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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Easily Offended

So MSIP is coming. For those of you that don't know MSIP is the Missouri School Improvement Program. As part of the improving our school I was asked by my principal to take down this comic strip because some of the evaluators might find it offensive, and I can not figure out why.

As far as I can tell taking down this comic strip is like whispering the word "black" when talking about someone that is African American. Though the content of the message is not offensive the need to disguise or hide the message implies racist thoughts in the deepest darkest jungles of their minds.

Perhaps gangsta rappers are a protected class. Since they are a minority their culture and beliefs are to be respected. They are just "keepin' it real" and reporting the facts of what life is like on the streets. Problem is that they are preaching to a choir of young people who look to them for validation. Rap doesn't cause the problems but it glorifies them as the one true path.

Hopefully, I am taking this all too seriously, and my principal thinks that the visitors from the state are too dimwitted to understand satire. So I have decided to temporarily replace the Boondocks with Calvin and Hobbes.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Odds on Favorite

Harrahs R-V a small district in out-state Missouri undertook an unprecedented project last week to improve school funding.

"We have been cutting programs for years and when Prop A passed we saw it as a golden opportunity," said district superintendent Betty House.

Prop A is an ordinance brought before the voters asking them to repeal loss limits at the states riverboat casinos. Up until the measure passed Missouri residents' losses were capped at $500 every two hours. Removing these loss limits increase the amount of money placed in the states school funding formula.

The elimination of these caps got the officials of Harrahs R-V thinking. Margaret Gamble, as school board member, was at first shocked by House's proposal to use district buses to take local residents to the casinos, but as the reality of the numbers sunk in she was soon on board.

"When I saw how much it would help the students, I couldn't very well vote against it," said Gamble.

"The closest casino is nearly an hour away," complained resident Carlotta Cash, "most of us had to be satisfied with buying lotto and playing Bingo at St. Francis."

Now every Friday and Saturday night a fleet of school buses drive through small surrounding towns and transport residents to the Isle of Capri casino in Booneville.

Recently these trips were temporarily suspended because of rising fuel costs, but as the price per gallon of gasoline in the state has dipped to $2.59 and worry over the current economic crisis has made many people desperate for a jackpot, the roar of the engines and the flashing red lights are again a regular sight on the two lane highways of rural Missouri.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Real Maverick Move

At tonights debate I hope that the moderator will ask the candidates their choice for Secretary of Education, and Obama will leap out of his seat and say, "I nominate William Ayers."

Like the red-meat thrown to the Republican base in the form of Sarah Palin, Ayers would energize the base. The base is primarily urban and Ayers has dedicated his second life to improving the education of urban students. Forget those country folk that vote Republican out of fear and ignorance. Leave those kids behind.

I'm joking of course. We should leave no child behind, but we also don't have to have a law telling us to care and forcing districts to strive for mediocrity. As Ayers says, "We teachers are increasingly deskilled and hammered into interchangeable cogs in a bureaucracy, pressured to reduce teaching to a set of manageable and easily superviseable tasks, and to sum it up on the basis of a single simple-minded metric, to strip it of any moral purpose or intellectual engagement or creative action whatsoever. "

We need a revolution in education. Not a violent one, but if we don't do something our system will explode like "a dream deferred." How astounding would it be if there was a secretary of education that believed in teachers instead of blamed them. A leader that took it as a given that we care about our students, that we will not leave them behind, that learning is not something to be measure with a test, that we should teach freedom of thought not minimum knowledge standards.

So in order to steal some of the McCain maverick thunder, and to bring about "change" that I can believe in, Barack Obama should formalize the tenuous relationship with William Ayers and appoint him as Secretary of Education.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Get Smart

His words tore the flesh from the students like an emaciated zombie exposing muscle and bone to infection, and insuring almost certain death. At this point the teacher thought to himself, “Maybe sarcasm isn’t the best way to reach the students.” At the very least sarcasm as defined by its archaic Greek roots, to tear the flesh, should only be used in the direst life and death situations.

In his defense, however, I would like to point out that a synonym for sarcasm is wit. In fact often immediately following a sarcastic comment the recipient will reply, “Don’t get smart with me.”

At this point I am forced to feign ignorance and respond, “But isn’t that the point of school.”

Recently I discovered that this particular argumentative tactic can be described as Socratic irony, and since the district repeatedly suggests that we use Socratic methods I feel that it is my duty to be Socratically Ironic.

Wit is also a synonym for irony and facetiousness. Irony forms the backbone of satire, a respected literary form and facetiousness merely means to be humorous or funny. Again two traits that are perfect for the classroom. Satire exists in order to bring about social change; a teacher is an agent of change. The ability to not take things seriously also helps a teacher maintain his sanity. When I find my self at wits end, humor manages to extend it just enough for me to make it through the day.

Wit defines an entire class of characters in world mythology and folklore, the trickster.
The Norse god Loki invented the fishing net; Prometheus stole fire from the gods; and Anansi brought stories to the world. Tricksters reside in the heart of who we are. Our technology and imagination sets us apart from the rest of the animal world (and hopefully the vegetable one as well).

So in the tradition of Socrates, Eshu, and Bugs Bunny I will keep my wits about me and share them whenever necessary..

Friday, October 03, 2008

Damning Evidence #2

While reading Super Toys Last All Summer Long by Brian Aldiss one of my students asked, "Is this about ancient Egypt or something because he keeps on calling her Mummy?"

Damning Evidence #1

In a discussion about how we are programmed by our DNA like an intelligent machine the discussion devolved into how an egg is fertilized.

At the end of the class one of the male students asked, "If I want to have twins do I have to bust a nut in her twice?"