A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Smooches from The Internets

First, apparently my blog has been listed on a couple of pornographic blogs.

As the Church Lady would say, "Well, isn't that special?"

As this Church lady says "Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww, gross! And demeaning!"

On a nicer note, RedKudu was sharing the love, and then I found at that she and I and a few other worthy pedabloggers are featured today on The Visual Thesaurus.

Then I was tagged by the effervescent Quaker Dave as one of his Blogs of Note. Sweet!

So I'm here to say that I love way more than five blogs, so I am just going to list five blogs who make me laugh, besides Quaker Dave, who also smacks my conscience upside the head.

I do love Ramblin' Educat(when we're not crying)-- and Mamacita-- and The Unbearable Bobness of Being-- and Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog-- and The Pig's Tales. And there's lots more of you I love to read, too.

So, Happy Saturday!

And if you came here from the porn site, you need help. Serious help.


Friday, March 30, 2007

It's that time of year when kids (and teachers) are losing it

Is it spring? Already? Must be-- the temperature just jumped an average of forty degrees around here. Therefore, a few friendly public service announcements from your harried local high school teacher:

1. Rejection and acceptance letters from colleges are arriving in mailboxes all over the country. Genuine anguish and elation will ensue. Beware of this season, and if you know any high school seniors, treat each of them solicitously like a bear with a sore paw until the all clear is blown in May. Listen for, as Inigo Montoya so aptly put it, "the sound of ultimate suffering" being emitted from a teenager near you, and respond with kleenex and double mocha lattes. Or chocolate.

2. Senioritis has blossomed like a mushroom cloud over many a school building. Pranks are in the works. If you teach in a rural area, consider this your greased-pig alert-- it's probably the only one you will get from a reliable source. Other unfortunate farm creatures who may get swept into the maelstrom include cows, who will go up stairs but resist going down stairs; horses, which actually are just furry containers to temporarily hold then emit enormous amounts of "numbers one and two" upon pristine hallway floors; and chickens, who apparently have wings for no reason whatsoever except to fry them and coat them in a yummy sauce consisting of "El Muerte" hot sauce and butter. If you teach in a more urban setting, the kids will still probably try to procure the barnyard animals, or set loose snakes in the building, or mice. The mind reels.

3. Advanced placement tests will begin to be given the first week of May. An enormous sigh of relief will be issued all across the country which may accelerate global warming on May 11. Hopefully this breath will not reek of numerous double mocha lattes with a shot of motor oil from QuikTrip.

4. It is also NCLB testing time. My kids' elementary school has now offered eight-- EIGHT!!-- parents' meetings about these dread invaders from the state department of education.

To misquote a famous poem (apologies to William Carlos Williams, and indeed all English majors everywhere):

so much depends
a magic test score
or letter

glazed with portent
and rainwater

beside the white

(Who've been
by the senior

You have been warned.

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Thursday, March 29, 2007

The stagnation of teacher salaries

For a while there, the Cornelius household has been contemplating a return to the beloved home state. I began to surreptitiously investigate school districts back home.

Then I told my husband he'd better make a whole lot more money back there.

If I moved back to Oklahoma, EVEN ASSUMING that they gave me credit for all my years of experience, I would take nearly a thirty thousand dollar pay cut.

Thirty! Thousand! Dollars!

A year!

And probably more, since most districts do NOT give full credit for experience. I mean, that's an entire beginning teacher's salary, which, accoding to a report out from the American Federation of Teachers, averages $31,753.

Now look, I never thought that I would get rich at this gig, nor am I really interested in getting rich. I'd like to be able to afford to send my kids to college, though (let me assure you that teacher pay has not kept up with the rising price of college, either).

Here are a few interesting facts from the post at AFT's Let's Get It Right blog:
The average teacher pay in 2005 was $47,602. Beginning teacher pay was $31,753.

Average and Beginning wages didn’t keep pace with inflation in 2005.

Real salaries for experienced teachers in the largest cities rose by less than 1 percent in 2006. Average raises for beginning teachers were up by 1.3 percent.

Between 1995 and 2005 real pay in the private sector rose by 12.7 percent. Real beginning teacher pay rose by 3.3 percent. Average teacher pay rose by 1 percent.

When compared to professions requiring similar education, real teacher pay rose by less than 1 percent over the five years 2000-2005. Pay for other professions rose by more than 6 percent.

A beginning teacher with the average student loan burden could expect to spend almost 9 percent of her take home pay on loans in 2006.

In 15 of the 50 largest cities in America a mid-career teacher can’t afford the median priced home.

Let me point out a few facts. In this 2004 article from San Francisco,
... home ownership in San Francisco is almost completely out of reach for teachers in the city. According to the California Budget Project, it takes a monthly income of $10,308.08 to buy a median-priced home in the city, but a teacher makes just $4,160.75.
California school districts such as San Jose Unified, Santa Clara Unified, San Diego Unified already have programs to help teachers afford housing near where they teach. My sister taught in the San Diego area, and still could not afford a home, nor even rent.

Now, here in the vast Land Between the Coasts, the situation in not THAT dire, but salaries have certainly been stagnating in the last few years. And if you live in a so-called "Right to Work" state, chances are that teachers lack the ability to officially engage in collective bargaining. All it takes is one confrontational superintendent to be hired, and districts around here can change the terms of teachers' contracts at will.

It's not so much about me, either. I reached the top of our district's salary scale this year, and got a very lovely increase in salary from moving up a step (add in the fact that we no longer have to pay child care for the first time in thirteen years, and it seems like we've just become Enron execs, figuratively speaking. How wonderful that college is just around the corner!). But I worry about those teachers in the middle as well as those at the bottom.

There's a lot of noise made by a certain sector of the population about how teachers are lazy and overpaid-- John Stossel has been a prominent mouthpiece for this viewpoint. Here's the basic story: teachers don't work an 8 hour day, teachers get three months of vacation, and two weeks at Christmas, and Spring Break too.

Let me explain this gently: teachers spend 6.75 hours each day, with a 22 minute lunch, followed by an average of an hour to an hour and a half of unremunerated work spent planning lessons and grading papers, including time spent on weekends. Teachers do not even have the ability to go to the restroom when the need arises.

In the state in which I live, teachers are pretty much required to have a master's degree after teaching for six or so years. My school district did not pay for my master's degree-- I was expected to pay for it myself. My husband's company has paid for him to earn one master's degree and two graduate certificates, and they would pay for him to go to law school, if he should so desire.

Teachers do not get ANY paid vacation. We are paid over the summer with money we earned during the school year.

I am here because I love teaching and helping students. I enjoy their sense of humor, I enjoy watching the spark of understanding in their eyes. I know lots of teachers who feel the same way.

The least we can expect is to be able to have a hearth and home while we labor to educate young minds and often heal wounded souls as well.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another great Carnival of Education!

The Education Wonks have a bright and spangly Midway up at their place!

I particularly liked this one about homework and this one about plagiarism and this one about working teachers absolutely to death and this one about courage.

Go take a look-see!


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Pray for Tony Snow and his family

Presidential spokesman Tony Snow, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2005, has had a cancerous growth removed from near his liver today.

This disease is truly a silent threat. Colon cancer often metastasizes to the liver. Both my mother and my father had colon cancer. My grandmother had colon cancer. Some of my great-aunts and great-uncles had colon cancer. My father passed away from metstasized colon cancer last year, and it had spread to his liver and lungs. By the time we found out, it was too late to do anything. Mr. Snow has been much more proactive, and that is a true blessing.

Mr. Snow and his wife, Jill, have three children between the ages of 11 and 14.

Mr. Snow has always been a class act when it comes to fighting this disease. I am sure that his strength of will will help him carry through this latest development.

For those of us with a family history of this disease, we must obtain a colonoscopy starting when we are forty. I've already had one-- and it is NOT a horrible ordeal. Modern medicine has made this procedure incredibly safe and pain-free. Those without a family history should get colonoscopies starting when they are fifty. A colonoscopy provides peace of mind that is worth far more than any momentary inconveniences.

No matter what your political affiliation, I bid your prayers for Tony Snow and his family, and ask that you keep him in your heart.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 58: Remembrance of paradises past edition

Ahhh, spring break. So let's play Movie Madness Monday! Our topic: where I'd like to be right now.

Here's how we do it: I give you some starter quotes from a movie. You respond in the comments with some quotes of your own without naming the movie. Later in the week all will be revealed.

Okay? Let's hit it!

"You kids suck; you're good at everything!"

"Hey, Mr. Peanut Butter Cups!"
"Hey, Mr. Could-Kill-Me-In-One-Punch!"

"I don't believe it... Bruce Willis is a ghost!"

"Well, I may not able to kick your ath but my thithter thure can!"

"Hi, I'm Tom!"

"Damn you Haole! You make my sister work in your hotels!"

****Weeknd update: Wake up Haole! It's


This is the first Adam Sandler movie I REALLY liked, and it doesn't hurt that it has Drew Barrymore and Hawai'i, either. Also Rob Scneider acually made me laugh as Ula instead of just annoying the crap out of me. Amy Hill is also great as Sue, Sean Astin gets to show his comedic side to great effect NOT playing a hobbit, and Dan Aykroyd also puts in a brief appearance. If you haven't seen this one, this is the perfect weekend to go see it!

Thanks for playing!


Sunday, March 25, 2007

Pray for Elizabeth Edwards... and all who fight.

While I was busy going to my theology classes, the announcement was made that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer has returned.

No matter what your political affiliation, please remember Elizabeth Edwards and all who fight the fight against breast cancer in your prayers today. This horrible disease has claimed and maimed so many friends, role models, and loved ones:


Please join me in praying for a cure, and for strength and comfort for those who have been touched by this disease. And I ask all of my friends, male and female, to check themselves at least once a month.

****Update: A website has been created to organize this effort here.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

More educational malfeasance along the Mississippi River...

The superintendent of the Rivervew Gardens school district, in suburban north St. Louis County, has been charged with theft, tax-evasion, and --WOW-- suspended WITH pay:
St. Louis County prosecutors on Friday charged Riverview Gardens School District Superintendent Henry Williams with two counts of stealing and three counts of attempting to evade income taxes.

The charges allege that Williams, 65, wielded power to establish a pattern of theft and deception from January 2003 through December of last year.

Together, the charges carry a maximum sentence of 37 years.

St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch said Williams, through his attorneys, agreed to surrender at the St. Louis County Justice Center by Friday evening. Bond has been set at $50,000.

McCulloch said the first felony theft count involved more than $100,000 in payments that Williams ordered, including interest on his personal loans.

The second count involved about $1,000 in reimbursements for fake travel expenses and double-billing district credit cards.

The prosecutor also said Williams told the school district to pay at least $60,000 to an annuity account in an attempt to evade paying income tax.

Williams filed fraudulent Missouri income tax returns for 2003 through 2005, asserting he made as much as $87,000 less than his actual income in a given year, the charges allege.

Williams, 65, was suspended Tuesday after the Post-Dispatch reported that district records show he diverted at least $85,000 extra to his retirement and insurance accounts.

On Thursday, the news got worse for Williams and the district when a state audit reported that the superintendent was overpaid by $158,400 during his tenure, and that the district had wastefully spent $12.4 million in the past three years.

In a masterpiece of understatement, the article states that, "Auditors chalked up the debacle to lack of oversight, improperly prepared budgets and poor planning."

The district has been on a steady slide for years, but the real temblors began rumbling when the state audit was released last week.
A scathing state audit revealed Thursday that the leaders of Riverview Gardens schools have bilked the district for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They've sent contracts and jobs to friends and family, spent money on artwork and theater tickets and travel, and left district bank reserves almost entirely empty.

In the wake of such evidence, the board announced that it had stripped Superintendent Henry Williams of his duties, sent him home and started the process to fire him. His hearing will be April 18.

Missouri Auditor Susan Montee said her team found problems in every aspect of district finances.

"What astounded us was how fast they misspent money, rather than how much," Montee said. "We found that so disheartening."

And, according to Superintendent Williams, it's all just a gross misunderstanding, and no doubt completely unfair, too:
The Riverview Gardens School District superintendent charged last week with felony theft and tax evasion portrayed himself on Monday as a victim of mistreatment. He questioned a state audit that found he had bilked the district of almost $160,000.

In his first public statement since the scandal broke last week, Henry Williams, 65, predicted that he would be vindicated.

"I am deeply saddened and utterly dismayed by my recent mistreatment by the Riverview Gardens School Board and the reverberations that their actions have had on government officials and the local media," he says in a faxed statement.

"Without question, this is certainly not the first time that sensational allegations have been levied against an individual, only later to be proven false when scrutinized and sanitized by the light of truth."

Apparently, Mr. Williams' contract requires him to be caught actually using a handgun in the commission of the hold-up requires many layers of bureaucracy to be navigated before he actually could be terminated (emphasis mine):
Riverview Gardens School Board members said Monday they are considering firing Superintendent Henry Williams, following revelations that Williams has directed an extra $85,000 in district money to his retirement and life insurance accounts.

Board President Gilda Hester emphasized that no decision has been made. The board, she said, has asked the district's lawyer, Cindy Ormsby, to prepare the necessary paperwork.

"The board has instructed her to let us know how this violates his contract, and options for the board to consider," Hester said.

If Ormsby recommends that the board fire Williams, "then we will act on her recommendation," Hester said.

Ormsby said the board has scheduled a closed meeting for Thursday, immediately following a public session at which State Auditor Susan Montee will present findings of an audit of district policies and finances, among other things.

The board could choose to fire Williams that night, members said.

But Hester said the board could make a decision earlier. A regular board meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. today.

Williams was not available to comment. He told staff and board members he was admitted to the hospital early Monday and would be out of the office until at least today. His attorney, Larry Deskins, said Williams had "an issue."

...Some board members said they welcomed the opportunity to remove him.

"I'm saying to them, this is what we need to right the ship," said board member Tommie Pierson, who said as many as 10 residents called him personally to discuss the payments.

Ormsby, the district's lawyer, said such revelations alone would not nullify Williams' contract. But if the board believes the allegations, it could fire him for cause, she said.

The board has tried to remove Williams before. Last May, the board suspended him after the Post-Dispatch revealed district payments to Williams' girlfriend. A shift in power brought him back a week later. Hester, Marlene Terry, Michael Person and Jennifer Erby voted in his favor.

Jim Morris, spokesman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Williams also could face discipline from the state.

The Riverview Gardens School Board could pass a resolution stating Williams is guilty of misconduct, and could request the state Board of Education take disciplinary action against his licenses, Morris said.

Williams holds certificates to be a superintendent and an elementary educator.

The state board would hold an administrative hearing, Morris said, at which the district would present its case, and Williams would defend himself.

Of course, this is the same board which voted to renew Mr. Williams' contract last year, so we'll just have to wait and see what actually happens. But during his tenure they have lost two-thirds of the points they had earned toward accreditation. That should have sent up flares somewhere.

And I am sure there are more lawsuits in the works.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

St. Louis public schools circle the drain

Yesterday, the St. Louis City Public Schools was officially stripped of its accreditation and placed under the control of the state. Students and parents converged upon the meeting of the State Board of Eduation at which the decision for takeover was made and, over their protests, the deed was done.
With one St. Louis student in custody and scores of other students and parents choking on tears of frustration, the State Board of Education on Thursday revoked the accreditation of the 169-year-old St. Louis Public Schools and voted to turn its operation over to a businessman with limited educational experience.

"I feel pain for them," state board President Peter Herschend of Branson said of the 150 St. Louis students and parents who crowded a state office building to protest the intervention. "But these young men and women have been denied a decent education by the system."

If the move is not blocked in court, the transitional school board headed by St. Louis County developer Rick Sullivan, chairman of McBride & Son Enterprises, will assume control of the city schools on June 15.

Some school board members have promised a lawsuit to throw out the state action.

Last week, a contingent of students skipped their classes to stage a sit-in of the mayor's office, demanding that he restore their accreditation. They claimed that a student had been told that admission and scholarship would be affected if the district lost its accreditation. A letter had been circulated among the students, allegedly written by a student in the district, that made this claim.
One of the students’ main concerns is that their college admissions, scholarships and financial aid will be impacted if the district loses its state accreditation.

St. Louis Public Schools are currently provisionally accredited. The state board has expressed concerns about the district’s academic progress.

Superintendent Diana Bourisaw spoke at the press conference held by the students this afternoon. She said district officials compiled a list of the first-choice colleges to which students have applied. Last week, district researchers began calling the admission offices of the schools on the list.

They have discovered two which have different admission requirements for students who graduate from unaccredited high schools -- the University of Kansas and Northwest Christian College. Bourisaw said they have contacted about 30 or 40 schools so far and plan to continue the effort next week.

Hmmm- TWO out of thirty or forty. Some teachers and other adults supported the sit-in, apparently as clueless as the students themelves about the fact that the STATE Board of education, not the mayor of St. Louis, makes decisions about accreditation.

Interestingly, the sit-in ended before this week's spring break holiday from classes. Because, you know, during spring break, people have PLANS.

Here's the problem. For years, the school district has been seen more as a source of jobs and easy cash to pilfer than as a place where education was a priority. The adults who have "managed" the district of 33,000 students have never placed the needs of children for an EDUCATION as their first priority. Last summer, the school board fired Superintendent Creg Williams after a mere 15 months on the job, as I wrote about here. The district has been through 4 superintendents since 2003, including a corporate "turnaround specialist" with no education experience who had formerly been in charge of clothier-to preppies Brooks Brothers.

The St Louis Public Schools have been viewed as a place to get a paycheck without having to do much; as a place where computers and iPods were purchased and then vanished into thin air, as a place where voodoo incantations were used against enemies and pitchers of water were thrown over the heads of subordinates, as a place where the most important bona fides for gaining a school board seat was how much you could game the system. Public school in the city of St. Louis has been promoted as a place to get a meal, or see a social worker, or hang out with your friends-- anything but as a place to learn.

The schools have been physically and intellectually crumbling for years. No one raised a hand to change things. Now, suddenly, after repeated warnings, when accreditation has justifiably been lost through the action of no one but the people running St. Louis schools, we see petulance and shocked disbelief. Not to mention fear that at last retribution and accountability may-- MAY-- be on the way.

Who knows if the state takeover will work? I'm not too sure that putting a wealthy white resident of the subrurbs whose children attended exclusive Catholic schools, and who has no formal experience in education, will establish any sort of credibility for the massive turn-around needed to turn the buildings belonging to the district back into SCHOOLS again. But, hey-- the president of the school board sent her own children to a chi-chi county school district through a voluntary transfer program, so she wasn't much of a stakeholder, either. The mayor's bumbling actions toward trying to get some sort of control over the district is what put the combative board president there in the first place. The parents have all too often demonstrated the most blase indifference to the failure to educate. But certainly the current set-up has led to nothing but fraud and the criminal denial of an education to the thousands of students who have had the misfortune of passing through most of the schools in the district.

What was that saying of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's? "Justice delayed is justice denied." We hear cries that the takeover is unfair. I really don't care about unfairness-- I'm more concerned with the morally indefensible injustice of maintaining a school district for the convenience of adults who fatten themselves at the trough while ignoring the imperative to EDUCATE the children for whom the district exists in the first place.

And let the lawsuits begin.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The de-emphasis of history education

Pulitzer-Prize winning author David McCullough is assailing the state of history literacy in our country.
Those who believe America is facing its darkest and most dangerous time since Sept. 11 are only showing their lack of knowledge of history, according to acclaimed historical writer David McCullough.

"There was no simpler time," he told a sold-out audience at Layton High School as part of Davis County's Davis Reads program. "It's a form of our present-day hubris."

McCullough, who has won two Pulitzer prizes and has written books about the Revolutionary War and influential presidents such as John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman, encouraged people to instill in their children and grandchildren a sense of history.

"History is the exploration of character," he said. "We're not doing a good job of teaching history to our children and grandchildren for the past 25 years, and we've got to do something about it."

While teachers are the "most important people in our society," he said families can not let the teaching burden fall solely on them.

"The problem is us. We have to take part," he said.

He worries that a lack of historical knowledge will result in poor leaders for the future, as the great leaders of the past steeped themselves in history.

"History affected the idea of who they were and what was expected of them," he said. "We need to educate people to be leaders or we won't have the quality of leaders we once had."

In his many campus visits, McCullough has become increasingly disconcerted with the lack of historical knowledge students have, from not knowing George Washington was commander of the Continental Army to not realizing the 13 original colonies were all on the East Coast. "Anyone who graduates without history courses is not educated, and that should change."

Not only does history mold character, he said, but it enriches lives.

"Think what they're missing when they don't read history, the enlargement of the experience of being alive," he said. "The whole experience of human kind is there for us in letters and books."

I just love him.

History education is endangered in my own children's classrooms. I notice all kinds of emphasis on math content and test-taking strategies. I still don't see a lot of scope and sequence in their math instruction, but there are certainly untold hours spent on the subject. We could talk about that all day, but let's not stray from the point.

But history is often ignored. My elementary aged children have spent precious little time on learning about history or geography or economics-- in fact, my first-grader has not had ANY assignments brought home that deal with social studies, while my fourth-grader has covered one unit on state history, and that is all. Meanwhile, hours each day are devoted to test-taking skills as those high-stakes test loom in just a few days' time. Of course, schools can only do so much-- but it would help if they actually did something. The claim is often made, "What good is it to teach a kid history if he can't read?" But I insist that history not only can help interest kids in reading, but really, that it shouldn't be an either/or proposition. One doesn't see computer instruction sacrificed on the altar of NCLB, but the humanities are already hog-tied and facing the knife in some school districts.

History education is citizenship education. It is greatly troubling that it is being sacrificed, particularly in this time when we talk about a war on terrorism, for just one instance, but our students can have no idea who the terrorists are or where they came from or why they target western countries such as the United States. What is the record of the United States when it comes to supporting democracy in the Middle East? What does democracy mean? Where did it originate? How role has Iran played in world history, both in the distant and the more recent past? What caues impel the growth of terrorism? What military tactics do terrorists use? How has modern technology made fighting terrorism both more difficult and easier?

Or, closer to home: Who was the Baron de Montesquieu, and what impact did his theories have upon the structure of the US government? What does "checks and balances" mean? What are civil liberties? Why is there tension between liberty and security? What is the title of the head of the Department of Justice? What is executive privilege? What is the history of executive privilege? When was the Department of Veteran's Affairs created? What countries in the world have the most untapped reserves of petroleum?

These are all questions that history education should, indeed MUST to create an informed and involved citizenry which can hold government accountable by demanding that it be "of the people, by the people, and for the people." That promise is meaningless if the people are mired in ignorance.

There is nothing nobler, nor more crucial in today's world.

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Carnival of Education 111- No beads thrown, just good clean fun

Our friend and mentor EdWonk has put up another festival of all things educational over at his place.

Having just survived the weirdest St. Patrick's Day parade in the Midwest, not to mention the trash from the coldest Mardi Gras parade anywhere has just been picked up around here, it's nice to see a Carnival that actually elevates the mind.

You won't see anyone flashing someone in freezing temperatures just to get some stupid plastic beads, but you WILL see the best of the Edusphere. Go on over-- the midway is all lit up!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gimme a "P" for "percolator!"

This is another reason why one should not drink coffee in school. From Muncie, IN:
An eighth-grader faces expulsion after admitting he put urine in a teacher's coffee pot, officials said. The Wilson Middle School teacher noticed that the coffee had an unusual odor Friday and reported it to the principal, Muncie Community Schools officials said. A student who overheard classmates discussing it also reported the incident to officials.

Urine was found in the locker of the eighth-grade boy, who admitted to putting some in the coffee, authorities said.

The eighth-grader has been suspended pending a recommendation for expulsion, said Assistant Superintendent Steve Edwards.

"This type of student behavior will not be tolerated," Wilson principal DiLynn Phelps and Superintendent Marlin B. Creasy wrote in a letter to parents. "No student will be permitted to deliberately attempt to cause bodily harm to any other student, teacher or staff member."

All together now: Ewwwwwwwww.


Dude, no WAY! Yes, WAY!

Man, in this shallow, superficial world we live in, isn't there ANYTHING left in which one can believe? I nearly had to rub my eyes in disbelief when I read this:
Eleven professional wrestlers have reportedly been linked in documents to the internet drug distribution ring that has produced charges against 20 people.

In a web site posting, Sports Illustrated magazine said investigators uncovered the names while sorting through information seized in raids last month on Florida firms allegedly prescribing steroids and human growth hormone over the internet.

Eleven pro wrestlers! On steroids! ELEVEN!

You KNOW that's an outright lie.

It's doubtless more like 110.

Next thing you know, they'll tell me that "Honest Al" Gonzalez had something to do with firing attorneys or something.

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 57: Heartbeat edition

It's cold. I'm cold. I have a cold. So let's distract ourselves with a little Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game!

Here's the lay of the land: I give you quotes from a movie, and you respond in the comments section with a quote or two of your own from the same movie without naming the movie.

Okay? Let's go where my friend Julie is right now! Darn her.

"You know you can't read."
"It's the Bible! You get credit for trying."

"No doubt you've discovered that loyalty is no longer the currency of the realm, as your father believes."
"Then what is?"
"I'm afraid currency is the currency of the realm."

"We are very much alike, you and I, I and you... us."
"Oh. Except for a sense of honor and decency and a moral center. And personal hygiene."

"What vexes all men?"
"What, indeed?"
"Well, the sea!"
"The dichotomy of good and evil."
"A woman."

"Na-na-na-na-no-no no! 'Krah-ken''s how it's pronounced in the original Scandinavian, and 'Krakken''s closer to that.
"Well we ain't original Scandinavians, are we? Kray-kin."
"It's a mythological creature, I can calls it what I wants!"

Off ya go, now, poppet!

****Weekend Update: Avast there, matey! So good it shouldn't be considered a sequel, it's


Look how pretty they all are! And check out Bil Nighy as Davy Jones! Can't wait for number 3 to come out this summer!


Friday, March 16, 2007

Teacher tricks number 2: Bias: like a liver, everyone's got one

I got the nicest complement from several of my students today. They said that they thought I was the least-biased teacher in the social studies department.

I was honestly touched. They're wrong of course, but I still was touched. Bear with me, now, while I explain.

A few weeks ago, I was called into another class where a discussion was going on regarding teacher bias. The sub in the class was a retired colleague of mine who adores stirring things up. He excels at classes that are dependent upon discussion, and then he probes and challenges students' assumptions and knee-jerk reactions. They may get heated up at first, but later they realize that they have been forced to actually consider their positions. It's an ancient teaching technique-- I believe a fellow named Socrates (pronounced "Sock-rat-ees," NOT "Sow-krayts," if you please) was a master at it back in the day, REALLY "Old-School." Of course, this teaching method did not end happily for him, which is why I personally do not believe it to be a wise way to conduct one's business, but to each his or her own, I always say. At least the students in the class couldn't get their hands on any hemlock anytime soon, so I guess my friend is safe, at least for the time being.

Anyway, the kids in that class asked if teachers should be biased. I answered that that was not the correct question. The correct question should be, "Should teachers force their biases upon their students?" And my answer is "Absolutely NOT."

Here's the thing: back at the turn of the century, many historians believed they could write objective history and strip all agendas or biases from their work. Just the facts, Ma'am. The Sergeant Joe Friday school of historicism.

One of my young colleagues walked by, and they asked him the same thing. "Teachers should not reveal their biases in the classroom," he opined (see?). "I keep my opinions to myself when I teach."

Those Progressive historians (and my young friend) were kidding themselves. Everyone is biased. One's biases and preferences inform a thousand small decisions one makes every day. There is no such thing as a non-biased person. I am sure MYF doesn't realize it-- because he honestly believes that he doesn't opine while in front of a class full of semi-eager young minds.

But he does.

The KEY is to recognize one's own biases, and compensate for them so that one presents a balanced picture to allow one's students to truly examine what they do or do not believe, and evaluate for themselves. I know my biases, and I know my tendencies. I deliberately and continuously labor to compensate for them when I am teaching. It helps that I hold mostly moderate view-- which doesn't mean I don't have opinions (Hahahaha! That's a laugh!), it just means that I decide different issues upon their own merit rather than through slavish adherence to some overarching, externally imposed label. For instance, I am certainly opposed to illegal immigration, but I'm not an advocate of slamming the torch of Lady Liberty across the harbor, either, as long as people follow the law. We all came here from somewhere else, after all. But illegal immigration depresses wages and allows the illegal immigrants to be unable to demand equitable treatment from their employers.

But when we discuss immigration in class, I present both sides of the argument. I don't pretend there isn't an argument, however-- that's ridiculous. The two sides of every story don't need to be sensationalized: just present them, answer any questions the kids have, and get out of the way and let the students think about it for themselves.

So, yes, it is important to me that I never try to present just one side of the story. But it's dishonest not to continually examine yourself, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, and make sure you are really being "fair and balanced" in the classroom.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them."*

A veto-proof majority in the House today passed a bill to overturn a Bush administration order which severely limited access to presidential and vice-presidential papers:
The presidential papers bill nullifies a November 2001 order, criticized by historians, in which Bush allowed the White House or a former president to block release of a former president's papers and put the onus on researchers to show a "specific need" for many types of records.

Among beneficiaries of the Bush order was Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, a former vice president and president.

The order gave former vice presidents the right to stop the release of their papers through an executive privilege that previously only presidents could use. And it extended to deceased presidents' designees rights to keep their papers secret indefinitely.

The House bill would give current and former presidents 40 business days to object to requests to view their papers, allow a sitting president to override a former president's claim of executive privilege and strip former vice presidents and the designees of deceased presidents of the power to use executive privilege to block access to their historical documents.

In its veto warning, the White House said the bill encroaches on the president's constitutional authority and the 40-day deadline would force presidents to use executive privilege to block information requests "out of an abundance of caution" and thereby invite litigation.

...Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archives at George Washington University, said the average time to release presidential documents has grown to 78 months from 18 months since the Bush order, which he said directly contributed to one year of the lag.

A similar bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate.

...A third bill, which passed 308-117, was aimed at speeding requests for government information made under the Freedom of Information Act. The White House stopped short of threatening to veto it but said it could not support the bill.

As a member of the American Historical Society, I am pleased to see bipartisan support for this long-overdue attempt to restore openness to government. It is ironic indeed to know that information about ME is open to myriad searches by the FBI, but nothing apparently is so feared in Washington as a historian having the ability to deny the spinmeisters their ability to obfuscate. This is a preliminary victory for our generation and generations to come. Let's hope the Senate does its bit.

Happy Ides of March! As Brutus proclaimed, "Sic Semper Tyrannis!"

*- Title quote by Galileo Galilei, another rebel for truth.

----And, in a similar vein, the wondrous Education Wonks have put together another awesome trip through the Edusphere with the Carnival of Education #110. If you don't explore the Carnival, you'll miss out on the best the internet has to offer!

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

A painful encounter with Google that just somehow says it all

Admit it-- you do it too. If you've got a blog, you sometimes check to see the keywords that bring people to your blog from all over the internets. Here's what I found:

"should the government require a mandatory military service commitment from high school graduates" is one query I found intriguing. I guarantee that all wars would end tomorrow if everyone who sets policy was in danger of seeing their son or daughter be sent to do the fighting. But we have never had such a tradition or requirement in this country, and no, I do not believe it is a good idea.

"internet slang in schools" is another one that we have discussed at length, LOL!

I am pleased that someone is interested in "improving your grade." Try studying in an atmosphere where you can actually concentrate and turning in all of your work.

But then there is this gem, which speaks for itself. I would like to enshrine it over the doorway to my classroom in large black letters:

"why can't us teenagers talk slang in school"

And may I offer a humble answer in your own tongue?

Yo, cos you sound like a true fluke, fo shizzle.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Too much 411-- thanks for sharing!

I would like to write an open letter to a parent with whom I have had much correspondence.

Dear Mrs. Munchausen,

I am sure your daughter has been truly sick the last nine times she has been absent or late to school. Really. But I do not need to know every. single. gory. detail. of her unwellness.

Thus far this week you have vivdly described her menstrual cramps in the subject line(!) of email correspondence to me. In the subject line! Those details about your child are now stored on who knows how many servers!

In the past few months, you have assured me that your child has had diarrhea, fevers, hives, anaphylactic shock, and three bouts of the stomach flu, all in amazingly gory technicolor detail. It has gotten to the point where I am afraid to open any emails from you for fear of losing my (non-existent) breakfast-- no doubt in a dull and pedestrian manner compared to the projectile vomiting fit you described to me last month. (You see, to me, this is an act which I do not do well, whereas you seem to view it as a form of performance art.) You have reported to me every single stomach cramp your child has had since December.

Please, allow your child some shred of dignity. I am certain she would be mortified to know that her teacher has so much intimate knowledge of her bodily emissions.

I'm A Teacher, Not an Internist

Ahh. I feel better now. Have you ever had this happen to you? Does it make you a wee bit suspicious? Or am I the only person cursed to have parents with no sense of personal space?

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Compulsive? ME? No, no, no....

Now, HERE we go-- a book meme! Picked this up over at Mister Teacher's place. How would YOU do? 'Cause I'm throwin' DOWN!

*Look at the list of books below.
*Bold the ones you’ve read.
*Italicize the ones you want to read.
*Leave blank the ones that you aren’t interested in.

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) -- it was entertaining, but-- it's FICTION, people! Jeez!
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) I LOVED it! And the recent film was great, too.
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)-- This is probably one of my favorite books ever. It is poetry and a call to action, all at once. Also a great film.
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) A bit overwrought, I thought.
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) OHMYGOSH, YES!
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) How could you not be completely...
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien)... swept away by this world?
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) Once again, I want to be Professor McGonagall.
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) Ehh.
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling) I loved this, but Goblet was my favorite.
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) I went through a real John Irving phase in college. Can't say I've ever read his stuff since.
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) Interesting.
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling) The original one that got us all addicted!
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King) Not so much on the Stephen King, I'm afraid.
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling) Genius!
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) What can I say? I was an English major.
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) In college, I had a little brown Triumph Spitfire. It was named Frodo. Need I say more?
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) I am not a fan of this book. If I was near Holden Caulfield, I'd kick his behind. Hard.
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)-- I cannot make myself read a book about a little girl being murdered. I'm sure it's a great book, but no.
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) Read it last summer!
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) -- Always bring a towel! Oh no, not again! Words of wisdom for every situation. I used to be able to quote whiole chunks of this. I'm sure you're surprised by that. The film was a tremendous disappointment.
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) -- One of the few books-- along with the Ox-Bow Incident-- that my daddy specifically asked me to read. Great song by Kate Bush covered by Pat Benatar, too.
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) Lewis was a genius. I also love his more overtly religious works.
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) A great novel, although I especially love Steinbeck's humorous works.
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) Great message here.
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) I read all the Dune books in Jr. High. I am really a fan of scifi and fantasy.
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)-- Ummmmm, no.
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) It was okay. I liked Anthem better.
34. 1984 (Orwell) Must be read alongside Brave New World.
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) I took an entire course in college on Arthurian Lit. It was wonderful!
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb) Oprah may like dis guy, but I mourn the hours I spent reading this and She's Come Undone. Pbbbbth.
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) Not so fascinated with this one.
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) I have not finished this one yet....
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) He does have a thing about dying, but this was good too.
45. Bible-- Yes, I have read the whole thing. Including Apocrypha.
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) That Comparative Lit class I took in college? This was fine, but Sir Walter Scott? Shudder....
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) A fantastic story.
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) What? I AM an Okie, after all, and SMILE when you say that!
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb) This is absolute dreck. I hated it. See comment to #38 above.
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) I read half of it, then lost the book on vacation.
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling) I love the wordplay in these books. She deserves every penny she'd earned from these.
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) Ay yi yi. What an idiot Father Ralph was.
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) This one was great.
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) I have some sort of block with the Russians....
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) Boy, her politics were interesting.
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) I worked in a bookstore when this was all trendy. No thanks.
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) Didn't care for this one.
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) I actually taught this one while student teaching.
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) One of the first books I remember my mom reading to me.
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding) Funny and pathetic, but mostly funny. Bridget was harder on herself than I am on myself.
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell) In Jr. High we went to visit Japan, and I loved all things Japanese. I even watched the miniseries.
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) Another book my mom read to me.
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) Read it in 7th grade English class.
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving) Part of my Irving kick in college. I hated the car wreck in the driveway.
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) I have read every bit of Steinbeck. One of my favorites.
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen) Loved it.
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams) High School, my junior Year English teacher gave me this one.
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) Playstation and American Idol is Soma. Must be read alongside 1984.
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) Disturbing.
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) There is NO WAY you could go to junior high in Tulsa and not read this, Rumble Fish, and That Was Then, This is Now. Susan Hinton is from Tulsa. A lot of my friends were extras in the movies.
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) Sad to say, I'll never get those ten minutes back. That must have been some powerful dope.
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)-- How did I actually manage to get out of TU's English Dept. without reading this? It was HARD WORK, let me tell you, but I did it. And it was worth it. I read the first fifty pages and my eyes hurt from rolling them so many times. Petentious, painfully self-important scheisse.
101. Jurassic Park
102. Learn Me Good

Whoa! Sixty! It's amazing I have any other hobbies, but I promise I did other things besides read.


Monday, March 12, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 56: Not Everyone is Van Morrisson edition

Welcome to yet another edition of my movie quote trivia game, where I try to take you down memory lane in an official capacity in a contest to see who has more weird stuff stored in their brains.

Here's the deal: I give you some quotes, you respond in the comments with a quote or two from the same movie. Simple, yet maddening.

So let's launch it:

"I hate Illinois Nazis."

"Are you the police?"
"No, ma'am. We're musicians."

"You see, me and the Lord have an understanding."

"You are such a disappointing pair. I prayed so hard for you. It saddens and hurts me that the two young boys whom I taught to believe in the Ten Commandments have come back to me as two thieves, with filthy mouths and bad attitudes."

"Our Lady of Blessed Acceleration, don't fail us now."

"Bring me four fried chickens and a Coke."

****Weekend Update: If you don't know this, you're just not a Soul Man!


Because--We're on a mission from God.

And may John Belushi rest in peace.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Go down, Moses

I love being a member of the Episcopal Church. We belong to a church that is very diverse, very spiritual, full of caring individuals.

In addition to the main hymnal, we have alternative collections of songs. I believe these enrich the worship experience. One of them is a hymnal of tradition and African-American songs entitled Lift Every Voice and Sing.

But today in church, one of the selections from that hymnal nearly had me fleeing out the door so I wouldn't make a spectacle of myself.

See, sometimes, when you're a person who loves parodies, your sense of humor can be quirked at the oddest of times. You know what I'm talking about, I'm sure. Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd have forever ruined Wagnerian opera for me. If you're a Christine Lavin fan, you'll never be able to listen to the Pachelbel Canon ever again. If you like Cheryl Wheeler, there's her take on the Mexican Hat Dance which is just absolutely perfect. The Chenille Sisters' version of Blowin' in the Wind is priceless.

And you know I love movies, especially 80s comedies. So guess which hymn we sang in church today? The lyrics running through my head related to the following as an overpowering urge:


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Friday, March 09, 2007

Raise up your children in the way you want them to go

And we wonder why we have so much trouble convincing some of our students that violence is wrong. (I am putting the whole thing here because the original site requires registration and will spam you to death, trust me.)

The mother of a 13-year-old boy was arrested for allegedly driving her son to a fight with another boy, then cheering him on as he struck his smaller opponent. Police say the mother shouted down another woman who tried to break up the fight across from Sutter Middle School on Monday. A student caught the scene on video.

Renee Ann Honnold, 37, of Folsom, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of two felonies, endangering the life or health of a child and criminal conspiracy, as well as contributing to the delinquency of a minor, a misdemeanor. Her son was cited for suspicion of misdemeanor battery.

"In my eight years I have never seen anything like this," Folsom Police Officer Kurt Knudsen said. "You can hear her on the tape shouting, 'Hit him! Hit him!' The kid is throwing serious punches."

Gayle Williams, who was parked nearby waiting to pick up her son, said she tried to intervene as Honnold's son pinned the other boy down and hit him.

"I thought she (Honnold) was coming to help me, but then she told me to mind my own business. She was out of control," Williams said. "Her rage put me in a defensive mode."

Knudsen said the fight was brief and neither boy was seriously injured. Both boys were suspended for five days.

Kim Williams, the mother of the boy who was beaten and who is no relation to the witness, said it was not fair to suspend her son.

"I don't think my son had a choice (to take part in the fight). Even if he kept walking, this mother would have kept after him," she said.

And earlier this week, we had this incident in Peoria, Illinois:
District 150 says a parent hit one of its Kindergarten teachers Wednesday morning in front of students.

Cathy Smith-Edwards was teaching at Harrison Primary when the attack happened.

24-year-old Maisha Rickmon was arrested on an aggravated battery charge.

On Wednesday evening, she was still in the Peoria county jail.

Police say Rickmon and the teacher were discussing how Rickmon could help her child at home.

They say Rickmon was not receptive and a fight started.

...A grandmother of one student who is a volunteer in Edwards' class saw the fight.

She says Rickmon was using foul language, and punched Edwards.

"Ms. Edwards asked her to leave the classroom and not to say things like that in the classroom. And the mother just grabbed her and just started in on her hitting her, cussing," said Barbara Spencer.

Rickmon was in jail in 2000 and 2001 for battery charges.

Edwards was not injured in the attack.

Police say she will not be charged.

It's like they say: You have to have a license to have a dog, but anyone can be a parent.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

2007 Blog Against Sexism Day

She kept coming to school with bruises, a black eye, scratches on her arms. She was sixteen years old-- and she was being beaten by her boyfriend. Her seventeen year old boyfriend.

They were both students of mine at one time or another. I had known him first-- he was a little bitty guy, a good breeze would have blown him over. In fact, at one point, the counselor had asked me to keep an eye on him for an eating disorder. His clothes were your typical dark, baggy, studded affair-- sk8r boy stuff. He liked to wisecrack, didn't like to do classwork, and was often late after making moon eyes in the hallway at this girl whom I didn't know. He was basically harmless. I would see her in the hallway and say, "Hello, reason-why-Sk8ter-Boi-is-always-late!" and she would grin and wave.

LSS, he got his F and moved on. Then, the next year, she was my student. She was very intelligent, but wasn't in any honors classes, which I found odd, but when I asked her about it, she just shrugged and said she didn't have time. At the beginning and end of class, there was Sk8r Boi. I kept wondering how he could get there so quickly, so he could escort her to class and from class. I later discovered that he did it often by skipping his class that hour, so his principal asked me to detain him one day. After he served his time in on-site suspension, I noticed that she would just hang around and chat until he got there. Then, about mid-October, he suddenly disappeared, and she told me he had dropped out.

I didn't really notice anything seriously odd until a couple of weeks later, when she came to school with a serious black eye. Luckily, I had a student teacher, so I asked him to take over the class. The second she stepped into class, I steered her right back out into the hallway, sat her down in a desk that I keep there, folded my arms, and waited. She looked everywhere but at me, and then finally, in a rush, it all came out. If she didn't do everything just as he said, he'd pull her hair, punch her repeatedly in the arm, pinch and twist her tricep. It had started out playfully, of course, and she didn't think too much about it, but soon the pokes got painful, the hair pulling actually caused dozens of strands of hair to come out. The night before, they had been in her car, although he was driving, and got into an argument. He had pulled her seatbelt tight and pummeled her head up against the window over and over again. He may have been a little runt that most adults could have broken in half, but he knew where to hit to inflict the most damage. She halfheartedly asked me not to tell anyone. It was a pro forma request, because I am not known for just sitting around and letting stuff like this happen, and she knew it.

So down we went to see the police officer stationed on campus, and got her counselor and her principal involved, as well. She had turned her cell phone off, and the cop told her to turn it on. There were eleven messages from him in voicemail, and he called while she was still in the cop's office, although she didn't answer. The messages were pleading with her to call him and saying how much he loved her, at first. The last messages proclaimed that she was an ugly, ignorant bitch and she'd better call or else, because she was NOT going to ignore him.

Her parents were called in-- of course they had had no idea. She had always been a clumsy child, so the little scuffs and bruises they had seen until then hadn't drawn attention, and they hadn't seen her go to school that morning. They were stunned, to say the least. They were urged to press charges, and agreed. The police left school and went to his house to talk to him, but he wasn't there, and his parents claimed he didn't live there any more. He was seen in her neighborhood later that night and arrested. His parents immediately bailed him out.

I'd like to say that was the end, but she forgave him, and began dating him again as the weeks went by. She kept talking to me, though, and I kept trying to make her see that she could never change him, that she wan't responsible for him, that he would never stop hurting her whil he thought he could get away with it-- and I made sure she understood that I knew what I was talking about, as my parents had had an abusive marriage. "You can only control yourself," I told her. "You can't make other people treat you right, or really love you. But you can control whether you allow yourself to be in a situation where you could be hurt-- or even killed."

Finally, he broke her cheeckbone and a couple of her ribs. This time he left town, and no one could find him. But no matter what, since he wasn't there, she was safer. He still tried to call her, and left messages saying he was in Boise, or Denver, or Seattle. I didn't care, as long as he wasn't here.

She is now trying to rebuild her life. She's struggled a bit in school, nothing serious, but has eventually gotten her feet back under her, and last semester she posted her best GPA ever. She wants to go to college at a small school in New York state where she has an aunt.

As I became more aware of this problem, I realized this is far from an isolated incident. Girls at the beginning of their dating years are most likely to be victims of this kind of abuse. I am now much more aware of suspicious absences and cuts and bruises.

It would be nice to think that teens could be innocent of this kind of abuse in their own fledgling romantic lives. But even by the age of fifteen or sixteen, some young men (and young women) have learned how to use words and physical force to try to exert complete control over another human being. We, the adults in their schools, who often see them the most in their lives, have to wake up to this potential problem.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hey, Ho! Carnival 109

The Science Goddess has put up a truly divine Carnival of Education over at What It's Like on the Inside!



Come on and take a free ride; Come on and take it by my side!

(Deep breath.) I must speak.

It's that time of year when many teachers' bargaining units and school district suits are engaged in a cagematch regarding next year's compensation for the teaching staff. In most parts of the country, we are seeing belt tightening, school districts crying penury, teachers trying to maintain decent health insurance, and the like. I keep hearing about the growing economy, but somehow it never trickles down to the working schmoes, especially those who, as Sir Elton would sing, "farmed in schools that were so worn and torn."

So the salary schedule for next year has been released. To cut to the chase: some of us are getting a raise next year, and some of us are not. But what ripped it for me was listening to a bunch of guys who are not members of our professional organization do nothing but yelp in the hallways over the proposed contract. Their angry and even petulant comments ran along the lines of this actual quote: "Look what the wonderful union did for us!" and swirled around that theme for a week now and counting.

I fully support anyone who doesn't want to join a teacher's professional organization. But since the gripers do not belong to the organization, how can they complain about what it did or did not do for them? I belong to my professional organization simply because I believe teachers need bargaining power. I do not agree with the national organization on several political points, nor do I agree with them on many professional issues. But if I leave, who will speak out against some of these positions I find ignorant, ridiculous, or just plain wrong? Our local organization is very moderate politically because like-minded people such as myself keep on pushing for that moderation.

Negotiation has won us the benefits we all enjoy-- some of us enjoy these benefits for free. Bargaining is the prime thing unions and professional organizations should do-- and yes, it would be great if the national honchos would stick to that without alienating a lot of my colleagues (and often, me) with their activities that have only a tenuous connection to the concerns of education. I have shared with you before about how I would probably be lacking a college education, much less graduate degrees, if it had not been for union-negotiated wages my daddy earned even though he was a high school drop-out.

Unions are all that have kept working people and even professional people like teachers from being treated as serfs. Don't believe me? Go back through history and look at some of the compensation and working conditions which were the norm when our parents or grandparents' generations taught. One of the most astoundingly ironic political magic tricks of the 20th century has been the bewitching of employees to believe that they don't need a bargaining unit.

Unions and professional organizations would be more powerful if they would stay focused on that task. Undoubtedly true.

Don't join the teachers' organization if you want. But then don't wonder at why our bargaining power is reduced. Consider the dues money you so smugly and cleverly "saved" to be your raise. Some of these kvetchers are proponents of the philosophy of "Vote or shut up," and they sat on their thumbs this election. The school district can count heads. Sit out the battle if you want, chicken-hawks.

But don't complain to me about that which you have not expended any treasure to receive, sirrah. I am an officer in our professional organization, and I am still working for you. For free.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

"The world is made for people who aren't cursed with self-awareness."*

Let me now recount to you, beloved readers, one of my favorite anecdotes from recent parent-pedagogue parleys. Apparently, I, alsoomse, and sciguy, who posted much briefer versions of this conversation in the comments to my post about chasing my own tail, have the same students.

The scene: The eleventh hour of a day that I have spent in a moldering classroom in clothes that are wilted versions of pressed business attire. Bloodshot eyed, our intrepid heroine clutches a mug of tea and proffers a bowl of mints toward a parent and student with a small smile.

Parent: We just don't understand why Popsie has a D-.
Ms. Cornelius: Popsie doesn't always demonstrate understanding of the material. First, Popsie has told me he doesn't read the material in the textbook. He just hunts around for the answers.
Popsie: I don't like to read. I read slow.
Parent: I read slow too. Popsie comes by it naturally.
MC: Popsie, you will always read slowly if you don't practice by actually reading. And it certainly takes longer to hunt for the answers than to actually sit down and read the 5-6 pages all the way through. (Thereupon MC suggests several small tricks for increasing reading speed-- and MC had earlier broached the question of whether Popsie had ever been tested for a reading disablility, and the answer was yes to the testing and no to the disability.) I could help you more if you could stay after school for some coaching.
Parent: Can't you just tell students what is in the book?
MC: (In her head: "No, because that would just make the textbook a great expensive place to rest one's head whilst napping.) No. That would just encourage the kids who are reading their book not to read their book, and it would actually increase the amount of homework everyone has. Do you ever see Popsie study?
Parent: No... But still, why does Popsie have a D-?
MC: (Repressing sigh) Popsie, when I ask you if you understand everything we've covered today, what do you say?
Popsie: (silence)
MC: Do you let me know when you don't understand?
Popsie: No....
MC: Popsie, how many other kids are in the class?
Popsie: Almost thirty.
MC: Right, so I can't ask Popsie fifteen times (without embarassing him) if he needs help if he won't tell me the truth. Now Popsie's average on quizzes and tests is 54%. And when the bell rings at the end of class, Popsie is the first out the door. Did you study for the last quiz, upon which you earned a 42%?
Popsie: No, I didn't understand it....
MC: Did you stay after school with me so that I could help you? I am here every day for thirty minutes to one hour.
Popsie: No....
MC: Did you stay with the Homework Club?
Popsie: No....
MC: Did you try using the internet?
Popsie: I don't like the internet.
MC: (Trying to keep from looking heavenward in mute appeal, I try another tack.) Popsie's response questions grade average is a 72%.
Popsie: Yeah, when you grade my questions you always mark some of them wrong.
MC: Sometimes they ARE wrong. And sometimes they're not finished. But what else do I do?
Popsie: You write suggestions for where to find the correct answer next to the wrong answers.
MC: Do you ever attempt to look up the correct answers?
Popsie: No.... But I like it when you talk in class. But then I don't remember.
Parent: So why does Popsie have a D-?
MC: Because Popsie hasn't done any of the many things that would change that D- to something else.
Popsie: I don't like having a D-.
MC: Do you not like it enough to actually do something to change it?

And that's the way it is. Apparently, just because Popsie is here every day, he should get at least a C. I give this conversation a three out of four possible extra-strength tylenol rating. Because that's how many it took to make the throbbing go away. Can you chase three tylenol with a glass of wine? Darn.

Extra points to the reader who can tell me the source of the title of this post.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

Conspiracy theories and Star Wars

I agree with our friend rightwingprof over at Right Wing Nation (yes, you read that correctly!): He acclaims this gem of satire to be absolutely brilliant!

He is right! Absolutely right (and not just "On the Right"). I haven't laughed so hard all weekend!

Go, read, and proclaim the genius!

Thanks, RWP!

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Movie Madness Monday 55: You need Head & Shoulders edition

Howdy to y'all and welcome back to another edition of Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Given that I am in the midst of parent-teacher conference season, I thought we could all use a bittersweet dose of adolescence.

Here's how we play: I give you some primer-quotes, you respond in the comments section with a quote of your own from the same movie. Okay? Let's go!

"Yeah, I've got a question. Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?"
"I'll give you the answer to that question, Mr.Bender, next Saturday. Don't mess with the bull, young man. You'll get the horns."
"That man is a brownie-hound."

"What if your home, what if your family, what if your dope was on fire?"
"Impossible, sir. Its in Johnson's underwear."

"In physics, well, we talk about physics... properties of physics."
"So its sort of social. Demented and sad, but social, right?"

"Remember how you said your parents use you to get back at each other? Wouldn't I be OUTSTANDING in that capacity?"

"I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say."

****Weekend Update: What happens when you mix the cliques at a high school on a beautiful Saturday? You get



Sunday, March 04, 2007

Getting homeschoolers into college just got easier

One of the biggest hurdles homeschoolers have faced in some areas is getting into college. But some colleges have started to make it easier:
David Sample wanted to attend the University of California, Riverside but thought it was a lost cause because he had been homeschooled.

The UC system is known for being tough on nontraditionally schooled applicants. For them, the best tickets to UC have been transferring in after taking community college classes or posting near-perfect scores on college entrance exams.
"For homeschoolers, it was basically a shut door for us because of the restrictions," Sample said.
Last fall, however, Riverside joined a growing number of colleges around the country that are revamping application policies to accommodate homeschooled students.

The change came just in time for the 18-year-old Sample to apply and get accepted with a substantial scholarship.

Under Riverside's new policy, homeschoolers can apply by submitting a lengthy portfolio detailing their studies and other educational experiences.

Sample's package showed he had studied chemistry, U.S. history and geometry, rewired a house and helped rebuild a medical clinic in Nicaragua.

The U.S. Department of Education reports that 1.1 million, or 2.2 percent of all students in the nation, are homeschooled.

Some private colleges have eagerly recruited those students for years and tailored application processes to include them. Homeschoolers still face challenges when applying to many public universities, but their chances of being considered are improving.

In 2000, 52 percent of all colleges in the country had a formal evaluation policy for applications from homeschoolers, said David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

Four years later, the number jumped to 83 percent. During that time, 45 percent of colleges reported receiving more applications from homeschoolers, he said.

Major schools that now post application procedures for homeschooler [sic] on their Web sites include Michigan State University, Oregon State University and the University of Texas.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is also willing to consider homeschoolers. The highly regarded school does not require a high school diploma. As part of its admissions process, it considers scores from college entrance exams and asks applicants to submit a 500-word essay, detail five extracurricular activities and offer two teacher evaluations.

"We evaluate every student based on who they are," said Marilee Jones, dean of admissions at MIT.

UC Riverside is actively recruiting homeschoolers, said Merlyn Campos, interim director of undergraduate admissions.

"There are a lot of students out there that are very prepared for a college level education," she said. "They are kind of being forced into going into a community college."

As leery as I am of some homeschooling arrangements, having seen some that were covers for neglect of children and some that never ensured any sort of literacy, I have seen others that have done an admirable job. We have seen homeschoolers acquit themselves admirably in the National Spelling Bee and National Geography Bee, as well as to write wonderful books such as this or this.

Students who demonstrate qualifications should be admitted to college, and it is obvious that young Mr. Sample has had a rich and varied educational background. I hope these young homeschoolers are able to transition into the regimentation of the college classroom and enrich our country with their talents.

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Where's my Iluvium-235 space modulator?

Okay, now, I'm probably even MORE concerned about the environment than the next gal, but this seems a bit spaced-out (sorry, couldn't help meself):
A former Canadian defense minister is demanding governments worldwide disclose and use secret alien technologies obtained in alleged UFO crashes to stem climate change, a local paper said Wednesday.

"I would like to see what (alien) technology there might be that could eliminate the burning of fossil fuels within a generation ... that could be a way to save our planet," Paul Hellyer, 83, told the Ottawa Citizen.

Alien spacecrafts would have traveled vast distances to reach Earth, and so must be equipped with advanced propulsion systems or used exceptional fuels, he told the newspaper.

Such alien technologies could offer humanity alternatives to fossil fuels, he said, pointing to the enigmatic 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico -- which has become a shrine for UFO believers -- as an example of alien contact.

"We need to persuade governments to come clean on what they know. Some of us suspect they know quite a lot, and it might be enough to save our planet if applied quickly enough," he said.

Hellyer became defense minister in former prime minister Lester Pearson's cabinet in 1963, and oversaw the controversial integration and unification of Canada's army, air force and navy into the Canadian Forces.

He shocked Canadians in September 2005 by announcing he once saw a UFO.

Becuase, of course, raiding Area 51 for ideas about how we can magically undo our trashing of the planet makes so much more sense than actually doing something about it. Suddenly, I feel the need to mold a model of Devil's Tower out of mashed potatoes....

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Hmmm.... Hello? Anyone?

Well, darlings, is anyone unable to post comments to my blog? I am suddenly suspicious after reading this over at Mrs. Chili's place.

If so, and please, after a day in which I severely bruised the top of a leg bone, pinched some nerves in my neck, got pulled over by a cop for speeding WAY faster than I thought I was going, and then nearly dropped a twelve-pack of pop on my foot when the carton ripped, let there be no major spam fall-out from this, please give me the 411 at head_apeAThotmailDOTcom.

Because I'm hoping that it's not that y'all are just turning your noses up at my last two posts.


The answer is blowin' in the wind...

I don't know about y'all, but we got to spend over an hour huddled in a darkened hallway with about 400 adolescents this week while the tornado warning sirens went off for what seemed like forever. As time went on, the smell of that many teenaged bodies piled 6 deep across the hallway was a palpable malevolent miasma. But I was grateful that the tornado sirens actually went off, since I once watched a twister begin to form OVER MY HOUSE and it had been on the ground for five minutes before the sirens finally were employed.

That's the challenge of living in a place that does not think it is in tornado alley. However, as a public service, I include the above map in a feeble yet determined attempt to disabuse people of the notion that tornadoes only strike in Oklahoma and Texas. Being a native Okie, I can tell you that this attitude drives me absolutely whacko. I mean, the last time the local tv station where I live actually cut into Everybody Loves Raymond to warn that there was a tornado on the ground in a nearby suburb, the screaming that the poor weatherman received over the phone, in emails, and in the paper were absolutely shameful-- basically along the lines of: "How dare you make us miss the madcap antics of Ray Romano just for the sake of saving a bunch of people from being sucked out of their homes and tossed around like rag dolls!"

Then we have a tragedy like this to remind us that it's really not that much of a sacrifice to ride herd on kids in the safest part of a school building:
Tornadoes ripped through Alabama and killed at least seven people, including five at a high school where students became pinned under debris when a roof collapsed, state officials said.

As night fell Thursday, crews dug through piles of rubble beneath portable lights at Enterprise High School, looking for other victims.

"The number could very well increase as the search effort continues through the night," state emergency management spokeswoman Yasamie Richardson said.

The burst of tornadoes was part of a larger line of thunderstorms and snowstorms that stretched from Minnesota to the Gulf Coast. Authorities blamed a tornado for the death of a 7-year-old girl in Missouri, and twisters also were reported in Kansas.

In all twenty people lost their lives in this latest line of storms which swept across the Midwest and South this week. There's already been some criticism of the school in Alabama that they should have sent the kids home. People who make claims like this don't understand that you can't just predict the touchdown of a tornado like you can a hurricane. What if they had let those kids out and they had been in their cars? More people would have died. Believe me.

On June 8, 1974, four tornadoes touched down in my Tulsa neighborhood, leveling or severely damaging a large part of our subdivsion. In all, twenty-two tornadoes were spawned by this one storm, touching down all the way from Norman to Big Cabin, near the Kansas/Missouri border. Ironically, the first tornado to touch down that day struck the National Weather Service building at the Oklahoma City airport. We were lucky that no one in our neighborhood was killed, and we knew it. We also were spared the damage from flash-floods that then swept through a large part of the area of Tulsa in which we lived-- some of our friends were not so lucky. Our house barely had a scratch on it, and some houses were levelled. We spent the rest of week returning identifiable belongings to our neighbors and generally helping clean up from the mess. We mucked out more than two feet of mud from a flash flood that swept through my godparents' house. We were all grateful school was out for the summer, because our school suffered some damage. Over the years, I have experienced several more tornadoes. You never get used to it, and if you're smart, you learn to respect their destructive power.

To me, tornadoes are not fascinating things to go stare at-- which is, by the way, the response that a few of our administrators had, as they stood outside (WTH???) while the sirens sang out all around us. I have had relatives killed by these violent storms, and it makes you feel exactly as the character of Jo in the movie Twister said: "You've never seen it miss this house, and miss that house, and come after you!" I felt like dragging them back into the building, but what are you going to do? Besides fight the sneaking suspicion that they would have rather been mano a mano with an F5 than actually help supervise all the steamy, kid-filled hallways with the rest of us, that is.

So, a word to the wise: tornado season has arrived with a vengeance. Make sure you know what to do. Be grateful if the weatherman can give you warning. And for God's sake, don't stand outside or in front of a wall of windows to watch the clouds. It might be the last thing you do.

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

In which the History Geek explains what ignorance about geography does to one

Well, as Gomer would say, surprise, surprise, surprise! Go-ooo-lly!

A crisis in central Europe was averted today as Swiss Army officials said "Ooopsie!" after accidentally wandering into the neighboring country of Liechtenstein. Adding insult to injury, apparently no one in Liechtenstein even noticed that the Swiss Army was there, so stealthy were they.

Ah, I see a hand raised in the back. Yes, you there, with the beret and the faint odor of absinthe on your black clothes? What? No, not the cartoon-loving pop artist Roy Liechtenstein, the greatest artist ever to have lived temporarily in Cleveland.
The teeny tiny country squished between Austria and Switzerland. Look:
ZURICH, Switzerland - What began as a routine training exercise almost ended in an embarrassing diplomatic incident after a company of Swiss soldiers got lost at night and marched into the neighboring Principality of Liechtenstein.

According to Swiss daily Blick, the 170 infantry soldiers wandered just over a mile across an unmarked border into the tiny principality early Thursday before realizing their mistake and turning back.

A spokesman for the Swiss army confirmed the story but said that there were unlikely to be any serious repercussions for the mistaken invasion.

"We've spoken to the authorities in Liechtenstein and it's not a problem," Daniel Reist told The Associated Press.

Officials in Liechtenstein also played down the incident.

Interior ministry spokesman Markus Amman said nobody in Liechtenstein had even noticed the soldiers, who were carrying assault rifles but no ammunition. "It's not like they stormed over here with attack helicopters or something," he said.

Liechtenstein, which has about 34,000 inhabitants and is slightly smaller than Washington DC, doesn't have an army.

The Swiss lost no time in taking their empty rifles and skedaddling back home, but even with their brief sojourn they spent more time in Liechtenstein than the first Princes of Liechtenstein, who did not even bother to visit their holdings for the first 120 years that they possessed them, much preferring Vienna to Vaduz. I'm not too sure we can actually call this an "invasion" per se, since Liechtenstein is dependent for its defense upon that same Swiss Army. This incident might make them reconsider that arrangement, or at least to suggest adding a tiny flip-out map or even a GPS device to those celebrated Swiss Army knives.

A little history: Once, Liechtenstein was a part of the Holy Roman Empire. Thanks to Napoleon Bonaparte (and how many countries in Europe can say THAT with a straight face?), the principality was released from any feudal obligations to any sort of German authorities in 1806. Even though Nappy was technically the new overlord of the principality, he apparently was distracted with destroying Prussia, crushing Poland, and forming the confederation of the Rhine to actually want to do anything with the principality, thereby echoing the assessment of the ruling Liechtenstein family.

Many of my students, who complain that history is so inconveniently filled with too many people, dates, and events to remember, would love this tiny landlocked country for its geography if not for its spelling challenges: the upper part of Liechtenstein is called "the Over Land" and the southern part of the country is called "the Under Land." Since over my many years of teaching I've had many a student insist that "North" is "Up" and "South" is "Down," this place would suit them just fine.

And apparently the Liechtenstein princes are still trying to act like the Swiss Army and escape back across the border. You have to love a country where the sovereign threatens to run away to Austria in a kind of reverse Sound of Music scenario if he couldn't get the people to vote him more power. What fun it would be if more leaders thought that way! I hear Canada is lovely this time of year.

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