Five Outrageous Ways the Federal Government Has Wasted Your Money (Pt. II)

The federal government is no stranger to out-of-control spending. The national debt has now reached a startling $21 trillion!

That’s not all: Congress recently passed an omnibus spending package that will cost $1.3 trillion. But wasteful federal spending doesn’t stop there.

The federal government has misused your money on various pet projects, both large and small, over the years. It’s time to expose this waste.

Read on to discover five more absurd examples of government waste, as described in Sen. Jeff Flake’s 2017 Wastebook report.

$1.5 Million Spent Studying Fish on Treadmills 

University of California – San Diego study spent a $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation to measure the endurance of mudskipper and bluegill fish on a treadmill.

Sounds like a fishy use of taxpayer funds!

While the National Science Foundation regularly gives grants to universities for research purposes, that taxpayer-funded research is best when it has some tangible benefit for the American people who pay for it.

$1.7 Million Spent on a Comedy Club Featuring Dead Comedian Holograms

The U.S. Department of Commerce spent $1.7 million to help construct a comedy museum in Jamestown, New York that will “resurrect” dead comedians – from Lucille Ball to George Carlin – in the form of holograms.

The holograms will perform in a basement bar for visitors of the National Comedy Center, as a way to attract tourists to Jamestown.

While tourists might chuckle at the holographic comedians, the $1.7 million bill for the project on the taxpayer’s dime is no laughing matter.

$3 Million Spent Studying the Jaws Theme and People’s Perception of Sharks 

In 2016, taxpayers funded a $3 million National Science Foundation grant to study the public’s fear of sharks in relation to the Jaws theme song and music played during documentaries.

Researches noted, “this study specifically highlights the need to raise the public’s awareness of the effect of background music in shark documentaries in hope that it would decrease the extent by which they are affected by it.”

With federal debt soaring, the feds should work to be better stewards of our tax dollars and ensure that every research project funded is a worthwhile use of those dollars. Spending $3 million to study the Jaws theme’s impact on shark perception is not.

The Department of Defense Spent $2.4 Million to Learn How to Get More “Likes” on Social Media  

The Department of Defense funded a $2.4 million study to “counter misinformation or deception campaigns with truthful information,” as part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Social Media in Strategic Communications program.

The researchers examined 1.1 randomly selected photos on Instagram and analyzed numbers of follower on social media accounts.

More than $2 million is a hefty price tag for taxpayers to spend on research that could (and has) easily been done by private groups.  

$3.4 Million Spent on Hamster Cage Matches  

Over the past twenty years, the National Institutes of Health has spent $3.4 million studying aggression and anxiety in more than 1,000 male hamsters.

The study, sponsored by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, involves pitting juvenile male hamsters against each other at Northeastern University in Boston.

Much like a hamster wheel, our national debt continues to spin out of control. It’s time for the federal government to stop wasteful spending on pet projects and use our hard-earned tax dollars in a more responsible manner.

While many of these examples may seem funny, wasteful spending is no joke.

The federal government has spent millions of your hard-earned tax dollars over the years on pointless projects, and the cost borne by current and future taxpayers only continues to grow.

Tell Congress to stop wasting our hard-earned tax dollars and cut wasteful and egregious spending as they write the FY 2019 spending bills.

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Behind the blades: Westpac chopper’s 25 years of saving lives

The veteran pilot has meticulously plucked patients from seas, ravines, and paddocks in his role with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. The team has saved hundreds of lives and is responsible for more than 10,000 rescue operations, but it is the chilling details of some of the oldest rescues that are cemented deepest in his memories.

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Canada : Bill C-71 Background Checks : Marketing Myths vs Reality

Mental Gun Health
Canada : Bill C-71 Background Checks : Marketing Myths vs Reality

Canada – -(Ammoland.com)- Myth: The government says expanding background checks from five years to the entire lifetime of a firearms licence applicant, will enhance public safety and keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people.

Reality: People with long histories of mental health issues self-disclosed on firearms licence applications are issued firearms licences by the RCMP.

During the question and answer portion of testimony before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU) committee on May 24, 2018, Liberal MP Peter Fragiskatos stated:

“There’s been many reports throughout the country that individuals have been able to access firearms and they’re mentally ill, they have struggled with these challenges throughout their lives, they have disclosed this in their application and yet they’re still given a firearm, so that’s, that’s very concerning.”

Fragiskatos is correct. That people with known mental health issues are issued firearms licences is deeply disturbing.

Removing the five-year limit on background checks will not stop this, however, because the time period of the background check is not the issue. The issue is that the RCMP did not do its job and deny those licence applications.

Adrian Clavier, one case referred to by Mr. Fragiskatos, was a 50-year-old man who killed himself in 2015 with a legally owned and registered handgun.

Clavier had a 35-year history of mental illness. He disclosed this on his firearms licence application form. His family members reported their concerns as well.

The RCMP issued him a firearms licence anyway.

The family continued to raise alarms with authorities. Those concerns were ignored.

“They were told that because the guns were licensed and properly stored, and there had been no complaints, there was nothing the RCMP could do.”

Corey Lewis, the other case referred to by Mr. Fragiskatos, was shot and killed in a “suicide by cop” when police responded to the latest in a long string of domestic dispute calls at his Okotoks, Alberta, home.

Lewis disclosed his issues on his firearms licence application, just like Clavier. In his case, Lewis’ wife was not consulted, nor did police check publicly available court documents, according to CBC.

If police will not take long histories of mental health issues into account now, what makes the government believe extending background checks will make any difference?

RCMP told the family it would review the case, but then didn’t respond when the Claviers asked about the results, prompting the family to issue a warning to Canadians:

“I guess it was frankly because we’d been ignored and somebody died because of that. And it shouldn’t have happened,” Reva Clavier said.

“Nothing we did yielded any actions from the institutions that could have made a difference,” said Glenn Clavier, Adrian’s brother.

The issue is not with the length of the background check and changing those goal posts will not and cannot resolve it.

The issue is the RCMP. They are responsible for issuing Possession and Acquisition Licences, and they are not doing their jobs.

  • The warning signs were there.
  • The applicants disclosed their problems.
  • The RCMP ignored the information and issued the licences anyway.

If the goal is to solve the problem of people with mental health issues getting firearms licences, then address and resolve this issue with the RCMP.

Sources:

  • https://parlvu.parl.gc.ca/XRender/en/PowerBrowser/PowerBrowserV2/20180524/629/29382
  • http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/federal-gun-control-reforms-mentally-ill-suicide-1.4591618
  • http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/saskatoon/gun-license-suicide-mental-health-1.4493326

Canadian Shooting Sports AssociationAbout Canadian Shooting Sports Association ( CSSA ):

The CSSA is the voice of the sport shooter and firearms enthusiast in Canada. Our national membership supports and promotes Canada’s firearms heritage, traditional target shooting competition, modern action shooting sports, hunting, and archery. We support and sponsor competitions and youth programs that promote these Canadian heritage activities. Website www.cdnshootingsports.org

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American Values Prove Stubbornly Resistant to Gun Control Opportunism

American Gun Quilt Flag
American Values Prove Stubbornly Resistant to Gun Control Opportunism

Fairfax, VA – -(Ammoland.com)- Social justice busybodies obsessed with how other people live their lives often portray the success of their causes as a matter of destiny.

“The young people will win,” insists one youthful gun control advocate, falsely portraying his personal crusade as a generational mandate. Yet recent events have demonstrated that bedrock American values – including support for the Second Amendment – tend to outlast moments of high emotion that are increasingly relied upon by political opportunists to advance their agenda.

Given the chance to collect their thoughts, most Americans instinctively revert to freedom.

We recently commented on this point with reference to poll numbers that show a familiar pattern of gun control support spiking in the immediate aftermath of an infamous firearm-related crime, only to taper off as the punditry aims its fury in another direction or overplays its hand and is forced to regroup.

Since then, additional evidence has arisen to complicate the media’s breathless narrative that “the ground is shifting on gun control.”

First, more recent poll numbers underscore the fact that Americans, including young Americans, recognize that the country has far more pressing problems than rushing to enact unproven gun control measures.

The Associated Press and MTV, for example, teamed up this year to measure the “Youth Political Pulse,” with surveys conducted from late February to early March (when the news cycle was focused on the terrible crime at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School) and again from late April to early May. Between the survey periods, the percentage of respondents aged 15 to 34 who identified firearm-related issues as their highest concern for the country fell 15 points, from 21% to 6%. During the earlier survey period, the gun issue was the highest concern. In the latter period, it was tied for the sixth most common response, behind the economy, social inequality, and even threat of nuclear war.

Moreover, a week after a similar crime in Santa Fe, Texas on May 18, support for gun control in the Lone Star State had actually dropped 6% since April, as measured by Quinnipiac University polling. Support for stricter gun laws was also lower in the May sample among those aged 18 to 34 than among those 65 or older, another inversion of the conventional wisdom that youth are destined to change the national debate on this question.

A Quinnipiac analyst opined: “The tragedy at the Santa Fe school south of Houston changed few opinions among Texas voters about gun control. Support for gun control in general is down slightly, while support for background checks for all gun buyers is virtually unchanged.”

Adding to the gun control advocates’ woes were the release of data and studies that contradicted their claims of a rising epidemic of school shootings fueled by easy access to so-called “assault weapons.”

The website The74Million.org, which describes itself as a “non-profit, non-partisan news site covering education in America,” published a lengthy interview in May with Criminologist Nadine Connell of the University of Texas at Dallas, who’s compiling a database of every school shooting since 1990. The piece underscored Connell’s findings that “school shootings are extremely rare” and that allowing them to drive policy isn’t “always the most productive” way to keep students safe.

Connell indicated that “from the perspective of policymaking,” the media’s current reporting on school shootings can be misleading.

“[A]s of now,” she said, “we don’t think there is an increase in the number of incidents as much as there is an increase in the attention to the incidents.” She also stressed that “the number of rampage-like incidents remains extremely low, and they are a relatively small subsection of the shootings we are analyzing.” Schools, Connell said, “are the safest they’ve ever been.”

While Connell indicated in the interview that she is not a fan of arming teachers, she also declined to put gun control at the center of the debate. When asked what would be the “most effective method to stop the lion’s share of the problem,” she emphasized “whole-school-centered approaches to improve climate, clarify expectations, and support teachers and administrators in creating a community of trust and support.” She also noted that the “environmental design” of schools can play an important role in keeping kids safe without making them feel like they are under siege.

Can Mass Shootings be Stopped?

Perhaps more even more ironic was a May 22 report from the Rockefeller Institute that was funded by a multi-state “Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium” representing a who’s-who of Northeastern antigun jurisdictions. Entitled “Can Mass Shootings be Stopped?” the report broadly focuses on mass shootings in general, rather than on school-specific events.

Like Connell, however, the authors mentioned media distortion as an impediment to understanding the true nature of the problem.

“Mass shootings, and those that are particularly lethal, are amplified by the news cycle, making them appear more commonplace when they are, in fact, statistically rare,” they stated. They also characterized the media’s coverage of the events as “unbalanced,” potentially leading the public to “hold disproportional attitudes about the events themselves.”

The report made the points that mass shootings are not limited to the U.S. but “occur in countries worldwide,” are nearly three times more likely to be perpetrated with handguns than with “assault weapons,” and occur more frequently in workplaces than in schools. Also likely to displease its funders is the report’s observation that gun control laws, whether passed in the immediate wake of a mass shooting or kept on the books for decades “often are not enforced, leading them to be ineffective at preventing the next mass shooting.” But perhaps most damning of all was the authors’ admonition that “[k]nee-jerk reactions rooted in emotion will not solve the problem.”

Mass Shooting School Gun Laws Bans
But perhaps most damning of all was the authors’ admonition that “[k]nee-jerk reactions rooted in emotion will not solve the problem.”

Yet that is exactly how gun control advocates operate and what they offer. Whatever can be said about the youthful gun control activists who have captured so much of the media’s attention lately, they are among the prime purveyors of emotionalism and hyperbole. And far from bringing innovative new thinking to the issue, their main “solution” is the tired notion of banning guns that are underrepresented in rampage gun crimes and remain highly popular among the law-abiding. Instead of treating every word out of their mouths as some new game-changing revelation, their gun control seniors should remind them that “assault weapon” bans had until recently been de-emphasized as an embarrassment to the movement and too obvious of its prohibitory intent.

Unlike the latest gun control hashtag or self-congratulatory Hollywood vanity project, the National Rifle Association has been around since 1871. We’ve seen movements come, and we’ve seen movements go. And while we never doubt the sincerity of our opposition in their desire to eradicate the right to keep and bear arms, we’re not about to change our values or objectives just because some media talking heads or youth-obsessed celebrities begin making demands or throwing around half-baked claims.

Fortunately, the American commitment to freedom also remains strong and resilient. And freedom-loving Americans know they have an ally in the NRA.

National Rifle Association Institute For Legislative Action (NRA-ILA)

About:
Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the “lobbying” arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Visit: www.nra.org

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How to travel the world with 2 little kids: Teach them that every step counts

Raj Gill

Raj Gill

Quitting your job and selling your house and all of your possessions to travel the world is something many people find themselves daydreaming about when they feel their lives have fallen into a state of predictable motion. A fair number of rather reasonable arguments typically dissuade most people from pursuing the notion.

But the feeling of being an alien in a foreign land is intoxicating. I often thought of leaving California behind and breaking with my routine to embrace the unknown and in so doing becoming an alien to everything, including myself. The fire continued to rage in my mind, and when I spoke to my partner about it, I learned that the same fire burned inside her as well. Within two months, we sold our house, all of our belongings, quit our jobs and bought four one way tickets to Australia; two adults and two children.

I felt embarrassed telling my friends and family about our decision and worried that it would make me seem irresponsible. The idea of leaving a great job and uprooting our family was met with as much judgmental condemnation as one would get for choosing to drink or gamble with abandon. I avoided speaking of our intentions again until we were just about to board a plane that would take us away from California. I updated my status online that described our exodus, and with 40-liter backpacks strapped on our respective backs, our three-year-old boy gripping tightly to my hand and our five-year-old boy gripping tightly to my partner’s, we boarded the plane and never looked back.

We spent the summer in Australia, surfing Bondi Beach, walking Graffiti Alley in Melbourne and sunbathing along the Sunshine Coast. After three months, we had exhausted the amount of time we were permitted on our Australian visas. With summer transitioning to fall, we set our sights on New Zealand.

Much of our time in our previous life was spent losing ourselves in Yosemite and Lassen National Parks or trail running the Marin Headlands and Point Reyes. We often hiked through the pine forests of Tahoe or the redwood forests nestled behind the Mendocino coastline. We made a pact before the trip that this particular quality of our lives would travel along with us, and we did just what most outdoor adventurers would do upon landing in Nelson airport: salivated at the thought of conquering the great tracks of New Zealand’s South Island.

Our first hike with the boys began with exploring a pocket of nestled beauty called the Abel Tasman, located on the northeast coastline of the South Island. We took a water taxi that dropped us off on a small exposed sandbar in an estuary that existed for only a few hours, expanding as quickly as the tide receded into the Tasman Bay and disappearing upon its return. We ferried the boys across one at a time on our backs, moving slowly through the surprisingly crisp, knee-deep water that bridged the exposed and isolated raft of yellow sand to the thin Tasman coastline.

We approached this tramp with our boys with a sink or swim attitude, wholly accepting our punishment of having to carry them on our backs should they not rise to the challenge. Our parenting style had always differed from those in the community we left a few months prior. We allow them to fall and scrape their knees, to make their own mistakes, to concede defeat in the face of a valiant effort. We pushed them to try before they could accept their own presumed limitations. My partner and I controlled the wind that passed across their boughs in a manner meant to strengthen their branches but not break them. They would, more often than not, surprise themselves upon rising up and working through their own challenges.

We assumed the 22-kilometer hike would be a pretty strong gust, but to our surprise, we found that the adults were trying to keep pace with the boys. We were evidently the weak links in the chain. Was it their center of gravity that made tramping come more easily to them or the efficiencies of their metabolic engine that constantly turns over calories for energy like a Ferrari turns petrol into horsepower? Their enthusiasm and seemingly endless supply of energy that remained, even after concluding the day-long tramp with burgers at The Fat Tui, motivated us to tramp progressively longer and more difficult terrain. Soon we felt confident in our plan of tramping across New Zealand with our sights set on accomplishing an expert-level overnight hike up Mt. Robert to the Angelus Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park.
* * *
I peered across the shifter to my partner and said, “There’s only one direction we can go and that’s forward.” We were all alone on the one-way road that hugged Mount Robert. Just ahead of us, the gravel gave way to mud, stretching a quarter mile ahead of us. I scanned ahead and saw that the first half of the road had a forgiving upward slope, but then a handful of orange traffic cones were scattered in front of a section of road that appeared to go vertical. I slammed the shifter into first gear, revved the engine of the rented Honda Fit and held my breath until we reached the other side. My quads were on fire from riding the clutch while lifting my body above my seat to be able to see the road. When we summited past the cones and fell back onto level and graveled road, I turned to my partner and saw her hands wrapped white knuckled around the “Oh Shit Handle” that had been previously dangling freely just above her head.

“It wasn’t that bad,” I said as her dilated pupils relaxed and her eyes rolled in that special way that lets me know I have no idea what I am talking about.

After we parked, we collected our gear and tried to focus on the moment instead of on what lay ahead of us: 24 kilometers over 36 hours. We moved quickly through the small section of beech forest that separated the car park and the start of the aptly named Pinchgut Track. A thick canopy of beech trees retained the water in the air, humidifying the organic plumes of earthy aromatics emanating from the detritus scattered across the forest floor. Microbeads of water sat atop green carpets of moss blanketing the decaying stumps and fallen branches lining the trail.

Exposed tree roots snagged the boys’ boots more times than I could count. My shoulder ached from having to reach my arm out quickly and grip whatever fabric I could to prevent the boys from falling flat on their faces several times, so I called an impromptu family meeting. My partner and I established a rule that we have repeated on every hike since and have now woven into the philosophy we teach the boys: Every step matters, every step is important, every step counts, and how you take that step directly affects the outcome of how you move forward towards the next one. A rock is a rock, whether it’s in the car park, on the trail, in a river crossing or on top of a mountain, but the consequences of tripping over it can vary depending on the circumstance, from insignificant to deadly.

The mid-morning sun began to penetrate the canopy ahead of us, revealing the exposed path leading us to the start of the serial switchbacks that would carry us up 800 meters over 90 minutes. Under our boots, soft earth turned into coarse and dry gravel. The flora transitioned from green ferns to mountain wildflowers and the clear blue sky stretched out towards infinity overhead. Purple and red foxgloves began to fill the empty spaces along the trail.

As we made our ascent, Lake Rotoiti’s blue expanse beckoned us, offering up its cold and crisp waters to rinse the sweat off our skin and resolve the dryness in our throats. My muscles began to burn again. The day hikers that had passed us expanded their distance, while the ones we had previously passed were reducing it. This expansion and contraction between the groups persisted, and in this way, we all accordioned our way up the mountain.

We reached the start of the Robert Ridge Track with another shift in climate and terrain. The wind gusts were strong atop the ridge, and with our guts pinched from the switchbacks, the cold and crisp alpine air cooled us down while also taking some of the weight off our tired legs as it pushed against our backs. We reached the Relax Shelter and exchanged pleasantries with day hikers taking a break before heading back down Paddy’s Track on the opposite side of the ridge. Children on the ridge, we grew to learn, were an unusual sight, given the reactions we received. Responses were split between admiring the boys’ courage (and our patience) and skeptical optimism.

We split from the group and continued along the ridge, not knowing that that would be the last time we would see another hiker while on the ridge. After a few hours, the trail grew narrow and slowly began to recede into the mountain beneath us. The sky continued to reflect the blue from Lake Rotoiti; however, quickly shifting light grey clouds could be seen swirling further up the ridge, waiting for our arrival. We were approaching the Julius Summit, nearly 1,800 meters above sea level, when a drop in pressure and temperature caused the water in the air to suddenly condense all around us. We stopped and became mesmerized at witnessing the birth of a cloud. A wisp of white candy floss suddenly materialized from nothing, swirling in a funnel created by two disparate pressures colliding in a moment. The nascent tuft of white air released and drifted like a leaf trapped in a whirlpool, fixed in constant motion, until its mass grew large enough to be ejected from the turbulent air.

After stopping for lunch to let rain pass ahead, we pressed on. The clouds gathered and dispersed for several kilometers, occasionally releasing their contents upon us but never enough to hinder our momentum. We summited the mountain and found being positioned above everything around us, including the clouds, allowed the trail markers to be easily visible as we scanned ahead. The ridge began to slope downward and our legs felt the relief of not having to work as hard; however, the recent rains made our descent more difficult than previously presumed.

Over the next kilometer, I realized the risk my partner and I took in bringing the boys on the tramp. I accepted my punishment by moving a few meters ahead, releasing my pack from my back, then returning back to the boys in order to ferry them one at a time across the difficult and dangerous terrain, only to collect my pack and start all over again at the next sign of apparent risk. We moved in this way until we reached an expansive scree field that buried several trail markers in its path. I turned to my partner and we discussed the risks of moving forward or turning back. Having already experienced the difficult terrain as I ferried the boys down the wet cliffside, I was worried how much more difficult it would be to repeat it while working against gravity. On the other hand, the terrain ahead of us was unknown, offering a variety of unknown possibilities. “A rock is a rock,” we reminded ourselves.

This fractured landscape wouldn’t let me move ahead and ferry the boys across it as I had before. We had to move slowly, as a unit, across the scree field, lifting the boys to rocks they couldn’t climb onto and holding their hands as they jumped down from ones they could. To the boys, it was fun to rock climb. But we had not come across another human since we started on the ridge. The boys didn’t realize that if something happened, a response would not be immediate, but we did. To compound our worry, the sun seemed to drop faster across the horizon than our descent on the cliff, and should another scree field lie further ahead on our path, we would have to cross it in the dark.

The mantra that we established at the start of our tramp carried us across without incident. We breathed a sigh of relief and silently hoped that we wouldn’t need to cross another scree field on our path to the hut. The boys, on the other hand, were excited at the prospect of scrambling across another. In the end, we ended up going past several more, and fortunately they were only a few meters across. We didn’t hesitate when we scanned ahead to find boulders had collapsed the trail ahead of us; we were still riding off the adrenaline from having successfully traversed what ended up to be the longest and most difficult scree field on the ridge. We discovered that this irregular trail — solid ground with sections of scree intermixed — carried a rhythm in its terrain. We glided swiftly across the wet rock and loose gravel as our steps harmonized to it, moving back up the ridge and arriving at the top of the valley as twilight fell across our shoulders.

When the boys asked how much further until we arrived to the hut, I lied. “It’s just passed the next trail marker,” I replied, buying us a few hundred meters of silence before they asked again. “I meant to say past the next trail marker . . . or the one after that,” I said, all the while, secretly wishing that my non-answer was true. My stalling wouldn’t last, and their motivation could dissipate when they realized I had no idea how much further until we arrived at the hut.

We tramped with the clouds above our heads and below our feet, and fortunately, everything at eye level was clear, albeit damp. We stopped as a gust of wind pushed us off the trail, and after allowing it to pass, we stepped back onto the ridge and saw that the wind pushed the clouds away from the valley to the east, exposing a series of ponds spread across the mountain. It was getting darker. Although it was becoming more difficult to see the worry on my partner’s face, I could feel it radiate off of her body. What was even more troubling was the sudden awareness of the boys’ silence; there were no more questions about when we would arrive, no brotherly banter, just silence and their pace had slowed.

The boys were tired and needed to take a break. The weight on my shoulders grew heavier. The air was transitioning from dark blue to purple, and I knew that taking a break would all but ensure we would be tramping in the dark. I sprinted into the fog to scout ahead, leaving my pack behind.

I returned in a few short minutes with a smile from ear to ear. I threw my pack over one shoulder and instructed the boys to get up and muster as much courage and energy as they could because the hut was in the valley just below us. A hundred or so meters ahead of us was the trail that led down into the valley. As we sprinted towards the branch, the sky opened up, basking us in a light that had previously fallen beneath the top of the alpine ridge. The air quickly transitioned from purple to blue carried by strands of yellow that shimmered off Lake Angelus and poured over the edges of the hills that bordered the valley. We ran to the edge of the ridge and peered down over the valley below; the momentary silence was broken by laughter coming from the boys.

“Every step counts,” I said, as we broke from the ridge and moved down the loose gravel trail that would lead us to shelter.

Tired, hungry and cold, but filled with relief, we slowed our pace, knowing there was nothing more to worry about beyond securing a bunk space. I looked up and saw the yellow lights growing bigger and brighter the closer we got to the hut. The light began to leak from the windows and illuminate the porch, then the wire boot brush on the ground next to the steps to the deck, then the last few meters of the trail. The dark receded to reveal a dozen smiling faces watching our every step as we drew closer to them. I heard the people clapping as the yellow light illuminated the face of my youngest and then his brother. The boys stopped, unsure of what was happening, and looked back at us with both confusion and surprise in their smiles.
* * *
The next morning, we joined a table of fellow hikers for breakfast. The boys spoke of their courage across the wet scree and informed the table of our mantra, “Every step counts.” Over the course of the next half hour, the hut began to empty. Our brief respite needed to come to an end.

We took the track down the mountainside, winding back and forth across several arteries flowing with water; our socks that had dried overnight were drenched within the first kilometer. We followed the water through mud and marshland, ferrying the boys across rushing streams and carrying them over my head across waist deep rivers until the path brought us to the edge of the beech forest that we started from. The forest canopy brought respite from an unrelenting midday sun but blanketed the remainder of the trail in a persistent twilight.

As we passed another kilometer deeper into the forest, the temperature began to drop and the boys began asking how much longer again. Our youngest was becoming more vocal with his narrative of the status of his body and mind. We encouraged them to keep moving by distracting them with topics in mammalian and plant biology, zoology, philosophy and English. This worked for a spell, until the discussion began to grow exponentially more complex with every “but why?”

I could hear whimpers from our youngest. I stopped to lean down and asked him if he was OK, if he needed to be picked up. He said he did, that his legs hurt, but he thought he would be able to continue on if he only had his “Buggies” — two ladybug snuggle toys he has slept with every night of his life. We carried our sleeping bags, food and water on our backs; “Buggies” had been deemed nonessential and remained behind in the car.

Before starting the hike, my partner and I agreed that if the boys could no longer go on of their own free will, we would accommodate their needs, either by picking them up or ending the tramp and turning back around. We wanted them to hit their wall, feel their boughs creak and bend, and let them decide for themselves. My son brought something different to the table: a quid pro quo. I wondered how far he would be willing to take it. We decided that my eldest and I would sprint ahead until we reach the car, drop our gear off and retrieve the Buggies to motivate him to finish the tramp.

I reminded my eldest son of our mantra: “Every step counts.” We took a deep breath and started sprinting up the trail while my partner kept a walking pace with our youngest. We ran two kilometers up through the forest, jumping over rocks and exposed roots that crossed our path, until reaching the car park and finding leaf litter blanketing our rental car. I threw my pack in the trunk and opened the back door, finding Buggies next to a half-eaten leftover carrot cake in the rear cup holder. I grabbed Buggies, stole a bite of cake and handed the rest to my son. “Don’t tell your brother we ate his cake.”

We ran down the path, two plush ladybugs in hand, and I trusted my eldest to keep his own pace as I began to sprint back to meet the others. Only a kilometer away from the car park, my youngest son dropped my partner’s hand and began screaming and crying with joy while running towards his long lost friends. After he settled down, he kept repeating, “I can do this now, I can do this now.” He squeezed one bug in each hand and picked up his pace as he started to move up the path. The three of us continued, collecting our eldest son along the way. The boys fell silent; they were focused on finishing now. My partner and I were silent too, astonished at the resolve our boys displayed. We reached the car park and turned back towards the forest, sharing a collective sigh of relief and pride. With little fanfare, we returned to the car, dropped it in gear and slowly drove past the head of the trail we had conquered, the momentary silence broken by a voice from the backseat: “Hey, where’s my cake?”

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Professor calls for ‘toxic masculinity’ training in children as young as kindergarten-aged

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is calling for K-12 schools to create programs to combat “toxic masculinity” from kindergarten all the way through high school.

What are the details?

On Thursday, Campus Reform reported that professor Kathleen Elliott said that it’s imperative for elementary school teachers to “recognize, reject, and challenge simplified toxic masculinity” in children as young as kindergarten-aged.

Elliott argues that by integrating collegiate “Men’s Projects” — which, according to Campus Reform, are programs that “typically probes participants to reflect on the ramifications of masculinity” — into K-12 schools could help eradicate “toxic masculinity.”

So, wait — what’s ‘toxic masculinity,’ anyway?

According to Tolerance.org, “toxic masculinity” is defined as:

Toxic masculinity is a narrow and repressive description of manhood, designating manhood as defined by violence, sex, status and aggression. It’s the cultural ideal of manliness, where strength is everything while emotions are a weakness; where sex and brutality are yardsticks by which men are measured, while supposedly “feminine” traits—which can range from emotional vulnerability to simply not being hypersexual—are the means by which your status as “man” can be taken away.

Right. And how is this supposed to apply to kindergarteners?

In a recent issue of academic journal On the Horizon, Elliott points to the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s defunct Men’s Project, which aimed to educate students on “intersectionality and the complexity of masculinity identities” and encouraged students to “challenge simplified definitions of masculinity.”

According to Elliott, “Educators of all types can and should be involved in this work, which includes simple steps that educators across disciplines can engage daily in their schools.”

She notes that in addition to bringing such Men’s Projects to the (much) younger grade levels, educators can “highlight women’s achievements in curricula and in the classroom” to help combat “toxic masculinity.”

“Including women’s achievements and stories in the official curriculum has been promoted for decades as a way to work towards gender equality and empower young women in the classroom,” Elliott notes, and says that teaching “women’s achievements” is also a beneficial tool to shape the minds of boys.

“It is also a powerful way for boys to see examples of women who are intelligent, capable leaders,” Elliott says.

She suggests that elementary school teachers as well as middle- and high-school teachers should “explicitly teach and model complex masculinity” to combat anything that may promote “aspects of toxic masculinity such as physical strength, dominance, and heterosexual prowess.”

“While educators have taken on gender inequality in the past, for the most part, we have not stepped forward to take the same kind of lead in challenging toxic masculinity,” Elliott continues, noting that it is “essential” for men to be involved and to take leadership roles in such work.

Elliott adds that educators are heavily responsible to “teach young men and boys to recognize and challenge simplified conceptions of their own and others’ identities.”

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