Friday, June 26, 2015

Any Reasonable Person

NOTE! If you are looking for a blog which is going to argue the pros or cons of gay marriage, look elsewhere. This blog is looking strictly at the way information of legalizing gay marriage was presented to the public, as well as the public’s reaction.  

There is a term in advertising called puffery. Basically, it allows companies to make bold, sweeping statements which, of course, any reasonable person will see as not the complete truth.

For instance, you may go to a restaurant that boasts “the best hamburgers in the world.” Do they have proof to back that up? Nope. Can you sue them for false advertising? The answer again is no.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gone as far as to say, “The Commission generally will not pursue cases involving obviously exaggerated or puffing representations, i.e., those that the ordinary consumers do not take seriously.”

The idea of puffery came to my mind when I read the United States Supreme Court ruling on legalizing gay marriage. All over the internet are phrases like “Love is Love” and hashtags including #ProudtoLove and ‪#‎marriageequality.

And why not? In the statement made by Justice Anthony Kennedy, he includes the following words, “No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.”

“Where’s the puffery in that?” you may ask. Hint: it is in the last sentence. Go ahead, read it again.

(Seriously, read the last line again.)

It says, “two people become something greater than once they were.” Two people. Any reasonable person will accept that the two people are not closely related by blood, are not already married, and are of consenting age. Right?

Someone (not me) could argue that the way this was phrased means that brothers and sisters could be married. After all, they are two people. And who is to say that the love between a brother and sister could not embody “the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family”? Or is that just implied because any reasonable person would find it as unnatural?

How then, do those celebrating this case with terms like “Love is Love” (which, by-the-way breaks the common sense rule of using a word to define itself) counter when someone wants to use the same mantra to allow siblings to marry? Ah, once again, any reasonable person understands that when they state “Love is Love,” they don’t mean that.

Perhaps the president of the United States could clear things up. Let’s see, what did he say? Oh yes. He is quoted as saying on the ruling, “When all Americans are treated as equal we are all more free.”

All Americans, he said. Equal, he said. Of course, he didn’t mean siblings. After all, any reasonable person would know that.

But that then begs the question, what defines someone as a reasonable person? I’m going to propose that it is based on public opinion. Is that too far of a stretch? I don’t think so.

In 1996, a Gallup poll on acceptance of gay marriage showed only a 27 percent approval rating. In May, 2015, Gallup's findings were at a 60 percent approval rating for gay marriage. Apparently a lot more people became reasonable over the last twenty years.

The biggest problem, I see, is that the wording was too broad on the gay marriage ruling in some statements. In a sense, it used puffery.

There are those who are fighting to legalize marriage between siblings. There are those who are fighting to legalize marriage between more than one person. There are those who are even fighting to have the legal age for marriage lowered or eliminated.

To each of these groups fighting for their wants, they too, could argue “Love is Love” and that they are #ProudtoLove. But to them, there is no #marriageequality.

But that’s okay, right? After all, any reasonable person will see how misguided they are. At least until popular opinion changes. 

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hidden Sun Giveaway


Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Hidden Sun by J. Lloyd Morgan

The Hidden Sun

by J. Lloyd Morgan

Giveaway ends July 13, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to Win

Monday, June 8, 2015

Moving irony

Human nature is fascinating. While every person is different, I’ve noticed traits which appear more common than others—behaviors which are not always logical.

Our neighbors across the street are moving. How can I tell? The first hint is the “For Sale” sign in front of their house. However, I should have known they were moving even before the sign went up.

Here’s why:

We’ve lived across the street from them for several years. They’re nice folks. Generally, they keep their lawn trimmed and house maintained, though there are times when the Home Owners Association have had to politely remind them to do these tasks. (I’m on the HOA board.)

Recently, I noticed one of the family members was painting their mailbox post. It’s wood, and needs a fresh coat every so often. I was impressed because as far as I knew the HOA hadn’t said anything to them.

Then I noticed that they trimmed all their bushes and trees. Next came new landscaping updates—mulch, new stones around their trees, and such.

In the last few days, they have power-washed their house. Just this morning, I could see they were getting new carpeting.

Yes, all of these updates are because they are moving. In order to get as much money as they can from their house, they are spending a lot of time, money, and energy to make it a nicer place to live.

I’ll admit that when my wife and I have sold houses in the past, we’ve done some last minute touches to help make it more attractive. Sometimes we’ve joked, “Now that we’ve done these last few things, we really like the house and don’t want to leave it!”

When we moved into the house we are in now, we knew there were things we wanted to do to it. The goal was to make it a place we would want to live in here and now, which would also help make it more valuable down the road if we moved again. The idea was to do a little each year—and it has worked.

We’ve customized our house not only for it to be a place we love living in, but also to help increase its value.

Back to the human nature and logic comment, it strikes me as odd that people time and again spend so much effort on making their house super nice just as they are about to leave it.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Stuck

I just watched the most amazing display. It was one of those experiences where I had to tell myself I was actually seeing what I was seeing.

First, let me set the scene: I’m on break from teaching college English for the summer. The high schools are still in session, and so I work as a substitute teacher. It is a win / win. Once I get the classes started and working on the assignment their regular teacher has left for them, I get a chance to write.

Today is a nice, sunny day at the end of May. I am covering for a Microsoft Word class, so the students each have a computer in front of them and are working quietly on their assignments.

One of the other classes, I don’t know which, are outside working on some sort of project. Some of the students have sports equipment (footballs, tennis rackets, hockey and lacrosse sticks, and a few tennis balls) and are playing across the courtyard. I can see them from my window.

I am not paying them much attention, until I notice several of them standing around a large tree. This time of the year, it is thick, and filled with leaves and branches. Looking closer, I see that one of their footballs is stuck near the top of the tree—too high up for any of them to climb.

After discussing it over as a group, they step back, and using their one remaining football, try to knock the other one out of the tree. Three attempts later, they are not having any luck. On the fourth attempt, the other football gets stuck—not far from the first one.

Once again the students huddle and talk about what to do. Next, one of the students—a tall one with dark hair and fuzz on his chin—throws one of the tennis rackets at the footballs stuck in the tree. Not surprisingly, the racket catches one of the top branches of the tree and stays there.

At this point, I’m looking around for their teacher, but he is on the other side of the courtyard watching different students play some sort of game.

Seemingly undaunted by their recent failures, the students with the remaining sports equipment start throwing everything they have at what the tree has captured. Within moments, all of the items are now lodged somewhere in the tree—and still out of reach.

Without anything else to hurl at the tree, the students look at each other. It was at that moment when I see the proverbial lightbulbs go on over their heads. They now realize they lost more than just one football to the tree; they lost everything.

Instead of going to their teacher, the students sit around the tree, heads hanging in defeat.

Class ends twenty minutes later. The students leave.


The equipment is still in the tree. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Teaching Top 10

I did it. I completed my first year of teaching college English. Though some may find this hard to believe, I honestly feel I learned as much, if not more, than my students.

To be clear, not everything I learned related directly to English. Some of it was about teaching, and even life in general.

What did I learn? Here is my personal top 10.

Number 10: It takes longer to prep for a class than to teach it.

It should only take me about 75 minutes to prepare for a class that runs 75 minutes, right? Nope! I use PowerPoints, short videos, images, and examples when I teach. Each of these takes time to create. The challenge is to make sure I’m teaching the concepts in a way in which the students can actually learn. How long does a lesson take to prepare? Depending on the topic, several hours.

Number 9: The students who sit in the back aren’t the worst students—most of the time.

I remember being told that the best students are those who sit on the front row. That isn’t always the case. Personally, I like to sit in the back because I’m tall and have good vision. And I’m something of an introvert. Some of my best students sat on the back row. But to be fair, almost all of my worst student sat in the back.

Number 8: Teaching can be heartbreaking.

I couldn’t help but get to know many of my students on a personal level from reading their work. One of the big assignments in ENG 111 is to write a personal narrative. Time and again, I was surprised, shocked, and dismayed at many of the events my students had endured. From abusive parents / spouses / boyfriends or girlfriends, to coming to America and having to learn English as a second language, to serious medical conditions (and the list goes on), I grew a new appreciation for overcoming challenges.

Number 7: English, as a language, is pretty confusing.

They’re, Their, and There? When to use whom instead of who? How to explain to a person where English is not their first language when it is appropriate to use “had had” in a sentence. (Example: I had had better days.) What is the difference between affect and effect? Frankly, some of these are downright perplexing! Oh, and by the way, here is a tip for using whom instead of who: replace the word with “he” and “him.” If “him” sounds better, use “whom.” (See how both end with the letter “m”?)

Number 6: College teachers spend more time working outside of class than in—by a lot!

The vast majority of the time in a college class, I’m teaching. It isn’t me just talking the whole time, sometimes we do other learning activities. But grading papers, creating lectures and assignments? These are all done outside of the classroom. 

Number 5: Some students simply do not care.

One of the biggest surprises was encountering students who just didn’t care about the class or learning the material. These are those who would sleep through class, or read books while I am lecturing, and (more often than not) turn in poor work, if they turned it in at all. I only had a few students like this over the last year—but it was common enough to indicate it wasn’t as rare as I would have imagined.

Number 4: Doing the basics makes a huge difference.

At the start of each semester, I give my students the four keys to doing well in a college class. These are: 1. Do ALL of the assignments. 2. Do all of the assignments ON TIME. 3. Do all of the assignments on time AND TO THE BEST OF YOUR ABILITY. 4. Do any EXTRA CREDIT the teacher offers. Most of the students who dropped or failed my classes couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do the first basic rule.

Number 3: Most people procrastinate.

For my classes, almost all of the assignments are submitted online through a program called Blackboard. The deadline for the assignments is 11:59 PM on the assigned day. When a student submits an assignment through the computer, it displays when the assignment was turned in. More than half of my students turned in papers within the final hours before it is due—even when they have had days, and sometimes weeks, to work on it.

Number 2: Good writing takes time.

I already knew this, somewhat, yet it was reinforced this last year. Writing is a process. The papers written for my class went through several stages: prewriting (getting ideas), research, creating an outline, writing a rough draft, doing peer reviews, re-writing the paper based on the feedback, submitting the next draft to a tutoring service (either online or on campus), re-writing the paper again, and then submitting it for the final grade. Those students who did this process earned a good grade. Those who waited until the last minute? Not so much.

Number 1: Teaching is the most rewarding job I’ve ever had.

I’m not saying that my other jobs in retail, TV, and banking didn’t have their perks, but they don’t come close to teaching. Sure, the money isn’t as good. Yet, it is an amazing experience to watch a student grow and apply what they have learned. My primary goal is to help them learn how to learn. That is a skill they will use throughout their lives. When a student tells me, “Mr. Morgan, I’ve never liked English before. But now, I’m getting it. I can see why it is important and how I can use it in my major”—that is a feeling that is 100 times better than being told I was the top sales manager or that our snow coverage set a ratings record.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Your vote is needed!

HELP! (Did that get your attention?) My book “Bring Down the Rain” is up for a RONE award. It’s done well enough that the book has moved to the next phase: public voting! It is in the **Young Adult: General** category.

Please, oh please, go to this link and cast a vote for “Bring Down the Rain.”

http://indtale.com/2015-rone-awards-week-three

Voting ends May 3rd, so please vote soon.

Thanks!


Thursday, April 2, 2015

Discrimination—not a word to be used lightly

I find it disturbing, and frankly sad, when people use powerful words incorrectly. As a writer and an English teacher, I appreciate the power of words. Perhaps that is why it bothers me when people misuse them to try to promote their cause.

A controversial topic in the news right now is about how states are passing religion freedom acts.

One aspect of these laws, to keep it simple, is to protect business owners who refuse to provide services if those services are in conflict with their religious beliefs. As an example, if a gay couple wants a wedding cake maker to create a cake for them, the cake maker can refuse their business without fear of legal repercussions under these laws.

From what I’ve seen, the media is having a field day with this. Aside from calling these laws as “anti-gay”, another word keeps coming up: “discrimination.” But it isn’t.

“WHAT?!?!?!” some of you may say.

Just hear me out.

Discrimination is “the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.” Notice the key word: unfairly. Most people who use the word incorrectly forget (or would like to ignore) that part of the definition. But the most important part of the definition is that the treatment is based on who you are as a person.

The law in the USA says it is illegal to discriminate against the following groups: Age, Disability, Ethnicity, Gender, Marital status, National origin, Race, Religion, and Sexual orientation.

“But, wait!” you might say. “It says right there people cannot discriminate, or treat someone unfairly, based on their sexual orientation.” (It also says “religion” in case you glossed over that.)

Here is the major point a lot of people are missing: there is a difference between refusing services to someone based on their sexual orientation and refusing the service because the action is in conflict with a belief.

In other words, it is discrimination to refuse service because of who someone is, but it is NOT discrimination to refuse services based on what they are doing.

Am I splitting hairs? No, I’m not.

If, as a member of the LDS faith, I were to go to an atheist tailor and request he make a baptismal outfit, the tailor could not refuse my business because I am a Mormon. That’s discrimination; you can’t refuse service based on who the person is.

However, if the tailor refused to create the outfit because he did not want to support an action which he disagreed with—that is NOT discrimination.

Another example: my first job was at McDonald’s. I was 16. One day, a woman came in and started screaming that the French Fries she got in the drive through were cold. I watched as the manager was called every name in the book. He then told the customer, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience. Let me refund your money.” After giving her back her money, she started yelling that she wanted her order done right this time. What did the manager do? He asked her to leave.

What happened next taught me a big lesson.

The lady then yelled, “You are only treating me this way because I’m a woman.”

Calmly, the manager replied, “No. I’m refusing to offer our services based on your actions.”

And he was right. Businesses should have the right to refuse services to anyone unless the reason is based on the proper definition of discrimination.

In the case of the baker and the wedding cake for a gay couple, the owner cannot refuse service based on the fact that the customer is gay. However, if the gay person is getting married (which is legal in a number of states), that is an action. If the owner does not want to support that action, for any reason, including religious, that is not discrimination.

As a writer, I am contacted now and again to write for others. I will do so, as long as what I’m writing is not in conflict with my beliefs. For example, if a person who is eighty-eight years old wants to get back at his ex-wife by paying me to write a book about how she is a horrible person, I would refuse. He could claim I was discriminating against him due to his age. He would be wrong. My refusal has nothing to do with him as a person. It has everything to do with an action.

So, am I calling for the specific right for those who have religious beliefs to be able to refuse services based on the actions of people, including gay people? No. No, I am not.


I am stating that anyone should have the right to refuse service based on the specific actions of another person.