates (the basic reason businesses complain that that they cannot find competent employees) continue.

When researching those school systems that scored best in my most basic determination of a successful school system -- reading scores -- those schools closest to colleges and universities scored lowest. The reason could be because those children closest to the universities are the most likely candidates for experimental programs of those scholar faculty members that we are told must be "more widely published than those who walked in their shoes a generation ago" and that "... Their work must meet the highest standard of rigor- represented in frequent and consistent publication in nationally recognized referred journals."

Well, now, that gives me as a parent and teacher the willies. That's all we need. More experimental programs and people looking to make a reputation through such "scholarship" using our children as guinea pigs!

I actually saw this in action with Block Scheduling (Four Period Day) in my hometown of Dothan, Alabama. An administrator with her eye on a Ph. D. used our children as her subjects for a study on how Math education was impacted by the Four Period Day. She ignored the research out of Canada, refused to give it to the parents in town, used our kids as the subjects of her study, got her Ph. D. and a Superintendents position. Then she and others in the administration published in journals and were lauded by their profession for their innovations. The kids got the shaft on their education and our education dollars were wasted promoting the Four Period Day (glossy brochures and teachers taken out of the classroom) throughout the area even though our schools were new to the methodology with no objective data (standardized tests) to validate its use. It didn't take long to find out what a boondoggle that was. Parents paying for the Advanced Placement tests discovered lower scores and because of their influence, it is no longer used. But it showed me how important it is to administrators and professors to make a name for themselves rather than actually find what works best to truly EDUCATE children (in the traditional sense).

This quotation from the article may give us insight into the direction of one professor: "... He is interested in developing translational learning and design theories grounded in empirical studies forming computational tools for learning based on these theories and conducting investigations on STEM learning and cognition both through experimental designs and design based research in authentic contexts." (Say what...?)

According to author, historian of education, educational policy analyst, and research professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, Diane Ravitch, OBE reforms (something I fought in the nineties) usually had other disputed methods, such as constructivist mathematics and whole language, added onto them. So, when I read that the teaching methods for the new professor of Social Science (used to be History) Education "are strongly based on constructivist pedagogy" and the new professor of Elementary Literacy Education wants to examine "culturally relevant literacy instruction in elementary classrooms" my heart starts to pound a warning. With no more community watchdogs who determines cultural relevance?

Once, in my naivety, I thought the education profession to be pure, truly based on replicable research, meant to prepare children to read, write and compute -- untainted by politics. And then I discovered the huge number of illiterate students in my secondary classroom and set out to find out why. I now believe the source of America's academic decline can be traced directly to America's colleges of education.

I thank God my youngest grandchildren are in private Christian schools using tried and true methods to teach sequentially, intensively, directly and early those basic skills we KNOW are foundational to success. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Retarding America: the Imprisonment of Potential

I am honored to be mentioned by Robert W. Sweet of the National Right to Read Foundation on his Blog. I wrote years ago about the book, Retarding America: The Imprisonment of Potential by Michael Brunner. I did not know that Bob Sweet then worked for the Administration and was the one who hired Michael Brunner to do the study on the root cause of incarceration of our youth. He found that more than single parent home, poverty, or any other element, illiteracy was the most common denominator. AND they found that systematic, direct and early phonics remediation worked best to teach those prisoners to read. 
Bob found my website recently and read the posts on my opinion page on education. He tells me that there are glimmers of hope in Reading Instruction. Chicago (the home of devastating OBE and Whole Language instruction) will now begin using Sing, Spell, Read and Write, a wonderful SIDE (systematic, intensive, direct and early) phonics program to teach reading. Pearson (the major distributor of instructional programs) is considering adding Sing Spell Read and Write to their curriculum. When I first got involved in trying to find the cause of so many of my students being unable to read Middle School textbooks, I called around the state to the systems with the highest scores in reading. Mountain Brook used Open Court and Vestavia used Sing Spell Read and Write. First Presbyterian uses Sing Spell Read and Write in Dothan (granddaughter Megan goes there). Holy Nativity in Panama City uses Sing Spell Read and Write. (Granddaughter Lily went there.) Grandsons George and Sam attend First Methodist in Panama city that uses ABEKA (a Christian system that all three of our children benefitted from). Another extremely effective phonics program is SPALDING WRITING ROAD TO READING developed by Romalda Spalding who learned under the founder of the dyslexia society Dr. Samuel Orton. Orton noticed how many children were coming to him with dyslexia as the result of the look/say method of reading instruction (later labeled whole word/ whole language). 
I hope all of you know the reading system your school (or grandchildren's school) uses. If a child cannot read proficiently by the third grade he/she is in for a tough row to hoe the rest of his life. If a teacher tells me they use an eclectic approach geared to the abilities of the individual child, I run, not walk, from that school. That type of educratese is way too sophisticated (and hit and miss) for my simple understanding of the basics my children need to succeed. Parents and citizens pay for the education of our children. They need to demand curriculum that works. Amazingly, schools with the least bells and whistles are most effective in teaching what parents actually expect of schools!