When You Care Enough to Send the Very Worst

Last weekend I went shopping at a Hallmark store to buy a birthday card for my youngest son.   I had a hard time finding one appropriate. The “son” cards fell into two categories: for little boys and for grown men.   Hardly anything fitting a child between 8 and 20.

What I had no trouble in finding, however, were raunchy cards which have taken over a sizeable portion of the shelf space.

One card showed a young boy discovering his mother’s tattoo near her rear end. Another one said “wishing you a birthday full of knockers, jugs, and hooters.”

Then there was a card with a drawing of excrement on the front with a saying inside not suitable for a family newspaper.

By the way, all of these tasteless cards were displayed at a child’s eye level with nothing to shield the front of them.

Years ago, there were alternative card shops whose specialty were risqué greeting cards. Never did I think I’d see those products in a Hallmark store.

In the press release for the re-launch of this Shoebox line, the company freely admits that “the entire collection has been updated with . . . language reflected in today’s world” and

“reflects how people today talk, text, tweet and post.”

If the litmus test is “language that reflects today’s world” then why not just delete any level of decency and publish cards with f-bombs and drugs?

On their website, Hallmark states “that our products and services must enrich people’s lives” and that we “are committed to . . . high standards of ethics and integrity.”

How do these repulsive cards follow those guidelines?

I contacted Hallmark to see how they can justify offering such an off-color line of cards and still uphold their company’s core values so explicitly expressed on their website.

Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Steve Doyal told me that “our goal is to appeal to a wide range of people who want to connect with one another through laughter.” It appears that Hallmark is hiding behind the “humor” rationale to explain away the crass words and images that appears on several of their cards today.

Some of the high school sophomores I teach to laugh at immature jokes that are not suitable for young kids. But they are 15-year-olds.   So when companies create sophomoric material, ignoring that there are impressionable children among us, it boggles the mind.

Anyone who wishes to provide feedback on these vulgar products can comment on Hallmark’s website. Curiously, when I submitted a comment mentioning a card with multiple uses of the f-word that is slang for flatulence, the following error message appeared: “We’re sorry, but we have encountered the following issue(s): your text contains inappropriate language.”

Exactly my point.

According to company spokesperson Jaci Twidwell, Hallmark does have taste guidelines, yet strives to provide a “wide breadth of products” to their consumer base.

Even if one allows it is in good taste to print a greeting card depicting excrement, why not at the very least instruct your merchants to display these cards in some way so children don’t see them?

So in order to sell more cards, the standard has to be lowered, the content edgy.

The company’s long-standing slogan “when you care enough to send the very best” seems to have been forgotten.

I wonder what Hallmark CEO Donald J. Hall, Jr.’s grandfather and company founder J.C. Hall would think of this new line of greeting cards. His reaction might be so objectionable that it would fit right in among the other Shoebox offerings.

Schools Need More Secure Campuses

Everytown for Gun Safety reports that on average a school shooting occurs every week in America.

It is difficult to wrap one’s mind around such a statistic.   A school should be a haven for children, a safe place for parents to have their kids while at work.

When students go to school, all are expected to return home safely.

Only these days, there seems to be no sanctuary from maniacs causing death and misery to innocent people, the most recent example being the tragedy that happened last week at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

How ironic that since 9/11 no foreign terrorist attack has hit our shores, yet terror has become more prevalent in the form of Americans who plan and execute random shootings on school campuses.

Have lockdowns and bomb threats become part of the culture of going to school for students and teachers?

When I took teacher credential classes at Cal State University, Northridge many years ago, there was never a discussion about what to do during a lockdown because Columbine was still more than a decade from happening.

As if teaching does not have enough challenges, now there is a sense of potential dread that at any given moment, completely unannounced and in the blink of an eye, a teacher and her students may face a deadly threat. Once that notion has been planted, it cannot be redacted from one’s psyche.

The common strategy on dealing with a shooter on campus is to have a lockdown, locking doors, turning off lights, and hiding under desks.

I have had to sweat it out over two real lockdowns that thankfully turned out to be harmless but were still emotionally trying for the two-hour duration as I huddled with 30-some students under tables on the floor with the lights out, some students sobbing.

The main rationale for this procedure is so that when the police arrive on the scene they won’t confuse who the shooter is.   Frankly, if I heard shots in the classroom right next to mine, I have no idea how I might react. It seems to me that making a run for it in the opposite direction of the shooting would produce a higher survival rate than cowering on the floor and listening for the shooter to approach.   A locked door would hardly deter a determined killer.

While the public and political pundits debate gun control, the local schools boards in our communities should work independently on how to better secure school facilities.

In Glendale, all elementary schools have secured entry doors that require a buzz-in.

Scott Anderle, Assistant Director of Student Support Services for GUSD, said that due to the recent bomb threat evacuation that took place at Hoover High, the district was able to put into use newly installed high definition cameras that aided in the investigation.

But even the most sophisticated equipment can’t detect an impending threat. That is where vigilance on the part of everyone is needed.

“We get our best info from students,” Anderle said.

The district will be examining modifications to its current lockdown procedures for an active shooter such as allowing the classroom teacher to make the decision whether to stay put or to relocate students to a secured location away from the incident “if it is safe to do so.”

No one wants schools to resemble penitentiaries, but in today’s America, prisons seem safer than schools.   When is the last time you read about a mass shooting at a prison?