Thursday, November 24, 2011

Where Did the Time Go?

In looking, my last post was over two months ago. It's not like I haven't been reading or writing online. It just seems that this is almost like a journal and frankly, I have always been lousy at keeping a journal. Here on the eve of a truly American holiday, I find myself reaching to be grateful. Before we left school, I taught a quick lesson in calligraphy and then had my art students write about something they were grateful for. We posted them. Some were silly, but most of the students listed their families as being the most important aspect of their lives. That is comforting in this age of technology and violence.

I question my own attitude regarding the holiday as well. I am grateful for my home, which we can still afford (barely) on one paycheck. I am grateful for my kids, although I wish someone had told me earlier that you NEVER stop worrying about them. I am oh so ultimately grateful for my grandson because it is possible that had his mother chosen to shut us out of his life, we would never know the deep joy of having a grandchild. He's a joy and the light of my life! I am grateful for my children's significant others. We have at least one wedding, maybe two, in the forseeable future. That is a double edged sword because while I want my kids to have beautiful weddings, without two incomes that isn't going to happen.

What I fear is that we have a future that is built on a foundation of sand. I fear for my kids, so young, so hopeful, wanting houses and kids and jobs. I worry for my one son who has struggled for over a year thanks to a LIBERAL WASHINGTON COMPANY THAT USES YOUNG PEOPLE UP LIKE CHEAP KLEENEX and yes I am talking about Zumiez. I worry for my grandson who is so loved, so darling and living in less than wonderful conditions which I cannot afford to change right now. All I can do is pray and hope. And I guess for most of us, that's pretty much the sum total of Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Thanks Obama

I'm a public high school teacher. My husband is unemployed. This means that the burden of both income and insurance falls on me. Wages are frozen courtesy of our current economic unpleasantness. To add insult to injury, because teachers have their insurance run from September to September, we are now currently "in" the 2012 insurance year which means we are subject to the higher premiums costs, copays and deductibles that are the byproduct of the Obamacare debacle. We are currently barely squeaking by with around $16 to spare after bills are paid and groceries bought. Thanks to Obamacare, now we are getting $180 LESS in the paycheck than last year. I used to be middle class. Right now I am sliding rapidly into lower class. And since my husband wasn't a union wage slave or a government office worker, but instead a sales rep that qualifies as contract labor, he can't even get the comparably rich unemployment check. And what do you want to bet that just like the last three very bad years, we still end up having to pay taxes? Color me bitter.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Validating Mediocrity

My district has begun a new initiative. Rather than penalizing students for using phones in class, we will now celebrate them. We are supposed to allow phones, cameras, Ipads, Ipods, laptops and all other kinds of gizmos, gadgets and gewgaws to be accessed for the concept of what is labeled as "deeper understanding." In talking to teachers in other districts, this initiative seems just as trendy as Whole Language was back in the day. In short, someone has attended a seminar which has promised to solve all problems and insure good test scores. The words a teacher fears most is "The Board has been to a seminar." It's a precursor for all kinds of mischief under the guise of improvement.

Don't get me wrong. I like technology. I have a smart phone, a laptop and courtesy of a grant, all sorts of scanners, printers, cameras and digital devices. I understand that the kids in school today are not like those even five years ago. They have been steeped in the stew of digitalism from birth. And that's not a bad thing. But it is also a type of placating act to simply throw up one's hands and let them rule the school with their electronic things.

What disturbs me the most is the varying messages we get from administration. Last year there was a fine for having a cell phone. I got griped at for letting my AP students listen to music on the Ipods while they worked on independent projects. We had filters that limited access to sites like Facebook and Sodahead. In theory, the students will only access the internet via a network for them. But almost anyone with a 4G phone can subvert that. So what's the point? In the same manner when this was introduced teachers were told IN WRITING that "teachers should not be overly concerned with monitoring students' internet activity." Today we were told that we need to make sure all students are on task. Now I ask you, with thirty plus kids and their devices in class, what do you think the odds are that the average teacher is going to be able to catch all kids on task?

Another troubling aspect to this is something I observed from a film created by middle school kids in our district and shown across the district as an example of prime work. In that film, students essentially said they should be allowed to do what they want to do. In one vignette a question was asked "What were the causes of the civil war?" All the students had different ideas from different sources. That's fine, I am a fan of research. But what was not fine was the following statement "All of our opinions are valid." Really? So if I said the civil war was started by people who liked dogs better than cats, that would be equally valid? The implication is that there is no right or wrong and I take issue with that. I think in this world there are some things that are either right or wrong. Murder, right or wrong? Wrong of course. This seems to be just more of the celebration of esteem over content and that is what is wrong with our schools and our graduates today.

My future son in law read a recent article, which he's supposed to send me, that discusses how video games now are different than those even five years ago. It seems that games like "Myst" where there are no cheats, no shortcuts and no freebies which are pure mental problemsolving are gone. Today's games give hints, cheats are prevalent and the problemsolving element has gone down greatly. One man who wrote code for game systems had his son ask for Nintendo Connect. The father asked why and the son said he wanted to play games with his friends. This was a preteen kid, the ripe age for video games of all kinds. So the father said that if the son could beat one of his old Nintendo games, he would get him the system. The son has worked on it for three months and has not even leveled up one level. What does this say about the soft bigotry of making things easier and academic achievement? What does this say about our future?

Friday, July 08, 2011

A Tragedy of Unintended Circumstances

A Tragedy of Unintended Circumstances
People in Arlington Texas thought they were going to see a baseball game yesterday. Instead they saw a man die. And now the rest of the world is trying to find fault and nail blame. People have been going to baseball games for decades now. But life’s a funny thing. Sometimes through the fault of nobody a whim, an odd twist of fate causes bad things to happen.
How it happened was this. Toward the end of the second inning, Josh Hamilton, a Texas Rangers outfielder, saw an unaccounted for ball in the outfield. On an impulse, an impulse inspired by generosity and a desire to please the fans, he tossed it into the outfield bleachers. Back in the old days, the wall underneath the bleachers was the edge of the outfield. But because of the interference of overzealous fans with balls still in play, many fields, including the Ballpark in Arlington established a buffer zone that would prevent fans from snatching a fly ball that maybe could be caught. When Hamilton tossed the ball into the stands, it was with the idea I am sure that someone would catch it and take it home as a cherished souvenir.
Instead what happened was that a man, with his young son in the front row, reached for the ball, caught it briefly and then lost his balance going head first over the railing to the area between the stands and the outfield wall. Fans and players watched in horror. Fans near the young boy held him to prevent his view of his seriously injured father. A relief pitcher heard the man ask someone to take care of his son as he was carried away on the gurney by EMT’s. Sadly, the man died of cardiac arrest.
To say the man’s family is distraught is an understatement. But in this case the fans and players were also witnesses to the tragedy. Knowing the basic decency of Nolan Ryan as a person, it’s a sure bet that the Rangers organization will take care of this boy and his family. Unfortunately down the line lawyers are going to come into play. They will sue the Rangers. They will sue the Ballpark in Arlington. They will sue Josh Hamilton. And because of the way our courts are these days, they will win. The end result will be that other than homeruns hit into the stands, major league baseball, and maybe even other sports as well, will cease launching tee-shirts, souvenirs and yes, baseballs, into the stands. Those days are gone.
In the aftermath, we are going to have to start thinking about how far we are going to provide a safety net for the individuals at sporting events or in life in general. Nobody ever wants to see anyone hurt, but people get run over by cars every day with nobody suggesting we stop driving. People do bear some responsibility for their actions even when things turn out badly. Life is a chancy thing. Anyone can be hurt at any time. And while this does fit the definition of freak accident, it’s not the only one. People have fallen, been pushed or stumbled over railings at almost any ballpark or stadium you care to name. Going to any event has its own inherent risks. That so many of us seem ignorant of that fact points to how safe our society in general must be. But it’s not perfect and short of wrapping us in bubble wrap and locking us in our houses, there’s no way we can prevent every single accident. That’s the nature of accidents. Life comes with no guarantees. Lawyers and courts and countless others try to mitigate that fact. But it is a fact and the sooner we all stop seeking to blame, the sooner we can move on as a society.

By Ellen K, July 8,2011

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

And So It Begins....

During the last presidential election and other liberal and frequently paid for posters showed up at a wide range of websites. They were almost uniform in the messaged they spread. And the messages were frequently slanderous, profane and oriented toward intimidating opposition and spreading an agenda based line. After the election they went away which leads me to think they were more or less hired guns. So as we wheel from May to June suddenly attacks, vile epithets, absolute misdirection have showed up on website. It's one thing when it's just a blog, but it gets to the point of idiocy when a huge news organization indulges.

People like to point fingers at Fox News, but let me introduce you to the censorship a Reuters. Reuters news group has a comment function on their news site and the only qualification is that it must "further the story." They had a story, which was reposted on RealClearPolitics, regarding the NEA's endorsement of Obama, which is hilarious when you consider they don't even know who else is running. I posted the following response:

"I am a teacher in a right to work state. This group does not represent me. Many of those in the rank and file of this union do not feel they are represented by the agenda or platforms proposed. It is worthwhile to remember that union leadership does not always represent the membership. If you will recall the AMA and AARP both supported Obama's healthcare bill over the objections of many of their members."

I don't see anything objectionable in that response and it did forward the story as it discussed how unions don't always represent the views of individuals. But, not only did they not post the comment, they have banned me. When you look at their censorship page it is loosely worded and quite frankly flippant in their attitude. This tells me two things-Reuters is in the tank for liberals, and they don't want to hear any objections. Free press? Ha!

Friday, July 01, 2011

A Map To Remember

Go ahead, look at the link. If this is not the most depressing and terrifying graphic sequence you have ever seen, then you really do not understand and/or are possibly a liberal.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


For a long time I have been puzzled on how the left and far left in politics can persist in spending money and pushing for even more programs to spend money in a time of economic need. I thought maybe they were just so focused on votes and pushing through a socialist agenda, that they didn't want to be bothered with the bottom line. I thought maybe they didn't understand that every fee or tax is passed onto consumers as part of the cost of a product or service. But that's not the case. Simply put, Democrats are bad at math. They can't balance a checkbook. They can't maintain a budget. And they sure as hell can't run this economy. But don't take my word for it. Read it in the Wall Street Journal......

Who is better informed about the policy choices facing the country—liberals, conservatives or libertarians? According to a Zogby International survey that I write about in the May issue of Econ Journal Watch, the answer is unequivocal: The left flunks Econ 101.
Zogby researcher Zeljka Buturovic and I considered the 4,835 respondents' (all American adults) answers to eight survey questions about basic economics. We also asked the respondents about their political leanings: progressive/very liberal; liberal; moderate; conservative; very conservative; and libertarian.
Rather than focusing on whether respondents answered a question correctly, we instead looked at whether they answered incorrectly. A response was counted as incorrect only if it was flatly unenlightened.
Consider one of the economic propositions in the December 2008 poll: "Restrictions on housing development make housing less affordable." People were asked if they: 1) strongly agree; 2) somewhat agree; 3) somewhat disagree; 4) strongly disagree; 5) are not sure.
Basic economics acknowledges that whatever redeeming features a restriction may have, it increases the cost of production and exchange, making goods and services less affordable. There may be exceptions to the general case, but they would be atypical.

Therefore, we counted as incorrect responses of "somewhat disagree" and "strongly disagree." This treatment gives leeway for those who think the question is ambiguous or half right and half wrong. They would likely answer "not sure," which we do not count as incorrect.
In this case, percentage of conservatives answering incorrectly was 22.3%, very conservatives 17.6% and libertarians 15.7%. But the percentage of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly was 67.6% and liberals 60.1%. The pattern was not an anomaly.
The other questions were: 1) Mandatory licensing of professional services increases the prices of those services (unenlightened answer: disagree). 2) Overall, the standard of living is higher today than it was 30 years ago (unenlightened answer: disagree). 3) Rent control leads to housing shortages (unenlightened answer: disagree). 4) A company with the largest market share is a monopoly (unenlightened answer: agree). 5) Third World workers working for American companies overseas are being exploited (unenlightened answer: agree). 6) Free trade leads to unemployment (unenlightened answer: agree). 7) Minimum wage laws raise unemployment (unenlightened answer: disagree).

How did the six ideological groups do overall? Here they are, best to worst, with an average number of incorrect responses from 0 to 8: Very conservative, 1.30; Libertarian, 1.38; Conservative, 1.67; Moderate, 3.67; Liberal, 4.69; Progressive/very liberal, 5.26.
Americans in the first three categories do reasonably well. But the left has trouble squaring economic thinking with their political psychology, morals and aesthetics.
To be sure, none of the eight questions specifically challenge the political sensibilities of conservatives and libertarians. Still, not all of the eight questions are tied directly to left-wing concerns about inequality and redistribution. In particular, the questions about mandatory licensing, the standard of living, the definition of monopoly, and free trade do not specifically challenge leftist sensibilities.

Yet on every question the left did much worse. On the monopoly question, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (31%) was more than twice that of conservatives (13%) and more than four times that of libertarians (7%). On the question about living standards, the portion of progressive/very liberals answering incorrectly (61%) was more than four times that of conservatives (13%) and almost three times that of libertarians (21%).
The survey also asked about party affiliation. Those responding Democratic averaged 4.59 incorrect answers. Republicans averaged 1.61 incorrect, and Libertarians 1.26 incorrect.
Adam Smith described political economy as "a branch of the science of a statesman or legislator." Governmental power joined with wrongheadedness is something terrible, but all too common. Realizing that many of our leaders and their constituents are economically unenlightened sheds light on the troubles that surround us."

Mr. Klein is a professor of economics at George Mason University. This op-ed is based on an article published in the May 2010 issue of the journal he edits, Econ Journal Watch, a project sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research. The article is at:

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


this has been a crummy week.
first it is exam week so i have tons to do.
then i fall and break mt wrist (hence the e.e. cummings style of writing...)
then my conuren Sean just died without warning. one day he's happy and squawking the next he's just .....gone.
Then one of my son's friends kills himself. nobody really knows why but he was holding down three part time jobs to pay bills. no insurance. i guess he just lost hope.
what is scary is my kids have lost five friends in the last three years. it is despair the despair is killing this generation
with my husband still without a job and costs are rising and
this has been such a long hard year
and i am so tired

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Teachers Don't Work-HA!

Lots of people have the mistaken impression that teachers wake up late, leave early and have the summer off. I beg to differ. In a nomal week I am in the classroom at 7:30 am and leave at 4:00 pm. That is only if there are no contests, competitions, grades or other things to deal with. Within any given week I can be called for ARDS or parent meetings during school. I can also be required to attend meetings. Being an art teacher most of the meetings have precious little to do with anything I face in the classroom other than general school expectations. As for having the summer off, I haven't been on a vacation in years because of curriculum writing, vertical teaming, classes for technology and more. And that doesn't even include my weekly Sunday afternoon jaunts up to school to unload kilns, write lesson plans or run of materials for the following week....

Here's what my week was like"
Monday-School board meeting until 7:30 to recognize State qualifiers in Art
Tuesday-Meeting to see the new gallery until 6:00 and make decisions about next Springs district show
Wednesday -7:15 Faculty meeting followed by a 2:15 attendance petition meeting
Thursday-7:00 am procter AP exam
Friday-7-9 Art Show opening
Saturday-Wake up at 5:30 drive two hours to graduation of a former student in Commerce TX
Sunday-Reception at 1:00 followed by going home, grading watercolor projects and tests, loading grades into Esembler and then getting a bit of sleep before it begins again.

If I am not working, I would like to know what I am doing.....

Friday, April 01, 2011

Liberal Dogma: Do As I Say, Not As I Do

This is a personal observation based on years of dealing with people who say one thing, but do another. This type of behavior is far more prevalent in the more liberal individuals and businesses than conservative ones because of the hurdles and litmus tests required for the type of ideological purity demanded by the far Left. Although they claim to be open to differences, in reality some of the worst and most biased individuals and businesses are the biggest offenders when it comes to such ideas as free speech, honesty and fair treatment. Years ago I worked for a very chic, well known home products company. They regularly make it on local and national "best places to work" lists. I beg to differ. My experience was that they would add responsibilities without promised compensation. I also saw people who were in common terms "suck ups" who pandered to the political and personal biases of the people in charge on a social level get promoted over people who did the heavy lifting. And while this company likes to pat itself on the back, I still here stories of people hired to work there and expected to work off the clock, not take lunches and work on holidays where most other stores are closed. So we more onto a more personal view. My son worked for more than two and half years for a very well known store that catered to the skating crowd. He was, in fact, for two years running, in what was called "The 100K" in that they sold more than $100K in merchandise during the years. That's alot of tee shirts and jeans. My son was doing well and in October was asked to move "temporarily" to a store thirty miles from home. They promised him a promotion and a raise in January. So he worked his tail off. He even went in to do inventory right after his car was totaled in a driving rainstorm. He worked more than forty hours a week, took hours for people that couldn't work and even helped after not one but two break ins. He was the top salesperson. But he had a hotshot manager who had always been a top salesperson who just could not handle that she wasn't top sales. So she made up complaints, and despite the fact that his sales were helping the store make goal, fired him. Needless to say, in this economy, finding an entry level job is not easy. But what is grating is that when he talked to company brass at 100K in January, they were big on "we are a family, we care about our employees." Evidently not because the regional manager didn't even have the common courtesy to return calls and the rest of the managers he has worked with are mad as hell because they were counting on having him work as first assistant manager when they got stores. So to all those folks who shop at Zumiez, look carefully at what you buy. Because you aren't supporting a friendly, liberal, casual skating store, you are supporting a corporation monolith that thinks employees are disposible and customers are chumps.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Pray For Japan

I don't think we know the true toll yet taken on Japan by this tsunami. We watch the events as they unfold on the Internet and the news and the sense of disbelief is similar to the feelings I felt on 9/11. All I can say is that this earthquake and tsunami make Haiti look like a cakewalk. And by the way, this is the second serious quake on the Ring of Fire in a week. New Zealand was hit by a large serious quake in the past week. Now Japan. Who is next? I would be really uneasy living near those large faultlines in California. Also, for more information, you may want to look at this website:

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm A Teacher and I Think Wisconsin Teachers are Wrong.

I teach in a right to work state. That means I am not represented by a union. Sure, you can join NEA/TSTA if you want, but it's the most expensive ticket to representation. Most teachers, regardless of political views, only join to get liability insurance. That's the bottom line. If I can get that for less from any of the other alphabet soup of organizations, then I will. That all being said, here's my take on the brouhaha in Madison.

I am appalled.

If you talk to any teacher, one of the first things that comes up is that kids just aren't very well behaved. Also, if you are really a trained professional, you know that modeling behavior is one of the best ways of teaching behavior. So by rioting, writing fake doctor's notes and more, these teachers are acting out just as badly as the more unruly segment of our student population. I suppose we should give many of the younger ones sort of a pass because they were raised in an era when adults tolerated snippy behavior as "cute." I didn't let my own kids watch The Simpsons, because I didn't find mimickry of Bart's behavior to be an attractive trait in a child. But other parents said I was staid. Now we have young adults who think aggression equates to assertiveness. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If you are assertive, you have the authority of facts to back you up. On the other hand, aggression is nothing more that bullying behavior and conjecture based on nothing but opinion. That is what we see in the streets of Madison.

I understand to a point. I am currently the only breadwinner at my house. As a classroom teacher it's not easy to make ends meet on a less than $50K income. But we do what we have to do. We sell things. We make do. We do without. And we do this as our parents and grandparents had to do during bad times. Unfortunately, the youngest teachers were raised in a period of time when self-esteem trumped achievement. Everyone wins a trophy. Nobody loses. And that's not reality. In the real world competition determines the winners. I bet the Chinese understand that. And I think many immigrants who come here for the very freedoms this current administration is trying to squelch understand as well. But these younger teacher do not understand. The think they are entitled to have everything it took their parents and grandparents decades to afford. For example, my mother didn't have her own new car until I was in high school. I didn't get a car for turning sixteen. My kids helped pay their way through school. These things may sound normal to you. If that is the case, I can almost guarantee you were either raised before 1980 or you were part of a military family.

These are the attitudes that fuel this debate in Madison. It's been shouted by Oprah, echoed by Obama and resonates with those who would much rather watch others work than work themselves. These are the folks who were never read "The Ant and the Grasshopper" or "The Little Red Hen" or "The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg" because those were seen as archaic stories written by dead white men. Instead these young teachers' heads were filled with politically affirming stories of downtrodden people deserving the best and getting it only when laws were changed or when action was taken by governments. Funny how none of these stories ever relied on actions by individuals to save the day. But socialist regimes rely on groupthink and group activities and those are the very things that condition smart kids to carry the rest. The result: well you see it on the streets of Madison.

What can you say about unions? Unions had their place. There's no doubt that appalling conditions of child labor and dangerous working situations were changed because of unions. But it is also true that unions are far more concerned in their own success over the success of the business in which the rank and file work. Unions destroyed American manufacturing, the auto industry being a prime example. Had GM been allowed to fail, union contracts would have had to be renegotiated. But Obama was indebted to union organization for votes, so he managed to create funds that bought out GM. And we will never see that money paid back. Card check, buyouts, exemption from the healthcare bill and countless other actions have been promoted by the White House and backed by muscle from such entities as SEIU and AFT. When you have the president calling out political activists to intervene in a state funding issue, that is invasive policy and demonstrates the absolute disdain this White House has for the states. In a larger measure this also tells us that Wisconsin is not the end of this fight but may be only the start. I know there is talk of Texas teachers gathering in Austin on March 12th. I do not know if I will be there or not. But I do know that I will not support unions in this state.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Education and Economic Freefall

A couple of years back, I predicted that the falling of the value of property would result in an economic downturn for cities and states. I don't like being right,but I told you so. Entities that survive on the revenue gleaned from taxes are naturally going to be hit and hit hard by this economy. No entity more so than the public education apparatus.

I am a teacher in a public school. I do not make a princely salary. In fact right now I am the only income at my home. That being said, my family is dealing with the downturn like most others. We are paying off the bills we can, making do with less and watching every penny. There are no vacations on the books. No lush parties being planned. We aren't remodeling. We are barely getting by. So it is with real wonder that I look at the way education dollars and bond issues are used.

Down the road in a town called Allen, they are building a sixty million dollar stadium for high school football. Yes, High School. I was raised in Texas and I understand that football and sports are trumps, but seriously is this what we want of the future? Do we really need more uninformed, overdeveloped drones? While sports have their places, it used to be such things were extracurricular, as in outside the curriculum. Now we have "classes" in cheerleading, football, drill team and marching band. The cost of supporting such programs have necessitated a highly mobilized parent base in booster clubs. Sadly those booster clubs, in their zeal to support, see nothing beyond the limits of the interests of their own children. So we end up with big fancy stadiums and no textbooks.

Then there is the electronic message. Politicians LOVE electronics and technology. By mandating support for such things they can look smart and supportive. But frankly having seen a couple of decades of students go through programs that feature technology I wonder if it isn't making them less inclined to learn. When given a task, unless specifically told not to, most student choose the first entry on Google or Wiki no matter how inane. These students duration at reading and their comprehension are marginal. The printed word is very different from the electronically generated one. I have to wonder if in our excitement to use technology we have made it harder for kids to learn or enjoy reading. Most adults that work on computers use glasses because of the eye strain. Perhaps our young children are having the same issues which they cannot voice because they don't know any different.

Then there is the issue of class size. In this regard it is all about the formula. If you have class A with a one:one student teacher ratio and class B with a one : thirty five student ratio and average them, it become a perfectly acceptable one : eighteen student teacher ratio. But that doesn't mean that the kids in the larger class will be getting anything near the time and attentio of the kid in the single student class. Then there are the various alphabetic issues. When you have a student with significant challenges, for which teacher must by law accommodate, you add to that teacher's responsibilities. Take the thirty five student class and from that class pick the kids who have 504's or IEP's or ESL issues or behavioral contracts and you make it where a small group within the larger class are demanding almost all the teacher's attention. I have seen this in action where a severely disabled student was put in an art class where when she didn't get attention, she would cut herself. This was a class of over thirty high school students including several gang members. There's no way the few kids who actually wanted that class got a positive experience. And this is increasingly the norm as the solution school districts are faced with is to throw disabled students into classes and hope to God the teachers can do something with them.

I am not sure what the future holds. Today my principal said that the district would reduce numbers through attrition. That might work for one year or maybe two. But down the road unless things turn around many districts will be facing reductions in force and more. I just wonder at what point superintendents will cut their pay.....

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

About That Global Warming....

It is 19 here in DFW. The Superbowl is this weekend and no doubt Jerry Jones sold the Dallas location as a sunny alternative to Maimi or Las Vegas. Jerry simply ignored the weather history of the area wherein our coldest days are usually in the January-February range. So all those northern visitors here and the ESPN open pavilion for broadcast and many others are learning that Texas can be deathly cold as well as really hot. There is ice beneath the snow, product of a thundersnow storm last night. Tonight's prediction is for 10 degrees-below zero with wind chill. It is the coldest it has been in 14 years. So Mr. Gore, please, no more guessing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What's Wrong With The Schools

I teach high school (so you don't have too *rimshot*)
I teach in a fairly affluent suburban high school. Considering the demographics and the money, we should have an entire population of candidate for a Rhodes Scholarship.
But we don't.

There's a great deal of second guessing on why not, but I think the problems with our schools are wide and deep. They range from clueless parents to academic structures to the very halls of government that demand so much for so little. So let's take a look at each level.

First there are the parents. Most parents want the best for their children. It used to be that meant a strong family, a good character and a solid foundation of knowledge. Now it's an IPhone. Or a car. Or a vacation with their friends in a tropic resort. I have to seriously wonder about the mental abilities of parents who are either so naive or so needy that they allow their children to stay in hotel rooms with their friends after prom or provide "a safe place to drink" by supplying liquor for high school parties. Do they honestly believe that because these are the events they know about that nothing else is going on? I promise you, these kids talk. They think teachers and administrators don't hear their little references to various activities. It used to be we would pick up notes. I remember a particularly specific and graphic note written by one of our cheerleaders.

But then again, kids have always hidden things from parents. I don't recall parents weren't so willing to be ignorant. Mine certainly weren't. The fear of being caught was one of the main reasons I never smoked pot. But these I can leave messages regarding a student on the phone only to find it was never recieved. Sometimes it takes going throught five or six different phone numbers to even find one that works. One time a number I called was for a recreation center fifty miles away. I can even send emails only to have them erased. Here's the problem. Teachers can't tell a parent their kid is in trouble without risking their job. I have had kids that reeked of pot. I have had kids hungover. I have also had kids seriously ill and one girl who I fear was having a miscarriage. In all these cases I can refer them to the nurse and hope the parent gets a clue. Too many times they don't because they don't want to. And they don't want to because it interferes with the dramarama going on in their own lives. Is it any wonder the kids consider school a low tier interest?

Let's talk about school boards locally and at the state level. School boards are comprised of politicians. No matter how low level or innocuous they seem, they all have their hands in the same political pie. That means that even when actions are seriously destructive to the learning environment, school boards will opt over what is popular over what is right. That is why in my district, only core classes count towards GPA. That means even AP students from the Gifted programs can dog it on a class making just enough to get credit. This instructs them how to slack off. And why is this so? Because one time a kid who happened to be in band got valedictorian over some kid who was in golf. Seriously, that's the reason. Never mind that both kids were AP students and both took plenty of rigorous courses, but because one mom with an axe to grind dragged it out to her buddy on the school board, this policy remains to the detriment of electives teachers throughout the district. This is just MY district. Other districts have loopy policies as well because the schools are run by politicians. And politicians like holding onto power. Some of the most contentious races I have seen were over school board seats. So locally and statewide schools end up with the type of boneheaded results over textbooks, staffing and more that create technology filled ghettos of ignorance wherein kids use expensive computers to plagiarize from Wikipedia or Google. This is why programs exist to suss out such actions, but the kids and their parents, who really care about the grades over the content seem to think this is just fine. This is what passes for education these days.

And finally, let's look at federal mandates. Federal mandates happened because it was seen as a way to impose specific social attitudes on children. Now who is going to say no to a kid? But what has happened is that programs are now driving the costs of education through the roof. Free lunches on the surface looked like a good thing. But I have seen the amount of waste. And it's curious how kids who don't have money for lunch have money to buy energy drinks and candy on the way to school. After school daycare sounded good, until it became a situation where the truly needy were kicked out if they didn't fulfill some mandated demographic. Then there are the special programs. Special education via the Americans with Disabilities Act has taken schools to the brink of extinction. What used to be services for kids who had hearing, reading or vision problems is now almost a medical facility with teachers. In one part of my building there are five students who have two teachers, two aides, a kitchen, a living room area, a training therapy area and a car for transportation to other services during the day. In another part of my building there are over 40 students in a math class. On paper federal officials will say this is fine and that nobody suffers. But you have to pity the kid who will someday work in the real world who never got the advantages of attention, time or one to one instruction due to the limitations of sheer numbers. Then there is ESL. ESL has become a catch all for our growing undocumented population. They are transient. They are frequently truant. They are a drag on the test scores and their parents, even when contacted in their language, do not seem overly concerned about their childrens' lack of success. In the lower grades free school is treated like daycare. In the upper grades it becomes a source of gang building which accounts for regular attendance zone changes at this level. What is sad is that many of these students have been in ESL programs since Pre K and even twelve years later do not read, nor write, nor speak, English. Yet according to federal guidelines we must provide them with millions of dollars worth of small classes, extra help, special teachers.

At a time when most states are pushing for cuts in education, there are some clear candidates for trimming. Sadly, they won't cut administration or oversight programs. They won't remove cheerleading or athletics from the list of classes making them extracurricular. Instead they will keep racheting up the class numbers driving experienced teachers into retirement. After all, younger teachers are cheaper. I am sure that's the way to improve education.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Say Good Bye to Middle Class

I am a teacher. Most people would categorize that profession as middle class along with police officers, fire fighters, nurses, managers, etc. I am the only wage earner thanks to the economy which despite all the liberal pundits claims is no better than it was two years ago. Looking at my paystub, it has become obvious that the combined weight of taxes, medicare taxes, insurance and what is laughably referred to as my retirement fund, is taking more than a quarter of my income. The cost of insurance alone has been driven up by making those of us saps who pay for insurance responsible for the higher costs of giving away "free" healthcare to anyone who qualifies. Note: Qualifying doesn't mean legally qualified, but it means you have the right connections to complain your way into services for free. Compare that to my Mom, who now has no money thanks to buyouts by Merrill Lynch to BofA and others. And what about that nice cushy golden parachute they gave as a parting gift to their former CEO? It looks like short of turning Mom out on the street, she will end up in our small home. It's a house that has no safeguards or amenities for the aged. It's falling apart. And there's not one thin dime to fix it. I am pretty sure that despite all the labeling, I am no longer middle class. I am poor. And at 54, that's a pretty solemn observation.