Phifty – The Birthday Post

I have traditionally written a birthday post. I started this blog on my 44th birthday, thus the name. I have been consistently inconsistent in my writing over the last six years and, reading through my posts, the blog has gone through many iterations. There were periods when I wrote for the joy and tried to appeal to an audience and times that I wrote out of anger at the system and tried to appeal to an audience. The latest iteration is me writing as a reflection on my practice as an educator. I write to get ‘it’ out there whatever ‘it’ is but for me getting ‘it’ out there makes it real. No matter how few strangers or friends read it, I have put it out there irretrievably. That can be cathartic at times but it also forces me to own my reflection and work on my foibles. As I wrote in my last post, it’s hard sometimes.

Apparently my last post may have ruffled some feathers. Some things that I said were hard for me to get out of my mind. That’s what my blog is for: to cause me to reflect and use that reflection to make myself a better professional. If a casual reader reads my post and the content causes them to reflect, that is a bonus. Sometimes what we do is hard and hearing that we aren’t perfect is even harder. I’ve said before that I don’t believe there is any learning without reflection. Truthfully, that is not just my belief, that is a truism. You may know something but you haven’t learned it if you haven’t reflected on why it is important, how it fits into the schema of your life, how you can use it in the future, and on and on.

Honest, true reflection is painful and necessary. It makes us better. It makes our schools better and isn’t that truly what we want for our kids.

So today I’m fifty. That’s a big number! And as I reflect over the last two weeks I realize that I am better at 50 but still have many imperfections. I’m a work in progress and so are you. None of us are finished. I did fail to say in my last post that I’m guilty of some of those same things that damage our culture. But that’s why I wrote it. I reflect; I learn; I work on changing. I’m working. It’s  painful. It’s hard.


Forty Eight – The Birthday Post

Wow, I made it to 48! Never thought I’d be this close to 50.

I started this blog four years ago thus the name 40phor. I’ve decided to maintain the name although the years keep adding up. I thought of 44 at the time as being a pivotal year in my life and, to be honest, every year since then has been pivotal. I think I grow every year. I’m still working on being a better father, husband, son, brother, teacher, leader and of course, writer. The last four years have been years of reflection that I had missed on my first 44.

Every year there are milestones and benchmarks. There are also difficulties and failures. Every year I try to identify my weaknesses and strengths. Every year I reflect on what I should be celebrating. For me, my birthday is a time to think about how I will make this year better than the last.

This year, 9/11/01 has been on my mind a lot. Like most people who were alive that day, there are still strong emotions each year. One of my first posts was about 9/11. And my second post ever was about Glenn Beck’s 9-12 project. I was pretty tough on Beck.

I still think Beck is an alarmist and a bit of a putz. I have read some of The Blaze and I can’t understand how a mass of people can believe every thing this guy writes when he only uses his personal feelings as resources.

I will admit that Mr. Beck had a point. In the days following 9/11/01 we were a different nation of people. We were all there for each other. There was much less divisiveness and much more love. After the initial fear wore off, more people cherished the important things in their lives. It was very scary as I recall but we were all in this together. We were a united nation.

What I don’t think many realize is that 9/11 has also led us to where we are today. When all that love and support wore off, politicians began to place one religion over another due to those responsible for the terrorist attacks. Our government started to put the safety of the nation above the freedoms of individuals. While the Christian Right pulled one way to claim the US for Christ, the hardcore left held on dearly to what they valued. Now, more than just freedoms and religions, every issue has become a fight between the left and the right. There really is no middle ground any more. There really are no seriously political moderates on either side. As much as liberals hated Reagan and the Bushes, they were way closer to the center than any of our current political righties. The left has countered with Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, spreading ideas that seem more associated with the 70s than the 21st Century. It seems you have to be extrem to be noticed. In PA, we are in one of the longest budget debates in Commonwealth history. Tom Wolf, probably more socially liberal than Ed Rendell, has put his foot down on his support of public education. The more fiscally conservative House has said it will hold the line. Apparently no room for compromise.

It’s painful for me to think that fateful day may have led to our current state of divisiveness in this country.

In that blog post on Glenn Beck, I posted 10 values and two strive for to counter Mr. Beck’s 12. I think they are probably even more relevant today:

Two principles

  1. All people are created equal.  Not just rich, white, American men who run businesses.
  2. We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and so do all humans around the world. Whatever God, god or other supreme being we believe in created us all and didn’t create some to live in poverty, and some to live as captives, and some to never know happiness.

Ten Values

  1. Caring
  2. Understanding
  3. Knowledge
  4. Hope
  5. Imagination
  6. Individualism
  7. Fairness
  8. Trust
  9. Service
  10. Charity

I know, my liberal is showing but, it’s my birthday!


As has become tradition: my birthday blog post! This is the end of three years of the 40phor blog and the beginning of year four. I started this blog on by 44th birthday; thus the name. Although I’ve never posted as much as I thought I wanted to, the blog has been therapeutic and sometime cathartic. Although I don’t know how many readers I have, I know that at some points in the last three years I have touched someone, made them think, hopefully made them react, and possibly evoked an emotional response.

When I go back and read my own posts I am often impressed by my own writing as if someone else wrote it and at times rereading those posts remind me of who I was then and what experiences I was having. The ultimate goal of this blog was to get the constant thoughts out of my head and out to the world. Sometimes I forget that and keep the running dialogue in my head rather than sharing it with you. As always I will promise again this year to try to do better but we both know I probably won’t.

As for my year: some big events. My older daughter graduated from high school and matriculated at Temple University a few weeks ago. I ran a marathon, 4:02, for the first time in almost 15 years and ran a PR by 13 minutes. I lost a brother, friend and running mate. That’s three pretty big life events in one year.

For this year I hope to keep more consistent with the running and the blogging. I will finish my certification as a superintendent very soon so, who knows, maybe a change in employment also. Whatever the case, its just another year that I will try to make the best one yet!


I guess its becoming a tradition to have a birthday post. This blog was born on 9/11/2011, the day before my 44th birthday. This the name. I kept the name the same even though the years are adding up.

This year was not the best year of the blog. I had 46 posts. That’s less than one a week and they really started fading away when I returned to graduate school in January. 

I did reach 56 countries this year which isn’t bad since my all time reach is 70 countries.

My top posts of the year were Sometimes it Takes a Vacuum, The Low Hanging Fruit of Education, and A Principal’s Take On Tragedy. As you can see, the blog has taken a turn towards education. Controversial sometimes, cathartic sometimes, but always me being me.

I still like to write and hope to get back to at least a weekly average this year.

Wish me a Happy 40psyx.

How Glenn Beck Ruined My Birthday

Tomorrow I will post my goals for the year.  Today is my birthday.  9/12.  Pretty cool date.  As a fraction reducible to ¾.  Late summer but with fall like weather usually.  Pretty joyous occasion for me until Glenn Beck screwed with it.

Not that I ever was a fan of Mr. Beck.  His politics and mine are more than a little different.  Not necessarily polar opposites but definitely not in the same hemisphere.  But when Mr. Beck took my birthday and used it to promote some right wing propaganda, I was more than a little peeved.  For those of you who don’t know, here is the basis for Glenn Beck’s “9-12 Project.”  (absence of a link here is purposeful. I don’t want anyone else to get brainwashed.)

“At the origin of America, our Founding Fathers built this country on 28 powerful principles. These principles were culled from all over the world and from centuries of great thinkers. We have distilled the original 28 down to the 9 basic principles.”

The website lists the 9 Principles, accompanied by quotations from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. The 9 Principles are:

  1. America is good.
  2. I believe in God and He is the center of my life.
  3. I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday.
  4. The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.
  5. If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
  6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
  7. I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.
  8. It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.
  9. The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.

The 12 Values are:

  1. Honesty
  2. Reverence
  3. Hope
  4. Thrift
  5. Humility
  6. Charity
  7. Sincerity
  8. Moderation
  9. Hard Work
  10. Courage
  11. Personal Responsibility
  12. Gratitude

It’s really hard to argue that any of those are unimportant, but I do have some hang ups:

First of all, the 28 principles are only what Mr. Beck believes were the Founding Fathers values.  Secondly, his 9 principles are clearly to promote his own as well as the Tea Party’s agenda.  Thirdly, why 9 principles and 12 values?  To exploit the deaths of thousands of innocent Americans for one’s own political/financial gain is the only reason I can see.  Unless he really did just want to screw with my birthday. So I’ll be a little passive aggressive; my own rewrites on what he really meant.

  1.  “America would be the greatest country in the world if we elected a Tea Party president.”
  2.  “I believe in my God the rest of you are wrong.” Or “Jesus loves me but he can’t stand you.”
  3. “The liberal media should quit pointing out the lies on Fox News.”
  4. “We are afraid of gays.”
  5. “Justice is blind but the privileged people can afford laser surgery or glasses.”
  6. I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but Mexicans, gays, liberals, Muslims, poor people, etc. do not.
  7. Social Security, medicare, welfare, free health care were designed for the people mentioned in number 6 and they don’t deserve it.
  8. I can say whatever I want but liberals better shut the hell up.
  9. I don’t have to listen to President Obama.  George Bush told me so.

So, I’ve decided to start my own project.  Just to keep the theme alive I’m thinking of calling it the 2/10 project.  Here you go Mr. Beck:

Two principles

  1. All people are created equal.  Not just rich, white, American men who run businesses.
  2. We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and so do all humans around the world. Whatever God, god or other supreme being we believe in created us all and didn’t create some to live in poverty, and some to live as captives, and some to never know happiness.

Ten Values

  1. Caring
  2. Understanding
  3. Knowledge
  4. Hope
  5. Imagination
  6. Individualism
  7. Fairness
  8. Trust
  9. Service
  10. Charity

Those are the principles and values that I would call my 2/10 project.  By the way, February 10th; Glenn Beck’s birthday.  Revenge!