Archive for April, 2006|Monthly archive page

To a former student, who died too young.

Mike Lutz was a good kid when I knew him.  Quiet, funny, a bit silly.  A good boy.

Somewhere along the way, after he went on to high school, he lost his way.  Now he's gone, dead because someone sold him some "killer" heroin.  And it killed him.

In our local newspaper, his parents were quoted as saying that they knew Mike had a drug problem. They just didn't know how bad it was. “I think we were just clueless, absolutely clueless,” his father said. They tried and tried to get their son some help, but apparently, Mike's habit was stronger than their love. And that is the real shame.

Rest in peace, Michael. Maybe now at least you'll find some.

My letter to Oprah.

Dear Ms. Winfrey:

Yesterday I happened to be doing a little channel-surfing as I sipped some afternoon coffee, just before diving into a stack of student papers that needed to be graded, which I wanted to knock out before grabbing the dinner that I wanted to gobble down before heading out to my Ad. Psych. class, the one I'm taking for my second certification requirements.  I happened to land on your program.  I don't know if it was a re-run of an earlier show or what, but I was pretty disgusted by what I saw.

You had on a teen-aged boy, along with his parents.  This young man had apparently been the victim of a sexual predator, one who had been lurking about in the guise of a middle school teacher.  This horrible woman had victimized this boy, along with a few others, from what I could tell, before this victim came forward and reported what was going on.  I gather this criminal is now in jail.

So, once again, we had the enticing tale of a young man seduced by an older woman who used her position of power and authority to get sex.  In other words, this was the story of a rapist.  Let us not mince words here.  That's what she is.

Here's my question:

WHY DID YOU NEED TO SPEND AN HOUR ON THIS? 

Why all the lurid detail?  Why the exploitation?  The kid sat on stage the whole time, mumbling answers to the questions you threw at him, with a blank stare on his face.  He looked as if he were ready to either burst into tears and bolt for the exit.  He looked ashamed.

I know there seems to be a lot of this stuff going on lately.  It's disgusting and terrible, and criminal.  It also gives the people who already have an agenda to do so even more ammunition to bash teachers and the whole public education system.  You know better than anyone that when a child is sexually assaulted, a CRIME has been committed.  We really don't need to spend a lot of time rehashed the gory details, as if this is somehow about sex.  It's about sickness, and, at the root of it, violence.  Violence against children.

You claim to love teachers.  You've done shows that have honored teachers.  That's nice.  On this particular day, you did not honor us.  You disgraced our profession by giving the enemies of public education (and they are myriad, and their ranks are powerful and growing like a virus) more tools with which to bash us.  This was not a story about information, as in educating parents or kids or anyone else.  This was a story about titillation, about exploiting this boy and his pain for entertainment purposes.  If we need to, we can read this stuff in the newspapers.  We can lobby our lawmakers to stiffen the penalties for criminals who do these things.  We get it.

Stop it.  No more exploitation, please.  The bad guys are doing that job just fine without your "help."  Hundreds of thousands of teacher like me, who go to work every day with love in our hearts for our students and for the job we do, don't need to hear this day after day.  We work hard at what we do.  Stop making our job even harder.

Respectfully,

David, A Teacher.

You could smell this coming.

my_space_for_murder1.jpg     "CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Del Mar College students now have to use computers outside the school's system if they want to visit the popular Web site MySpace.com. The community college has blocked the site in response to complaints about sluggish Internet speed on campus computers."

Oh.  It's about the bandwidth.  I thought maybe some of their students might be, oh, I don't know, planning a massacre or something…

(Sorry: that was in bad taste.)

Is History being “left behind”?

wheres_ben_franklin.jpg     Yes

Our state assessment for eighth graders, the dreaded GEPA, spends one day testing kids on science (although failing this section has no bearing on placement in remedial science classes in high school, because such classes don't exist), one LONG day testing math, and TWO really long days testing literacy.

Not one minute is spent on social studies.  No history.  No civics.  No geography. 

Why is that?  These are required courses in every grade of a kid's public school education here in the Garden State.  Why is it not important enough to include in standardized testing, especially the tests that determine whether or not a student graduates from high school? 

Are we really trying to, in the end, graduate educated citizens?  If that truly is the goal – and not just using schools as vocational training factories – shouldn't we be determining whether or not our students are fully informed citizens, who understand where they came from so they can have an idea of where they are going, who know how their government is supposed to work, who know what their rights are and how to protect them, who can actually find places like Iraq, Afghanistan, and, say, Nepal, on a map?

An interesting opinion piece on this from The Boston Globe.  I have my own ideas about this, but they involve wild and warped conspiracy theories, so I'll keep them to myself…

The Creature walks among us.

The_Creature.jpg     Or, to be more precise, it's on the door.

KANSAS: "State Board of Education member Connie Morris took exception Wednesday to a picture of a made-up creature that satirizes the state's new science standards hanging on a Stucky Middle School teacher's door… The creature, called the Flying Spaghetti Monster, is the creation of Bobby Henderson of Corvallis, Oregon. It looks like a clump of spaghetti with two eyes sticking out of the top and two meatballs flanking the eyes… In November, the board voted 6-4 to allow criticisms of evolution to be taught in Kansas schools."

Just another problem with the Witch Burners of the American Taliban: No. Sense. Of. Humor.

No dollar left unspent. But by whom?

Found this interesting story on CNN.com, about how some private citizens are finding new and interesting ways to spend the money (what there is of it) that's been made available under the No Child Left Untested legislation. While I think innovation is great, and I whole-heartedly endorse making more tutoring available for kids who need it (as long as it's not just "test coaching"), I wonder why so much money is going to privatized sources.

Or, should I really be wondering. Guess not.

More on the “gay-bashing t-shirts” case in California.

rainbow_flag.jpg     Here's a much more in-depth article from the Los Angeles Times on the decision handed down Thursday in the case of California students who sued for the right to wear t-shirts bearing homophobic slogans to their public school.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said that a T-shirt that proclaimed "Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned'' on the front and "Homosexuality Is Shameful'' on the back was "injurious to gay and lesbian students and interfered with their right to learn.'' The court said that the shirt can be barred on a public high school campus without violating the 1st Amendment.

In other words, the wanna-be gay-bashers lost.  That's as it should be.

Here we go again. Yet again.

"FAIRBANKS, Alaska – Six middle school students in a small Alaska town were arrested Saturday (April 22, 2006) on suspicion of plotting to bring guns and knives to school and kill fellow students."

"The unidentified students wanted to seek revenge for being picked on by other students to disliking staff and students…"

Okay, class, now listen up.  Anyone starting to detect a pattern here?

" 'I'm as surprised as anyone," [Police Chief] Lindhag said at a news conference at North Pole City Hall. 'You don't want to think this will happen in your own home town.' "

That's the problem.  We all need to start believing it.  Now.

Students in two public schools sue for the right to be bigots.

equality_flag1.jpg   1.  In nearby (to me) Downington, Pennsylvania: "Three students of a high school prayer club have sued the Downingtown Area School District, saying they were illegally barred from displaying the words Christian and Bible and expressing their views on the 'sinful nature and harmful effects of homosexuality'."

2.  Out in California, somewhere around San Diego: "Public schools can bar clothing with slogans that are hurtful, a U.S. appeals court ruled Thursday in the case of a student who wore a T-shirt saying 'Homosexuality is shameful.' "

In Downington, the students are being "represented" by the Alliance Defense Fund, a right-wing activist group with a long record of trying to force fundamentalist Christian views into public school classrooms.

This is not a "free speech" issue, of course.  It's about divisive speech that hurts people.  It's about forcing a theocratic agenda down the thoughts of a captive audience: public school students.

My question for people like this, the American Taliban, is always the same: Why not spend all that money putting these students through some fundamentalist private school you set up, where t-shirts bearing homo-hating slogans can be part of the uniform?  Please keep your hatred in your own house.

“Is this gonna be on the final?”

Three students have been expelled from Bay Minette Middle School in Alabama for showing a porn film – on a DVD – in their social studies class. 

While the teacher was in the room.

One of the parents, of course, is outraged that her kid is being punished, but not the teacher.  According to the story, "…the film was played for 30 minutes while the teacher remained at her desk, her back to the class."  Excuse me?  This went on for half an hour?

If this woman's son did indeed bring this filth into school, he should, of course, be punished.  Severely.  But, if this teacher did indeed sit with her back to the class for thirty minutes while this went on, perhaps the teacher should be held partially responsible as well. 

That's putting it mildly.

Here we go again. Again.

columbine_high1.jpg     "RIVERTON, Kan. – Five teenage boys accused of plotting to kill other students in a shooting rampage at their high school were arrested Thursday after details of the alleged scheme appeared on the Web site MySpace.com."

"Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one of the suspects, Sheriff Steve Norman said.  Norman said he would ask prosecutors bring charges of conspiracy to commit murder against the young men, ages 16 to 18."

Today, in case you forgot, is the seventh anniversary of the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado.

The last part of this article is very interesting: "[Sheriiff] Norman said that the potential victims were popular students and that the suspects may have been bullied. 'I think there was probably some bullying, name calling, chastising,' he said."

Hmmm. Seems to me we've heard that somewhere before.

The Dark Lord of Censorship comes to Gwinnett County, Georgia.

you_know_who.jpg     "LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. (AP) – The Gwinnett County School Board will hear a parent's request today that the Harry Potter book series be removed from all school libraries in the state's largest school system. Laura Mallory says the books promote witchcraft and are NOT appropriate for elementary school students. She is a missionary and a mother of four."

There's a much more complete story here.

This is the best part.  The woman who is causing all this fuss "… admitted that she has not read the book series partially because 'they’re really very long and I have four kids.'”

Right.  Censor something you haven't even bothered to read

The “No duh!” story of the week.

"Teachers are far more pessimistic than parents about getting every student to succeed in reading and math as boldly promised by the No Child Left Behind Act."

Surprised?  You shouldn't be.  Scroll down, for one of the many reasons why this is the case.

Homophobia is just fine with Happy Valley.

hater.jpg     "Penn State fined women's basketball coach Rene Portland $10,000 after concluding she violated university policy in her alleged hostile treatment of a player who was perceived to be a lesbian."

But, the coach still has her job.

"The school began the investigation after a former player, Jennifer Harris, alleged that Portland had harassed her, told Harris she needed to look 'more feminine' and had a policy of keeping women she thought were lesbians off the team."

But she still has her job.

"The school said it concluded that Portland created a 'hostile, intimidating and offensive environment' based on Harris' perceived sexual orientation. Harris has said that she is not gay, but was perceived to be by Portland."

But she still has her job.

Why does this person still have a job working with young people?  Any young people?

"Portland has a career record of 678-240, including 592-220 at Penn State."

Oh.  That explains it.

I’m shocked. Simply shocked.

my_brain_hurts_1.jpg     Monday: "States are helping public schools escape potential penalties by skirting the No Child Left Behind law's requirement that students of all races must show annual academic progress."

Tuesday: "Congressional leaders and a former Bush Cabinet member said Tuesday that schools should stop excluding large numbers of minority students' test scores when they report progress under the No Child Left Behind law."

Whoa.  You mean people are cheating on their high-stakes testing results?

The Civil Rights Project at Harvard University was talking about this months ago.  You should read this.

And my parents used to worry about my Kiss albums.

kiss_1.jpg     "LONDON (Reuters) – Young people who adopt the "Goth" lifestyle of dark clothes and introspective music are more likely to commit self-harm or attempt suicide than other youngsters, according to a study on Friday [14 April]."

I have to be honest: I have had a number of kids in my classroom over the years – at the middle school, high school, and college level – who would fit into this category, if we were judge them just by their adopted look.  I admit to being a bit "disturbed" by this particular choice of uniform, but, upon further review (like, actually getting to know them), most of these kids have struck me as being pretty well adjusted.  They also tended to be more mature and more creative than their peers.

I worry when studies like this come out, that we might watch some kids a bit too closely, because of our preconceived notions and stereotypes, while other, more deeply troubled kids, disappear under the radar.

Another sure sign of spring.

the-dark-lady.jpg     School budgets going down to defeat in South Jersey. 

Our local budget question was defeated, as did the regional high school district's proposal.  Oh well, no varsity ice hockey or synthetic turf for the athletic fields.  (Now, to be fair and balanced here, those two items were each listed on separate questions on the ballot, so we could vote for the basic budget while voting against each of those proposals.  Which is what I did.)

Now, of course, in New Jersey, having a budget question defeated doesn't mean it's really "defeated."  It depends on what your definition of "defeated" is.  Now the local town council gets to deal with it, and that means we usually get most of what we want.  But with all the tax issues now facing us here in the Garden State, I'll be willing to bet that we're looking at cuts.

Big cuts.

Our school board also had three seats up for grabs, and two will be filled by newcomers.  Not a bad thing, but we lost our current board president, which is a shame, as she was apparently quite instrumental in hammering out our recent contract agreement.  She's a good person, and was a good board member.

The fact that we held this election over Spring Break, when many families who have kids in our schools are on vacation, did not help.  We warned them.  Now they have a bigger problem.

Again, it’s the time of the season…

… for teenagers to die for no reason

"19-year-old Stephen L. Meloni is facing a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges of homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence and others that could send him to prison… And once again, a community is facing painful questions about what happened – and whether young people and their parents will ever learn."

" ' This is a poignant reminder of what happens when teens and alcohol and lack of supervision conspire,' Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce L. Castor Jr. said after the death of the Bala Cynwyd teen, Jessica Easter."

That's my question.  The "adults" who were in the vicinity of this "party" heard, saw, and smelled what was going on.  Why did no one call the police?  A CRIME was being committed here. This life could have been saved.  But no one acted like a grown-up.

Unfortunately, every community in America has at least one tragic story like this. Around here, we've had far too many. 

Something needs to change.

Tomorrow is Election Day.

Tomorrow is our annual school election day.  We have eight school candidates running for three seats.  We (our teachers' "association") just settled our contract negotiations, and got a decent deal for the next three years.  A reasonable raise, no real cuts in benefits, no change in working conditions, including workload.  Not too shabby, considering what's going on state-wide.  So I'm leaning toward at least two of the incumbents on the ballot.  A few of the wannabes are using terms like "fresh ideas" (trans.: privatization) and "fiscal responsibility" (trans.: budget cuts), so they got cut from my list real quick.

We also have to vote on our local budget, and the budget for the regional high school district that our town feeds into.  Of course, I'm going vote for the local budget: I have to vote to pay myself, as I teach where I live.  There's a real question as to whether the budget question will pass.  We're off from school this week.  The Local Powers That Be decided (for some reason I'll never understand) to hold the election this week, even though a significant number of families (the voters who vote to support the budget) will be out of town.  That leaves a few folks like me, who don't go away in the spring, and people who don't have kids in public school to come out and make this decision for all of us.  You see the problem.

I'll also vote for the basic package for the high school district, even though I think that the whole "regional district" idea is out-dated and not very cost effective.  I don't like the fact that some of my school tax money goes outside of my town, at least not this way.  One of the five high schools in the "region" is ten minutes from my house: that should be our town's high school. We don't get to vote to change that.  Yet.

However, there's also another part of the high school budget package I won't be supporting.  There's an item on the ballot asking parents to pay for an interscholastic ice hockey program (male students only) for the high schools.  Now, these schools have had ice hockey for more than ten years.  The program is run as a club, with all funding coming from the families of the players and from independent fundraising.  And frankly, that's as it should be.  Taxpayers should not be expected to pay for this.  We have serious school funding issues in our state.  We are always living on the edge when it comes to asking the locals for more property tax money for our town's schools.  This is asking too much right now. Here's some other reasons:

1.  Ice hockey is a hugely expensive sport.  All sports cost something, but hockey is in an entirely different time zone, expense-wise. 

2.  There is no comparable program for girls on the ballot.  Anyone ever hear of Title IX?

3.  High school hockey, around these parts, is a goon's game.  The behavior of players, coaches, and especially parents, at youth ice hockey games is deplorable.  I don't want my money paying for this, thanks.  You want to pretend your kid is Dave "The Hammer" Schultz (again showing my age), do it on your own dime.

Now, I say all this as a life-long hockey fan.  I live for my Flyers, and frankly, went through a major funk last season when the knuckleheads who are involved in the NHL shut down the league last year.  I love the game.

But, with all the other things our kids need, I really don't want to pay for it.

“Duck and cover” makes a comeback.

duck-n-cover-280.jpg    "Across the country, many schools hold lockdown drills because of terrorism fears and school shootings like the one at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999 that left 15 people dead. But Minnesota could apparently become the first state to require such exercises."

But not everybody thinks this is such a good idea.

"In Michigan, fire agencies have come out against a lockdown drill plan because it allows schools to cut back on fire drills. The state's Association of Secondary School Principals has concerns of its own….

"You are actually teaching the robbers how to rob the bank," said executive director Jim Ballard. "Most violent crime within schools has been student against student. If you're teaching those students what you are going to do in your lockdown procedures, they basically know what's going to happen."

I tend to agree.  I think that teachers and staff members should know the protocol, and should somehow receive professional development to prepare for this type of scenario.  I'm not sure how much good – or potential harm – comes from actually trying to "practice" this.  I'm torn. 

One of my earliest memories of school (early 1960s, now) involves practicing the old "duck and cover" drill in my kindergarten classroom.  Leave your desk, go out in the hall, crouch down on the floor, tuck down, and turtle up.  "And kiss your sweet a#@ goodbye," as a poster from the time used to say.  It was postively traumatic.  And useless.  Living within fiteen minutes of Philadelphia, with its naval base (at the time), a nuclear strike would have left us as less than a memory.  The Powers That Were did do a very good job of scaring the bejesus out of a generation of little kids, though.

My school district now has a "lockdown" procedure, and we have a policy to practice it at least once a year.  It's April.  Late April.  We have not practiced it yet.  Because of a huge wave of retirements last year, we have a large number of new staff members in our buildings.  They don't know what they're supposed to do, I'll bet.

They will have a mess to clean up, however.  The last time we practiced, we managed to make a significant number of kids very upset.  A number of kids cried during the drill (I teach middle school, remember).  A few complained of nightmares afterwards.

I'd be curious to hear from other teachers on this subject.  Do you do this?  What do you do, exactly?  And most importantly, do you think these drills have value?

Meet Principal Buckethead.

Buckethead21.jpg   "INGLEWOOD, Calif. – A principal trying to prevent walkouts during immigration rallies inadvertently introduced a lockdown so strict that children weren't allowed to go to the bathroom, and instead had to use buckets in the classroom, an official said."

Somebody needs a little extra help with reading comprehension, apparently. 

A mixed bag of news from the land of “higher” education.

– A grand jury may be asked for indictments as early as today in the alleged rape of a dancer by members of the Dule lacrosse team.  Whatever happens when, something tells me this week will be big – maybe make or break big – in terms of where this case goes. 

The discussion and "conversation" about this case floating around the blogosphere has been postively depressing.  Racist epithets, sexist (misogynist, really) slanders, and obscenity abound.  It's been very disheartening to read.  We really have a lot of growing up to do, as a culture, when it comes to these issues.  I thought we had come a longer way.  We haven't, it seems.

Stories like this one won't make the case for the fine strapping lads at Duke any easier.  Perhaps the NCAA, which makes soooo much money off of guys like this, might want to finally face up to the fact that college sports (male college athletes, to be specific) have a problem here, one that needs to be addressed.

– There's some reason for hope: these students at the University of Virginia are practicing some old school direct action, to benefit people other than themselves.  They're paying a price for it.  They give me hope, and deflate my cynicism.  More power to them.  If my kid was one of these people, I'd be proud. 

Making the case for corporal punishment at Penn State.

Not really.  But who raised these kids, that they would think that something like this would be okay?

What I’m going to do with my Spring Break.

Sun4.JPG     1. Grade all of my ungraded papers, so I can go back to work all caught up.
2. Celebrate my wife's birthday next weekend.
3. Read two books, both of them short, but both real books: Democracy Matters by Cornel West, and An Ordinary Person's Guide to Empire by Arundhati Roy.
4. Read ahead for my night school class.
5. Rake out my front yard and fertilize it.
6. Go to a Phillies game.
7. Go see V for Vendetta with my wife and my younger son.
8. Blog.
9. Rest.   Rest.  Rest.

As if they needed another excuse to beat up on teachers, another Fox News dream story come true.

Maybe this one will get them to stop talking about Natalie Holloway for five minutes:

"COFFEEVILLE, Ala. – An English teacher at a small Alabama high school has been charged with having sex with at least four students and allegedly involving one in a plot to kill her husband."

Then again, maybe not.  But I love the name of the town.  Think how they'll be able to work that into a title for the inevitable television movie that might come out of this…

MySpace. A place for friends. Where you can plot to kill them.

my_space_for_murder.jpg     Something is really rotten in South Jersey.

"A 15-year-old high school student was charged with harassment after she allegedly posted a 'hit list' on a Web site, authorities said."

We recently had a program for the parents of middle school students in our district, sponsored by our PTA, because it was becoming increasingly obvious that our kids are much more cyber-savvy than their parents.  Additionally, we have had a number of incidents – mostly involving girls – which centered on the use of computers and technology such as MySpace and Instant Messaging to harass, threaten, and generally make life miserable for targeted students.  The kids also use MySpace as a resource to troll for "friends," usually older teenagers (mostly males) looking for sex.

It is absolutely amazing what parents do not know, and what they do not  – and will not – do to stop this from happening.

Too many parents seem to think that their offspring have an unfettered and absolute right to privacy, even when their children are using cyberspace to advertise their personal wares and threaten violence against others.  Too many kids have computers and internet access in their bedrooms, so they can literally stay up all night (or more likely, stay online all afternoon after school, when parents aren't home) to do their dirty work.  Parents don't even know about MySpace, have no clue how to access or navigate it, and far more don't know their kids' screen names or passwords.  So the kids can do what they want, when they want, and Mommy and Daddy are totally and udderly clueless.  Or they choose to be that way, because it's easier.

Meanwhile, other kids are bullied mercilessly, others are at risk for being victimized by violence, and still others place themselves at the mercy of sexual predators.

I'm not some right-winger (obviously) calling for censorship of MySpace.  I am for protecting kids, mine and yours.  My teenagers don't have unlimited internet access.  The computer my 13 year old uses is in a common area, not in his room.  He has his own secure desktop, which does not allow him access to certain programs without permission.  We actually USE the "parental contol" settings on our firewall/anti-virus software.  MySpace is blocked. 

Instant Messager is NOT on our computer.  Period.  It serves no useful purpose.  Using it is a waste of a kid's time.

Parents, teachers, and school administrators all need to wake up to the reality of what kids are doing online.  They need to be educated, so that they can educate – and  protect – everybody's kids.

Anybody else see something wrong with this?

dukey.JPG     Read the story here.  Ummm, not to sound like too much of a poophead here, but, what the heck is wrong with the young people (sorry, but they're probably all males) at Duke University, who think that wearing one of these "because ______ (fill in your lame excuse)" is appropriate?  Or somehow funny?

Remembering Anthony.

anthony.jpg     Sappho, over at The Sappho Manifesto, one of the many progressive/radical blogs I read regularly, brought this story to my attention on Tuesday, after all of the big immigrants' rights rallies across the United States.  It made me really sad.

Now I see that "Members of a coalition of Southern California students say they'll dedicate Saturday's Mass Student March 2006 in downtown Los Angeles to 14-year-old Anthony Soltero."  Read the local news coverage here (video also).  The AP story is here.

I'll be thinking about Anthony on Saturday.  I'll be praying for his family on First Day (Sunday).  You might want to, too.

Memo to Mr. Horowitz: Your pants are on fire.

David_Horowitz.jpg     David Horowitz is a self-promoting gasbag of a tool of the hardcore Republican Right.  Got that?  He's also a liar.  And the nice people from Media Matters caught him in his latest act of dissembling (that word our Fearless Leader once had so much trouble with).

I love it when they do that.  And they do it so well.

NJ “high school massacre plot” update.

"Four teenage boys facing terrorism and conspiracy to murder charges in an alleged plot to massacre fellow students at Winslow Township High School will remain detained until at least May 4."

About the only other tidbit that has leaked out to our local media, at least in terms of information about the accused in this case, is that the boys have all been described as being "Goths."

Here we go again.

I guess someone was absent the day they discussed “Brown” in history class…

brown_stamp.jpg     How else do you explain the despicable behavior of the Nebraska state legislature, in deciding that the Omaha school system should be divided along racial lines?

You know, we here in the Garden State have to endure an endless barrage of bad jokes about our homeland.  But at least we don't do stuff like this here.

"History will not, and should not, judge us kindly," said Sen. Gwen Howard of Omaha.

You got that right.

Spring Break started 90 minutes ago.

sun1.JPG    Yip-pee.  Finally. And it's a sunny 70 degrees outside.

Sometimes, they surprise you.

Spring Break starts the day after tomorrow.  It can't get here soon enough.  We're all getting to that sitting-in-the-faculty-lunch-room-grousing-all-the-time stage that tells us all we need a break, from the kids and maybe each other.  it's the time of year when you keep waiting for the roof to blow off, there's so much gas and static in the air.

And then something good happens to make your day.

I'm participating in my fifth MS Walk next month.  My younger sister has MS, and our family walks every year.  We usually raise a nice little chunk of change for our little team.  My colleagues at work – bless them all- are always VERY generous towards this cause.  I don't know how much I've raised so far this spring, but it's adding up.  I always take the little cardboard "donor sneakers" that the MS Society sends me and fill them out with donor's names as the donations come in, and then tack them up along the front of my classroom, kind of letting the kids know that, yes, there are big issues out there for them to get involved in.  I have a life outside of school, and this is one way they know that.

So far this year, I've received three unsolicited donations from my students.  This has not happened before.  I'm not supposed to ask kids or parents for money.  I don't.  I didn't ask this time, either.  The kids just wanted to chip in.  That has been very refreshing by itself.

Today, a girl who is not one of my students – she's in my homeroom, but not in any of my classes – brought in a check for me.  For $200.  She had gone home and told her mom about my Walk.  Mom went to work and got her company to cut me a check.  Just.  Like.  That.

Made my day.  Actually, it made my week.

Guess they WON’T be teaching that lesson on Whitman, either.

equality_flag.jpg     The good "Christian" people who run the Rowan-Salisbury school district in North Carolina have decided to ban "all sexually-oriented clubs — gay, straight or otherwise — and to address any student's emotional issues concerning sexuality with guidance counselors."

Read the story here.  Read about how one adult resident is upset that the high school's "Rebel" mascot has been banned (kinda shows where he's coming from), and how a parent who spoke in favor of such clubs, and in support of gay and lesbian students – kids – was booed.  How classy.

Now, if these knuckleheads had done their homework, they would know that, for one thing, Gay-Straight Alliance-type clubs are not "sexually-oriented," whatever that means.  They might have even bothered to, oh, I don't know, visit a web site like this one to see for themselves what these groups actually do for kids, straight, gay, or otherwise. 

Instead, they caved to the likes of professional fundamentalist hate-monger Flip Benham.

Pathetic.  I hope some of my ACLU dues go to pay for the lawsuit I smell coming.  I just might have to write another check.

(Thanks for the heads-up to Pam's House Blend.)

Another “no duh” story for this week.

dookey_duke.jpg    Seems to be a lot of "no duh" going around right now.  You won't believe this.  Sit down and take a deep breath now.  Ready?  Here goes:

"By the NCAA's own scorecard, about half the players of the men's top college basketball teams in this spring's final games are failing students."

It's about the money, it seems.  Money that the NCAA just loves raking in.