Alone with oneself.

I felt guilty about leaving Meyer alone for so long. …I always feel guilty when I keep Meyer waiting. And there is never any need for it. He never paces up and down, checking the time. He has those places to go, inside his head. He looks as if he was sitting and dozing, fingers laced across his middle. Actually he has walked back into his head, where there are libraries, concert halls, work rooms, experimental laboratories, game rooms. He can listen to a fine string quartet, solve chess problems, write an essay on Chilean inflation under Allende, or compose haiku. He had a fine time back in there. if you could put his head in a jar of nutrient and keep him alive forever, he would wear forever that gentle, contented little smile.

— John D. MacDonald, “The Scarlet Ruse”

I don’t want to keep returning to Wednesday, but given that current events are so vexing of late, indulge me a little. Every so often I think about the problem of alone-ness (as opposed to loneliness). I can’t tell you how many people I knew who married the wrong person, too young, because they were afraid to be alone. The idea of coming home to an empty house, of eating a meal at a table for one, of seeing a movie alone — these things terrify many people. And that’s only the company problem. What do you do with yourself when it’s just you? Being able to amuse oneself for a period of time, without television or hand-held video games, is a talent, as MacDonald’s Meyer demonstrates.

I had a lot of time to think about this during my jury service, although I guess I sorta cheated — I brought a book. But it was interesting to look up, between chapters, and check out the faces. Some were reading, a few were socializing, a few more were doing what looked like paperwork. One woman brought provisions for a whole day, carried in a transparent tote — two bottles of water, three or four snacks, a book, a Sudoku collection and a knitting project. Others had the thousand-yard stare that could mean deep thought or a meditative state just this side of sleep.

But a few were plainly suffering. Their hands twitched, their feet shuffled, they walked back and forth between the bathroom and their seat, they stood up and stretched their legs. They were the precise opposite of contentment. I wanted to tell them: Take a lesson from Meyer. Go listen to a string quartet.

So. In precisely seven minutes I have to wash my face and head out the door for a little meeting. In lieu of the usual thousand-word blather, check out Jim at Sweet Juniper, one of the best journalists in Detroit, who finally found the place where he parts company with the Urban Explorer’s Code, i.e., take nothing but pictures. People who don’t live in Detroit can scarcely imagine the conditions around here, how many buildings have simply been abandoned. That so many are public schools only makes it worse:

After my first visit to the shattered middle school, I am haunted by what I found in one office: hundreds of file folders containing student psychological examinations complete with social security numbers, addresses, and parent information. I sat and thumbed through them. Many contained detailed histories of physical and sexual abuse, stories of home lives so horrifying I still can’t get them out of my head: sibling rape, torture, neglect that defies belief. The detailed reports explained emotional impairments, learning disabilities. There was another box full of IEPs. The dates revealed that many of these students are still in the school system somewhere. I found several of their faces in the 2007 yearbook.

I spend the next few months trying to track down someone who cares. I send e-mails to the school’s former principal, offering to go back and collect these records for her or destroy them. She never responds. I call my mom, a retired special education teacher and erstwhile administrator to determine the extent of malfeasance. Then I call the school district’s legal department and leave voice mails warning them of the liability of this gross violation of student privacy. I never receive a response. I track down the school psychologist to some address in Troy. Nothing. It turns out a daily newspaper reported abandoned records like these within many of the 33 schools closed in 2007 and the district did nothing. No one is responsible. Someone else was supposed to destroy them. The company that had been paid to secure the school never did its job.

So I did it. I went back in to destroy them so they would no longer be just sitting there on the floor for anyone to find.

And that’s only three paragraphs. Go read it all. I’m off, for the day and the weekend. You all have a good one.

Posted at 8:32 am in Current events, Detroit life |
 

79 responses to “Alone with oneself.”

  1. Connie said on February 27, 2009 at 9:28 am

    Third day in a row I post last comment for previous day shortly before N posts a new entry.

  2. Jenine said on February 27, 2009 at 9:51 am

    I read Jim’s piece and was moved by it. I hope his efforts will get some response and some help to dispose of the documents and salvage the books and supplies. I didn’t want to add another “you go!” comment at his site. But I feel free to praise him as a good operator here.

  3. Colleen said on February 27, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Wow. There’s just so much wrong with the way DPS just walks away from some of these schools. As a lover of words, I find it IMMORAL to just leave those books to rot. Shameful. And leaving student records? No one caring to get them taken care of? The damn superintendent should have trucked him/herself up there and done it if no one else would.

  4. Lex said on February 27, 2009 at 10:31 am

    Damn. Teenage wasteland. That’s just horrible. And, no, Jim is wrong. He is most assuredly NOT a criminal.

  5. Dorothy said on February 27, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I haven’t clicked on the link yet to read the entire article. But just the details he mentioned alone about the horrific histories of some of the students made me think of the teachers: how do they handle so many kids with such varied backgrounds? The sensitivity required of them, plus the need to impart knowledge to them, all the while maybe knowing what they faced at home. It leaves me feeling very, very sad for all concerned. But mostly for the kids themselves. I could just cry.

  6. mark said on February 27, 2009 at 10:42 am

    The Detroit public school system has 15,000 employees for a student population of about 140,000. Detroit is way above average on number of public employees per capita. It’s not a lack of hands but a lack of accountability.

    Doesn’t our current, collective embrace of more government require us to view this as an aberration? As the government takes over health care, it will treat our confidential records more appropriately than government treats student records in Detroit. As government dictates business practices for banks and auto companies, it will be more successful than DPS is in graduating students. Where is the real life experience to justify that confidence?

    The private sector can and has screwed up in ways equally bad or worse. But you can walk away or sue. Government runs a monopoly and shields itself from liability.

  7. Connie said on February 27, 2009 at 10:55 am

    These days most public school elementary libraries are wastelands with tiny book budgets, and no professional staff. Why oh why didn’t those books go to the other (surely needy) elementary schools in the city?

    Yesterday’s news release got merged with more news about a similar topic and resulted in all of four lines in today’s paper.

  8. nancy said on February 27, 2009 at 11:07 am

    Expecting competence from any public institution in Detroit is a fool’s errand, but I don’t get angry about it, in general, until it affects children, and the DPS is among the worst offenders. A couple years ago the Freep had a piece on the utter lack of oversight in awarding contracts in that organization. I recall there was a six-figure sum paid to a “catering company” charged with providing box lunches for kids going on field trips. (Why did they need box lunches? I thought, until I realized that asking for a bag lunch from individual homes is simply Not Possible.) Anyway, the caterer turned out to be the principal’s live-in boyfriend, and the food-prep facility was the kitchen of their house. And this was but one offense in a list as long as your arm.

  9. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Dorothy,
    Welcome to the world of public school teachers. When I taught at Santa Fe High School I was appalled at the lack resources and help for students. No matter what the situation was, the administration would dump responsibility for the children’s problems at the feet of the teachers. I was expected to engage students with the following concerns: 1.) a student with a court ordered electronic ankle monitor as condition of his bail, 2.) a student who watched his best friend blow his brains out in front of him, 3.) a student who missed two weeks of class because he was in a homeless shelter after running away from physical and/or sexual abuse at home, 4.) and many, many other students whose parents simply didn’t give a damn. No matter how great their unsolved problems, the music teacher was expected to teach them and keep them in school.

    mark, I don’t give a damn how many employees a district has. When they don’t have the right people doing the right jobs, the kids suffer. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states quite clearly that when a child is hungry, cold, homeless, fearful, or emotionally damaged, there is nothing that the best teacher in the world will be able to do to engage that child in school. If a child has no self esteem or has basic physical needs that are not being met, school work is rightly not one of their top priorities. Teachers around the country face these kind of problems everyday. It is a thankless job that is endlessly stressful and far too many would pin all responsibility for our dysfunctional education system on the teachers.

    After all that, when I hear someone on the right chime in with the notion of merit pay for teachers, especially when based upon standardized test scores, I am tempted to lash out violently. Those who make such suggestions would be advised to be well beyond my arm’s reach. Nobody on the right is advocating merit pay for CEOs, congressmen, senators, governors, or the president. To suggest that those least able to effect systemic change should be punished economically for the inertia within education is insulting.

    Any volunteers for the glamorous, high paying, exciting world of public school teaching?

  10. jeff borden said on February 27, 2009 at 11:45 am

    Well-argued as usual, Gasman.

    Overall, the Chicago Public Schools face many of the same problems as those in Detroit. Tight budgets, aging infrastructure, huge classes, etc. Teachers must contend not only with an enormous number of students who have have little or no guidance at home, but also with the street gangs and gun violence that surround many of our schools. Following a series of shootings after basketball games –including an incident where a star player was wounded in the thigh– the CPS will not allow fans to travel to another school to watch their team. That’s right. The cherished tradition of following your team to a rival school to cheer them on is dead. . .another victim of gun and gang violence. I’m left to ponder how in God’s name a teacher, no matter how principled and dedicated, can stay engaged with their students under these kinds of conditions. And how much of a toll it must take, year in and year out, to cope with kids whose parents have left them utterly unprepared for even the most basic of learning skills, or kids already deeply involved with the gangs that rule their neighborhoods.

    Yet this same school system also is home to some of the best schools in Illinois. My neighbor’s daughter attends a magnet elementary school, where she is fully engaged from start to finish, by a staff of CPS teachers who seem to delight in working with these kids. She’s 10 and studying Chinese. The magnet college prepatory high schools are competitive with New Trier, perhaps the most affluent and successful high school in the Midwest. Graduates are going to Harvard, Stanford, CalTech, etc.

    Instead of arguing about union teachers or how much less money Catholic schools spend than public schools or how much beter charter schools might be, we probably should be discussing whether the ideal of an egalitarian school system is viable. The magnet schools work because they draw from the larger pool of students and draw the best. How do we offer a quality education in areas where so many kids arrive for school hungry, ill-clothed, uninspired by their parents or guardians? Where every trip to the store is a gauntlet and where standing next to the wrong kid can get you wounded or killed in a drive-by? Where kids cannot count on a loving parent or guardian looking over their homework, making sure they arise on time and get a little something to eat, encourage them to study hard and stay out of trouble?

    These issues dwarf all others. And there are no easy solutions.

  11. Dorothy said on February 27, 2009 at 11:46 am

    Gasman – I have several siblings and a nephew who teach school. But when we get together, this is not a topic we get to as it’s usually several months, if not more than a year, when we see each other. But I can imagine for myself how terribly frustrating it must be. People who complain about teachers and their pay scale obviously don’t have a clue. Those individuals are probably the ones terrorizing their kids at home but blame the teachers when they don’t or can’t learn.

  12. nancy said on February 27, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    I’m told by a friend who teaches in DPS that a majority of students arrive for their first day in kindergarten unable to count to 10 and/or not knowing the alphabet. It’s hard to fault teachers and staff when parents are shirking their responsibilities so thoroughly.

    In other news at this hour, TPM is reporting Michele Bachmann gave this shout-out to Michael Steele at CPAC: “You be da man!” No, they hasten to add, this isn’t The Onion.

  13. Sue said on February 27, 2009 at 12:19 pm

    Jeff Borden: Isn’t the Chicago school system on a “private business model” somehow? A CEO etc.? How does that jibe with Mark’s comments?
    In Milwaukee, a few high-profile stories have come out in the last couple of years involving parents and other adult relatives being called to schools by their children – to join fights. So the police are not just breaking up fights between kids, they’re breaking up fights between kids whose parents have come to help out. Bradley Tech had a nice one that made the evening news because so many of the kids had filmed it [edit: or whatever the process of recording with high-tech gadgetry is called today]. Here’s another example, from 2007:
    “Hamilton High School in Milwaukee was placed on lockdown Wednesday afternoon following a series of fights involving students and adults.
    No one was injured in the disturbances, which began around 1 p.m. when an irate parent showed up at the school demanding to see a specific student to “settle the score,” said Roseann St. Aubin, Milwaukee Public Schools’ spokeswoman.
    Police responded to deal with the parent and about the time they arrived, two male students began fighting in an unrelated matter.
    About a dozen students joined in the fight, which school safety aides and police were able to break up, St. Aubin said. At that point the school went on lockdown, keeping students in classrooms.
    At the same time, a carload of adults arrived at Hamilton and started fighting with students involved in the earlier fight. They may have been summoned by a student’s cell phone, St. Aubin said.
    Police were still tallying arrest totals but said between six and eight students and two or three adults were in custody.”
    Glamorous indeed, Gasman. Now in addition to other duties, teachers get to monitor kids for banned cell phones. Teachers get to deal with all this and then listen to Charlie Sykes (local conservative talk show host) bash them at every opportunity.

  14. Catherine said on February 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    First, let me say that I love teachers. Teachers are my customers, my vendors, my family, my partners in raising my children, my friends. It’s a hell of a hard job.

    Loving teachers is not incompatible with fair, well-crafted merit pay. All those professions you mention, Gasman, do have feedback loops that provide for advancement or demotion based on results. In California, teachers gain tenure after only two years. The only way to address a bad or even iffy teacher is to turf him, encourage him to move on, or pink slip him (which only happens in budget binds). And frankly, the quality is not entirely there in this profession. For every two fantastic, engaged, knowledgeable, professional teachers, I’ve see one that’s lazy, can’t spell or punctuate worth a damn and just downright mean. This week, I heard a teacher yell at a student, “You just can’t learn!” I’m certain she’s not going to see an improvement on that kid’s test scores this year, and yes, I do think that some of that is within her control, and her job performance should be judged accordingly.

  15. beb said on February 27, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Gasman, your heart is in the right place but I think you underestimate how bad Detroit’s public schools are. I’d say Jeff Borden underestimates how bad Detroit schools are, except Detroit haven’t gotten to the point of banning travel to other schools for basketball games. Also, Jeff, I don’t think Chicago has to deal with a plumeting school population which meakes a mockery of each year’s budget since revenues are based on a body count.

    While we laugh and mock the Republicans in Congress who seem to have no idea who to run a government despite being the government, there are two groups of people to exceed those Republicans for venality, self-centeredness and bickering and general incompetence — the Democrats on the Detroit City Coucil and the Detroit School Board. They just argue and argue with each other, oppose anything that might help the city of the schools if it should possibly reduce their status of Princes of a great state.

    I am opposed to charter schools because they are a wedge to destroy the public school system, but at the moment I think the best think that could happen to Detroit’s Public school is to close them all down and convert to 100% charter schools. Which, because they have to be charted by some responsible organization, like a University, might actually provide better education becase of less politics.

    The other thing is that inner city schools are filled with people who have a lot of problems. I’ve long thought that what these schools need, beside after-school activities to compete with gangs, are social services offices and health services offices within the school so that student and their parents can avail themselves of these services to help stabilize their lives.

  16. coozledad said on February 27, 2009 at 1:27 pm

    I look forward to the day when Republicans refer to each other as “Holmes”.

  17. alex said on February 27, 2009 at 1:40 pm

    I’ve been dying to read Inside Mrs. B’s Classroom, by Leslie Baldacci, who was one of my fave columnists at the Sun-Times. She left at the height of her journalistic career to become a Chicago public school teacher and her stories are very much like those being shared here today. Here’s an interview with Mrs. B: http://www.education-world.com/a_issues/chat/chat114.shtml

  18. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 1:52 pm

    Catherine,
    “Feedback loops that provide for advancement or demotion based on results” for the professions I mentioned? Really? Name one CEO that has been canned recently and not gotten an obscene severance package, on top of salaries that are up to 400x those of the lowest paid full time employees. Name any governor, senator, or representative whose rate of pay is based upon job performance. All of these folks effectively have the power to increase their own salaries and are totally insulated from performance based pay. If you had a UAW worker or a teacher that was a chronic screwup and he/she was fired, how many years salary would his/her bonus be worth? What kind of insane stock options would they get for being incompetent? Yet, as the recent record of banking industry executives indicates, they were definitely not being paid on the basis of merit.

    Add to the mix the No Child Left Behind Act, a ridiculous clusterfuck that has made public education demonstrably worse. Far from imposing consistent measurable standards, each state can essentially interpret the federal mandate as they see fit, all without funding. All that is mandated is standardized tests and mountains of useless data and paperwork. It is on this basis that the federal government would punish districts, individual schools, administrators, and teachers. W instituted a similar program in Texas before he did so in Washington. It was just as bad on a smaller scale. For the record, Ted Kennedy was dead wrong on this one as well.

    I have no doubt that Detroit Public Schools are a dysfunctional hellhole. It sounds like it they are making a serious bid for Worst System Ever. However, when we create a national system that hampers excellence and honors bureaucratic compliance over the success of students, it is a system that seems to promote the dysfunctional nature of school districts. Detroit is just the example taken to its obscene extreme.

    Take the superintendent, the assistant superintendents, the entire school board, a few culpable principals, and any offending contractors who’ve not done their jobs and threaten them with jail time, I am willing to bet you could prompt them to do an amazing amount of work. Make their release from jail contingent upon the fulfillment of their duties. A few heads on pikes does wonders in focusing the mind.

  19. ROgirl said on February 27, 2009 at 2:02 pm

    For more about the Detroit Public Schools read this illuminating article:
    http://www.freep.com/article/20090226/NEWS01/90226108/1199/PRINT/Calloway++DPS+board+is+corrupt

    No one in this scenario appears to have any consideration for the kids (is anyone at all surprised?). My bet is the current superintendant will be compensated with a tidy sum to disappear to sunnier climes, and there will be another expensive search for someone to preside over the rotting mess that is the Detroit school system.

  20. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 27, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    Cooze — or when they refer to ’em as “Cannity”?

    Can’t talk too specifically about my work today, but it equally distributes the challenge and the need for me to observe yet again: it wasn’t that long ago a’tall that a large percentage of the kids we’re trying at all costs (human and financial) to keep in a school building weren’t there, comparably speaking. It’s not the cheap snark of “an agrarian model in the 21st century” that folks use to sneer at the practice of summer vacation, but the more immediate fact that we have a 50’s and 60’s style of building, classroom, and gen’l district structure, but 30 to 45% of the kids we’re working with never got to 10th grade, let alone graduation when their high school was built. Physical challenges, staffing needs, and classrooom assumptions all need to be ripped out and redone, but like the proverbial taking-apart-and-repairing-in-flight metaphor of work on a plane, we’re asking a total revolution in pedagogy in our communities be done with less resources and an elective requirement to not change anything that might upset the old folks, like the goofy Injun’ mascot, little ceremonies of the 19th century, and a classes that prepare the students for life in 1928.

    Individual teachers are doing all they can to transform what they can touch, control, and afford — and then a school board member comes down the hall and asks why the desks aren’t in rows (yep, it still happens).

    NYTimes, last Friday i think, had an article about a school that went with all desks that can be easily adjusted for a student to stand upright all day, with swinging footrests. There was more to it, but you get the idea — and the fact that this is still seen as a radical step . . . oh well, back to doing paperwork over the collateral damages of not making any changes to our ed system.

  21. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on February 27, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    Hey, the blockers on the system here must be down —
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/25/us/25desks.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=swinging%20footrests&st=cse

  22. mark said on February 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    The fault for the mess described in the post Nancy linked to has nothing to do with teachers. Teachers have their challenges in any school and they are almost unimaginable in DPS.

    DPS has 6,270 teachers, none of whom bears responsibility for leaving confidential records, library materials, etc. to rot in an unsecured building. No teacher is responsible for the inability of the author to get the attention, action or even concern of DPS despite months of effort. And the problem can’t be blamed on uninvolved parents, lack of proper student nutrition, drugs, athletics or the lack of a dress code.

    What the hell do the other 8,000 non-teachers have on their plates to explain this level of incompetence and indifference to incompetence?

    And gasman, why don’t we pay all musicians based on years of seniority instead of merit?

  23. LA Mary said on February 27, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I love being alone and entertaining myself. It’s something I really miss when it’s been too long since I’ve had alone time.
    On public schools: LAUSD is mostly not so good, but there are magnets and charter schools, and with effort you can get a good education for your kids. You do have to know how to do it, though, and I that’s the explanation I hear most often. People don’t know how to work the magnet/charter/special program system.
    Older son’s magnet middle school, which I now see as a low point in his education, just suspended three administrators for using a student as a decoy in a drug sting. This did not surprise me. There were people working in that place who were borderline nut job fascists. There was my favorite teacher who used to fail any paper or test or exam where the name/date thing was not in the format she preferred. A format, by the way, which was different from the standard format the school required. I used to get all my son’s papers to go over once they had been graded. When I saw that she had given him a failing grade on a paper he had written, one which I had read before he turned it in and I knew it was excellent, because of the name/date format. I went nuts. She had written across the front page in red “You will never learn. You don’t deserve to be in this class.” Another teacher told him he did not deserve to be in the magnet middle school because he had not attended magnet elementary school.
    I’m talking about you, Porter Middle School. You suck.

  24. Sue said on February 27, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    Hee Hee LAMary. The stories are universal, aren’t they? One of my favorites involves the teacher who circulated a memo to the students she mentored on an extracurricular project. Now we cut her lots of slack, obviously; it was extracurricular and she wasn’t paid for it. She didn’t get in a lot of trouble for this, but the memo began with “IDIOTS!” and went downhill from there. The extracurricular project? Model United Nations. You know, where the kids are learning all about diplomacy.

  25. brian stouder said on February 27, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    There is a school moment that every parent with a heart has faced, that first moment when you let your baby – your fine young son or daughter – go. Even if you have several kids, it can never be less than a fraught moment; if anything, it becomes successively more difficult.

    In our case, she stepped (or climbed!) aboard a huge yellow bus, with a tremendous and self confident smile on her face, and Pam and I found our hearts in our throats, as we waved goodbye to her.

    What the Detroit story exemplifies is – a breaking of faith.

  26. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    mark,
    What is your point? Are you implying that music is only a meritocracy and that high pay is reserved for only the most talented? That the gradations of pay accurately reflect an absolute hierarchy of musical talent and skill? If you believe that you are severely deluded. If that was the case Britney Spears would have never received more than pocket change as recompense for her “musical” stylings. As with most subjects, it is far more complicated and less dualistic than you seem to suggest.

    Even within the rarefied world of classical music, life is often not fair. I know dozens, even hundreds of musicians who are every bit as good as their more famous counterparts, but for reasons which are many and varied, they practice their art in relative obscurity. To suggest that fame and good fortune are results of talent only is absurd.

    There are many examples of composers whose works were not recognized as significant until long after their deaths. J. S. Bach springs most notably to mind. He was regarded as a competent organist, but an unremarkable composer during his lifetime. Now, he is considered to be one of the best composers the world has ever seen. I guess he should have been paid more.

    And for the record, your remark seems to reveal a relative level of misunderstanding regarding how musicians are paid. In most symphony or opera orchestras, musicians are paid according to seniority, not relative talent. What is perceived as “talent” is ephemeral and mutable. Working musicians understand that point better than most.

  27. moe99 said on February 27, 2009 at 3:56 pm

    Jindal lied in his speech. Heh.heh.

    http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2009/02/jindal_admits_katrina_story_was_false.php?ref=fp1

  28. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    moe99,
    Olbermann pointed out that very same point, I believe on Wednesday’s Countdown. I know that Jindal was a Rhodes Scholar, but he certainly doesn’t seem that smart when he does something this dumb. As the TPM article points out, Jindal has inserted himself into the story in a way that makes him the pivotal figure in its successful outcome, not merely a passive observer after the fact. It was also just one of several outright lies contained in his speech.

    I’ve said it before, why should we take Republicans seriously when they so frequently lie to sell their agendas? If they honestly thought their message and ideas to be the most compelling, why not present them truthfully and trust in the judgement of the American public?

  29. Catherine said on February 27, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Gasman, the CEOs with the obscene severance packages and the hefty compensation packages are a small percentage of most CEOs, and the bankers are not most workers. Most of the working folks out here, no matter the industry, do not get retained, let alone paid better, without results to show for their work. And, all the elected officials you name are just that: elected. There are few jobs besides teaching that come with lifetime tenure after two years, and I think it’s obvious from the stories above that it’s a shame. Teaching is not just a job, it’s a calling, and anyone in that profession with an ounce of self respect should be not just willing, but begging, to have job reviews that really count, just like the rest of the workforce.

  30. jeff borden said on February 27, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Aside from the news of Bobby Jindal’s mendacity –why do these idiots with a high public profile think they can spin something like that without someone coming forward and pointing out their lie– we’re being treated to comedy gold at the CPAC meeting.

    We have our old buddy Joe the not-Plumber saying he wants to punch or shoot a lot of members of Congress. We have that hot new comic Michael Steele getting funky and perhaps the single biggest dolt in Congress, Michelle Bachman, getting all ebonicy on us by yelling out, “Michael Steele. You be da man. You be da man.” We have the Rick Santelli-inspired “tea party” protest drawing a massive crowd of 20 rightwing loons at the White House.

    It’s easy enough to laugh at these elephants as they rumble toward the tar pit, but it’s a bitter amusement. CPAC is kind of the soul of the Republican Party and this is what passes for enlightened dialogue in 2009. How is the GOP ever going to be relevant again? These people are batshit insane.

  31. jeff borden said on February 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Sorry. I forgot one. John Bolton, mocking President Obama’s contention that Iran is a “tiny threat” –the full context of the remark was a comparison to our standoff with a true superpower in the USSR and in that context the threat Iran poses is pretty fractional– by suggesting that maybe a U.S. city, say Chicago, ought to be nuked to show the foolishness of this view. This brought wild cheers and applause from the attendees.

    What a nasty, lousy, ugly, hateful bunch these CPACers be.

  32. Sue said on February 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Jeff Borden, is the CPAC stuff being live-blogged somewhere? I can’t find a one-stop shop for all this hilarity. Otherwise, looks like you’ll have to be the one to keep us informed. Or perhaps I should say, for this job, “you be da man”.

  33. del said on February 27, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    Moe99, the link to Jindal’s false statement is remarkable. Are there any statesmen left in that party? And once a decent leader is put forward can anyone support him knowing that his party’s faithful are, to put it charitably, so out-of-touch?

  34. del said on February 27, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Elephants rumbling towards the tar pit, Jeff? Well put.

  35. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Catherine,
    The notion of tenure is greatly misunderstood by most outside of the profession. I know less about tenure of public school teachers as I was so disgusted with my particular district that I quit before two years. I suspect that it differs from district to district.

    At the post secondary level, it generally takes seven years to get tenure. Tenure track faculty can usually be dismissed for any reason, or none, at the three and six year review. Contrary to popular perception, at anytime, even after tenure, professors may be fired for cause. However, it does insulate a professor from pressure from administration, political figures, powerful business figures, and religious leaders, to name but a few.

    For a faculty member to receive tenure, they usually have to prove to a tenure committee that they are indispensable to the school. It involves much publication, significant professional recognition outside the school, service to the institution on committees, successful mentoring of students, etc. It also involves copious documentation of everything one does professionally.

    If a faculty member excels and makes a name for him or herself during their probationary period, both the university and the professor win. The University gets to use a rising star as a marketing tool, the professor gets job security. Without competent and respected faculty, the university will have a hard time recruiting students.

    The classical defense of tenure involves a professor at a state university who has the governor’s son in class. On the first day, the son informs the teacher that he will not be doing any work or even attending class and he fully expects an “A” for his lack of effort. If the professor does not comply, he will have to answer to the governor. A tenured professor has enough juice to tell sonny to stuff it. A non-tenured faculty member may not be as able to.

    We had a variant of this scenario in Albuquerque Public Schools two years ago with the son of a school board member. This boy’s school board member mom pressured his teacher, principal, and APS administration to ignore graduation requirements for him. The teacher and principal refused to cave, but a high ranking administrator did.

    Tenure is not the license to be lazy that many seem to think.

  36. Jolene said on February 27, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Gasman: The university-level tenure system, which you describe accurately, has little in common w/ the tenure system in public schools, where the standards are far less stringent.

  37. Catherine said on February 27, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    Did I say tenure is a license to be lazy?

    In CA public schools, it’s automatic tenure after two years. After that, dismissal is nearly impossible: for cause or a district-wide lay-off.

    All I’m saying is, same standards for teachers as the rest of the workforce. Denver and Tennesse are two places that are experimenting with merit pay. So far, the teachers are not leaving in droves, nor the families. Education isn’t in the toilet, and nobody has summoned the ghost of Cesar Chavez. I think we will find that it’s entirely possible to implement merit pay fairly, and that both test scores and the standards for the profession will improve.

  38. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 6:05 pm

    Catherine,
    Who decides what is merit? The problem with the current model is that reliance upon standardized test scores does not measure good teaching. Good teaching is not one size fits all. A good teacher evaluates every student as a unique individual, not as interchangeable cogs. And, if parents don’t give a damn and are not actively involved in their children’s education, there is no way in hell a teacher can be expected counteract that, and they should not be punished if they can’t.

    Unless you can show me a model that can objectively quantify merit, I will be opposed to such a system. I would also add I will be opposed to merit based pay for teachers until the CEOs, politicians, and school superintendents also operate on a merit based pay system.

    It’s not as neat and tidy a subject as it sounds.

  39. LA Mary said on February 27, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    Sue, I did not mention the time This same teacher asked my son to leave the room because he asked, “What about Iran-Contra,” during the WEEK of talking about Ronald Reagan following his death. She said it was an inappropriate subject.
    There was another teacher in the same school who gave my son a zero for turning in homework on 8 X 10 1/2 paper instead of 8 1/2 by 11 paper.

  40. Gasman said on February 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

    To be sure, there are bad teachers. There are also processes in place in every institution to get rid of them. In every critique of tenure that I have ever heard or seen, it was an anecdotal argument, not one based upon specific instances. Much like the apocryphal “Cadillac driving welfare queen” of the Reagan era, the teacher who “deserves to be fired but cannot because of tenure” argument is based more often in myth than reality.

    I worked with a public school teacher colleague who had no business teaching. However, there was a process by which that could be remedied. Here in New Mexico, the process goes something as follows:

    First, he would have to be reviewed. If deficiencies were found, they would be documented and he would be given a reasonable time to address them, hopefully involving mentoring by master teachers. If he did correct them, problem solved. A bad teacher who corrects their problem is the best possible outcome, as no one new needs to be hired.

    Second, another review. If the identified deficiencies were not corrected, his contract would not be renewed. Ultimately, it is a slow process, but there are advantages for all parties. It is one that ensures due process and continuity.

    From my personal experience, most of the abuses came not from teachers, but from administrators who failed to annually review teachers or did not have the patience to follow the rules. Here in NM it is a state law that annual reviews for public school teachers are required, yet they did not always happen where I taught.

    I have found that incompetency within public education is no greater than in any other profession that I am aware of. It may even be less frequent. It is not a profession that many can tolerate unless they are truly devoted to their students. The pay is usually inadequate and the stress levels are high. Add to that this push for a merit based pay system that, so far, does not measure any kind of merit that is worth a damn. Where do I sign up?

  41. caliban said on February 27, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    When you live with a scizophrhrenic, that ditches meds sometimes, this sort of question gets to be moot. So, insanity on the home front and Tom fucking Delay on the TV is disorienting. Tom Delay?. Jindal was embarrassing, but isn’t a Republican coup there’s somebody stupider than Palin? A meagre injection of sanity.

    The cost of the invasion and the occupation was never included in the budget by W and Cheney. This isn’t something Deorne Will would bring u[/ He’s tpp wprried anput sec-lives, even though his includes tampoms. George always wamted to be royal.

    They raped the Clinton-era surplus and used trickery and energency resolutions to disguise their shifting wealth to the already wealthy. And they tried to act like they were all Grover Norquist. Whoever believed in this horseshit?

    Is the newspaper vs. internet dizcusion about truth? I think it’s about honest reporters, and I’d rather see it on paper. Meantime, threre are billions that are too fucking stupid to understand that Matt Drudge is a selpro,ptomoting asshole that lies his ass off.

  42. caliban said on February 27, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    The Dreadful Lemon Sky. That’s the best one. It’s always humanity and not the whodunit. Spenser is mighty good and Travis McGee is wonderful. Raymond Chandler presents an entire universe of moral ambiguity. In the long run,you’ve got Dave Robicheaux and EZ Rawlins.

  43. Catherine said on February 27, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    Gasman, I agree with your statement, “The pay is usually inadequate and the stress levels are high.” And that’s exactly why I’d like to see excellence rewarded and incompetence driven out. How many “anecdotes” do you need to read in the comments here to admit that there is too much incompetence in public education, and that it’s not addressed with anything resembling urgency?

    The argument that test scores are not a good measure of teacher competence is not supported by data. There are places (Tennessee) where a child is able to be tracked anywhere they move within the state, and it can be fairly measured how much value a teacher has added to an individual student’s test scores. So, right there is a fair way to use test scores to measure teacher performance.

    And, test scores DO measure something important. Bear with me for a simplified version of how K-12 school testing came about historically: Many moons ago, colleges wanted a test to predict how freshman would do. The SAT was born. It was a good predictor of freshman year grades. Then, people wanted tests that predicted how children would do on the SAT. The standardized tests that kids take now were essentially born from that. Did you know that 4th grade literacy scores are used to predict prison populations 20 years out? And did you know that they are a good predictor? I’m not saying that test scores are the be-all and end-all for any individual child. But, they are a good predictor of certain things, and thus a way to identify kids in need of intervention. They are also a numerical measure of whether a kid is on track to go to, say, medical school. And this is a social justice issue. The immigrant parents I know in my kids’ school district want their children to become doctors and lawyers at least as much, if not more, than I do. When a school can tell them, “Oh yes, your child is doing well,” yet that kid’s test scores are in the 25th percentile, and that’s the end of the conversation, they are being ripped off by the school. When a school is forced to confront, with the parents in the room, that a child’s test scores to date will NOT get them into Princeton, that’s where true accountability starts. And if NCLB is forcing those schools to tell parents the truth, then, despite all its flaws, I’m in favor.

  44. CrazyCatLady said on February 28, 2009 at 12:43 am

    I am a product of Detroit Public Schools. I had a pretty good education from 1962-1974. My grade school is still open but my high school (Redford High) is closed. Where are my records??? Is the building secured? I have no idea. The whole thing is scarey. And as for the Detroit Public School Board. You will never find a more wretched group of incompetence anywhere. They are a group of selfish corrupt toads. And one of them (an alleged ‘Reverend’) has had his own children taken away from him for neglect! Those poor kids are in the foster care system as we speak. As a resident of Detroit, I refuse to allow my child to set foot in a Detroit School building. First it was private school and then a charter school. My kid does not have time to wait for the scoundrels and idiots at DPS to get their acts together. None of our kids here do.

  45. Gasman said on February 28, 2009 at 1:01 am

    Catherine,
    Please, let me be precise: I did not say that test scores do not, or better yet, cannot be used as a measure of a teacher’s competency. What I said was that the present NCLB is an inconsistently applied national model of standardized tests and is therefore, not a fair measure of professional success. The NCLB is not applied uniformly across the nation. Each state has autonomy as to how it applies the standards. How then is it fair to apply a consistent grade of each school nationally?

    Also, there is far more to teaching than test scores. As the one on one relationship of teachers with students is so important to the success of the student, there must be some way to track other aspects of teaching.

    Remember, standardized testing is a multi billion dollar business. With NCLB, the testing industry had huge guaranteed contracts tossed into their laps overnight. The financial motivations of these companies cannot be discounted. They are in business to make money. They do so by selling tests, not ensuring quality educations for students. Their primary motivation is profit, period

    Politicians love standardized testing. School boards and other elected officials are quick to swallow any claim by test companies regarding increased student performance if their products are purchased. When a test company makes such a pitch, regardless of how extravagant the claims, politicians are quick to say, “great, when can we start.” When teachers hear such claims, we ask, “who wrote the test and what data can you provide to prove to me that it actually measures what you say it does.” Not all tests are equal. They can span the gamut from excellent to utter crap. What I see now is that often, no distinction is made as long as tests are taken. This does not serve either teachers or students.

    You would do well to pick a different example other than the SAT as your model of successful standardized testing. Many colleges and universities are rethinking their reliance upon that test and some have abandoned it altogether. Why? It is not a predictor of academic success in college. It simply does not provide any useful information regarding how students will perform in college. It is quite simply a very successful con by the testing industry to get us to buy their products. Better predictors are overall grades, writing ability, critical thinking skills, and involvement in extra curricular activities.

    As to meeting with parents, I was lucky if I got the parents of more than two kids on conference nights. The parental apathy in our district was appalling. That is the greatest predictor of a lack of student success. Any solution that does not involve parental responsibility and involvement will not fix the problem. I believe that it is a facile decision to make the teachers the scapegoats, and one that will ultimately prove useless at solving any problems.

    If you believe that NCLB is a good thing, talk to teachers. I have never met a teacher of any political persuasion who thought that it was a good idea as implemented. Not one. I had a few die hard Republican colleagues who all hated NCLB. Several administrators supported it, but not a single teacher. I’m not saying teacher supporters don’t exist, but they are damn few and far between. Is it possible that all of these educated professionals, those who are most familiar with its implementation are so uniformly wrong about NCLB?

    Again, I would be extremely happy to see ineffective teachers removed from the profession. It does not benefit good teachers at all to have incompetent colleagues tarnishing the profession overall. I think that you are imagining a much higher rate of incompetency than actually exists. As I said, unless teachers are highly motivated by a dedication to the profession and serving students, they are not likely to withstand the stress and bureaucratic minutiae. There is a high rate of turnover in the profession. However, even if all bad teachers are removed tomorrow, under the present model, nothing will change. The problems systemic to the education system in our country have little or nothing to do with bad teaching.

    I am not advocating any kind of status quo, I just want any changes to be made for the right reasons, not because of political expediency or business interests. If you can provide me with data which can conclusively prove otherwise, I would be more than happy to see it. I have years of classroom experience at all levels of the profession, I am quite simply stating that it sounds as if you are greatly inflating the extent of incompetency within the profession. You do not end people’s careers based upon anecdotes. You do so based upon demonstrable fact.

  46. caliban said on February 28, 2009 at 7:23 am

    Jesus H. Christ. How fucking stupid are people? W left the cost of the invasion and occupation out of the budget. Obama’s including it. Duh. Grown-ups are tunning things now. Thank God.

    And, you know, Rush may wish the President fails but I sincerely hope Rush succeeds. Alienated whack-jobs with a smaller piece of stick.

  47. Jeff said on February 28, 2009 at 7:53 am

    Level of parental involvement trumps all, whether per pupil spending, state equity formulas, teacher skill/training amounts, age of building, whatever. It’s a hard horse to ride towards a particular destination, tho’, because there is so much correlation between household income and parental involvement/commitment. Not an absolute correlation, which is why in the most desperate situations there are kids who excel, and why there are kids who crash and burn in wealthy, well furnished homes and school districts, but it’s a pretty high correlation.

    There are approaches that have tweaked parental involvement levels in more challenged areas, but they’re as much anecdotal as Gasman’s observation about the plague of bad teacher stories — i think that narrative has and will stay alive regardless of data, because *everyone* has at least one awful teacher lodged in their memory, so the data set feels 100% reliable to most people for that reason. They want to fire the teacher they remember spending a miserable year or semester with, retroactively. But to improve parental involvement — it’s a delicate area to address, hence doesn’t get even studied much, even though everyone involved with public education knows it’s the gold standard.

    The one approach i know of that made an impact focused on “creating” versions of parental involvement in the community, leaving alone the question of whether actual parents were or should or weren’t; the goal was that every child in school in the community should have at least one adult *not* related to them that cared whether they graduated or not. Turned an urban district’s grad rate from 47% to 74% over 10 years.

    Then a new board came in and shifted to focus to standardized testing and attendance rates, and met their new goals . . . but overall grad rates slipped the next ten years back down past 60%. Feels like data to me, but it’s hotly disputed as to which events led to which outcomes (Akron City Schools, 1982 to 2005).

  48. basset said on February 28, 2009 at 10:59 am

    A few years ago I watched a Kurdish boy get off a plane at the Nashville airport… maybe twelve or fourteen years old, refugee, had literally been living in a cave, never been to school anywhere, illiterate in his own language and didn’t speak a word of ours. NCLB says he should be reading at grade level in English within a year. I don’t think so.

    Bad teachers… I remember one from high school back in the early Seventies who didn’t even teach, he just told everyone to open up their US history books, read, and come to him for a test when they got to the end of each chapter. I was way ahead in that class but he went off on me one day in front of everyone, took a white-knuckle grip on the sides of my desk, leaned right down on me with his face all twisted up and started yelling full volume that I was stupid and worthless and would never get to college, never amount to anything, so on, so forth. I’ll admit to not having the best attitude back then but I thought that was inappropriate.

    He did, however, coach a whole bunch of winning basketball teams; today, the gym and the street out front of the school are both named for him.

  49. Gasman said on February 28, 2009 at 11:56 am

    Attitudes toward acceptable teaching methods change with time. The authoritarian model was not only acceptable, but expected not too long ago. It was thought that being a disciplinarian in the classroom would build character and teach students respect for authority.

    There are some educators that cling to outdated methods and there are others who are simply officious jerks. However, I maintain that as a profession, teachers exhibit incompetency at rates no higher than any other profession. I also believe that because of the demanding nature of the job and the chronically low pay, there is a built in safety valve that tends to weed out all but the most committed. You certainly don’t go into teaching for the pay, so there has to be some external motivation.

    The most likely source of bad teaching? Inexperienced teachers right out of college. It takes a few years to develop the classroom management skills necessary to survive. Few things are more terrifying than being in a room full of your children. Really, they may seem like sweet darlings at home, but when combined in large packs, they can behave like animals. Rookie teachers tend to be rigid and authoritarian and act like lion tamers because they lack the knowledge, experience, and confidence to try anything else. This is why mentoring of new teachers is so critical. In practice however, few districts take the time and effort to help guide inexperienced teachers through those stressful first two or three years. They are simply tossed into the classroom and left to fend for themselves. That is why there is such a high turnover rate for new teachers.

    Volunteer and spend time in your in your child’s school. I think that you’ll be surprised at all of the things that we ask of our classroom teachers.

  50. Catherine said on February 28, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    OK, some demonstrable facts: 1) The SAT plus grades remains the most accurate predictor available of freshman year grades.

    2) Some secondary institutions are placing less emphasis on the SAT, but it is far from being abandoned.

    The obvious conclusion is that there is a place for testing in K-12 education.

    More facts: The data is pretty clear that, after you control for parental education level (which as Jeff points out is highly correlated with involvement), the #1 predictor of student success is teacher quality. So I can’t agree that “The problems systemic to the education system in our country have little or nothing to do with bad teaching.”

    It seems pretty clear that there are two obvious paths to improving educational outcomes: improving parenting and improving teaching. Improving parenting is not my department, though Jeff’s info above is really interesting. Back with improving teaching, does that mean simply hammering teachers about their students test scores? Definitely not. There’s a host of tactics that can and should be tried and evaluated. School boards, administrators, taxpayers, parents, unions, teacher training programs and professional organizations, to name a few, all have a role to play. The Education Trust, for one, is doing good work at identifying and assessing strategies. But saying, in essence, “Don’t blame the teachers” ignores the important finding that the person delivering the instruction is a very important key to student success.

    As for the volunteering statement, I have no idea whom that was directed at, but I’ll put my volunteer hours in the public schools and in school reform up against anyone’s.

  51. Hattie said on February 28, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Nobody wants to address the real problem. Detroit has been abandoned.

  52. brian stouder said on February 28, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Detroit has been abandoned by who? And to whom?

    If you run for an office of public trust, you must be committed to upholding the duties of that office, and vindicating the trust of the public.

    As someone up-thread said, the superintendent (or equivalent) could personally take charge of this gross neglect of records, and see to it that they are properly destroyed.

    What has been “abandoned” is any sense of shame by those who sought out and received responsibility, only to then shirk it.

  53. Dexter said on February 28, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    I’ll be damned…I just discovered that Don Was has a seg-show on XM12, Outlaw Country Channel…playing stuff by the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Roy Orbison/kd lang. I know our host is a big fan of Mr. Was.

  54. brian stouder said on February 28, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I suppose the easy joke is that this woman has her tit in a wringer…

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29441879/

    KETTERING, Ohio – Police in Ohio say a woman has been charged with child endangerment after another motorist reported she was both breast-feeding the youngster and talking on a phone while driving.

    but maybe the better joke would be some play off of the term “blue tooth” (at least – one HOPES she had a hands-free phone – or else how could she drive AND handle a phoe AND stay abreast of junior?)

  55. basset said on February 28, 2009 at 8:35 pm

    Speaking of predictors… the best indication of whether a student’s going to drop out of high school is his/her reading performance in the third grade. The reason: that’s when students are supposed to start reading to learn rather than learning to read… if they fall behind then, it only gets worse and one day they realize they’re 17 and in the ninth grade and say the hell with it, may as well quit.

  56. Jeff said on February 28, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    If we had more Catherines and Gasmans (Gasmen?), we’d be in much better shape, schools-wise. As Gandhi said, “Be the change you seek.” Love the discussion.

    Had some fun with Steve Goodman today – http://www.newarkadvocate.com/article/20090228/LIFESTYLE/902280349/1024

  57. Gasman said on February 28, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Catherine,
    My beef is not with testing, it is the over reliance on standardized testing. Just because a standardized test is available, it does not make it accurate or valuable. Standardized tests can be biased, unfair, inaccurate, or just plain bad. Standardization does not render merit simply because it is mass marketed.

    Point of fact, the SAT is not the gold standard it once was in testing. It is a gross understatement for you to say that, “Some secondary institutions are placing less emphasis on the SAT.” FairTest.com lists 775 four year colleges that do not use the SAT I or ACT as a condition of admission. That is substantially more than “some.” The entire list can be accessed:

    http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional

    The reason that so many schools are not requiring the SAT is that it has been criticized for its inaccuracies, cultural bias, and that it is not an accurate predictor of success, certainly not by itself. Over reliance on standardized test is educational laziness as it assumes a one size fits all model. Students are individuals and should be treated as such. Standardized testing is easier and it generates data, which may or may not be useful. But don’t take my word for it.

    Here is what Richard Atkinson, President of the University of California said in a 2001 speech to the American Council on Education:

    “Anyone involved in education should be concerned about how overemphasis on the SAT is distorting educational priorities and practices, how the test is perceived by many as unfair, and how it can have a devastating impact on the self-esteem and aspirations of young students. There is widespread agreement that overemphasis on the SAT harms American education.”

    The inaccuracies are well documented. In 2007 the College Board settled a class action suit for $2.85 million relating to errant scores on the 2005 test. The essay portion of the test, a recent addition, has been shown to have its own problems. There has been shown to be a correlation to essay length and scores. Longer essays were shown to have higher scores, even if they contained a significant number of errors. Shorter tests, even if more accurate, were consistently scored lower.

    As for NCLB, a simple websearch reveals dozens of criticisms of this program. It has been a monumental waste of time. Again, mine is but one lone voice in an enormous chorus of critics from within education and without.

  58. Dexter said on February 28, 2009 at 11:41 pm

    “…Paul Harvey…Good Day!”
    Whether you loved or hated his message, you couldn’t escape him…I listened , most times accidentally, since I was 12 years old.
    ” And That’s
    The Rest [and end] Of The Story.”
    Ninety years old, Phoenix.

  59. alex said on March 1, 2009 at 9:13 am

    Standardized scholastic tests don’t tell us jack shit, but sales receipts sure do. It has been discovered that one’s politics are predictive of one’s porn consumption:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/Business/Story?id=6977202&page=1

    The short of it: conservatives just need to get fucked.

  60. brian stouder said on March 1, 2009 at 11:56 am

    And the funny part of the article Alex links to is the source of the data stream (so to speak) – “anonymised credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider”

    It has been my experience that, if you want to see naked women, there are infinitely more of them than you can shake a stick at (so to speak) to see FOR FREE on the internet!

    Who would PAY? What kind of ‘fiscal conservative’ would submit to what amounts to unjust taxation (plus interest) to see the exact same thing that is free? – in fact – so plentifully free that one has to keep filters up to date so as to minimize how often the young folks trip across the stuff?

    Paying for porn is like hiring a lawn service to plant dandelions.

    Come to think of it, Alex’s article is freighted with much more meaning than it seemed, at first blush! thought

  61. nancy said on March 1, 2009 at 12:13 pm

    I suspect the stuff you need to pay for is stuff you don’t want to know very much about.

  62. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 1, 2009 at 1:23 pm

    My, my. This constitutes proof? I scent some wishful thinking, mayhap, merrie comrades.

    Why would it not be just as feasible that more liberal folks trapped in conservative areas, where freedom for open purchase, access to said sales, and personal interaction related to sexual experimentation in general is less expansive — so broadband porn is almost the only opportunity you’ve got? I’m quite sure that would describe much of West Virginia, once you got off the interstates.

    I’m actually not that skeptical that the general conclusions might be true (or have some truth in them, anyhow; they say when clergy conventions come to town, towels disappear faster, room charges for odd items are ahead of averages, and bars stay crowded much later than when the farm implement show was at the convention center), but i’d laugh at anyone who says the method used here allows a flat assertion about “conservatives” per se.

  63. whitebeard said on March 1, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    Jeff TMMO, re “so broadband porn is almost the only opportunity you’ve got? I’m quite sure that would describe much of West Virginia, once you got off the interstates.”
    Never been to West Virginia, but that is a slam, isn’t it. what did they do to deserve that?

  64. whitebeard said on March 1, 2009 at 1:41 pm

    alex, i love that rejoinder “The short of it: conservatives just need to get fucked.”
    But what I remember during the election camapgin was that many conservatives who wanted to get fucked, wanted Sarah Palin to be the fuckee.

  65. MichaelG said on March 1, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Paul Harvey was as full of shit as a Christmas goose but he was one of the greatest radio guys of all time. He was the master of timing. Great eval here: http://kenlevine.blogspot.com/

  66. beb said on March 1, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Freakonomics, the book and the website have some interesting things to say about education. For example a study of factors in a child’s success in school found that the deciding factor was the number of books in a house, not how educated the parents are or whether the parents read to their kids at not. I would assume that education or the desire to read to one’s children would imply a lot of books in the house. Another thing is that once funding becomes tied to testing results, as they do with No Child Left Behind, their becomes a strong incentive to cheat, both by teachers who fear for their jobs and principles, who also fear for their job. One results, as has been found in Texas, where NCLB was tested while the Chimp was just a Governor, was that students who would not pass the tests were keep from taking them, by holding them back multiple grades, for examples.

    Moreover, NCLB reduces funding to schools that fail when commonsense tells you that failing schools need more funding, not less.

    It also seems that the Freakonomics website once linked to a study on incentive pay. The conclusion of the study was that incentive pay does not make people work harder or feel better about this job. I can’t find the link now (after a brief search) but this seems sensible.

  67. del said on March 1, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    During my first year of college, a hush fell over the cafeteria as one of my roommates interrupted our conversation to shush everyone. Paul Harvey’s broadcast was just starting. My roommate was from a little town called Blissfield (MI) and many others were from rural Michigan. It was my first insight into the breadth and scope of AM broadcasting personalities.

  68. coozledad said on March 1, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Is this the kind of stuff you have to pay for?
    http://risinghegemonxxx.blogspot.com/
    I could see this bankrupting Alabama. NSFW.

  69. Dexter said on March 1, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    any of yas catch Katrina vanden Heuvel hand Rove his ass on “This Week” this morning? Hit the link and click on the roundtable tab…

    http://abcnews.go.com/ThisWeek

  70. del said on March 1, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    ‘ influence.

  71. brian stouder said on March 1, 2009 at 7:29 pm

    Dexter – thanks for the link; that was enjoyably refreshing! KVH got Rove raving a bit; he really seemed angered there for a few moments.

    It is just so pleasing to see the boilerplate and talking points get stopped cold and responded to.

    And to be fair, Karl Rove is infinitely more worthy of respect for at least going into that forum and facing a contested dissussion, as opposed to the rightwing’s supply of radio lip-flappers and their amen-corners of carefully culled callers, nodding in agreement with all the stupid canards they care to spout.

    And for a total non sequitur, Pam and I made our first oscar-related rental, and snapped up Vicky Cristina Barcelona; and we give it two thumbs down.

    Scarlett Johansson is the best thing in it (despite what Oscar says!) – and aside from that, I cannot stand movies that rely on a narrator to tell us what the movie should be showing us…and it’s even MORE annoying when the narrator is actually telling us what we are already watching.

    I cannot decide if it is a more a reflection of how stupid Woody Allen thinks we are, or how lazy he has become

  72. Gasman said on March 1, 2009 at 7:40 pm

    This will likely be the last thing I care to say about the NCLB act for the near future. Los Alamos High School was going to get dinged a couple of years ago for failing to meet Annual Yearly Progress measurements. It turns out that it was due to a statistical error, counting something like 2 or students too few. On that basis they would have been deemed a “failing” school. Once it was realized that indeed, the students had been tested, just not counted, they went from “failing” to one of the best high schools in the country. On the basis of such statistical compilations, NCLB is driving education in our country. It is absolute bullshit.

  73. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 1, 2009 at 8:07 pm

    Whitebeard, aside from living there for six years, WV earned my comment by the fact that you can’t buy Harpers or The Atlantic, let alone any magazines featuring ladies en dishabille, once you get a ways off the interstate. Doesn’t strike me as a slam, exactly . . .

  74. whitebeard said on March 1, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Jeff tmmo, with that kind of lack of magazines and living there for six years, your comment is fully justified.
    Maybe I am colored by Connecticut and New York and the availability of every publication under the sun as well as the darker reaches of society, such as railroad magazines, which do not feature railroad ladies, of course, except in rare circumstances.
    I have taken some pain elixir for my shoulder spur, so I am feeling more generous at this hour, except toward NCLB and its shenanigans

  75. Bill said on March 1, 2009 at 9:36 pm

    Here’s an article from the St. Petersburg, FL newspaper detailing one school’s approach to heping kids improve on the Florida standardized testing. I can’t tell if they’re more interested in the students’ progress or in the school’s report card. I guess in the end they are one and the same. For the record, the teacher featured in the article is an Afro-American.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/article979812.ece

  76. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 1, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Single key factor in graduation rates — if a youth has ONE non-related adult in their life who cares whether they graduate high school or not. You don’t need mentoring training or major intervention services: a community just needs to build up a culture where every child, at the corner store or on the bench of their sports team or at the church where they hang out on the occasional afternoon, has a non-related adult who asks with some consistent frequency “hey, how is school doing? are you on track for getting the credits you need? tell me what’s up with you . . .”

    On one level, it’s no more complicated than that.

  77. Gasman said on March 2, 2009 at 12:47 am

    An interesting development to a link in the previous thread. It turns out that Republican Mayor Dean Grose of Los Alamitos, CA has resigned in the aftermath of his e-mail depicting the White House lawn as a watermelon patch.

    http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/politics/2009/03/01/finnstrom.racist.email.cnn

    The caption read “No Easter Egg Hunt This Year.” It seems that no one was buying his story that his intent was not racist.

  78. LA Mary said on March 2, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Gasman, his explanation is so completely disengenuous. He’s resigning as mayor, but says he will not resign his city council seat. He claims he was unaware there was anything racist about the watermelon reference.