Thursday, March 29, 2007

Bad education memories

I was reminded today of a very unpleasant experience that I had to endure in order to change careers and become a teacher: the state-required brainwashing otherwise known as a credential program.

The vast majority of a teacher's training in California is pure B.S. that in no way prepares one for the real world of the classroom teacher, but I digress. What really got my dander up today was a co-worker's recollection of one particular professor.

I am going to tell you her name because the rot she preaches simply can't go unpublicized: Dr. Mary Salisbury at Cal State Stanislaus. This lady is so left wing that my left wing friends were stunned at her comments.

Ms. Salisbury had some interesting things to say in order to prepare us as educators. My co-worker recalled how much of her required training consisted of telling the class how the U.S. deserved 9/11.

And I guess that while she ranted about the big bad evil U.S., she practically worshiped at the feet of a Middle Eastern student in the class who was also very vocal that we had it coming to us.

By the time I had to take the class, she had moved on from the subject of 9/11, but the America bashing continued. I mostly remember how she talked incessently about her recent trip to Uganda and condoms--that's right, Uganda and condoms.

I remember the overall message went something like this: "Uganda good, U.S. bad; condoms good, U.S. bad." It was pretty heady stuff, as you can see.

Oh, how I wish I had the time to go back and take another class from her now that I don't need her approval to get my credential. It would be so much fun to say all the things that I couldn't say then for fear of retribution.

I did actually disagree a lot compared to other classes where I kept my mouth shut and toed the company line.

I remember her going off on evil corporations--again, what this has to do with teaching 8th graders I will never know--who operate "sweat shops" in third world countries.

She never had any answer for me when I pointed out that the people in those countries are ecstatic about those jobs and communities actually lobby to have the opportunity to host such shops. (Logic is not a required subject in the credential program.)

Oh, how I wish I had a blog back then. You wouldn't believe the stuff they try to pass off as education these days.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Diversity: gotta love it

So my local school district is looking to hire a new superintendent and the local paper has an the rundown on the fantastic possibilities that await as the interview process begins.

I read the article anxiously to see what marvelous qualities they must possess. Maybe they have experienced success turning around under-performing districts; maybe they have some innovative ideas to boost student achievement; maybe they are financial wizards with plans to better allocate taxpayer money.

Maybe not.

It turns out that the main thing the newspaper seemed to be touting was that half of the candidates "represent minority ethnic groups" and "one woman was chosen."

How exciting.

No mention of accomplishments, no trumpeting of their superior abilities, no glowing testimonials of effective leadership.

Imagine if your favorite sports team operated on such a silly system (fake quote coming):

"The Yankees announced today that they are looking for the pieces to build their next championship team. Owner George Steinbrenner has ordered GM Brian Cashman to pull out all the stops to find a Pacific Islander and perhaps a Norwegian or two in order to improve team chemistry."

We live in a crazy, crazy world.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

A few questions

I am probably going to catch flack just for asking the questions, but here goes:

1. Why does nearly everybody leave out the fact that Joint Chief's of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace called adultery immoral before he said homosexuality was immoral?

2. Why doesn't an organized group of adulterers rise up and demand an apology and Pace's dismissal?

3. Why does America care more about what people think--and occasionally say--more than they care about what they actually do?

In case you are not sure what I am talking about, a quick recap: This past week Gen. Pace discussed the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy on gays in the armed forces with the Chicago Tribune. In the course of that interview he said he believed homosexuality was immoral. Here is the entire quote:

"My upbringing is such that I believe that there are certain things,
certain types of conduct, that are immoral. I believe that military members who
sleep with other military members wives are immoral in their conduct and that we
should not tolerate that. I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are
immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts."

So that is what he said. I have my opinions--of course--concerning the questions I posed above, but I will probably wait until a later post to address them.

Friday, March 16, 2007

"Yeah, that would be why."

Maybe I just expect too much.

Maybe I am just too far removed from 8th grade to remember that I too was once clueless.


So I have about 10 minutes left in my advanced language arts class and I decide to use the time to discuss some deeper questions associated with the short story we have just finished reading.

"We need to dig deeper into this story and I think it would be good to have an intellectual discussion about our opinions on some of yesterday's questions," I began.

"I don't see why we can't spend more time having intellectual--

--"WHAT'S INTELLECTUAL MEAN!" interrupts a student.

"Yeah, that would be why."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Isn't it Ironic? No, it isn't

Everybody makes errors, that's why pencil have erasers.

But you might want to be a little more careful if you are a Pulitzer Prize winning columnist.

Leonard Pitts of the Miami Herald wrote about the recent discovery that the Rev. Al Sharpton had relatives who were slaves of the late South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. Mr. Pitts was tickled at how ironic that was--only problem is, that's not irony. Neither is one of the photos on this post. (Do you know which is?)

People often mistake coincidence with irony. It is a mild coincidence that two people loosely connected in these modern days would be connected 150 years ago.

Now, if Thurmond's people were owned by Sharpton's people, that's a doosy!

There are actually three types of irony: situational, verbal, and dramatic.

Situational irony is when something is the opposite of what you would expect. It is not unexpected that a Southern white guy had Southern-white-guy relatives who owned slaves.

Situational irony is when the fire station burns down, when the police get robbed, and when Donald Trump acts humble. You don't expect these things.

Verbal irony is a weird one. It is when you say something that is the opposite of what you mean. We usually just call this sarcasm: "Well, that was a smooth move," when what you actually mean is, "you are a total klutz."

Dramatic irony occurs in books and movies and such. It is when the reader or viewer knows something that the character in the story doesn't. Edgar Allan Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart" has this. The reader knows that the narrator is crazy, but the narrator doesn't know it.

Actually, figuring out what is irony and what isn't is somewhat of a mental exercise. Does anybody out there have any examples of things that are supposed to be ironic, but aren't?

A New Attitude

I can't promise I'll never talk politics again.

It has been 17 months since I gave up the blogging and I might give it up again, but for now I am back with a new look (isn't it pretty?) and a new attitude: it is a waste of time to debate politics on the web.

I set out in 2004 to have a blog that tried not to take sides and most of the time I got accused of taking sides.

Yeah, I was a failure.

Sure, I had a couple of really good conversations with my limited readership, but for the most part a "respectful dialog of ideas" did nothing to nudge neither me nor my readers to a different point of view.

I know people do change their political alliances--I've met actual converts--but it doesn't occur because somebody witty and intelligent wrote something on a blog. It doesn't occur because I wrote something either.

Life is by nature political and we all have our distinct worldviews that filter how we assess situations and events. I remember being a young teen, not knowing what conservative and liberal meant, but I somehow related to one commentator over the other in the days with actual editorials on the local Eyewitness News. It's like I was born that way.

So I am giving up talking politics as in candidates and issues. I will talk about life and my opinions and things that don't make sense to me and anybody is welcome to help me out, but I really want to leave out the Republicans and Democrats and the us and them.

I promise I will try.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

New Year's Resolution: How am I doing?

I resolved to stop drinking Starbucks Coffee this year.

You probably think I have developed some kind of vendetta against this corporate giant. Nope.

I don't like the coffee.

Not much of a resolution, you say, to stop doing something you don't like?

Oh, but it is. You see, for some reason Starbucks has had its hooks in me for years now. As soon as we got one in town, it became the thing to do. It was such a big thing that I guess I didn't take the time to consider whether or not I liked the product.

Turns out that "cool" and "trendy" will sell you a lot of coffee if people are not paying attention. When I did wake up, I realized that I had somehow been brainwashed into drinking something that I had to pour a quarter cup of sugar into before I could stand.

People say that Starbucks sells an "experience" as much as it sells coffee. I still haven't figured out what that means. Normally a joint that only sells the New York Times is one that I would avoid. If anybody knows what the experience is, please tell me.

Nowadays I can be found drinking coffee and reading the local newspaper at one of the oldest and most revered of American instituitions--McDonalds.