Thursday, August 31, 2006

Quick Fix to No Child Left Behind

It never ceases to amaze me how someone names Spellings can be such an idiot when it comes to education. But that point is proven time and again when I read the words of the Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. Her ideas on education and No Child Left Behind are so ignorant it blows my mind. Why is it that someone so far removed from the classroom has any say on how I or anyone else teaches. That is the major problem I have with this law. The people that wrote it are not teachers and know nothing of the profession.
In an interview, Spellings said, "I talk about No Child Left Behind like Ivory soap: It's 99.9 percent pure or something." "Or something" is right Ms. Spellings. I talk about No Child Left Behind like a big pile of crap. It stinks and I don't like it. The law is ridiculous on all levels. It does not measure student achievement. It does nothing to improve schools. It does not focus on student responsibility. It does not create quality teachers. But it does do "something."
First, No Child Left Behind (NCLB) does not measure student achievement. Students as young as 5K should not be taking standardized tests. For one thing, these test give no useful information about the child that took it. When the scores on these test are compared to classroom achievement, there is usually no correlation. In education we would say that the standardized test has no value. And it doesn't. By the time students reach high school, they will have taken test after test after test. And then they are told they must pass four more tests to graduate. On top of passing all their classes and taking the ACT and SAT. When is enough enough?
Secondly, NCLB does nothing to improve schools. If anything, it is killing the public school system. When the punishment for low tests scores is everyone is fired and the state runs the school, do you think the kids are going to be ok? Of course not. Low test scores on a test that wasn't even made by teachers determines the fate of a school, something is wrong. Someone needs to get a clue. Public education can work if legislation stops holding it back.
Next, NCLB does nothing to increase or expect student responsibility. A child's education is by far their own responsibility. A teacher can teach all day, but the student has to do the learning. This is not accounted for by some standardized test. I have personally seen a teacher do their job all year long and the kids do badly on the state test. Mostly because the kids didn't do their work or bother to study. Who is at fault in that situation? NCLB would say the teacher. NCLB is stupid.
Lastly, NCLB runs qualified teachers away from the education field. As stated before, this is killing public education. No professional should have to work under the conditions of this tyrannical education law. And no teacher should. I'm not anymore. If the US government wants me to teach a worthless curriculum so some kids can pass a test, they can kiss my ass.
You can't argue with teachers on this issue. Being a teacher automatically means they know more than ANYONE on the subject of education. The opinions of the parents, students, governors, principals, popes, and president DO NOT MATTER. We the teachers know more than all of them about or profession.
So I don't want to hear about this perfect education law that our dear president signed. It is a worthless piece of crap. Currently, there are a couple of committees in Congress holding hearings to update the law. My quick fix, get rid of the damn thing and leave the teaching to the people that know how.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Pot, this is Kettle...Kettle, this is the U.S.

Being a teacher I find that it often helps students understand something if all the big words are defined for them. Apparently, the current administration does not agree with or practice this philosophy of education. Instead they cling to "buzz-words" and cliches in their political ranting.
For example, apparently we are not longer fighting a "war on terror." In a recent speech, President Bush said the suspects in the British terror plot were, "Islamic fascists." He also referred to the "war on terror" as "war against Islamic fascism." Now hold on a minute, this is not 1942. I think we need to examine this word before we start using it.

fascism/ˈfæʃɪzəm/ Pronunciation K [fash-iz-uhm] -noun A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

So according to this, fascism is a governmental system. As far as I know, the closest thing to Islamic fascist in the Middle-East are the Saudis. I hardly think he was referring to them. If anything, this is another swipe at Iran and Syria. But using the terms "Islamic" and "fascism" together paints a negative image of Muslims in general. It something that should not be done. But since when does this administration care about what "should" be done. I also think we need to think about our own government for a second. While it might not qualify as fascist yet, it may if we stay on our current path.
A fascist government has complete power. If we continue to rely on an out-date electoralal college system and continue to be a group of ignorant voters, absolute power will be an easy step. As voters, we must understand who we are voting for. We do not need to look at party. We need to look at the person. Voters should always ask themselves, "what is this guy really about?" or "How often has this guy changed his opinions on the major issues?" If we let it, fascism will come in the backdoor while we hold it open.
Next, a fascist government forcibly suppresseses opposition and criticism. Not a day goes by when opposers of the president are not slammed on new channels. I know that both sides critisize each other. But when the party in power does it more, it makes me uneasy. See, that is just a few steps away from something other than disagreement. That can lead to legislation and them suppression.
Lastly, a fascist government controls industry and emphasize aggressiveve nationalism. Our government is the pawn of industry. So appearing to have control is not a big deal. But agressice nationalism to the point of racism is nothing new in America. Every 40 years or so, we Americans find someone new to hate and we try to drive them out. Nationalism of that kind, supported by the government, is fascist. Asians, Africans, Mexicans, Homosexuals, Native Americans etc. have all felt the wrath of the US government.
So instead of put labels on something we know nothing about, our government needs to focus on itself. We are on a slippery slope right now. The upcoming elections this year and in 2008 will change this country in one of two ways. We will either be on the road to recovery or even further down the road to really calling the kettle black.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

One Missed Call: Katrina

At this point last year, I was home from school and about to head over to a friends house to watch the coverage of Hurricane Katrina. I had been watching its movements all day. Mostly because I knew that thousands of people were unprepared for this storm. I also knew that what was left of it was heading my way in Oxford, MS. Well the last part of that didn't really go the way I thought. However, as we have all seen, I was dead-on with the first thought. And to this day, people are still not prepared for the future Katrina's or their cause. In a way, Katrina was a wake-up call that a lot of people missed or didn't answer.
Last night I have the pleasure of seeing An Inconvenient Truth. Of course I have studied global warming for years. I knew the facts. It was just good to hear someone talk about them intelligently in a huge forum like a film creates. Al Gore's work on this issue is just amazing. And while the film was too short, in my opinion, I think it still got the point across. And that point is that global warming is NOT an myth, it is a real problem with real consequences for all of us. And it wasn't a bunch of doom-saying and death. There were presented real solutions that all of us can do with technology that is available now.
If we learn anything from Katrina today, we should learn that we need to take our heads out of our asses and wake up. Global warming was not made up by scientist to scare children. It is not a political ploy by liberals to make everyone drive hybrid cars. It is a problem that we made with our lives of excess and greed. And that goes for all of us. Because if we sit back and say, "Well I did my part, it is time for everyone else to do something," the next time a Cat. 5 hurricane floods your city, don't come crying to me.
When I saw that storm in the Gulf last year I marveled at it. I thought it was one of the most beautiful things I had ever seen in nature. I thought, the Earth is a beautiful and deadly place. And we are slowly killing it. One of the points of the movie is that many people (politicians mostly) have created this fight between civilization and the Earth. I'm sorry, but the Earth wins. Can't defeat the Earth. No, the Earth will always kick your ass. Katrina is proof of that.
If the wake-up call of Katrina goes unheard, I fear that many more deaths will follow. If we can't do something to save this planet for our children and grandchildren, then we don't deserve to have any. If we sit idlely by and do nothing about global warming, we all deserve to die. I serious. We caused the mess and we have to clean it up. People are so damn greedy they don't want to make any sacrifices. Even if it means they will prevent things like Katrina from happening so frequently. But maybe that mindset is our downfall. Maybe natural selection has us in the cross-hairs because of our ignorance. If so, there is not much we can do about it now. If people refuse to head the call of Katrina, then the human race is doomed.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Check Is Paid But Not Cashed

Forty-three years ago today, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his historic "I Have A Dream" speech in Washington D.C. It was a time in this country that I am glad I did not experience. It scares me to think about actually having to live in the South during this time of tyranny. But that time has passed. The present-day South is in no way as bad as it was when Dr. King made his speech. But one thing he did say seems to still be a problem today.
In his speech Dr. King says, "In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked 'insufficient funds." But just one year later, that check was delivered and the process of changing the South forever began. Today that check still exist. It has not been fully cashed. It sits in the form of wasted potential in the black community. What do I mean? Let's see.
Because of the Civil Rights Movement in this country, minorities have the right to vote, go anywhere they want, go to any school they want, eat anywhere they want, and do anything they want. And I am sure that the large majority of minority people do exercise many of these rights. However, with all the progress that has been made, I feel that many minority students waste their potential because of a false sense that people do not want them to achieve. In the area of education, the lowest achievement is found among black, male students. And that is a nationwide statistic. Why?
The simple fact of the matter is that they don't feel they have to achieve. They don't seem to appreciate the sacrifices made to get them in the position they are in. A position that allows them, with work, to attend any college and hold any job. Who would want to pass that up? Instead many black males waste away in school and pick up minimal jobs for minimal pay. They in turn have children. And in the raising of those children, I feel, there is a great deal of falsehood being planted. Children are told they will never achieve because people don't want them to achieve. That sort of talk breeds apathy and teachers deal with this on a daily basis. Apathy in a student is almost an impossible obstacle to overcome. It is sad to see them fail because of their own ignorance of their situation.
If only they understood the "check" that has been handed to them by people like Dr. King. If they could be made to understand that they must achieve. That it is their right as a citizen and their destiny as a black American, maybe then they would try. If they would only appreciate the legacy given to America on this day in 1963, then things might be different. If ignorance of this kind continues to grow, I fear that the South will return to the way it was. I fear that the "check" that was worked so hard for will be cancelled once again.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Ray Nagin's Good Point

It was nearly one year ago that the world was formally introduced to the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin. We all had just found out that his city would be greatly affected by Hurricane Katrina. We were all wondering why this guy hadn't ordered a mandatory evacuation. We thought he was stupid. And our feelings didn't change for a very long time. But then we got over it and moved on. We realized that there were bigger idiots in the world and they were causing more trouble than poor Ray in his flooded city.
Because of all this, anytime this man opens his mouth, he is surrounded by press waiting for something stupid to come out. And since that day one year ago, many stupid things have come out. I believe there was something not too long ago about New Orleans being a "chocolate city." Is he freaking Willy Wonka or something? I don't think you want to go there Ray.
Since he this very untactful man does get so much attention, it is no surprise to me when something makes the news. This morning was not exception. In an interview with 60 Minutes last night, poor Ray put his flooded New Orleans shoe right into his mouth again. In a very defensive tone, Nagin told the reporter, "You guys in New York can't get a hole in the ground fixed, and it's five years later. So let's be fair." Whoops right? I don't think so actually. I think he made a good point badly.
Hurricane Katrina's devastating affects on New Orleans were only one year ago. Much progress has been made since then to clean up and start rebuilding. But when 80% of a major city is heavily flooded, it might take awhile. Nagin makes the point that the city of New York has made very little to no progress on rebuilding at Ground Zero. And he is right. It has been five years, what's the deal?
The other sites damaged on 9-11 have long since been cleaned up and rebuilt. The Pentagon is not missing a wall and I'm sure that field in Pennsylvania is just fine now. But the city of New York still has an entire building complex missing. Why? Five years is enough time to plan and at least do some ground-breaking and actual construction on a new World Trade Center. What is the hold-up?
So even though he sounded like a jackass when he said it, Ray Nagin did have a good point with his comment. He's trying to rebuild a city. He is making progress. But it has only been a year. New York, it's been five years. I think it is time to do something with the hole.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pluto Gets the Shaft

Being someone who is heavily involved with the study of science, I usually agree with many of the things scientists say. Not because they are scientists but because what they are saying makes scientific sense. Today that all changed. An object in our own star system that has been a planet since 1930 has been declared a "dwarf planet." I may officially give up on astronomy.
The worst part of all this is the way they went about booting Pluto out of the planet club. Meeting in Prague, some 25,000 astronomers debated and fought over the definition of a planet. The debate came to a head last week when it was decided that the group was going to vote between two definitions for planets. The first stated, "any round object larger than 800 kilometers (nearly 500 miles) in diameter that orbits the sun and has a mass roughly one-12,000th that of Earth," would be declared a planet. And this excited me because the definition would have added 3 more planets to the other 9 and Pluto would have stayed in.
Instead the Pluto-hating astronomers voted that a planet is "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit." The bastards purposely made this definition because they knew it would automatically excluded Pluto.
I loved Pluto. It was a cool planet. I always wanted to go there and say that I was standing on a planet that is the greastest distance from the Sun. Now I can't. Thanks a lot guys. But I'm not sad. Pluto is in good company. It now joins the ranks of the "dwarf planets." This group includes the previously shafted planet Ceres.
If you've never heard of Ceres, its ok. Ceres was a planet back in the 1800s. It was located among the asteroids between Mars and Jupiter. It is a round object. And it meets the specifications put forth in the first definition I mentioned. Instead, Ceres was demoted to being the largest asteroid in the belt. And then it was promoted to "dwarf planet" under the new definition.
The big problem now comes with teaching the new lineup for planets. All those cool phares we used as kids to remember the planets don't work anymore. So I came up with a new one based on an old classic. The planets are now Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. To remember the order, remember this pharse: My Very Educated Mother Just Sold Us Nuts, and the astronomers that voted against Pluto...suck mine.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Who's Afraid of Ole Osama?

Ever since CNN put together this special on Osama, it seems like I've been seeing more coverage about him. In a recent poll, 74% of people feel that Osama is planning another attack. What do I think? I partially agree. I think it would be insane to believe Osama doesn't have something in mind. But I also think that any plan he has will be hard to start due to his current location. Of course we don't even know where that is. He could be chilling in Ft. Lauderdale for all we know.
When I think about the fact that Osama is still out there it makes me sick. I mean I'm sure that many of our armed forces have tried their hardest to catch him or kill him, but they haven't. And I have to wonder about the effort put in by commanders and especially commander in chief. We went into Afganistan with the purpose of catching this guy, and then kind of gave up when we got the opportunity to go after an easier target (read Iraq).
According to this same poll, 58% said they feel it is very likely that the US will capture or kill Osama. I'm not in that 58%. I think this guy will die on his own before we have anything to do with it. And when he does die, on his own, we will claim it as a God-given victory for freedom and liberty. Too much of our focus has been where it should not have been. We were completely in Afghanistan for less than a year before going into Iraq. Did we really expect to make some progress against him in that short of time? I don't believe so.
The real question is would we have captured Osama if we had not gone into Iraq. The poll shows that 51% of people think the US would not have been able to capture Osama by now regardless of the Iraq war. I think those people are stupid. And something else, I don't think we ever intended to capture Osama. I don't think we ever do. Why? Because Osama was just a half-assed excuse to go ahead and get troops into the Middle-East. We needed an excuse. We didn't have our faulty data about Iraq's mobile weapons labs yet. And we knew no one would believe people from Iraq caused 9-11. And we sure as hell weren't going to attack Saudi Arabia. We had to react to 9-11 so Osama was the best target to get our war started. And here we are today, still in it.
I am not living in constant fear that Osama will strike any day. I live in fear of the day when our government decides it needs to start a war in South America or East Asia. I live in fear of the day when our government comes up with a new excuse for senseless war.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Iran: Deal or No Deal

Today the Iranian government said that it would be willing to talk to the UN about its nuclear program. I think the sane members of the UN Security Council will see this as a step in the right direction. I mean anything that will avoid giving the US a reason to bomb Iran is a good thing. At this point, we really have no case for going into Iran. Or I should say we haven't developed one yet.
All the members of the Security Council were represented today except the US. The Swiss went instead. Iran and the US aren't on speaking terms right now. It's like we are freaking children or something. We aren't talking to them because...well we don't really have a good reason. Probably has something to do with them not giving us all that much oil. Usually does.
Of course the White House did have something negative to say about today's meeting. They didn't like the fact that Iran still won't agree to completely stop its nuclear program. And why should they? We have a nuclear program. Why are we one of the only nations deamed good enough to have nuclear energy? Why can't the people of Iran have it too? China has it. India has it. Russia has it. Why not share?
The US foreign policy is becoming increasingly based on paranoid fantasies about doomsday situations in which crazy Muslims blow up Israel. I think if that were going to happen, it probably would have already. And I don't think Iran will be the country to do it. The Middle-East is screwed up enough because of our cowboy policies and we just keep poking it with our sharp little stick. You know if you poke something enough, it will probably bite you. And if you ask me, you deserve to get bitten in that case.
I think Iran is moving well on this matter. Talking to the UN is good. Anything that avoids war. That is always a good deal. But if the US can just stay out of this, we can keep it that way.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Not Worth Its Weight In Oil

I don't know about the rest of you, but by now George W. Bush's opinion on things in the Mideast isn't worth two cents. For more than three years now, we have been in Iraq trying to maintain order. Of course three years ago, "W" said we were done with the major stuff in Iraq. Guess he was wrong.
And since then he has been wrong about EVERYTHING that is going on in the Middle-East. Forget the fact that the civil unrest we see now didn't exist until we started bombing the place. Basically we have taken a pretty ceramic mug, smashed it on the ground on purpose, glued it back together, and are now constantly re-gluing pieces everyday.
In a press conferance today, Bush said, "If we ever give up the desire to help people who want to live in a free society, we will have lost our soul as a nation." First off, our nation has a soul left? I thought it was black and dead because of all the chaos we have created in the last 6 years. And secondly, since when does constant war preserve the soul of a nation anyway? If peace can only be obtained through war upon war, then you can keep your peace.
I'm just tired of hearing this White House talk about keep up the fight for freedom wherever there's trouble. We aren't G.I. Joe. We can't expect everyone in the world to live in a glutinous, American society. And bombing them into submission is definately not the way. So the next time there is a press conferance on the "state of the war or terror" I'm throwing something at the TV. It is getting kind of old. If we are making any progress, please show me. I don't see it.
And that brings up another point. The progression of anything is based on willingness and response to change. If we want to be a better country in a better world, we must change ourselves first. And that starts with elections.
This year many Congressmen and women will be running for re-election. Don't vote for any of them. I'm serious. If you want any real change in this country in the next few years, every incumbent needs to go. And they should be replaced with candidates that are open to change and ready to make it happen. And this goes for both sides.
Too many times in this country, people vote based on party. Republicans and Democrats all do it. STOP DOING IT!!! You are bringing about the death of democracy by not allowing the government to change. Vote out the incumbents. Send a message with that action. We won't be hearing any more "updates" like we heard today if that happens.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

JonBenet Remains Cold

It has been nearly ten years since most people have even thought about the murder of a small child in Boulder, Colorado. For me, this case was just one of the many unsolved murders that we have in the United States. I have often wondered what makes this case so different from any other murder of a child? Was it because her body was found so close to Christmas? Or was it because her parents happened to be in a higher tax bracket than the majority of Americans? And what of this sudden admission by a complete stranger living in Thailand?
It seems that some Americans associate the Christmas season as a time when nothing wrong can occur and evil takes a holiday. And then a rich father in Colorado finds his missing daughter dead in their basement. While the death of any child is a tragic loss, the amount of publicity given to this one case was incredible. And considering the time of year, I am not surprised. It makes a terrific headline to mention Christmas and associate it with a crime. "Christmas Slaying" or "Bloody Holiday" are eye-catching phrases that draw attention to the stories undeneath them. But more than that, I am afraid it was money and not time of year that increased the coverage of this case.
It was obvious, even in 1996, that the Ramsey family was well-off by most people's standards. They were in no way a struggling family living pay-check to pay-check. And they definately were not worried about where their next meal would come from. And because of this, they are enveloped by a media frenzy because, "these things don't happen to rich people." But things like this do happen to poor people. And we aren't hearing about it all the time. I think it is a fact that the media tends to cover a story about a rich, white family more often than any other. I think that is sad. They should all be covered. And now the case has been brought up once again.
When I heard that some guy in Thailand had confessed to the murder of JonBenet, I thought the case was over. I really did. I thought, no one would confess to this crime that didn't actually do it. But then someone started doing some research. Someone starting finding the holes in this guy's "confession." Do I think he did it? Probably not. From what I have read and seen so far, I think this guy is crazy. But I don't think he killed JonBenet. We may never know who did that.
A child has been dead now for ten years. She is not the only one but she is getting the most attention. Her case is still cold. And unless, by some strange twist of events, the investigators find the killer, no amount of money or religion will change that fact.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

A New Day

It is odd that an award winning radio show would be converted into a less than stellar weblog. But since this is becoming a popular form of communication of ideas, it makes perfect sense. I am sad that our run on the airwaves has come to an end. I will be damned if that will stop me from getting information out there.
When I first came up with the idea for the Rebel Faction, it was to be the best thing out there. I wanted it to be the voice of Truth with no spin and bias. And while I didn't totally fail in this attempt, I learned a valuable lesson. It is impossible to simply state fact without sounding bias. But it is what Rima, Nekko, and I tried to do for our three season run. And now here I am trying to continue.
The venue of the internet is an interesting one to me. Obviously, it is better for reaching more people at faster rates. However, without the voice associated with radio, the internet lacks something. It lacks the feeling that you get from actually hearing someone's voice talking directly to you. And while the internet might offer this to some extent, it will never have the feel of radio.
The Rebel Faction is first and foremost a radio show. But like all things in this world it must adapt to change. And due to a natural selection of sorts, the Rebel Faction has evolved into a new form that I am hopeful will be just as successful.