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

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Chip Saltsman for GOP chairman

I would like to put out my endorsement for Chip Saltsman to be elected the next chair of the Republican National Committee.

I believe that Mr. Saltsman encompasses all of the qualities that define the modern Republican party. If Republicans want to elect a chair of the national committee that completely represents who they are as a political movement, Chip Saltsman is your man!

First, he demonstrated his sense of judgment by sending out a lovely CD full of songs conveying the principles of the modern Republican party:
The controversy surrounding a comedy CD distributed by Republican National Committee chair candidate Chip Saltsman has not torpedoed his bid and might have inadvertently helped it.

Four days after news broke that the former Tennessee GOP chairman had sent a CD that included a song titled “Barack the Magic Negro” to the RNC members he is courting, some of those officials are rallying around the embattled Saltsman, with a few questioning whether the national media and his opponents are piling on.

“When I heard about the story I had to figure out what was going on for myself,” said Mark Ellis, the chairman of the Maine Republican Party. “When I found out what this was about I had to ask, ‘boy, what’s the big deal here?’ because there wasn’t any.”

Alabama Republican committeeman Paul Reynolds said the fact the Saltsman sent him a CD with the song on it “didn’t bother me one bit.”

“Chip probably could have thought it through a bit more, but he was doing everyone a favor by giving us a gift,” he said. “This is just people looking for something to make an issue of.”

“I don’t think he intended it as any kind of racial slur. I think he intended it as a humor gift,” Oklahoma GOP committeewoman Carolyn McClarty added. “I think it was innocently done by Chip.”

The song came with 40 others on an album from conservative satirist Paul Shanklin, a personal friend of Saltsman. The song is a parody of a 2007 Los Angeles Times column of the same title and is written to the tune of “Puff the Magic Dragon.”

“Barack the Magic Negro lives in D.C.” the opening of the song goes. “The L.A. Times, they called him that ‘cause he’s not authentic like me. Yeah, the guy from the L.A. paper said he makes guilty whites feel good. They’ll vote for him, and not for me ‘cause he’s not from the hood.”

The song, written shortly after the publication of the Times column, was first played on the Rush Limbaugh radio show. On Monday, Limbaugh prominently re-posted the song on the top left corner of his website above the headline, “Drive-by media misreporting of ‘Barack the Magic Negro’ song.”

The flap has generated unflattering attention at a time when the GOP is trying to rebuild its brand and reach out to new voters after an election in which GOP presidential nominee John McCain ran poorly among minority constituencies.

The day after the story was first reported by The Hill, RNC Chairman Mike Duncan issued a statement expressing disgust over the song.

“The 2008 election was a wake-up call for Republicans to reach out and bring more people into our party,” said Duncan, who is seeking reelection to his post. “I am shocked and appalled that anyone would think this is appropriate as it clearly does not move us in the right direction.”

Duncan was joined by Michigan GOP Chair Saul Anuzis, another RNC chair aspirant who chided Saltsman for sending out the CD.

North Dakota Republican Party Chairman Gary Emineth said he was “disappointed” when he heard about the story and questioned Saltsman’s viability as a candidate going forward.

“There are a lot of things about Chip that would have made a good a RNC chairman, but this has definitely hurt him,” he said in an interview with Politico. “With less than a month to go Chip needs to be talking about where he wants to lead the party and he is not going to get that opportunity.”

Not everyone is so sure, with some RNC members contending that Anuzis and Duncan may have actually hurt their candidacies with their responses.

“Those are two guys who just eliminated themselves from this race for jumping all over Chip on this,” one committee member told Politico. “Mike Duncan is a nice guy, but he screwed up big time by pandering to the national press on this.”

While South Carolina GOP Chair Katon Dawson and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele have decided to stay away from the controversy, offering no comment, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, who would be the party’s first black chairman, has drawn notice for his vigorous defense of Saltsman.

“Unfortunately, there is hypersensitivity in the press regarding matters of race. This is in large measure due to President-Elect Obama being the first African-American elected president,” Blackwell said in a statement. “I don't think any of the concerns that have been expressed in the media about any of the other candidates for RNC chairman should disqualify them. When looked at in the proper context, these concerns are minimal. All of my competitors for this leadership post are fine people.”

As a result of his position, a source close to the race said that at least 12 uncommitted committee members have contacted Blackwell to thank him for his support for Saltsman and have expressed anger toward Duncan and Anuzis “for throwing a good Republican under the bus.”

Indeed, in a fluid race in which six candidates are vying for the votes of 168 members, both Blackwell and Saltsman stand to benefit from a backlash to the flap.

Most observers expect Duncan to lead after the first ballot, but few expect he or any other candidate will be able to secure election on a first ballot. For either Saltsman or Blackwell to win election they will likely need the votes of the other’s supporters to break in their direction, along with any other committee members who are not enamored of Duncan’s leadership.
In calls to committee members in recent days, both Saltsman and Blackwell have been reminding Republicans of how both Duncan and Anuzis reacted to the story.

“I wasn’t angered by what Mike had said, it was just revealing to me how each one responded,” said Ellis of Maine, who as an uncommitted member received calls from all six candidates Monday. “Their responses were kind of a surprise to me because I saw it as something that was not an issue, something that was manufactured from outside the committee.”

Those nasty bastards in the mainstream media (or as Spiro Agnew liked to call 'em right before they selfishly revealed his profit sharing plan, those "nattering nabobs of negativism") are to blame for this whole thing, because they have been after good Republicans ever since they cruelly went after poor ol' Spiro and then Richard Nixon, all because they were jealous of what a great president and moral leader he was.

I'm so glad that Rush Limbaugh, another fine hero of the party, has included a link to the song in question, and am so happy it replaced that infomercial for OxyContin.

Poor old Chip, good ole boy that he is, was completely misunderstood by some "Democrats in Republican clothing" who objected to the use of the term "Negro" when referring to the current president elect, Barack HUSSEIN Obama, whom new research has shown to not only have been born in Tehran as the love child of the Ayatollah Khomeini, but to have the mark of the beast and cloven hooves (that's why you never see him barefoot).

Now, about those backstabbing bastards who dared to criticize good ol' Chip: first of all, what do you expect from a sumbitch named Saul, anyway? Who could take any Republican seriously who has the same name as someone who made it his mission to persecute the followers of our Lord and Savior? You know we can't trust their kind to look after anyone's interests but their own.

But Ken Blackwell has shown himself to be our kind of Negro. He knows that "Negro" is really a term of affection, like "boy" or "uncle." Hell, the word "Negro" always reminds me of a time when life was simpler, and you could always find someone to shine your shoes or bust up a chiffarobe. And that's the kind of time we need to have restored by men like Chip Saltsman.

What's all this fuss about some music? I think Republicans need to show their love of the arts more, because you can only listen to Toby Keith and Lee Greenwood so many times, you know? It's a wonderful idea to rehabilitate that piece of commie trash Peter, Paul, and Mary and cleanse that song of its ability to hook our kids on drugs, because really, what did you think that dragon was puffing, anyway? I think the other candidates for chairman should show their support for Chip by helping put on a minstrel show-- now, THAT was good clean family entertainment! Woo-ee!

So, please support Chip, before those Magic Negroes and their commie friends take over EVERYTHING, wanting to hand out welfare to every person who's lost his job because he selfishly demanded that he be paid more than three dollars an hour in a vicious plot to cut corporate profit. Right thinkers everywhere know that that's a waste of money that just encourages the little people to expect things like socialized medicine instead of learning how to live with a little cough for months. Using taxpayer money to bail out the saps who actually are stupid enough to pay the taxes is all a commie plot. It makes them uppity instead of realizing that they should be grateful just to have the chance of getting crushed by heavy machinery in a factory run without the nanny state protection of OSHA. The GOP must stand up for using guvmint funds for good capitalist purposes, like gutting the EPA or pouring trillions of dollars into the pockets of good Republican-supporting corporations and protecting bonuses for executives everywhere so that they can hire more yard workers and pool boys and brass polishers on their yachts to create good jobs for illegal immigrants whose asses we can ship back south of the border if they complain those who should be grateful for whatever trickles down. Because that's what Republican economic policy stands for. And we can't have that if Magic Negroes think they have the right to actually run for president and then promise to change the way things always have been.

Chip Saltsman for chair of the Republican National Committee! He's got a vision for America! Electing him will drive all of the "wrong sort" straight outta the Party, which can only make it stronger!

(PS-- Y'all DO realize that I'm being satirical in this piece, right?)

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Monday, December 29, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 134: Wishful Drinking edition

After plowing through Carrie Fisher's bio, which is absolutely a riot, I just had to do this again for MMM-- plus, it centers around New Year's. So put those quotes in the comments section!

"You're right, you're right, I KNOW you're right."

"Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor but they couldn't possibly all have good taste."

"You only had one date. How do you know it's not going to get worse?"
"How much worse can it get than finishing dinner, having him reach over, pull a hair out of my head and start flossing with it at the table?"

"You know, I'm so glad I never got involved with you. I just would have ended up being some woman you had to get up out of bed and leave at 3:00 in the morning and go clean your andirons, and you don't even have a fireplace, not that I would know this."

"You are a human affront to all women and I am a woman."

"I said we could just be friends. And this part I can remember he said that men and women could never really be friends. Do you think that's true?"
"Do you have any women friends, just friends?"
"No. But I will get one if it is important to you."

"Joe and I broke up."
"You waited three days to tell us?"
"You mean Joe's available?"

**** Update: This is all that needs to be said about WHEN HARRY MET SALLY:

Thanks for playing!

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

Flotsam and jetsam from the news

Here are some interesting, shiny bits that caught my eye:

1. This is just "crackers." From Irvine, CA:
The box of crackers Debra Rogoff bought from the grocery store had some crackerjack in it - an envelope stuffed with $10,000.

Yet the Irvine woman was more curious than ecstatic about her daughter's find. After all, who would leave money in such a place?

"We just thought, 'This is someone's money,'" she said. "We would never feel good about spending it."

Rather than go on a shopping spree, the family called police and was initially told the money could be part of a drug drop.

Police later heard from store managers at Whole Foods in Tustin that an elderly woman had come in a few days earlier, hysterical because she had mistakenly returned a box of crackers with her life savings inside. In a mix-up the store restocked the box rather than composting it.

The Lake Forest woman, whose identity was not released, had lost faith in her bank and decided the box would be a safer place for the money.

Luckily for her, the box of Annie's Sour Cream and Onion Cheddar Bunny crackers were bought by the Rogoffs, who discovered the crisp $100 bills in an unmarked white envelope on Oct. 10.

The Rogoffs never heard from the woman and didn't receive a reward, but Rogoff did return to Whole Foods a couple weeks later.

"I asked them if I could have another box of crackers," she said with a laugh. The store obliged.

Yeah, that was MUCH safer than a bank.

2. To make this a perfect story, shouldn't this have been a "cat burglar?" From Murray, UT:
A thief remains at large after pulling off a daring heist - in the pet food aisle.

Surveillance video at a supermarket in this Salt Lake City suburb caught a dog shoplifting, KSL-TV reported Wednesday.

The video showed the dog walking in the front door of Smith's Food & Drug in Murray, and heading straight to Aisle 16, the pet food aisle, where it grabbed a bone worth $2.79.

The thief wasn't even perturbed by a face-to-face confrontation with store manager Roger Adamson.

"I looked at him. I said 'Drop it!'" Adamson said. "He looked at me, and I looked at him, and he ran for the door and away he went, right out the front door."

I heard that the store manager's nickname was Paddywhack. So come on-- it's just a nick-knack, Paddywhack! Give the dog a bone!

3. All together now: "You don't jump on Superman's cape, you don't spit into the wind...." Or at a crime scene, apparently, especially in Oklahoma, where we know from tobacco spit:
A trail of tobacco spit has led investigators to a suspect in at least five burglaries across eastern Oklahoma, police said.

Randy Lee Shoopman Jr., 33, was charged with 11 counts of second-degree burglary after a sample of his DNA matched that taken from expectorant left behind at the scene of several burglaries in Oklahoma, said officer Brad Robertson, a spokesman for the Tahlequah police department.

Shoopman was taken into custody Friday in Merced, Calif., on an unrelated stolen property charge, Robertson said.

Investigators also said Shoopman may be involved in break-ins at businesses across eastern Oklahoma and in Missouri.

Stilwell police detective Chad Smith said he was investigating the burglary of an insurance company in September when he noticed a tobacco stain on papers in the ransacked office.

"None of the ladies that worked there chewed tobacco," Smith said. "You could tell that the stains were from the suspect."

Smith said he sent a sample of the spit to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation for testing. Detectives in Tahlequah who were investigating Shoopman as a possible suspect in a string of burglaries obtained a warrant to get a DNA sample from him.

The sample linked him to at least five burglaries in which the suspect also left behind tobacco spit, Robertson said. Shoopman was released on bail before the DNA match was obtained.

The evidence helps build a strong case for prosecutors, said Shannon Otteson, assistant district attorney in Adair County.

"Eyewitness testimony is unreliable at best. Even video tape surveillance is sometimes grainy. But this is pretty good," Otteson said. "Through this guy's bad habit, we could possibly solve several different burglaries."

Oklahoma officials hoped to have Shoopman extradited from California soon to face charges, said Otteson.

A telephone message left Wednesday with Shoopman's attorney in Muskogee was not immediately returned.

Probably because he was out looking for a Hills Bros. Coffee Can that his client can carry on his next heist, if there is one.

4. Just goes to show that Darwin may have been on to something:
Fire officials in New Bedford, Mass., say a man using a blowtorch to melt ice on his back porch ended up setting his house on fire, causing up to $30,000 in damage.

Fire Capt. Scott Kruger tells The Standard-Times of New Bedford that no on was injured during Monday's incident at the three-story home.

Kruger says the man was using a torch hooked up to a 20-pound propane cylinder. He got too close to the building's wood frame and ignited the vinyl siding. The fire quickly spread into the building's second- and third-floor apartments.

It took 25 firefighters to subdue the blaze that damaged bedrooms in the upstairs units, and caused damage to the structure and wiring.

The homeowner will not be charged.

Hey Clark, Ellen, Rusty, and Audrey! Cousin Eddie lives!

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday hunger

A school district in Ohio is keeping its lunch lines open during the holiday break to make sure that needy students still have access to at least one hot meal a day during the week.
A school district in Ohio says the economy is so tight it has kept its cafeterias open during Christmas break to provide hot lunches for needy students.

It's the first time North College Hill School district outside Cincinnati has kept its lunch lines going through the holiday break.
Officials say two-thirds of the district's 1,600 students are economically disadvantaged, up from fewer than one in 10 a decade ago.

The national School Nutrition Association says almost 80 percent of the schools it surveyed are reporting an increase in the number of free lunches served this year.

What does it mean when our society has descended to this point? True, there are no doubt some of these students who could be fed if the adults in their lives made feeding their children a priority over their own entertainment-- and I am speaking as someone who knows personally people who do wrongheaded things like this consistently-- but kids should not suffer hunger as a consequence of the decisions of their parents.

In this time of giving, please don't forget to support your local food pantry as well.

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Mix 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside, by Dean Martin
Valley Winter Song, by Fountains of Wayne
River, by Joni Mitchell
The Coventry Carol, by Alison Moyet
Gabriel's Message, by Sting
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, by Sixpence None the Richer
Maybe This Christmas, by Ron Sexsmith
Green Christmas, by the Barenaked Ladies
All That I Want, by the Weepies
The Christmas Song, by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
I'll Be Home for Christmas, by Aimee Mann
'Zat You, Santa Claus? by Louis Armstrong & the Commanders
The Man in the Santa Suit, by Fountains of Wayne
Blue Christmas, by the Perishers
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, by Jack Johnson
Sleigh Ride, by Harry Connick, Jr.
Linus & Lucy, by the Vince Guaraldi Trio
Carol of the Bells, by Straight No Chaser
Baby It's Cold Outside, by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Jourdan

Did I mention that it's cold?


And here's my Christmas obsession, which I discovered today:


Monday, December 22, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 133: Financial meltdown edition

Welcome to an end of advent edition of MMM, the movie quote trivia game. This week's entry was judged a failure when first released but now is recognized as a holiday classic. So put your quotes in the comments section,and Merry Christmas!

"Do you know how long it takes a working man to save five thousand dollars? Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community. Well, is it too much to have them work and pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath? Anyway, my father didn't think so. People were human beings to him. But to you, a warped, frustrated old man, they're cattle. Well, in my book he died a much richer man than you'll ever be!"

"No man is a failure who has friends."

"He's making violent love to me, mother!"

"I like him."
"You like every boy."
"What's wrong with that?"

"Now you listen to me! I don't want any plastics and I don't want any ground floors! And I don't want to get married EVER to anyone! You understand that? I want to do what I want to do!"

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Carnival of Education 202

is up over at Steve Spangler's blog

and it's a good one! Go see!


Lake Wobegon schools and US News and World Report

Just how "public" are the schools that US News has crowned as "Gold Medal Schools" in its annual "America's Best High Schools" issue?

As I was looking at the list, I was struck by a few things right off the bat:
1. Most of these schools are not "open enrollment" schools. The majority select their students by application only, or are magnet schools, or charter schools. They are from the fairy tale land of public schools in America. Only NINE of the top 50 schools are open enrollment schools, in fact.

2. Eight of the top ten schools have twenty percent or less of their students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. Number three on the list, Pacific College Charter in Santa Cruz, CA, has 0.0% disadvantaged children, and its minority enrollment in a whopping 5.3 percent. Only 20 of the top fifty schools have an economically disadvantaged population above 25%.

3. And speaking of minorities, in a country in which white, non-Hispanics are approximately fifty percent of the population, seven of the top ten have 12.6% minority enrollment, or less. Only 18 of the top fifty schools has a minority enrollment above 25%. As stated below, the average school has 44% minority enrollment, and only one of the top ten and seven of the top fifty meet that standard.

4. Kudos go out to Preuss School UCSD in La Jolla, CA (number 8 on the list), which serves a population that is 99.6% economically disadvantaged and 71.3% minority. The 752 students who go there (and by the way, my own alma mater had nearly three times that number in grades 10-12) are lucky indeed.

5. Only one of the top ten schools has an enrollment as large as the high school at which I teach (over 1500 students). Number 6, International Academy in Bloomfield Hills, MI, has 148 students, and number 4, High Technology High (ha!) in Lincroft, NJ, has 262. Number 7, International Baccalaureate in Bartow, FL, has 278 students. Only eight of the top 50 have enrollments over 1500 students.

And how many of them are in large school districts, I wonder? That information is not included.

I wonder how many students have IEPs or 504s? I wonder how many students have juvenile records? That information is also not included.

What is the student/teacher ratio, flawed though that indicator is when counselors and administrators are allowed to be included in determining the average?

And we're not even considering the fact that the ranking is based on how many Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests the students can take-- which is a real problem when so many schools cannot find the staff or afford the training to offer these kinds of classes. And yes, I am an Advanced Placement and College Credit teacher in the discipline of history.

But it is obvious that, in more ways than excellence, these schools are hardly representative of public schools across the country.

Well, let's just consider this from the National Center for Education Statistics to help frame our discussion:
The 100 largest public school districts, representing less than 1 percent (0.6 percent) of all school districts in the United States and jurisdictions, were responsible for the education of 23 percent of all public school students.

The 100 largest public school districts employed 22 percent of the United States and jurisdictions' public school full-time-equivalent (FTE) teachers and contained 17 percent of all public schools and 20 percent of public high school completers.

The 100 largest public school districts had larger average school enrollments compared to the average for all school districts (695 vs. 518) as well as a higher median pupil/teacher ratio (15.9 vs. 15.4).

The percentage of students in the 100 largest public school districts who were other than White, non-Hispanic was 71 percent, compared to 44 percent of students in all school districts.

In FY 2005, current expenditures per pupil in the 100 largest public school districts ranged from lows of $5,104 in the Puerto Rico Department of Education and $5,503 in the Alpine District, Utah to a high of $18,878 in the District of Columbia Public Schools and $17,988 in Boston, Massachusetts).

Three states-California, Florida, and Texas-accounted for 45 percent of the 100 largest public school districts.

So all that I see here is a reminder that schools that have to deal with disadvantaged populations, schools that have to take everyone (as the law requires of most public schools), are not ideal schools, and never will be. They just can't compete. Allow public schools to exclude "troublesome" or disadvantaged populations, I guess, and you're on the rocket ship to success. Even if that would place real public schools in violation of federal and state law.

Any school that gets to exclude populations, that only has students who WANT to be there, is going to have an advantage. In any other facet of modern American life, the people who partake in any activity-- even the military-- are there because they choose to be there, except in public schools-- oh wait, except for most of the schools that US News considers to be the "best."

It's ironic.

Almost as much as the fact that those who espouse charter schools-- schools which are exempt from many regulations and bureaucracies that other public schools have to endure-- decided to "improve" public schools by-- drumroll, please-- adding MORE regulations and MORE bureaucracy onto the backs of public schools, complements of the No Child Left Behind Act, et alia. And of course testing requirements don't apply to private schools, either-- but some would like to see my tax dollars going to pay tuition for students to go to private schools (completely ignoring the fact that once an institution takes public funding, it ceases to have the right to behave as a private institution, but that's a post for another day....).

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Math lesson

Ahhh, finals week approacheth. Here's a snippet of today's conversation:

Kid A: Ms! I looked at my grade, and it's really low.
MC: Yes, it is. You and I have talked about that a lot.
Kid A: I don't think I'll take the final. I can't pass unless I get 100%. See, because if your final is worth 15% of my grade, and I've got a 50 now, even a hundred would only raise me to a 57.5. So, should I take the final exam?
MC: Well, you certainly won't pass if you don't.
Kid A: Well, I don't think I'm going to take it.
MC: Suit yourself. But that was mad math skillz you just showed there, bud.
Kid A: Yeah, I got a C in math!

You can tell it's approaching the end of the semester when I am thrilled that a kid who redefines the term "underachiever" at least demonstrates some math ability.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Not to be smug, but...

(Clears throat. Taps mike.)

Is this thing on? Yes? Okay...
(To the tune of "I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree")

I think that I shall never say
Two words as potent as "Snow day,"
Whose possibilities are outspread
Like finals hanging overhead

I normally scorn such wastes of time
Especially in this wintry clime
I'd rather have the school year done
And bask beneath the summer sun

But now I've got a nap to take
--Oh, hell! Until my children wake
Yes, there's the reason I'm so blue
My children got a snow day, too!


Friday, December 12, 2008

Status report

The classroom is normally packed with bodies. But apparently there is some kind of combination of insanity and crud drifting the halls of the high school, that crazed year-end malaise of those who suddenly stick their heads up out of the fog and realize that they are this close -- thisclose-- to not earning their credits and it's time to try to sic their parents or grandma or whomever on the mean teachers who haven't performed miracles for them, who haven't just given up on expecting them to do their homework and even study. These are the people who are going to claim that you've never spoken to their kid, never suggested coming in for help, never been available after school every single day, and so therefore there has to be an appeals process somewhere whereby they will magically be granted a grade that is more commensurate with their lofty expectations.

There is the mad scramble of kids who spend hours each day updating their Facebook page to claim that their honors classes take too much of their time and they can't possibly remain in them next semester. But they can write stuff like: "Connor is now sneezing." Four seconds later: "Connor is thinking about pie." Two minutes later: "Connor has a rash in his armpit." This is going on during the same three hours that the kid is claiming that he spends EVERY NIGHT doing his AP Chemistry homework.

There is some sort of flu going around. It's the kind of flu that makes one incapable of dragging oneself out of bed for school but dressed and ready to party when someone texts that Janie's parents are out of town this weekend. One of the students in this classroom has had this flu every single day for twenty school days in a row, but Mom has been allowed to call him in sick, and these absences are excused. The semester ends in 8 days, and this student now wants all of his makeup work. He was going to come in this morning, and we were told to look for him. But the seat sat empty again. The last time this kid was in class was eighty years of United States history ago.

There's the kid who makes you laugh because he just told you that his English teacher has started taking his vampire book away from him until he finishes the two page paper that is due in twenty minutes. Talk about bringing out the hammer!

There's the kid who just went to the bathroom and threw up, and is now lying to me about it so she doesn't have to go to the nurse. I'm hoping that I don't know the reason why she just threw up, because all three possibilities or a combination thereof would not be good at all.

This classroom is usually packed with bodies. Right now it is just packed with teen angst.

But it is Friday, and a storm may be heading our way. A storm may be already here.

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Christmas Music -- the good stuff

I was reading Dooce's latest hilarious post about Christmas music, and of course she has 18 million comments and doesn't care about my opinions anyway since she knows not the Cornelius musical taste, but I do have a few suggestions to share if you are thinking about adding some Christmas music to your repertoire.

First, there is Christine Lavin & the Mistletones' The Runaway Christmas Tree. NO ONE should be without the Tacobel Canon. There are several other great gems there, but Christine Lavin is one of my favorite singer/songwriters.

I love Sarah McLachlan's Wintersong,too. The fact that she covered one of my favorite Gordon Lightfoot songs figures heavily into this, and then there was Joni Mitchell's River. Love those Canadians! But really, Sarah could sing the phone book, and I would be enraptured.

Aimee Mann is not normally the kind of singer you picture singing Christmas music because she's so serious and artistic and non-sentimental, but One More Drifter in the Snow is also really wonderful. Her voice is just right for You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch. If you are not familiar with Aimee Mann, check out this one for the holidays, and then try her latest album, @#%&*! Smilers, after that.

These are some of my picks of the modern era. How do you "tune in" to the holiday season?

And Happy Eid to all my Muslim friends!


Monday, December 08, 2008

In last week's Time magazine...

Who else thinks that all Michelle Rhee needs is a pointy hat to make that picture perfect on the front cover of the December 8 issue?

I sometimes imagine Michelle Rhee the superintendent going into the classroom of Michelle Rhee the first year teacher and then I see her firing herself. Just so she would be consistent. And of course, she could crack every one of her knuckles with her thumb while she does it--perhaps in another really professional see-through blouse. Yech. Pop on over using the link and take a look.

But seriously, poor teachers absolutely should be fired. Where I live, poor teachers CAN be fired. The problem is, so few administrators go to the trouble of documenting and then following through.

Too many students come to school each day intent on doing anything else but learn.

And too many administrators spent little to no time in the classroom, like some people we could mention in Time magazine, and have no idea what it takes to go it alone in a classroom for a career, teaching like one's hair is on fire.

Loving teaching and loving your students is not enough, not is all the content knowledge in the world if you don't know how to impart that knowledge and if you don't hold students to standards as part of that love for them.

But at least it's a start.

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

The football gods giveth....


.... and the football gods taketh away.


I still love you, David, and hope to see you as a pro quarterback someday. Terrion Adams, God bless!
And shame on those of you in Tulsa who didn't buy a ticket!


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Any other result would be unacceptable.

You Passed High School with an A

You have the brains of a high school graduate... at least!

Quelle surprise!


College: the great gatekeeper

As a mother, I feel the anxiety building, and this is years away for us, which makes it all the worse, if you consider the trends.

An independent report on American higher education flunks all but one state when it comes to affordability — an embarrassing verdict that is unlikely to improve as the economy contracts.

The biennial study by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, which evaluates how well higher education is serving the public, handed out Fs for affordability to 49 states, up from 43 two years ago. Only California received a passing grade in the category, a C, thanks to its relatively inexpensive community colleges.

The report card uses a range of measurements to give states grades, from A to F, on the performance of their public and private colleges. The affordability grade is based on how much of the average family's income it costs to go to college.
Almost everywhere, that figure is up, according to the survey. Only two states — New York and Tennessee — have made even minimal improvements since 2000, but they're still considered to be failing. Everywhere else, families must fork over a greater percentage of their income to pay for college. In Illinois, the average cost attending a public four-year college has jumped from 19 percent of family's income in 1999-2000 to 35 percent in 2007-2008, and in Pennsylvania, from 29 percent to 41 percent. Low-income families have been hardest hit. Nationally, enrollment at a local public college costs families in the top fifth of income just 9 percent of their earnings, while families from the bottom fifth pay 55 percent — up from 39 percent in 1999-2000.

And that's after accounting for financial aid, which is increasingly being used to lure high-achieving students who boost a school's reputation, but who don't need help to go to college. The problem seems likely to worsen as the economy does, said Patrick Callan, the center's president. Historically during downturns, "states make disproportionate cuts in higher education and, in return for the colleges taking them gracefully, allow them to raise tuition," Callan said. "If we handle this recession like we've handled others, we will see that this gets worse."

Scott Cristal of Columbia, Mo., said he wasn't surprised by the study's findings. Cristal, who has sent two daughters to college and has another two yet to pay for, said that he is trying to expand his business to help pay the tuition bills, but that it's been hard because of the slowing economy.

"We're going to play it by ear, be optimistic, hope for the best and just ride it out as best we can," Cristal said. "I think that's what everybody in America's doing right now."

States fared modestly better in other categories such as participation, where no state failed and about half the states earned As or Bs — comparable to the report two years ago. One reason for the uptick is that more students are taking rigorous college-prep courses, the study found. In Texas, for instance, the percentage of high schoolers taking at least one upper-level science course has nearly tripled from 20 percent to 56 percent.

But better preparation for college hasn't translated into better enrollment or completion, with only two states — Arizona and Iowa — receiving an A for participation in higher education.

And the discrepancy in enrollment between states is still great: Forty-four percent of young Iowans are in college, while just 18 percent of their counterparts in Alaska — one of three states to get an F in the category — are enrolled.Callan said the United States is at best standing still while other countries pass it in areas like college enrollment and completion. And as higher education fails to keep up with population growth, the specter lurks of new generations less educated than their Baby Boomer predecessors.

"The educational strength of the American population is in the group that's about to retire," Callan said. "In the rest of the world it's the group that's gone to college since 1990."

The credit crunch is certainly going to affect the number of families who will be willing -- or able-- to mortgage their lives to send their children to college. I wonder if anyone in higher education has thought of that?

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Questions to ponder....

Does Florida not have telephone service? or email? They ought to have to give up something this time of year to make up for their idyllic weather. In fact, Floridians should be grateful that disgruntled wives can not call up the wrath of nature, or there would be a very small and localized hurricane that would hit a small part of Tampa right now.

Why would the electric company decide to cut power to the house of a temporarily single mother and her three kids while her husband is in FLORIDA when the temperature is not supposed to get out of the thirties on the day they've chosen? Why can't repairs be made in fall or spring, when it's in the sixties?

As a matter of fact, why do electrical workers leave handwritten and misspelled notes on doors asking if they can take down my fence so that they can get to an electrical box that was previously installed facing said fence instead of the other three directions facing common ground? And why can't they just OPEN the FLIPPIN' GATE that faces the electrical box? And then CLOSE IT when they're done?

Why did it take ME an hour to deal with the fallout of catching four students cheating on another teacher's assignment? And yes, the irony of this given last Sunday's post does not escape me.

Ha ha ha ha. Ha.


Monday, December 01, 2008

Movie Madness Monday 132: Monday at 8/7 central edition

Let's all watch it together!!!!!!!!! You HAVE to watch the original to truly understand the mastery of Chuck Jones. Now, the Anglican in me must remind you that we actually are in Advent-- but hey, I don't make the TV schedule. And this teaches a wonderful message about love, which is really what Christmas is all about.

Put your quotes from this classic in the comments section!

"As he grabbed the tree, as he started to shove, he heard a small sound like the coo of a dove."

"He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore."

"All I need is a reindeer."

"One thing I can't stand is the noise, noise, noise, noise!"

"Christmas Day is in our grasp
So long as we have hands to clasp.
Christmas Day will always be
Just as long as we have we.
Welcome Christmas while we stand,
Heart to heart and hand in hand."

And go!

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