Saturday, October 21, 2006

Helpful advice for imaginary friends

As you probably know, I don’t believe in the Democrats. I don’t believe in them in the same way that I don’t believe in Santa Claus. I simply don’t believe that they exist as an independent entity. They have the same relationship to the Republicans as the Washington Generals have to the Harlem Globetrotters. They are professional foils, that’s all, they will always bow to the people signing their paychecks.

Witness the current campaign for Congress. The “Democrats” have no policy differences whatsoever with the Republicans. The only thing the “Democrats” promise is to carry out the Republican policies more capably.

Nevertheless, on the off-chance that I am too cynical, I offer this strategic advice: Taint the Republican candidates with the word “Bush” in every pejorative way imaginable. John McCain, for example, is “Bush-whipped.” Not only are the Republican candidates Bush-whipped, they support Bush league strategies. In short, they are a bunch of stupid pussies. That’s a message the Nascar crowd can understand, even after a case of Bud Lite.

I’ll go out on a limb and predict that the Republicans will hold both the House and Senate, even if the “Democrats” technically win. And yes, they can go out and celebrate by fucking a cow, and probably will, but that doesn’t do the rest of us any good.

On a happier note, enjoy the fall foliage. Larger image here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Please pardon this interruption of our regular scheduled programming

I am going to spare you my usual bullshit and give you a window into a world not many of us get to see. One of my projects is the study of elite prep schools here in New York City. I have done a lot of reading, spoken with experts, visited many schools, met with teachers, administrators, students, and parents, and sat in on classes. These are the schools that feed the Ivy Leagues, the schools attended by the children of the most wealthy and talented. Tonight I got to go to a group 2nd grade teacher meeting.

One of my areas of interest to compare and contrast the teaching methods and results of the city’s gifted and talented programs with the elite prep schools. New York City has at least three of four high schools that are up there with the best prep schools in terms of test results and admissions to the best colleges, yet the way they achieve those results is radically different. Although the public school kids learn to read and do advanced math and take tests, intellectually the prep school kids are many years ahead of them by 7th grade. I’ve been looking into the lower grades to see how this occurs. The answer, of course, is primarily money and the teaching skills that money can buy.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not dissing the top public school teachers. They are very good at what they do. It’s just that in addition to hiring more than twice as many teachers that do more or less what the public school teachers do, the elite schools also hire other teachers that do a whole lot more.

Tonight, for example, we started out with the primary teachers in the main classroom. They explained what the children were doing and how those things were necessary building blocks for more advanced activities. Then we went to the music class where the music teacher explained what the children were doing and how those things were necessary building blocks for advanced activities, and how the music knowledge and exercises were integrated with the rest of the curriculum. Then we went to the Dance class where the instructor explained what the children were doing, how those things were necessary building blocks for advanced activities, and how the dance practice was integrated with the rest of the curriculum. Then we went to the art class where the instructor explained what the children were doing, how those things were necessary building blocks for advanced activities, and how art was integrated with the rest of the curriculum. Then we went to the Library where the librarians explained the same thing, then the Gym class where the Gym teachers went from individual details to the big, integrated picture.

And finally we met the Poetry teacher who very eloquently explained his subject the same way. The children were learning all kinds of different forms short of iambic pentameter, but clearly paving the road in that direction. I don’t remember all the names of the names of the forms. I spent maybe 2 hours on poetry through 7th grade and it never go much beyond, "roses are red, and ready for plucking. Betty's sixteen, and ready for high school," or the like.

I'm not making the arguemnt that the teaching of the various arts are good because they may help with reading, writing, and math. Apparently there are no definitive studies in that regard. I agree with the arguent in the previous link, that they are good in and of themselves. As they say, no one argues that history is a worthy subject only to the extent that it helps an increase in students' proficiency in other subjects.

Anyway, this poetry teacher had a bit more to say and it tells you a lot about the difference between these very elite schools and every place else.

"Some of your children will go on to study poetry all the way through high school," he said, "but most will concentrate on other things. Some will write plays, some will write novels, others will become physicists, mathematicians, doctors, actors, or film directors. But they will all come out of the lower school understanding poetry. They will get it. And when they are in high school or college, they will be able to read a poem, discuss it intelligently and write about it if called to do so."

They really will go on to do those things and I will tell you something. I went into this project with a bad attitude towards these schools. The Ivy League and other top universities have produced the majority of the scum that are fucking up our country so badly and I expected to find the seeds of that in the lower grades of the elite prep schools. But that has not been the case.

Of course I have not been to all of them. I have not been to Exeter, which produced George W. Bush, but nothing I have seen in other top schools even begins to explain how a person could come out of them as such a twisted, pathetic, genuinely stupid human being. The only lesson I can draw in that regard is that the blame falls falls on the parents, not the schools.

I guess there will always be worthless assholes, no matter where they go to school, but that's a different issue.

The larger problem is not that the elite schools can buy such great education, it is that the other 99.5 percent of the schools cannot. Please excuse me for dragging out the old warhorse of all education related complaints, but we are literally spending trillions of dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan to make the world a more stupid, violent, and dangerous place. And how many trillions more for the defense budget? For a “defense” that endangers us all?

Why can’t we spend that money to give all schools, or as many as possible, the resources of the elite schools? That would do more for national security, and religious values for that matter, than 99 percent of all the missile systems and nuclear bombs in the world.

Okay, okay, enough with the rhetorical questions. The reasons for the distribution of resources in our society is not a mystery and I gotta go to work in the morning. Good night.