Saturday, March 29, 2008

Letter To My Governor

The University of Texas has one of the most lucrative resources of funding in the United States. It's the largest university in numbers and one of the better known state schools. Having the large numbers of students in the Austin location as well as across the state, the average person has to wonder why the University of Texas Board of Regents continues to raise tuition. The answer is: Because they can. Until other parents, citizens and taxpayers demand transparency and accountability in the budgeting system, state schools will continue to nickel and dime the average student to the poorhouse all the while funding athletic programs that only serve a small microcosm of the university student population. And this doesn't even start to consider the many and varied fees imposed on a per hour basis for services and amenities that many students never use. BTW for a little perspective, Mack Brown, UT's football coach, will be paid $2.6 MILLION this year. I am sure all those kids working two or three jobs to try and take 12 hours per semester will appreciate that when they can't even see a game because alums get all the good seats at Memorial Stadium and besides, they have to work that day any how. Anyway, here's part of the letter I wrote to Rick Perry. He probably won't read it. I doubt anyone in Austin reads much of what is sent to them. They can't be if this stuff just keeps going on the way it is.


This time has come to rein in the state universities in terms of tuition increases. While it is easy to for the schools to assume that students and families can just take out further loans, this is not always the case. Many students, such as my own children, work to pay their own way. When tuition increases, on top of penalties for retaking classes-which is sometimes required for the major in music, dance and theater-or for taking longer than four years to graduate, it places students in a difficult position. Students who work have to work more hours in order to pay higher tuition. That means there are less hours available to be in class which in turn means that the student is penalized for taking too long to graduate. Everywhere students turn, there's yet another surcharge or fee. And where is the transparency on the use of those fees? Many students are charged for services they never use. Why should a student who has no interest in athletics have to pay based on a per credit hour basis to support those programs? And by the way, this really seems ironic since the UT Board of Regents hired a football coach for a very hefty salary. So what are the priorities of these schools? It surely doesn't seem to be educating the average kid, but instead it seems to be to build farm programs for the NFL and NBA. Oh, and you will see a copy of this posted on my blog.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Through The Cracks

A friend of mine's husband teaches fifth grade math in an urban school. He got this note last week:
"Dear Mr.-----
My step-daughter is repeating fifth grade this year. She started school in Mexico and for two years just basically had play time. Since then, she has been in eleven schools. Her mother can't help much because she doesn't speak English. I have six kids to care for so I don't have time to help. What I want to know is what you are going to do to make sure she doesn't fall through the cracks?

Signed (Concerned Step-Father)"

This kid has the deck stacked against her, but I don't see that it's the fault of the school. Her own mother hasn't bothered in at least nine years to try to learn English. She has moved her daughter to eleven different schools in three years meaning that the child has changed textbooks, teachers, classmates and procedures around every three months. The step-father is too busy, too unconcerned, too overworked to do anything,
It's the problem that the schools must solve.

Does anyone else get the idea that there is something wrong with this picture?
I could speculate that this child has parents who skip out on leases and buy and drop cell phone numbers by the month. They probably rely on the schools for meals, for health referrals, for daycare, for ESL, for early childhood education and countless other costly measures that the schools have been legally mandated to provide. And for the most part, the schools will try to fulfill these goals. But every night this child will go home to the same family that sees the schools as the Big Nanny that will keep the kid busy while the parents do whatever it is that they do during the day. Bad grades won't matter. Bad test scores that can impact entire faculties, won't matter. Because all many people see when they send their kid to school is something they get for free-something other people pay for-soemthing that many other nations only provide for the wealthy.

Monday, March 24, 2008

English On The Job

Story here.
I can understand the confusion of the woman who was required to speak English on the job. I mean, where else in our society do we currently support these goals? We have schools all in Spanish, we have TV, radio and newspapers all in Spanish. There are grocery stores where you can't even be hired to work unless you are fluent in Spanish. Even the DISD removed experienced teachers and replaced them with less experienced, but Spanish speaking, instructors. But here's the bottom line-when you are working at a job that requires technical know-how, you must be able to efficiently communicate problems. And you can't do that if you don't speak the language. Now telling the employee not to say "hola" is coming down a bit hard, and I would like to know if that in fact happened or was made up. But the issue is that we cannot continue to function in any aspect of this country if we cannot communicate. You wouldn't want a nurse in surgery or an EMT at a fire to be unable to convey what was happening. And in a technical or assembly situation, there could be safety issues or construction issues that would make serious errors or cause accidents. Lack of communication is no laughing matter in the workplace because failure to tell supervisors of dangerous situations leads to accidents. How many gas lines have been cut simply because the signs were placed to communicate the danger or the heavy equipement operator could not or did not read the warnings? So I am sure there will be the usual hoopla from the usual suspects shouting racism and claiming injury, but in the end, at the workplace if English is what is used in the operation of the business, then that's the rules and you abide by them.

PS. I still think if all the English language networks have to provide SAP captioning, that Univision and others should offer English language captioning. Who knows, maybe all of us would learn another language that way

Another View of Rev. Wright's Foot In Mouth Situation

I came across this online and thought that excerpts might be interesting to folks. This does have quite a bit to do with how Mr. Obama approaches issues and says a great deal about what his idea of equality might be. Don't you know HIllary's operatives are combing every piece of footage they can find on Rev. Wrights diatribes (I won't honor them by calling them sermons because sermons are about faith and this is partisan politics plain and simple.)
Entire article here.

"The Obama Crash and Burn
If he acts as if the Wright controversy is behind him, it's over for Obama.

By Victor Davis Hanson

The latest polls reflecting Obama’s near-collapse should serve as a morality tale of John Edwards’s two Americas — the political obtuseness of the intellectual elite juxtaposed to the common sense of the working classes.

For some bizarre reason, Obama aimed his speech at winning praise from National Public Radio, the New York Times, and Harvard, and solidifying an already 90-percent solid African-American base — while apparently insulting the intelligence of everyone else.

Indeed, the more op-eds and pundits praised the courage of Barack Obama, the more the polls showed that there was a growing distrust that the eloquent and inspirational candidate has used his great gifts, in the end, to excuse the inexcusable.

The speech and Obama’s subsequent interviews neither explained his disastrous association with Wright, nor dared open up a true discussion of race — which by needs would have to include, in addition to white racism, taboo subjects ranging from disproportionate illegitimacy and drug usage to higher-than-average criminality to disturbing values espoused in rap music and unaddressed anti-Semitism. We learn now that Obama is the last person who wants to end the establishment notion that a few elite African Americans negotiate with liberal white America over the terms of grievance and entitlement — without which all of us really would be transracial persons, in which happiness and gloom hinge, and are seen to do so, on one’s own individual success or failure.

Instead there were the tired platitudes, evasions, and politicking. The intelligentsia is well aware of how postmodern cultural equivalence, black liberation theory, and moral relativism seeped into Obama’s speech, and thus was not offended by an “everybody does it” and “who’s to judge?/eye of the beholder” defense. But to most others the effect was Clintonian...."

"...The more the pundits gushed about the speech, the more the average Americans thought, “Wait a minute — did he just say what I thought he said?” It’s not lost on Joe Q. Public that Obama justified Wright’s racism by offering us a “landmark” speech on race that:

(1) Compared Wright’s felony to the misdemeanors of his grandmother, Geraldine Ferraro, the Reagan Coalition, corporate culture, and the kitchen sink.

(2) Established the precedent that context excuses everything, in the sense that what good a Wright did (or an Imus did) in the past outweighs any racist outburst of the present.

(3) Claimed that the voice of the oppressed is not to be judged by the same rules of censure as the dominant majority that has no similar claim on victim status.

What is happening, ever so slowly, is that the public is beginning to realize that it knows even less after the speech than it did before about what exactly Obama knew (and when) about Wright’s racism and hatred. .."

Feminism At College is On It's Way Out

For quite a few years universities across the globe have promoted a type of political correctness that included the creation of various departments and majors in things such as Women's Studies (sometimes called Womyn's Studies-to have no association whatsoever with the male of the species) as well as a rainbow of minority inspired programs in culture, anthropology and literature. Being a far more socialist society, the UK was a bastion of all things politically correct. So imagine my surprise and delight in reading the following article! Too many dollars have been wasted subsidizing programs that very few students want just to be able to wave the banner of diversity. Now that money is tighter, and now that this generation's students are far more savvy with their educational demands that their parents were, the time has come for universities to get rid of programs that don't sustain enrollment.
"Feminist scholarship has become predictable, tiresome and dreary, and most young women avoid it like the plague," said Christina Hoff Sommers, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for public policy research in Washington and author of Who Stole Feminism? "British and American societies are no longer patriarchal and oppressive 'male hegemonies'. But most women's studies departments are predicated on the assumption that women in the West are under siege. What nonsense...."
Story here.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

When Barry Became Barack

I found this article from Newsweek very interesting because if we are going to continue with what amounts to a rush to coronation, we must know what makes this man tick. I am not faulting his early years or his upbringing-all kids want to "fit in" and be part of the crowd. What I found a bit disturbing was this segment in which Mr. Obama's memory of the situation differs greatly with that of his friend. And this detail gives us a little insight into how awkward and how much Mr. Obama's African American heritage plays into his political spiel. The story itself is linked to the headline above.
"Back in Hawaii in the 1970s, it could seem that everyone was some kind of a minority. The fact that Obama was half-black and half-white didn't matter much to anyone but Obama, Kakugawa says: "He made everything out like it was all racial." On one occasion, Obama thought he'd gotten a bad break on the school basketball team because he was black. But Kakugawa recalls his father's telling the teenager, "No, Barry, it's not because you're black. It's because you missed two shots in a row." (Here, Kakugawa's memory is different from Obama's. The Ray character in the book is the one obsessed with being discriminated against.)....."

The Movie Juno is NOT Reality.

Many people applauded the movie "Juno" for what they saw as a positive affirmation of life. I teach high school and I am angered by the messages the mainstream media sends to our kids. As teens we heard "if it feels good,do it" the result being that we had a generation that spent far too much time feeling their way through life without doing much. Two generations later, we have some segments of our community were 70% of the children are born to single parents. Sure, there are success stories. Their are young mothers who move on, who get educated and who raise their children responsibly. But there are also those young women who see messages such as are put out there by Hollywood and TV networks and other such purveyors of what is seen as the "enlightened message" that say women can do it all. Teenage girls are not women. They are children. And these children are having babies. For every girl who is successful, there are ten who are not. These girls drop out of school, they invite a parade of questionable men into their lives and those of their children. Their kids are more likely to be poor, to suffer from disabilities, to be hungry, to be abused and to die at the hands of those who claim to want them. Not a week goes by that we hear about another "mommy's boyfriend" or even "mommy" who thinks it's okay to simply take a child's life. And the courts and criminal justice system don't help when murdering a child gets far less punishment that killing an adult. I am not alone in this sentiment, but if you think this is just a conservative view, here's a column from Slate-a far more liberal online mag-and they share the same views with details.
...I get letters all the time that describe the turbulence that results from deciding marriage is archaic. Sometimes the writers start with a conflicted sense of hope. "My ex is rather immature and irresponsible. I had a recent fling with him that resulted in pregnancy. I am overjoyed with the impending arrival of my baby, but I fear that no one else in my life will feel the same way." This is followed by more conflicted and less hopeful letters when the kids are small. "My boyfriend and I have a child who is almost 2. He also has a daughter and I have two other children. We bought a home together, but a week before we were about to move in, he left me. Now it's four months later, and he's bought me an engagement ring, but I found out he had a girlfriend during the time we were split." "I have two children with my ex-boyfriend. We broke up because last year a paternity test he was ordered to have came back positive. Even though we are not together, I still want my kids to have a father in their life. I also know he is ignoring his new son because he wants nothing to do with the mom, but that little boy also deserves to have a male figure who cares."

Having unmarried parents can be devastating for children who start out with no cushion in life. In 1999 congressional testimony, Isabel Sawhill of the Brookings Institution said that the increase in single-parent families—mostly due to unwed motherhood in the past few decades—"can account for virtually all of the increase in child poverty since 1970." A recent study found that the stress of early childhood poverty can literally damage developing brains.

Slate article

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Another Global Warming "OOPSIE" Moment

So we have all these celebrity types who want to latch on and bask in the reflected glow of Al Gore under the dubious guise of "stopping Global Warming." Never mind that that particular moniker has recently been changed to "Global Change" which syncs nicely with someone's presidential campaign rhetoric, just pretend to go along. Well now it seems that some fairly heavy hitters who have spent more than a summer studying the weather, global currents and such are questioning the rush to judgment on the part of the Nobel committee and the Usual Suspects. Read the letter linked to the title above and the blog at Orange Punch and then ask yourself as the prices on gas rise and the demands of the liberal left further restrict domestic exploration and production if it's worth it to your family to keep throwing good money on bad science?
Bad Science

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mexico's Economic Strategy

We've heard all the claims that a pursuing a true implementation of federal illegal immigration statutes is racist and bad. But what is the ultimate goal of the nation that supports these causes even to the point of assisting illegal entry into the U.S? Folks, we are being blindsided by a rogue government that has the goals of their oligarchy placed over those of our legal residents and citizens. One point that hasn't been discussed is how many millions of illegal immigrant are illegally accessing services amounting to possibly billions of dollars. If you look at any bar graph of federal spending, social and welfare services are double what we spend on military and defense.
Story here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Whatever Happened to Class?

" Velma: Whatever happened to fair dealing?
And pure ethics?
And nice manners?
Why is it everyone now is a pain in the a**?
Whatever happened to class?"

You must listen to the lyrics to get the irony of the song. Here are two women of dubious integrity, bemoaning the fate of manners and breeding. I see this type of whining every day. We hear about stars that are upset that their lack of circumspection in regard to their personal behavior is displayed by the paparazzi for all the world to see. And these two situations are very similar. It used to be thought that using foul language, innuendo or "cuss words" were an example of low class behavior. Yet words that would have gotten a movie banned even fifteen years ago are common every day fare for some parts of our culture. When I was a child, my parents told me that cussing was an example of someone who was too ignorant to express themselves in any other way. It was declasse. I am aware that kids cuss, and there was a period in my life when I thought I was cool by doing so because I found out that such words had the power to excite someone to action. But I outgrew that, as I like to think that most people do.

Well, sadly, most people these days don't. My kids all work in the retail and service sector. They are well mannered, they are intelligent and they understand the scope of their jobs. So why then do grown up people, thirty,forty and fifty year olds, think that it's appropriate to cuss out a kid or anyone else for a relatively minor complaint? In one case, an order was wrong, but before my son could change it, the person threw all the food at him and started cussing him out. This order included drinks that were thrown. Likewise, when a sale coupon could not be honored for a purchase in a department store, the lady in question not only cussed the staff out, but cut up her card and threw the scissors at one of the girls working. To my mind, that's assault and the police should be called. Is this rational behavior? Is this acceptable? Is this what passes for normal these days?

I ask this because I think we have all become navel gazers to a certain degree. It's all about serving "me". "Me" is the most important person in the room, the hotel, the store the hospital. "Me"s needs supersede everyone else's. Like the guy at DFW, who would not wait two minutes for my sister in law to get in the open door of the car so he could park (terminal C last night by the way)and then blocked our egress with his open door. While I could understand his wanting to get the space, was it really necessary to be so rude? We would have gladly held the space for him.

I guess I just don't get it. But then I also don't understand why please and thank you have become an issue for some folks. I hold doors open and help people when they are in need, but some segments of our society barely register appreciation as if their mere presence should entitle them to special services from any stranger who passes. Can we all grow up a little and use some common sense and common courtesy? And by the way, can some of you parents start demanding of your kids as well? Part of the reason my kids weren't allowed to watch The Simpsons until middle school is that I found his rhetoric appalling. Yet I see kids as young as kindergarten spouting off such Bart-isms to the seeming rapture of their doting parents. What may appear cute, but isn't, at five or six, can become a serious attitude issue at 14 or 15. Chew on that a minute. See the future. Take action now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Global Warming Payola

From the New York Times comes this tidbit of interest. People tend to trust the government research more than privately funded research. But you have to wonder how well researched or documented situations regarding the environment or diet or any other of the media buzzwords are completely clear when money and government grants get in the way. Do you bite the hand that feeds you? Or do you simply create research to support whatever plans are in place?

Entire story here.

"....Now, you may trust the government agencies more than you do private companies because the agencies are supposed to be serving the public, not increasing profits for shareholders. But the officials running the agencies have their own agendas — like increasing their budgets and power and prestige, which can be done by supporting research demonstrating that there’s a terrible problem for the agency to solve. These officials are also subject to pressure from politicians and from the research establishment, which by definition tends to be more interested in work that conforms with the prevailing wisdom.

Once the fat-is-bad theory became the consensus — and was being formally promoted in federal agencies’ recommendations to the public — the officials handing out money were much more interested in finding evidence about the evils of fat than in looking at alternative hypotheses (like the carbs-are-bad theory discussed by Mr. Taubes). And research that jibed with the majority opinion was more likely to appeal to the editors and reviewers at journals as well as to journalists covering the debate. Scientists and journalists try to be open-minded, but they’re not immune to the confirmation bias that has been documented in so many experiments.

Moreover, it’s naive to think that money from industry is a monolith supporting one side of a debate. There were plenty of food companies eager to support the fat-is-bad consensus and profit by selling new low-fat products, just as there are companies — whole industries, in fact — eagerly promoting research and policies that jibe with the prevailing view on the dangers of global warming. Granted, there are companies lobbying against emission cuts because it could cost them money, but there’s plenty of potential for profit in the campaign against global warming, and energy companies are already angling for their cut.

A cap-and-trade systems for curbing carbon emissions (the kind criticized at this week’s conference) is popular in Washington in no small part because of corporate lobbyists who see a chance to make money from the carbon credits. There’s money to be made in developing alternative energy — even when it’s not so green, like the ethanol industry that has been collecting subsidies for decades. There’s money to be made by cultivating a green image. And there’s lots of money to be doled out to researchers studying climate change and new energy technologies...."

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Now, Can We Drill?

I want you to consider the amount of damage that has been perpetrated in the name of environmentalism. Thanks to the China Syndrome, we stopped building nuclear power plants. And the last ones built were so challenged in the courts that their costs were three times the original plan. Thanks to other environmental programs, we can't drill off of the coasts of Florida-where one of the potentially richest oil fields is currently being illegally tapped by Cuba. We can't drill in ANWR in Alaska for fear of a dwindling caribou population. We are pushed by a Congress with eyes on rural votes to have corn ethanol in our fuel. We haven't built a refinery in 29 years. We can't use coal because of acid rain. So what are we to do?

The Ivory Tower advocates for clean air like to point to things such as hybrid cars, expensive fixes for homes and ethanol from corn-which not only reduced fuel efficiency but causes the price of gas at the pump to spike due to the necessary purging of fuel lines in order to have it added. The same people who so elegantly point to rows of cars don't stop to consider that average people cannot afford these things. And with the rising cost of fuel, everything is going to rise in cost from food to energy. It's funny how the same folks who push these ideas don't understand that those of us who work for a living can't just trash our old clunkers and spend $400 a month paying for a new car. And what's worse, they don't really seem to care.

There is the laissez-faire attitude that we "little people" can simply walk to work or turn off the air conditioning. What about the elderly, the infirm or the very young? I guess it's easy to do without air conditioning when you live in a climate were it's only needed a few weeks per year, but what are you going to tell folks in Houston, Dallas, Flagstaff, New Orleans, Phoenix or El Paso? Should we simply close shop and leave town from May until September? Should we wander around like previous generations of the Dust Bowl era?

And it goes farther than that. There's no question that the war in the Middle East has to do with national security in as much as oil is necessary to our livelihood. With Saddam in power and exercising control of the region, we would have been his virtual economic slaves. Right now, environmentalist are limiting our abilities to produce domestic fuel in so many ways, and yet they refuse to realize that these goals have forced our hand internationally. Oil is reaching record purchasing amounts, and the government makes money off of every gallon. We have reserves, we have potential sites for exploration and drilling, but the same folks who seem to be blind to the needs of everyday people are keeping us from progressing. It's the same attitude that helped Marie Antoinette lose her head. At estimated costs to the consumer of $4.00 a gallon coming soon to a neighborhood near you, isn't it time for us to stop this wasteful navel gazing nonsense and begin to use what resources we have available to tide us through until the next great wave of transportation technology comes along? Most midwives and obstetricians will tell you that an induced birth is more painful for the mother and the child. What organized environmentalism is doing to our nation now is the energy equivalent of a pitocin drip. So for the last time, NOW CAN WE DRILL?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


Now is the season of our discontent. In short, it's TAKS season in Texas. For those of you who don't live in Texas, or who do live in Texas and don't have children, this is the time of year when we cease teaching anything new and do the old standby's of drill and kill. This is the season when the TEA and the other "powers" decide to take children who can barely do average work due to language limitations or learning differences and put them into a normal classroom to take a test that make the average student cringe. I thought this is what special education programs were supposed to avoid. I thought we were supposed to "meet the learner at their place of knowledge." But obviously, I thought wrong.

As I have stated in other places, the TEA expects, no, it DEMANDS that we the teachers who administer the TAKS, be constantly roaming the room. I have equated this in other forums to a herd of antelope being stalked by a particularly hungry lion. You can fill in the species to your own content. I can understand the TEA not wanting the administrators to grade, or surf the internet or sleep during testing. But I think it's just a bit over the top to expect us to wander aimlessly watching every scratch and scribble that kids make on their test booklets. Since Lord Knows we can't beat them, I think I have found some ways to alleviate the mind-deadening boredom of test proctoring. It's called "TAKS-ercize!"

Based on the movements initiated sometime in the last century and practiced by countless middle aged women, the idea is to incorporate dance moves as you wander around the room. But the moves must be done slooooooooooooooooooooooowly.
1. The Slide-Begin with feet together, slide the right foot slowly to the right, bring the left foot together. Cross the room and then reverse direction.
2. The Slow Chaser-Point the right toe, reach with the foot to the right, step, then bring the left foot just behind it-second position for you ballet school dropouts.
3. Mini-Lunge-Slight bend the left knee, move the right foot six inches back placing the heel on the floor, bend the left knee slightly, then release. Repeat with other leg
4. The Pickup-Walk as you normal do, step forward but slowly push with your toe on the back foot. Change weight to your front foot and push the heel up about six inches.
5. Slow Grapevine-For those of you who know how to do the Grapevine step, do it slowly and with little steps. It's too complex to describe here.
6. Relevees-Slight raise up on your toes and then back down. Change the position of your feet to work different muscles.

I have to admit, I actually did some of these steps today. The kids never noticed, except for this one girl who is actually in one of my classes and who more or less expects this kind of behavior. For more ambitious folks here are some other ideas

1. Pick Up Sticks-Drop all the pencils and pick them up one by one. (note-not to be done with cleavage baring apparel or if you are over sixty.) For those living in warmer areas, consider picking them up with your toes.
2. Pencil Sharpener Lunge-(note-required equipment-an electric sharpener) Stand away from the sharpener. Take the pencil and jab it into the sharpner as you lunge. Change pencils and change legs.
3. Reverse Arm Raises-Lean against a desk, lower your body and push up with your arms. Don't overdo it.
4. Leg lifts-Stand behind podium or chair and lift you leg behind, alternating legs.
5. Dictionary/Thesaurus Armcurls-Use whatever reference material and use it as counterweight for armcurls. This will also visually reinforce the idea that knowledge makes you strong.