Friday, May 26, 2006


I guess that only teachers get to savor the joy of summer with nearly the enthusiasm of students. This is the first year that I will be saying good-bye to students that I first met as freshmen. And this is the first year that I have had a student leave school due to bullying. This one broke my heart. He's a really bright, funny kid. Well-read and quirky, I met him as a freshman. He would come by and show me work he had done or talk to me in the hall when I was on duty. Polite and pleasant, just a decent kid. Imagine my surprise when he asked me to sign his yearbook this year, his junior year, because he was leaving. It seems that freshman year he was on the football team and a few of the "guys" decided to start a rumor. He tried to live it down, but it followed him to baseball, where he excelled and was on a traveling team. He quit that and did some other stuff, art club, science club, NHS, bowling, but these guys would NOT let the rumors die. Finally this year, he had had enough. He wants his senior year to be free of the innuendo that haunted him in class and out. So he's tranferring. I didn't know this was going on until now. But there were some coaches that did and they let it ride. And for that they should be ashamed. I was hoping he'd be in one of my advanced classes this year. He's just one of those students who actually enjoys learning. Sometimes I just wish kids would stop and see for a moment what they are doing to each other. As for summer, although this year has been pretty easy and productive, the last day left a bittersweet taste in my mouth. The glow is tarnished and I guess the idealistic hopes that I had for all of my students are just a little bit smaller in scope.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

DaVinci Code OR Will You Fundamentalist Please Lighten Up!!!!

Below is an actual review by my actual daughter and my response. I loved the book, probably because of all the art mentioned. I was hopeful that the movie would be equally entertaining. And that is the key word -ENTERTAINING. Things can be entertaining without being the truth. "Scrubs" is entertaining but I hope to God it's fiction. Ditto, "The Office". And this is where I get super perturbed with the street corner fundamentalists. It's like they are doing a daily performance of "Debbie Downer" and proceed to suck the joy and humor out of every single day's experience. I realize there are some serious things in life, but if God had meant us to wander around in perpetual depression and fear he wouldn't have invented Prozac. I am tired tired tired of every single aspect of existence being weighed and found wanting by one group or another. Our schools are rife with lawsuits both pro and con of people that are far more concerned with their own beliefs and dismissive of the beliefs of others. Our textbooks must pass through hurdles of political correctness and rings of fire of religious scrutiny. While I wouldn't prevent anyone from practicing their faith, more and more I see people use their faith as a social weapon. People are accepted or dismissed from social and professional groups based on whether they attend church, and if so, which one. I have been preached at by those who leave the precepts of Christianity on the doorstep of the church when they leave on Sunday and been informed of my eternal destination by those who claim to have the "only" knowledge based on their pastor's interpretation of a Bible that has gone through numerous edits since its inception. Here's the scoop folks....I will accept that you and I are different, have different ideas and beliefs and I will let you live your life. But I expect the same consideration. More and more, the religious intolerance on BOTH sides is tearing us apart. And what's more, as with politics, it isn't the vast 80% in the middle of the issue, it's the 10% at either end of the spectrum that are pushing this fight. "The DaVinci Code" is just a movie and should be judged on only its merits as entertainment. This dogfight between extremists is dragging us all down. How about the 80% of us in the middle leave them to fight it out and we go get a glass of iced tea or better yet, a margarita?
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, May 20, 2006 11:18 AM
Subject: Review of Da Vinci Code
Thought you'd like to see the review I wrote on Yahoo about the DVC. I saw it last night, very good, and needlessly slammed by critics per usual. Enjoy:As an avid Dan Brown reader, I of course was one of the first in line to view the Da Vinci Code. My friends and I, all who had read the book, weren't expecting much from the movie, not only because of the poor reviews it was given by critics but the identical reviews it was given by close friends of ours. Everyone kept stating "if you read the book and enjoyed it, this movie will frustrate you and leave you unsatisfied."However, I found this to be quite the contrary to my actual experience of the movie. Ron Ho wards' directing was phenomenal. His grasp of the knowledge that Brown stuffed into his award-winning novel was flawlessly portrayed. Admittedly, there were a few points in the movie he may have skipped over or changed--for example, using the cellular phone to find information on the Knight's tomb was much less intense than Brown's original use of the library, however it was possibly more believable considering their time constraints. I also thought that the character of Sophie Neveu could've been played harder and less like the doe-eyed Sophie we saw. But overall, I found Howard's choices to be tasteful and helped the movie flow seamlessly.As for the other actor's portrayls, I felt that Tom Hanks nailed his character of Robert Langdon to a T. I heard that many felt his performance was lacking and that Ian McKellan stole the show as Teabing. While Teabing's excessive character turned-bad guy was a perfect role for McKellan, I hardly felt that it overpowered the role of Langdon. Perhaps because Langdon was the only real NORMAL character, not excessive in any light as a college professor, that many were put off by Hanks' performance, but what I saw was the everyman and how he would react in such a situation and that is often harder to act than a character with eccentric personality traits.I feel that the problem that many critics and viewers had with this movie is that they were expecting such a great novel to turn into an epic movie like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, or even the Matrix. However, I think that we've been thrust into this mindset so often today that we forget a good movie can be UNDER three hours long and still have a fully developed plot with interesting characters. Whether the subject-matter offends you or not, everyone has to admit that this movie was impressive and true to the story.

CK:I hope they post it. I saw the reviews, looking for some insight, on MSN and most of them seem to be KneeJerk Christians with political and religious axes to grind. In fact, it appeared that less than half of the derogatory postings came from people that had actually SEEN THE MOVIE, which I would think is one of the first criteria for a review. While I consider myself conservative, I am getting really peeved with people that have to inject their religious opinion into EVERY FREAKIN SEGMENT OF LIFE. There is such a thing as FICTION, just as there is such a thing as OPINION. Qualified opinions are those that review an actual event or production as it is, not as they think it is meant to be. It makes me want to scream out loud. Don't sweat the small stuff.

Love ya,

Friday, May 19, 2006

Can Swastikas be Far Behind?

I hope it's just a rumor.

But, the same man who jokingly calls himself "Hitler" and who leads the Iranian nation seems to be following in some less that illustrious footsteps. It seems he wants Christians and Jews and others that are considered heathen, to be marked by wearing a badge of their religious affiliation. I read "Night" and "Diary of Anne Frank" as well as other holocaust related stories. I am not Jewish, but it wasn't only Jews that suffered in the long-run. Catholics, Gypsies, homosexuals, the infirm, the retarded, the disabled...these were all targets. Doctors and lawyers in ethics classes often discuss the "slippery slope" as a theory that one act would make it easier for the next to occur. That has been the hurdle to assisted suicide-the question being at what point are we "assisting" too much? In this case, there is a LONG history of pogroms organized and local, national discrimination and total obliteration. The Christian church isn't absolved of this as it is still living out the numerous innocents killed by the Inquisition and the now resulting diaspora of Hispanic Jews that immigrated to New Spain, where their family traditions were those of the Jewish faithful, although publicly for protection, they claimed Catholicism. Should we as people who KNOW about the Holocaust and the previous instances of attempted destruction of the Jewish people, stand by in silence while once again the machine of death rears its head in the form of an Iranian demagogue that dares to claim that there are people subhuman to him? I don't think so. And if we do stand by and allow this to happen in Israel, when we went to Yugoslavia to save Muslims there, then the United Nations and the European Union and all the various treaties and contracts will mean NOTHING. Remember, one of the basic tenets of the devoutful Muslim is that they don't have to honor contracts or promises with infidels. And the term infidel could mean anyone they don't agree with. In a civilization where eye for an eye is the norm, is it wise to allow them the technology to take that attitude on an international scale?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Illegal Immigration Part Deux

I read this recent story in the Sunday May 14, 2006 edition of the Dallas Morning News. It was on the front page of their website, but strangely, probably due to the flak they are getting online, the story is no longer there. In this story,they paint a rosy picture of the Hispanic family-hardworking, diligent, virtuous. It lacks one little thing. It never ever points out the impact of this family's illegal position and how it affects the rest of us who are already here. Try to get to the story if you can. I will post it later if they will ever let me back in.

Below is my response:
I am sure the family featured on you Sunday front page in regards to the illegal immigration situation is perfectly nice. But there are some issues that your writer chose to avoid. For example, it’s stated that the father uses a Social Security number that isn’t his. That’s illegal. And if it is a number belonging to someone else, it could endanger that person’s retirement funds if income isn’t declared under that social security number for tax purposes. Further more, it could be preventing a surviving spouse or family the money that is theirs due to payment into the system. Is this nice? At that point it becomes identity fraud. So now there are two laws are broken, immigration and identity fraud.

Add to that the whole taxation issue. If they live in a single family home, their rent may cover the education of their children. However, if their children merit special services such as special education, ESL, free meals or any other program that is federally mandated but not funded, then the impact comes back upon the children who are here legally in the form of diminished programs and services and larger class sizes. It isn’t just a coincidence that the school systems that are struggling financially are those with a large population of children from families that have chosen to come here illegally. When in-state tuition is offered to people here illegally, the burden to make up the difference in the form of higher tuition and fees is the average student who is here legally or who was born here. The flooding of aid programs by students here from outside of the country has made it increasingly difficult for the average student to get any student aid. Shouldn’t we be looking out for our own kids first? Wouldn't that be nice?

Consider automobile insurance. It's estimated that 20% of the drivers in Texas are unlicensed and have no insurance. I know families that defer the driving Rite of Passage until kids are 17 or 18 due to the high cost of insurance. The uninsured driver clause is part of what drives up the costs. If you get hit by a citizen, you may have some legal recourse,but if you are hit by a drivers with a fake ID and no insurance, then YOU will be paying the deductible AND the higher insurance rates as this scenario is enacted thousands of times in a year. So were these "nice" immigrants driving themselves to work and school legally? Or are they part of the protest against confiscation of cars involved in wrecks when no proof of insurance is given? Is this nice?

Look at Parkland Hospital, or any other large county hospital where many of these people go for routine medical services. Many of these illegal workers do not receive any insurance through their work and a simple delivery of a child may run up to $12,000. That comes directly out of the taxes paid into the hospital district and is further impacted because surrounding cities often send undocumented workers there for services. Parkland is not permitted to turn them away, nor should they be, but to make this as if there isn’t any negative financial impact is glossing over the issue. Is it nice to get medical services that your own native country won't provide and then not pay for them?

Additionally, our economy works on the principles of supply and demand. If there is a supply of workers willing to work off the books for less than minimum wage, employers will use that to pad their profits and workers who are here legally may end up without jobs. Many of the jobs that are taken are the entry level jobs needed for high school and college student graduates to get experience to move onto other jobs within the economy. An underground supply of workers undercuts our young people and creates a situation where they either do without a job and return to school or they end up working several jobs just to make ends meet and pay off student loans.

Finally, where is the discourse on how Mexico has abdicated its role to provide education, health and welfare and other economic opportunities to their own citizens? Instead it appears as if the Mexican government is content to send their people here to earn money that is returned to Mexico. The United States is being used as a social safety valve and perhaps if some of the people in Mexico would stay there and create a climate of change from the corruption and graft that has become commonplace along the border, there would be no need for them to leave their homes and come here illegally.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Newsweeks Top 1000 Schools or Why Journalists Should be Required to Take Math in College

I really was amused and the wailing and gnashing of teeth in the faculty lounge over the rank rankings of Newsweeks Top 1000 Schools. First of all, a long time rival was listed and we weren't. Secondly, when I look at the methodology, I have some serious questions. I am from Dallas. I went to high school and college here. I raised my kids here. So in one way or another I have been involved and knowledgeable about the goings on in local school districts for the last 30 years. I wouldn't really argue with most of the top two hundred, of which I know a few in the area as well as statewide. But when you get down around 500, there are some glaring omissions along with some laughable inclusions. In one district that I know of the school with the highest dropout and teen pregnancy rate was listed and the school with the lowest dropout rate and most kids in AP classes wasn't.First of all, there are some schools that work their tails off to retain students and keep them working, even when they fail. Those kids may graduate and therefore add to the final number of the graduating class. Divide the number of AP tests taken into that and the margin makes that school lower ranked than a similar school who runs off their marginal kids by sophomore year and has a smaller graduating class. Or at least that is the way it appears. This whole issue of class size is the biggest problem. Class sizes can vary greatly in one year depending on programs changing, plant closures, business failures or openings. There's really very little a school can do to control the numbers. Usually the number of kids in AP programs is constant throughout their school career. Some schools encourage any kid to take an AP test, which I think is a ridiculous waste of time and money, but they do it because it makes them appear successful on paper. Other schools educate the kids who are headed for AP testing and expect them to take the test. So the crucial factor is how many kids leave the class BEFORE graduation. If you manage to run off the problem children by 10th grade, then you have a smaller class and a solid core of AP test takers to rake in the money and make the school look good. While I appreciate what Newsweek was trying in their own lame fashion to do, I think they cooked the books somewhat in trying to make sure the outcome was a nicely balanced group of urban, suburban and country schools. Look at the list again. Look at the oddly balanced number of selected private schools and charters, just to make the numbers look nice on paper. I hate to sound cynical, but this is a poll. And you can influence a poll by carefully selecting your sources. That is what they did, and this list is the result. I wish the rest of the people I know in education didn't take it so seriously. It's just another feel-good op-ed piece designed to highlight how great "everyone" is doing. I just wonder what former highschool cheerleader came up with the idea.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More information on the economic impact of illegal aliens....

I ran across a couple of interesting posts on the Dallas Morning News opinion blog. It's from Tancredo, who is very much concerned with the negative impact that the huge storm surge of illegal aliens on Colorado. Being on the border I would imagine that Texas and other border states are feeling the pinch even more. Locally it was announced today that the county hospital for Dallas will ask for TEN MILLION dollars to make up the shortfall from uninsured patients. Not all of these are illegal or even minorities, but most of the babies born at Parkland are Hispanic and if even a third are uninsured and don't pay @ at least @ $10,000 per delivery and hospital stay, it runs into a chunk of change. And that doesn't even include the injuries, carwreck and other accidents that end up in Parkland's remarkable but overworked emergency room. As for the boycott itself, from what I saw the numbers were way down and the majority of my students were in class. Once again, I don't think anyone begrudges a job or housing or any service from immigrants who follow the law and come here to become part of the mix. What most people seem to resent is that Mexico and Mexicans are demanding services for their people who break our law, come here illegally, work here illegally, sponge off of our welfare, educational and health systems for services that the government in Mexico City doesn't seem interested enough to provide. The United States is their safety valve. And if you read the stats in the article, even with a grain of salt, it makes you wonder if much of the explosion of crime in places such as Dallas, Houston and San Diego may all come from the same dubious source. We must close our borders. It's a matter of economic need, of health and welfare needs and of defense. I don't know why that's so hard to understand.

Oh all those national businesses that closed in "solidarity" today...I didn't miss you guys today, so I guess you won't miss my dollars in the future. Take that Tyson, and Hacienda Ranch. I make better guacamole anyway.....
AND...I don't think it's a coincidence that this protest occurred on what is traditionally a "Workers Day" in Communist countries. I guess it's time to rerack all those Che Guevara T-shirts at the local Gap.....