Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Notes from 9/30/08

-Flaxseeds - omega 3 fatty's
-Jim Mason - An Unnatural Order: Roots of Our Destruction of Nature
-bailiwick - area of jurisdiction of a bailiff. Used metaphorically to mean sphere of influence, area of expertise or experience.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Great Movie Quote

-From Lost Weekend (1945)...a fellow speaks to the bartender of his alcohol addiction...

Don Birnam: It shrinks my liver, doesn't it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I'm above the ordinary. I'm competent. I'm walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I'm one of the great ones. I'm Michaelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I'm Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I'm John Barrymore before movies got him by the throat. I'm Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I'm W. Shakespeare. And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer, it's the Nile. Nat, it's the Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tongue Twister

Erre con erre cigarro, erre con erre barril, rĂ¡pido ruedan los carros, por los rieles del ferrocarril.

Good Stuff...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thoughts On Reagan HS Community Meeting

I visited Reagan High School today. Of the many images that remain around in my head afterwards, there was one that resonates profoundly with me still.

This was the image of someone who is seemingly unable to stay awake, no matter the activities unfolding around him. I watch, noticing that his drowsiness has not sparked interest in anyone else. They simply go about their business as if he weren’t there.

As many of you know, Reagan is a school on the brink of closure, just as Johnston High School was a few short years ago. For, you see, the state has judged Reagan as unable to provide an adequate education, as judged by TAKS scores, over three consecutive years. A fourth could mean certain doom.

Tonight, there was a meeting that brought together students, parents, teachers, staff, community members, and interested independents, so to speak, to discuss the seemingly bleak future of the school that opened in 1965. The meeting began with a few short presentations consisting of progress reports since the previous meeting, held one week prior. Of the highlights was news that within a just a week, Reagan had become eighty percent wireless, with hopes of achieving full-wireless status by the end of the month.

We then split up into action committees, if you will, each individual choosing a topic that we found of interest. The six available groups included issues of English Language Learners and access to related programs, Academic Support in the form of tutoring and mentoring, Attendance, Family and Social Support, School Climate and Community, and finally, a group dedicate to getting at what many see as the root of the problem, which is the legislation behind vulnerability to closure. I found myself torn, but settled with the legislative group.

In what was probably the closest thing to Freirian dialogue I’ve ever experienced, we chatted for about ten minutes, discussing what we know and how we aim to find out what we want to find out. This was coincidentally similar to a K-W-L approach, as it were. Our individual relationship to Reagan which each of us brought provided for some good discussion, albeit very limited. If nothing else, given the short amount of time and the variance in experience, we were able to lay the groundwork for moving forward. Of course, we reconvened to share some main ideas developed by each group, and discussed shortly the ultimate goal of the action groups, which, obviously, is developing a practical and effective action plan.

Towards the end of the meeting, a young man wearing a backpack and a sleeveless white t-shirt approached the podium. His body language was clear - he wanted to address the audience. Luckily, this was quickly recognized and he was given the microphone to deliver his message. And what a simple message it was – one of those, am I the only one about to cry-right-now-simple-messages. He said, “Thank you.”

As it turns out, the young man is a senior at Reagan, and although he’ll graduate from the school this year regardless of its pending fate, it was clear he was appreciative of our taking steps to ensure the same opportunities for future students.

As the meeting was adjourned, I happened to overhear a conversation between another student and a member of the Reagan community. He was essentially echoing the sentiment of the aforementioned gentleman, and offered his gratitude and sincerest hope that our efforts will not prove to have been in vain. There was one thing that, although it might sound a bit corny taken out of context, was at the time oozing with authenticity and beauty.

He simply said, “I don’t look at it like I go to Reagan, but that I am Reagan. And Reagan is part of me.”

As I exited the cafeteria, pondering the event, I noticed that the parking lot, which just a short hour earlier was sparsely peppered with cars, was now full of action. In the field were groups of kiddos, what seemed to be middle-schoolers, equipped with football pads and helmets, doing their best to see in the dark, hoping the next car wouldn’t be their folks looking to summon them for a bath and a bit of homework. Parents who had already arrived or maybe had never left were laughing and chatting, and along the edge of the grass a table of barbeque fed people of all ages. I assume you can imagine the cacophony of the setting. I find it to be nice to listen to.

The boisterous crowd consisted of parents, students, teachers, grandparents, pets, and so on and so forth. However, I didn’t get a sense of division amongst these groups. Rather, I saw natural interactions amongst members of an organic community, having their base in a geographical location, which was Reagan High School.

As I drove home, I did my best to reflect on the meeting, the gathering afterwards, and what it could all mean to me, both as a teacher and as a citizen. It was clear that the plight of Reagan High School represents a myriad of things to me.

I see a community that has naturally developed and strengthened over generations, threatened with possible disbandment by foreign – and somewhat uncontrollable - factors. I see parents, students, teachers, and staff, all entrenched in the same fight, albeit likely for different reasons. I see an opportunity to get involved in something I believe in, which is fair treatment of all the aforementioned community members. And I also see a great injustice. I see in Reagan an injustice whose explanation and validation rests on a policy that is known to be biased, racially and economically, amongst other criticisms. I see in Reagan an opportunity to fight a bigger foe; that of the oppression of the high-stakes accountability system that has been tightening its grip on our schools for years.

I also see an opportunity for others to get involved. I cannot stress to you enough that it’s never too early to get active in issues of educational and social justice. It is truly amazing to see the effect you can have just by offering an open ear and a little bit of passion and empathy. It is also a great way to get outside of oneself for a while and see the world through the lives of another. Like many of you, I see myself as someday being a part of a community like that which I experienced today at Reagan. Why not make that day sooner than later?

Oh and by the way, the guy sleeping – was he a student? Nope. Just a concerned parent doing literally everything in his power to show his children that he cares.

Let's Play Funny Not Funny

-Model Minority Modeling Agency

Michelle Rhee Quote and Analysis

This comes from Michelle Rhee, so-called master reformer of the DC public schools. She acts as chancellor, and has caused a stir, mainly for her firings and school closings. This is from an interview with the ever-so-polite Charlie Rose.

"When you are basing the effectiveness of teachers on lots of softer* things...whether the kids feel good, whether the classroom is happy, whether we're creative...but if the kids can't read, that's not acceptable. You might have a happy classroom. It's not the classroom we're going to have in this district."

*Note:Emphasis added.

I immediately find this appauling for a few reasons. First, what kind of attitude will a child have throughout their education and indeed their adult life, if their happiness, comfort, safety, creativity, etc...are not ensured during the developmental parts of their schooling? If people link learning with a disregard for happiness, comfort, safety, and creativity, we will see a continued decline in lifelong learners and critical, analytical inquirers. Who the hell can learn when these things are absent? It's almost as if Rhee infers that we should flip Maslow's heirarchy1 on it's head. Absurd.

Furthermore, I think Rhee needs to evaluate the goals of education in the first place. By this I don't mean schooling, but education in its purest form. William Bennett, Reagan's Secretary of Education, attempted to ask this, although he came well short of getting a meaningful answer expunged from a world of economics and politics. It could be that Rhee's thinking is even more shallow than Bennett's, which is downright scary.

It is clear that Rhee sees nothing more for 'her' students in DC, many of them poor, and non-white, than acquiring jobs that require basic skills. To allow them the opportunity to be creative, for example, cuts their chance of getting a really crappy office job. Those who waste their lives being happy and creative really should have focused on those basic skills, and they could continue a life devoid of creativity, happiness, comfort, safety, etc...which they learned to love during their 12 years - if they last that long - in Rhee's DC schools.

It is just absolutely unbelievable that Rhee is praised for spewing such venom. She has denied the right of these children, becuase they're poor and non-white, to become self-aware, metacognitive, and self-motivated. She seems to believe that her story, as a child of Korean immigrants, can and should be the story of every child in the DC district. The old, 'I did it, and you should be able to also.'

What she fails to see is that there is a purpose to education that goes beyond hireability and marketability. In my opinion, the underpinnings of education are the very things Rhee wishes to deny our children - the opportunity to be happy, creative, and safe.

1 Abraham Maslow (1954) attempted to synthesize a large body of research related to human motivation. Prior to Maslow, researchers generally focused separately on such factors as biology, achievement, or power to explain what energizes, directs, and sustains human behavior. Maslow posited a hierarchy of human needs based on two groupings: deficiency needs and growth needs. Within the deficiency needs, each lower need must be met before moving to the next higher level. Once each of these needs has been satisfied, if at some future time a deficiency is detected, the individual will act to remove the deficiency.

-from Citation: Huitt, W. (2004). Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Educational Psychology Interactive. Valdosta, GA: Valdosta State University. Retrieved [date] from, http://chiron.valdosta.edu/whuitt/col/regsys/maslow.html.

Short Story Idea-Stupid Heaven

Humans have begun to implant computing chips into the brains of regular citizens. This makes everyday computation, language, and learning extremely easy to acquire and perform. Of course, our spiritual and emotional sensibilities are a bit less open to direct advancement, although we are better able to understand complex philosophical pickles, and thus have become quite enamored with altruism and empathy.

This eventually makes the earth quite a nice place to be, for people are able to understand how to ameliorate the problems of disease, hunger, poverty, etc...It is a utopia of enlightenment, and we've really turned things around; not a moment too soon, by the way.

Although we've been fighting imminent death, and become quite adept at extending our lifetimes, we still die, albeit generally when we're damn well ready. As people begin to die, and go to Heaven, they find that it's not all that it cracked up to be. You see, upon entry into the afterlife, one leaves behind all silver and gold. In addition to this, they are unable to carry their computational upgrades through the pearly gates.

Everyone in Heaven is dumber than Hell, so to speak. They are able to, and do quite often, look down to earth with jealousy coursing through their veins in place of mortal blood. They tire of heaven quickly, finding themselves unable to eloquently express their feelings and ideas, which, naturally, have lost their edge as well. The begin to loathe God for his allowance of ignorance over the course of existence, but especially in this, the place of supposed perfection.

God writes a letter to Satan. It is terribly apologetic, and quite pitiful. God really needs some tips from Satan to keep the dummies content, fearing otherwise, he will be subject to mutiny.

This could be in the form of a series of letters, a telephone message, a text message, or an email. Possible title, "Dearest Doppleganger."

Possible Bible verse, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
-Matthew 6:19-24
"Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me."
-Mark 10:21

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Alzheimer's and Heaven

Scenario: there is a very bad person. This person has done awful things. These things are things that Jesus Christ would look at with scorn. The person has alzheimer's disease. Therefore, this person, in their old age, has lost the memories about things perpetrated. Near death, the person believes in Jesus, and asks for forgiveness for the minor malevolent actions that the person can remember. These things include minor lying, cursing, etc... Obviously, none of these are that bad, relative to the aforementioned heinous acts. The person dies. The person meets with God or Jesus. The person has not asked forgiveness for the crimes against humanity. Does the person (Ronald Reagan) get to stick around in Heaven?

Standardized Testing

-Teacher says, "2+2=5."
-Worksheet says, "2+2=5."
-Homework says, "2+2=5."
-Test says, "2+2=?"
-Child A says, "5."
-State says, "Genius."
-Child B says, "4."
-State says, "At Risk, Failure, Special Ed, etc..."
-Child B's teacher has been teaching meaningful content.
-State also says, "remove funding, remove teacher support...hell, close the school and fire the teacher."

Current standardized testing has control over all "levels of production," as is said in business. For example, the private company who provides the teachers' resources - many of which have become mandatory - the same company provides worksheets and homework, they provide their content to the states for the formulation of the test, and the state pays another private company to implement the test.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sign on 183

During Hurricane Ike, I am driving down highway 183 and see a sign with the following advisory:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Notes 9/11/08

-Ron Hextall
-Before the Next Teardrop Falls
-Wasted Days and Wasted Nights
-Freddy Fender

Whereabouts Letter for Work

Howdy folks,

It's me 'gin. I reckon it'd be rude of me not to toss this little morsel o' information into your pasture as't regards to my pending absence on the 'morruh. Ima gonna stay in the big city and see me 'nother professor shoot the breeze, as they say. In fact, they's a discussion t'morra about schools in east austin that ain't been doin' right by most of the kiddos they're suppos'd to be seein' after. Reckon that's the fault of the gov'ment up 'ere in Warshington, don'cha think?

In 'ddition to this'n, there's a meetin' for a group I'm in called Teachers for Social Justice. We're speculatin' on ways and means a' changin' the inequalities that we been seein' around schools across this great nation uh ars, and we aim to get them young whippersnappers involved in determinin' their own lot in life, bein' realistic in their p'sitionality in certain power struggles, I likes to call 'em.

Ima gonna thank you all kindly, preemptively, for allowin' me the opportunity to foller ma' dreams as they r'late to ma' pash'n...chirren.

I'll see all you cowgirls and cowpokes on Thursdee.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ideas in a Dream for School

I had a dream that I was a teacher at Allan. It was a very realistic dream, I had it in between sleep and wake. I didn't see most of my kiddos from 3rd grade. I was terrified. I had nothing planned. There was a teacher working with me, but I still felt terribly uncomfortable. In the dream, I was thinking of ways to communicate different ideas in a democratic, caring, logical way. I came up with the following ideas. I won't know if they're ridiculous until later when I'm not so sleepy.

-If there is a place wherein running can be distracting or dangerous, use this as a marker. "When you're making your way down the (hallway, symphony hall, funeral parlor, etc...), I want you to think about this. If Mr. Cameron was standing right in front of you as you make your way down the (...), would you be punching him repeatedly in the jaw. If so, you're probably moving a little too fast."

-For gratuitous hugs: "Without my students, I would totally fall to pieces. You see, I am very much like the scarecrow made of straw. I am not held together very well, and I need help so that I don't fall totally apart. So before we go home each day I need to get a big hug from each one of you. Each and every one, no exceptions. That way, I'll be wrapped tight and I can make it through the night until tomorrow morning. Otherwise, I just might not make it."

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Quotes - Palm Sunday - Kurt Vonnegut

Read from 9/2/08 to 9/9/08

"Well - all good things must come to an end, they say. So American freedom will come to an end, too, sooner or later. How will it end? As all freedoms end: by the surrender of our destinies to the highest laws."
-Page 12, Palm Sunday

"I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak."
-Page 105, Palm Sunday

"She could have been a remarkable sculptor, too. I bawled her out one time for not doing more with the talents she had. She replied that talent doesn't carry with it the obligation that something has to be done to me. This was startling to me."
-Page 107, Palm Sunday

"VONNEGUT: There is no shortage of wonderful writers. What we lack is a dependable mass of readers.
VONNEGUT: I propose that every person out of work be required to submit a book report before he or she gets his or her welfare check.?"
-Page 117, Palm Sunday, in an interview with himself

"I would add that novelists are not only unusually depressed, by and large, but have, on the average, about the same IQs as the cosmetics consultants at Bloomingdale's department store. Our power is patience. We have discovered that writing allows even a stupid person to seem halfway intelligent, if only that person will write the same thought over and over again, improving it just a little bit each time. It is a lot like inflating a blimp with a bicycle pump. Anybody can do it. All it takes is time."
-Page 128, Palm Sunday

"As for literary criticism in general: I have long felt that any reviewer who expresses rage and loathing for a novel or a play or a poem is preposterous. He or she is like a person who has put on a full armor and attacked a hot fudge sundae or a banana split."
-Page 136, Palm Sunday

"Psychoanalysts are missing important clues about patients' childhoods if they do not ask about dogs the patients knew. As I have said elsewhere, dogs still seem as respectable and interesting as people to me. Any day."
-Page 147, Palm Sunday

"Everybody knows that the dumbest people in any American university are in the education department, and English after that."
-Page 156, Palm Sunday

"'As you know, it isn't enough for a reader to pick up the little symbols from a page with his eyes, or, as is the case with a blind person, with his fingertips. Once we get those symbols inside our heads and in the proper order, then we must clothe them in gloom or joy or apathy, in love or hate, in anger or peacefulness, or however the author intended them to be clothed. In order to be good readers, we must even recognize irony - which is when a writer says one thing and really means another, contradicting himself in what he believes to be a beguiling cause.

We even have to get jokes! God help us if we miss a joke."
-Page 162, Palm Sunday

"Are we foolish to be so elated by books in an age of movies and television? Not in the least, for our ability to read, when combined with libraries like this one, makes us the freest of women and men - and children."
-Page 163, Palm Sunday

"As for boredom: Friedrich Wilhelm Neitzsche, a German philosopher who died seventy-eight years ago, had this to say: 'Against boredom even the gods contend in vain.'"
-Page 181, Palm Sunday, read on the same day as quote in The Antichrist

"A friend of mine once spoke to me about what he called the 'existential hum,' the uneasiness which keeps us moving, which never allows us to feel entirely at ease. He had tried heroin once. He said he understood at once the seductiveness of that narcotic. For the first time in his life, he was not annoyed by the existential hum."
-Page 185, Palm Sunday

"What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured."
-Page 198, Palm Sunday

"If we were to try to grow strains of hypocrisy in the laboratory, what would we grow them in? I think they would grow like Jack's beanstalk in a mulch of ancient moral codes."
-Page 202, Palm Sunday

"One corpse tends to look pretty much like another one - until the historians sort them out with the benefit of hindsight."
-Page 208, Palm Sunday

"What happens if you credit a bum with human dignity - a drunken bum with his pants full of shit and snot dangling from his nose? At least you haven't made yourself poorer in a financial sense. And he can't take whatever it is that you have given him and spend it on Thunderbird wine.

There is this drawback, though: If you give to that sort of a stranger the uncritical respect that you give to friends and relatives, you will also want to understand and help him. There is no way to avoid this.

Be warned: If you allow yourself to see dignity in someone, you have doomed yourself to wanting to understand and help whoever it is."
-Page 214, Palm Sunday

"What is so comical about religious people in modern times? They believe so many things which science has proven to be unknowable or absolutely wrong."
-Page 215, Palm Sunday

"How on earth can religious people believe in so much arbitrary, clearly invented balderdash? For one thing, I guess, the balderdash is usually beautiful - and therefore echos excitingly in the more primitive lobes of our brains, where knowledge counts for nothing."
-Page 215, Palm Sunday

"There was a man in a restaurant, and he called the waiter over, and he said, 'Waiter - there is a needle in my soup.' And the waiter said to him, 'Oh sir, I am so sorry. That is a typographical error. It should have been a noodle.'"
-Page 239, Palm Sunday

All quotes from Kurt Vonnegut's Palm Sunday, 1981 by Delacorte Press, 0-440-06593-3

Quotes - The Antichrist by Friedrich Neitzsche

Read from 8/30/08 to 9/3/08

"What is good? All that enhances the feeling of power, the Will to Power, and power itself in man. What is bad? - All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? - The feeling that power is increasing - that resistance has been overcome."
-Page 4, The Antichrist

"The pathos which grows out of this state, is called Faith: that is to say, to shut one's eyes once and for all, in order not to suffer at the sight of incredible falsity. People convert this faulty view of all things into a moral, a virtue, a thing of holiness. They endow their distorted vision with a good conscience - they claim that no other point of view is any longer of value, once theirs has been sacrosanct with the names, 'God,' 'Salvation,' and 'Eternity.'"
-Page 10-11, The Antichrist

"What is there that destroys a man more speedily than to work, think, feel, as an automaton of 'duty,' without internal promptings, without a profound personal predilection, without joy?"
-Page 13, The Antichrist

"[Man] is by no means the crown of creation, beside him, every other creature stands at the same stage of perfection...And even in asserting this we go a little too far; for, relatively speaking, man is the most botched and diseased of animals, and he has wandered furthest from his instincts."
-Page 16, The Antichrist

"...the Great Cosmopolitan..."
-Page 21, The Antichrist, speaking of God

"With God, war is declared on life, nature, and the will to life! God is the formula for every calumny of this world and for every lie concerning a beyond! In God, nonentity is deified, and the will to nonentity is declared holy!"
-Page 22, The Antichrist

"Truth and the belief that something is true: two totally separate worlds of interest, almost opposite worlds, the road to the one and the road to the other lie absolutely apart."
-Page 28, The Antichrist

"Not 'repentance,' not 'prayer and forgiveness' are the roads to God: the evangelical mode of life alone leads to God, it is 'God.'"
-Page 48, The Antichrist

"The 'Kingdom of God' is not something that is expected; it has no yesterday nor any day after to-morrow, it is not going to come in a 'thousand years' - it is an experience of a human heart; it is everywhere, it is nowhere..."
-Page 49, The Antichrist

"I take care not to hold mankind responsible for its mental disorders. But my feeling suddenly changes, and vents itself the moment I enter the modern age, our age. Our age knows..."
-Page 52, The Antichrist

"Buddhism promises little but fulfils more, Christianity promises everything but fulfils nothing."
-Page 60, The Antichrist

"When the centre of gravity of life is laid, not in life, but in a beyond - in nonentity - life is utterly robbed of its balance. The great lie of personal immortality destroys all reason, all nature in the instincts, - everything in the instincts that as beneficient, that promotes life and that is a guarantee of the future, henceforward aroused suspicion. The very meaning of life is now construed as the effort to live in such a way that life no longer has any point..."
-Page 61-62, The Antichrist

"Inasmuch as they let God do the judging, they themselves judge; inasmuch as they glorify God, they glorify themselves; inasmuch as they exact those virtues of which they themselves happen to be capable - nay more, of which they are in need in order to be able to remain on top at all; - they assume the grand airs of struggling for virtue, of struggling for the dominion of virtue."
-Page 65, The Antichrist

"We should feel just as little inclined to hobnob with 'the first Christians' as with Polish Jews: not that we need to explain our objections...They simply smell bad."
-Page 70, The Antichrist

"The whole labour of the ancient world in vain: I am at a loss for a word which could express my feelings at something so atrocious..." "...Everything essential had been discovered to make it possible for work to be begun..." "...And buried in a night, not by a neutral catastrophe! Not stamped to death by Teutons and other heavy-footed vandals! But destroyed by crafty, stealthy, invisible anaemic vampires! Not conquered, - but only drained of blood!"
-Page 100-101, The Antichrist, includes from beginning to end and everything in between

"I call Christianity the one great curse, the one enormous and innermost perversion, the one great instinct of revenge, for which no means are too venomous, too underhand, too underground, and too petty, - I call it the one immortal blemish of mankind..."
-Page 107, The Antichrist

All quotes from The Antichrist, by Friedrich Neitzsche, published 2000 by Prometheus Books, 1-57392-832-1

Notes from 9/9/08

-Angela Valenzuela's discussion of familial dismemberment via immigration
-Jose Luis Rebellato
-Humberto Maturana
-Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Notes from 9/2/08

-Aspic, Head Cheese
-Suet, Tallow