Monday, January 30, 2006

I Love These Guys!

I consider myself to be a connoisseur of political cartoons, and for my money, no one, and I mean no one, beats Cox & Forkum for humor and being dead-on target. I don't have time to get into my analysis of the implications of the new Palestinian government, but this cartoon should give you an idea.

Good Day to You, Sir

Saturday, January 28, 2006

You Mean Y'all Were Serious About That Whole Exit Exam Thing?

Meet Juan Calderon. Juan is a senior at Hiram Johnson Senior High School in the city of Sacramento, California. Juan looks dejected in this photo because Juan just found out he won't be graduating from high school because he has yet again, failed the state exit exam. Starting with this year's graduating class, California students who wish to graduate from high school with a diploma must pass the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE). This exam, which is designed to show an eighth grade proficiency in reading, writing, and math, has become the bane of approximately 20% of California's high school seniors. Even though they only have to demonstrate the knowledge of an eighth grader, these seniors have been unable to pass the exit exam, even though they are given several chances to pass it, beginning in their sophomore year.

This photo of Juan accompanied a front-page story in the Sacramento Bee (you may have to register to read it) that is one of a continuing series of stories about the struggles that numerous high school students are experiencing in trying to pass the CAHSEE. In addition to Juan, the story profiled another senior at Hiram Johnson, named Kevin Muhammad, who also failed the exam. Kevin's quote about his feelings on the matter kind of sum up part of the reason he had trouble passing the exam, especially the reading/writing portion. Kevin said:
"That ain't my goal, to go to no night school and not walk the stage," said Kevin Muhammad, 17. "Everyone wants to see me walk the stage and get my diploma."

Kevin has worked hard to prepare for the exam and his math score shows it, jumping 18 points since he took the test last March. But the new score was still short - by only 3 points.

"I was just mad," Kevin said. "I ain't tripping about math, I got close on that. But the English and reading, though ... ."
As you can see, Kevin's grammar is atrocious. Do you think he can write any better than he speaks?

I can tell you some of the reasons for the 20% failure rate: Students simply did not take this requirement seriously. As they have been experiencing quite often in their pampered lives, many of these failing students believed that when it came down to brass tacks, they wouldn't be held accountable for the CAHSEE. They thought they would be given a pass, or a wink-wink. They might have thought that there would be more legal challenges and the requirement to pass the CAHSEE would be delayed once again. And even more sadly, many students didn't even know about the CAHSEE in the first place until it was too late; I know this personally.

After reading this story over breakfast, I took my copy of the Bee with me to work and started off each period that day, going over the story with my 7th grade students. The first thing I asked them was if they had ever heard of the California High School Exit Exam. The vast majority of my students had never heard of it. Think about that: they are in the 7th grade. What they are learning both this year, and next year, will be the very information on which they will be tested when they take the CAHSEE in high school, yet most of them didn't even know the exam exists. When I explained to my students that they were required to pass the CAHSEE and that what they are currently learning is what would dominate the exam, I saw quite a few worried looks and ashen faces. It was the look of accountability and responsibility on the faces of children who have never been held accountable for anything in their whole life. I walked around the room and showed each student the photo of young Juan Calderon and told them that this is what it looks like when reality comes crashing down around you. I told them that this is what it looks like when you blow something off, and yet it doesn't go away.

I have plenty of students who will pass the CAHSEE on their first try as sophomores. But I have way too many students who have blown off school for seven or eight years now, and now even that they know about this CAHSEE requirement, it is too late for them to catch up.

I have little sympathy for the students who fail the CAHSEE, with one exception. If you look at the way many of them are coddled by their parents and coddled by their schools, no matter how disruptive or lazy they are, it seems a little disingenuous to suddenly start holding them accountable for something this important. If no one ever taught you to read, and then you had War and Peace plopped in front of you, I'm sure you would feel overwhelmed too. So that is my reason, but it is not an excuse for these students. At some point, you have to take control of your own education and say, "I am going to learn, in spite of any shortcomings my school or my friends may have."

I freely admit that I didn't work to my potential in high school. I blew off homework assignments and classwork, and ended up with a 3.1 GPA instead of the 3.8 or even 4.0 of which I was certainly capable. The difference is that I more than made up for this with my intellectual curiosity outside of school. During summer vacation, you would find me spending many a day buried in my parents' vast collection of books as I read them voraciously. No one assigned these books for me to read; I read them because I enjoyed learning what I wanted to learn. The problem I see with this current generation of students is that I see little to no intellectual curiosity in them whatsoever. They would rather have their kneecaps broken than read a book. And yes, yes, I know they love to read Harry Potter and such. You see that all the time: parents and educators insisting there is nothing wrong with the reading ability of our kids because they read Harry Potter. The problem is that you need to read a lot more than that to educate yourself on your own. I read a kid-friendly collection of biographies of historical people that my mother had as a child. I learned about the lives and accomplishments of David Crockett, Mozart, Ben Franklin, George Custer, Marco Polo, and many others, while simultaneously learning about the historical events that framed their lives. I read my parents' Time Life World War II series, the book series on the history of flight, their book series about the natural world, the Old West. I don't believe myself to be exaggerating when I say that when I graduated from high school, I probably had the equivalent of a Bachelor's Degree in History, having learned 90% of my knowledge on my own, and outside of the classroom.

I am totally in favor of the CAHSEE. I don't think it is fair for the Valedictorian to receive the very same diploma that many other students also receive but cannot even read. The biggest problem I have with the CAHSEE is that it doesn't even test students' knowledge on anything that they even learned in high school. Like I said, it tests at the eighth grade level. But if students are going to truly be held accountable for this exam, then our school system needs to drastically change. It needs to become a place where disruptive students are made gone and stay gone. It needs to be a place where real phonics are reintroduced at the primary level rather than the whole language charlatanism and so-called balanced approach to teaching reading that still reign in our elementary schools. Until that happens, too many students are going to be held to a standard for which they were not properly prepared. Continuing to raise standards won't cut it; we have to make schools places of real learning again.

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Technical Difficulties

It has come to my attention that the right-hand side menu of my blog has disappeared. And I thought it was just my computer monitor at work. I have now looked at my blog on other people's computers and lo and behold, the menu is gone! Inexplicably, my blog looks perfectly normal on my home computer. I am currently working this issue, but in the meantime, if you really really need to access my profile or my link menu, scroll down to the bottom of my blog, and you will find the profile and menu there.

Good Day to You, Shoddy Computer Technology

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The War of 1812 Began in What Year?

Let us visit a subject that I can easily apply to all of my students, regardless of their hue and shape. As a history teacher (currently 7th grade world history), one of the intellectual aspects that I find missing from too many of my students is a concept of time and space - especially time. Trying to explain B.C. and A.D. is like trying to explain the Big Bang Theory to my 18 month old son. As far as my students are concerned, the Vietnam War is just as long ago as the Civil War is just as long ago as the Revolutionary War is just as long ago as the Crusades. I literally have to do math on the board using years to illustrate the passage of time. This usually occurs when I get a question like the following: While studying the Mongols a couple months back, a student asked me, "Mr. Chanman, is Genghis Khan still alive?" The rest of the conversation went something like this:

Me: "Well, let's see. What year was he born?"
Student: "Umm, about 1162."
Me: "OK, what year is it now?"
Student: "2005."
Me: "So let's do the math; what is 2005 minus 1162?"
Student: "Umm.......................................................3,167?"
Me: "Not quite, let's try that math again."
Student: "Umm.......................................................843."
Me: "OK, so that means if Genghis Khan is still alive today, he is 843 years old; does that sound possible to you?"
Student: "I don't know."
Me: "Sigh."

I can tell you that it can be very difficult to teach history when students have no concept of time (no wonder they are tardy so often). Their lack of concept of time is matched by their lack of perspective on historical events. When the Iraq/Afghanistan War has come up in class, to hear the students talk about it, this is the most horrific war that the United States has ever experienced. They are genuinely shocked when I point out that the number of dead in our current war - which is currently at around 2,500, - pales in comparison to the 400,000+ Americans who died in World War II, and the 600,000+ Americans who died in our own Civil War. Of course, then you have to start in with the math again, because many of my students have no concept of what 400,000 or 600,000 looks like.

Theodore Dalrymple is a British doctor and author who worked in a British inner-city hospital and prison. He nails this issue in an article called We Don't Want No Education, that he penned about eleven years ago. In this excellent article, Mr. Dalrymple explained the issue like no one else can:
Thus are the young condemned to live in an eternal present, a present which merely exists, without connection to a past which might explain it or to a future which might develop from it. Theirs is truly a life of one damned thing after another. Likewise, they are deprived of any reasonable standards of comparison by which to judge their woes. They believe themselves deprived, because the only people with whom they can compare themselves are those who appear in advertisements or on television.
I have never heard a better explanation of the missing concept of time and perspective that plagues so many of our young people than Mr. Dalrymple's. Earlier in the article, he also had this to say:
Most of the young whites whom I meet literally cannot name a single writer and certainly cannot recite a line of poetry. Not a single one of my young patients has known the dates of the Second World War, let alone of the First; some have never heard of these wars, though recently one young patient who had heard of the Second World War thought it took place in the eighteenth century. In the prevailing circumstances of total ignorance, I was impressed that he had heard of the eighteenth century. The name Stalin means nothing to these young people and does not even evoke the faint ringing of a bell, as the name Shakespeare (sometimes) does. To them, 1066 is more likely to mean a price than a date.
Please find time to read the rest of the article. It is required reading for history teachers.

Good Day to You, Sir.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Why We Fight

Have you ever seen this photograph? It was taken by Michael Yon, a blogger-journalist who has been in and out of Iraq quite a few times. If this doesn't win a Pulitzer Prize, it will be a crime. Please visit Michael Yon's blog as often as you can; his posts are amazing.

Mr. Yon snapped this photo in the aftermath of a double suicide/car bombing in Mosul in May, 2005. The man in the photo is Major Mark Bieger, U.S. Army. He is holding a little Iraqi girl who was mortally wounded by the bombs set off by the terrorists. Being a father myself, including a little girl who is due in April, I can scarcely look at this photo with tearing up.

The next time some leftist moonbat talks about how we need to leave Iraq, ask them if they want to leave Iraq to the human cockroaches who would turn the country into an operating base where they could do something like this not just in Iraq, but elsewhere as well.

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, January 19, 2006

What's My Motivation?

In one of my recent posts concerning matters of race, I received a comment from fellow blogger Miroslav who was curious about my background in such things. He wrote,
I am curious to know more about your upbringing and experience with the black community beyond your role as a teacher. Also, what is your economic background?

Keep lovin' on these kids. They need it just as much as any of us.
To which I say, gladly. I grew up as a middle-class kid (Dad was a cop, Mom was a teacher) in a little mountain town in northern California in the 1980s. This town had not one black person living in it. In fact, there wasn't a black person around in any direction that I knew of for at least 70 to 100 miles. All I really knew about black people at that time, I probably gleaned from Eddie Murphy movies and the Cosby Show. The only ethnic group in my town were Indians; Karuk to be exact. The funny thing is that a disproportionate number of Karuk kids with whom I went to school, exhibited a lot of the same anti-intellectual, oppositional behavior that I see in so many black students I now teach. I think that might be where I gained such an interest in this phenomenon.

I had some exposure to blacks when I went to college, but they tended to be cocky football players and track sprinters who swaggered around wearing do-rags. It wasn't until I went in the Army that my eyes to the world were finally opened. During my 12 years in the Army, I met some of the finest people - of all colors - that you could ever think of meeting. Some of the toughest, most squared away, attention-to-detail soldiers I met in the Army were black soldiers; especially black NCOs (Sergeants). When I was stationed in Schweinfurt for a while, the guy I hung out with the most was black, and that's the funny thing - race was never a subject that we talked about. It wasn't even on our radar screen. We just talked about home, high school, life; we shot the breeze. Were all black soldiers that way? Of course not. Even in the Army, there was that militant, Whitey-is-the-devil contingent, just like there was also the white redneck, darkies-should-know-their-place contingent. Being stuck together in close quarters, we all figured out how to get along, no matter what we thought of each other.

It wasn't until I got into teaching that I saw some of the issues concerning black children on which I have expounded. Couple this with the fact that around the same time, I became a political junkie who devoured the readings of black conservative commentators such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, Ken Hamblin, John McWhorter, and Shelby Steele. These guys have been writing about these issues for years. When I read what they had to say, the things that I had seen all began to make sense.

So, Miroslav, I hope that answers your question. I welcome any comments, even from the anonymous person who questioned whether I would even welcome a black person into my home. I don't think I need to dignify that remark with any further response.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, January 16, 2006

All the News that's Fit to Fake

The New York Times' motto is, "All the News that's Fit to Print". My title for this post tells you all you need to know what I think about that. I don't know the exact figures, but very few of today's journalists have been in the military or have any military expertise... and it shows.

The other day, an unmanned CIA drone aircraft fired a missile at a residence where Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man was thought to be dining. The missile found its mark and blew up the residence (and a couple houses around it). On her blog, Michelle Malkin posted the above after-photo of the damage, and what is said to be the remains of the missile. Standing around these remains are several Pakistanis with forlorn looks on their faces. One problem - that ain't no missile. That is an old artillery shell, probably 152-155 millimeter. Some people say, "So what", to which I would patiently explain that reporting the facts correctly is the same as being pregnant. Just as you cannot be "sorta" pregnant, you also cannot "sorta" report the facts correctly. Either the report is correct or it is not. If the caption of the photo is incorrect, and it is obvious that the reporter has been had, it begs the question: what other lies did this reporter not only believe, but also report?

It reminds me of Dan Rather talking about the George W. Bush National Guard memo scandal, where he acknowledged that while the memos might have been fake, the story was still correct. IT DOESN'T MATTER!! Since the memos were fakes, it tainted the entire story, bringing into question everything else they reported!

Once upon a time, reporters like Robert Capa and Ernie Pyle knew their stuff militarily and wrote wonderful pieces and took accurate photos. Today, most journalists are powderpuffs who know jack-crap about the military.

Good Day to You, Sir

Saturday, January 14, 2006

New Blog Link About Matters of Race

Look to your right at my list of links. You will see a new link to La Shawn Barber's Corner. La Shawn Barber is considered one of the rising stars of the blogosphere. Most of her writings deal with the state of Black America. Ms. Barber, who is black, is a conservative lawyer and freelance writer. I highly recommend that you read up on her thoughts, because she truly "keeps it real".

You may notice many of my posts address the problems and social pathology faced by blacks in our country. I do this for good reason. I so want to see black people in our country succeed and live normal lives; and many are. However, I go to work every day and witness first hand, an entire generation of black youth throwing their lives away as they emulate and worship thugs, mysoginists, and moral turpitude. In fact, one of La Shawn Barber's more recent posts quoted a black columnist who explained it best. Speaking of yet another bout of violence during a celebrity hip-hop event at a nightclub, the columnist stated,
Viewed through the racist eye, events of this nature serve only to lend credence to the notion that blacks deserve none of the rights and freedoms that our ancestors struggled and died to earn for us, because our race is inherently incapable of civility. Examined in broader context, they speak to the current state of the African-American psyche in a culture unmatched at pandering to its lowest common denominator.
In the same post, Ms. Barber candidly sums up her thoughts about what blacks in America need to do. Please keep in mind, this is a black female talking:
If American blacks, as a group, don’t start: 1) marrying before they have children, 2) stigmatizing illegitimacy as they once did, 3) ostracizing immorality and decadency, 4) holding themselves accountable for their children’s low educational achievement, 5) shunning criminality, and 6) resisting the “racism” hustle — moral decay, social pathologies, underachievement, and other ills will define the “black community.”

And thug culture will be the perverse crown jewel sitting at the top.
As long as I watch such a disproportionate number of the black students I teach do their damndest to emulate the "lowest common denominator", I will continue to do all I can to demonstrate to them (and students of all colors), that they don't have to hobble themselves with their dress, speech, and behavior. I will never stop telling them to pull up their pants, conjugate their verbs, and tell them that it is not acceptable to backtalk me, until the day it no longer becomes necessary. As a teacher, I owe them that much.

Good Day to You, Sir

God's Country

It's time for another edition of God's Country. In the foreground, past the immediate trees, is Fallen Leaf Lake. Past that, in the background, is the southern part of Lake Tahoe. This photo was taken by Yours Truly on a beautiful warm day in July, 2002.

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Warning: Making a Pilgrimage to Mecca May Be Hazardous to Your Health

I begin this post by expressing my lament that I haven't posted since January 3rd. I just ended a Masters Degree class on Tuesday night that was kicking my butt. Now that I have a bit of a reprieve for a little while, I can post more.

I read today about a stampede in Mecca that killed 345 people and injured almost 300 more. What is it with these people? Can you imagine getting so worked up about your religion, that you are willing to trample your fellow followers to death in an attempt to practice it? This stampede comes in the wake of a Mecca hotel collapsing earlier this week, resulting in 76 deaths. This is by no means the first time hundreds of Muslims have died during the yearly Haj, in which millions of the world's Muslims make their way to Mecca in order to fulfill one of the five pillars of Islam; all Muslims are required to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life if they are financially and physically able.

Back in 1990, a stampede killed over 1,400! In 2004, there were 244 killed. Remind me to remain a Protestant. I like to think we are a bit more subdued.

Good Day to You, Sir.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Mac Dre? Louis Farrakhan?

The hateful looking individual you see above is named Andre Hicks. Mr. Hicks hailed from the city of Vallejo, California. In 1992, he began serving a five year jail sentence for conspiracy to commit armed bank robbery with his gang, called the "Romper Room Gang" which operated out of Vallejo. While in prison, Mr. Hicks recorded one of his albums over the inmate phone. In the lyrics of one of his songs, called Back 'N Da Hood, Mr. Hicks taunted the cops who had been unable to tie the Romper Room Gang to the string of bank robberies attributed to them. Here is a sample of the lyrics. I warn you - profanity abounds:
These punk police won't let up
They trying to keep me down and keep me in a ditch
But the only thing they doing is making me rich
They painted a picture of a ruthless villain
Told all my fans that I was stealing
Jealous mothafuckas, I never steal
I make more money than you never will
Mac Dre arrested for attempted heist
The mothafucking feds ain't nothing nice
They said I was the one doing all this shit
But banks just keep on getting hit
Feds trying to send a nigga up the creek
But Dre ain't worried cause the case is week
They say I'm the one calling all the shots
But fuck them feds and fuck them cops
And to that punk mothafucka Detective Nic Dic
Hear me loud and clear, fool: suck my big dick
Of course the law had the last laugh. At Mr. Hicks' trial, his own rap lyrics about the gang's shenanigans were submitted as evidence. After being released from prison in 1997, Mr. Hicks began cutting albums, touring, and making a name for himself in the gangsta thug rap culture within California's Bay Area, and the Sacramento area as well. On November 1, 2004, while on tour near Kansas City, Missouri, Mr. Hicks was shot to death in a - surprise! - gang related shooting.

Does this man sound like the kind of guy you would want as a role model for your children? I have bad news for you - he is. Andre Hicks is better known by his rap moniker, Mac Dre. In the wake of his death last year, the latest fashion statement being worn by the hip-hop obsessed boys at the school in which I teach - and I'm sure plenty elsewhere - is an oversize t-shirt with a print of the above picture that memorializes this piece of garbage. This is who is memorialized in the black community nowadays folks: a two-bit criminal who corrupts our youth with the worst sort of mysoginistic, violent, nihilistic "music" imaginable. And the worst part is that he is continuing to do this from beyond the grave, as his death has made him even more popular than he already was.

But wait, the black community isn't finished. Just yesterday, Black Entertainment Television (BET) handed out its award for 2005 "Person of the Year". Did they pick Barack Obama, the up and coming senator from Illinois? How about Oprah Winfrey? Better yet, how about Lieutenant General Russell Honore? Haven't heard of him? He was the Louisiana National Guard commander who helped save perhaps thousands of lives through his leadership of rescue assets in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He also popularized the phrase "stuck on stupid" when he dressed down a reporter asking him stupid questions. Nope, the good General didn't get the honor either. Instead, BET listeners picked none other than Minister Louis Farrakhan of that well-known bow tie cult, the Nation of Islam. Speaking of Hurricane Katrina, you might remember an earlier post of mine where I mentioned that Mr. Farrakhan accused the U.S. government of purposely blowing up the levees in New Orleans in order to save the white neighborhoods by flooding the black neighborhoods. BET justified the award by saying,
"An overwhelming percentage of our users agreed that Minister Farrakhan made the most positive impact on the Black community over the past year and chose him as the person most worthy to receive the honor of's 2005 Person of the Year."
BET stuck the knife in a little deeper, stating that Mr. Farrakhan,
"mobilize[d] hundreds of thousands of Blacks around the issues of atonement and empowerment, and to convince the masses of our people that we must be the primary catalysts and engines for positive change in our communities."
How? By fanning flames of racial hatred? By making spaced out conspiracy theories about imagined machinations of those "blue-eyed devils"?

I weep for this country.

Good Day to You, Sir