A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, April 30, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 63: Quelle nightmare edition

Welcome back to Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Here's the deal: I give you some quotes, and you respond in the comments section with quotes of your own from the same movie without revealing the name of the movie.

I have been horrifyingly busy, and I am sure you are, too, so let's lob a softball out there to you.

"When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does. "

"You are a lone reed. You are a lone reed, standing tall, waving boldly in the corrupt sands of commerce."

"So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around?"

"Thank your."

"My father's getting married again. For the past five years he's been living with a woman named Gillian who took interior decorating lessons at Caesar's Palace."

"You think this machine is your friend but it's not."

"It happened in Spain. People do really stupid things in foreign countries."
"Absolutely. They buy leather jackets for much more than they're worth, but they don't fall in love with fascist dictators."

****Weekend Update: Those three perfect words are


Any time I suffer from a need for my Meg Ryan fix, I watch this one, or City of Angels, or French Kiss, although Addicted to Love was also hysterical.

And Tom Hanks is a perfect foil for her. I think Drew Barrymore is trying to be the next Meg Ryan. Thanks for playing!


Saturday, April 28, 2007

School bus driver assaulted

Once I had a principal who thought it would be a great idea if I and some other teachers got our bus driver's credentials to save the school district some money on field trips. I refused to even consider the idea, since driving a multi-ton vehicle down freeways while kids shout and goof around behind is not really my cup o' tea. This report reminds me why that was a good decision:
(TULSA, Okla.) April 27 - A Tulsa school bus driver is recovering at home after being attacked by a student.

Paramedics say the driver suffered a concussion this morning outside East Central High School.

On the way to the school, the bus driver says some students were acting rowdy and he asked them to move to the front of the bus.

When they arrived, one student started arguing with the driver about what happened.

He asked the student to leave the bus, that's when she turned around and hit him in the head with a perfume bottle.

School officials say the bus has a camera on board but they're not yet sure if it was recording.

Officials say the driver from this morning should be applauded for his conduct and his professionalism during the incident.

Officers are still investigating the case, so no word on any charges.

Officials from the school say they will handle the issue according to the Tulsa Public Schools' code of student conduct.

District officials call this a "rare case."

Bus drivers are trained to avoid conflicts with students or parents, including strict rules on not fighting back.

And by the way, I'd like to thank district officials for publicizing the fact that Tulsa school bus drivers are sitting targets who must take being struck on the skull with glass objects. Great decision.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

Teaching in Cali (and everywhere): Not really a surprise

New teachers in California have a rough time feeling that they can really sustain a decent life while in the profession:
Teachers stifled by bureaucracy and blocked from making decisions in their own classrooms are leaving teaching in droves, according to a new study by Cal State University's Teacher Quality Institute.

Nearly 22 percent of California teachers leave teaching after four years, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. With this type of exodus, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning projects a 33,000-teacher shortage in California by 2015.

At high-poverty schools, one in 10 teachers leaves each year, either for a different campus or a new occupation entirely.
"It's students from our most challenging schools who suffer the most," said Jack O'Connell, state superintendent of schools. "We really do have a revolving door."

The 1,900 teachers surveyed by the institute said they left mainly because of the endless amounts of paperwork, constant interruptions and fruitless meetings that take time away from actual instruction, said Ken Futernick, principal author of the study and director of K-12 Studies at the institute.

"Those kind of things aren't just driving people crazy, they are driving teachers out of the classroom," Futernick said.
Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association, said the study echoed the union's concerns.

"We need to have more say at the local level. We have bureaucratic-ed ourselves to death," Kerr said. "Teachers are feeling like they're not able to use the knowledge they have."

Read the whole thing. And there's more here.

It seems like a lot of people running school districts around the country seem to have a scornful attitude toward the teachers who do the work that schools are there to do. When administrators denigrate and devalue teachers, student and parent attitudes will follow. Then administrators wonder why the discipline in the school has become so unmanageable.

Like it or not, the way our capitalist society demonstrates the value it places upon one's work is directly related to the salary one can earn doing that work. Our culture claims to care about children, and yet we pay the people who work with them, educate them, and care for them a fragment of what other professions may attain. And when more tasks are piled upon you with no compensation, that actually equals a pay cut-- further eroding the value of teaching.

I guess the situation won't resolve itself until they can't find any warm bodies to throw into the classrooms of America.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Friendly fire and lies


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Here's what your kids are listening to: The inaugural edition

So last Friday, I was, ummmm, "enlightened" by one of my students about the significance of the date (four twenty), which is supposedly the day to smoke pot all day. I am so naive. So I'm going to strike a blow for those of us who can't negotiate the verbal minefield of current slang without a GPS device.

Ever wonder what the heck your students are talking about when they suddenly spout a piece of gibberish as they walk down the hall? Ever wonder what's being pumped into the tender little ears of your children and your students through their little white iPod earbuds? Ever said something innocently in class and have half of the kids fall out their chairs for no apparent reason?

Well, Ms. Cornelius is here to help. Once a week, I will post the lyrics to a current hot song for your edification. No longer will you be the old clueless fossil--I will help you be hip. And just in time for Prom season!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you: the lyrics to the poetic stylings of T-Pain and Yung Joc, treating us to their thoughts in "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')".

Some vocabulary you may need: Snap Music is apparently a dance-club based form of hip-hop coming out of the South, especially Georgia. "Crunk" (not the hip-hop genre, the adjective) is defined here and also here for us old geezers. But "crunk juice" is Red Bull and hard liquor.

A "shawty" (or shorty) is a good-looking female. A synonym is "dime-piece." And I don't really like the sound of that, either, to be honest. Amazing how many ways there are to put down women.

"Buy U a Drank"

"Shawty snap, yeah
Shawty sex
(ay ay )
(she snappin)
yeah yeah yeeah
la da da oo oh.

Snap ya fingers, do your step you can do it all by yourself!

Baby girl, what's your name?
Let me talk to you,
Let me buy you a drink
I'm T-Pain, you know me:
Konvict music, Nappy Boy ooh wee
I know the club close at 3.
What's the chance of you rollin' wit' me
Back to the crib? Show you how I live
Let's get drunk, forget what we did.

Imma buy you a drank oooh whee, then Imma take you home with me
I got money in the bankkkkkkkkkk- Shawty, whatchu think 'bout that?
Find me in the grey cadillac-
We in the bed like- ooh ooh ohh, ooh ooh
We in the bed like- ooh ooh ooh, ooh ooh

Talk to me, I talk back; let's talk money, I talk that.
Crunk juice bottles, oakley shades-Shawty got class.
Oh, behave- let's get gone
Walk it out (now walk it out) just like that.
That's what I'm talkin' 'bout
We gone have fun, you gone see-
On that patrone you should get like me.

Imma buy you a drank ooh whee then, ohh, Imma take you home with me.
I got money and the fame- Shawty, whatchu think bout that?
Find me in the grey cadillac-
We in the bed like -ooh ooh ohh, ooh ohh
We in the bed like -ooh ooh ooh, ooh ooh ooh.

Won't you meet me at the bar? Respect big pimpin'.
Tell me how you feel- mama, tell me what you sippin'.
A certified dime piece- deserve louy 1-3
150 a shot- 3 for you and 3 for me.
I'm checkin' yo body language- I love the conversation.
And when you lick your lips, I get a tinglin' sensation
Now we're both 'bout tipsy; you say you in the mood
All I need is 'bout a hour- better yet, maybe two.
Let me take you where I live- Ferrari switch gears
When I whisper in ya ear, Ya legs hit the chandelier
Passion fruit and sex all in the atmosphere
Imma let T-Pain sing it, so he can make it clear.

Imma buy you a drank oooh whee, then Imma take you home with me.
I got money in the bankkkkkkkkkk- Shawty whatchu think 'bout that?
Find me in the grey cadillac,
We in the bed like- ooh ooh ohh, ooh ooh.
We in the bed like- ooh ooh ooh, ooh ooh.

Let's get gone- walk it out.
Now walk it out think about it (aw, snap).
Now rock rock rock rock, you can do it all by yo'self.

Imma buy you a drank ooh whee, then, ohh Imma take you home with me.
I got money and the fame- Shawty, whatchu think bout that?
Find me in the grey cadillac
We in the bed like -ooh ooh ohh, ooh ohh.
We in the bed like -ooh ooh ooh, ooh ooh ooh."

Well, it's no MacArthur Park, but it's number three on iTunes this week. I particularly like the objectification of women in this one. Not that today's rappers invented THAT problem, but they sure aren't helping. Duh.


Conflict resolution

I was tagged with the following meme:

"What do you do when faced with conflict (if someone or something is bugging you) and/or how can you use your mind to avoid or resolve conflict?"

There is no simple answer to this question.

First, I decide if this annoyance is even worth a response. Some things are just not worth getting upset over. Anger and annoyance for me are cumulative, and if it's petty, I just go on my way.

Secondly, I am a person who meditates and prays. I usually try these related activities. If I decide that I need to confront the peron, meditation and prayer also helps me focus on responding in a firm yet civil manner. I am a Christian who tries to practice mindfulness and take responsibility for my actions. I have found great wisdom in books by Thomas Merton, Reinhold Niebuhr, C. S. Lewis, N. T. Wright, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Surya Das, the Dalai Lama, and Sylvia Boorstein, among others.

Thirdly, if it is worth it, I stand up for myself. I was a doormat for too long in my earlier life, and life is too short.

I hope that this answers the question.


Monday, April 23, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 62: The I Ching edition

Welcome again to Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Here's how we play: I give you some quotes, you respond with a quote of your own from the same movie without naming the movie.

well, I'd been putting this off, but I guess it can't be avoided. Do me proud friends, since I just DON'T GET this movie. But I bet some of you know it inside and out.

"In Sicily, women are more dangerous than shotguns."

"You're taking this too personally!"
"You call the hit on my father not personal?"
"Even the hit on your father was business, not personal!"

"We don't discuss business at the table."

"Leave the gun. Take the cannolis."

"I spent my whole life trying not to be careless. Women and children can be careless. But not men."

"Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man."

****Weekend Update: I made you an offer you couldn't refuse when I highlighted


Vito Corleone. Michael Corleone. I have to admit I hqve never watched this one all the way through-- I get to the horse scene and just can't go on. Also, I hate mob movies. But this is a classic, I've heard.

Thanks for playing!


Sunday, April 22, 2007

Living the Good Life

A friend of mine is getting ready to retire. He is looking forward to years and years of rising at his own schedule, the opportunity to travel, to dandle the grandchildren on his knee, and basically reap the reward of prudent investing so that he can be master of his own fate.

A superintendent I know has been on medical leave due to a very serious illness and is retiring at the end of the school year. Just a few short months ago, he was planning for his district's next state review and cheering on the football team, and then sudenly he was fighting for his life. He was planning many more years as an educational leader, being a relatively young man, and now he acknowledges that the twilight years will probably arrive far more quickly and be far briefer than he had originally planned.

Planning is at the center of a teacher's life. We are taught to plan lessons, units, assessments. We decide upon essential questions, objectives, and we sift and seine lesson material and information to help our students make sense of the subject. In particular, we are constatnly admonished to evaluate our use of time and emphasis to prepare for that overwhelming behemoth of modern public education known as "THE TEST."

But you know, really every day is "THE TEST," and there are things for which we cannot plan. As I consider the fact that none of us are promised even one more hour, I have to ask myself: "What if this were all that there ever was going to be in my life? Would I be satisfied with my life if I had nothing more than what I already have done thus far?" This is the test which I need to apply to each day.

And you know, I have to say that, yes, I would feel that my life had been worthwhile if I never get to that place where one gets to rest upon their laurels. I have a wonderful family. I have caring friends. I have a career that makes a difference in people's futures, in which I truly get to minister to young people and help them to discern the paths of their lives. It's often too difficult to feel a real sense of accomplishment in the teaching profession, because we never get to see a final product. People don't work that way. An education is a work in progress, and it does not end by spring testing or by graduation or even by dropping out. The lessons we impart and the information we give may not come to fruition in a students' life on our timetable. It may not seem to make a difference in time for the state test. But it may make a difference eventually.

And that IS the true test.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Teaching to the Test: not just for Americans any more

Sound familiar? Our cousins Across the Pond have high-stakes test woes of their own:
Schools are paying more than £200 for information to help pupils cheat the exam system, it is claimed.

They are sending teachers on courses led by examiners where they are given tips to beat GCSEs and A-levels.

Teachers are encouraged to use tricks, such as inflating weak pupils' coursework grades. The claims are made in a book which suggests a culture of cheating and "teaching to the test" in the education system. Some schools allow children to retake exams until they pass.

The claims risk undermining the year-on-year rise in GCSE and A-level results achieved under Labour. Since 1997, the number of children with at least five good GCSEs has increased from 45 to 59 per cent, while the A-level pass rate has risen from 87 to 96 per cent. Last August's A-level increase was the 24th successive annual rise.

Last night, teachers' leaders said schools were being driven to extreme lengths to inflate their position on government league tables and satisfy the demands of Ofsted, the education watchdog. Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We have been living in a world of high-stakes exams since the early 90s and every year it gets worse and worse. It is a pressure schools should not be put under because it creates an atmosphere where teachers are encouraged to teach to the test rather than educating children."

Well, it was only a matter of time.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

In memory of those at Virginia Tech

Well, another crazed freak exercized his Second Amendment rights yesterday, and 32 people are now extinguished. Plus the gunman is dead. You know, "gunman" is an interesting word.

Let us all remember the victims and their families in our prayers.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 61: Spencer Tracy's hat edition

Happy Monday! Let us now reverently look forward to spring finally showing itself after a long surprise from Mother Nature the last few weeks. Punxsutawney Phil, indeed! I don't know about you, but I am frozen! So let's warm up with a little movie quote trivia.

Here's how we play: I give you some quotes from a movie, and you respond in the comments section with some quotes of your own from the same movie. We do not reveal the name of the movie until later in the week.

I'm going to go with a lovely, bittersweet classic, here-- which is my code for "They've remade it on Broadway since they haven't had a new idea there since Rogers and Hammerstein were murdered by Andrew Lloyd Weber."

"I got to the end of our lane, I couldn't remember where the old town road was. I wandered a way in the woods. There was nothing familiar. Not one damn tree. Scared me half to death. That's why I came running back here to you-- to see your pretty face. I could feel safe. I was still me."

"I might not stick around here. I might just haul my ass out to Wyoming or Puerto Rico... one of those places. Listen. I mean, I know I'm just being dumped here. Which is like my middle name. You turkeys don't want me."

"A canoe! Just like the Indians used."
"Actually, the Indians used a different grade of aluminum."

"Listen to me, mister. You're my knight in shining armor. Don't forget it. You're going to get back on that horse and I'm going to be right behind you, holding on tight and away we're going to go, go, go!"
"I don't like horses."

"Do you visit your parents, young man?"
"No sir, my parents both passed away."
"Then you have a good excuse, then."

"Are there any bears around here?"
"Oh, sure. Black bears, grizzlies. One of 'em came along here and ate an old lesbian just last month."

****Weekend Update: This week's feature took a vacation

On Golden Pond!

Katharine Hepburn. Henry Fonda. Jane Fonda. A beautiful movie about never giving up on those you love, and assuring us that peace is within our grasp, if only we let go of our fear of being hurt.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Open thread: Should school attendance be mandatory?

From my previous post, a nagging question was raised that I have been struggling with for quite some time:

Should attendance in school be mandatory?

I am torn. On the one hand, we assume that the end of mandatory attendance laws would make schools places more focused on learning. We assume that administrators would then be willing to dismiss students who disrupt the environment, who attend for purely social reasons-- including picking fights with other students. I wonder if that would be the case. Couldn't it be possible that, given the vagaries of attendance numbers that would then ensue, administrators would be MORE deperate to hold on to kids who were willing to show up? That's been one of my concerns, I'll be honest.

On the other hand, we all get absolutely tired of being held accountable for the performance of those who just don't want an education.

So, what do you think? I need some help here.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Should teen mothers be held to truancy standards?

Well, here's an interesting dilemma:
A 16-year-old student who claims in a lawsuit that her school district discriminated against her because she is a teen mother has missed 211 days of school over the last four years, according to officials in the Harrisburg area school district.

That was the number given by the Central Dauphin School District in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The motion was filed Thursday in federal court.

The girl, identified in her lawsuit only as A.C., claims that the school district discriminates against her because she is a teen mother. She has asked the court to stop the district from pursuing truancy charges against her and her mother, identified in the lawsuit as C.B.

Instead, the girl claims that her absences should be excused because she takes them only when she needs to take her son, now 2, to the doctor, or because she doesn't have available child care.

But according to school district records, A.C. has shown "a pattern of absenteeism even prior to her pregnancy or birth of the child."

For instance, the defendants claim A.C. missed 37 days of school in the 2002-03 school year -- before she became pregnant. The next year, she missed 42 days.

In 2004-05, the year her son was born, A.C. missed 1001/2 days, including 17 that were unexcused, the district contends.

The school district filed truancy charges against A.C. four times and against her mother five times.

Somehow, I think there are some confused priorities here. This young woman has a child for which she is responsible. At the very least, doesn't she owe him an educated mother who can provide the minimum of support? I have a young lady this year who demonstrates very similar patterns in terms of attendance. There are very few students who can manage to learn anything in class when they are not actually in class. My student will probably have her credits revoked in a hearing in a few weeks-- although it's already a done deal, becuase she is not actually passing any classes. And our school district actually provides day-care for our students.

So what's important here: the education or the credential? Are schools just drop-in centers, and are state laws regarding attendance just unnecessary hindrances? Like it or not, this young lady still has not learned that there are consequences for her actions.

If taking care of her son makes school attendance impossible, perhaps she should try to get her GED and move on to the next stage of her life.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

I'm shocked-- SHOCKED! to find ignorant comments being made on the radio!

So everyone seems stunned by Don Imus' stupid and insulting remarks about the Rutgers University Ladies' basketball team.

Hmm. What else do you expect in the medium of talk radio, where the only way to get attention is through continuously pushing the envelope of outrageous behavior? How can anyone be seriously surprised by the inane ramblings spewed by these moronic talking heads? If you choose to listen to these fools at all, then you can't be surprised by what they say, since this is hardly the first time this guy and his little doofus sidekick have said something deeply offensive. What is far more interesting to me is why these two cretins are so terrified of women who are obviously capable as athletes as well as students. And of course, the only response is to imply that they are sluts-- and ugly sluts, to boot. Flavor this verbal vomit with more than a soupcon on racism, and you've got a ratings winner on your hands. How typical. But not shocking, certainly.

And don't even start me about the lyrics of music that is shrieked into the tender eardrums of our kids.

Blame these two imbeciles, certainly-- and every advertiser who supports their juvenile braying and every mouthbreather who gives an ear to their schtick and keeps them swimming in endorsements.

But our society encourages this kind of outrageous behavior. We don't demonstrate the attention span or the manners to discuss things civilly or deeply. We are the People of the Sound Bite. And God help us, the last thing we want to do is to be expected to think or engage in civil discourse about topics of interest or controversy. We see the same thing in some corners of the blogosphere, in people who do nothing but tear down and belittle others. The argot of talk radio revolves around diminishing others, not engaging them; in belittling accomplishment, not celebrating achievement; in assuming a stance of moral superiority while utilizing the vocabulary of a guttersnipe.

So condemn the inarticulate ramblings of Don Imus, absolutely. But until we are willing to stop giving our attention to those of his ilk, we can't act surprised.

And so now it's been announced that Imus has been fired -- right in the middle of his radiothon, too. Here's an interesting snippet from a story about his firing:
Bryan Monroe, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and vice president and editor director of Ebony and Jet magazines, met with Moonves on Wednesday. It seemed clear Moonves and his aides were struggling with a difficult decision, he said. He urged them to take advantage of an opportunity to take a stand against the coarsening of culture.

"Something happened in the last week around America," Monroe said. "It's not just what the radio host did. America said enough is enough. America said we don't want this kind of conversation, we don't want this kind of vitriol, especially with teenagers."

I'd love to think that this is what Imus' firing means, but I am not so sure. I imagine he will land on his feet somewhere. And I am certain that we will still hear ignorant, racist, sexist, hateful verbiage on the radio.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

New Carnival of Education 114 at EdWonk's.....

.... so get over there and read it all!

Right Wing Prof does a much more thorough job than I did on the whole skills gap between high school and college thing.

Go check it out!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Why should there be remedial classes in college?

When it comes to college, being accepted is hardly the first step. Many of our students get a rude awakening when they arrive there, when they find that their grades from high school don't match their skills that they are expected to use to succeed in college. I found this article from the San Francisco area East Bay Daily News just fascinating:
What students learn in high school and what they need to know for college doesn't always match up, according to a national survey of high school and college instructors.

Teachers at all levels value organized, coherent writing from their students. But college professors more often rated punctuation as paramount, the study says, while high school teachers placed more importance on developing a topic and writing a great introductory paragraph.

In math, high school teachers labeled higher level subjects like calculus as a priority.

"What college teachers say is they want students with a firm grasp of the basics," said Cynthia Schmeiser, president and chief operating officer of the education division at ACT, a college entrance exam company.

The survey results released today might help explain why community colleges and universities send so many freshman to remedial classes.

Nationwide, 28 percent of incoming freshman enrolled in remedial college classes, according to a 2004 report by the National Center for Education Statistics.

In the California State University system, nearly half of the incoming freshman this year scored below proficient in English on placement tests that determine what level of courses students should take. More than a third fell short of being college-ready in math.

"Yes indeed, we do a large amount of remedial and developmental amount of work - more than we would like," said James Murphy, chairman of the English department at California State University, East Bay.

This year, less than half showed up at Cal State East Bay ready for college math while less than 60 percent of incoming freshman tested at remedial levels in English. Out of necessity, the school runs what are known as developmental writing classes to help get students up to speed.

"Not that we don't think it's important, but it would be nice if could be done somewhere else," Murphy said.

In the state community college system, the largest in the United States, more than 300,000 students ended up in remedial classes last school year, according to a March accountability report.

Read the whole thing. And by the way, who can spot the grammatical error (it appears twice) in the article?

I remember back when I was a brand new English teacher. I was told that the LATEST THING in English language arts instruction was a system whereby one simply tried to encourage students to write, and one didn't try to "discourage" them with learning and utilizing nasty things like correct spelling, punctutation and the like. Now our students were supposed to use the "writing process," which included proofreading and editing either one's own work or someone else's work, but how can a student do that when that student doesn't know what to look for? The papers ended up being far more e. e. cummings than anything else, but without any poetry. Of course, you know I nodded my head sweetly at my principal, went into my room, closed the door, and started drilling comma splice correction and gerunds into my students' heads.

I felt so subversive!

I was A Rebel With a Clause.

My students often grumble about the fact that, as a social studies teacher, I correct (and dock the grade accordingly) for spelling, punctuation, and the like. I will tell you this curmudeonly insistence upon proper writing skills does make grading essays a much more laborious process than I would like, as well.

Well, what do you see in your classrooms? I'd like to do a completely unscientific survey.


Monday, April 09, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 60: He had a good thing going with Miss Trumble edition

Monday here at the Cornelius corner of the blogosphere means just one thing: Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Here's how we play: I give you some quotes, you respond with a quote of your own from the same movie without naming it, so everyone can play until later in the week, when all will be revealed. So let's get started, shall we?

"Your Highness, please allow me this small contribution."
"No, I cannot accept them."
"Think what they could do for your cause."
"Those pearls would mean freedom for my people... but I will not take them."

"You've been banging your pots again. I told you...if you keep doing it, you won't have any pots left."

"Miss Trumble and I are going to be married. We're going to live in Oklahoma."

"I rescued this from destruction, and donated it to the museum. Just looking at it feeds my soul."
"May I say something here?"
"Of course."
"Are you kidding me or what? I don't get it! You want me to spend money on wine you can't drink, on a garden that looks like a mowing headache. That's a sculpture of a naked woman and I appreciate that. But otherwise, you have got to be joking!"

"As a younger man, l was a sculptor, a painter and a musician. There was just one problem: I wasn't very good. As a matter of fact, I was dreadful. I came to the frustrating conclusion that I had taste and style, but not talent. I knew my limitations. We all have our limitations, Freddy. Fortunately, I discovered that taste and style are commodities that people desire. Freddy, what I'm saying is, know your limitations. You are a moron."

"Do you think you can get him to walk again?"
"I will have him running, jumping, screaming."

Aaaaaand, hit the beach!

****Weekend Update: Who's scamming who? It's


... which has now been made into a musical, I believe. Steve Martin and Michael Caine! God, they just don't make them like this any more--- but they should!


Saturday, April 07, 2007

Wishing you a blessed and peaceful Easter and Passover

I have spent the last four days basically living at church and playing loads of guitar--I've got blisters on my fingers! And yes, I get to sing "The Cameron Frye song" tonight at the Easter Vigil-- pray for me to keep a straight face and not slip up on the lyrics! We also have to stuff Easter Eggs for all the children of the "Easterpalians" who will be coming out of the woodwork tomorrow morning. So-- busy, busy, busy!

There are so many blessings I take for granted. So many people who love me. So many good friends, so many beautiful days, so much beautiful music. I pray that I take time to appreciate all of these things much more than spending time complaining about wishes that go unfulfilled. I want to laugh more and frown less this year. Of course, I have a teenager in the house, so that may be a real test.

As I consider the suffering of the cross and the suffering of the Israelites in slavery, I hope you will join me in praying for peace in the coming year. May our people-- all of our people-- be a light of justice and peace in the world. May we truly listen to the Word of God trying to lead a recalcitrant people in the wilderness of the Sinai as well as the wilderness of our own hearts.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Mea culpa--I'm so sorry school is interfering with your child's life.

I recently got the most charming email from a parent, asking me to postpone a test in one of my college credit classes (which has been on the class schedule since the first day of school) because his son is in the orchestra for the school musical. And BTW, this parent sent me the email the day before the test was scheduled. This person noted that his son had chosen to be involved in this project, and of course he should take responsibility for his choices and make sure he can handle them, but, and I quote, "isn't it really a teacher's job to encourage students to be involved in activities outside of school?" He concluded with the suggestion that if I couldn't move the test, perhaps I could shorten it. The parent also stated that he had talked this over with other parents, and they agreed. So he was sort of carrying the standard, if you will, for a groundswell of opinion.

Kind of like Pickett's Charge.

Now frankly, I think the first part of his initial statement actually answered his own question, but he still decided to push on with the email, so I responded.

Being a prudent person who doesn't just shoot her mouth off without counting to ten in several languages, I gently responded to this parent's email with a firm answer in the negative accompanied by my reasons why. But here's what I really would have liked to say:

Dear Mr. J. L. Seagull,

I am so sorry for any distress that the scheduling of the test caused you, although your son has not said a word to me himself. The test has already had to be rescheduled once due to a school closing for inclement weather, and it is impossible to reschedule it again barring another Act of Nature. I would love to consider moving the test simply to accomodate your son, but I need some help accomplishing this scheduling deviation, since in the last three weeks your son has handed me eight (and this is no exaggeration) permission slips for field trips or activities which will necessitate your son missing my class over the next six weeks. Today he handed me yet another one, as I was pondering your emailed request.

He is going on a three-day band trip to Indiana, two track meets, one student government symposium, one trip to an amusement park allegedly to do physics experiments while riding roller coasters (upon my honor!), one trip to a Mexican restaurant with his Spanish class, one to a yearbook convention, one to schedule appointments at a blood drive, and one to excuse him from class to assist with Special Olympics. The one he gave me today was to go to a local museum. Some of these are worthy causes, and others are just inane wastes of instructional time. Nonetheless, I can see no time to reschedule the examination during a class period long enough to complete the test when your son will actually be here except for the date upon which it is already scheduled, which is why it is scheduled for that date.

Further, as a teacher yourself in our district, you doubtless understand that I have other students to consider besides just your son and the four other students taking part in the school play. These other students also have numerous other activities and field trips scheduled from now until the end of the school. Moreover, as you are also aware, the standardized tests required under NCLB will begin soon, and we are not to give any tests nor homework during the testing days.

Nonetheless, the problem here is beyond the disregard for my instructional time and my professional judgement which is evinced. The real problem here is that you and your son are unable to prioritize. You have allowed him to be severely overscheduled, and now you want me to enable and facilitate your error.

Additionally, while I find being in the orchestra for a school musical to be a fun activity to do, having done it myself, I am going to disagree with you about one other contention. It is actually not my JOB to encourage your son to participate in the school play, any more than it is the job of the drama teacher to encourage your son to do well in my class-- indeed, if that was the case, we would not be having this discussion.

I am employed as a history teacher, not as an activities coordinator. It is my job to prepare your son for not only this assessment, but to prepare your son as much as I can for the advanced placement test-- a job which frankly is made nearly impossible by the amount of instructional time he is going to be missing in the next few weeks. I wonder if you plan to write to the College Board to demand that they move and/or shorten the AP exam, since it will occur four days after his trip to Indiana? If so, please cc to me your email and the response of the College Board to your request, as I am curious as to the outcome of such a gambit.

Since we are on the subject of jobs, here is a key point thus far overlooked, although crucial, nay vital: it is YOUR job and the job of your son as a burgeoning adult to take on only as many activities as he can comfortably handle. As a student with high aspirations for college, he needs to learn this lesson now. Your son chose to take my class, and yet, of all his activities, he has shown the least dedication to this class in terms of priorities.

Finally, respectfully, I must say that the day I make decisions as to the scheduling of assessments or any other regular instructional activity subject to parental consensus is the day I look forward to you giving me veto power over the quantity, quality, and timing of your son's activities.

Ms. Cornelius

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That's Wile E.-- SUUUUPER Genius!

But would this fella really need to sit in a cooler in the springtime in Chicago?


Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Idiot of the day report

Apparently common sense isn't a requirement to get into Yale, these days. Get a load of this one:
Three Yale University students, including a Briton and a Greek national, have been charged in a case involving the burning of a U.S. flag outside a Connecticut house, a court official said on Wednesday.

Said Hyder Akbar, 23, Nikolaos Angelopoulos, 19, and Farhad Anklesaria, 19, were arrested on Tuesday and charged in New Haven Superior Court with reckless endangerment, arson, breach of peace, criminal mischief and other offenses.

Police said the three torched a flag hanging from the porch of a house in New Haven near the Ivy League school.

Anklesaria is British and Angelopoulos is Greek. Both are freshmen. Akbar, a senior, was born in Pakistan but is a U.S. citizen, according to police and court documents. Anklesaria and Angelopoulos turned over their passports.

They later appeared in court in leg irons and handcuffs, which is really a bit over the top for the idiotic thing they did. They set a flag that was someone else's property on fire. They also set it on fire while it was attached to someone else's house.

What a bunch of morons! They are lucky the homeowner didn't come out to protect his property, and they are lucky they did not set the house on fire.

And, honestly, I'm not too sure I am thrilled with the idea of these guys enjoying the hospitality of my country as guests and then burning the flag either. I am sure I have several students who have more common sense who received rejection letters this week postmarked "New Haven, CT."

Okay, now I believe in freedom of speech. I do. I personally would be irritated and even angry about someone burning a US flag in my presence, but American citizens have a right to do it. As long as they are ready to hear some angry speech right back at them while they do it.


If someone comes up and burns MY flag hanging on the side of my very flammable HOUSE that is filled with my very precious children, dogs, and belongings, then baby, you'd better be ready to find out if this fat lady can catch you.

I bet I could.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Margaret Spellings' Undergarment Fixation-- Is An Intervention Necessary?

Education Secretary Spellings pulled out an favorite chestnut of hers at the news of that Dana Perino will be taking over temporarily for the ailing Tony Snow. As was noted in the news today:
"Perino has been flooded with calls of support, including one, she says, from Education Secretary Margaret Spellings, who told her: 'Put your big-girl panties on.'"

This is a not-so-charming little phrase out of which she's gotten quite a bit of mileage (see here, f'rinstance.). However, doesn't she understand that they are called "unmentionables" for a reason? To wit: you don't mention them, not if you want to be seen as having any gravitas.

And speaking of gravitas, by "big-girl panties," does she mean


or, these

or, these

or perhaps, ultimately, THESE lovelies, popular with astronauts everywhere?

Because, if I was going to have to be a presidential spokeperson in this day and age, I think the last one would be required.

I'm just sayin'.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 59: Second chances edition

Welcome to yet another Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Here's how the game works: I give you some quotes, you respond in the comments section with a quote of your own from the same movie.

Simple, yes? Give it a try!

"My life didn't turn out the way I expected."

"You know, I believe we have two lives."
"How... what do you mean?"
"The life we learn with and the life we live with after that."

"He's walking the whole ballpark, and he's the best pitcher we got."

"Interesting way you mistreat a baseball."

"The only thing I know about the dark is, you can't see in it."

"You're not fascinated by the almighty dollar?"
"I never gave it much thought."
"You're above such mundane thoughts, huh?"
"I didn't say that. No, I'm as interested in a buck as anybody else."

Apparently, no dream can die as long as you're


And apparently no one loves this movie like I do. I can't help it-- I love baseball movies, and this is one of the best, in my opinion. Plus, Robert Redford is gorgeous.


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