Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Time to Carnival!

This week's Carnival of Education is underway at the blog of Matthew K. Tabor. There are many stellar posts to check out this week, including the one by Yours Truly about my adventure with the overbearing, overprotective Helicopter Parent.

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

There's poverty, and then there's poverty

When I think of people living in poverty, I think of some family living on the streets of Bombay in a couple cardboard boxes with no running water. I actually saw real poverty up close when I was deployed to Macedonia for a six-month tour with an Infantry battalion in the mid-1990s; people getting around on donkey-pulled carts and little kids digging in dumpsters for food, shoes, or anything else they can find.

Compare that to this country. As teachers, my wife and I have often seen parents of children who qualify for free lunch come to pick up their kids in a nice SUV while the parent juggles a cell phone in one hand, and a Venti Starbucks Mocha in the other. I have often made the observation that what is considered poverty in this country would be considered an opulent lifestyle in much of Asia and Africa. I was more right than I realized.

A rather enlightening article came out today in National Review Online that was written by Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation. Mr. Rector lays out in the article just how rich most of our "poor" people in this country really are. This is not to say that there aren't any people in the United States that do not live in dire poverty, but the numbers aren't nearly as large as you think, and quite often, the reasons for the poverty are pretty logical and easy to rectify if only the affected people would make better life choices.

Here is the skinny on the estimated 37 million Americans who live in "poverty":

46 percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

80 percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded; two thirds have more than two rooms per person.

The typical poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

Nearly three quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

97 percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

78 percent have a VCR or DVD player.

62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

89 percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and a more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.

Not to mention, children living in poverty eat more meat on average than their well-off counterparts, and they receive 100 percent more protein per day than is recommended.

As for the people in this country who live in true poverty, Rector gives the three primary reasons for this predicament:

1.) They don't work enough hours.
2.) They don't marry, and fathers don't stick around.
3.) They are illegal aliens.

I have just laid out the framework, but there are a lot more details in the article. Give it a look-see, because it is a real eye-opener. I plan on sharing this one with my students. Many of my free-lunch students wear $150 basketball shoes.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Magic Bullet Theory

The War on Islamic Terrorism has seen more than its share of propaganda. The problem is that much of this propaganda has either been passed on by, or created by western news agencies such as Reuters or Associated Press. This phenomenon has been dubbed "fauxtography" by the right-wing blogosphere. Before we go to the most recent fauxtography scandal, let us recap some of the greatest hits from the last year, shall we?

There was the photoshopped smoke from the war in Lebanon last summer:

There was Green Helmet - a ubiquitous Lebanese civil defense worker with a propensity for managing to be at the scene of the aftermath of every Israeli bombing run and for holding up the corpses of dead children for maximum exploitation. By the way, these destroyed buildings were coincidentally located right where Hezbollah thugs had set up their missile launchers. Hezbollah was using these civilians for cover. That way, if the Israelis struck back, the result could be photos like this:

There was the tough-looking Hezbollah terrorist in the foreground with a "downed Israeli aircraft" in the background that turned out to be a tire fire:

There was the old rusted Lebanese ambulance that was supposedly destroyed by an Israeli missile:

There was Pieta Man, a Lebanese "bombing victim" who was supposedly injured in an Israeli bombing strike, yet was somehow a healthy rescue worker who had been photographed a few minutes before this photo was taken:

There was one of my favorites - Flat Fatima, the unluckiest woman on earth, who apparently had her Beirut home destroyed by Israeli bombs on July 22, 2006:

And then again on August 5, 2006:

The photos were taken by two different photographers - one from Reuters and one from AP... natch. Oh the Humanity!

Now, we have the newest member of the Fauxtography crew: Magic Bullet Lady. Take a look at the following news wire photo, then read the caption that accompanied it all over the news wires and the Internet:

" An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she says hit her
house following an early coalition forces raid in the
predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City."

See anything wrong with the bullets that... ahem... hit her house? They have never been fired! They are still in their casings! As one blogger humorously asked, "They're throwing bullets over there now?" What kind of a jackass news/photo editor didn't notice the fact that not only did these bullets - supposedly fired in combat - look pristine, but they hadn't even departed their brass casings. This is what happens when you have so many men who have never been in the military. The editor or editors whose job it was to authenticate that photo were either truly that ignorant about firearms, or they set out to intentionally deceive. I will vote for ignorant, because if they truly knew that the bullets had never been fired, but ran the caption anyway, they had to have known that the blogosphere would have instantly ripped the credibility of the photo to shreds.

I am actually behind the curve on this story. Michelle Malkin and other conservative bloggers have been hammering this thing for about a week now. But a week later, the story and photo still astound me, and I just had to put in my two bits.

There is an old quote that says, "The
first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie." This truth has been exposed time and time again as the latest fabricated photo or false caption come off the left-wing news wires. If the so-called atrocities of Israel and the United States were truly that bad, then obviously it wouldn't be necessary to have to make stuff up. Instead we have deceitful and sometimes just downright ignorant enablers who have infested the mainstream media, and pass off this garbage as truth to the American people. Even worse, it is passed off as truth to the Muslim world, and they are even more ready to devour every fabricated morsel.

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Carnival of Education...

is now open at The Red Pencil. Included in this week's Carnival, you will find my post on that travesty of an article on the so-called achievement gap from the Sacramento Bee.

Happy reading!

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The importance of fatherhood

I love being a father. Sometimes, the responsibility and the honor are so overwhelming, I am really at a loss for words as to how to describe the impact it has had on my life and the lives of my two children. Today, I ran across a remarkable description. On LaShawn Barber's Corner (see blogroll), LaShawn printed an excerpt from an article written by Joseph C. Phillips. Mr. Phillips is best known for playing the Navy husband of Bill Cosby's daughter on the last few seasons of the Cosby Show. After that show ended, Mr. Phillips continued acting and began writing as well. He recently came out with a book that I someday plan on reading, called He Talk Like a White Boy. Although Mr. Phillips has all sons, while I have a son and a daughter, his words about fatherhood and its importance are universal:
“I was blessed with three beautiful sons. I watch them from across the room as they wrestle or sit quietly reading, and I am in awe of God’s handiwork. The miracle of their lives takes my breath away. I listened to their heart beats when they were no bigger than goldfish swimming in their mother’s womb. I held them when they were helpless, fed them and cleaned them, and every day, they grow a little bit further into themselves and away from me and their mother. I cannot imagine being more in love with another human being. There is nothing I would not do for them, nothing I would not give.

“What is truly astonishing is that there are so many men in this society that willingly forgo the transcendental experience of watching their children grow and mature. They abandon the work of raising their sons to the mother. Although there are times I wish I could stamp “Return to Sender” on my children’s foreheads and send them on their way, given a choice, there isn’t a thing I would change because as selfish as it sounds, they have made my life richer and fuller.

“More importantly, I make their lives fuller. If not from me, from whom will they learn manhood? How will they learn to treat women if not by watching how I treat their mother? How will they learn faith if not by witnessing me on my knees in prayer? How will they learn discipline without my firm hand to guide them? Without fathers, boys are left to make it up as they go along — or they will latch on to the first knucklehead that shows them some attention.”
I think of all the students I teach - especially the boys - who don't have a father in their home. I watch them act like thuggish fools as they attempt to conduct themselves in the way they think men are supposed to act, never knowing that their bravado and posturing are a twisted and bastardized version of authentic manhood. It really is a tragedy to witness. It just makes me that much more grateful when I get to go home after work and show my children the way things are actually supposed be.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, August 20, 2007

I'm linked on Pajamas Media!

My hope is that someday, stuff like this will be so common for me, that I won't make such a big to-do about it, but I always get a kick out of seeing my blog mentioned elsewhere, and I am rather honored to have Pajamas Media link to my post about my experiences at Blog Fest West the other night.

Pajamas Media is a news and opinion site that was started "with the intention of... aggregating blogs to increase corporate advertising and creating our own professional news service," in the words of co-founder Roger L. Simon. The name comes from an insult that was leveled at bloggers by a mainstream media wag, who said that a blogger is just "a guy sitting in his living room in his pajamas." This was during the RatherGate scandal when just a such a "guy in his pajamas" and others like him, brought down the career of Dan Blather after he tried to pass off those fabricated Bush National Guard memos as genuine.

So, for posterity, here is a screen shot of my mention on the homepage of Pajamas Media. It's not much, but for a humble "guy in his pajamas" (and I really am right now), I think it's pretty darn cool!

After you click on the picture, look for the news item entitled Reporting from Blog Fest West. You will see that Right on the Left Coast (see blogroll) is also linked there.
Good Day to You, Sir


You hear that sound? Run for your lives! It's a helicopter parent! You have heard that term before haven't you? It's a term coined by educators to describe parents who hover over their kids, over their kids' teachers, over their kid's bowel movements, apparently. A helicopter parent will show up in your classroom demanding why her little darling has a bad grade, and automatically assume the grade is all the teacher's fault. That's exactly what happened to me today, except the meeting took place in the Vice Principal's office.

The funny thing is that here was my first irate parent of the new school year, but the issue in question is from last school year. A little background information is in order:

Back in, oh say, February, I received a new student. After a few weeks, he had a C in my class, and the Mom showed up wanting to talk to me. At that time, she let me know that a C is unacceptable and that she wanted me to tutor her son if need be, and to email her about every test we were going to have, and to email her if his grade dropped below a certain percentage... uh huh. The student did bring up his grade. A new grading period began in April, and at the midway point, progress reports came out, and this student had a B in my class; cool. Then, slowly at first, and rapidly once June hit, this student fell apart. He started acting up in class, he began turning in nothing, and I mean nothing. With every missed assignment, his grade dropped, and then dropped again. I held him after class a few times to warn him that his grade was dropping and he needed to start doing his assignments; I let him know that we would be working right up to the very last week of school, that I don't back off and coast like some other teachers do. I let him know that if he needed extra help, he could see me before school, after school, or during lunch. He continued to do nothing. Parents can also check their students grades and upcoming and completed assignments online in my district, and I knew that the mom had access to that. Ten days before the end of school, I finally called his mother's phone number in an attempt to stop the bleeding. There was no answer and no voice mail. I dutifully recorded my attempt in my Parent Communication Log, and went on to the next parent phone call in regards to a student who had shut down a couple weeks early.

When grades were finalized on the second to last day of school, this student ended up receiving an F; something like a 56 or 57%, I think. I shook my head in disgust and started my summer. When I came back to school for my staff meeting two weeks ago, I checked my work email and saw that the student's mother had emailed me over the summer and wanted to know why her son got an F. She said I hadn't contacted her about his progress, and this wasn't fair, and blah, blah. I also got a forwarded email from my VP where she had written him and told him the very same thing. She wanted a meeting. There was no way I was going to be able to take care of this issue during the first week of school - I had enough on my plate for this school year, let alone revisiting crap from last school year - so I decided to tackle this grade dilemma this week. Today, I had the sit-down with the VP and the mom.

She filibustered for a good 5 minutes, telling me what I hadn't done to help her son pass my class. I finally got a chance to get a word in edgewise and tell her all the things that I had done to help her son pass my class. All of that wasn't good enough. She told me that I should have sent her a written note and attempted more phone calls. Oh, and for good measure, the mom said that the fact that I had to call so many parents near the end of the school year because their children were in danger of failing just showed that I am a bad teacher. She also castigated me for making the students do assignments right up to the very end of the school year, because, well, her son fell behind! Yes, I know; how dare I maintain my high standards.

After multiple attempts to assuage her anguish, the VP finally made a call and pulled this mom's son from his class to hear his side of the story. When the student in question was asked by the VP if I had warned him on multiple occasions that he was heading toward failing the class, he affirmed that, yes, Mr. Chanman did do that. The VP asked the student if I had offered off-hours assistance if he needed extra help, the student affirmed that, yes, Mr. Chanman had done that. Did this satisfy the mom? No. In fact she got even more angry and started blustering that she wanted to see the Principal and then the Superintendent, and that she was seriously considering pulling her son out of our school (don't let the door hit you...!).

The mom then made a statement about her son which pretty much summed it up for me. She said something to the effect of, "I want what's best for him; he's my baby." My thought was No kidding lady, you're sure treating him like one.

So, who knows what the next step will be. Will she cool off and let it drop? Or will she take this to the Principal? I don't really worry about it, because I am satisfied that I did as much as I could do with the time I was given to do it. Could I have made subsequent phone calls? Yes. Could I have mailed a note or sent one home with the student? Yes. Could I have gone to his home and talked to the mom there? Could I have followed the student into his room and stood there to make sure he did his homework? At what point does the student bear some responsibility for his performance in class? According to this mom, apparently never. No, his failure or success is in my hands alone. What a pathetic excuse for a parent.

Good Day to You, Sir

Published again

OK, time to brag: I was published in the blog feature of today's Forum Section in the Sunday Sacramento Bee. It was my vent on the first day of school that I wrote a few days ago.

That makes something like the sixth or seventh time I have made the cut in the Bee. It's not much, but it's something. Now, if only they paid money when this happens...

Good Day to You, Sir

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blog Fest West a resounding success

Saturday afternoon, fellow blogger Darren and I braved the suffocating Bay Area traffic that accompanied a 49ers-Raiders game and attended Blog Fest West, a get-together of right-leaning bloggers which was held at the Fort Mason Center in San Francisco, which is adjacent to Fisherman's Wharf.

The event - co-hosted by Bay Area bloggers Cinnamon Stillwell, Ed Driscoll, and Nena Yablok - was an excuse for other bloggers from the area to get out of their pajamas, leave the confines of their computer screens and mix it up a little; to see some of the faces that go with those screens full of words.

Getting there wasn't easy. Since we found pretty quickly that the east bay traffic situation looked abysmal, we cut off at Vallejo and took the route to Highway 101 toward the Golden Gate Bridge. That was a good idea for awhile, but eventually, that traffic bogged down too. The views however were worth sitting in traffic. On a micro level - politics, traffic, trash, dirty homeless people - San Francisco is a contemptible hell. But on a macro level, looking at the peninsula from the Golden Gate Bridge, I can think of few more beautiful cities on earth. Darren and I made it to the Fort Mason Center about five minutes before Blog Fest West was set to begin.

What I really enjoyed was the variety of appearances and opinions that I experienced during the night. Two other fellow attendees have used the word "eclectic" on their blogs to describe the crowd last night. You had straight-laced people like myself, and you one guy who looked like he just rolled out of bed and slapped a beret on his head. But that is just window dressing. As I talked to the different people in attendance, I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride well up inside me. This was especially true when I had a few conversations where I disagreed with the person about the war in Iraq - he didn't think we should be there at all, whereas I think we just need to change our tactics. But that is what I love about being a conservative. You are much more likely to be able to have a civil conversation with a fellow conservative, even if you disagree, whereas with our friends on the left: disagree with them, and out come the fangs and the bigoted epithets.

Aside from the three organizers, I was also impressed with the number of attendees whose reputations preceded them. Roger L. Simon was there. He is a Hollywood screenwriter, novelist, and blogger who cofounded Pajamas Media; Mickey Kaus, who writes for the online magazine,, and is actually considered to be a liberal; Joanne Jacobs, who is considered to be the founding mother of the Edublogosphere. I met all these people last night... pretty cool.

The trip home was a lot faster than the trip there. It's a good thing because I was exhausted, and I had to usher at our church's morning service in a few hours. Whatever hardships I experienced were well worth the effort in order to attend Blog Fest West.

Good Day to You, Sir

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Quotable Crap about the "Achievement Gap"

The state test results from the 2006-07 school year are in, and the Sacramento Bee's intrepid education reporter, Laurel Rosenhall, has really outdone herself by obtaining quotes about the results from the biggest numbskulls she could scoop out from under the nearest rock.

I'll get back to that in a second. First, let's summarize the article. As usual, your obsessively hardworking Asian students, whose parents often put the fear of God into them, came out on top. Following closely behind in their usual number two position were the white kids, turning in a solid, if uninspired effort. Next we had the Hispanic kids holding their longstanding rank of third, with a big space between themselves and the second-place whites. And trailing the pack - again - are your black students.

What makes the results even more controversial is the fact that economically poor Asians and whites outperformed middle/upper-class Hispanics and blacks. The long-standing excuse used to be that blacks and Hispanics did more poorly because they were more likely to live in poverty. Now, that theory no longer holds water. As State Superintendent of Schools, Jack O'Connell says in the article, it's not an economic achievement gap, it's a racial achievement gap. Year after year, the racial ranking order for state test scores does not change, and neither do the lame excuses for why this is. Let's hear from the "experts" shall we?
Russlynn Ali, director of Education Trust West, said state policymakers are responsible for the achievement gap that has kept black and Latino students behind because they've done little to put experienced, well-trained teachers and rigorous high-level courses in schools that predominantly serve those groups.

"Our system takes poor kids and kids of color -- not just the students of color who are poor -- and provides them less of everything research says makes a difference," she said.

"That is the underlying cause of the achievement gap."
That's funny Ms. Ali, because the Washington D.C. school system, for instance, (which is predominately black - and that includes students, teachers, and administrators) spends upward of $14,000 per student per year, yet their scores still stink. It's not about money, and it's not about your teacher looking like you. Those canards are so tired and old. And what if you gave a high-level course and nobody came? What then?

Next, we hear from another "expert" who says that "expectations" are to blame. Take it away Anita!
"The expectations are not as high for African American students as they are for other students," said Anita Royston, an education consultant who used to work for the Sacramento City Unified School District.
Another tired old canard! Yes, Ms. Royston, every day when my students walk into my classroom, I shake my head and give a "tsk, tsk" to myself at how all my black students just can't be expected to perform as well as my other students. For all that is good and holy, could she give me just a little bit of credit? I have the highest expectations for ALL my students. I don't give a rat what color they are! Some of my best students have been black. Did I somehow forget myself that day and demand high expectations of them and not to my other black students?

And then, just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, your intrepid reporter, Laurel Rosenhall, brings us the opinion of an education professor from what is arguably the most leftist and intellectually vacuous college in our Cal State system. And if the opinions of this employee of that institution are any indicator, I would say the shoe fits. Check out this gem:
Sharroky Hollie sees the achievement gap yet another way. He is a professor of teacher education at California State University, Dominguez Hills, who focuses on strategies that help Latino and African American students learn. Hollie says the achievement gap reflects a biased education system that doesn't accept behaviors and learning styles common in African American and Latino communities.

For example, he said, an African American student who is talkative and frequently gets out of his seat will be seen as disruptive and defiant in most schools. Instead, Hollie said, teachers should develop teaching strategies that work with the student's social and kinesthetic nature, a trait that could be attributed to his cultural background.

"The first thing we want schools to do is to change their mind-set in seeing these behaviors as cultural and not negative," he said. "The rest of it is: How can the instruction be reshaped to validate and affirm the cultural behaviors as a segue to standards-based learning?"
So when one of my black or Hispanic students is constantly getting out of his seat without permission, and is talking to himself or whomever while I am trying to give my lesson, it is my fault because I haven't adjusted my teaching to his "social and kinesthetic nature"? Oh, Professor Hollie, could you be anymore of a racist, and I do mean racist in the true sense of the word? You are saying that - that's YOU - are saying that black and Hispanic kids are so inferior, that they can't control themselves enough to adjust to the expected norms of behavior in class? If you could only hear yourself you sad, sad excuse for an educator.

SacBee online articles have a comment section where readers can share their thoughts, and I had a lot of fun reading the comments to this farce of an article. There were numerous quality comments, but this one did a great job of shooting down the whole "cultural" inability to behave:
What's amazing is how often students with a "cultural" need to disrupt class by being out of their seat or talking can change that behavior when *they* want to... In the regular year students have a right to attend their comprehensive high school and require a hearing to be removed to a continuation school or other environment. In SCUSD that means the hearing office is going to complain about what the school is not doing for the poor kid (despite months of effort and paperwork gathered by school admin) then the student will be placed on a "contract" and sent back to school. Now, take the same student in summer school. Typical summer school rules are students are dropped on their 2nd referal to the principal (sometimes first). Good coaches also bench students for refera. Amazingly, the same students with a "cultural" need for behaviors that others find disruptive, gets over that "need" quick when he doesn't like the consequences.
Yep, take off the administrative shackles during summer school or threaten the playing time of those sacred sporting events, and you see the student's "culture" change right quick.

There is hope though. If more of these minority students suffering from the "achievement gap" had the childhood experience of this reader/commenter, there wouldn't be such a gap in the first place:
I'm an African American and the importance of academic achievement was drilled into my head constantly. Yep, I was teased for "acting white", but I would rather be teased any day than bring home a C to my mom, and there had better not be too many B's. We read together as a family. We could watch 30 minutes of TV (cartoons, sitcoms) per day, but all the news and PBS we wanted. No MTV or BET. Parents were the bosses in the house, no exceptions. They were selective about who we were allowed to socialize with. Books in every room, world maps on our walls, and family outings were educational. When I was in high school, it was my responsibility to succeed at that point, and my choices could either open doors or close them. I had a good foundation to make good choices. It starts at home.

Historically, Af. Americans have made education the highest priority and we need to go back to that.
The "acting white" comment from that reader/commenter is a whole other future blog entry unto itself. When you get a chance, read an excellent book by Shelby Steele called White Guilt. In it, Mr. Steele talks about the trap this society is in. The political left gains a demented - but in our current culture, legitimate - moral authority by excusing the social pathologies and irresponsible behavior of minorities that cause a lot of the factors that lead to this so-called achievement gap. At the same time, the political right is paralyzed with fear at the prospect of being called racist for daring to suggest that these same minorities be held to the same standards of behavior and responsibility as everyone else. Until this situation changes, those racial test score rankings will remain as they are, and all the money in the government coffers - read: taxpayers' pockets - won't make a lick of difference.

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, August 16, 2007

God's Country - final summer fling

At the conclusion of last Friday's pre-school year staff meeting, I jumped in the car and continued north to the Mount Shasta area. A friend of mine from college is a cross country/track coach in Redding. He holds a running camp every August for his cross country runners, and he enlists the help of some of his friends and fellow former cross country/track mates. I happen to be one of them.

So, let's start with the best. Saturday night after dinner, I drove up the road to Castle Lake and snapped this early evening picture of Mount Shasta and nearby Black Butte:

That is my favorite shot of the trip, but there were others worth posting. The night before I took the above shot, I went down to the beach at Lake Siskiyou and snapped this photo:

I actually worked at Lake Siskiyou on that very beach, just a few yards from where I am standing. It was the summer of 1990, and I rented out pedal boats, kayaks, and canoes. My favorite part of my workday was right around this time - 8:30 to 9:00pm - when the lake was calm, the air was warm and still, and I could hear the sound of the water lapping against the dock where all the boats were tied up.

After I took my pictures on the beach, I went back to our campsite just in time to catch the sunset. I have this thing about evergreen trees being silhouetted against the sky. Here is an example of why I like it so much:

On Saturday afternoon, the coaches and runners drove to the parking area for a 20 minute run to Cliff Lake, which is one of many alpine lakes located in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, which is west of the mountain. In fact, Cliff Lake isn't too far away from Little Toad Lake, which I chronicled back in mid-July. Cliff Lake is one of those classic glacier-cut lakes with lots of great jumping rocks on one side. Here is Cliff Lake:

The water is like a swimming pool. Even when you swim out to where the water is 30 or 40 feet deep, if you stick your face in the water and look down, you have no problem seeing the bottom. Eventually, when it gets deep enough, you can no longer see the bottom; only a greenish blur.

After leaving Cliff Lake and running back to the cars, we drove to the campus of College of the Siskiyous in nearby Weed, California. I attended CoS in the early 1990s, along with my friends who were coaching this running camp. We all attended high schools in the local area, and we all ran together on the CoS cross-country and track teams. That was almost 20 years ago, and we still make it a point to see each other every year, so the bonds we forged while attending that school were obviously strong ones. College of the Siskiyous is probably one of the most beautiful campuses you will ever find. The whole campus is dominated by views of Mount Shasta. For instance, here is the view from their baseball field:

We came to the campus to run our old home course, which is called Bear Trail. It rings the campus, and many local runners also use it, along with CoS staff who often walk it during their lunch breaks. During races and practice, I ran Bear Trail so many times that I could remember every detail of it in my sleep. No matter how hard the race or the practice, I never stopped noticing the beauty of the trail:

I was a so-so cross-country runner (best 4-mile time: 23:45). Where I excelled was on the track (400m/800m), and CoS has a beauty of a track and football stadium. I can't think of a more beautiful place to run a track meet.

Being from the area, I raced on this track many times in high school, and then ran on it a lot more while attending CoS. Track practice usually lasted about four hours a day. Gosh, how many times did I come down Lane 1 during all those races and workouts? The best races were when that lane was empty just as you see it now, because everyone else in the race was behind me!

On Saturday night, after I had taken the first picture on Castle Lake Road, I hightailed it to back to Weed, which is just several miles away and went to a trail on Ant Hill, which is above the town and above the CoS campus. When I ran cross-country, doing repeat runs up Ant Hill was probably our toughest workout. What I loved about the trail was the unobstructed view of Mount Shasta. I tried to make it to the trail in time to get a shot of Mount Shasta's alpenglow, but the sun went down a little quicker than expected, and I couldn't get a decent shot of the mountain with my camera - better luck next time! However, I did compensate with this sunset opportunity:

This picture is looking north-northeast. The lights you see are the town of Weed, and if you look at the center horizon, you can just make out the Cascade volcano, Mount McLoughlin, which is actually in Oregon. And of course, there's another evergreen tree silhouetted against the sunset!

That wraps up my final visit to God's Country for the summer. I never get tired of going to the Mount Shasta area. If someone asks me if I could live anywhere in the world, where would I live, my immediate answer would be: Mount Shasta!

Good Day to You, Sir

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New school year... round two

I have to admit that I got blindsided by that 6th period class that I mentioned yesterday. The fact that I have never experienced such an ill-behaved class on the first day of school threw me for a loop from which I never recovered. Today, I slammed down the hammer.

Within three minutes of ushering the students into the classroom, two of the students - two of whom shut the classroom down yesterday - were ushered right back out to fill out a behavior form in two other teacher's classrooms. They went through the whole hierarchy of discipline that I had managed to brief them on yesterday. In mere moments, these two students had received verbal warnings, gotten their name on the board, gotten a check next to their names, and then the next step was to remove them from class, which I did.

After these two students were kicked out, you could feel the belligerent energy seep away from the other students who had also been causing trouble. Once two of the ringleaders were gone, I was actually able to get through the whole syllabus with the class today, which truly surprised me. The class wasn't perfect - two other students got their names on the board with a check next to it - but I sent a clear message today. Tomorrow, I need to stay on them and let them know that I run this classroom, and not them.

The school day just ended, and I have already made (during my prep period) my phone calls home on every student I dealt with today. I am not going to let stuff go like I have in the past. I don't care if a parent starts to feel like I am harassing her/him from calling so much; if I have to call every day, if that's what it takes, then that's what I will do. The behavior at my school is abysmal, and if the administration is willing to throw up its hands in the face of it, I am not willing to do the same; not yet.

OK, I feel better. Thank you for listening!

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, August 13, 2007

Our discipline statistics

I am writing my posts in reverse order tonight, because I was gone over the weekend. So after previously writing about my first day back teaching today, now I need to backtrack to Friday when we had our staff meeting.

Near the end of the meeting, the Vice Principal came up with some overhead slides that showed some pretty depressing data that addressed our approximately 320 suspensions last school year.

The most depressing was a bar graph that broke down the suspensions by race. South Asians/Indians had something like 10 suspensions; Pacific Islanders had about 10 as well; the white kids had 32; the Hispanic kids had 37. Then, there were the black students:

231 Suspensions!

Imagine how that looked on a bar graph! Luckily, we didn't have time to go into a discussion of why our black students misbehave at such a disproportionate rate; my contributions to the discussion would probably not have been looked upon too kindly, especially the likelihood that most of our black students come from single-parent, female-headed households.

Naturally, our administration is in a bit of hot water with the district for suspending, "too many African-American students." The question of what to do when "too many of our African-American students" are choosing to misbehave and disrupt our school is always left unanswered by the detached and unaccountable bean counters at the Taj Mahal that is our district office.

By the way, the other breakdown of the suspensions was by sex:

Male - 256
Female - 70

I guess that will be have to be a discussion for another day!

Good Day to You, Sir

Time to start checking the Want Ads

That's what I feel like doing after my first day back teaching. My previous experience is that the students are really squirrely at the end of the school year in June, we have a few weeks off, the students come back somewhat sedated, and then their behavior starts a slow deterioration until we finish in June again.

After today, it was apparent that the students decided to skip the sedated part. My 6th period class was so out of control, I didn't even get the chance to introduce myself until halfway into the period. It was a total farce of a class. I wasn't the only teacher either. During my 8th period prep, a student knocked on my door. She had been kicked out of another teacher's classroom and was sent to me. I have never seen a student kicked out on the first day, and I'll tell you, I was this close to removing some students during that threshold of hell known as 6th period. Another teacher told me that she would have kicked some students out, but there were so many who qualified, she didn't know what to do with them all.

One thing that didn't help was the number of students we teachers were assigned. I have six classes, and my class rosters for today showed the respective numbers for each period:

1st - 38
2nd - 37
3rd - 38
4th - 35
6th - 37
7th - 36

That's 221 students that - on paper - I have to teach. Granted, not that many students showed up today; I had about 20 absences. Still, that leaves just over 200 students who passed through my classroom today. That is waaaay too many middle schoolers to face over the course of an instructional day. The year I taught high school, I only taught five periods, and I had a total of only about 130 students at most.

Bottom line is that it was a horrible start to our new school year, and now I have to face these kids tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day....

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, August 09, 2007

In answer to my own rhetorical question...

Here is one of the biggest reasons for the disproportionate murder rate among blacks in this country (both as victims and as perpetrators). Writing for City Journal, Steve Malanga addresses the triple execution-style homicide that recently took place in Newark, New Jersey. Even in a city as used to violence as Newark, these particular slayings stood out enough to make the news cycle. This quote from the article pretty much sums it up:
Behind Newark’s persistent violence and deep social dysfunction is a profound cultural shift that has left many of the city’s children growing up outside the two-parent family—and in particular, growing up without fathers. Decades of research tell us that such children are far likelier to fail in school and work and to fall into violence than those raised in two-parent families. In Newark, we are seeing what happens to a community when the traditional family comes close to disappearing.
Again, please explain to me how white racism has caused this breakdown of the family among minorities, and especially among blacks. I am simply getting sick of hearing the same old tired arguments that may have had legitimacy forty or fifty years ago, but not now.

Good Day to You, Sir

The statistics speak for themselves

Want to know what is going wrong in the black community today? It's all in the numbers. Although they make up 13% of the nation's population, they made up 49% of all murder victims in this country in 2005. I found an article linked on Drudge that broke down the numbers.

Of 16,500 murder victims in the United States in 2005 (the most recent year for which numbers are available), about 8,000 of those victims were black. Breaking it down further, of those 8,000 black murder victims, 6,800 were male. Breaking it down further, of those 6,800 males, over half of them were between the ages of 17 and 29.

And now the number that really tells a horrible story: Of those 8,000 black murder victims, 93% of them were killed by whites.

Did that run right by your eyes, or did you do a double take? I hope you did a double take, because I just purposely gave you the wrong information to let you gauge your personal reaction. In reality, 93% of those black murder victims were killed by a black perpetrator. This is perhaps the most open secret in America. It is something that everyone knows, but no one seems to want to bring up. So much indignation is thrown around toward the police, toward supposedly racist whites supposedly practicing both individual and systemic racism, yet the numbers lay bare God's honest truth. The biggest enemy to America's black community is... America's black community. You could chalk up the murders to gang violence, but according to the statistics, gangs were involved in only 5% of the black murders. There is a pathology going on here that goes beyond the problem of gang violence.

Now let's be fair here. According to the same statistics, white murder victims were killed by a white perp 85% of the time. However, whites don't make up 13% of the population and account for 49% of the murder victims. Again, it is all about priorities.

So what is the cause of the number of black murder victims being horrendously out of proportion to the number of blacks in this country? The racism canard is no longer viable; you already saw that 93% of the time, the murderer was also black.

The day that these race hustlers like Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Charles Barron get as upset at these statistics as they do at the relatively infinitesimal number of blacks who are killed by police officers - both white and black - perhaps we will see a change in attitudes. Until that time, the important statistics will be ignored, while the marginal statistics will be exploited.

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

There are only two races

I was listening to Dennis Prager - one of my favorite talk show hosts - yesterday, and he touched upon a concept that I have thought on my own many times, but was never able to fully articulate.

Mr. Prager was talking about the subject of race and racism, when he mentioned the philosophy of Viennese psychiatrist/neurologist Viktor Frankl, who survived the Nazi death camps, although his wife and every other relative of his (save his sister) did not. When asked after the war if he despised the German race because of what was done to him and his family, Frankl declared that he did not, because there are only two races: the decent, and the indecent. These two races cross all lines of color, class, and religion. It's a very simple concept isn't it? Forget black, white, yellow, red, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu; you are either a decent person or you are indecent.

Some callers asked Prager the inevitable question: what if you are a person who has done some good and some bad things in your life? What decides if you are decent or indecent? Prager responded by quoting a Supreme Court justice who once wrote that he couldn't define pornography, but he knew it when he saw it. The same thing with decency and indecency. Taking into account the summary of a person's life, it becomes rather self-evident which way to describe him or her.

My whole life, I have stated that I don't care what color a person is. What I care about is how they act. In my own way, I was unknowingly seconding the philosophy of Viktor Frankl, who knew that even in Nazi Germany, there were many decent people among all that evil.

Good Day to You, Sir

Monday, August 06, 2007

It's "Hate America Day"

That's right, today begins the yearly ritual of cursing the United States for opening the nuclear Pandora's Box by dropping the "Little Boy" bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima 62 years ago today: August 6, 1945.

I have heard all the theories about why this bomb, and the one dropped on Nagasaki three days later, did not have to be deployed: Japan was going to surrender anyway; we just did it to scare the Russians; we did it because we were racist and we never would have done the same thing to Germany; blah, blah, blah.

The bottom line is that we dropped those two bombs, and just a few days later, Japan surrendered, possibly saving the lives of several hundred thousand American servicemen who had pretty much accepted their fate that they would be killed or seriously wounded in the invasion of Japan that was to take place in late 1945/early 1946.

If you think that Japan was out of the fight by then, think again. They still had several million men under arms who were stationed in China and Manchuria, and they had yet to see much action. Sure, they too would have eventually been defeated, but they would have taken many American and Commonwealth soldiers with them in the process.

A good example of the remaining tenacity of the Japanese can be seen in their casualty figures while fighting the Soviet Union in the closing days of the War. In just a couple weeks of fighting, the Japanese lost more than 80,000 dead. That was in Manchuria. Imagine how hard the Japanese would have fought to defend their home islands?

The ultimate question you have to ask is, if the Japanese had acquired the Bomb before we did, do you think they would have hesitated to use it against us?

Good Day to You, Sir

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It's Carnival Time!

This week's Carnival of Education is up and running at the home of Dr. Homeslice. My eye-opening post about why I left the Teachers Union is included. Read it again so the info really sinks into your cranium.

Good Day to You, Sir

More Public Schoolhouse Rock

If you liked the first one I posted, here is another belly buster that takes on the ubiquitous use of prescription drugs to keep the kids under control.

Good Day to You, Sir

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Sacramento high rise update

I have a deep fascination of high rise buildings and the design, planning, and construction of those buildings, as detailed in this past post on my blog. I took my kids for a walk downtown on this past Tuesday morning and I thought I would fill you in on some of the upcoming buildings I mentioned in the previous post.

First, the disappointing news: The twin 53 story condos that were to be built at Capitol Mall and I-5 are dead. They will not be built, and now there is a huge dirt lot at that location that will need to be filled with something. Now that it's official that these buildings will not be constructed, we can only gaze at the rendering of what could have been:

What a bummer. However, there is good news for two other high rises that actually are currently under construction. The kids and I checked progress, and I took some photos. First, the U.S. Bank Tower, which when finished will look like this:

Is coming along quite nicely. When last I blogged about this tower, the skeleton was just about completed. Now, here is the progress I snapped from Capitol Mall and 8th Street:

Isn't it amazing to see the rendering, then see a photo of the actual dream-turned-into-a-reality? Here is a closer, more dramatic view from directly across the street:

Majestic, isn't it? Click on the pic and you can see some of the construction workers putting one of the glass panels into place on the right side of the building about a third of the way up.

If you walk further west down Capitol Mall, you can see progress on another tower which is still in the foundation/pile driving stage. When completed, 500 Capitol Mall will look like this:

But in the meantime, they have gotten this far:

It's so funny to watch all these men plodding along, and if you watch for just 10 or 15 minutes, it seems as if nothing is getting done, even with all the busyness going on. But somehow, after weeks and weeks, you begin to see a steel and glass tower start to poke its head into the horizon.

Steel and glass is impressive, but some good old fashioned 19th century architecture can be a joy as well. Sacramento, being the Gold Rush town that it is, has plenty of examples of architectural blasts from the past, such as the Stanford House, Governor's Mansion, and K Street Cathedral. But for my money, none of these quite measure up to the Capitol Building (completed in 1874), at which I could never tire of gazing:

They just don't make 'em like they used to. Just think, somewhere in that building is a six-foot, funny-talking Austrian movie star with big muscles who somehow got himself elected governor of the most populous state in the Union. Only in Kah-lee-fawn-eeha!

Good Day to You, Sir

NOW can I question their patriotism?

Have you ever been hit with the sneaking suspicion that the leftists in the United States actually want our country to lose the war in Iraq and come skulking home with our defeated tail between our legs? Me too. Tell this to a lefty Democrat, and watch his face turn beet red and his arms flail in indignation for questioning his patriotism.

Tonight however, I read of two different anecdotes that help confirm to me that the left truly wants us to lose, and of course that means, wants more American soldiers to die. After all, we can't lose without suffering the necessary casualties that indicate to us that we're losing.

House majority whip James Clyburn (D-South Carolina) was on a Washington Post talk show the other day, and he let slip with a very revealing comment. When asked how a positive report on our progress in Iraq by General David Petraeus would affect the Democrats, Clyburn replied, "Well, that would be a real big problem for us; no question about it." Whoa! Back up! The U.S. doing well and making progress in Iraq would be a "real big problem" for the Democrats? Remember folks, these words came out of the mouth of the third-ranking member of the House of Representatives.

Think of an equivalent statement from one of our past wars... say, World War II: Congressman Clyburn, what if our troops break out of the Norman hedgerows soon and get across the Rhine River and into Germany? How would that affect the Democrats?

"Well, that would be a big problem for us; no question about it." Yuck!

Another example of how lefties want us to lose comes from columnist and radio talk show host Larry Elder. In his latest column, he has this to say about about the leftists, and whether or not they support our troops or our mission:
Recall that for a brief period of time, our military did, in fact, locate WMD. The story almost immediately became discounted, as the "WMD" turned out to be old and worn, unlikely to pose any threat. My friend, an actor, told me that he and several other actors were on a set working together. One said, "F---, they found the WMD!" Not, "Hey, I might have to reconsider my opposition to the war because our military found WMD." Or, "I feel relieved about the war, the president was right." Or, "The discovery of the WMD shows that we did, indeed, face the possibility of Saddam handing off the WMD to a terrorist or even using the stuff himself on America or American interests." But, no. The near-unanimous reaction – my friend kept his mouth shut – was, "That bleeping Bush was right."
Its a natural instinct for people to be loathe to admit when they are wrong. But what if your pigheadedness is getting people killed? At what point can the purity of your motives be questioned?

I am certainly not an enthusiast of our campaign in Iraq. The Bush administration has made some horrendous errors in the conduct of this war; especially his refusal to extend the leash on our military, and his apparent willingness to prosecute servicemen who fight the war too well. However, the hornet nest has been stuck with a stick, and simply walking away from what we have started is not going to calm down the hornets. Not seeing this through and walking away would produce a bloodbath the likes of which has not been seen since the aftermath of the Vietnam War, with the murderous reeducation camps in Vietnam and the Killing Fields in Cambodia. We have the American Left to partially thank for that result, and if the people of this same mindset get their way again, and successfully push the U.S. out of Iraq, the blood of millions more will be on the hands of the left once again.

Good Day to You, Sir

MADtv "schools" our schools

If you want to get an idea of how Americans view their public (read: government) schools, one only needs to watch a series of cartoon shorts that MADtv has put out on its show. The cartoons are a takeoff on the the much beloved Schoolhouse Rock series that I grew up on as a young child of the 1970s and early 1980s (We all remember, I'm just a bill, and I'm sittin' here on Capitol Hill...). The rule of satire is that it only works if there is some truth to it. As you watch this Public Schoolhouse Rock short, keep that in mind:

Good Day to You, Sir