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Family and Friends is my everyday journal. Captain's Log is where I pontificate on religion and politics.

Friday, May 30, 2008

First week of summer vacation.

Schools been out a full week and today was the first one where I could stay home and try to work on my writing. We've cleaned up the yards, and the house. Got my computes in storage for the summer, but I'll need to finish closing down the classroom next week. Not that much more to do.
We've done some shopping and have been out on the golf course a couple of times.
The weather has finally turned nice if just a little windy in the evenings.
Slowly, but surely I'm getting all our vinyl albums converted to cd's and on the computer.
With a two-year-old and a five-year-old in the house it's hardly ever quiet.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Mortality Day

Memorial Days is set aside for all to remember,
We remember our loved ones no longer with us.
Each year the list gets longer for me:
Brother died at birth
All great-grandparents
Paternal and Maternal grandparents
Aunts and Uncles

Then I remember those that weren't family, but I knew in one way or another:
Students that didn't make it through the school year,
Former students
Fellow classmates from High School and College
Brief acquaintances

Some I remember having long, full, and happy lives,
Some I never really knew,
Some I know had lives cut short by disease, accident, combat
Some I mourned for momentarily
Some I mourn for almost every day

The longer the list grows each year,
Reminds me that death is a part of living,
This day forces me to think of my mortality,
Mortality day it should be named, for that is what it is.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A little light reading

Mom mentioned to me that my book reviews were more about me than the books. There are lots of book reviews for all of these books, this is my blog if I'm writing about books it's only natural that I should mention how they affected me.

Way back when I was teaching 7th grade English I found it rather difficult to get boys to read. I'm not talking about the textbook, but regular books. Girls would read S. E. Hinton, or Judy Bloom, or Danielle Steele. Boys would look at a Stephen King book that was 2000+ pages and pass. I tried getting them to read Robert Howard's Conan books because that was when the Governator was making his Conan movies. They couldn't get past the first ten pages, the vocabulary was too hard. I tried Mickey Spillane, still not interested. I tried reading Edgar Allan Poe out loud to the students and had to explain just about every other word. Then I discovered Barry Sadler and his Casca series. The books were two hundred pages long, fairly large font, there is very little wasted wordage on landscapes, clothing, furniture or that kind of stuff. The vocabulary was basic without too many bad words (7th graders after all and I didn't have tenure yet), and non stop military action. I picked up as many copies as I could find at my favorite used book store, and all I had to do was make the boys read the first ten pages and they kept turning them. A number of the boys over the years would come in boasting that they had never read a book before and weren't going to, by the first month they were asking for a second one. It's not often that there is a series of books with a fairly easy vocabulary and high interest.

Barry Sadler is best remembered for the best selling song of 1966, The Ballad of the Green Beret. His singing career didn't last long and he was in a few movies without any real memorable parts. He then started writing books. Casca: the Eternal Mercenary is a series of at last count 28 books covering 2000 years of warfare. The premise is that Casca Longinus was the Roman soldier that pierced Christ's side on the cross, and the blood that fell on him turned him immortal. Subsequent books have him in World War II as a panzer soldier, in China, Japan, Persia, get the picture?  Sadler wrote the first 12, and the rest have been written by others using his name after his untimely death. He also had a series of books that dealt with a Vietnam veteran named Rossen who is a hired assassin in world hot spots. There is one rather forgotten book Morituri, set in Rome during the time of Nero about a Gladiator. I enjoyed it, but not many other people have even heard of it.
What I like about the books is that the history is fairly accurate, not all that hard to do as they cover military campaigns and battles, the cultural aspects of the time period are minimal and there is less to get wrong.
My favorite line from all the books is from Casca: The Samarai. Casca is in fuedal Japan and sees monks wearing swords. He says to himself, "I've always found that if religion takes up arms, the world is in a pile of shit."
Just look around the world today, and ask yourself if that's a true statement. 

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Some like it dark

This is a rather round about way to talk about a book, but it makes sense to me.
Back in the 70's I was living at home going through a rather painful divorce. There was a park close to home and across from the park was a shopping center. A little bookstore opened up directly across from the park. I went in the store to see what they had, and met a really nice lady. She sold mostly children's books, but also carried some Science Fiction. Now I grew up reading just about everything Isaac Asimov wrote (that'll be the subject of another post) and spent Sunday afternoons watching Science Fiction Theater on TV before Football took over. G asked me if I'd read any of Harlan Ellison. I had only read one of his stories in an anthology (Hugo Winners) so I knew the name, but that was about it. She recommended this book, but told me to take the warning seriously. Death Bird Stories is a compilation of 19 short stories and it has a warning to the reader not to read all of them in one sitting as the subject matter is so upsetting it would be too much to absorb all at once. I starting reading it that night. Now I was used to reading a thousand to fifteen hundred pages of theology a day while at Seminary. I looked at the book and thought I'd finish it in about three hours. I read the first story Whimper of Whipped Dogs. It's about a young idealistic woman moving to New York and watching a brutal murder outside her bedroom window, realizing that others in the complex were also witnessing the assault, and seeing something above them in a vapor. I won't give too much of the story away, though the story deals with the disturbing aspect of what Psychologists now refer to as Bystander Syndrome, this was only a few years after the murder of Kitty Genovese and this story was an attempt to not let the reading public forget her. The story took me less than an hour, but that was enough to figure out that it would be best to only read one or two stories a day. Respect the warning. The second story is really much lighter, Along The Scenic Route is about a married couple on a nice drive getting pushed into a car duel. The cars have machine guns, lasers, and government regulated dueling lanes. The winner gets the other driver's life insurance policy. When I started teaching 7th grade English this was the first story I'd tell (you never take your eyes off of 7th graders, even to look at a book) and it always captured their imaginations. I ran into a former student ten years later and he said the only thing he remembered was that story. I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream hit me like a brick between the eyes. It was cathartic, the title alone expressed what I was feeling every time I thought about my failed marriage, loss of career, and mounting debts.
When I finished the book I actually felt better. It didn't end the depression caused by my circumstances, but many of my feelings that I had no words to express were enacted in these stories, and it lightened my depression. I spent the rest of that summer buying every book by Ellison I could find. It was a good year for it, as many of his out of print books were being reissued. I don't have every book he published, but I've come close. I love his writing style, and in one of his anthologies Steven King wrote a forward in which he uses the analogy that reading Ellison is like being milk in a refrigerator, that sooner or later milk takes on the flavor of whatever else is around, and that whenever he reads Ellison he becomes the milk taking on Ellison's flavor.
Ellison wrote the screenplay for one of the early Outer Limits episodes, Demon With A Glass Hand, which starred Robert Culp. City On The Edge Of Forever is his episode in the original Star Trek, the one where Kirk and Spock go back to the Depression era and has Joan Collins as KIrk's love interest. I saw an interview once where he even admitted to writing an episode of the Flying Nun hoping to ask Sally Fields out on a date.
Still no matter how many of his books you read (if you can find a copy I highly recommend The Glass Teat, The Other Glass Teat, and Ellison Watching -- his essays and criticism of Nixon and Agnew and their manipulation of TV shows) Deathbird Stories is the one book that never leaves your memory.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Great American Novel

When all is said and done, the Great American Novel will be Gone With The Wind. It's not often that a great novel is also a truly great movie, and in this case the movie overshadows the work that produced it. I'll first deal with the novel, then the movie and finally a comparison of the two.

I'm sure doctoral dissertations have been done on this book and I by no means pretend to be an expert. This is my humble understanding of this work of fiction.

GWTW is about dynamic, Earth shattering cultural change. It's no coincidence that it was written in the 1920's and 30's when there was also huge cultural changes happening. Instead of writing about the changes brought about by the automobile and the stock market crash, Margaret Mitchell wrote the book as historical reference. This is what happened then, and it will  happen this way today as well.
The book has a rather simple plot, which most everyone is familiar with, so I won't go into great detail. The main character is Katherine (Scarlet) O'hara, who is in love with Ashley Wilkes. Ashley marries his cousin Melanie, and on the rebound she marries three times, widowed twice and finally settling on the man who has chased after her Rhett Butler. Their tempestuous marriage finally ends after their daughter and Melanie Wilkes dies, only then does Scarlet realize she's loved Rhett all along, but he's stopped caring and leaves.
The theme is the contrast between the Butler's and Wilkes's. Ashley and Melanie represent the old guard. What life was like before the war. Cousins married cousins to keep the land and wealth within the family, and the marriages were arranged. Duty and filial obligation were what mattered. Acceptance and contentment were what made up their life, love and happiness came with time. The main weakness of the book is that this lifestyle is glorified as an ideal that was lost (gone with the wind). Most of the harsh realities for poor whites or slaves were not mentioned. In fact poor whites were looked down upon as morally inferior and slaves were portrayed as well kept children. In the case of Mammy an opinionated beloved pet (the way your cat or dog is "Part of the family").
Rhett and Scarlet are selfish, egotistical, want to break all the rules, hungry for more, more more, and are fixated on their happiness and love. Scarlet would be happy if Ashley just loved her, and she does everything she can to get him. Rhett would be happy if Scarlet loved him the way she loves Ashley, and he buys her and gives her everything in his power to make her love him. When they both get what they want: for Scarlet Melanie dies and Ashley is free she's not interested, for Rhett when Scarlet finally tells him she loves him the way he's wanted her to, he's not interested.
The Wilkes represent the past with it's rigid moral code of duty and obligation and everyone being in their proper place in society. The Butlers are the future where money is the moral code. The more money and possessions the higher in society you rise. Love and happiness become commodities that are sought after instead of a byproduct of acceptance and contentment. That instead of sharing their lives together like the Wilkes, Scarlet and Rhett merely use each other. Rhett uses Scarlet to mother a child, parade her beauty, display his wealth. Scarlet uses Rhett to restore Tara, show off her wealth to the other women, provide financial security, and keep Ashley financially obligated to her. When they no longer have any use for each other they either argue or ignore each other.
Does our society today reflect Rhett and Scarlet? Marrying for love and trying to find happiness in wealth and possessions. Is our high divorce rate indicative of people using each other instead of sharing lives? Do we look fondly to the past where everything was so much better and they didn't have the stress worries that we do today, but not willing to give up all of the modern technology that gives us the stress and worries.

The movie: All time great classic. Fantastic cast, unusually faithful rendering of the story. No one seemed concerned that Vivian Leigh was a brunette instead of a redhead. That's why she's called Scarlet after all. Still she so captured the essence of Scarlet's character no one really noticed. Clark Gable's greatest role and absolutely perfect for the part. Leslie Howard as Ashley Wilkes was the essence of Noblese Oblige, Olivia De Haviland as Melanie Wilkes the kindhearted, but not naive, Southern Lady projecting her goodness onto everyone around her. Hattie McDaniel as Mammy (the first African American to be given an Oscar) who ruled the roost from a position of servitude. There are many others that have made this a movie withstand the test of time and technology. The Great American Novel is also the Great American Movie.
There's only one part of the book that is left out of the movie and without knowing renders some of Rhett's words and actions puzzling. Scarlet had a son by her first husband, Melanie brother. In the book she ignores him, slaps him, belittles him and turns him into a timid pathetic soul. When Rhett leaves for England with Belle he tells Scarlet a cat is a better mother than she is, he's referring to the way she treats her son and he won't let it happen to Belle. When he comes back he tells her that even a bad mother is better than no mother, it's still in reference to her son. It's understandable that this character would have only cluttered up the movie and had to be left out.
The one part of the book that caught my quirky attention, and was left out of the movie, is in the final confrontation as Rhett is packing and leaving. He asks Scarlet how old she is, and she says 28. The whole book take place in 12 years, she's sixteen at the Wilke's barbeque and of marriageable age. That is a lot to happen in someone so young by the end of the book.
Finally:  Grinnygranny made me watch the sequel mini-series off the book Scarlet. That someone else wrote since Margaret Mitchell refused to write one. It was dreadful and I've never bothered to read the book. My main reason is contained in Rhett's final words, "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." At that point no sequel is possible because all love is gone, if he ever had love instead of lust. Love is an emotion, so is hate, if he left saying he hated her that's an emotion that can be changed, but apathy, or not caring is an anti-emotion. There's nothing left to salvage at that point. For that reason no sequel could possibly succeed.

Monday, May 19, 2008

School years end

Today was my last regular day. Next two days are finals then closing out the room on Thursday. Summer vacation starts on Friday. Watch out golf courses, here I come.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Favorite Books 2

This is a very unique novel. It's actually a series of short stories with a tale of archaeologists digging at a site in Palestine as the glue holding them together. The story starts off with a dig and all the artifacts that are uncovered, then Michener starts with the oldest artifact and weaves a story about cave dwellers continuing the stories finishing in early 1960. The book was published in 1965 so it's lacking in much of recent Middle Eastern problems. 
I hit all the used book stores for a number of years buying up as many copies of the book as I could find. I must have accumulated over a hundred of the books, five of them hard backs. When I was teaching enriched world history I had the students read some of the short stories. The books (most were over twenty years old) fell to pieces rather quickly which is why I had to buy so many to keep a classroom set.
My generation bought this book like crazy and everyone was reading it in the late 60's and 70's. All of the people I spoke to about it would say, "I started, but never finished."
Which is what I did the first time I started reading it in high school. I picked it up again after college and got through the one story everyone bogged down in to find a number of really good short stories that a great many readers left unread. Being short stories makes for a conclusion and after you've read a few hundred pages and come to a conclusion it's kind of hard to pick it back up, which also works against the later parts of the book.
The story everyone hits like a brick wall is called "The Law," it deals with the split between Roman and Greek Catholicism and the rabbis committing the unwritten laws that had been around for centuries into the Talmud. Rather bland and dry stuff. My suggestion -- skip this story and go on. Kind of like trying to read the Bible starting with Genesis and proceeding, everyone does fine until they get to Leviticus, and then they give up.
Michener was not only a gifted story teller, but he put so much information into the stories that he was also a wonderful teacher.
What I learned from this book:
1. How civilization developed
2. How religion developed and changed over time
3. How regardless of technological development or religion people were people and had the same likes, dislikes, loves, hates, greed, altruism and either overcame their problems or were overwhelmed by them.
4. A respect and understanding of Western Asia, and I've never found anything better at explaining what is happening there and has happened there.

A few of my favorite short stories in the book:
The Bee Eater -- story that details moving from a cave to above ground shelter, hunting and gathering to farming.
King Of The Jews -- a first person narrative from a close friend of King Herod the Great.
Twilight Of An Empire -- the most important of all the stories in understanding this area today, and the one most people never read. It deals with the Jews of Eastern Europe fleeing the pogroms and trying to buy land in Palestine from corrupt officials, absentee landlords, the animosity of the Palestinians and how the Turks ripped off both sides with their system of bribery setting the stage for the continual warfare that's paralyzed the area.

It's not often a book written forty-three years ago can still educate, enlighten, and entertain as this one can. It's also still in print, on it's sixth edition.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Favorite Books

I thought I'd start a series of posts on my favorite books.

One of my all time favorite books is M.M. Kaye's The Far Pavilions.
I've read it at least four times, and I just love getting lost in the story. It's one of the greatest time machines anyone can get into by just opening a page. What really strikes you is how many words she uses in the native language that by context and explanation you begin to understand. You also get a sense of the culture clash between Hindu, Muslim and Christian values.
Set in India under the British Raj beginning with the Sepoy Mutiny and ending with the disastrous British incursion into Afghanistan. I read this book the year before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan and knew then it would be a huge mistake from the understanding this book provided. It would have been better if our political leaders had read this book too before sending our troops there.

Back to the book, it is divided into three parts and the author could have, if she'd wanted, turned it into a trilogy, but it's nice to only have to buy one book.
The first section is about Ashton Hillary Pelham-Martin from his birth, the tragedy of his family dying and being taken through most of India by his wet-nurse while the Sepoy Mutiny is taking place. They settle in a small kingdom where he comes to the attention of the Rajah and is moved into the palace as a companion to his son and heir. This part of the story gives a wonderful insight into palace intrigue.
The second part of the story is after Ashton has fled for his life from the palace, finds out about his true identity and goes back to England for an education, comes back to India a proper English gentleman, but knows how to blend in with the natives. He gets into some serious trouble by being a little too chummy with the natives and is given the job of escorting two princesses to their wedding as punishment. Escorting the entourage will get him out of his superior's hair for a year. While leading the procession he realizes that one of the princesses is from the palace where he grew up. This leads to the love story which is central to the story.
The last part of the book deals with the British invasion of Afghanistan and setting up  the doomed Residency in Kabul. From this point on the story follows historical facts very closely, and as far as I can deduce the writer's family members were involved in this tragedy.
That's a lot for one book. Palace intrigue, forbidden love, and war in an exotic location.

Side note: They did make a mini-series with Ben Cross and Amy Irving in 1984. They skipped the first part, rearranged the second and third parts and totally ruined the whole story. It's dreadful. Filmed in India it enraged the people there because of the kissing scenes, which as Richard Gere found out recently, is taboo. 

Monday, May 12, 2008


From Yikes blog

Ten Years ago what were you doing?

I was teaching at a different high school, was department chair and n my third year of writing Optimus.

Five things on today's "To Do" list:

1. Check all graduates for contraband (water pistols, beach balls, etc) as they come in for graduation this afternoon.
2. Finish taping off programs from Mom's old DVR so she can mail it back to the satelite company.
3. Attend Writers to Writers meeting from 6:30 to 7:30
4. Make an important phone call (or my wife will kill me)
5. Get home in one piece.

If I were a Billionaire:

1. Finally retire
2. Finally Grinnygranny could retire
3. Find some timeshares in different parts of the world
4. Flip my house and then give it to the kids
5. Find a nice place for Grinnygranny and I to stay
6. Fret and worry that it would all disappear in the blink of an eye
7. Finally have the time to write.

Three bad habits: (to which Grinnygranny will say, "Only three?"

1. Sweet tooth. It's catching up to me in middle age spread and dentist bills.
2. Not enough exercise. I need to do more than just play golf, during the winter months it's not possible to get out on the links and I need to find another form of exercise to help with the energy level and weight gain.
3. I watch way too much TeeVee.

Five places I've lived:

1. Born in North Carolina (Marine corps base, not there very long)
2. Pueblo, Colorado, where I lived after Dad left the Marines until I was ten
3. Albuquerque, NM, where I grew up and have settled down
4. Farmington, NM for six months when I was twelve, then we moved back to Albuquerque
5. Texas, four years in Plainview while attending Wayland Baptist University and then a year in Fort Worth while attending Southwester Baptist Theological Seminary

Five jobs I've had

1. Fast Food: at a Taco Bell and A & W Rootbeer stand.
2. Retail: At a Skaggs, Howards, Sears, Woolco, Lifeway Book Store
3. Construction: Backhoe service with a high school buddy
4. Security: Burns, Pinkertons, and True Protection
5. Education: Teaching English and Social Studies.

Saturday, May 10, 2008


First things first: Spent most of last evening putting Mom's kitchen hutch together. Quite a job, but it looks nice. I didn't have my drill with me to anchor it to the wall, which is what I will do tomorrow when we have dinner there. It's nice to have Mom here to fix her pot roast for special occasions. Spent most of the day today shopping for Grinnygranny. She found a cute tea pot in the shape of a cat holding flowers and an Elvis lamp. When she wasn't looking I bought her a pen and holder that looks like a Fararri shift assembly. She can put it on her desk at work and tell everyone I bought her a Fararri for Mother's day.

Michael Manning had a post about a dog named Brutus in his area horribly mistreated. I had to do a double take. The dog in that picture looks just like the dog we had my senior year in high school. My dog's name was Harvey. It brought back many fond memories.

The dog mentioned by Micheal Manning.

This is Harvey. It's the best picture I could find. I have better, but couldn't find them today.

One of the female teachers that worked with Dad owned him first. He wouldn't let her boyfriend in the house, so she asked around if anyone wanted her dog. Dad brought him home even though we had two dogs already. Our other two dogs were Toy Fox Terriors, and Harvey's foot was bigger than both of them. I walked in from track practise, Dad met me at the door and shook my hand in order for him to accept me. He was trained to sit, lay down, stay, and guard to not let anyone in the house unless the owner shook hands. He was an extremely smart dog, and good judge of character. If he didn't like someone he would not let them in the house. The poor gal that gave him away made the biggest mistake of her life, and should have heeded Harvey's advice.
I wasn't too shure about Harvey at first. We'd alway had small dogs. Charlie and Cleo (the toy fox terriers) were my babies, and every time Harvey would sniff at Cleo, Charlie would go after him. Harvey would step on him to keep him from getting any closer, but didn't hurt Charlie. By the second day they had worked out the pecking order and they got long fine. In the picture you see Harvey's orange plastic bone. That dog loved to tug. He pick up a stick or article of clothing and would tug for hours. I had an old jacket with really baggy arms and I'd go out in the back yard and box with him. He'd come at me and I'd push him away. It didn't take long to have the sleeves of that coat in shreds. There were two parks by where we lived at that time and I'd put him on a leash and he'd run up to five miles with me staying stride for stride. We had to cross a busy street to get to the parks and the only I fear he ever showed was toward the traffic. He always made sure I was between him and the cars.
He hated the mailman, and crashed through the front window twice trying to get to the man. The second time he got maced I think he learned his lesson.
When I left for college and would call home he knew I was on the phone and would want to sit in Mom's lap, and he was not a lap dog. Whenever I'd get home from college the first thing I had to do was play tug and take him for a run. He was the happiest dog in the world when he saw me. Bruce was living at home before he got married, and his best friend would come by whenever they'd go out. Dave went into the backyard to knock on the back door so as not to bother Mom and Dad. Harvey met him at the gate and he decided from that point on to make real good friends with Harvey. I was surprised he lived to tell the tale.
Grinnygranny still gives me a hard time about him. When we were dating we started tickeling each other and he came after me. He was extra proctective of women, but still he was supposed to be MY dog.
Dad had to put him down the second year we were married. It hurts to this day. We've had many other dogs and I have two right now. We've loved them all, but none have matched Harvey.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Places in New Mexico

Fajada Butte

Thanks to Eric, I'm making a correction. this is a picture of the Aztec ruins near Aztec N.M. in the Four Corners area. It is misnamed, but at the time the belief was that the Aztecs migrated to Mexico from this area and that the Anasazi could have been their forebears. Linguistically the Ute tribe is closer to the Aztecs and they are not decedents of the Anasazi.

Mesa Verde in the North West part of the state, known as the Four Corners area (where N.M. Arizona, Utah and Colorado meet). Remains of early settlers known as Anasazi.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Nice weekend ahead

Mother's day coming up on Sunday. It's good to have Mom back in town. She seems much happier to be back with her friends.
Grinnygranny has Friday off, and we're planning on going over to Moms when I get home to put her hutch (that she bought) together. Told her it will be her Mother's day present. We're hoping the weather will be good for Saturday to go out and golf. 
Penni's home and on chemo again. We're all praying that she stays stable.
E left yesterday morning to get Richie. They'll be back this evening. A three-year-old and a five-year-old together with five adults, two dogs and a cat -- hope the house holds up.

My tentative schedule for next school year has me teaching my Law class, four world histories and one U.S. history. I am hoping that more students will sign up for Law so there would be two sections instead of just one. For a while there they had me teaching 11th and 10th English. That would have given me 5 preps. I actually wouldn't mind teaching English again, but three preps will be hard enough to juggle on the horrible, terrible stupid, moronic, idiotic, chaotic, no good, very bad AB Block schedule that we're going to next year.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday Soapbox

There was a post on the Huffington Post this week. It's now off and I can't remember the author's name or the title. The gist of the article was that our world is being divided along cognitive lines. Those who can read and those who can't. Those who can gather information, makes sense of it and do something about it, and those who can't. In effect those who can have a chance to make a living, those who can't will most likely wind up living under a bridge.
As a teacher all I can say is: DUH!!!!   I mean no sh@#$ Sherlock. Every teacher in this country is trying to convey that message to our passive aggressive, mentally numb students.
Almost all parents I've met support and agree with this as well, and in almost all opinion polls the voters of this country understand this simple concept too. Now if we can only get the politicians to stop trying to destroy the public schools in the ideological push for privatization. Here's my take on how politicians can support education:

1. Stop badmouthing our schools. Ever since A Nation At Risk the news media and politicians only have only bad things to say about the schools and have set up draconian testing procedure that punish schools and has siphoned money away from the classroom. It is also making it harder and harder to replace the baby boom teachers that are retiring. Who wants to go into a profession that is this disrespected and underpaid.

2. Do something that will encourage college students to enter education as a profession -- like pay a living wage or college loan forgiveness based on the number of years taught. I don't know how many first year teachers are not back the next year, not because they can't handle the students, but because they quickly realize that there is no way to live on a beginning teacher's salary and pay off their college loans. If the public and politicians are going to require a college education to qualify for the profession they need to pay accordingly. A police officer or fire fighter right out of high school makes more than a first year teacher.

3. Maintain the facilities. It is hard to teach if there is no heating or air conditioning. It's nearly impossible to teach with fifty students crammed into a room intended for thirty.

4. Return to a sane discipline policy. If students refuse to obey authority, there should be a consequence. If students bully, or are chronically absent, bring guns to school, etc. There should be no "We can't do anything because they're in Special Ed." Bullsh@#$! The insanity of thinking the sky is falling if students drop-out or are expelled is what is killing the effectiveness of most instruction. Teachers are forced to deal with the students that constantly disrupt instead of instructing those who want to learn. And if you understand Sun Tzu, all it takes is one or two examples of the consequences to get most of the students to straighten up. It is time to stop letting those who don't want to learn keep those who do from getting a quality education. There would also be less pressure on parents to put their children in private schools because they fear for the safety of their children.

5. Create a drop-in policy. The late Al Shanker when he had a column in the New York Times, once wrote that before students physically drop out they first mentally drop out. The answer to this solution is not to keep them from dropping out, but to allow them to drop in, once they've graduated from the school of hard knocks.

6. Any discussion about improving the public schools needs to have input from the teachers and administrators who are in the trenches and are facing the reality of the classroom daily.

7. Close down all Colleges of Education at every University in the country and start over from the perspective of the real world,  not academia. A little throwing the baby out with the bathwater here, but the first day you're in the classroom you quickly realize that everything they taught you in those education classes, that now take up two years of your money and time, is pure unadulterated garbage. Between the politicians wanting teachers to be nothing but test proctors and the colleges of educations wanting us to be nothing but smiley face cheerleaders its a wonder that anyone in this country gets an education.

Taking deep breath now. I've purged all the pent up frustration from my system. Feeling much better. Now if I can only get these old legs out of the lotus position I'll call it a night.

Friday, May 02, 2008


Yesterday on the Huffington Post  Joseph Andrew explained why he switched from supporting Hillary to Barak. I have posted twice about my choice in voting for Hillary last February, but no matter who eventually gains the party's nomination I will support her or him and vote accordingly. Much of what he says is all too true as I read through the political blogs some supporting Barak and some Hillary. There is nastiness in this campaign. I look on it as political boot camp so that the eventual candidate is combat ready for the fight ahead, what is distressing is that the supporters are becoming too closely identified with their chosen candidate and are talking about taking their marbles and going home. The last thing we need is a repeat of the 1968 convention fracture and I am afraid that now if Hillary does win the nomination by the super delegates while Barak had gathered the majority of primary voters that will happen. 
What struck me about Andrew's position paper was this statement:

A New Era of Politics

My endorsement of Senator Obama will not be welcome news to my friends and family at the Clinton campaign. If the campaign's surrogates called Governor Bill Richardson, a respected former member of President Clinton's cabinet, a "Judas" for endorsing Senator Obama, we can all imagine how they will treat somebody like me. They are the best practitioners of the old politics, so they will no doubt call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite. I will be branded as disloyal, power-hungry, but most importantly, they will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton.

He went on to say what all voters, not just democrats need to understand in this election.

Innuendo is easy. The truth is hard.

Sound bites are easy. Solutions are hard.

Spin is simple and easy. Struggling with facts is complicated and hard.

I still would like to see Hillary get the nomination. I feel that she would weather the brutal political combat to come, that she has taken and can give back in equal measure whatever McCain and the Great Republican Sound Machine can dish out, but should Barak's followers feel cheated by the convention process and those who voted for him feel that they were not listened to by the Super Delegates it may just hand our country back into the hands of the neo-conservative, social darwinists, thugs and that will be the deathnell of our Constitution and civilization as we know it.

It's time to heal the party not rip it apart anymore. I remember what happened when the youthful idealists were snubbed by the power brokers in '68 and that disaster not only got Nixon elected, but brought to power George H W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and others of the neo-con good old boys club hell bent on destroying the entire world. That's why I'm now (for what it's worth) throwing my support behind Barak Obama.