Monday, July 30, 2012

A BUZZARD EGG OMELET #17



 I LOVE SPAM




Recently on Squatlo-Rant there was a post concerning spam comments that seem to be piling up in the spam cache of his blogs.   From other peoples inputs on the post it seems that most bloggers are having the same problem.   I checked my own spam cache for the first time and found that anonymous absolutely loved my post and that anonymous has a web address that is a loan company.  

After deleting the crap I went back and looked at the image Squalo had imbedded in his post, and the resulted was a mental road trip back through my childhood.

I LOVE SPAM, but my wife won’t let me eat it.   She is convinced that it is made from crap parts of meat that is not healthy.    I don’t care: I STILL LOVE SPAM. 

I remember my grandmother making eggs over easy, fried Spam, grits and fried toast (Wonder Bread) for me on Saturday mornings.   I remember eating fried Spam sandwiches (fried Spam between two pieces of Wonder Bread spread thick with mayonnaise – yum yum.)   

And just so you know: I believe anything you eat can be improved with mayonnaise – however I haven’t been able to convince my wife that mayonnaise belongs in the bedroom

Does anyone remember Prem?  It looked like Spam but had a different consistency and taste sweet (like maple cured ham.)  



Anyway, Spam has taken a bad rap.   It has now been linked with junk mail.   It is bad enough that in this country Spam as food is looked on with contempt, now it also carries the image of fakery and conceit.    We should change the name of these robo-created, unwanted internet intrusions.

There are so many other names we could attach that would be apropos.  We could call them: Citizens United Communiqu├ęs; Job Creating Observations; Corporations are People Too Inputs; Chamber of Commerce Comments; Commentary Privatization…

Oh well, my wife is calling me to breakfast.  She has made Oatmeal – yum yum. 

the Ol’Buzzard


Friday, July 27, 2012

A BUZZARD EGG OMELET #16



PERHAPS MORE THAN YOU WANT TO KNOW


When I was in the Navy I use to say that you knew the day was shitty if the best thing that has happened to you was the crap you had that morning.  

Now that I am older and wiser and don’t tend to rush through my days, and as a result I have come to appreciate a good crap.  This morning ritual now takes on the closest thing that I have to a religious experience: Zen meditation - a melding of mind, body and spirit with the natural world.

My wife knows that I am available 23 hours and fifty-five minutes out of every day to do her bidding.   But, when I am on the throne I do not want to hear about the latest happenings or problems, the news of the day, or take someone’s message on the telephone.  I don’t even want to hear the cat yowling or scratching at the door: Sanctum Sanctorum.

After great meditation on the subject I have come to understand that all craps are not alike – each has its own personification.   So, in the spirit of understanding I have named them:
·       ROMNEY:  Soft and squishy – no form
·       BOEHNER:  Like passing a pine cone – makes you cry
·       BACHMANN:  Diarrhea
·       RYAN: After a lot of grunting and straining you have to lie about the small results.
·       MC CONNELL:  Constipation
·       BUSH CHENEY:  A huge smelly turd
·       ANN COULTER:  A gas attack
·       DONALD TRUMP:  A routine evacuation

I hope that in the spirit of sharing you will come to appreciate the thought and study I have focused on this subject.   With renewed concentration you too may learn to live in the moment of the porcelain bowl and find that basic connection with all humans past, present and future. 


Namaste 
the Ol'Buzzard
   



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS OF AURORA, COLORADO MASSACRE





In the wake of the Aurora, Colorado shooting news pundits and blogs are postulating causes, conditions and incidents that may have led to this senseless mass killing. 

The normal lunatic fringe is adding their conspiracy theories to the mix; but few, except their ilk, are paying attention to them.

There is no one reason that we can attribute to this particular attack or other similar unprovoked attacks on the general population.   The causes are unfathomable but many conditions exist that act as a catalyst. 

There have always been people that live on the edge of sanity, and the propensity for violence has always been there.   Conditions that can trigger these antisocial meltdown include depression, paranoia, extreme stress, sexual deviance, religious mania, schizophrenia, low IQ, a need for acceptance (cults,) – and the list continues. 

I have lived for seventy-plus years (and been conscious for most of that time.)   Looking back, I perceive a societal trend that seems to lend itself to the mix.

These kinds of atrocities were not common fifty years ago.  Of course, the U.S. population has almost doubled since 1960; so the numbers of people capable of these actions have increased proportionally.

The main trend I see is that over the last fifty years we have moved into an era of social isolation.   People with problems use to interact with society in order to function in their daily life.  To communicate you had to speak to friends, family and other people.   You had to constantly interact on a personal basis. 

During the fifties and early sixties there were ‘action’ movies and TV shows, but the violence was regulated.   Interaction with people on a daily basis kept you grounded so that fantasy worlds were recognized as fantasy. 

Today’s population is inundated with images of extreme graphic violence and as a results we have become somewhat deadened in our emotion toward actual killings.  Many young men after work or school immediately plug into video games.  Research has shown that boys by the age of 21 have spent 10,000 hours playing video games.  All of these games are violent, and participants vicariously kill or be-killed.  These games roll play carnage; and for some obsessed young people the line between reality and fantasy becomes blurred.

During the fifties and sixties there were a few mass killings (suicides,) but they were the results of religious cults.   Individual acts of mass violence were rare; and when these occurred the general population felt a personal revulsion.

We have been desensitized.   It seems that among the general population, the killings at Columbine High School and in the theater at Aurora have taken on the quality of a reality show.   We have become a voyeur nation. The feeling of personal loss and compassion would have been much more genuine fifty years ago. 

We live in a world of social media resulting in social isolation.   Young people’s brains are becoming digitally rewired. Where we once spent hours interacting directly with people we now spend hours on the computer.  Talking to people, even on a cell phone, is rare – now we text or tweet.    I have seen young people at the local college sitting at a table together texting rather than talking.  

There are catalysts to these senseless killings.   The availability of guns, fantasy role-play, violence in media, the opportunity for instant fame and recognition via the twenty-four hour news networks all have their place in the execution of acts of carnage by unhinged individuals; but they are not in themselves the cause. 

In closing, it is my belief that society is following technology, and as a result the individual is becoming more isolated.  Because of this social isolation society has moved to a point of apathy toward others.  We are seeing in these killings a Darwinian adjustment of society and a rewiring of the individual’s brain to function in the new techno-environment.   The result of this new environment is an acceptance that this type of violence is the norm, and though regrettable will continue. 

Or as Yellow Dog Granny might say: we’re all fucked.
the Ol’Buzzard

  


    

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sunday, July 22, 2012

SHOVE A PENCIL IN YOUR EAR or MORE GANGSTAGRASS

Dedicated especially for Yellow Dog Granny.

You don't need to thank me
the Ol'Buzzard

THE WOEFUL STATUS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION - V






MY LAST WORD ON THIS SUBJECT (PERHAPS)

In prior post I have voiced my opinion on the negative results that politicians, school boards and watered down curriculum text have on our education system.   There is one other issue that has a pronounced effect on the outcome of a child’s education, and unfortunately it is a social effect that has no present solution. 

Let me reemphasize that teacher’s training and performance is not the problem.   Teachers presently meet demanding standards, constant evaluation and continuing education requirements that ensure their competency.  

However, having said this, all education content and societal beliefs of our teachers are not equal.   Teachers that matriculate through southern schools and southern colleges are extremely likely to carry religious beliefs into their classroom that conflict with hard factual information. 

Religion is, and always has been the enemy of enlightenment and free thinking.  

After retiring from teaching in Alaska, my wife and I moved to Kentucky, where we substituted in the local school system.   I took long term substitution positions in science, math and literature: generally the results of maternity leaves.  

When teaching science and biology I was told not to cover the family tree of man (Australopithecus to Homo sapiens – the timeline of mankind.)   I was told that that was one of a number competing theories and that it was best not to deal with it as it would cause parents to complain. 

 

Some of the teachers in the school kept Bibles on their desk; one of the teachers had a number of books entitled Chicken Soup for the Soul that she encouraged students to read; and at one high school assembly a Christian church group came in and gave a presentation on abstinence, complete with religious songs and Bible references. 



It was not an unusual thing in Kentucky for students to wear tea-shirts asking What Would Jesus Do.  

I also did a stent as president of Adult Literacy Council for the county.  One of the adult students was a Mexican named Jesus – the local community had refused to call him Jesus and so had nicknamed him Joe.  

I could go on and on listing the instances of religious compromise permeating the education system of that county; but, I must state that the school was a reflection of the norm of the community in general. 

The schools turned out students that were proficient in math, computer science and language arts.   The school also had an excellent shop program.  

The points of failure for most southern and many mid-western school systems is the blatant deficiency in science, civics and social studies, as well as the development of critical thinking skills.   This is the results of religious influences in the community that interject themselves into the school curriculum - often through the teachers. 

the Ol’Buzzard 


Saturday, July 21, 2012

WE MUST PROTECT OUR SECOND AMENDMENT RIGHTS




When a young man carried an assault rifle, a shotgun and two pistols into a movie theater he was exercising his Second Amendment Rights.

When a man with two pistols with extended ammo clips attended Gabby Giffords’ political meeting he was exercising his Second Amendment Rights.

When a man patrolled his neighborhood while carrying a handgun; and decided it is necessary to accost a young black teen who is talking on a cell phone and drinking a soda – he was exercising his Second Amendment Rights.

And who knows when it will be necessary to overthrow our government that is becoming too inclusive of minorities, or to repel alien attacks?    So we need to protect our Second Amendment Rights.

Really?
the Ol'Buzzard 

Monday, July 16, 2012

AIRCRAFT I HAVE KNOWN






In another lifetime I spent 22 years in the Navy: two years in school; two years in Military Police; eight years in the SERE program and ten years in Navy aviation as an electronic tec and radio operator. 

I often view SARGE’s blog, and he regularly posts pictures of aircraft.  It occurred to me that I might post pics of aircraft I have flown on as a Combat Air Crewman – probably not interesting to most folks but it is cathartic for me and in someway a part of whom I am. 

My first year in the Navy was spent in aviation electronic school.  Upon completion of school we filled out ‘dream sheets’ requesting our first duty station.  Everyone wanted a nice stateside assignment and was fearful of being sent to ‘the rock’ (Argentia, Newfoundland.)    I requested Argentia – and got it.

I had been a ham radio operator as a teen so I was selected for airborne radio operator’s school in Pax River, Maryland.   There I trained in C-131 Supper Constellations, known as Supper Connies.   These were huge aircraft that had been successfully used by TWA and other commercial aviation companies.  These aircraft were outfitted to train pilots, flight engineers, radar and radio operators.  I had never flown before and though many of my fellow students suffered air sickness, I took to flying immediately. 




After radio school I was flown to ‘the rock’ on a World War II vintage R4D – a tail dragger. 



Arriving in Newfoundland, at the ripe old age of 20,  I was assigned to the airborne early warning squadron VW-11.    This was in 1960, a time of paranoia - a time when American children we still being taught to crawl under their desk to protect themselves from an atom bomb attack from Russia



There were a string of radar stations, known as the DEW Line, strategically located across northern Canada to give early warning if Russian bombers should fly across the North Pole for a sneak attack on the US.   However, out in the North Atlantic Ocean there were holes in the radar coverage.  These holes were filled by two early warning configured aircraft that were on station 24 hours a day 365 days a year.   We were, in fact, an extension of the DEW Line.  We flew with two crews (approximately 24 men) and our flights lasted from 12 to 16 hours.   We flew in one hundred mile an hour winds, in snow storms, hail storms or hurricanes.   We filled the radar gap between Newfoundland and Iceland




The ‘smoke stack’ on top of the aircraft was a height reading radar antenna and the big belly dome was a powerful air to air radar antenna. 



After leaving Newfoundland, my next assignment was VP-26: an anti-submarine patrol bomber squadron stationed in Brunswick, Maine.   We flew P2V-5 Neptune bombers tracking surface shipping and hunting and tracking submarines.   Nothing floated or traveled submerged in the Atlantic Ocean that we did not track.  



These P2V's were great aircraft.  They had two reciprocating engines and two jet pods for short field takeoffs.   The nose of the aircraft was Plexiglas and when you sat forward in the nose the view was spectacular. 



 We carried seven crew members. This aircraft was not air-conditioned so in hot climates we often flew with the windows open.  The wing spar of this aircraft went through the cabin and you had to crawl on your belly to get from the front of the aircraft to the rear.   We had a bomb bay that could accommodate 500 pounders, we could carry rockets and bombs under the wings and we had a hatch in the floor where we could manually drop ordinance.   We also threw mini-bombs out the side windows for echo sounding. 



After my first tour in SERE I was picked up by a Special Projects squadron, VXN-8, that deployed to Vietnam.   When I arrived in country I was shocked to find that we were flying the same Supper Connies that I had flown in VW-11. 

On the ramp at Da Nang

Most of Connie aircraft had been mothballed but these had been re-commissioned for our mission because of their extended flight capabilities.   These were great aircraft.  Twice my plane was rattled with grown fire but these old birds would still get us back to base.   It was almost a common site to see our planes landing being chased by fire trucks and emergency crews. 




The last military aircraft I was crew on was a P-3 Electra, a replacement for the P2V-5.  I was again stationed in Brunswick, Maine with Anti-Submarine Squadron 11 (VP-11)  


I didn’t like this aircraft – it reminded me of the generic automobiles that we have been driving since the 1980’s.   It seemed like a cold and impersonal piece of machinery with no character. 



 

When I left the Navy I made the statement that if I ever got on another aircraft I hoped it would crash and burn.   Sine then, I have flown hundreds of hours in small bush planes (often at 500 feet or below) into and out of the villages in the Alaska bush.  

The Ol’Buzzard



JULY 16 ANNIVERSARY



 HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB.


In 1939, at Einstein’s insistence, President Roosevelt formed a committee to oversee Atom Bomb research.   The Congress appropriated $6,000 for the program.

In 1942 Dr. John Oppenheimer (a German immigrant) was named director of the Atomic Research Laboratory.
Oppenheimer’s team consisted of:
·       Hans Albert Bethe (German)
·       Enrico Fermi (Italian)
·       Willard Libby (American)
·       William Penney (British)
·       Leo Szilard (Hungarian)
·       Harold Urey (American)

The central question in developing the bomb was the critical mass of (U-235) enriched uranium.  It was felt that too little uranium and the neutrons would escape without producing a chain reaction.   Too much uranium might cause a massive chain reaction that would destroy Los Alamos and its 5000 employees.  There were even some scientist that questioned whether the chain reaction could actually be controlled or might it initiate an event that would destroy the earth. 

July 16, 1945



The bomb was six feet long and two feet in diameter, weighing 4 tons.  Using plutonium 239 the bomb exploded atop a 100 foot steel tower with a force of 20,000 tons of TNT.  The steel tower was instantly vaporized and one mile of desert sand was turned to glass.   The concussion from the blast was felt ten miles away and a mushroom cloud was produced that extended 40,000 feet into the atmosphere.


 the Ol'Buzzard

Sunday, July 15, 2012

THE WOEFUL STATUS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION IV






WHAT DO WE TEACH OUR CHILDREN?

When I taught high school history I always began each semester by telling the students to hold every statement in the history text in suspect, because every account and record has fallacies of bias.   All enduring history has been recorded by the winners of wars.   If you win the war you get to tell history from your perspective.  The books also contain cultural biases.   History that is recorded by different nations does not necessarily agree on events, as national historians tend to record history to reflect their nation’s best image. 

I asked students to use the text as a guide line (a time line) to consider events as a basis to begin exploration and discussion.    To understand events is far better than memorizing dates and heroes. 

Back in the eighties, when I began teaching, I did not occur to me to ask my students to question math and science.  To me those disciplines were factual and indisputable.  But today every discipline, every text book should be held to question.



No mater where you live in this country or where you child goes to school it is likely that the text books they use have been influenced by the Texas School Board. 

As a general rule, public school districts across the country are free to choose the text book series they wish to teach in their schools, and each district pays the cost of new text book series.  But Texas acquired its power over the text book companies by paying 100% of the cost of all school text books, providing the books are selected from series approved by the Texas State School Board. 
There are approximately five million students in Texas, so text book companies strive to get on the short approved list of the Texas State School Board.  



The Texas State School Board has fifteen members.  The board approves all textbooks, curriculum and supplemental material used in Texas public schools.

In the early 1960’s religious fundamentalist targeted the State School Board because they feared that their children were being indoctrinated in Godless secularism by the liberal leaning text books being used in schools.  There was never a large turnout for School Board elections and so over the next decade the Christian conservatives co-opted the fifteen seats, consolidating control over curriculum and text book purchases

The cost of producing a science text book can run as high as five million dollars, and the books have to be produced on speculation.   The Texas market is so large that text book companies feel they must conform to Texas standards.  The books approved by the Texas School Board are likely to be mass produced by the publishers, so other states buy them to take advantage of cost savings. 

One Texas school board member believed that public schools were the tool of the devil; another openly stated that “evolution is hooey.”  The board as a hole believed that evolution, global warming and the separation of church and state were false.  

As a results Texas religious conservative fundamentalist have heavily influenced history, social studies and science curriculums across the nation. 

Science books now skirt the theory of evolution and any science that might compete with biblical teachings. 



 History books do not highlight slavery and segregation – they mention the attack on the twin towers but do not cover the US attack on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  In general History text have been watered down. 



Social Studies text justify McCarthy anti-communist witch hunt by the inclusion of the Venona papers.  The School Board demanded the includes the cattle industry boom of the nineteenth century; the problem of immigration; the philanthropy of industrialist; Phyllis Schlafly’s opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; the Contract with America; the Heritage Foundation; the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association in social studies text.   

 

The list of concessions to the Texas State School Board could continue, but the fact remains that for the last fifty years the Christian conservative Texas School Board members have had a detrimental impact on the accuracy of the material we teach our children in school.     

Entering the second decade of the twenty-first century, the influence of small passionate minority’s in our schools curriculums is receding.  A concerted effort by liberals to replace the conservative, fundamentalist Christians on the Texas School Board has to some extent succeeded.   Book publishers are now moving to on-line publishing which drastically cuts the cost of production and decreases their vulnerability to manipulation by the Texas School Board.

The outcome quality of our education system is only as good as the accuracy of the information we are required to teach; and giving the classroom teacher the autonomy to encourage students to question, explore discuss and form their own opinions would be far more productive than teaching rote to prescribed text books.  

the Ol'Buzzard

Saturday, July 14, 2012

A BUZZARD EGG OMELET # 15






WHAT THE HELL HAS HAPPENED TO CHEERIOS?



I haven’t eaten Cherrios in a long time.   My wife usually buys our cereal from a local health food store.   But yesterday we ran out and so I picked up a package of Cheerios from the local supermarket.   This morning when I sat down to a bowl of cereal I noticed the fucking O’s were smaller.   I asked my wife and she agreed the O’s have shrunk. 

I know it has been obvious to most everyone that food companies for a long time have been increasing their profits by shrinking the amount of food in packaging while maintaining retail cost.  The idea is that people will not realize they are paying more for the product per volume. 

Can goods use to be 16 oz – now they range anywhere from 10.5 to 15 oz – the cans are smaller while the price has remained near the same.  

Now companies are changing the shape of their product to disguise further cuts in volume.  

I recently bought some Nabisco Saltine Crackers, which now come in the ‘New Saltine Shape.”   The bloody things are round like Ritz Crackers; and when you superimpose one of the ‘new Saltine Shape’ over one of the traditional square ones you realize that Nabisco has cut off the corners to produce the “New Saltine Shape.”   Not only that, but you are now getting  fewer crackers in the ‘New’ 10.5 oz box.

When I bought the Cheerios I noticed that the box had the same height and width as usual but it was noticeably thinner.   The box now contains only 8.9 oz.   OK, I’m getting less cereal.   But making the O’s smaller – what the fuck is that all about?

I’m just asking
the Ol’Buzzard





Thursday, July 12, 2012

THE WOEFUL STATUS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION III


SCHOOL BOARDS   




We enter the conference room.   The school district superintendent and the school board president are casually seated at the end of the table.  The Superintendent is laughing at something the board president is saying.  As other board members come in and take their seats at the table the superintendent greets each by name and makes some small comment of familiarity.    I look at the Superintendent, a man with a Doctorate in Education and years experience in the classroom and as a school principal, playing the part of a snake-oil politician, obliviously grabbling in supplication to this group that will, in the future, be asked to renew his contract.  

I am sitting on the periphery of the table with two other principals.   We are there to report to the board a summary of the month’s accomplishments at our schools.     One of the school board members has a son at my school that was not eligible for a basketball trip because of his grades in language arts.  I already know that I will have to defend the teacher for maintaining her standards for achievement.  

The meeting starts and past minutes are read, old business is discussed – usually to do with money issues, or curriculum and testing issues which everyone on the board listens to intently and pretends to understand.  There is a small discussion that perhaps the teachers have too much free access to the copy machines and that they should be limited to a certain number of copies per week.  For new business it is suggested that an electronic key card could be employed to determine who uses the machine most, and controls the use.   The Superintendent immediately agrees.  

Next the principals are asked to report.   I give a watered down version of the testing preparations that the teachers and I have spent hours discussing and planning, and a brief description of a cooperative learning field trip that involves archeological research at a traditional Native fishing site on the river.    Everyone listens attentively; then I ask if there are any questions.  

Immediately my board member states that a number of parents have complained to her about a particular teacher who seems to have the goal of preventing students from engaging in extra-curricular activities.   I defend my teacher and her academic autonomy to set standards in her classroom.   The rest of the board enthusiastically joins in, unanimously convinced that students should be allowed to play basketball regardless of grades.   I stand by the policy of eligibility and come just short of telling the board member that her son is a pain in the ass in class and thinks that because his mother is a board member he doesn’t have to meet the requirements of the rest of the students.    I look over at the Superintendent and he is frowning.    The board is heated and I am aggravated but maintaining control; but refusing to capitulate.    The Superintendent steps in and says that perhaps the board should consider reviewing the standards that exist among all district schools for sports and other activity and set uniform standards.

A motion is made and passed and the principals are asked to provide an in-depth report of eligibility requirements at each of their schools for the next board meeting. 


Elected school boards are the other bane of education.   Like politicians, there is no competency test to qualify a person for the school board.  Members are mainly composed of activist mothers or fathers who readily inform you that they are qualified for the position because they are parents.   (In reality the only qualification for being a parent is the ability to fuck and conceive.)  Other members of the board will be business persons looking for local recognition, and special interest activist (usually religious) looking to insert their agenda into the school.  Occasionally there is a retired school teacher, but as a whole the board is woefully unqualified to set education policies and totally ignorant of the day to day problems involved in educating children in a classroom.



We don’t have civilian elected boards intricately controlling doctor’s protocols and emergency room or operating room procedure; nor do we have elected civilian boards manipulating law firms, psychiatric medicine, physics or chemistry labs, and other disciplines.   Yet, we feel perfectly justified in ‘electing’ non educators to regulate and control the education processes of our school districts.    

Congress mandates the curriculum through standards and testing requirements and school boards interfere with the way schools are run on a day to day basis with frivolous and uninformed edicts via their ability to hire and fire school administrators. 

We will never improve American schools unless we remove the control from politicians and local school boards and place education professionals in charge.

the Ol'Buzzard



Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A BUZZARD EGG OMELET #14


THE SANE ASYLUM

Separating the insane from the general public has been done since the twelve century.    Along with debtors prisons Insane Asylums (also known as Lunatic Asylums)  have had the fearful image of a place where a person could become lost from society and dwell in a psychotic hell on earth the remainder of life. 

The most iconic of insane asylums is Bedlam in London - if you entered you were likely to never return.    Perhaps more familiar is the lunatic asylum run by Dr John Seward where Renfield ate spiders and flies while he waited for Dracula. 
Francisco Goya's The Madhouse


Up through the 20th century asylums separated the insane from the general public; but now, in the 21st century we find the demographics changing.    Crazy has become the new norm.   The sane – the logical – the critical thinkers are a dwindling minority and it seems beyond practical capability to house the nut cases; so, I propose that we establish Sane Asylums.  

We could take over libraries, museums, and art galleries.   We could restrict cell phones, i-pods, video games, computers, radios and televisions (perhaps allowing PBS radio and TV broadcast and the occasional BBC production.)   It would be a place of sanity.  It would be a place where people would actually talk to each other.   There could be discussions on science and literature; but never on politics or religion.  And in the antithesis of asylums of yore we could lock out the crazies. 


It is just a thought
the Ol’Buzzard 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

THE WOEFUL STATUS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION II


PART TWO



It always burns my ass when I hear politicians decry teachers - demanding more training and stricter regulation for the teaching profession.    It is ludicrous when you realize that teachers are required to have a specialized college education and pass a battery of test to receive certification; and they are constantly under the supervision of a principal and require continuing education and evaluation for recertification.   On the other hand, any fool can become a Congress or Senator person – there is no test for competency.    In Congress we have elected high school graduates, beauty queens, laborers of all stripes, preachers and even a blues singer.   It is not beyond the realm of possibility that some day we may have a Congressman Joe the Plumber.   And, adding insult to injury, these people legislate policies that define our educational system.   

When a Congress person is elected his (or her) immediate concern becomes re-election.  He will attend strategy meetings with his party, show up and vote party lines, get on as many committees as possible (you receive extra pay of each committee you are assigned) and always seek to keep a low profile – be one of the pack – not stand out – because if you make waves and take a public stand you may anger some constitutes.   

The majority of a Congressman’s time is spent meeting with special interest: businessmen and lobbyist that might be willing to help finance his run in the next election.    Months prior to the reelection he starts his appeal to the electorate via public forum: he believes in God, he is for the family, he is concerned about the economy, he is a red, white and blue American and he has a plan to overhaul our failing educational system through comprehensive testing and tougher teacher scrutiny.

He can’t take a public stand on gay rights, women’s rights, minority rights, gun regulations, universal health care or the separation of church and state, because these are too controversial.  But, he can safely stand for education improvement – comprehensive testing of kids and getting rid of bad teachers, which is obviously the problem. 




Returning to Alaska as a principal I found myself dealing with NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND.    I had taken the position of principal of two elementary and one high school in two Native villages in the Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska.  When I arrived on site I found, that at the high school, the prior senior class of twelve had graduated only four students.   The Native children in this schools were not equipped to pass the culturally bias – one size fits all – test.   So actually, NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND had left eight children behind that year.  A few came back for another shot, but eventually dropped out.   After attending twelve years of school, eight students ended up without a high school diploma.   

Working with the teachers we revamped the curriculum – not to teach the test – but - to teach to the test.  That year we graduated eight of twelve, the second year we graduated eight of ten and the third year twelve of thirteen students.   I am still devastated that during my three year tenure I failed to graduate seven students – students that spent twelve years attending school but were unable to pass the NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND prescribed test.  

There are those that would criticize me for revamping a curriculum to focus on testing, but my concern was for the students and not to justify some flawed political education policy.  

Very early in my teaching career I learned that Native children live in a different world.  Their parents speak ‘village English.’  They are raised in a hunting and gathering society.  They have their own history and their own values.   They stand with one foot in the present and one foot in the past.   They live, often, with disdain of white cultural norms.   

Our government, from the very beginning, has strived to change their culture by producing acceptable white clones of their children.  To a large extent, government has succeeded in decimating their culture, their language and their religions.  

It is not just the native culture that struggles to meet a legislated idea of conformity, but all minority cultures.    They must speak proper English, they must meet education standards, they must forsake their culture and adopt American cultural norms…and the list goes on.  

This one-size-fits-all shoe box has destroyed our educational system.   We do not strive to educate children to be productive members of society, but to pass some arbitrary test required by legislated standards enacted by politicians campaigning for reelection. 

Our society is diverse.  The differences in cultures, religion and language have made our country the great melting pot.   And, it is this diversity that must be considered when educating our children.  

Politicians only know ‘one-size-fits- all’ to produce ‘people-like-us.’

We need to get politics out of Education.   We need to place ‘certified educators’ in charge of education.   We need to do away with culturally restrictive standards and celebrate cultural diversity in our classrooms. 

The federal government’s job should be to generously fund state public education.    A State Board Of Education composed of one teacher from each school district and appointed by the district on a rotating basis, should oversee all schools and determine school efficiency in that state on a case by case basis.   The standard for graduation should be flexible and determined by a team of teachers and principals from that district.

Would this produce a standard of education?   No.  
Would some schools be more technical and advanced? Yes
Would some schools graduates students more prepared for secondary education? Yes.
Would more children be left behind?  No.
Would children receive a more thorough education?  Yes.


Teachers would be able to teach math, literature, science, social studies and integrate technology without the constant concern of meeting an arbitrary testing standard that could destroy a student’s future and cost them their jobs.    Students would emerge from twelve years of school with a more thorough education and better critical thinking skills. 


On the next blog I will take a shot at local school boards.
The Ol’Buzzard
  

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

THE WOEFUL STATUS OF AMERICAN EDUCATION




PART ONE
                         
My second career was elementary and high school teaching and elementary and high school principal.   As such, ‘I have made my bones,’ and from intimate knowledge have earned the right to evaluate the system.
                                                                                            
Politicians drone on about the deplorable state of American education and people like President Bush 41 ask the question “Is our children learning?”  

The answer is NO! At least they are not graduating with knowledge and understanding of the world we live in and a factual chain of math and scientific cause and effect; and most of all they lack the ability to apply logic and reason.

There are numerous causes for the inability of our schools to effectively educate our children to a twenty-first century adequacy.   The major problem is that our system is the product of politicians and radical (mostly religious) groups with special agendas.

The ‘whipping boy’ for this failure is always the teachers. 

As an educator, no longer serving at the pleasure of an elected school board let me give a view from inside a system designed for failure.  

Let’s first look at teachers.   Most teachers are better educated than you local bank president.   All have Bachelor Degrees and many have Masters and Doctorates.   All have passed strenuous certification tests and are required to continue their education in order to recertify at specific intervals. 

Teaching was historically a female occupation, and as such was never looked on as a ‘legitimate’ profession.    That mind set has carried over to today where teaching is still not considered as professional, but instead viewed as advanced child care.    Teachers are not paid salaries accurately reflecting their level of education and are not given the respect received by other professions with lesser requirements and less responsibilities. 

Part of this image is the fault of teachers.  How often have I heard teachers state that they teach because they love children.   What bull shit!   You might love lions and tigers but that doesn’t qualify you as an animal trainer.   Teachers should demand professional respect.   They should state that they teach because they have developed a unique ability to impart information and because they have special training and background on certain subject matter.   They should support their unions that constantly try to elevate teaching to a respected profession. 

Teachers constantly have an uphill battle.   They preside over classrooms that are overcrowded; they deal with unnecessary discipline problems from unruly students - some that are potentially dangerous; they lack support from principals who serve at the pleasure of parent and special interest school boards; they are required to teach curriculum that is scattered and loosely connected.  

Most teachers are good teachers.  There are some special teachers that can go beyond and are able to encourage logic and critical thinking skills (this of course is not valued in the south.)  There are, in fact, very few ‘bad’ teachers.   Most ineffective teachers become dissatisfied with teaching and move on to other (and often more lucrative) fields.   There are, however, struggling teachers in impossible situations.     They are basically good teachers, who lack support from their administration, and eventually burn out.   Realizing the futility of their situation they develop a survival attitude.  They are products of a system that can not succeed.  

As a retired school principal I can tell you with authority that the teacher’s main goal is the success of their students.   Our teachers morn the fact that their students are matriculating with an incomplete education.  They hate the fact that they have to teach to testing standards.  They know that if given the authority and autonomy to set their curriculum to the special demographics of their students they would be able to effectively improve understanding and knowledge retention.   They are, however, hobbled by outside influences of non-educators and a bureaucracy and a public that is not teacher friendly.   

The teachers are not the problem with the education inadequacy – they are the solution. 

The Ol’Buzzard