Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Shocker! Lefties can be racist too

Dr. Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina - Wilmington. He is a conservative's conservative and he has tenure. This makes for a hilarious combination as he mercilessly pillories his politically correct campus admin and faculty in his weekly Townhall columns. Being a conservative professor, Dr. Adams was a pariah on campus before he began his column; he figured he might as well do something constructive about it. I highly suggest you make him a must-read. In this week's installment, Dr. Adams tells of the occasion in which he filled in a leftist colleague about the time he accompanied a police officer on a ride-along and ended up in a crack house bust. Just wait until you hear the colleague's reaction (and assumptions) about Dr. Adams' story.

Good Day to You, Sir

Satisfying airport security story

I don't often link to stories from Fark.com, because finding bloggable material there is like shooting fish in a barrel, and I don't want my blog to be a Fark clone. However, seeing as how my wife's and my experiences at TSA checkpoints have not been very enjoyable as of late, I thought that posting this writer's experience would be the right thing to do. Granted, he brought the heat upon himself, but it was for the greater good.

So you know what is going on from the outset when you begin reading the narrative, keep in mind that Kip Hawley is the head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, September 25, 2006

100 Things about me

Well, Miroslav did it, then Mimmen did it. What can I say? I caught the bug. Here are 100 things about me in no particular order.

1.) I started out living in the city, was raised in the country, and now I live in the city again. I miss the country.
2.) No matter how much I tried as a child to enjoy the woods and mountains of my hometown in Northern California, I still feel like I took it too much for granted while growing up.
3.) This is especially true now that I live in a flat city in the Central Valley.
4.) I love the mysteriousness of forests.
5.) I love the sound of crickets on a summer night.
6.) I love the endless sound of a creek running.
7.) I prefer rainy, cloudy, and/or gloomy days to sunny days.
8.) I believe there is no better sound on earth than a thunderstorm.
9.) If the day is sunny, I prefer it if there are lots of poofy white clouds in the sky.
10.) I loved the heat of summer when I was a kid. Now I hate the heat, and I am always looking forward to when it will be cold again.
11.) As a child growing up in the woods, I could shoot guns right behind my house.
12.) As far as I am concerned, pop music peaked during the mid-1980s to early 1990s.
13.) I can name by memory, the release year (and usually the time of year) of practically any top 100 pop song from that same era.
14.) The two types of music I hate the most are today’s rap/hip hop and country music.
15.) I believe today’s hip hop signals the death knell of our society.
16.) Sometimes I pop up in bed in a panic when I begin thinking about the impossibility of how big the universe is, and how small it makes me feel.
17.) I wish I was better at keeping my wits about me when under pressure.
18.) This usually manifests itself when I am having a political debate with someone and my vast knowledge is not accessible to me because my brain freezes up.
19.) I am envious of people who don’t care a whit of what other people think about them.
20.) It has taken me a long time to learn how to not worry about what other people think of me; but sometimes I still find myself worrying.
21.) I love to read, especially about history, politics, and current events.
22.) When I was single, I would spend hours browsing in bookstores.
23.) When I was a kid, I would say that books were my best friend.
24.) I look at people of the political left as perpetual children who refuse to grow up; instead of Mommy and Daddy paying for everything, now they look to Uncle Sugar.
25.) I look at my wife every day and wonder how I was given the honor to marry such an incredible woman.
26.) My wife is one of those women who doesn’t need makeup to look beautiful.
27.) I love my children more than I ever realized I would.
28.) I think I am a better father than I ever thought I would be.
29.) I worry every day about what kind of country my children will grow up in.
30.) I want to expose my children to country living as often as possible. I don’t want them to grow to be city slickers.
31.) When I was a child, I predicted I would get married at the age of 28. I ended up getting married at the age of 28.
32.) Even though I am now 34, I don’t feel appreciably different mentally than I did when I was 17 or 18.
33.) I hope I still feel that way when I’m an old man… however old that is.
34.) I continue to be awed at the incredible experiences that my father lived through as a police officer and a soldier.
35.) I feel lucky that he has shared many of those experiences with me.
36.) When I was a kid, I thought my mother was the smartest person in the world (don’t worry Mom, you are still in the top three).
37.) My relationship with my brother has always struck me as being more businesslike than brotherly. When we see each other, we don’t hug, we shake hands.
38.) I have more fond memories of attending junior college than I do of attending high school.
39.) As far as I am concerned, my junior college was the high school I never got to attend.
40.) I didn’t fit in at my high school.
41.) I didn’t fit in in my hometown.
42.) It does not bother me to spend long periods of time by myself.
43.) It took a little bit of time to convince my wife that enjoying spending time by myself did not mean that I did not enjoy spending time with her.
44.) Being around too many people for too long of a time leaves me mentally and physically exhausted.
45.) I spent 12 years in the Army; 4 years were active duty, 8 years were in the National Guard.
46.) The biggest reason I left was the fact that the Army was being taken over by wimpy, ineffective officers and NCOs, and lesbians who were thick as thieves and showed gross favoritism toward other lesbians.
47.) If I had to do it over again, I wouldn’t join the military, but at the same time I would have regretted it if I hadn’t.
48.) I never regret having joined the military. I saw and did things I never would have gotten to see and do otherwise.
49.) I spent two years in Germany and the former Yugoslavia constantly thinking to myself that I couldn’t believe I was standing in Germany and the former Yugoslavia.
50.) I feel blessed that I have gotten to live and travel in Europe.
51.) I can’t stand it when people let their dogs bark all day and night. Not only does it bother the people in the neighborhood, it also tells me that the dog is being neglected.
52.) I am a dog person.
53.) I find cats to be rather useless.
54.) I believe in God
55.) As a child, I attended a Methodist church; now I attend a Presbyterian church.
56.) I don’t agree politically with much of what the Methodists and Presbyterians believe.
57.) I consider myself a Christian, but I often find myself questioning if everything about the Greatest Story Ever Told really happened.
58.) I question the validity or context of a lot of things that are written in the Bible.
59.) I consider the Bible to be one of the greatest books ever written.
60.) I have the 12th Psalm hanging on the wall by my desk at work.
61.) At church, instead of listening to the sermon, I often tune the minister out and read the Bible instead.
62.) As a teacher, it is heartening for me to watch certain students live up to their expectations.
63.) As a teacher, it is hard for me to watch certain students live up to their expectations.
64.) I find it amusing and tragic as I watch so many of my middle class students (of whatever ethnicity) do their best to act like ghetto thugs.
65.) As a teacher, it is tough to see some delinquent students’ whole lives mapped out already even though they haven’t even lived their lives yet.
66.) It is even tougher to know that I really have no control over it.
67.) I would never let my son and daughter attend the school at which I teach.
68.) I wish there was a legal and moral way to stop some people from reproducing.
69.) For going on 20 years now, my favorite sport is track and field.
70.) When I was in college, I didn’t think I was a very talented runner.
71.) I look back now on the times I clocked in track and cross country, and I wonder how I was ever able to run that fast.
72.) I am happy that I still have contact with friends from college.
73.) I don’t ever remember not being able to read.
74.) I have always been fascinated with the passage of time.
75.) I sometimes have to remind myself that historical events actually happened and there wasn’t a musical score playing in the background.
76.) I believe in an unfettered right to keep and bear arms.
77.) I believe that one of the greatest evils mankind ever invented was socialism.
78.) I love to float motionless under water in the deep end of a swimming pool or a swimming hole and watch my floating body as I listen to the ringing in my ears.
79.) If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live in Mt. Shasta, California.
80.) I lived next to Mt. Shasta for three years when I went to junior college.
81.) If I have to live in a city, I am glad I live in Sacramento.
82.) I miss the relative lack of ambiguity of the Cold War; there was little argument over who our enemy was.
83.) Autumn is by far my favorite season.
84.) I love to drive so much, sometimes I wish I could be a truck driver to make my living.
85.) I have always wanted to act in a play, but I am too shy to go through with it.
86.) Somehow, teaching in front of a group of students doesn’t seem to bother me.
87.) As a child, I was terrified of public speaking; now look forward to the opportunity.
88.) I feel both mortified and angry when black people call each other “Nigga”. I think of how many black people were killed or injured in the fight not to be called that anymore.
89.) I don’t think I’m addicted to the Internet, but I probably spend too much time on it.
90.) I would love to write a screenplay; about what, I have no idea!
91.) I once won a game of Trivial Pursuit where it was me versus a team of ten players (no it wasn’t junior Trivial Pursuit!)
92.) I did not receive my Batchelor Degree until I was 29 going on 30.
93.) I went in the Army after junior college because I knew I was too immature to go on to a four year university.
94.) I am currently one class and one comprehensive exam away from getting a Masters Degree in Education
95.) The only reason I am getting the M.Ed. is to increase my salary.
96.) I wish I knew more about how to fix cars and things around the house.
97.) I wish I was better at math.
98.) I wish I was fluent in a foreign language.
99.) My all-time favorite beer (for almost 10 years now and counting) is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I highly suggest you give it a try!
100.) My wife convinced me to make this list, because I didn’t think I could think of 100 items. I guess my life is more interesting than I thought.

We don't want to make the terrorists mad at us for goodness' sake!

A report came out recently that is being gushed over by the Democrats that says the War in Iraq is breeding more terrorists. The first thing I thought was how odd that was, seeing as how, according to the Democrats, the War in Iraq has nothing to do with the War on Terrorism.

It's more than that though. Think about what this report and what the Democrats are saying. They are saying that to fight an enemy is useless because you just breed more of what you are fighting:

I'm sorry President Roosevelt, we are going to have to let Hitler do what he wants. Fighting him will only make him mad and it will breed more Nazis.

Neal Boortz came up with the best logical answer to this insane argument. I will just post the whole thing instead of making you scroll through today's entry until you find it:
Much being said today about a National Intelligence Estimates which says that our invasion of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein has helped to spawn a new generation of radical Islamic jihadists.

Let's turn the clock back a generation or so, to the beginning of the civil rights movement. Just a quick question for you. What if the New York Times ran a headline which read: "Civil Rights Movement Said to Worsen Threat of Racism." The article tells you "Efforts by the Justice Department to end racial discrimination in the South has helped spawn a new wave of racial animosity." You read further and discover that recruitment of members into the Ku Klux Klan has increased since the federal government stepped up its efforts to bring the vote to Southern blacks.

Tell me .. .would it be time to pull back and let the racists and bigots just have their way? Or would our determination to go forward with the civil rights struggle merely be strengthened?

Democrats, desperate to do anything to reverse their slide in the polls, are jumping on this story big time, with no small amount of help from the media.

Jane Harman, the most senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee says every intelligence analyst she has talked to confirms what the report says. Says Harman: "And that is why the best military commission proposal in the world and even capturing the remaining top Al-Qaeda leadership isn't going to prevent copycat cells, and it isn't going to change a failed policy in Iraq. This administration is trying to change the subject. I don't think voters are going to buy that."

Oh really?

Look closely at the Democratic position here. They are saying that we shouldn't have invaded Iraq because it is causing more terrorism. In other words, we made them mad. We shouldn't fight wars because it might make the Islamic terrorists upset. That being the case, can you imagine how mad the Islamic fascists would be if we caught or killed Osama bin Laden? That is, if he isn't already dead.

Maybe we should call off the hunt for Osama, Mullah Omar, and the rest of them! After all, if we catch them it's just going to piss these pissants off. Can't have that, can we?
If we base the validity of our wars based on whether or not we will make our enemy mad, then that kind of keeps us from ever defending ourselves, doesn't it. Of course, I'm sure that suits most leftists and Democrats just fine.

Good Day to You, Sir

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Another step toward the wussification of America

Next month, my wife and I and another family will be co-hosting a church function at our house that will be Halloween themed. Yeah, yeah, I know about the whole Christian vs. Halloween thing; just go with me on this and not get off subject.

My wife and the wife from the other family have taken the lead on planning for this party. Some other moms from our church group happened to ask my wife's planning partner about some of the activities they were planning. One of the activities mentioned was bobbing for apples. When this activity was mentioned, the other mothers, in the words of my wife, "unloaded" on her planning partner. I happened to talk to my wife's planning partner at church this morning, and she also told me some of the things the other mothers said.

The other mothers thought that bobbing for apples was a "terrible" idea. They said that it would be a "traumatic" experience for children, and that they were aghast at the thought of their childrens' faces being in the same water that had surrounded the head of the previous child.

Bobbing for apples? Traumatic? I guess if I grabbed my son by the back of the hair and slammed his head into the bucket of water, brought him up for air, and then slammed his head back into the water, then yeah... that would be traumatic. But to voluntarily stick your head into the water and be traumatized? C'mon ladies, let your kids have a little fun. As for the spreading of disease, I seem to recall that the last big get-together we had with our church group took place at a swimming pool. I'm sure you all can imagine what kind of nasty stuff ends up in a swimming pool, yet I didn't see any of those mothers fainting with fright upon witnessing their precious children swimming in the pool. And speaking of that, I didn't see any traumatized youngsters as they jumped into the pool and went all the way under the water. All I saw was laughing and playing.

This is a prime example of what I refer to as the wussification of America. It seems like anything that is fun yet has the slightest little amount of risk is verboten for many parents, and school administrators. I can think of so many childhood activities that I got to do as a child that would be gasped at today:

Dodgeball, playing war with plastic guns, dying gloriously and agonizingly during those same war games, smear the queer, jumping off high rocks into the local swimming hole, riding my bike without a helmet, riding in the open back of a pickup truck, riding in our car without a seatbelt.

Look at me everyone! I'm still alive! My life may have been more risky growing up, but I sure had a lot of fun.

Good Day to You, Sir

Saturday, September 23, 2006

It's Amazing what you can find in the archives

Hat tip to Evan Maloney at Brain Terminal for this priceless little article. Evan found an archived 1999 report from CNN stating that Osama bin Laden had departed Afghanistan and that his whereabouts were unknown.

Buried in the middle of the article is this bombshell:
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has offered asylum to bin Laden, who openly supports Iraq against the Western powers.
What is CNN talking about? Everyone knows that Osama bin Laden hated Saddam Hussein and Iraq because the country was Godless. And everyone knows that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party. I know this because the moonbat left tells me so.

What no self-respecting leftist has ever been able to explain to me is if al Qaeda had no interest in Iraq and couldn't stand Saddam Hussein, then why did they rush to Iraq to fight after the Americans arrived and kicked Saddam out? For goodness' sake, doesn't anyone remember the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's organization? It was (is) called al Qaeda in Iraq. If there is no connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, kindly explain to me the presence of a terrorist organization with that name in the country of Iraq.

I get so tired of the mantras about there being absolutely no connection between al Qaeda and Saddam. How insulting to try to sell that zinger to the American people. Problem is, too many of the American people are buying.

Good Day to You, Sir

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mother of the Year Award

My wife and I love our children. We are so happy to have them, and we waited so long to have them, with both of us being in our 30s when our children were born. We both wanted to wait until we knew we were mature enough, established enough, and financially stable enough to properly care for a new life. I always feel like life is cheapened when people have babies they can't support and don't have the maturity level to handle.

That makes it especially hard to come across a headline like the following:

Harlem baby dies after falling into bucket of mother's vomit
Authorities said DeJesus spent the evening of Sept. 15 downing gin and smoking cigarettes and then returned before dawn to the shelter where she lived with the 4-month old girl, Niah. DeJesus threw up into a bucket of cleaning solution next to her bed, then passed out on the bed, clutching Niah's legs, authorities said.

When she awoke about 10 hours later, she found the baby with her head in the bucket, which contained about six inches of liquid, according to court papers.
Oh, and we can't forget my favorite quote:
DeJesus "loved her baby and would never hurt her," said her lawyer, Kenneth Gilbert.

Good Day to You, Sir

Something that makes history teachers like me drool

I was perusing the entry for World War I on Wikipedia today, and came across a link to color photography from World War I. I'm sorry, did you say color photography from World War ONE? Yes, it's true. The photo you see above is not a bunch of reenactors; that photo was taken of some French soldiers on June 16, 1917. It is real color photography too; it's not a black and white photo that has been inked in after the fact. Color photography has been around since 1903. It was just too expensive, fragile, and unpredictable at first. Quality and trustworthy color photography was invented around 1935. One of my favorite books in my vast collection is one of color photography from World War II. You want to talk about quality: some of those Khodacrome photos look like they were taken last week, not in 1942. But World War I color photography? That is too wild! If you want to see more of it, here is the website. Here is one more photo to get you hooked:

And remember, you can make the photo bigger by clicking on it.

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Carnival of Education

Check out this week's Carnival of Education. This is a blog feature I haven't talked about much because so many other bloggers that I read already link to it. It is what I guess you could call a clearinghouse of interesting posts from the world of the education blogosphere. So why did pick now to bring up the Carnival of Education? Silly readers! Why of course its because one of my posts is featured! My post about my adventures with adopting our textbook was deemed worthy.
Check it out...

Good Day to You, Sir

Postmodernist Math

This is a blog post you must read in its entirety. Here is a taste:
"Today, we're covering addition. Lakeesha, what's two plus two?"


"Class, in Lakeesha's cultural narrative, two plus two is twenty-two. Remember, Lakeesha comes from a rich, vibrant, oppressed culture in touch with nature, and her cultural narrative is as valid as anyone else's! Now, Ahmed, what is three plus three?"


"Ahmed also comes from a rich, vibrant, culture in harmony with nature, and in his cultural narrative, three plus three equals eight!"

"I thought three plus three was six."

"Johnny, three plus three equals six only in your oppressive, white, imperialist European cultural narrative!"
Thank you Right Wing Nation for your funny but tragically true post.

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I surrender! I surrender!

The comments have been unanimous (including from my wife): Lose the orange. I said there was no way I am going back to the maroon, so my compromise is the nice comfortable Gap shirt. That's my template, and I'm stickin' to it. Thank you commentors, for your ruthless candor.

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

God's Country

What better way to inaugurate the official (?) new look of my blog than to add a long-overdue edition of God's Country. One of my continuing problems about God's Country is that I should have kept a record of which of my pictures I have used, because I am beginning to have difficulty remembering which pictures I have used and which ones have yet to grace this blog.

I really hope I haven't used this one, but if I have, to see it again is all the better for your well-being and health of your soul. This is yet another picture of one of my favorite places on earth, which is in the hills outside the northern California town in which I grew up. The town itself is a real dump, but the area in which it is located is drop-dead gorgeous.

Good Day to You, Sir

Different look, same hard-hitting commentary

I hope I am not confusing anyone with my metamorphizing blog. I just decided the other day that I was sick to death of the simple maroon look that you all remember. I tried the blue with green and tan for a couple days, but as my wife told me, that was precisely like the same type of boring shirt that I always seem to pick out at the Gap or Eddie Bauer. She told me I needed to pick something that pops, or else return to the faithful maroon color. So, here is my new look. My one worry is that it does not convey the seriousness of my subject matter or my demeanor... or am I just thinking way too hard about all this?

If you wish to indulge me in my meaningless obsessions, you are more than welcome to weigh in with your opinion as to whether or not this new look should stay, or should I return to old faithful maroon?

Thank you for your patience, and Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, September 18, 2006

To think that this guy is required reading

Howard Zinn is a professor emeritus from Boston University. His magnum opus, A Peoples' History of the United States, which essentially says that the U.S. is the worst thing that has ever been inflicted upon the world, is required reading in countless college and high school history classrooms all over the fruited plain. He is also a left-wing loon. What is worse, Zinn is worshipped by too many people who should know better. I will never forget the scene in Good Will Hunting (one of my all-time favorite movies), where Matt Damon's character tells Robin Williams' character that he needs to read Zinn's Peoples' History of the United States because, "That book will blow your hair back." Turns out that Damon lived next door to Zinn as a child and even provided the narration for PHOTUS when it went to tape/cd.

How interesting it was to read this interview between conservative radio talk show host Dennis Prager and Howard Zinn. I love Dennis Prager. He pulls no punches, and he is a thoughtful, master interviewer. He really knows how to ask questions that get past the b.s. and force people to expose themselves for what they really are. In this interview, Prager gives Zinn no place to hide, and the professor emeritus comes off looking like the deranged naive nutball that he is. Enjoy!

Good Day to You, Sir

Friday, September 15, 2006

Allahu Akbar! We're gonna have a great time!

My biggest question is if only Muslims were allowed at this Six Flags park today, did the attendees have to prove they were Muslim? If so, how? I like how it says "dress modestly" down in the corner. And don't forget about the two minarets looming over the roller coasters. Six Flags ought to be ashamed of themselves for this Balkanesque multi-culti crap. I know what would be funny - I wish there were some way we could combine this event with the Gay Day that Disney World in Florida holds every year. Wouldn't that make for a interesting day?

At least the poster doesn't explicitly say "For Muslims Only" like this poster advertising the same event in 2004:

What bothers me most about this annual event is that they seem to have a habit of bring ing terrorist-supporting militant speakers to the park to do a little infidel bashing to start off the festivities. To find out more about this travesty, see this excellent article from FrontPage Magazine. A grateful hat tip to FrontPageMag for providing pics of the posters and alerting us to this event.

Dhimmitude is alive and well in the United States. What a shame.

Good Day to You, Sir.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Adventures in textbook adoption

For the last six years in our social studies department, our sixth and seventh graders have been subjected to two horrible textbooks from the Houghton-Mifflin publishing company. The sixth graders' text is called A Message of Ancient Days, and the seventh graders use Across the Centuries. Whoever decided upon these two books ought to be shot. In a perfect world, sixth and seventh grade students ought to easily be able to read and comprehend these texts; unfortunately it is a world that does not exist. The two texts are written way above most of the students' heads, and having them read it is pretty much useless. Our eighth graders use The American Nation by Prentice-Hall. It is a superior book to the Houghton-Mifflin crap, but it is still nothing to shout about.

Mercifully, last school year, we social studies teachers were told that it was time for textbook adoption, which is supposed to happen every seven years. We went to all the different presentations after school that were put on by the publishing companies. The publisher reps brought samples of the merchandise and even snacks and bottled water. The Holt publishing company sent me a complete sample of their textbook and support materials, complete with CD-ROMs that have powerpoint presentations, short films that introduce each chapter, test generators, and all kinds of other bells and whistles, along with a great textbook that is much easier to read and comprehend without being dumbed down too much. I received that Holt sample near the end of last year when I was teaching all seventh grade. I ditched Across the Centuries and made class set copies of the Holt textbook with which to teach; it was that good. We were also "wined and dined" by Teacher Curriculum Institute (TCI), McDougal-Littell, and Prentice-Hall. Along with Holt, they all had an impressive product. Then along came Glencoe-McGraw Hill. They had everything Holt did, and then some. All their maps in the textbook were provided by National Geographic, they had instructions for manipulative graphic organizers that students could construct for each chapter, and unlimited support from the reps. We were told by the Glencoe reps that we could have as much tutoring on all the bells and whistles as we needed. Each teacher would also receive a laptop and computer projector for use in the classroom; as impressed as I was with Holt, Glencoe was even better. My coworkers agreed, as did the social studies teachers at the other middle school in our district. We were told by the district administration to make our decision, and we did: we chose the texts from Glencoe-McGraw Hill. We were to have the texts and all support materials by the beginning of the school year. Do you think this all worked out? C'mon folks, we are working with bureaucracy here!

Enter the HOSTS program. It is the latest educational fad that is supposed to solve the omnipresent achievement gap over which educators obsess. Here is a description of the program from their website:
HOSTS Learning helps students achieve through a research-based, proven learning system that addresses the needs of every student in learning reading and math.

The system is designed to aid teachers in creating individualized academic plans that can be delivered in the classroom, to small groups in or out of the classroom, or in one-to-one mentoring sessions before, during, or after school.

This system helps schools and districts close the achievement gap and accelerate the learning of all students using a program that research has confirmed helps students gain an average of 2 grade levels in a single school year.
As our librarian described it to me, the program spends 100% of our discretionary funds in order to help about 5% of our students. My district decided that they wanted to implement the HOSTS program in all of our schools. Over the summer, teachers were sent for training, including a language arts teacher at our site. The only catch for my district was how the heck were they going to pay for all this?

From what we teachers have discovered, it seems some rather shady accounting of dubious legality was performed to make HOSTS in our district a reality. First, all money for English Language Learner (ELL) programs was diverted. Then all Title I money was diverted. Then the $100 that every teacher in the district gets every year to reimburse us for classroom expenditures out of our own pocket was diverted; sorry teachers, if you buy anything for your classroom, you are paying for it this year. Worst of all, the money that was slated to replace our inadequate number of ratty, torn up, out-of-date textbooks that do not align with our state standards was also diverted. A few days before this current school year started, we social studies teachers were told, sorry, you're going to have to get the current textbooks out of mothballs and issue them to your students; we hope there is enough to go around (there wasn't and isn't). But, we were told to never fear, the district will get the money for the books soon, and we would get our Glencoe books that we chose in our adoption.

Last night, the social studies department chair (who happens to be Che Guevara) made a speech at the monthly board meeting about our textbook dilemma. For props, he brought along a couple of examples of the books with which we and our students are working. The books are basically being held together by scotch tape. Additionally, our ELL teacher also spoke at the meeting, asking the board to have the district administration explain where exactly our ELL and Title I money disappeared to. Meanwhile, the district superintendent sat at the meeting and stewed. Apparently, the fit hit the shan. Today, the super called all his principals together for a meeting. After that meeting, my principal sent an email to all the teachers in my social studies department, asking us to write down how many books we are short, because not all students have one. We were to each write down how many we needed, and then sign our signature to that piece of paper, and we had to have that signed piece of paper to our principal by 4pm today. The problem is that the principal (and the superintendent) want to know how many of the old books we are short. What this means is that the super's idea of fixing this problem is buy hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars of the old textbooks in order to be in compliance with a recent lawsuit that mandates that every student in California have access to a textbook. Read that again, this means that the district super wants to waste a goodly amount of money by buying more copies of the current (old) textbooks that we are trying to get rid of! What is worse, is if that were to happen, all incentive by the district to find the money to replace those textbooks would be gone, and we would most likely be stuck with A Message of Ancient Days, Across the Centuries, and The American Nation for who knows how many more years.

So today, there was a rebellion in the Social Studies department at my school. The four of us met in Che's classroom after school, and came to a decision. We discussed, and I typed up a letter that all four of us signed that told the principal and the super how many books we needed, but not the books that the principal and super had in mind.

I should have sent a copy of the letter to myself so I could post it here, but what it essentially said was that we needed at least 780 textbooks from the Glencoe-McGraw Hill publishing company that we had agreed to adopt last June. We then gave the number breakdown of how many books we needed for each 6th, 7th, and 8th grader at our school. The super and our principal wanted the number of A Message of Ancient Days, Across the Centuries, and The American Nation books that we needed. Instead, we gave them what was more or less an ultimatum: Glencoe, or nothing at all.

I have to admit, I felt kind of queasy signing that letter. I am not used to sticking my neck out like this (but I need to have the strength to do it more often). I especially respect my two coworkers who don't have tenure, but signed the letter anyway. Such is the way of the teaching world that if you piss off the higher-ups by doing something like this, they can opt not to renew your contract, and they don't even have to tell you why. After we all signed the letter, Che and I (the tenured teachers) walked to the principal's office to give the letter to her. She wasn't in her office, so we had to leave it on her chair. As we walked back to our classrooms, Che offered his hand. As we shook, he said, "Here's to fighting the good fight," to which I replied, "We must all hang together, or we will surely hang separately, in the words of Ben Franklin." Che liked that one.

So, we shall see tomorrow if there is to be any fallout from this. Even though the letter was left with our principal, who we are standing up to here is the district superintendent. But what we are banking on here is that with this misappropriation of funds hanging over him, we have him on the ropes and we are not going to give him a breather by letting him weasel his way out of part of his troubles by putting a band-aid on the textbook problem. Crazy times!

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another "grim" milestone, but one you may have missed

Every time the U.S. death toll in Iraq has reached a certain number - 500, 1000, 2000 - the media has breathlessly reported the event, always using the descriptor "grim milestone" when reporting the death toll (by the way, as of today, it stands at 2,673). I just noticed that another "grim milestone" has been reached that has barely gotten any press at all, but it should. Over 20,000 American soldiers have now been wounded in action during the over three years that this war has taken place. The official number as of today is 20,113. People often get so fixated on the death toll, that they sometimes forget the smaller deaths that take place. Think of a soldier who, instead of losing his life, loses a limb or his eyesight instead. He is still alive, but his life will never be the same.

I realize that a vast number of those wounded returned to duty within 72 hours, but thousands of others were hurt badly enough that they were either sent to stateside duty or were separated from the service on a disability discharge. Let us not forget those American soldiers who have come home alive, but have nevertheless left their blood - and sometimes more - upon the field of battle.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, September 11, 2006

A final thought on that terrible day five years ago

Warning: Graphic language in the video. Of course, if you witnessed the same thing, what would you say in reaction?

I found this video a couple of months ago, and it has always been one of the pieces of video footage taken on September 11, 2001 that has haunted me the most. It's not so much the image, but the raw emotional reaction of the people taking the video. They weren't news people; they were just some regular citizens who were filming what they probably thought was just a horrible accident at the World Trade Center. That first question you hear - "What's this other jet doing?" - sends a shiver down my spine every time I hear it.

Good Day to You, Sir

Guess what today's lesson plan was about?

Yes, I could not resist the temptation of discussing 9/11 during class today. In fact my whole day's lesson was centered on it. I did a KWL chart on 9/11. For those of you who are not versed in trendy educational jargon, a KWL chart is divided into three big vertical columns, with the left one being the "K", meaning "What you already know"; the center column being the "W", meaning "What you want to know"; and the right column being the "L", meaning "What you have learned". It is one of the few educational fads about which I learned in my teacher training that I actually thought was pretty cool and have put to good use in my classroom. I knew we would most likely not get to the "L" part today, but we could certainly get through the "K" and "W". Boy did we! I have to hand it to my students, even though they didn't know as much about September 11 as I would like them to, they did a respectable job knowing the basics of what happened that day. They did a good job of asking relevant "what do you want to know" questions; first and foremost being, why did the terrorists do this act in the first place? Boy, you want to talk about stepping around land mines dealing with that one. How do you diplomatically tell them, "well kids, you see, way too many practitioners of Islam are nihilistic death cultists who want to end everything around them, especially themselves so that they may go to paradise and enjoy the earthly pleasures of the flesh which includes the enjoyment of 72 virgins." That is essentially what I told them, I just wasn't so blunt about it.

My favorite moments of course were the students who parroted the tired anti-American leftist clap-trap. Here are some of today's greatest hits, with my internal comments in italics:
  • "Didn't they do it because the U.S. keeps messing around with other people's countries?" Well, maybe the terrorists thought so, but please tell me you aren't justifying their actions with this excuse. Of course, if that is why Muslim terrorists attack you, then pray tell me why Muslims are blowing things up and chopping off heads in the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, India, France, Germany....
  • "George W. Bush and his cronies did 9/11." I asked her, "What makes you think that?" She responded, "Because if you fold a dollar bill a certain way, you get an image of the twin towers burning." She was serious ladies and gentlemen!
  • From a Muslim student: "But those al Qaeda guys aren't really Muslim!" Really? Then what are they? Catholic? Hindu? JEWISH??? OK, let's give the kid a break and go with his reasoning. I am sure that many Muslims think this way, and that is fine. However, this does not help us any. It doesn't matter what these so-called moderate Muslims believe; it matters what al Qaeda believes, and they believe that they are the most correct and devout Muslims of all. Based on these beliefs, al Qaeda members and members of other radical Islamic groups carry out the atrocities that they do. The other problem is that if they aren't really Muslim, then how come millions of other "not really Muslims" were dancing in the streets on 9/11/01 after hearing about the attack on America?
  • From another Muslim student: "Those hijackers were forced to do what they did. If they hadn't done it, they would have been killed." That is nonsense, but for the sake of argument, let's say that it happened that way. If I were placed in the same situation where I was told that I must fly a plane into a building full of thousands of people or I would be killed, you might as well shoot me now because I wouldn't do it. I have this internal mechanism called morals and conscience. Go figure!
That is in fact, one of the themes I noticed today: without exception, every Muslim student in my classes today who spoke up either defended or tried to downplay what the terrorists did. Isn't this exactly the flippin' problem with Islam? They are like these white racist juries from the Jim Crow south who would find the white guy innocent no matter how overwhelmingly guilty he was of a crime against a black person, or would find the black guy guilty no matter how innocent he was of a crime against a white person. What the religion of Islam needs are more Atticus Finches who aren't afraid to stand up against the status quo, which is to defend Islam to a fault.

Good Day to You, Sir and God Bless America!

In Remembrance of Christopher Faughnan

Christopher Faughnan, 1963-2001

I recently told you that I, along with thousands of other bloggers, signed up to honor a victim of the Islamic terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It is now time for me to carry out my promise. I know I am early (I am writing this on 9/6/06), but I think Mr. Faughnan deserves more than one day, don't you?

Christopher Faughnan was born on October 31, 1963 in Colorado. He attended the University of Colorado, Boulder, graduating in 1985. Chris met his wife Cathy while both were undergraduates at CU. He was working as a security guard, she as a lifeguard. One day, Cathy held up a piece of paper to Chris that said, "Cute Butt."

Chris and Cathy had three children: Siena, Juliet, and Liam. The Faughnan family lived in South Orange, New Jersey and Chris worked as a government bond trader at Cantor Fitzgerald Securities, which was located on floors 101-105 in the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

When Chris got home every weekday at 6:30 p.m. from his job, "he would get the kids all crazy," Cathy said. "They would jump around him, laughing and kissing him." Chris and Cathy bought a minivan, and Chris ferried the three children to art classes, gymnastic practice, ballet lessons and soccer games.

According to Chris's younger brother Michael, Chris was a, "compassionate, respectful and generous man. He stood in defense of our environment, volunteered his time and money in support of human rights, and gave unselfishly to help disadvantaged, vulnerable members of our society. He spoke openly against unjust government policies, and followed a private ethic of compassion."

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Chris was working in his office in the North Tower. At about 8:30am, Chris had talked to his youngest daughter, Juliet, who was four years old at the time. Chris cajoled Juliet into saying "I love you" to him. Juliet was the last Faughnan family member to speak to Chris. At 8:46am, Islamic terrorists piloting American Airlines Flight 11 struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center just below the offices of Cantor Fitzgerald. Chris was one of 658 employees of Cantor Fitzgerald who died that awful day. Chris Faughnan, husband and father of three, was 37 years old.

After Chris's death, Cathy and the children moved to Boulder, Colorado to be closer to family.

In a November 2003 tribute to his brother, Michael Faughnan had this to say about Chris:
"There are many adjectives I could use to describe my brother, but words always fall short. So I guess I'll just identify a scene perhaps many may relate to. It may sound superficial but it really is quite telling. You know when you're in a bar and there's somebody in the group that looks to you and says, 'what are you drinking?' and he comes back with three or four drinks for others - that's an example of Chris. Not keeping score on who buys the next round, but because he wants you to have a beer and not pay for it.

So the next time somebody buys you a beer - not expecting one in return- think of my brother."

God Bless you, and Good Day to You, Christopher Faughnan


Saturday, September 02, 2006

Stupid in America

That is the title to John Stossel's special that was on 20/20 on Friday night. It originally aired earlier this year, but Stossel ran an edited version of the same special last night so he could insert some updated events that have happened since the first time the special aired.

Stupid in America: How Our Schools Cheat Our Kids does not say that our kids are stupid. It says that our national school system, as it operates, is stupid. The problem is that our dysfunctional school system is turning out American kids who get clobbered on international tests by other countries who spend far less per student than we do.

That is one of the primary themes of Stupid: that we spend an obscene amount of money per pupil in this country, yet teachers and administrators constantly whine about how broke they are and that they need more money. More is never enough! Even if you take inflation into account, we spend twice the amount of money per pupil that we spent thirty years ago, yet academic scores have remained either flat or have gone down. Essentially, we are paying twice as much for a product that is either the same, or even sometimes worse.

One of the creepiest moments of Stupid in America comes when John Stossel interviews Randi Weingarten, who heads the New York City Teachers Union. This woman looks like she came right out of central casting. Think about what you would expect a person in this job position to look like and act like, and Randi Weingarten fits the bill. She's loud, abrasive, and obnoxious.

What is really ugly about this woman would be her radical, paleolithic views on the role of the teachers union. When the NYC teachers were having trouble getting a new contract, Weingarten and the Union rented out Madison Square Garden for a teacher rally. Seeing as how the teachers are so hung up on money, I would sure like to know how much it cost to rent out Madison Square Garden, and I would love to know who exactly picked up the tab? In a sit-down interview with Weingarten, Stossel savaged every argument Weingarten brought up to defend this broken system that she insists is just fine. Weingarten, with this holier-than-thou smirk finally pulled out the shameless card and explicitly said that anyone who criticizes teachers doesn't care about children. What a tool!

Another telling segment is when the same academic test is given to some students in a typical Belgian high school and some students in a high-ranking New Jersey high school. Average score for the Belgians was 76%; average score for the Americans? 47%! It was pretty embarassing to watch the reactions of the Belgian students when they were told of their scores and of the Americans' scores. As one Belgian student said, "If the American students did that badly on this test, then they must be pretty stupid."

I don't think American students are stupid; they are just as intelligent as any Americans in history. No, American students are ignorant. It is astonishing what they should know, but don't. More disturbing is what American students think they know, but don't. That showed with this Belgium vs. USA test. Both groups of students thought they did well on the test. The Belgians did, the Americans didn't, and the American students were "shocked" - to quote one student - to find this out.

Stossel's argument as to why our schools are failing and schools in countries like Belgium are not has to do with competition. Belgian students have their government education money attached to them, and they and their parents can choose to attend any school they want, be it secular or religious, academic or vocational. In the United States, students are forced to attend the school in which they are zoned according to where they live. Barring that, their other choices are to take their chances on a lottery that will get them into a coveted open school or charter school, or barring that, pay for private school. With this lack of choice and abundance of uncertainty, the educational establishment in the United States is essentially a monopoly with no incentive to innovate or change. Teachers are paid the same no matter if they win awards or barely make the cut. The Kindergarten teacher overseeing fingerpainting and learning the alphabet makes the same in a unified school district as an high school honors chemistry teacher. I think that situation is patently ridiculous and should be changed. Once upon a time in this country, it was taken for granted that high school teachers should be paid more than elementary teachers; a classic case of being paid more for what you know than what you do. I know teaching kindergartners can be more challenging sometimes, but if we got paid according to how hard work is, then ditch diggers would be millionaires.

In looking at private and charter schools that work, Stossel does excitedly show procedures that those schools do with which I don't agree, such as teachers being issued cell phones and being required to take student phone calls about homework at all hours of the night. I wouldn't want to work at a school like that, but that is what competition is for. There are teachers out there who would take that job if it paid more. I enjoy time with my family after work, so I would not be willing to make the sacrifice regarding student phone calls that other (probably single) teachers would be willing to make.

Another cringe-inducing interview Stossel conducted was with the Superintendent of Public Education in South Carolina. Here is her picture: not as horrid looking as Weingarten, but she is equally as dim-witted.

Oh, did I mention that she is running for Fritz Hollings' senate seat in South Carolina this year? Shocker!! She's a Democrat! South Carolina has the lowest SAT scores in the country. All Inez Tenenbaum could muster in the interview was that South Carolina had the fastest rising scores in the country. "Of course they do!", Stossel said, "If you are starting at the bottom, you have nowhere to go but up." Tenenbaum then changed her argument and said that the SAT shouldn't be used as an indicator anyway. Well, I guess not; not if it makes your state look bad. This woman was particularly pathetic as she pulled out every cliche and platitude in the education administrator's handbook, talking about "staying the course" and "We are improving, blah, blah, blah..." The woman was pathetic!

And then there was Ruth Holmes Cameron. She is a teacher in Florida who was instrumental in having Florida's school voucher program nixed by a state court. She thinks competition is bad. How bad? Here is what she had to say: "To say that competition is going to improve education? It's just not gonna work. You know competition is not for children. It's not for human beings. It's not for public education. It never has been, it never will be." Competition isn't for human beings? What kind of fantasy world does this woman live in? Our whole economy is based upon competition, and we have one of the most vibrant economies in the world. Competition isn't for public education? How does she explain the success of schools in other countries who thrive in a setting of competition? How do you possibly argue with someone this dense?

The updated segment that Stossel added to this special was the scene of NYC schoolteachers - including Randi Weingarten - who showed up by the hundreds (shouldn't they be in the classroom?) to protest outside the ABC News offices. They finally demanded that Stossel teach in a classroom if he thinks he is so clever. They were chanting "Teach! John! Teach!" Stossel readily volunteered to do so. This is where this whole episode took a turn into the realm of the hilarious. The rigid bureaucracy of our educational system, and especially NYC's educational system, came shining through when these teachers and administrators who wanted so badly to see John Stossel teach in a classroom couldn't even agree upon the conditions of his temporary employment. The deal eventually fell through because they didn't want cameras to be there as Stossel taught. According to Stossel, the educators were afraid of what Stossel's cameras would pick up in the rest of the school outside of Stossel's classroom.

I love to watch John Stossel's specials, and Stupid in America is one of my all-time favorites. It is sobering for a non-educator to watch it, because as John Stossel says, so many parents think that their kids' school is just fine, but that is only because they have no idea how good the school could really be if it had to rise to the occasion by staying in business through the incentive of competition.

Good Day to You, Sir