Archive for November 16th, 2010

November 16, 2010

The Tea Party Nation

by Vince

David Frum has a worth you read piece in the NY Times Magazine:

Too often, conservatives dupe themselves. They wrap themselves in closed information systems based upon pretend information. In this closed information system, banks can collapse without injuring the rest of the economy, tax cuts always pay for themselves and Congressional earmarks cause the federal budget deficit. Even the market collapse has not shaken some conservatives out of their closed information system. It enfolded them more closely within it. This is how to understand the Glenn Beck phenomenon. Every day, Beck offers alternative knowledge — an alternative history of the United States and the world, an alternative system of economics, an alternative reality. As corporate profits soar, the closed information system insists that the free-enterprise system is under assault. As prices slump, we are warned of imminent hyperinflation. As black Americans are crushed under Depression-level unemployment, the administration’s policies are condemned by some conservatives as an outburst of Kenyan racial revenge against the white overlord.

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November 16, 2010

The Beatles Arrive on iTunes

by Vince

I have been waiting a long time for this. Some could care less but others wonder if listening to the singles only will change how one listens to the Beatles:

Abbey Road ends with seven distinct tracks as the iTunes flies, all but one under 2 minutes long. The last track, “Her Majesty,” is only 23 seconds long. No savvy iTunes shopper is going to shell out that $1.29 for a 23-second track, but it has to be there. If a new generation of Beatles fans grows up without hearing “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight,” “The End” and “Her Majesty” all in a row, then they haven’t heard Abbey Road.

I remember a long while back, I went through a ton of Beatles albums and picked out the songs that I liked for my iPod. What made up songs that I liked were ones that were familiar. As I look back on some albums I grew up on that were thematic and I could listen all the way through (2001, The Minstrel Show), some artists and their albums may be meant to be listened to as one full symphony.

November 16, 2010

Song of the Day

by Vince

John Fred & his Playboys-Judy In Disguise

 

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November 16, 2010

Book Reviews: 3 Books by Jonathan Kozol

by Vince

I just finished reading a third straight book by Jonathan Kozol. I went in this order: Amazing Grace, Death at an Early Age, and Letters to a Young

Teacher.

I heard about Kozol from a friend of mine about two years ago. He is a numbers theorist at my alma matter who had first hand experience working with students in poverty stricken Appalachia. His students were white and contrast in skin color to Kozol’s students of color in the inner city. Regardless, I still see poverty as poverty. I will come back to this point in a bit.

I only started to read these books by Kozol because I had them around our room and I was meaning to read them. These books have turned out to be great gifts and have been excellent to have in this season of teaching.

First up, Amazing Grace. I had a hard time chugging through this book at times. I thought that out of the three I read, this one was the most depressing. A large chunk of the book relies on his first hand interviews with students, teachers, clergy, older community members, and families within the South Bronx. Seeing the gripping effects waste plants located in this community have on the respiratory systems of those who live near by is sickening. His stories and first hand encounters shows the dark side of de facto segregation in NYC.

In Death at an Early Age, this was Kozol’s first book, published in 1967. This

book originally was written out as notes on envelopes. He later wrote it all out and eventually made it into a book. This book documents his first year teaching in Roxbury, Massachusetts. His experience working in the de facto segregated Boston school system is eye opening. He was well aware of the corporal punishment used against students and much against it. Kozol brings to light the well guised racist feelings by some of his colleagues. Much of this guise is ultimately rooted in a separate but equal ideology. Kozol was ultimately fired for reading to his students a poem not on the approved curriculum list. This poem, however, was by a Negro who spoke in a “slang” very similar to those of the children in the city, which the school district wanted to “break”. The superintendent plainly told Kozol that he couldn’t read any literature by Negro authors who talked about suffering. Ironically, there was no issue when Kozol read to his students a poem by Robert Frost, who was not on the approved list and was even praised for presenting his students with such “cultural material”.

Finally, Letters to a Young Teacher was Kozol’s correspondence to a young teacher named Francesca. Kozol frequently stopped in to her class and observed. He then would follow up with lengthy letters. This book was neat for it is rather contemporary compared to the two previous. Letters deals with the issues of vouchers, high stakes testing, the lack of space for creativity in such classrooms, and the many differences in style and spending per student between urban and suburban/private white schools.

Across these books, Kozol approaches education as a universal good that is meant to be shared, provided for others, and valued both individually and collectively. He is Jewish and has a large respect for churches. He goes at Washington and corporate “experts” who overuse and abuse educational lingo laced with excessive syllables.

I found his books extra accessible for me because of my recent time subbing in the inner city. These books, the stories, their insights, and the general loving approach to teaching have all driven me to a new sense of feeling alive in the classroom. One issue I had with these books is that the notes in the far back are not cited in the chapters. I would of liked to of seen symbols to check a citation in the rear of the book.

“Visitors from outside these neighborhoods who witness confrontations often make the unkind observations that “these students act like animals.” But if you treat them like animals, herding them along for squalid feedings like so many cattle rather than providing them even minimal civility, its not surprising to me that they act accordingly.”

In the above quote, Kozol describes a mega-school in L.A. that houses 3,600 students but is meant only for 1,800. The school goes in shifts for lunch, starting at 9:30am until 2pm. He mentions that many of the students are not hungry yet at 9:30am and get rather rowdy come noon time. Some are known to even leave school to get food and not return.

“Many of these kids cannot constructively participate in class discussions because they have never learned in elementary school to ask dissecting questions or to analyze or criticize complex ideas.”

Kozol attacks here the standardized test craze that is so common in urban schools. Sure, suburban schools prep for these tests but so much of this craze gets embedded in urban schools to the point of wondering if this all would fly and be acceptable for suburban parents of students.

I am on now to Shame of a Nation by Kozol. These books remind me that as a teacher who cares for kids, and by kids I mean kids of all colors, even sometimes more so for kids of color (because racism twists poverty differently for blacks than whites, in my opinion), I am not alone in my passions. I care for hearing students stories, hearing about their families, asking how they came to America, their views on their school, their neighborhood, and life. Generally speaking, I am the white guy who grew up in the suburbs who really doesn’t know anything about inner city living or school. I am mostly there to listen.

The kicker is that I can level with these kids. Kozol mentions this, either explicitily or implicitly in these three books, that the majority of urban students are not “animals”. I have taught dozens of students who are great kids and well behaved. Sure, there are poorly behaved kids and even those who are disrespectful, but that is surely there in the white suburban schools I have been at.

November 16, 2010

Buy a Truck, get a Free AK-47

by Vince

What a bargain:

A central Florida dealership trying to drum up business is offering an unusual perk for potential used-truck buyers: A free AK-47 assault rifle.

General sales manager Nick Ginetta says that since the promotion was announced on Veterans Day, business has more than doubled at Nations Trucks in Sanford.

Customers would have to pass a background check before using the $400 gun shop voucher. They also have the option of using the money toward other firearms, or they can request a check in that amount instead.

Too bad this isn’t up here in the Keystone state. It would be the perfect bargain for my brother-in-law.