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

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Winners NEVER cheat (or at least they never get caught)

Sadly, for those of us who work with kids, this really isn't a surprise.
In the past year, 30 percent of U.S. high school students have stolen from a store and 64 percent have cheated on a test, according to a new, large-scale survey suggesting that Americans are too apathetic about ethical standards. Educators reacting to the findings questioned any suggestion that today's young people are less honest than previous generations, but several agreed that intensified pressures are prompting many students to cut corners.

"The competition is greater, the pressures on kids have increased dramatically," said Mel Riddle of the National Association of Secondary School Principals. "They have opportunities their predecessors didn't have (to cheat). The temptation is greater."

The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.

Michael Josephson, the institute's founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls — 30 percent overall — acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative. "What is the social cost of that — not to mention the implication for the next generation of mortgage brokers?" Josephson remarked in an interview. "In a society drenched with cynicism, young people can look at it and say 'Why shouldn't we? Everyone else does it.'"

Other findings from the survey:

_Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.

_Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.

_Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money — 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.

Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

Nijmie Dzurinko, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union, said the findings were not at all reflective of the inner-city students she works with as an advocate for better curriculum and school funding. "A lot of people like to blame society's problems on young people, without recognizing that young people aren't making the decisions about what's happening in society," said Dzurinko, 32. "They're very easy to scapegoat."

Peter Anderson, principal of Andover High School in Andover, Mass., said he and his colleagues had detected very little cheating on tests or Internet-based plagiarism. He has, however, noticed an uptick in students sharing homework in unauthorized ways. "This generation is leading incredibly busy lives — involved in athletics, clubs, so many with part-time jobs, and — for seniors — an incredibly demanding and anxiety-producing college search," he offered as an explanation.

Riddle, who for four decades was a high school teacher and principal in northern Virginia, agreed that more pressure could lead to more cheating, yet spoke in defense of today's students. "I would take these students over other generations," he said. "I found them to be more responsive, more rewarding to work with, more appreciative of support that adults give them. We have to create situations where it's easy for kids to do the right things," he added. "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer."

On Long Island, an alliance of school superintendents and college presidents recently embarked on a campaign to draw attention to academic integrity problems and to crack down on plagiarism and cheating. Roberta Gerold, superintendent of the Middle Country School District and a leader of the campaign, said parents and school officials need to be more diligent — for example, emphasizing to students the distinctions between original and borrowed work.

"You can reinforce the character trait of integrity," she said. "We overload kids these days, and they look for ways to survive. ... It's a flaw in our system that whatever we are doing as educators allows this to continue."

Josephson contended that most Americans are too blase about ethical shortcomings among young people and in society at large. "Adults are not taking this very seriously," he said. "The schools are not doing even the most moderate thing. ... They don't want to know. There's a pervasive apathy." Josephson also addressed the argument that today's youth are no less honest than their predecessors.

"In the end, the question is not whether things are worse, but whether they are bad enough to mobilize concern and concerted action," he said.

"What we need to learn from these survey results is that our moral infrastructure is unsound and in serious need of repair. This is not a time to lament and whine but to take thoughtful, positive actions."

Although even St. Augustine complained about the behavior and morality of his students in his Confessions, the need to reinforce moral behavior is more pressing than ever in a world in which torture is justified, in which lying and obscuring the truth is considered being smart and in which being honest when not forced to be is considered to be foolish and naive. Witness Marion Jones asking President Bush for a pardon, as just a small example.

Cheating and stealing are all too easy today, and making excuses based upon how busy young people are is, to put it bluntly, a crock of crap.

My most frustrating experiences as a teacher have been when parents have justified or even been complicit in encouraging their children to avail themselves of these kind of morally indefensible practices. Thankfully, it hasn't happened very often. Most parents have reacted very supportively when contacted about their children's occasional unethical choices.

But schools cannot teach morality and character development alone, especially in a world in which every instructional moment is often focused on passing a standardized test at the end of the year. However, schools can and should practice absolute vigilance and enforce no tolerance for these kinds of behaviors, regardless of what reaction parents have. If we want our students to develop backbones, we need to grow them first for ourselves.

Standing up for what is right is never expedient.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Guess what? I didn't know, either.

PORTLAND, Ore. – For the first time, federal legislation has set aside the day after Thanksgiving — for this year only — to honor the contributions American Indians have made to the United States.

Frank Suniga, a descendent of Mescalero Apache Indians who lives in Oregon, said he and others began pushing in 2001 for a national day that recognizes tribal heritage.

Suniga, 79, proposed his idea to a cultural committee that is part of the Portland-based Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. The organization took on the cause of a commemorative day, as did the National Congress of American Indians and other groups.

Congress passed legislation this year designating the day as Native American Heritage Day, and President George W. Bush signed it last month.

The measure notes that more Americans Indians than any other group, per capita, serve in the U.S. military. It also cites tribes' artistic, musical and agricultural contributions.

"The Indians kept the Pilgrims alive with turkeys and wild game," Suniga said. "That's the reason it was attached to the Thanksgiving weekend."

After the Thanksgiving weekend, Suniga said, he and other advocates plan to lobby to place the Native American Heritage Day on the nation's calendar annually.

It isn't certain, however, that all tribes would agree that the fourth Friday in November is the best day to recognize their contributions and traditions.

"Thanksgiving is controversial to some people," said Joe Garcia, director of the National Congress of American Indians.

The holiday marks a 1621 feast in which English settlers and Wampanoag Indians celebrated and gave thanks in Massachusetts for their harvest, but it was followed by centuries of battles and tense relations between the United States and tribes.

Unfortunately, tribes have had virtually no time to plan events to commemorate Native American Heritage Day because the legislation creating it was signed only last month, noted Cleora Hill-Scott, executive director of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

"What's difficult is this day is going to come and go without much being done." she said.

Wow. The day after Thanksgiving. The irony just RADIATES. And this year only!

There are thousands of ways Indigenous Americans have enriched our nation. In literature alone, there's Sherman Alexie, Leslie Marmon Silko, N. Scott Momaday, and Louise Erdrich. One of my favorite guitarists is Robbie Robertson.

After all, this land is THEIR land, to paraphrase Woody Guthrie.


One for the files of "Stuff I never thought I'd see"

Going through a stack of homework, because a teacher's work is NEVER done, and I find a student's homework written on the back of a kiddie menu at the restaurant where he works as a host.

Wow-- homework AND a seek-and-find puzzle AND a connect-the-dots chili pepper drawing!

Excellent!!!! I really admire that!

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday Thirteen: thirteen common things I don't get

Yes, I realize how strange I am, thankyewverrymuch.

1. I hate cinnamon-- the flavor or even the smell. Yuck.

2. I consider wrapping presents completely unappetizing. I will do anything to avoid this-- it seems so pointless.

3. I likewise don't do Christmas letters or even Christmas cards. It's not that I'm Scrooge-- I just can't think of anything interesting to say, nor do I ever seem to have enough time.

4. I dislike hockey-- it's like indoor soccer on an extremely cold surface with occasional outbreaks of drunken boxing (punch, miss, fall down). And I believe indoor soccer is an abomination, right up there with the designated hitter.

5. Likewise, it has been at least ten years since I watched a pro basketball game. When Latrell Sprewell choked PJ Carlesimo, I decided that that was the end-- no matter how annoying PJ Carlesimo is. There is no defense in pro basketball, and I find that incredibly boring.

6. Any sort of horror movie absolutely turns my stomach. I have regretted seeing Se7en for YEARS. Hell, I still regret seeing the childbirth scene in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and I walked out of that one.

7. I have never "gotten my nails done." What's the point? I play guitar. And I knew my husband was the man for me when he saw me painting my nails when we were dating and told me he thought it was ridiculous. I actually heard violins and a heavenly choir.

8. I think Titanic is the most annoying movie ever-- and the same for Leonardo DiCaprio. Watching him with Kate Winslet was like watching Madonna and Britney kiss: I'm sure that really works for some, but just not for me. And the whole time he was in the water, I kept thinking, "When will the hypothermia kick in, fercryin'outloud?"

9. I won't wear heels for any reason whatsoever. No way. The same with those shoes with the really pointy toes. You might as well walk on razor blades.

10. As a matter of fact, although my aching achilles' tendon pushed me into wearing Birkenstocks, I think UGG boots are hideous. As are Crocs. Not to mention tattoos, tongue piercing, and sagging. I think these fads' continued popularity go hand in hand with explaining the elections of George W. Bush-- some people will buy ANYTHING.

11. Reality TV is as painful to me as driving staples into my temple. I do NOT need to see people's most embarrassing moments or irrational tears-- it reminds me too much of school. NOT funny.

12. Soul patches and beards with no moustaches: FUNNY. But not in a good way.

13. Pepperoni and ham: yes. Any other pork: NO.

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Giving thanks

For family and loved ones. Each person in our lives shapes us, and those we love make us who we are, since who we love explains who we are.

For the beauty of the Earth, with all its miracles. The myriad forms of life with whom we share this planet reveal the marvelous works of God.

For the delights of the mind-- for poetry, music, art, language.

For living in a free country getting freer every minute. For democracy-- and the responsibility that that implies. May we get the government that we deserve.

For peace. May it come.

God bless you!


For turkeys thanks is hard to come by

A young man named John received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. John tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to "clean up" the bird's vocabulary.

Finally, John was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. John shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even ruder. John, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed. Then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute.

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, John quickly open the door to the freezer, the parrot calmly stepped out onto John's outstretched arms and said, "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behavior."

John was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behavior, the bird continued, "May I ask what the turkey did?"

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm in serious trouble here.

Lack of napping means I'm becoming a forgetful zombie.
Interrupting sleep seriously disrupts memory-making, compelling new research suggests. But on the flip side, taking a nap might boost a sophisticated kind of memory that helps us see the big picture and get creative.

"Not only do we need to remember to sleep, but most certainly we sleep to remember," is how Dr. William Fishbein, a cognitive neuroscientist at the City University of New York, put it.

Good sleep is a casualty of our 24/7 world. Surveys suggest that few adults attain the recommended seven to eight hours a night.

Way too little sleep clearly is dangerous: Sleep deprivation causes not just car crashes but all sorts of other accidents.

Over time, a chronic lack of sleep can erode the body in ways that leave us more vulnerable to heart disease, diabetes and other illnesses.

But perhaps more common than insomnia is fragmented sleep — the easy awakening that comes with aging, or, worse, the sleep apnea that afflicts millions who quit breathing for 30 seconds or so over and over throughout the night.

Indeed, scientists increasingly are focusing less on sleep duration and more on the quality of sleep, what's called sleep intensity, in studying how sleep helps the brain process memories so they stick.

Particularly important is "slow-wave sleep," a period of very deep sleep that comes earlier than better-known REM sleep, or dreaming time.

Fishbein suspected a more active role for the slow-wave sleep that can emerge even in a power nap.

Maybe our brains keep working during that time to solve problems and come up with new ideas. So he and graduate student Hiuyan Lau devised a simple test to document relational memory, where the brain puts together separately learned facts in new ways.

First, they taught 20 English-speaking college students lists of Chinese words spelled with two characters — such as sister, mother, maid. Then half the students took a nap.

Upon awakening, they took a multiple-choice test of Chinese words they'd never seen before.

The nappers did much better at automatically learning that the first of the two-pair characters in the words they'd memorized earlier always meant the same thing — female, for example. So they also were more likely than non-nappers to choose that a new word containing that character meant "princess" and not "ape."

Conversely, Wisconsin researchers briefly interrupted nighttime slow-wave sleep by playing a beep — just loudly enough to disturb sleep but not awaken — and found that those people couldn't remember a task they'd learned the day before as well as people whose slow-wave sleep wasn't disrupted.

I bet there's a lot of you who are feeling sleepy-- verrrry sleepy-- right now. I am wishing that I was not in family of snorers.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 131: popcorn and toast edition

Juuust in time for Thursday! I am HERE for you. Even if I am bending the rules by going toward the small screen on this one, and making it so easy a child could do it. So put your quotes in the comments section!

"Ours was the first country in the world to make a national holiday to give thanks."
"Isn't he the cutest thing?!"

"Do you know what they want us to do? They want us to write an essay on Stanley Miles!"
"Don't you mean Miles Standish?"
"I can't keep track of all those people!"

"You're holding my hand, Chuck, you sly dog!"

(After singing "Over the River and Through the Wood")
"Well, there's only one thing wrong with that."
"What's that?"
"My grandmother lives in a condominium."

"I went down to buy a turkey tree, and all that they have are things for Christmas!"
"For Christmas? Already?"

"She must think I'm the stupidest person alive."
"I'll hold the ball and you run up and kick it."
"Hold it? Ha! You'll just pull it away and I'll fall flat on my back and kill myself!"

It's on tonight on ABC at 7 pm, and YouTube, if you've forgotten. And shame on you!

****Weekend Update: Good grief! It's a


I one actually had a thanksgiving meal on a ping pong table.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Okay, that's it, I've had it.

Subtitled, Is that rain, or are angels pissing on my head?

Monday, TWO wee pets died at Casa Cornelius.

Tuesday, the return of insane shrieking banshee mom claiming all sorts of malfeasance on my part and that I've made her daughter HATE school when the kid sits there and smiles at me every blasted day.

Wednesday, trials with relatives who seem to just push my buttons-- which makes sense, because they installed them.

Today, I get a nearly $100 ticket from a cop over my bike rack. MY BIKE RACK. She said it was "illegal." I hope the folks at Yakima know this.

I can't wait to see the joy and brickbats Friday may bring.

Those wishing to help may send margaritas by the gallon to:
Ms. Cornelius
c/o 1313 Mockingbird Lane
Bite Me, Frigid Midwest OU812


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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You think this machine is your friend*....

A while back our district moved to using a web-based grading program. It was going to be amazing! It was going to increase transparency! It was going to reduce the amount of time teachers spent on grades! It was going to slice, dice, and make julienne fries!

When this was initiated, one person asked what would happen if the internet would go down. She was laughed out of the room. Silly peon! The internet doesn't go down!

Then they forgot the little part about how teachers can't put any grades in when the server goes down.

Which happened five out of nine school days. Right before grades are due.

So maybe my friend used the wrong terminology, but she got the question right.

And guess what? They moved all the disciplinary records and all the information about student schedules to the internet, too! So now, at least the principals and secretaries feel our pain, too, because they can't do any discipline or even access where a kid is when the server goes down.

Did I mention it goes down a LOT?

So I am not staying at school until 5 (which by the way, we were asked to do once last year while they frantically tried to get the server back up in time for report cards to be sent out the next day). I do not take work home with me since I have my own children to bathe, feed, and monitor until I collapse into bed, and you can't access the grade program from home anyway.

So let's just say that there are a few grades that have not been entered. And today was my plan period, and guess what? The server was down again. So more grades weren't entered and I don't have a break tomorrow, either.

Technology is great. Until you actually have to depend upon it.

*-- line about a computer from You've Got Mail.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Student Loan Squeeze

Students needing loans for college next year need to do more than keep their fingers crossed on this issue. According to the NY Times:
The government announced plans Friday to expand purchases of the student loans it backs in an effort to head off a potential shortfall next year.

While student loans are typically considered among the most secure assets — especially ones that carry government guarantees — the fear that has spiked financing costs for mortgage and auto loans has spread into student loans as well.

While students are still able to obtain federally backed loans, the credit crisis has hurt the lenders that provide them. Dozens have stopped offering the loans, blaming market conditions.

The initiative by the Education Department is intended to make it easier for these loan companies to obtain financing. In the 2009-10 academic year, the agency will purchase loans, as it has this year. The agency will also pledge to be the buyer of last resort for loans purchased by a private intermediary in an effort to foster investment in the student loan industry.

Tens of billions of dollars in loans may be eligible for the programs, according to the department. “We were able to provide stable, reliable funding for students this school year,” Margaret Spellings, the education secretary, said in a telephone interview. But the government is acting now to try to head off problems that could affect plans for next year, she said.

“Institutions, lenders and kids and families are thinking about financial aid issues for the next school year,” Ms. Spellings said.

Congress has authorized the Education Department to buy back loans made from 2003 to 2010, although the agency has not made full use of the authority. The government hopes that by serving as a buyer of last resort for student loans, it will attract investors who have shunned the loans. A private company, assured of a fallback buyer, could buy the loans and borrow from private investors to keep operating.

Student loans, like credit cards and mortgages, have long been financed by selling bonds to private investors. But in recent months, investors have shown little interest in purchasing either lenders’ bonds or their federal student loans, despite their government guarantee.

Student lenders have carried loans made years ago on their books, unable to sell them. When some student lenders saw their financing costs spike on older government-guaranteed loans they were waiting to package and sell that put more stress on the troubled industry. The government hopes that providing a new source of financing for those loans will ease some of the pressure.

“They have these government-guaranteed loans and nobody wants to fund them,” said Sameer Gokhale, an analyst at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods in New York. “The government is agreeing to buy more of the loans to give more liquidity.”

“It goes to show how irrational the securitization markets still are,” he added. “We aren’t talking about an asset class that has anything to do with subprime.”

The lenders’ inability to sell loans hinders their ability to make new loans.

“If the lenders sold them, they could take the proceeds and presumably have the capital to lend out,” Tim Ranzetta, founder of Student Lending Analytics, an independent research firm. He said that some large lenders were carrying billions of dollars in loans made before 2008 on their balance sheet.

Sallie Mae and big banks like Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase, which make thousands of government-subsidized student loans each year, stand to benefit the most from the government’s program. But so will dozens of nonprofit student lenders that are caught in the same bind. The government’s action will not resolve all worries about student lending. Student loan borrowers this year are finding it more difficult to obtain private loans, which are not guaranteed by the government and which typically carry higher interest rates and less favorable repayment terms.

Financers like Sallie Mae, the student lender, have raised the credit standards that borrowers must meet. Others have stopped making private loans entirely. According to Finaid.org, a financial aid Web site, 37 lenders have stopped making private loans and 107 have stopped offering federally guaranteed loans.

So far, the government’s student loan financing program has supported more than 40 percent of all federal loans disbursed this year, meaning that the government has bought, directly or indirectly, about $9 billion in loans, according to the Education Department.

Edward M. Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Education Committee, praised the Education Department’s move. “We need to do everything we can to prevent students from becoming the next victims of the financial crisis,” he said in a statement, adding, “Next year, we need to take a closer look at these programs to insulate them from fluctuations in the market so students’ ability to access loans is not threatened.”

One of my old college roommates and I were reminiscing the other day, and we realized that during the time we were in college, tuition nearly doubled. Costs keep spiraling; college presidents keep raking in the dough; more and more instructors are part-time faculty; and classes are getting ever larger.

If education is truly valued, students will find a way. But pricing college out of the middle class by shutting off loans is short-sighted in the extreme.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Home on the Range- Where the Buffalo Roam, Doofus.

In an update to a previous post, Software geek Jeff Hawn (forever branded in my mind as Mr. Sissy-pants) has copped a plea:
FAIRPLAY, Colo. – A modern-day range war ended Monday when a Texas businessman who owns a ranch in central Colorado pleaded guilty to criminal mischief and animal cruelty in the slaughter of 32 bison that belonged to a neighbor.

Jeff Hawn, CEO of Seattle-based software company Attachmate, agreed to pay $83,000 to the bison's owner, $70,000 to charities and $4,000 to the Park County Sheriff's Department.

Hawn could also face up to 10 days in jail when he's sentenced on Jan. 28. He faces two years of probation, and the case could be wiped from his record if he stays out of trouble during that time.

Hawn's lawyer, Pamela Mackey, didn't immediately return a telephone message.

Hawn lives in Austin, Texas, but has a luxury home on his Colorado property. Prosecutors say he gave 14 hunters permission to shoot and kill the bison on his land because they kept wandering there from owner Monte Downare's ranch.

But Colorado is an open-range state, where livestock like Downare's bison can roam wherever they please. If other landowners don't want animals on their property, the law says they have to fence them out; ranchers don't have to fence them in.

Investigators discovered 10 bison had been shot and killed March 19 on Hawn's property and nearby land. They said others had been shot earlier.

Hawn was originally charged with 32 counts of aggravated animal cruelty but pleaded guilty to the lesser charges in a deal with prosecutors.

Downare said the deal was "all right."

"It's about getting over with it," he said.

Prosecutor Katherine O'Brien said Downare and his family were reluctant to accept a plea deal because killing livestock is a serious crime in a ranching community, but the agreement was the best solution for all concerned.

Park County District Judge Stephen Groome said he agreed only reluctantly to accept the deal.

"It is pretty common knowledge this is one of the most controversial cases this county has faced for some time," Groome said. "Plea bargains are rarely occasions where everyone is happy. (But) it is probably as close to justice as we can achieve."

Feh. I'm sure the people of Fairplay will love to see him the next time he sojourns among them.

He oughta just stick to Cape Cod and its more "civilized" environs-- but I'm not sure people there would have liked him to destroy their property any more than Mr. Downare did.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The sunburned hands I used to hold

I miss you, Dad.

I miss you most of all when autumn leaves start to fall.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

What I like about you

Ahhh, the Romantics. Not the poets-- the New Wave band from the 80s.

The reason I am thinking of this gem of three chord rock and roll is one of our new administrators. Now you all know I do not suffer fools gladly or otherwise if they completely refuse to teach or administrate. But this person is the real deal, thus far.

When this person sees you, she asks you how you are doing. And wants to listen to the answer. And respond.

When this person asks for feedback, it is really something that she wants to know.

This administrator has tried some new things, and seems to be paying attention to making it possible for teachers to concentrate on teaching.

This principal has demonstrated a stellar work ethic thus far. However, when her child was sick, she left and took care of her child. This is how it should be. When one of my colleagues stated disapproval for this, I asked, "How often last year did you have to take off for your kid? Just because someone is an administrator, that doesn't mean that they stop being a mom, any more than you stop being a mom to be a teacher." I love my students-- but my own children come first. This administrator does not have any family here in town-- like our family, she is a transplant from elsewhere. I know what it's like to have no one to turn to when the kids need supervision and mom has to work.

She has tightened the reins without becoming Simon Legree. We loved and supported our former principal, but she chose to move on, and God bless her for it. This person is here now, and she is trying to improve our school. This does not imply that it was bad. But any school can improve.

So far, two thumbs up.



CHARLOTTE -- A Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools teacher faces firing for posting derogatory comments about students on Facebook, while four others have been disciplined for posts involving “poor judgment and bad taste,” school district spokeswoman Nora Carr said Tuesday.

WCNC, The (Charlotte) Observer's news partner, turned up questionable pages on the social networking site by searching for people who identified themselves as Charlotte-Mecklenburg employees.

Superintendent Peter Gorman has recommended firing a teacher who listed “teaching chitlins in the ghetto of Charlotte” as one of her activities and drinking as one of her hobbies.

In her “About Me” section she wrote: “I am teaching in the most ghetto school in Charlotte.”
Thomasboro Elementary, where most students are minorities from low-income homes, lists that teacher as a faculty member on the school Web site. She has been suspended with pay, Carr said; the dismissal is not final because teachers have a right to appeal. The Observer is not publishing her name, pending the district's final decision in her case.

Reporter Jeff Campbell of WCNC said he showed district officials pages involving seven CMS teachers. Carr said four faced unspecified discipline that is less than suspension or dismissal. She would not provide details about the offensive material, but the pages Campbell submitted included photos of female teachers in sexually suggestive poses and a black male teacher who listed “Chillin wit my n---as!!!” as an activity and had a suggestive exchange with a female “Facebook friend” accompanying a shirtless photo of himself.

The school district is reviewing the case of a high-school special-education teacher who used a Facebook “mood box” to post “I'm feeling p---ed because I hate my students!”

District officials are working on a memo reminding all 19,000 employees that information they post on the Web can be viewed by the public and should be appropriate. “When you're in a professional position, especially one where you're interacting with children and parents, you need to be above reproach,” Carr said.

The teachers in question chose to identify their employer and skipped an option that blocks public viewing of their pages. “I think they just didn't think these things through,” Carr said. “That's kind of mind-boggling.”

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has an investigator who specializes in online issues, including reports of inappropriate material posted by students about teachers. Carr said “several” employees a year are disciplined for inappropriate posts. The district generally responds to complaints, rather than randomly viewing pages.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and other districts also check Web pages, especially popular networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, before hiring, Carr said.

Teachers across the country have faced similar situations – enough so that NEA Today, the journal of the National Education Association, published a roundup this year. It included a Colorado English teacher fired for posting her sexually explicit poetry on MySpace, a Florida band director fired for a MySpace profile that included “his musings about sex, drugs and depression,” and a Virginia art teacher fired for posting photos of his “butt art,” done by painting his private parts and pressing them onto canvas.

Last fall, according to NEA Today, the Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch found teachers writing about sex, drugs and drinking on their MySpace profiles.

“There's an old lawyer's saw that goes something like this: Never put in writing anything that you wouldn't want read in open court or by your mother,” concludes the article, written by Michael Simpson of the NEA's legal office. “Maybe it's time for an updated adage: Never put in electronic form anything that you wouldn't want viewed by a million people, including your colleagues, students, and supervisors – and your mother.”

No matter how many times I try to explain it, my students don't get the fact that their emails accessed from school are then stored on the school server, that emails sent from school are then stored on the server, and there just is not any such thing as a privacy right at school. Then there's the whole facebook idiocy: even pages marked "private" can be accessed and published all over the place. For teachers not to get this drives me crazy.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day, 2008

We can honor them best not by laying wreaths, but by treating them as our greatest treasure, giving them the love and real support they deserve. Hopefully, this will be the last Veteran's Day that the phrase "Support Our Troops" means anything less than taking care of them when they're home as well as when they are executing policy. They're our troops not just when they're overseas.

Health Care.
Gratitude. No matter what the cost. Because they were willing give their all for us.

Thank you to all our veterans.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 130: Beltway edition

Welcome back to my now occasional Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. For a while there, I had to take a break, but the past week has inspired me to revisit an old favorite, and I hope you know it and love it like I do. If not, hie ye over to Netflix or whatever.

So we put our quotes from the movie into the comments section.

"Jesus Christ! You're a very handsome man."
"Thank you, Mr. President."
"Just get rid of the grin--you look like a schmuck."

"Sometimes we need our friends...and even our enemies, to feel safe and secure."
"We need them to feel like they can go to bed at night... knowing that President Mitchell is fully in control."
"We need them to feel like.. he's sitting right here...in this chair."
"Wait a minute. Wait! What about the vice-president?"

"She's great. She's really exotic! She's a princess! She's Polynesian - well, half Polynesian, and half American. She's... Amnesian."

"Somewhere, there is a distant light guiding us through this rocky shoal. America isn't what we say here tonight. lt's in the faces and the smiles of a Sunday afternoon. lt's in the gentle kindness of the family kitchen as we gather together when the sun goes down.''

"I'm going to kill him."
"You can't kill a President!"
"He's not a President. He's an ordinary person. I can kill an ordinary person."
"I can kill a hundred ordinary people!"

**** Weekend Update: I would gladly watch Kevin Kline singing show tunes a thousands times over in


Sigourney Weaver really adds to the fun, not to mention Charles Grodin coming back from the horrible Beethoven franchise.

This movie describes common sense taking over the White House. How wonderful an idea that is!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

As the deviated septum vibrates.....

As I listen to the dulcet tones of the Man-Who-Doesn't-Snore-I-Don't-Have-A-Problem sawing away over there in the lounger and contemplate the very real possibility that I will get about two hours less of sleep than I need tonight due to the disharmonious sound of a dry squeegee rattling across glass that emits from my beloved's gaping maw, I just wanna say:

Does anyone else out there feel me?

Can I get an "Amen, sistah!" from the legions of bleary eyed former gamines who now resemble a hag straight outta Grimm's due to lack of shut-eye due to the not-so-quiet-riot that we nightly negotiate?

Crap. Well, at least I bought a couple of new books this weekend.


Saturday, November 08, 2008

Oh, for cryin' out loud -- or, some will think hell freezes over...

... because I am now about to appear to defend Sarah Palin. Okay, now, I have heard enough of the brouhaha over Gov. Sarah Palin's wardrobe. Any hands raised with me on this? Ah, there's one now! Yes ma'am-- you in the mukluks!

Anyone else?

And the fact that this is coming from Republicans from McCain's campaign is even more ridiculous. Just goes to show that guys can be just as bitchy and catty as girls. Apparently, Republican lawyers are flying up to Alaska to demand back the threads. And tell me how many times you snorted or rolled your eyes as you read this snippet of an article from the UK's Daily Mail:
Sarah Palin is sorting through her luggage working out what clothes belong to her and what do not, her spokesman said yesterday.

Meg Stapleton added that the Alaskan governor was coming under unfair attack from a 'firing squad' of anonymous John McCain staffers in a frenzy of finger-pointing.

'It’s a circling firing squad,' said Ms Stapleton.

In a string of damaging briefings, it was claimed that Mrs Palin had spent 'tens of thousands' more on her clothes than budgeted for, that she once met McCain aides dressed in nothing but a towel and that she did not know Africa was a continent....

She and an aide are sorting through luggage to identify campaign clothes purchased by the Republican National Committee.

The designer clothing, which Palin intends to return so it can be donated to charity, became a damaging election issue that is still haunting the defeated vice-presidential candidate.

But Randy Scheunemann, McCain’s foreign policy aide, praised Palin and said attacks from other staffers were 'dishonorable'.

He told The Anchorage Daily News: 'I think it’s unprecedented in terms of presidential politics to have this level of vindictiveness and pettiness. It’s like these people fell out of favour with a middle school 14-year-old girls’ clique. It’s really unbelievable.'

Much of it is over the Republican National Committee’s purchase of more than £90,000 in clothes for Palin.

Look, I am sick of people who vilify their political opponents personally. I am certainly no fan of Sarah Palin, for logical reasons: too smugly anti-intellectual, too likely to inject her own personal sectarian religion into her politics instead of universal religious values, potential bookburner, and so on. But she gave McCain some definite cred that he had been lacking with core Republican constituencies that made this race closer than it would have otherwise have been. She showed a great sense of humor about herself on her SNL appearances, and I give her great credit for that, especially compared to Sen. McCain's wooden grimaces in place of grinning on the same show. She and I don't agree, but, good Lord, she's not Medusa. I am sick to death of bitterness. I actually with my own two ears heard someone I know call President-elect Obama a n----- in rage over the election the other day.

If you are coming from Alaska onto the world stage, you're going to need some clothes. You can't tromp around in pelts (kidding!) or North Face outerwear all the time. As a practical matter, I see nothing wrong with Palin getting a new wardrobe as the running mate of a national political figure (although I do draw the line at clothing for the rest of her family). The problem is that, according to the McCain-Feingold law, this kind of thing cannot be done by the campaign. And, um, McCain staffers knew this since McCain sponsored the legislation, and so rather than use their noggins, they engaged in some hocus-pocus that just enraged loads of Republican donors.

Now, there was a simple solution for all of this.

John and Cindy McCain keep their finances separate, right? And Cindy McCain is rolling in the stuff, yes? So Cindy McCain, who certainly knows how to wear $150,000 well (and even all at once!) should have just taken her new BFF Sarah on a little shopping spree. This would have been just a few personal gifts between friends, and at the end of the campaign, give 'em back to Cindy or whatever.

Problem solved, and no one would have been the wiser.

But, hey, Republican lawyers, go on and fly up to Alaska to repo the rags. It's all silly and petty at this point.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Voting with my feet

I received back one of the very, very few referrals I write a year. This was in an after school activity in which a student I do not know was belligerent, rude, disrespectful, noncompliant, and insubordinate. Grossly insubordinate. Beyond a shadow of a doubt insubordinate. I handled this exchange by calmly repeating "You need to leave now. You might as well stop making it worse for yourself," repeatedly as said miscreant hollered and complained and vituperated all over my unmoved self. While the kids that were there to be helped gaped in disbelief and couldn't understand how I stayed so calm. Ah! A chance to teach! I explained that, when somebody says things to you you don't like, you consider the source. If that person's opinion doesn't matter to you, then who cares what they say?

But the kicker?

This kid received a talking to. That's it. IF there is another incident, he MAY lose his privilege to stay after school. "May."

So, you know, here's my philosophy: Life is short. I almost died a few years back, and I realize every day is a gift. Life is too short for me to be expected to put up with this kind of crap on my own darn time. During the school day, I may have to put up with this kind of disrespect and disregard from administrators, but not now. And yes, it is the administrator who demonstrated a total lack of respect for me as a colleague and a staff member. A kid's a kid, and kids need to be directed to correct behavior. Part of "loving our kids" and "being their advocates" is teaching them proper behavior. But the consequences for this incident were quite clearly spelled out, and they were not adhered to in the least.

So I quit the after school activity.

I quit for every other teacher who is trying to do this job. Some people depend on the extra money-- and they need better support than this. The kids trying to learn deserve better than this.

I did not quit in anger-- I'm not angry at anyone. But I am resolved-- it's time to say, "No more." And mean it. I was asked to reconsider. I did. Hmmm-- yep, still certain that I don't need this. So, adios.

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Thursday, November 06, 2008

No Foolin'.

You Would Make a Horrible 1930's Wife

You are way too non conformist, independent, and sassy to be an ideal retro wife.

You may be so wild that you aren't even considering marriage!

Good thing we don't live in the 1930s anymore!

That's a laugh.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

And now let us work together

"What then is the American, this new man? He is either an European, or the descendant of an European, hence that strange mixture of blood, which you will find in no other country. I could point out to you a family whose grandfather was an Englishman, whose wife was Dutch, whose son married a French woman, and whose present four sons have now four wives of different nations. He is an American."-- Michel-Gillaume Jean de Crevecoeur

Barack Obama and his grandparents

President-Elect Barack Obama

May God bless us and keep us. May we realize that God blesses and loves us all, and wills us to love each other.

And Yes, I Believe that We Can. I believe that we can work together, and that we must.

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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Spreading the wealth, or spreading the dumbth.

I'm sure that I am betraying my age, but I love the word dumbth. If any word encompasses what passes for political discourse in this country, it's dumbth.

Like all these working guys that claim that they are "Joe the Plumber." You're not making a living, you're not getting by, you're angry without understanding why, you've got no healthcare? Joe the Plumber.

You're not making any money as working people because unions have been eviscerated under the government policies of the last forty years. You're not making any money, Joe, because you've bought the crock that unions are your enemy and not your ally. You're not making any money because you have spurned the training that craft unions provide, since you equate that as cuddling up with communists. You unthinkingly react to the "spreading the wealth" socialist bugaboo put out by a campaign bankrupt of ideas that has simply marinated in bitterness and anger when you need to understand that you don't have any wealth to spread.

"Spreading the wealth" means regulating business so that billionaire bankers and executives don't get bonuses in exchange for abysmal performance that has put all of our livelihoods at risk--bonuses paid out of your pocket either indirectly through inequitable pay schemes or through your money given to them in the bailout. "Spreading the wealth" simply means increasing opportunity for everyone to make a decent wage in exchange for their hard work. "Spreading the wealth" means not providing tax breaks-- and that's YOUR tax money we're talking about-- for businesses that send jobs overseas-- jobs like yours. Just examine where the wealth has concentrated over the last eight years-- it hasn't been into YOUR pockets.

The "market" isn't going to do it for you, Joe. The "market" doesn't care about anything but protecting the same incestuous coterie of executives that determine each others' compensation by serving on each others' boards. Notice how quickly all that rot about "free markets" evaporated when the credit dried up-- talk about socialism! Suddenly there were the same executives who scream about getting "government off our backs" running screaming toward that same government with their hands out for a bailout.

So here are a few questions: if government is such a bad thing, such a weak force for good, why do its detractors want so badly to control it? And who HAS controlled it for the last eight years? Has it shrunk or grown in that time? Has it attempted to balance its budget or has it run record deficits? Has it concentrated on the needs of Workin' Joe or Executive Joseph IV?

In the last several decades, Americans have worked ever longer hours for ever-stagnating wages and ever-increasing healthcare costs. Our productivity has exploded-- and so has our debt. But hey, go ahead and vote for executives to make 411 times what you make-- or more. Refuse to believe that they are being paid off the labor your aching back provides, and that profitability doesn't matter nearly as much as stock price. Of course your masters want you to believe that any other system would be "socialism," because that's a word that short-circuits the thinking of loads of Americans, almost as badly as the word "Muslim." Dumbth.

But capitalism isn't the problem, Joe-- rapacity is. Capitalism is powerful when it is regulated against overweening selfishness which is the height of a lack of patriotism. Where else can people rise through their own efforts-- as long as the deck is not stacked against them? And of course, this fever to hold down wages for everyone but executives is short-sighted too, because workers are also consumers. When the credit dries up, so does the economy, because workers certainly can't consume when they have no access to any sort of money. When consumers can't buy, it's the small businesses that suffer most of all-- unless you count yacht-makers.

These politicians and businessmen would have you believe that government can't do anything for you economically when government has done PLENTY for them. And to sweeten the pot, they flavor their message with a brand of Christianity that completely contradicts the words and actions of Jesus or Moses, that denigrates any love for one's fellow-man or sense of community by worshiping the god of self-centeredness, the god of sandbox morality.

Think before you vote, Joe. Don't be spooked or herded.

I wonder how long it will take for the anonymous commenters from Crystal City, VA and its environs to swoop in.


Saturday, November 01, 2008

THIS is what I call attention to civic duty.

These people decided that a little thing like 9,000 miles keep them from voting in their first presidential election as US citizens:
A New York City couple has traveled halfway around the world in the name of civic duty.

Susan Scott-Ker and her husband arrived in New York on Wednesday after flying 9,300 miles to vote in Tuesday's presidential election.

They have been working India but decided to return to New York when their absentee ballots failed to arrive. Their trip began in Bangalore with stopovers in New Delhi and Chicago.

It will be their first time voting in a presidential election. The New Zealand-born Scott-Ker and her Morroco-born husband became American citizens a year ago.

They estimate the trip will cost $5,000.

So if they're willing to drop 5K in order to vote, will you let anything stop YOU next Tuesday? Of course, I imagine that the readers of this blog will be a united "No," but encourage all your friends and family to persevere. This election looks possibly to have record turnout. Unfortunately, that will be made worse in my state by the facts that there's about 14,000 other things on the ballot, too, but we will persevere in this house.


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