Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Union Magazine

I normally skim through my NEA Today magazine. Too much else I've got to do. But I looked at this one because it has an article on small schools. Since I'm in a small school-within-a-school program, I was interested. And wouldn't you know I came upon three articles I like a lot more:

1. A full piece on Jonathan Kozol, who has caused me to really rethink everything in recent months. A while back, I wondered if the teachers' union was the best route to fight our nation's shameful educational inequity, reasoning that it's the union's job to stand up for the interests of teachers, not of students. But in my union magazine, I see Kozol is talking with Reg Weaver, the President of the NEA. Kozol says: "I'm going to encourage teachers...to speak out politically, to rise up and protest...about the perpetual separation of our children so that they don't know each other any longer in America." Sign me up! Separate is by its very nature unequal. Integrate! By race or by class--either will do. Integrate. I'm trying to do whatever I can think of, in spite of being the recipient of a surprising amount of anger for my earlier postings on this subject, and in spite of facing the illogical and inaccurate argument of "gee, you don't have a foolproof plan, so you have nothing--so you can't fight the status quo."

I don't think I need a perfect plan to express my anger at injustice, and I'm glad the president of my union agrees with me that educational inequity must end.

2. In the second article, David Berliner, an education professor at Arizona State, points out something pretty clearly--students' devastating poverty is the #1 factor in a lack of performance or achievement. He puts it this way: "Poverty is the 600-pound gorilla in the room." In news that should surprise no one, Berliner points out that the USA's poor students, if they were their own country, would not only be a largely Black and Latino nation, but would score near the bottom of any academic ranking of industrialized countries. Meanwhile our rich students' fictional country (which would be mostly White) would score up with the top nations of the world. (No word from him on the middle-class, or how he defines "rich" or "poor.")

Are the teachers to blame for this? Are teachers in poor schools that much worse than their colleagues in rich schools? Are students that much dumber?

3. Nope. This is proven in a third article in the same magazine, this one about busing in Raleigh, NC. They're five years into their busing system which integrates on the basis of parental income. In that time, Black students' performance on standardized tests (which I'm not a fan of, but that's a different post for a different day) have doubled. DOUBLED! From 40 percent passing to 80 percent! Meanwhile, White scores have remained steady. The teachers didn't get that much smarter in five years. The students didn't change. We just ended class (which, in our cities, usually means racial) segregation.

These three articles feel related to each other in this fashion:

Because Article #3 gives a reasonable educational antidote to the problems of Article #2, I will fight the fight of Article #1.

I'll start this week, asking my building union reps how we can get on board with Kozol and Weaver. And I'll re-write my representatives and senators at the state and national levels.

I will not be complacent in the face of injustice. Never.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Truth

For a while now, I've been angry at how the word "truth" is used not to mean actual, objective fact, but something a bit more sinister. Our local conservative radio station is called "The Truth AM." Left-wing loonies discuss how those in power won't let you see "the truth" (which is, of course, the conspiracy theory du jour).

Both groups wouldn't know "truth" if it bit them on the butt.

Using the James Frey hullaballoo is a jumping off point, the New York Times has printed an interesting article on the many ways in which our culture doesn't value truth anymore--in politics, in entertainment, in journalism, in literature, anywhere else.

On the one hand, I think a culture in which we don't agree on simple, verifiable facts (like "there were no weapons of mass destruction") is problematic. On the other hand, when I read something like Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, I'm transported by stories that, while not true, are True. I would have been pissed off if the book had been presented as a memoir, though.

Not sure how I feel about the article, but I'd like to know what y'all think.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

This will be a long two weeks.

We're in day two of 14 days of pre-Super Bowl hype. And we're already down to this local news promo:

"Forget what the experts say. Find out what local psychics are saying about the Super Bowl."

Holy Lord. Where will we be in another 12 days?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

It could happen.

I had a dream last night that I had to organize a leg of The Amazing Race based in Gambier.

I set up the first clue as something like "Find the coach of the team that went 10-4-1 last year." The idea was to figure out that it was the women's soccer coach and head to her office. Players said "Oh, it has to be soccer because there was a tie." (Not true--it could be field hockey too.) Some players went to the playing field instead of to the coach's office. They fell behind.

The next clue I set up: "Go to the top of the tallest building in Knox County." They had to zip up to my old stomping grounds of Caples. A few solicited the help of some locals (there were very few of them...this was during the summer) to drive them around. They took advantage.

They then had to run all the way down Middle Path to Old Kenyon to meet the path and Phil.

Okay--so it wasn't a very creative set of clues. They didn't do any bungee jumping or anything like that.

Any suggestions for a better leg?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Let's...

This is the time of year when my favorite radio station plays most of its music library in alphabetical order (as I blogged about last year). While I still frequently will guess what songs might be coming up next, there are other pleasures to the A-to-Z. One is when I hear a bunch of songs that start with the same word. They might not fit together stylistically, but they can make for some awesome and bizarre thematic stretches.

On my way home from reffing some games today, I happened to hear their six songs that start with the word "Let's." It's fun to see what songs say "let's" do. It's almost all sex!

In order:

"Let's Dance"
"Let's Get It On"
"Let's Go"
"Let's Make Love"
"Let's Spend the Night Together"
"Let's Stay Together"

Fun to listen to...but my lovely wife pointed out today that, through alphabetic coincidence, the songs have a certain progression to them. Indeed, in this order, they tell the story of a passable relationship. Meet at a club, go to the back room for a while, head home, hook up, go to sleep, and wake up and decide it ought to last.

Sweet!

Championship Game Predictions

Heed me. I am 7-1 so far this playoffs, missing only the Steelers' upset of the Colts (which everyone missed).

In the AFC--While I am impressed with the Steelers, Denver is playing awfully well defensively. I also feel like the home-field advantage is more pronounced in Denver.

Denver wins 20-14.

In the NFC. If Carolina wins SB XL, I win $150. Just out of principle, I would pick them under any circumstances. But this pick isn't just out of principle. Out of the four remaining teams, Carolina has impressed me the most. They haven't made any mistakes. They've been splendid defensively, and any team that can score 29 in Chicago is excellent offensively. I'm not sweating the Nick Goings situation...he gained 900 yards in 7 games last season. Carolina has what it takes to pull off the upset and destroy the hopes of my fellow Pacific Northwesterners yet again.

Carolina 27-17.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Best advice I've ever received as a teacher

It was my first November on the job at my high school, which I can't believe was over six years ago. I was exhausted--doing yearbook and debate at the same time. I had a parent act like a complete piece of garbage (still the worst parent interaction I've ever had). I was angry and I was hating life. Hating the job.

I pulled aside My Hero And Mentor, the guy I student taught with. I asked him to eat in my room instead of in the faculty lounge.

I spilled all of my stress, anger, and frustration. I muttered something about hating the job.

He simply said: "You want to quit today. That's one."

One what?

"One time. You will want to quit four times a year, every year."

Guess what? The next day, I felt better. I felt almost unbelievably stressed, upset, overwhelmed, and/or angry three more times that school year.

Today, I felt as exhausted and spent as I've felt since my first year teaching sixth grade (92/93). I wanted to quit.

Then I thought to myself: "That's one."

Which ain't too bad, considering first semester ends Friday. Sure, I cheated a little--had a student teacher for a few months--but still, this is a record for the latest #1 in any year.

(But I'm so slammed, I suspect #s 2, 3, and 4 will all follow in the next 10 weeks, until I'm done with my National Board essays.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

It's finals week...

and I am bushed, kids.

We will resume regular blogging when we're not exhausted or busy all the time.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Inspiration

I've been working hard all weekend--loads of essays. My wife and I rewarded me with a movie tonight.

But there's almost nothing out there.

We finally settled on Glory Road, which was exactly what I expected it to be: formulaic, dull, and inspirational, with good basketball scenes. Thumbs down. (I see on the website that Stuart Scott calls Glory Road "one of the best movies [he's] ever seen." Stu! I know you live in Bristol, but you've GOT to get out more often!)

Here's my problem:

When something sets out to inspire me, it will fail.

Don't get me wrong. I am not totally cynical. I am capable of being inspired. It's just that I can't be inspired by something that sets out to inspire me. Watching the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team? Absolutely inspiring. Miracle? Not at all inspiring. A high school football team struggling to win it all? Inspiring. Remember the Titans? Not so much.

Maybe it's a Disney thing. All three of these movies (plus The Rookie, another good example) are Disney-inspiring-sports movies. I can be stirred by the subject matter as it's happening--I loved Jim Morris's story as it was happening, for instance--but once Disney gets a hold of it, I will not be inspired, even in my best mood.

But I always find a way to see the damn things. What's wrong with me?

Even outside of sports, inspirational stuff just won't work on me. Our HS put on a nice little Martin Luther King assembly last week. It impacted the kids and even some of the teachers. Not me--because it is trying to inspire me. (It didn't help that an inspirational movie scene was central to the assembly.) But when I read Jonathan Kozol or read one of MLK's great (and ideally lesser-known) speeches, I'm inspired--ready to rock the world--I think because, in these instances, inspiration comes in second to communication.

I also think that real life inspires me far more than fiction. Take Mitch Albom. Tuesdays with Morrie? Not gonna go down with Aeschylus, but it was good, and it inspired me...made me think about life. I felt like Albom's purpose was to pass along the messages of his friend. The Five People You Meet in Heaven? God no. Purpose was to inspire. It therefore failed with me...made me feel icky and manipulated.

Maybe I just don't want to go along with any kind of manipulation. When Texas Western won the NCAA title in tonight's movie, people in the theater actually applauded. APPLAUDED! Like they were surprised! Give me a break.

But as I watch people around me feel inspired on cue while my wife and I snicker quietly to ourselves, I sometimes wonder if I'm missing out on something.

Then I snap out of it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

NFL Round 2 picks.

4-for-4 last week. My preseason SB pick of Colts over Panthers still stands, and based on how incredible Carolina looked last week, feels pretty good to me.

Without commenting:

Panthers 16, Bears 7
Seahawks 28, Racial Epithets 10

Broncos 27, Patriots 20
Colts 35, Steelers 10

Listen to Joe.

Many of you regularly visit Hip Deep in Pie, Joe's fine blog, and therefore don't need to be told this--

but Joe is spending this week doing cleanup work for families in New Orleans.

He's audioblogging the experience, and it's simply amazing stuff. Give him a listen.

Happy Anniversary...?


My wife and I have planned our big summer trip. We're meeting up with my buddy/best man Rob and his girlfriend. I collect states-in-which-I've-seen-minor-league-games; Rob collects tri-points, as this link (or the one on the sidebar) will entertainingly tell you. This trip will combine both! 9 ballgames in 9 nights and 8 tri-points. Love it. Loads of fun.

The itinerary to the left is my wife's, and is the best of the many attempts all of us made. She asked for the time off. We cashed in some frequent flyer miles to get her to Nashville for free. We called Rob to confirm we really do actually fully want to do this...and we do.

Now, I only have 5 more current major league ballparks to get to, and I have the whole summer off. Therefore, Swankette will fly home without me on July 29th while I visit with relatives in Peoria, Illinois, then catch ballgames in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Altoona (widely known as an amazing minor-league ballpark), heading home 6 days after my wife.

So I set things up. I'm on the phone, literally just about to book the plane tickets, when Rob appears on the other line.

He says:

"As your best man, I have to tell you that you'll be apart from your wife on July 30th."

Oh, shit.

That's our first anniversary--and neither my wife nor I noticed!

We talked it over, and we decided that, while it'll bum us out a little bit, we'd book the tickets anyway, for a few reasons:

--We're not terribly sentimental about dates.
--The trip itself is a wedding anniversary celebration.
--We will still be able to start our tradition of going to Taco Bell on or around our anniversary. Taco Bell was the first restaurant we went to as a married couple (it was 3PM on Kauai, we were damn hungry, and it was the first place we found that was open), and since I love John Edwards' sweet anniversary tradition, we thought we'd start one of our own for on or around our anniversary.
--We'll make up for it by going out on August 29th--the anniversary of me popping the question.

I'm wondering if we're weird for willingly missing our first anniversary together. I don't think we are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Admitting it

Rather than just "happening" to encounter episodes of Beauty and the Geek's new season, I've decided just to admit I'm going to watch the damn thing and set the TiVo.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

The ESPN NFL Crew

are the most moronic, ridiculous, farcical, bogus, phony, stupid, lame-ass, ridiculous, bullshit, so-bad-it's-gone-past-funny-into-unfunny, troglodytic knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers ever to attempt to announce a football game.

Blogging Ref tells you why.

NFL Playoff picks this weekend

On my honor: I had Washington beating Tampa. I had it 31-21, but I did have it.

New England 28, Jacksonville 14...although, as I write this, they're not off to an auspicious beginning.

Panthers beat Giants 21-17. Gotta stick with my preseason NFC champion pick.

Steelers 35, Bengals 14. Don't know why I feel this will be a blowout--but I do.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And yet I have it on

Q: What's worse than Dick Vitale? (Besides Maguire and Theismann, of course.)

A: Dick Vitale with a bad cold. His voice is actually cracking as he does his tired-ass schtick.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Prescient Quote

I just read Catch-22 for the first time--finished a few minutes ago. I enjoyed it.

Towards the end, the following passage leaped out at me. Yossarian is speaking in the first paragraph.

"What's that?" he exclaimed. "What have you and Colonel Cathcart got to do with my country? You're not the same."

"How can you separate us?" Colonel Korn inquired with ironical tranquillity.

"That's right," Colonel Cathcart cried empathetically. "You're either for us or against us. There's no two ways about it."

"I'm afraid he's got you," added Colonel Korn. "You're either
for us or against your country. It's as simple as that."

"Oh, no, Colonel. I don't buy that."

Colonel Korn was unruffled. "Neither do I, frankly, but everyone else will. So there you are."

Gee, I wonder why this quote leaps out at me so much?

First day back

The first day back is always a physical challenge for me. I adapt to night-owl hours very quickly--and that first 5:30 AM alarm always roughs me up. Working with the nippers on 5 hours sleep is a huge challenge.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Well, I feel a little better.

Further investigations reveal that Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic (the first professionals whose preseason picks I found) were 89 and 88 off for the year, respectively, and also had 1 NFC and 3 AFC playoff teams picked.

I'm nearly at the professional pace!

(Still, I would be TERRIBLE as a drive-time sports radio host. I'm not that obnoxious in the frat-boy sort of way.)

(Wait. It's not statistically possible to be an odd-number of wins off, is it? Well, I won't recount it.)

Dan Patrick: 1 NFC team right, and 3 AFC right. And he didn't pick the number of wins per team. Wuss.

Eric Kuselias: 1 NFC team right (Carolina, as it has been for all of us). 4 AFC. Give him props: he had the Broncos. He's the champ, in spite of not picking wins-per-team. And his radio job as NFL Gameday host is the one I would most covet. Fast-paced, fun work.

TRP Examines His 2005 NFL Predictions

Back in September, I predicted the NFL standings. A lesser man would not stand up and face the music, but I will.

On the left--my September prediction. On the right--the actual record for the team this year. If I'm within one game of the correct total, that's a "hit." If I'm three or more games off, that's a "miss." Two is somewhere inbetween. Unlabeled, I guess we'll call it.

AFC WEST:
San Diego 11-5 (9-7)
Kansas City 10-6 (10-6, hit)
Denver 9-7 (13-3, miss)
Oakland 6-10 (6-10, hit)

AFC NORTH:
Pittsburgh 12-4 (11-5, hit)
Baltimore 11-5 (6-10, big miss)
Cincinnati 9-7 (11-5)
Cleveland 5-11 (6-10, hit)

AFC SOUTH:

Indianapolis 12-4 (14-2)
Jacksonville 7-9 (12-4, big miss)
Houston 5-11 (2-14, miss)
Tennessee 4-12 (4-12, hit)

AFC EAST:

New England 11-5 (10-6, hit)
NY Jets 10-6 (4-12, big miss)
Buffalo 6-10 (5-11, hit)
Miami 5-11 (9-7, miss)

NFC WEST:
St. Louis 9-7 (6-10, miss)
Arizona 9-7 (5-11, miss...how could I have bought into the hype?)
Seattle 8-8 (13-3, big miss)
San Francisco 4-12 (4-12, hit)

NFC NORTH:
Minnesota 12-4 (9-7, miss)
Green Bay 9-7 (4-12, big miss)
Detroit 8-8 (5-11, miss)
Chicago 3-13 (11-5, colossal miss--I had them with the worst record in the NFL, and they wound up tied for 5th best)

NFC SOUTH:
Carolina 11-5 (11-5, hit)
Atlanta 8-8 (8-8, hit)
Tampa Bay 5-11 (11-5, big miss)
New Orleans 5-11 (3-13)

NFC EAST:
Philadelphia 13-3 (6-10, huge miss)
NY Giants 9-7 (11-5)
Dallas 5-11 (9-7, miss)
Washington 5-11 (10-6, miss)

The final tally: 94 games off. Divide that by 32 teams, and I'm an overall "miss." Bad year.

I only picked one of the 6 NFC playoff teams (Carolina). 3 of the AFC teams.

If there's any good news to be gleaned from this, it's that my preseason Super Bowl pick--Indianapolis 38, Carolina 17--is still alive! And my preseason Vegas bets ($10 on Indy to win it all at 4-1, $10 on Carolina to win it all at 15-1) are looking reasonably smart.