Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Mistake of the Union

Yesterday, President Bush delivered his State of the Union. Here's what he said about education:

Five years ago, we rose above partisan differences to pass the No Child Left Behind Act -- preserving local control, raising standards in public schools, and holding those schools accountable for results. And because we acted, students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap.

Students are performing better? Which ones? When I first heard this I had serious doubts. I would like to think that minority students are closing the gap, but this claim doesn't match up with the reality I see every day. Nor does it account for problems that are festering into lawsuits.

"Local" control does not really exist under this law, and many states and schools are suing the government. The problem: this Federal law is mandating expensive procedures (including yearly tests) and not providing adequate funding. Thus, this law is like the time my Mom set up a date between me and Henrietta Dudley (the pimply daughter of her best friend)...painful and I had to pay for it.

According to NPR, the President seems to be basing his claims of student achievement looking at a narrow field: a portion of 4th graders. Yet if you look at 8th grade, the performance gap between whites and minority students has actually been WIDENING over the last few years. No surprise for those educators who have seen all along that No Child Left Behind hurts students who need help the most. This law is whacked, and it needs to either be axed or be revamped and adequately funded. And our political leaders need to stop playing the statistical shell-game in order to hide the truth.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Intellectual Crapola

Often I think about going back to graduate school to get my PhD or another Master's Degree. Luckily, I know people who are still in college and can remind why I left in the first place. The following written by a student studying at Oxford. Her one line rebuttal at the end is spot-on, I think.

fredric v. bogel has now spent 67 pages deconstructing the
relationship between satirist, satiric object, and the reader. he
obviously thinks he has something very important to say. i beg to
differ. everything he 'discovers' is so painfully obvious. the best
part is when he spent like 10 pages proving that when you're "here",
you're also simultaneously not "there". spectacular! let me break that
down for you. what he's saying is that since you're in oakland, you
are also (at the very same time no doubt) not in oxford. do you get it
now? i know, it took me a couple times too. it's pretty deep stuff.
one of his "analogies" may help: "This is why the Lele people, in the
Congo region of Africa, do not simply shun the scaly anteater called
the pangolin, an animal that is in many ways a kind of cultural
nightmare since it threatens so profoundly the classificatory system
on which that society is founded. The Lele hunt, cook, and eat the
creatuure, incorporating rather than evading its threatening
condition; in doing so, they seek to acknowledge, and to draw upon,
the power of the anomalous, the ambiguous, the self-contradictory".

Sunday, January 14, 2007

And Another Thing...

My 11 year old walked past the new Rolling Stone featuring a cover of the late James Brown. He looked puzzled and asked "Why is Rolling Stone doing an issue on Condoleezza Rice?"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Smoking Grass Roots

I've written about my frustrations about elsewhere, but after yesterday's post it seems appropriate to talk about an e-mail I received from my (un)favorite grass roots organization this morning. Am I complaining? Sure. Am I being hypocrtical about complaining about complainers? Yeah, okay. But I'm a Democrat at heart, so what can I do?

MoveOn is urging me to join a rally to stop the escalation of troops going to Iraq. Why? Because "Stopping escalation is important because it will help us get out of Iraq faster. We voted against "Stay the Course" in November and if can show widespread opposition to escalation tonight the only other option is a responsible exit from Iraq."

Um, when did MoveOn change from "grass roots" to "military strategists"? Look, it's clear that our involvment in Iraq has been totally fucked up in so many ways that it makes me giddy. But what is MoveOn proposing? What if we need more troops there? What if getting out fast is not in the cards, that getting out quickly now means a bad, bad mess in the near future? I have no friggin clue what we need. I can only tell you what one of my ex-students who went there reported back to me: "Our guys are in deep trouble--that's why I am going back. Not for any other reason but to get our guys home safe." That could mean pulling everybody out...or it could mean putting more guys in to make it safer for our guys so they can all make it home later. I dunno.

But if somebody is going to tell me to stop something, that there is a problem, then he had better provide me a solution too. Otherwise, we the "liberals" sound like a bunch of English teachers bitching about the administration and not-very hot lunches.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Majority of Nothing

So it's a new year, the Democrats hold power and they have a chance to rebuild our future. Why am I not optimistic? Why aren't I telling anti-Bush jokes and singing "Na-Na-Na, Hey-Hey-Hey Goodbye!" and blowing raspberries at the (finally) beaten Republicans?

Could it be that the Repubs actually had a plan? Sure, it was a crappy plan, full of lies and monkey-logic, but it was a plan. The Democrats? The party I find myself voting for each election with an increasing sense of dread? They have reactionaries. They have leaders who wag their finger and say "that's a bad plan!" and "liar!" and "We must fight corruption!"

If I were a Republican, I'd be feeling pretty good right now. Sure, you've lost the majority, but the responsibilty of fixing this mess falls to the Democrats...and the Democrats don't seem up for much more than pointing out problems. And if this mess isn't fixed, you can bet your sweet Bush you'll find a host of conservatives with a way to fix this mess come next election (they'll be full of lies, of course, but it will sound really, really insane enough to get votes).

The Democrats remind me of English teachers...they like to talk about things a lot. I was reminded by a drama teacher that, at some point, actors just get up and start trying things, moving about the stage; that's the way they find insight into a character. That's the way they get work done--by moving. English teachers can't seem to get off their butts until they have exhausted every avenue of analysis, picking at every opinion, scouring words for insight that probably isn't really that helpful anyway (so the cigar isn't a cigar, and you're a pervert, whoop-dee-do) and then it's past dinner-time and all the good sushi places have closed. Somewhere there's a balance, but I think most people want to watch a good show--even the Democrats. After all, the show gives them something to talk about.