So, Ted Nugent will be attending the State of the Union address, as the guest of Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Crazytown. Good. Good, I say. In fact, I say gooooood, and rub my hands together like Montgomery Burns. Maybe Nugent will try to bring a machine gun into the House chamber, or wear camo, or poop his pants. At the very least, I expect him to do some brand-building of the sort he’s so well-known for. I expect nothing less than an outburst, or at the very least, some stupid statements afterward.
People keep trying to warn the crazy wing of the GOP, but they won’t listen. So, fine. Don’t listen, have fun with the Motor City Madman (although I think we should be cleansed of him now, and the nickname should really be switched to something Texan). Enjoy your twilight years.
I’m starting to feel the same way about popular criticism of the Catholic church, although HA HAW HE WEARS A DRESS hardly counts as such. I am no fan of Pope Benedict, the institution of the Catholic church, or all the trappings that go with it. The reasons go without saying, right? (Scrolling through the photo galleries yesterday, I was struck again by how much I despise the way the Vatican requires non-Catholic women like the first lady dress up in silly outfits just to be in the same room with the man.) We can all agree that if you’re not a Catholic, you owe the man no extraordinary respect or reverence, and if you are Catholic, I guess you owe him whatever your conscience or church says you do. But I grow weary of the standard tropes of papal disrespect — that he looks like the evil emperor in “Star Wars” or the sparkling observation that he wears a dress and Prada shoes, or that someone “just has a feeling there’s more to this,” i.e., the resignation, because surely “they” caught him in a “live boy/dead girl type of situation.” Stop. You look ignorant and silly. He’s an old man who’s going to die soon, and he cares enough about his job to leave it when he knows he can no longer do it. There are legitimate criticisms of the about-to-be-vacated papacy. Study up.
Boy, I’m feeling bitchy, aren’t I? Well, I’m hungry.
There’s also this (HT: MMJeff), a retired teacher’s lament of why so many high-school students, even bright, accomplished ones, are arriving at college unprepared to do college-level work, i.e. thinking. Please don’t dismiss it as the complaints of an overpaid, spoiled teacher wanking about No Child Left Behind. Read. I think this man speaks the truth:
In many cases, students would arrive in our high school without having had meaningful social studies instruction, because even in states that tested social studies or science, the tests did not count for “adequate yearly progress” under No Child Left Behind. With test scores serving as the primary if not the sole measure of student performance and, increasingly, teacher evaluation, anything not being tested was given short shrift.
Further, most of the tests being used consist primarily or solely of multiple-choice items, which are cheaper to develop, administer, and score than are tests that include constructed responses such as essays. Even when a state has tests that include writing, the level of writing required for such tests often does not demand that higher-level thinking be demonstrated, nor does it require proper grammar, usage, syntax, and structure. Thus, students arriving in our high school lacked experience and knowledge about how to do the kinds of writing that are expected at higher levels of education.
For a while now, I’ve been puzzling over a paradox in my own home: I have an A student who hates school. Hates it. Not one class has sparked her fire, although individual units in some classes — primarily science — have warmed her a bit. To her, school is a grind of boredom and homework. It’s easy, in these cases, to say a kid isn’t being “challenged,” and recommend a tougher course. Well, she’s in the tough courses, and all they are is boredom with more homework. I’m starting to think it’s not her, but the teaching, the testing, the endless hoop-jumping. By junior year of high school, which she starts next year, I was starting to look forward to it. There were interesting class discussions, projects that sent us down fascinating paths — you know the drill.
But I reflected, reading this, that NCLB has been a reality for my kid’s entire term in public education. And what was the impetus for it? Imposition of a business model on something that isn’t a business. You don’t make a decision in the business world without seeing the numbers, right? So test them! Then test them some more! And if they’re not learning, turn the whole enterprise over to the market, where the Invisible Hand will figure it all out.
During my years in the classroom I tried to educate other adults about the realities of schools and students and teaching. I tried to help them understand the deleterious impact of policies that were being imposed on our public schools. I blogged, I wrote letters and op-eds for newspapers, and I spent a great deal of time speaking with and lobbying those in a position to influence policy, up to and including sitting members of the US House of Representatives and Senate and relevant members of their staffs. Ultimately, it was to little avail, because the drivers of the policies that are changing our schools—and thus increasingly presenting you with students ever less prepared for postsecondary academic work—are the wealthy corporations that profit from the policies they help define and the think tanks and activist organizations that have learned how to manipulate the levers of power, often to their own financial or ideological advantage.
I’ll leave you with that. Time to brew a pot of coffee, see if I can’t improve my outlook.