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

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The downside of love is loss.

We are dog people.

Nothing against cat people, but due to allergies of the Husbandly Unit, we are dog people.

When we got back from our vacation, our Murphy was sick. So we took him to the emergency clinic, then to the vet, then back to the emergency clinic so he could be monitored overnight, then back to the vet. Yesterday, although we had stabilized the immediate problem making Murphy sick, the ultrasounds showed all kinds of bad things, and rather than have him continue to suffer away from his family on the off chance that he might get better for a few days or weeks, we had to let him go.

He was the best baby-shower present I ever got.

He endured three babies pulling up on his fur onto tottering little fat legs, and bore without complaint ear pulls and tail pulls and sticky handfulls of fur entwined in starfish-shaped hands as he was loved almost to distraction. He endured being used as a pony with the dignity and regal bearing of Prince Philip, but with the warmth of a best friend.

When he was four months old, a strange man jumped the fence from our neighbor's yard into our yard, and I was home by myself with a newborn. He flew like an arrow to the door and when I opened it, all I saw a tan blur as he set the land-speed record for collies. I heard a yelp, and a "Holy Christ!" and as I went to get a softball bat, the next thing you know, our backyard was intruder free. He was very proud of himself that day.

Of course, when he chewed the living hell out of our deck and our brand new coffee table with his tiny puppy teeth, that was not so nice. Well, I thought it was funny, but the Husbandly Unit did not. I was afraid for awhile that the puppy would think "Yewsonofabitch" was his name. But we recovered, and, hey, wood can be sanded.

He proudly laid the remains of moles, birds, and rabbits at our feet. I was honored, because I know they would have been delicious and juicy and crunchy, but he generously chose to give them to us, instead. My three year old had a harder time with this, of course.

Once, when the kids were playing on the back deck, and technicians from the electric company invaded our backyard without so much as a howdedo, he and his brother Max and sister Shiny maneuvered those bozos back out of the yard with the precision of a marching band, but one with sharp teeth and loud barking-- kind of like the Stanford Marching Band. He never actually touched those two interloping strangers, but he let them know he would if they didn't move. When I walked out and saw my gate open and these strange men being alternately charged by two insistent collies, Redneck Number One said to me, "I ain't skeered," and I said, "You should be, Jack," because I think that Murphy would have done whatever needed to be done to protect those babies, although he was really the most gentle heart.

Once when two big men banged on my door late at night while my husband was out of town, he sounded meaner than a Rottweiler, and they practically broke their necks getting away.

Even later in life, when his frisbee-catching, ball-chasing days were a distant memory, and he could barely see and barely hear and sometimes needed a little help getting up in the morning, once he got going he would sashay around the yard: "Aren't I handsome? Aren't I smart? Aren't I a good boy?"

And he was. He was the prince of our house. Yesterday, as they said goodbye, my son said, "I love you Murphy. Have fun in heaven. Say hi to Grandpa and Max," and I believe that he is, right now.

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Monday, June 25, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 71: Love Stinks edition

Here we are again for Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game! You know how to play: put your quotes from the movie I've sampled into the comments section without outing the movie.

This one softened my heart towards its lead actor, who I usually thought of as a twerp.

"I don't think anybody could puke more than that kid. I think I saw a boot come out of him."

"You know, you should write a song about this. You could call it 'I got punched in the nose for sticking my face in other people's business.'"
"Sounds like a country song!"

"Hey, psycho - we're not gonna discuss this, OK? It's over! Please get out of my Van Halen t-shirt before you jinx the band and they break up!"

"Sir, one more outburst from you and I will strangle you with my microphone wire!"

"We're living in a material world and I am a material girl... or boy."

Annnnnnd GO!

***** Weekend Update: Ahh, the 80s! It was the best of times, it was the worst of times to be


There are two schools of thought on Adam Sandler: there's this film, 50 First Dates, Happy Gilmore, Spanglish-- yes! Adorable! Charming! Funny!

Then there's Big Daddy, The Hot Chick, Deuce Bigelow, Littel Nicky, Billy Madison, and Click-- Good Gawd, NO!

The jury's out on The Waterboy, depending upon my mood.

But Drew Barrymore? She's almost always great.

Thanks for playing!


Sunday, June 24, 2007

Whose fault is it? Let's seeeeee....

I was standing in an interminable line at the license bureau. I was shifting my weight from foot to foot, trying to keep my cool.

There was woman there wearing scads of Ralph Lauren, lovely pearls, perfectly coiffed hair-- which in Midwestern humidity is quite a feat.

Two adorable little boys were there too. Thick blonde hair, cut in that cute little preppy style. Seersucker shorts. Izod shirts.

They were the loudest, most obnoxious little hellions I have seen in a month of Sundays-- ever since the lamented youthgroup incident.

They lay on the incredibly filthy floor and rolled around looking for a quarter that supposedly rolled under the Pepsi machine. Their hands turned black. The smaller one had an off-center Hitler mustache from the grime. The older one ran up and down the line holding on to the velveteen rope that created lanes for all of us poor saps waiting for the next available clerk and pulling the dividers over. Their mother kept calling them over and they laughed and completely ignored her. Over and over again. I heard their incredibly preppy little names over and over again and their little demonic laughs as they did WHATEVER THE HELL they wanted. She asked this little one five times to come over so she could clean his grimy little mug.

I finally had enough. Being a mom, I dug in my purse for the kleenex dispenser. I pulled out two, and the next time the smallest demon prince zipped by, I said, "Here, sweetie, wouldn't you like this? And ooh, you could use it to clean your face. Let's see you try it!" and the little blister actually took the kleenex and wiped at his face. The mother turned around and gaped at me. I said to her, "Now's the time to grab him," and she came out of the fog and did it. It was a miracle. Right at that moment, the clerk finished the airhead's paperwork, she dragged her two little monsters out, and the older gentleman in front of me insisted I go ahead of him.

I've seen kids like this before. And this will be the only time I will ever reference Paris Hilton in this blog.

Behind every Paris Hilton, there is some idiot parent who has no interest in treating their children as anything but fashion accessories or breathing dress-up dolls.


Friday, June 22, 2007

This REALLY makes things difficult for me

I gor this at Mamacita's place.... darn her.

We really are sisters under the skin. Why is it, then, that no politician gives a rat's patootie what I think????
Your Political Profile:

Overall: 45% Conservative, 55% Liberal

Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Personal Responsibility: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Fiscal Issues: 50% Conservative, 50% Liberal

Ethics: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal

Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Well, how did you do?


Two hundred thousand, and some change

Sometime while I was driving through the Carolinas, this blog registered its 200,000th visitor since I figured out how to start counting these things.

I thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart for coming by, even after I took practically the entire week off.

You all have helped me laugh, kept me thinking, and given me a chance to write again. Thank you so much, all of you.

Peace and grace to you.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 70: Speech impediment edition

Okay, for this special vacation edition of Movie Madness Monday, I am going to be EXTRA generous and take none of the quotes from you all by using them as hints. You are still going to put the quotes you love in the comments section without naming the movie, although you can TRY to tell me that you love this one more than I, but I-- I am simply going to give you this:

Do me proud. I want to see some SERIOUS quoting going on this week!

****Weekend Update: Yes, I am talking about The Princess Bride-- probably my favorite comedy ever. And if you haven't, read the book-- it's just as good as the movie.

Thanks for playing!


Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Blogoversary to Dr. Homeslice!

Although I am a few days late, I still want to wish the good Dr.Homeslice a happy year in the blogosphere.

His passion for teaching and for the right to organize is truly inspiring.

Head on over and say "Hi there,"-- won'tcha?


Friday, June 15, 2007

The St. Louis Public Schools Board of Education bites the dust

The state's Special Administrative Board has now taken over operations of the St. Louis Public Schools.
Rick Sullivan, CEO of the Special Administrative Board, said Superintendent Diana Bourisaw will stay on —and the district's longtime law firm, Lashly and Baer, will be out.

Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan late Thursday paved the way for the board to take office when he denied a bid by five St. Louis School Board members for a temporary restraining order to halt the state intervention.

Attorneys for the school board and the state Attorney General's Office will return to Callahan's court at an as yet undetermined date to present further arguments in the case. At the hearing, the school board will seek an injunction to permanently stop the transitional school district.

"We certainly haven't been thrown out of court yet, we just had a motion denied," said Johnny Richardson of Jefferson City, the board's attorney. "Regardless of what happened tonight, this is the first step in a long battle."

Jim Morris, a spokesman for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said Callahan's order supported the State Board of Education's decision to remove the district's accreditation and replace the elected school board with the new board.

"The court affirmed the standards and process that we used to evaluate the school district," Morris said. "We believe the data clearly show that the St. Louis Public Schools have been losing ground in academic performance. We also feel that state action was not only justified but necessary to get this school district back on track."

Lawyers for the school district again on Thursday said that chaos would accompany a state takeover. They attacked the laws that describe the state intervention as flawed and contradictory, introducing the possibility of a power struggle between the district's existing board and the new board.

But Paul Wilson, an assistant Missouri attorney general, told the judge that St. Louis schools had been warned in no uncertain terms about what it needed to do to avoid a state takeover.

Sullivan's view
In a wide-ranging interview before the denial of the restraining order, Sullivan on Thursday steered the focus to the future. He appealed to the community to join the new board in a regional effort to turn around a school district wracked by years of political turmoil, financial instability and, most importantly, failure in the classroom.

The new board plans to meet publicly for the first time this morning at the St. Louis Science Center. Fellow board members Melanie Adams and Richard Gaines will join Sullivan at the meeting.

Sullivan, who said he will not accept the salary he is entitled to under the statute that permits the city schools to operate as a transitional school district, promised that he and the board will not act impulsively.

He pledged that the community will play a major role in helping to find solutions for what he characterized as a crisis of regional proportion.

"There is no quick fix, there's no silver bullet. It is going to take the full engagement of the community and it is going to require the community to understand that this is going to take time, a lot of time," he said.

Sullivan said the board will meet with neighborhood groups, political organizations, churches and any and all other parties committed to improving public education in the city.

The new board, he said, is taking office without a plan to rectify the district's woes.

Sullivan said the lack of a blueprint is by design — his design.

"I know people are dying for answers and I know there are high expectations," he said. "But we also would have been criticized if we came in here with a plan. No one has a preconceived handbook about how this is going to work. Today, we begin work on that plan."

Sullivan's own efforts began immediately after Gov. Matt Blunt tapped him to serve as CEO on March 22.

Since then, Sullivan — with no previous experience in education — embarked on a crash course that included discussions with, by his own estimate, between 400 to 500 people.

The list included St. Louis teachers and principals, national educational experts and consultants and city and St. Louis County residents.

Conversations with state and private sector education officials, Sullivan said, could lead to economic incentives — tied to improved student performance — that would help the district reduce its $23 million deficit.

The trail also led him to school leaders in Chicago; Montgomery County, Md.; and Houston.

He spent three hours in Atlanta with that city's highly regarded superintendent, Beverly Hall.

Although his fact-finding mission did not yield specific reforms, it did provide Sullivan with a set of academic priorities including an emphasis on pre-kindergarten education.

"The focus the next four to five years has to be on improving high school scores," he said. "And that has to start in the lower grades, beginning with preschool."

Bourisaw stays
The administrator overseeing the board's initiatives as it undertakes its new responsibilities will be Bourisaw, hired last summer as the district's sixth superintendent since 2003.

During her tenure, Bourisaw has weathered personal attacks from one board member. In the past month, she has also withstood personal agendas imposed on her by others on the board.

"I'd like to see how she'll function without standing in the middle of the coliseum," Sullivan said.

He praised Bourisaw as an "expert educator and a wise person who is very, very dedicated to the kids."

The new board's support of the superintendent, however, comes with a caveat.

"We will also remain objective in accessing her achievements. She will be held accountable just as the board itself will be held accountable by the stakeholders of the St. Louis Public Schools."

Callahan's decision ends, at least for now, the district's long association with attorney Kenneth Brostron and his law firm, Lashly and Baer.

Sullivan said he has taken steps to bring in other lawyers to replace Brostron, who this week led the elected school board's legal challenge.

"Lashly and Baer cannot represent the Special Administrative Board while it is taking steps to the delay the full implementation of the (new board)," he said.

I wish that I could say that having a complete novice in public education (who sent his kids to parochial schools and who is part of the junta of housing developers that control the entire state to its detriment) will be a good thing, but I will say that it can't be a WORSE thing. The schools are already in complete disarray, and the real needs of the students (to get an... what's that word? education) are completely ignored.

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I have to say I am just so STUNNED by this....

The FBI broke its own rules?

It can't be.....
The FBI possibly violated the law or its rules more than 1,000 times since 2002 in collecting data about phone calls, e-mails and financial records while investigating terrorism or espionage suspects, FBI officials said on Thursday.

The potential violations found by an FBI audit were far greater than the approximately two dozen previously documented violations in a U.S. Justice Department report released in March that was based on a much smaller sampling, they said.

The vast majority of newly discovered violations were instances in which companies, such as telephone and Internet providers, gave more information than the FBI sought, the officials said.

They said the FBI has drafted new guidelines in an effort to prevent future abuses, but civil liberties groups and Democrats in Congress expressed doubt that they would be sufficient to protect the privacy of Americans.

The ongoing audit concerned the use of national security letters, which allow the FBI to compel the release of private information such as communications or financial records without getting court approval.

Their use has grown dramatically, mainly as a result of powers granted to the FBI under the USA Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law Congress approved after the September 11 attacks.

I wonder why those companies supposedly forced the poor FBI to take more information than they really wanted? Could it be that what was verbally demanded of these companies differed from what was on paper? Or could it be that these companies have been led to believe that their "cooperation" included these kinds of "errors?"

I am sure if we just said "pretty please" we could all get our civil liberties back. After all, our own Vice President ASSIDUOUSLY protects his own privacy in the residence that I help pay for. So does just about EVERYONE in the White House, actually.

What's good for the goose should be good for the rest of the country, right?


Justice Delayed is at least Justice, in this case



Thursday, June 14, 2007

Vacation, plus church youth group, equals unChristian thoughts

What IS it about the Cornelius family that our vacations always seem to bisect some strange part of the universe where we are swallowed up by a riptide of youthgroup punks dedicated to running wild? And it seems the more strict the denomination from whence they hail, the wilder they run?

Example 1: We have a spot where we love to go camping for a week at a time. The first two days we were there, we had Wild-Turkey-swillin', Hank Jr-blastin', deer-guttin'-in-the-campsite capital-R Rednecks as our neighbors, and I can't describe the relief we felt as they announced that they had to git back to town to check in with their probation officers. As they were leaving, along comes two of those giant vans with crosses painted on the side disgorging an unending stream of gangly teens like a mama wolf feeding her pups. They are obviously pretty fundamentalist, since the girls are wearing completely modest attire and have not cut their hair. They cheerfully begin setting up two camps-- the boys across the creek and on our left, and the girls to the campsite on our right. They are so gosh-darn clean and shiny and cheerful, singing old-timey hymns as they worked, the boys playing in the creek and gathering firewood while the girls prepare lunch, I felt like I needed to check my blood sugar.

Until the sun set.

We turned in at about 11:30, after being asked if we were saved, telling them we are Episcopalians, and having that information inspire them in their zeal to save us, and finally being accepted that we are never going to abandon our heathen ways after we began a little scriptural discussion that did not go to well for the kids but was way amusing for us. Anyway, once their chaperones began to nod off, the kids waited a decent interval, and then began tramping THROUGH our campsite to "sneak" off to the campsite of the opposite sex. Non-stop. Boys to the girls' camp. Girls to the boys' camp. Lots of giggling. Lots of tripping over long skirts. Until about 2 am, when I finally stick my head toward the tent flap and ask my husband where I put my gun. I heard kids scramble off into the brush frantically-- right where the poison ivy was, because, yes, there IS a God--and finally be still.

They then actually had the nerve the knock on our tent flap at SIX ACK EMMA to join in their sunrise worship service on the sand bar in the creek directly behind our tent. When my husband profanely told them what to do with that suggestion, they went to the sandbar, pulled out the guitars, and proceeded to pray for our souls for the next hour. They then hurriedly left when I got out my guitar and began playing "Smoke on the Water" and "Stairway to Heaven"-- all eleven pages worth.

So now fast forward to our current trip. We are moving our way up the Atlantic coast from Georgia to Virginia, and just settled into a nice hotel, when we walk down into the lobby to go out to dinner and see about three hundred teenagers milling around with wet sleeping bags and smelling of wet dog. It was a youth group campout that had gotten rained out, and so the sponsors decided to put them into a hotel or something. So guess where most of the boys were placed? On our floor, right next door and moving down the hallway. They were kicking a soccer ball outside our door against the wall until 11:30, when a wrathful and terribly sunburned Ms. Cornelius opened the door in her jammies, saw the idiotic chaperone standing there with them while they shouted and shoved and fell into walls, cryptically said "Ten seconds," and then firmly shut the door. Very quickly, I heard the doors slam and silence descend like a peaceful little cloud over the hallway, and got to enjoy everything 100 bucks a night ought to provide.

Meaning: I'll control my kids, and you control yours.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Supe and his Algebra Camp

Check this out: The superintendent of Tulsa Public Schools ran his own algebra camp during those precious summer months of vacation. And kids actually came!
Summer fun and algebra are not exactly synonymous, but Tulsa Superintendent Michael Zolkoski is trying to make them equate in the minds of some local middle-school students.

Nearly 130 students from Tulsa Public Schools, surrounding districts and private schools turned out for the first day of Zolkoski's three-week Algebra Camp at Carver Middle School.

Zolkoski held class in the Carver cafeteria, which had been converted into a giant classroom with 17 dry-erase board easels lining the walls.

"Some of you may be wondering, 'Why do we have all of these boards in here?' Because we're going to all be getting up and working on the boards," Zolkoski said. "You cannot sleep in here."

He went over the camp rules, which were pretty simple: be on time, no breaks longer than 10 minutes each day, and do not forget your notebook.

There's plenty more to read in the entire article. But I'm intrigued by that set of rules he's got going there. Would he allow classroom teachers to set the same standards in their everday classrooms? Because, if he did, he would get MY vote for superintendent of the year!

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 70-1: Evil subplots edition

I am on vacation, and I actually found internet service, so here's this week's MMM. You know the drill. Put your quotes from the movie hinted at below in the comments section! No naming the movie, now!

"I love this man. There is no way I am going to give him up for some big-haired food critic!"

"Hmm, death by mini-bar. How glamorous."

"I'm pond scum. Well, lower actually. I'm like the fungus that feeds on pond scum."
"Lower. The pus that infects the mucus that cruds up the fungus that feeds on the pond scum. On the other hand, thank you for loving me that much, that way. It's pretty flattering."
"Except it makes me fungus."

"'Michael, I'm married.' Not enough. '... and I have two weeks to live.' [Pause, tone change] 'Michael, I'm trying to be gay, don't confuse me.'"

"I've never had a sister."

"My classmate Angelique shattered her pelvis line dancing in Abilene on Spring Break. Be my maid of honor. You can't believe what it'd cost to bring in a temp."

****Weekend Update: Once, big hair and Julia Roberts ruled the world in

Of course, my favorite scene is the homage to Burt Bacharach, which of course you must see (and hear) to believe.

Thanks for playing!


Saturday, June 09, 2007

What's next: a Turkish- Iraqi war?

Turkey began shelling the Kurdish dominated part of northern Iraq this week.


Because an autonomous Kurdish region in a fragmented Iraq ignites the hopes of Kurds who live in Turkey, Syria, and Iran that their ancestral homeland will be reunited and, that with the oil revenue from the fields around Kirkuk to fund them, the dispersed and persecuted Kurds could actually make a go of an independent homeland.

I don't even hate to say that I told you so. But let me remind you that Turkey is our ally in NATO, even though they haven't been cooperating with us in Iraq, FOR JUST THIS REASON. The Kurds have been running an insurgency in Turkey for decades, and the chaos in Iraq has only fueled those embers. The Kurds are also a persecuted minority, and have been since the realignment of the Middle east by Western powers after the first world war. And of course, this is yet another mess that we'll have to dabble in-- with poor to little results, as usual.

I just love those unintended consequences, don't you?

More to come later. I'm sure.


Friday, June 08, 2007

"And for this gift, I feel quite blessed..."

Genius. Sheer, unadulterated genius.


Remember, we have to take everyone. That's the law.

Truthiness. I am going to use that word, because here is a lady who is full of truthiness.

As I listen to yet more garbage about unmotivated teachers being the reason for All Evil in America, there's this: Teachers don't leave kids behind.
Let me present you with a scenar io: Ms. Smith teaches a class of 27 students in a classroom designed for 20. Every desk is filled, and one can only pass through the aisles by turning sideways.

Most of the students want to learn or at least want to be successful, but there are five who have no interest in furthering their education. These students talk while the teacher is talking, throw things when her back is turned and sometimes when it isn't. They sing, dance, roam the classroom, try to trip one another, horseplay and generally make it difficult to conduct class in an orderly manner. In fact, these behaviors make it difficult for a teacher to conduct class at all.

Far from being the typical class-clowning of yesteryear, these behaviors are malicious and often willfully disrespectful. From the beginning of the year, Ms. Smith has been contacting their parents, assigning detention, referring them for in-school suspension, discussing their status with principals and counselors, yelling and basically doing everything she can to contain these students. Nothing works.

When these students fail the tests and are "left behind," whose fault is it? When a wayward student injures another with horseplay, who gets sued? There are no behavioral consequences that matter for many of today's students and there are some parents who do not have the ability or the desire to discipline their children; they simply cannot or will not parent.

They don't know why teachers would take time out of their increasingly busy schedules to call and slander their children. What's wrong with those teachers anyway?

As one of the swelling number of teachers leaving the profession, I can say that many of public education's detractors need to look in the mirror; your child may be the one contributing to his or her own status as "left behind."

Now, let me just say: NEVER yell. But other than that, yeah. A little cooperation here would be nice. And by the way, I want y'all to be aware of one thing: If kids are trying to bait you into losing it, be aware tht they have camera phones that shoot video, and they are just WAITING to post your out-of-context angry tirade all over YouTube.

And for your information: this year I had 17 parents tell me how they are their children's BEST FRIENDS! Hooray!


Thursday, June 07, 2007

TITMT: One trick ponies

Janet over at The Art of Getting By asks an interesting question: which actors do I love even though they basically play the same character over and over? I'll take that bet!

1. John Wayne! (Even though there is NO WAY I could have put up with him or the next two guys in real life, given that our politics absolutely do not mesh, I gotta love them as actors.)

2. Sean Connery! As Christine Lavin sings: "Said it before! Say it again! Mmmm! I love bald-headed men!"

3. Tom Selleck! I love the 'stache! What can I say? Although the eyebrow and dimple thing was great, too.

4. Humphrey Bogart. Except for The Caine Mutiny, he was Mr. Tough Guy. Are you sensing a theme here? I like 'em manly! None of these girly-men pour moi, when it comes to escapist cinema! I am not that fond of guys with the smooth features, like Tobey Maguire or Jake Gyllenhaal (for the longest time I confused those two). Even Brad Pitt is a bit too pretty. I like rogues with the heart of gold!

5. John Cusack. Who doesn't love John Cusack? Must go watch Grosse Pointe Blank now..... "This is me breathing, Oatman!"


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How much Ritalin is enough?

Have you, like me, ever pondered the Great Conundra of Life?

I refer, of course, not to the common ones: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Does a bear poopie in the woods? Is the Pope truly Catholic? How many roads must a man walk down before he finally admits he is lost and asks for directions?

No, none of those. I am pondering the fact that ever-higher proportions of America's children and even adults are being diagnosed with some disorder and given some pill as a magic cure-all elixir. There's Paxil for social anxiety. There's Wellbutrin for depression, or, if that drug paradoxically make you more depressed, there's Zoloft or Prozac or Celexa.

For Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, there's Ritalin or Adderall or Strattera. Up to one in ten boys between the ages of 3 and 17 are diagnosed as having ADHD, and then there's this problem:
Recent research investigations confirm what school administrators and teachers have realized for many years: The number of kids taking psychotropic medication has increased substantially in recent years. That increase is consistent with the rising number of kids diagnosed with ADHD.

Psychotropic medications treat a variety of behavior, emotional, and mental disorders, including ADHD.
Highlights of Research on Increases in Drug Treatment for Childhood ADHD

The following are statistics detailed in the story.
*The number of preschool children being treated with medication for ADHD tripled between 1990 and 1995.

*The number of children ages 15 to 19 taking medication for ADHD has increased by 311 percent over 15 years.

*The use of medication to treat children between the ages of 5 and 14 also increased by approximately 170 percent.

*White, suburban elementary children are given medication to treat ADHD at more than twice the rate of African American students.

*Methylphenidate (commonly known as Ritalin) is manufactured at two and a half times the rate of a decade ago.

*The majority of children and adolescents who receive stimulants for ADHD do not fully meet the criteria for ADHD.

*Many children who do meet the criteria for ADHD are not being treated.

*About 80 percent of the 11 million prescriptions written for methylphenidate (Ritalin is the brand name) each year are written for children.

...The increase in the number of prescriptions doctors write for treating ADHD is staggering. According to the Congressional Testimony of Terrance Woodworth, a deputy director of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the number of prescriptions written for methylphenidate has increased by a factor of five since 1991. About 80 percent of the 11 million prescriptions doctors write for that medication each year treat childhood ADHD, he said. In addition, production of Adderall and Dexedrine, also used to treat ADHD, has risen 2,000 percent in nine years.

The increasing use of stimulant medication to treat ADHD in the United States differs significantly from practices in the rest of the world, according to United Nations data, Woodworth said. The U.S. produces and consumes about 85 percent of the world's production of methylphenidate.

The significant increase in stimulant medication prescribed to children has raised concerns that our society is choosing quick-fix remedies to treat ADHD. "How we deal with our kids' problems reflects our thinking and a much larger problem in our culture," said Lawrence H. Diller, who practices behavioral pediatrics in California and is author of Running on Ritalin: A Physician Reflects on Children, Society and Performance in a Pill (Bantam Books, 1998).

Although Diller prescribes stimulant medication for children with ADHD, he questions the large number of children currently on the medication in the United States.

The number of students I have seen on Ritalin and other psychotropic medications has definitely exploded during my teaching career. I have to wonder: is this really necessary? How many students could be treated without resort to potent medications with all kinds of side effects? In some troubling cases, Ritalin has been a substitute for giving children the attention and discipline that they need-- in a way, Ritalin can be described as a prescription for the attention deficit of the PARENTS, not the child.

I have already told you of parents I have met who have acknowledged "doctor-shopping" until they finally got a diagnosis for their children so that they could get 504s or IEPs that allow them longer time on standardized tests or the like.

While that is appalling, there's another question that is also important: when kids "act out," is Ritalin always the answer? I am NOT saying that Ritalin is unnecessary in every case. Oh no-- I have seen many students whose lives have been transformed by the use of these drugs. But I don't think the drastic increase in these prescriptions is based solely on better methods of diagnosis.

Now there's THIS interesting article:
Children from broken marriages are twice as likely to be prescribed attention-deficit drugs as children whose parents stay together, a Canadian researcher said on Monday, and she said the reasons should be investigated.

More than 6 percent of 633 children from divorced families were prescribed Ritalin, compared with 3.3 percent of children whose parents stayed together, University of Alberta professor Lisa Strohschein reported in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The study of more than 4,700 children started in 1994, while all the families were intact, Strohschein said. They followed the children's progress to see what happened to their families and to see what drugs were prescribed.

"It shows clearly that divorce is a risk factor for kids to be prescribed Ritalin," Strohschein said.

Other studies have shown that children of single parents are more likely to get prescribed drugs such as Ritalin. But is the problem caused by being born to a never-married mother, or some other factor?

"So the question was, 'is it possible that divorce acts a stressful life event that creates adjustment problems for children, which might increase acting out behavior, leading to a prescription for Ritalin?"' Strohschein said in a statement.

"On the other hand, there is also the very public perception that divorce is always bad for kids and so when children of divorce come to the attention of the health-care system -- possibly because parents anticipate their child must be going through adjustment problems -- doctors may be more likely to diagnose a problem and prescribe Ritalin."

Ritalin, known generically as methylphenidate, is a psychostimulant drug most commonly prescribed for the treatment of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in children.

There is a big debate in much of the developed world over whether it may be over-prescribed -- given to children who do not really need it. In March, a University of California, Berkeley study found that the use of drugs to treat ADHD has more than tripled worldwide since 1993.

Strohschein said it is possible that some mental health problems pre-date the divorce, so "it is possible that these kids had these problems before, but are only being identified afterward."

Her study was not designed to find out why the children were prescribed the drug.

"I might be finished with the survey, but I am not necessarily finished with the question," she said in a telephone interview.

Of course, there are many conclusions one can draw from this survey. Were the kids already having trouble, but the problem came to the fore when there is suddenly only ONE parent as caretaker? Is it that the parents' recognition of the stress of divorce makes it more likely that they will be evaluated, and the ADHD is then discovered? Is this yet another bit of guilt to heap upon the heads of divorced parents?

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Carnival! Carnival!

Go see the 122nd iteration of the Carnival of Education over at the Education Wonks'.

The story about the confiscated pen nearly did me in, lemme tell ya. I don't think I want to touch another thing in my classroom ever again. Ewww.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Oh, the incredible IRONY of it all!

I was just trying to look up a word, and I went to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary site.

I am trying to decide whether to laugh in derision or to cry. Help me out, here, people.

The URL is misspelled. Merriam-Webster's website MISSPELLED its own name!



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Watch it, kid, or you might grow up to be president.

As well all tot up our final grades for our students at the end of the school year, we teachers (and parents) often despair of those underachievers who scrape along with the Ds and C-minuses and seem not to care.

Well, now we've got a new threat that could really scare them: If you don't get your grades up, you might end up being the president.
As Ann Sanner of the AP writes, Kennedy was almost expelled, Truman struggled with punctuation, and Eisenhower could be rude:

Lyndon Johnson got a D in his third-grade grammar class. John Kennedy scored a 55 in eighth-grade Latin. George H.W. Bush's high school transcript shows marks in the 60s and 70s for many classes.

"We want to believe that there is a class of people who emerge early on as heirs to the throne, so to speak, but that's not the case," said Timothy Walch, director of the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library.

The youthful days of presidents are the subject of "School House to White House: The Education of the Presidents," an exhibit at the National Archives.

Through their own accounts, the cursive script of their early writings, report cards, playbills and photographs, the exhibit highlights just how normal most of them were in their youth.

Most attended public schools where math, reading and science were the core of their education. Some were also graded on citizenship and physical training. Franklin Roosevelt, Kennedy and Bush attended prestigious boarding schools.

Outside the classroom, they were athletes and performers.

Johnson, Roosevelt and Richard Nixon showed their talent in school plays. Bill Clinton was the drum major of his high school marching band. Gerald R. Ford captained his high school football team.

Dwight Eisenhower's competitive streak ranged from the class spelling bee to baseball diamonds and football fields. Spelling was his favorite subject in grammar school. "Either because the contest aroused my competitive instincts or because I had learned that a single letter could make a vast difference in the meaning of a word," he wrote.

Each had his own vulnerability.

Jimmy Carter was shy, but a high school teacher encouraged him to join the debate team. Roosevelt wrote home from boarding school almost every day and spared no details. In one letter, the father of the New Deal revealed he had gained several pounds and received no "blackmarks." He also asked his family to send grapes or other fruit.

Some were known for their behavior — good and bad.

Herbert Hoover's teacher described the 10-year-old as "a real boy, loved play, but his lessons came first." She said she never had to tell him to redo work or punish him for not completing it.

Kennedy's headmaster once said the teen had a "clever, individualist mind," though he might have called him a "Mucker," too. Kennedy and several of his friends from boarding school formed a group called the "Muckers," named after the headmaster's term for boys who failed to meet the school's standards.

He was nearly expelled during his senior year for his antics as a Mucker at Choate School in Connecticut. He broke up the group and was allowed to stay.

In a letter, Kennedy's father once told him to step up his efforts in class. Instead of working hard in all subjects, Kennedy mainly focused on his favorites — English and history.

"It is very difficult to make up fundamentals that you have neglected when you were very young, and that is why I am urging you to do the best you can," Joseph Kennedy wrote. "I am not expecting too much, and I will not be disappointed if you don't turn out to be a real genius, but I think you can be a really worthwhile citizen with good judgment and understanding."

Punctuality was a problem for Johnson, whose ninth-grade report card shows that in two months he was tardy eight times.

Eisenhower could have skipped a grade if it weren't for his bad manners. "My conduct was not the equal of my reading ability," he once wrote.

Some of their junior high school writings show glimpses of the leaders they would become.

Nixon contemplated a career in politics even as eighth-grader.

"I would like to study law and enter politics for an occupation so that I might be of some good to the people," he wrote in a class autobiography.

Harry Truman's writings show his idealism but not a knack for appropriate punctuation. "A true heart a strong mind and a great deal of courage and I think a man will get through the world," he wrote in an English theme book in the archives' collection, a reproduction of which is on display until Jan 1, 2008.

In a classroom filled with eager students, picking out a future commander in chief is impossible, Walch said. "There's no way that you can identify some young man in the fifth grade and say he'll turn out to be president."

I would love to see this exhibit, but having been an underachiever myself in school, I would hate to think of MY report card as being on public view. This just goes to show that it's never too late to turn your life around-- or, if you're a curmudgeon, that some slacker kids eventually DO get punished with one of the hardest jobs in the world. So work now, kids, or risk being worked into premature wrinkles later.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

"When I was your age, television was called books."

My students often ask me how come I know so many (often strange) things, and I always answer them with the above quote.

It's one of my favorite all-time quotes-- from a book, because I read William Goldman's The Princess Bride as a book before it became a movie, since I worked in a bookstore at the time (and I urge you to read the book-- it's even better than the movie). I am in love with reading. Now of course, I watched TV too, as a kid, but we only had one TV and 4 stations during my most-formative years, and whatever Dad wanted to watch, that was what we watched-- and that means lots of "Hee-Haw" and "Gunsmoke" and "The Beverly Hillbillies" and yes, football, and then when Dad was at work, we would watch Carol Burnett and "All in the Family" and even sometimes "Mork and Mindy." But I spent more of my time hiding on the roof of our house behind the chimney reading a book (it was quiet there, and no one ever knew that that was my hiding place).

But a story I read today gave me pause. When a used-bookstore owner can't find anyone who wants his books, what should he do?

Should he burn them? That's what Tom Wayne in Kansas City is doing.
Be ready to get depressed, if you're a hardened bibliophile like me. When he couldn't get any libraries to take some of the books in his warehouse, he started setting them aflame:
He said he has noticed a decline in customers in recent years and perceives more people getting information from television or the Internet. He pointed to a 2002 study by the National Endowment for the Arts, which found that less than half of adult respondents reported reading for pleasure, a steep decline from almost 57 percent in 1982.

Anecdotally, the number of used bookstores in Kansas City has declined in recent years, and there are few independent bookstores left in town, said Will Leathem, a co-owner of Prospero's Books.

"There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five TVs and three books," Leathem said.

Dozens of customers took advantage of the event, scouring the pile of books waiting to go into the fire, looking for last-minute bargains.

Mike Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection of children's literature, which he said he'd save for his 4-year-old son.

"I think given the fact it is a protest of people not reading books, it's the best way to do it," Bechtel said. Wayne has "made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it."

Read the whole thing.

I'll be honest with you: I have books stacked all over the place, and I read several books at once. I love them. Some of my favorites are from used book stores, especially the ones I had to use when doing research for my master's thesis. You never know what you can learn from a book-- ANY book.

But you know, now it's not just television competing for people's attention. The internet can really be a wasteland-- not THIS site, of course, or those of my friends, because we discuss weighty issues that you have to READ, naturally, (snicker) but most of my students and my own children want to spend time on social sites or game sites. Most of my students have transferred their abhorrence for reading any but the thinnest book to reading any but the most abbreviated webpage. I think that's why they like Wikipedia so much-- and hey, I love it too for certain purposes, because at least by using Wikipedia I can get around the school firewall against images and show my students a picture of what I'm talking about. But it certainly isn't the most reliable source of information. I also have had numerous students tell me that. until they had my class, they hadn't had to read their textbooks, ever, much less read all of pages within a textbook. I've even had a few kids tell me that the textbook was the first book they had read since leaving behind picture books. I find this pretty frightening. Then there's the fact that while many students disdain reading, they will believe almost anything they read-- but that's a topic for another day.

Are we, as Mr. Wayne states, in the age that will bring about the death of the printed word? I have begun to be moderately apprehensive.

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Movie Madness Monday 68: Embarassing Family edition

Ahhhh, June. School's out (HOORAY!), and now I begin a regimen of social engagements that would choke an ogre. You know what I mean: it's wedding season! So I am going to give YOU a gift. Especially if you've ever been a bride or groom, this movie should have resonated with you. I don't think it'll be much of a secret, since the quotes are pretty hard to do without giving the whole thing away. So here's a nice plate of lamb for you! Eat! Eat! You look thin!

"If nagging were an Olympic sport, my Aunt would win a gold medal."

"Don't let your past dictate who you are, but let it be part of who you will become."
"Nick, that's beautiful."
"Yeah, that dear Abby really knows what she's talking about."

"For Godsake, I know! Listen. Keep your mother off my lawn, out of my basement... AND AWAY FROM MY ROOF!"

"Why... Why you want to leave me?!"

****Weekend Update: If you didn't think YOUR wedding was nightmare enough, you;ll get a new appreciation for it in


John Corbett, whom I have loved since Northern Exposure, Lainie Kazan, who is an absolute genius-- someday I will dedicate an entire month just to her-- and Joey Fatone actually doing something interesting. This actually reminded me of my wedding in many ways, although in a whitebread Okie Protestant way.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fighting to preserve our liberties... like free speech, perhaps?

Hmmm. Can you really be "less than honorably" discharged from the Individual Ready Reserve after you've already been honorably discharged from the Marine Corps?

Adam Kokesh is about to find out. And the VFW is none too happy about the attempt to stifle his dissent over the war:
The nation's largest combat veterans group on Friday urged the military to "exercise a little common sense" and call off its investigation of a group of Iraq war veterans who wore their uniforms during anti-war protests.

"Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we're trying to instill in Iraq is not what we're all about," said Gary Kurpius, national commander of the 2.4 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars.

"Someone in the Marine Corps needs to exercise a little common sense and put an end to this matter before it turns into a circus," Kurpius said.

Marine Cpl. Adam Kokesh had already received an honorable discharge from active duty before he was photographed in March wearing fatigues, with military insignia removed , during a mock patrol with other veterans protesting the Iraq war.

A military panel in Kansas City, Mo., will hold a hearing Monday to decide whether he should be should be discharged from service and, if so, with what type of discharge.

Col. Dave Lapan, a Marine Corps spokesman, said Kokesh is under administrative review because he wore his uniform at a political event, which is prohibited. And, Lapan said, when a senior officer told Kokesh that he violated military regulations, Kokesh used an obscenity and indicated he would not comply with the rules.

"It's the political activity that is prohibited, not the type of event that it was," Lapan said. "If it had been a pro-war rally, it would still have been a violation."

The panel could recommend an honorable discharge, a general discharge or an other than honorable discharge. Kokesh could not be given a dishonorable discharge, which generally results from a court-martial. The final decision would be made by the commanding general.

This is a really interesting problem. But the Defense Department better be careful, or they'll encourage a bunch of other people to try to get out of their four-to-six year obligation to the reserves after active duty, either voluntary (by joining the Army Reserves) or involuntary (by being placed in the Individual Ready Reserves). And you know, you can buy miltary fatigues at any Army Surplus store, so if they want to keep the uniform sacrosanct, perhaps they shouldn't sell them to anyone. And really, no one complains if veterans wear their uniforms to pro-war rallies.

Personally, I would like to think that our veterans have earned the right to free speech. Even if they're rude about it-- although that's the most troubling part about this whole situation. Of course, people taking part in political activity when they're representing the government is hardly a shocker after Alberto Gonzalez, now, is it?

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The problem with The Parent Trap

So as I was waiting, as I always do, for people to get their acts together to get ready to go to church, I was watching the remake of The Parent Trap on TV. It's a cute story. I'm sure you know it, either through the Hayley Mills 60s-era movie or through the Lindsay Lohan 90s-era remake.

There's just one problem. I don't like the choices the parents make.

Am I the only person who finds it deeply troubling that two people marry in haste, produce twins, and then decide, rather than putting the needs of their children first, to then separate their identical twins, move them to separate continents, and then never disclose to their children that they have a sibling (much less an identical twin)? That they never discuss their other parent with their child? I find this idea incredibly cruel. Why can't they pull it together for their infants? Why can't they be patient and try to weather the inevitable adjustments that all new spouses and new parents go through? And yet the parents aren't portayed as immature, selfish jerks. They're portrayed as wonderful parents.

Except for that whole denying-your-child-her-family part.

So, if we suspend our disdain over that one tiny problem, it's a cute little story. But people who would really do this are hardly parents-of-the-year. Just like the mother and father in Mary Poppins who farm their kids out to a succession of nannies while pursuing their own interests. But that's a post for another day.

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Saturday, June 02, 2007

100 Words Everyone Should Know

Our good friend Mamacita, besides being a fabulous connoiseur of music, a champion of right mid and right behavior, a terrific mom and so much more that I can't even list, has a great post up on the 100 Words Every Educated Person Should Know.

Go see how many YOU know!

Note: Now that darling MrsChili has let me know that the first link didn't work, I think I have fixed it. Try it now!


Friday, June 01, 2007

Andrew Speaker: I don't want to. I don't care. I'm smarter than you. You can't make me.

And speaking of lawyers, here is an outstanding example of the type of behavior that we all see on a daily basis. Andrew Speaker is the first person to be forcibly quarantined by the federal government since 1963, and it looks like he deserves it. Please note the differences in the way this story has been played in the last few days and today. From the Kansas City Star. Note his comments that I have placed in boldface, which appeared in the news yesterday:
The case of a jet-setting tuberculosis patient might soon shift from the hospital wards to the courts. The patient, Andrew Speaker, an Atlanta personal injury attorney, could sue the federal government for being quarantined on the basis of federal regulations that some scholars see as unconstitutional.

Or Speaker could be sued by fellow airline passengers, especially if any caught the disease from him - which some legal scholars say is much more likely.

"He may be personally liable if someone contracts TB" from being near him on his recent flights to and from Europe, said Peter Jacobson, a University of Michigan professor of public health law. "I can see a jury coming down very hard on someone like that who willfully ignored advice not to travel."

Speaker flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon after being advised by health officials not to make the trip because he had TB. Then, while he was in Rome, U.S. health officials told him to stay put because further tests showed he had an even more dangerous, drug-resistant type of TB than previously thought.

The 31-year-old newlywed disregarded those instructions, taking commercial jets to Prague and then Montreal in an attempt to sneak back into the United States.

In an interview earlier this week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Speaker said he declined to report to Italian health officials because he believed the only lifesaving care for his condition was available in the U.S.

"I'm a very well-educated, successful, intelligent person," he told the newspaper. "This is insane to me that I have an armed guard outside my door when I've cooperated with everything other than the whole solitary-confinement-in-Italy thing."

Yeah, and the not-leaving-the-country thing, and the not-flying thing, and the pulling-your-narcissistic-head-out-of-your-arse thing. Except for that.

Now today, we hear that his new father-in-law WORKS for the CDC specializing in infectious diseases including TB. Dad-in-law is stating that he never encouraged his new son-in-law to fly. And Mr. Speaker, Esquire, after careful lawyerly consideration, is now saying he's sorry for scaring everyone on his flights, and besides, nobody REALLY REALLY REALLY told him he couldn't jet off to Europe:
An Atlanta attorney quarantined with a dangerous strain of tuberculosis apologized to his fellow plane passengers in an interview aired Friday, and said he was told he wasn't contagious or a threat to anyone.

"I feel awful," Andrew Speaker said, speaking through a mask with ABC's "Good Morning America" at his hospital room in Denver. "I've lived in this state of constant fear and anxiety and exhaustion for a week now, and to think that someone else is now feeling that, I wouldn't want anyone to feel that way.

"I don't expect those people to ever forgive me. I just hope they understand that I truly never meant them any harm."

Speaker, 31, said he, his doctors and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all knew he had TB before he flew to Europe for his wedding and honeymoon last month. But he said he was told that he wasn't contagious or a danger to anyone. Officials said they would rather he didn't fly but didn't forbid it, he said.

His father, also a lawyer, taped that meeting, he said.

"My father said, 'OK, now are you saying, prefer not to go on the trip because he's a risk to anybody, or are you simply saying that to cover yourself?' And they said, we have to tell you that to cover ourself, but he's not a risk."

Speaker, his new wife and her 8-year-old daughter were already in Europe when the CDC contacted him and told him to turn himself in immediately at a clinic there and not take another commercial flight.

Speaker said he felt as if the CDC had suddenly "abandoned him." He said he believed if he didn't get to the specialized clinic in Denver, he would die.

"Before I left, I knew that it was made clear to me, that in order to fight this, I had one shot, and that was going to be in Denver," he said. If doctors in Europe tried to treat him and it went wrong, he said, "it's very real that I could have died there."

Even though U.S. officials had put Speaker on a warning list, he caught a flight to Montreal and then drove across the U.S. border on May 24 at Champlain, N.Y. A border inspector who checked him disregarded a computer warning to stop Speaker, officials said Thursday.

The unidentified inspector later said the infected man seemed perfectly healthy and that he thought the warning was merely "discretionary," officials briefed on the case told The Associated Press. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the matter is still under investigation.

The inspector ran Speaker's passport through a computer, and a warning — including instructions to hold the traveler, don a protective mask in dealing with him, and telephone health authorities — popped up, officials said. About a minute later, Speaker was instead cleared to continue on his journey, according to officials familiar with the records. The inspector has since been removed from border duty.

Colleen Kelley, president of the union that represents customs and border agents, declined to comment on the specifics of the case, but said "public health issues were not receiving adequate attention and training" within the agency.

The next day, Speaker became the first infected person to be quarantined by the U.S. government since 1963.

He was flown by medical transport Thursday to National Jewish Medical and Research Center, where doctors put him in an isolation room where he will be treated with oral and intravenous antibiotics.

Wow. Poor him. Victimized by the CDC. "Abandoned" is a good word, too, very laden with emotional meaning. Like a big-eyed little puppy painted on velvet. A puppy that can give you a debilitating and potentially fatal disease as you breathe recycled air in a big metal tube with him for eight hours.

Who are these people who disregard any concern for anyone else but themselves? Where is a feeling of obligation to the community? And where can we find some border agents who can actually take warnings seriously? I for one certainly feel more safe now that that one agent has been removed from duty. I'm sure that'll solve the problem.

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