Archive for the ‘Education & politics’ Category

“Test-driven teaching isn’t character-driven.”

peaceflag.jpg     This is an excellent essay by one of my favorite people on the planet, Colman McCarthy. 

I highly recommend his book, I’d Rather Teach Peace.

Read it before the link goes dead!


Have they NO shame?

140x140lmca_parents.gif     First, they were recruiting and forcibly recalling for service people way past 40.  Then it was retaining soldiers past their contracted-for time of service.  Next it was sending a recruiter after an autistic kid.

Now the military is going after pre-teens in the classroom.  This is despicable, and it needs to stop.

Click the logo to find out more, especially if you have a child in junior high, middle school, or high school.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.)

What do we say about Walt?

Walt_Whitman_older.jpg   Way back in a previous life – when I taught high school English – I used to spend extra time on Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass.  Whitman lived a significant part of his life – and died – right down the road from me in Camden, New Jersey.  That added relevance to what I was teaching. 

I also used to mention that Whitman was gay.

Why not?  It certainly had relevance.  Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote Sonnets From the Portuguese because she was truly, madly, deeply in love in love with Robert Browning.  It kind of helps students of that work to understand that.  It informs their understanding of the work.  It gives them the whole picture.

So why object to stating the facts about gay or lesbian authors in English class?  Or gay or lesbian anybody in any class?  What are the opponents of this afraid of?  That gay or lesbian students may see that people like themselves can not only exist, but function and maybe even contribute to the making of art or history?  Is that it?


Throwing up your hands might be all you could do…

22710799.jpgin this case.

Let's carry this out to its logical conclusions, shall we?:

– In a world history class, studying World War Two: "Isn't all that Holocaust stuff just a myth?  Didn't they make those movies in Hollywood?'

– In an American history class: "Isn't it true that Blacks never had it so good as when they came over here as slaves?  I mean, Africa was so primitive back then."

– In another American history class: "The Indians were just savages.  Putting them on reservations just made their lives simpler, right?"

– In another American history class: "The worst thing that ever happened to women was giving them the right to vote, right?  Before then, they had it soooo easy…"

Read what some of these kids said to this teacher.  Convince me they aren't being provided with a script by someone with an agenda.  The agenda I see is designed to completely disrupt this teacher's teaching, to undermine the educational process for political purposes.  The rest of the students in this class are being denied a science-based education by disruptive students who ask inappropriate ("Don't you go to church?  Don't you believe in God?") and irrelevent questions.

The "debate" here is something to be taken up in a comparative religion class, not in a biology class.  In biology, there is no debate about evolution.  We know this from the facts.

Don't bring your version of your faith into my classroom, if you only intend to use it as a weapon to keep me from doing my job as a teacher.  Don't send your students into my classroom with an agenda designed to disrupt my teaching and keep other kids from learning what I'm being paid to teach.

And I promise to keep my grammar lessons out of your pulpit.

(photo from LA Times)