Monday, April 25, 2011

Public Education in Indiana

Ahh...for those of you not interested in my state government political views, read no further. This is merely a futile attempt to give pause in the minds of my state legislature. I have even created a handy-dandy facebook group in order to further my efforts. I don't suppose it will get as much coverage as the "I like dill pickles more than Justin Bieber" group. So here comes the spiel (which is german for game/play, funny huh?):

All of us have heard plenty about education reform, and we each would like to paint our demons varying shades of red. Is it the cash strapped school system, teachers who sit back like tics and suck in the rich public dollars, or is it a failure of our society to emphasize education in the home AND at school. I will seek to address these issues as I make my claim (contrary to a politician who merely points out glaring flaws without any suggestion for change, watch carefully, they do it all of the time) that public schools can not be fixed simply by changing out the staff every two years (no war is won if your commanders are rotated out every six months).

Do I think that our public schools are desperate for funds? Yes I do. Why is it that many schools can no longer afford to operate a budget that would allow a similar curicullum as to that I experienced as a child growing up in three states? This not only applies to art, gym, woodworking, etc., but also to the aides and teachers who facilitate those students who struggle with basic academic requirements. Some might say, “throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it”, well as a working-class individual, I know that if someone threw a bunch of money my way, I could find good use for it. Ok, no one wants to pay more taxes, fine. How about we allocate one-quarter of the amount that we paid to develop a war chopper that will not perform in the sand? Just asking. You can do your own research.

Are teachers fat tics sucking the lifeblood out of our economy? Hmmm… only an idiot would make the assertion that teachers are over-paid. Let’s just take an aerial survey of a government employee's (i.e. governor) home versus the housing of the average fourth-grade teacher (google earth should do it if you’re curious). I know I have seen my children’s teachers shell out bucks from their personal accounts to fund a child’s education, not to mention the "donations" (donation is sly for, "I felt so horrible, his socks were soaked because his shoes had holes in them. Besides I got them on sale") of shoes, clothes, and warm blankets that these teachers quietly pass on to students in need without comment. Does that mean that all teachers are the cat’s meow? No, not every contractor is the best, nor every surgeon (though when I finally save up for that lobotomy, I hope I get the top dog, at least a C average or better in Med School), nor every truck driver, but does that mean we condemn the entire profession? .

Let us presume that you are a teacher of any class, any grade. You have multiple students who come to school without clean clothes, solid meals, support, or affection. How do you motivate these students to succeed? Suppose you have a student born of a foreign language (before all you naysayers on the immigration front can say boo, let me remind you that if you are white, this isn’t your native land, it is only slavery, disease, and progressive violence that has cleared the way for you, so let’s not begrudge another the bounty of which we have taken advantage of for so many centuries [anyone remember those “No Irish Allowed” signs of the 1890’s]), where is your supporting linguist (probably working for the U.S. Military, they get all of the good linguists)? Second language students (regardless of reading proficiency) take the same ISTEP, so watch those numbers. Haha, before you go blaming those ESL (English as a Second Language) kids, check your statistics: The higher the percentage of students in a district receiving free lunch, the lower the tests scores, regardless of race, color, or creed. So now that we have found a direct correlation between objective data and low test scores, perhaps we should address that issue. Which is, of course, low income. Can we make everyone rich so that we are all smarter, cooler, and better-dressed? Nope, but indiscriminate teacher lay-offs aren’t the solution either. If you doubt my facts, look them up (poverty levels vs. standardized test scores). You also might want to look in on U.S. scores versus those of so-called competitor nations. We might do well to do a little emulating.

Mitch, old buddy, old pal, I challenge you to one month as a substitute teacher. You merely need the first of your two expensive degrees to pull it off. You work it, and then I might consider your stuff worth reading. You have an Ivy League education; it bewilders me that it never occurred to you to obtain first -hand data. Perhaps you are busy. Just let me know what issues take precedence over education and I will cut you some slack.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Nuts and the Public Eye

Greetings! For those of you who may not know, I have been working as a substitute teacher for my local school these last few months. Being somewhat new to this area (If you can’t track your family tree back three generations in a Midwest town, you are a newbie. It’s a kindly type of pigeon-holing used to place you within the context of your forbearers’ social history. For Example: “Are you related to Tom who used to run the service station back in the 80’s till he got the gout? He was a helluva guy, ‘cept for his problem with the drink, and the women, never mind that battery charge, that was jus’ a misunderstandin if you’re askin me” To this I always reply “Wilson is my married name”, Prompting a discussion of any known Stinsons in the tri-county area.), I have become used to a certain level of anonymity. I have always felt relatively free to approach the gas station in various forms of bed-wear, hair unkempt, personality dimmed. No longer. Just last Thursday I was taking my six-year old for a walk, and of course he wants to stop at the war memorial, which is a lovely stepped affair topped with properly armed soldiers. At this point he always wants to perform various poses for the cell camera. No problem at all! He then asks that I strike a pose whilst he mans the camera. Having very little shame, and a keen sense of fun, I comply. I strike my most-fierce Incredible Hulk pose, replete with menacing growl, when two 6th graders, with whom I am acquainted from work, pass by and yell the mandatory “HI MRS. WILSON”! (middle schoolers speak only in caps when they are about the town). What am I to say at this point, “excuse me girls, but I have left my dignity in my locker, could I have a pass”? So, now that it has warmed up, and puberty and the possibility of chance encounters have lured the students into the streets, I am stricken with a creeping case of public behavior phobia. In fact, just today I was climbing the porch steps, carrying my haul of Alco and DG merchandise, when I hear “MRS. WILSON!” I instantly freeze, and like a Columbian drug mule, I look down at my bags as though they are about to give away some dark, and better kept secret. Some of you might insist that I have a guilty conscious. Not so. I seldom get up to no good, but rest-assured, if I do, it will be well beyond the tri-county area (I had a student last week aggressively assert that she saw me in the Lafayette mall. She said this in the manner that I would use when confronting someone I had witnessed sleep-walking in the nude, while sucking on a pacifier). This brings me to my recent hair-care conundrum. Again, for those of you who do not know me well, I am not an overtly feminine gal. I prefer books to mirrors always, have very little knowledge of, or interest in, current style or fashion trends (hence the polygamist hair). I would much rather have a discussion on the merits of various types of anti-freeze, as opposed to hashing out the pros and cons of various brands of shampoo (Dex-cool is a horrible plot by General Motors to increase parts sales). Now that I am before the young public eye, I feel that some effort must be made in the grooming department. I had my hair cut, but the “stylist” was a purist so she only docked me two negligible inches and gave me one layer. She demonstrated for me how to straighten my still, very long hair. All is well. I buy the product, hubby orders expensive straightener to be delivered. I am all set to dazzle the youth with my presentableness. Until….I read product (some smoother cream meant to protect my hair from the torture I mean to do it after many years of neglect. The cost of which could provide 2 female college students with a memorable night at the bar) directions. These begin verbatim with “spread 1 or 2 hazelnut-sized amounts of product in the hand”. Ummm…I have hazelnut coffee creamer, sans picture. Now I generally think that I have the subject of nuts well in hand (snicker), but I am stymied when trying to conjure up an accurately sized image of a blasted hazelnut. Of course in my inexperience, I assume that too little will fry my hair into crunchy bits worthy of New Jersey hooker, or that too much will give me the greasy appearance of a pasty twenty-something who totally rocks at World of Warcraft, but hasn’t seen the inside of a shower in months. So there’s something of a learning curve to this whole preening thing. Thirty-two isn’t to late to learn by far.