A Week for Tears

Being a teacher puts you in weird sit­u­a­tions pretty fre­quently. Just the other day I found myself hav­ing to explain why I was not going to explain what cir­cum­ci­sion was. Then I had to explain why they weren’t allowed to look it up over the school’s WiFi with­out explain­ing what it was that they were going to find. At that point they real­ized it must be some­thing bad which only increased their desire to know.

Ok, it’s when they cut skin off of your penis.” God­dammit, I thought. Con­tinue read­ing A Week for Tears

Margarita soda and candy-grams.

Mis­ter, can I go to the bathroom?”

Yeah, did you fin­ish your warmup though?”

Please, I have to pee.”

Ok, go. Write a pass.”

He didn’t write a pass. He also didn’t think I saw it but I did. As Chris­t­ian turned to go out the door, he tried to shift the open Coke can from being hid­den behind his body to being hid­den in front of his body. Why would he need to take a Coke to the bath­room?
“God damnit,” I thought.

Con­tinue read­ing Mar­garita soda and candy-grams.

When Queers Can Get Married

In honor of elec­tion day, I’m releas­ing this satire music video that some friends and I made in sup­port of gay mar­riage. The song was writ­ten by con­trib­u­tor Ellis Mill­saps and recorded by Neon Mad­men. I think that its pretty clear what we’re try­ing to say with the video, but since this is the inter­net, I’m going to spell it out.  Con­tinue read­ing When Queers Can Get Married

Testing, accountability, and a libertarian calling for more state control

Tyler Cowen (an amaz­ing Econ. and gen­eral inter­est blog­ger at Mar­ginal Rev­o­lu­tion) wrote an op-ed for the New York Times yes­ter­day which touched briefly on edu­ca­tion. Here’s the rel­e­vant excerpt:

Pol­i­tics based on lob­by­ing stacks the deck against lower-income groups, who are often out­ma­neu­vered. For instance, one of the biggest prob­lems faced by the poor today is inad­e­quate K-12 edu­ca­tion. They need improved pub­lic schools, more school choice, or some mix of both. Over time, such improve­ments would help deal with many other social and eco­nomic issues, includ­ing global com­pet­i­tive­ness, domes­tic unem­ploy­ment, pub­lic health and the bud­get deficit, because qual­ity edu­ca­tion has many ben­e­fi­cial effects.

Instead, the cur­rent sys­tem of trans­fers offers to the poor var­i­ous sops in place of more effec­tive reforms. Fun­da­men­tal improve­ments to edu­ca­tion would involve more chal­leng­ing changes to res­i­den­tial zon­ing, teacher unions and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, and might also take some edu­ca­tional finance and con­trol out of the hands of local munic­i­pal­i­ties. It is no sur­prise that well-off fam­i­lies want to keep a sys­tem that has done very well by them, and that the poor often lose polit­i­cal bat­tles over education.

The gen­eral point of the col­umn is the grow­ing power inter­est groups have over pol­i­tics and how they use that power as “tak­ers” rather than “mak­ers”. The end result of this lob­by­ing is poli­cies which hurt the poor. I think it’s telling that Cowen leaves out some of the biggest inter­est groups — banks, agri­cul­ture, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals, defense con­trac­tors — and choses to harp on teach­ers, home­own­ers, and “gov­ern­ment ori­ented pro­fes­sion­als.” What strikes me most, how­ever, is his solu­tion: more cen­tral­ized con­trol. Look­ing at the excerpt above, Cowen calls for “Fun­da­men­tal improve­ments to edu­ca­tion would involve more chal­leng­ing changes to res­i­den­tial zon­ing, teach­ers unions and cer­ti­fi­ca­tion sys­tems, and might also take some edu­ca­tional finance and con­trol out of the hands of local munic­i­pal­i­ties.” Con­tinue read­ing Test­ing, account­abil­ity, and a lib­er­tar­ian call­ing for more state control

espanol

Since mid-October I’ve been learn­ing Span­ish, mostly while I drive my car. I’m using the Pim­sleur Method, of which I highly approve. I can now speak Span­ish far bet­ter than I could after tak­ing three quar­ters at Emory.

I can speak, but not read or write it very well. That’ll come later. They don’t want me doing that yet.

The Pim­sleur Method is based on the recog­ni­tion that most peo­ple on the planet who’ve learned a lan­guage, i.e., chil­dren, learn to speak it pretty dang well before they can read any­thing. They learn by speak­ing and hear­ing, a lit­tle bit at a time, and fig­ure out on their own verb tenses and conjugations.

I spend about 45 min­utes a day speak­ing and hear­ing Span­ish. What I’ve learned is mostly tourista Span­ish. We talk about mak­ing reser­va­tions, order­ing food, make small talk about the weather and people’s families.

After fin­ish­ing the first 86 of 120 lessons, I can now order Mex­i­can food and con­verse with my servers in Span­ish about it. I can make small talk with lovely senori­tas at the bar. That goes some­thing like this:

Me: Vienes aqui con fre­quen­cia?* (Do you come here often)

And the senorita gen­er­ally says some­thing which in con­text sounds some­thing like, “I think you’re a creepy old man.” (There seems to be inter­cul­tural con­sen­sus on this point.)
Con­tinue read­ing espanol

Dining in Hollywood: Part 1

I was watch­ing this show about the one hun­dred great­est foot­ball play­ers of all time, and there was this jazz musi­cian from New Orleans who intro­duced Barry Sanders. I for­get his name. He was say­ing that watch­ing Barry Sanders play foot­ball was like watch­ing art in motion. It didn’t mat­ter which way he was going; he could move in any direc­tion at any time. It was like jazz. I think his last name was Marsalis…”

Wyn­ton Marsalis? I saw him last year at Dis­ney Hall. We talked after the show. Such a nice guy.”

That’s right. Wyn­ton Marsalis! His soul!!! His spirit!!! Any­way, I learned more watch­ing that intro­duc­tion than the rest of my ten years of act­ing train­ing…” Con­tinue read­ing Din­ing in Hol­ly­wood: Part 1

3 to 10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life and Increase Your Blog’s Traffic

You are a busy per­son. You have to drop the kids off at soc­cer prac­tice, cook din­ner, and still man­age to find the time to watch 6 hours of TV. I’ve cre­ated this handy list that will improve the two most impor­tant aspects of your life, your sex and your blog, in less than 5 min­utes. Con­tinue read­ing 3 to 10 Ways to Improve Your Sex Life and Increase Your Blog’s Traffic

I Don’t Know Sh*t About Education

The mes­sage we send our kids: Live like whitey.

Ryan’s repost of my old blog entry gave me cause to reread it for the first time since April 2011. I closed the post by pledg­ing to be a good teacher. I’m now into my sec­ond year as a spe­cial edu­ca­tion teacher and it’s as good a time as any to look back and reflect on my expe­ri­ences and to answer that ques­tion: Am I a good teacher?

Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion is not some­thing I imag­ined I’d be doing when I com­pleted my Eng­lish degree. Or when I com­pleted my Eng­lish Edu­ca­tion Master’s of the Art of Teach­ing (don’t ask). It’s def­i­nitely been a big learn­ing expe­ri­ence and it’s hum­bled me quite a bit.

But more than any of that, work­ing in Spe­cial Edu­ca­tion has taught me that I don’t know sh*t about edu­ca­tion. Rea­son­able peo­ple would expect to find a flawed sys­tem with inef­fi­cien­cies and prob­lems. What I have come to find is a deeply bro­ken sys­tem bor­der­ing on dys­func­tion. The worst part is, nobody seems to know how to fix it. Every­where I think I find some kind of answer or some kind of solu­tion, there are sig­nif­i­cant down­sides just wait­ing around the cor­ner. Con­tinue read­ing I Don’t Know Sh*t About Education

Hotter Than A Hoochie Coochie

We made our first mis­take yes­ter­day, Grace and I real­ized in the check­out line at Wal-Mart. Our sun­screen, inner tubes, and life­jack­ets beeped and passed into bags, but we relin­quished our PBR tall­boys to the impos­ing woman in the blue apron. For just a sec­ond, I con­sid­ered try­ing to pay her off. We knew a recent leg­isla­tive change now allowed alco­hol sales on Sun­days in Geor­gia. We did not know that you still could not buy alco­hol before noon. The leg­is­la­tors did not want their church­go­ing con­stituents to play catch-up. We would float down the Chat­ta­hoochee River in 107 degree heat with­out alco­hol. Con­tinue read­ing Hot­ter Than A Hoochie Coochie

De Snuffelaer

I’d like you all to meet Otto Marseus van Schrieck. A painter of the Dutch Golden Age and mem­ber of the Bentvueghels, van Schrieck was known for his detailed nat­u­ral­is­tic stud­ies of weird plants and creepy ani­mals. It is said that van Schrieck kept a plot of land out­side of Ams­ter­dam stocked with a small menagerie of rep­tiles, amphib­ians, and insects to use as his sub­ject mat­ter. For rea­sons that don’t quite click with me but appar­ently do with the author of his Wikipedia page, he was for this rea­son “called the snuffe­laer, or ‘snif­fer’, because he was always sniff­ing strange lizards and snakes.” What?

Before today, I didn’t know there was some­thing called the Bentvueghels, or Otto Marseus van Schrieck, or the Dutch Golden Age — and then I read a big plaque on the wall next to his paint­ing at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I barely knew any­thing about Dutch and Flem­ish art before today, but now here it is mid­night and I am one of the world’s fore­most experts. That’s what muse­ums can do!  Con­tinue read­ing De Snuffe­laer