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, October 29, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 88: politically incorrect edition

Welcome to Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. This week's feature starts off with a sly reference to popular culture that was a complete surprise. I love this DVD-- it's "precious" to me.

This is an easy one. So put your quotes in the comments section!

"Oh come on, we can take 'em!"
"It's a long way."
"Toss me."
"I cannot jump the distance; you'll have to toss me." Pause. "Don't tell the elf."
"Not a word."

"I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why."

"There is no promise you can make that I can trust."

"Looks like meat's back on the menu, boys!"

"The women of this country learned long ago, those without swords can still die upon them. I fear neither death nor pain."

"What do trees have to talk about, hmm... except the consistency of squirrel droppings?"

"What's happening out there?"
"Shall I describe it to you?"
"Or would you like me to find you a box?"

****Weekend Update: How can you go wrong? It's

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers!

Viggo Mortenson. Orlando Bloom. Cate Blanchett. Sean Astin. Hugo Weaving. Karl Urban. John Rhys-Davies. Miranda Otto. And Elijah Wood! And can Christopher Lee ever play anything but a baddie?

Go read the books today!

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The "Drop-out factory"

There's a new term on the educational horizon: "drop-out factory."

It paints quite a picture, doesn't it?

It's a nickname no principal could be proud of: "Dropout Factory," a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year. That description fits more than one in 10 high schools across America.

"If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the Johns Hopkins researcher who coined the term "dropout factory."

There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, about the same level as a decade ago.

Read the whole thing. It also makes some interesting claims about GEDs.

I have seen many students encouraged to go get a GED when they have said they wanted to drop out. I do not think that this is an attempt to decrease the drop-out rate that we have to report to the state. I think this is an attempt to get kids another avenue to attain some sort of credential when they have obviously evinced a lack of success in a traditional high school setting. I think this option is refusing to give up on a student.

Perhaps I am naive, but I don't think so.

We still haven't dealt with the basic problem in all of this, though: how do you "make" someone value an education when everything in society denigrates the educated?

It may be that some people just aren't ready to do the work needed to get a high school diploma. They may need to try to go out into the world and work for a while until they are ready to dedicate themselves. Because, ultimately, you can't give someone an education, all wrapped in a shiny bow-- you can offer them the opportunity for an education, and no matter what, everyone will create an education from the choices they make.

I know sometimes it is difficult. I know sometimes everything seems to be conspiring against students. I grew up in a very violent, alcoholic home. I had one of my friends live with us our senior year because her house was worse. I was the first person to go to college. My grades weren't as high as I would have liked, but I did what I had to do to graduate and get into college. I made sure I didn't do drugs, even though some of my friends did. I made sure I didn't get pregnant-- barring divine intervention, one who isn't having sex tends not to get pregnant. I wanted the options and the life an education offered me, and I did everything I could to make sure I could get it.

Education isn't a passive process.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Pharyngula-Mutating-Genre Meme

Here's a meme that's been mutating around the blogosphere from the real mac daddy of science bloggers, Pharyngula, and I got tagged.

Okay, Mommyprof, I accept that bet!

First, the rules:
There are a set of questions below that are all of the form, "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

You can leave them exactly as is.
You can delete any one question.
You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question.
For instance, you could change "The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is..." to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is...", or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is...", or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is...".
You can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...".
You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.
Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions. Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

So, without further ado:
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Flying Trilobite.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Primate Diaries
My great-great-great-great-great-grandparent is Thus Spake Zuska.
My great-great-great-great-grandparent is a k8, a cat, a mission.
My great-great-great-grandparent is Monkeygirl.
My great-great-grandparent is DancingFish.
My great-grandparent is Dr. Brazen Hussy.
My grandparent is Addy.
My parent is Mommy/prof.

The best short story in SciFi/Fantasy is: "Jerry Was a Man," by Robert A. Heinlein.
The best cult movie in comedy is: This is Spinal Tap
The best children’s novel in classic fiction is: The Phantom Tollbooth
The best high-fat food in Greek cooking is: Saganaki (flaming cheese)
The best recent movie in comedy is: Mean Girls
The best humorous song in folk music is: "Sensitive New Age Guys" by Christine Lavin.

And I tag:
The Science Goddess

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

"You spin me right round, baby, right round, like a record baby, right round round round."

There's a lot of talk about the dire straits (ha!) in which the music industry finds itself. Record labels claim that illegal downloads are killing them, and so they have started suing people who've been using file-sharing sites and whatnot. The Clash (snort) has been pretty nasty. Now look, I'm a Mac person when it comes to computers, so I have legally bought all my music, either through iTunes or from CDs I have purchased. I believe that stealing is wrong, and I believe artists should be compensated for their work.

However, I believe the music industry will never defeat this type of behavior. People will always find a way with technology-- look how few hours it took people to hack the iPhone. Instead, the recording industry needs to come to grips with the real problems that have caused the number of CDs purchased in this country and around the world to decline precipitously.

First of all, CDs used to be much more scratch resistant. Now, you breathe on the things and they're ruined. I hate that.

Second, the price. Eighteen bucks? You gotta be kidding me.

But the greatest problem is quality. For too long, the recording industry has taken an "artist" who has one or two good songs, then slapped 7-10 crappy songs into an album and expected the sheeple to just fork over 18 bucks without a murmur. You have signed the flavor of the month, record companies, and tried to dupe us into buying albums that did not provide value for the money. Thus, people go to file sharers to get only the songs they like and avoid the garbage. When I was a wee tot, one could avoid this problem by buying the 45 (Explanation for those under 40: it was a little record with a popular song on the front and another song, called the "B-side" usually, on the back. Sometimes the B-side sucked. But sometimes they were neat quirkly little gems.)

Now there are some albums that sustain themselves all the way through. But they are usually by people who don't get as much airplay on the radio as they deserve-- often people who belong to some tiny label that lets them follow their inner muse, God bless 'em.

Artists have been standing up for themselves against the conglomerates themselves:
Prince freed himself from record labels years ago. Paul McCartney, Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails have followed. Now the Material Girl appears to be kissing her big-name record company goodbye for a cool $120 million.

Could U2 be next? Justin Timberlake? Coldplay? Do superstars even need traditional multiyear album contracts when CD sales are plummeting and fans are swiping tons of music for free online, or tuning in to their favorite bands via YouTube, MySpace and other Internet portals?

“There’s a prevailing wisdom that many established acts don’t need a record label anymore,” said Bruce Flohr, an executive at Red Light Management, which represents artists such as Dave Matthews Band and Alanis Morissette, and ATO Records, home to David Gray, Gomez and Crowded House, among others.

Boston ceased publishing for years while they and their record label were involved in a lawsuit, and when they finally broke out of that deal, they were down to two guys whose moment had passed. Aimee Mann is now self-published after she had had loads of mistreatment from recording companies. Madonna just famously left her record label that she co-founded. Radiohead just announced that they will release their latest album In Rainbows online and are allowing fans to pay whatever they want for it. It's an intriguing idea.

The lack of quality is a real issue, and the recording industry needs to face it. Have you ever had the experience of buying an album on the strength of one or two songs, and then finding out that the rest of the thing is just rotten? It's infuriating. They must think we are American Idiots-- apologies to Green Day.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 87: Best Actor edition

Hello there again here at Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game.I decided to go with an Oscar winner this time, because this guy is just so amazong. I could do entire MONTHS on his material-- and maybe I should. See how well you remember a true classic here.

Remember, put a quote from the movie inthe comments section!

"I'm just an untalented old has-been."
"Were you ever famous?"
"Then how can you be a has-been?"

"You are psychotic!"
"No, I'm not-- I'm employed."

"Nobody wants to pay twenty dollars to watch people living next to chemical waste! They can see that in New Jersey!"

"I don't believe in Hell. I believe in unemployment, but not Hell."

"Michael, are you gay?"
"In what sense?"

****Weekend Update: What do you get when you take a perfectionist who has argued himself out of work and put him in a dress?


This was one of the few times that an actor has won a Best Actor award for a comedic role, and Dustin Hoffman deserved every bit of it. Bill Murray Jexxica Lange, Terri Garr, Dabney Coleman, and Charles Durning round out this stellar ensemble!

It's a classic!

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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Okie food!

My home state is celebrating the centennial of statehood, and hence, we are celebrating All Things Oklahoma.

I may be a middle-aged fat lady on statins, but I still loves me that chicken-fried steak. This place supposedly has some of the best. Once a year or so I allow myself to luxuriate in the crispy, salty goodness, covered with the cream gravy. MMMMMM-MM! Then you must have the real mashed taters and the black-eyed peas and the fried okra, or perhaps the chopped greens. Lawdamercy!

Let us bow our heads in thanks for the wonders of round steak. Pummel it, dip it in batter, and it's heavenly. But cut it into strips with some scissors, coat it in a mixture of flour, paprika, pepper, and garlic salt, (in a bread bag) and then pan fry it -- then it enters the realm of ambrosia. This is my very favorite meal my momma used to make-- YUM.

It's amazing we haven't all had to had shunts installed in every artery we've got, but we of the Clan Cornelius are remarkably untouched by this yummy excess. When I think of scraping up the crispings from grilling a round steak with a piece of bread-- especially the heel-- and then wolfing that down, I almost faint from hunger.

Okie food! God bless it!

And go here for more of all things Okie!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It's the return of the Car-NI-VAL! 141!!!!!!

Edwonk has done it yet again, and put tpgether a fabulous Carnival of Education over at his place! He even included me although I was a total dunderhead and forgot what day of the week it was until it was too late.

Don't miss Mamacita's travails with her students' writing, and Mrs. Bluebird's struggles with a student who is kicking and clawing to be left behind, just for starters.

You've got to get your fingers on the pulse of the Edusphere, and this is a great way to meet a whole bunch of great Edubloggers!

Why are you still here? Get going!


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Speechless... but the mighty text message rolls on

I have just had something happen that completely flummoxes me. Perhaps I am just a fossil hopelessly ourt of step with the times, but I think not.

I just had a parent textmessage their child to tell them a very close relative died.

I am appalled. Perhaps I am too sensitive.

But! Can't you get on the phone and call my room and ask to speak to your child or have them called down to the office so that you can tell them something like this in your own voice?

This young person was devastated.

We have a no cellphone rule that I am usually quite the stickler about. However, if a child has a true emergency, I say turn the thing on vibrate and place it up close to your body after checking with me. That's how this young person got the text message.

Well, at least they didn't use emoticons or those ridiculous abbreviations.

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Monday, October 15, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 86: sacrilege edition

Welcome back to Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. I give you some starter quotes from a movie, and you include your own quotes in the comment section.

This week I'm going out on a ledge with a classic this week. I still remember listening to an entire MONTH'S worth of sermons about this one, back when I was forced to go to church with my parents. Let's see how you do.

"All right, but apart from the sanitation, medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?"
"Brought peace?"
"Oh, peace - shut up!"

"I think it was 'Blessed are the cheesemakers. '"

"There's no pleasing some people."
"That's just what Jesus said, sir."

"Okay, sir, my final offer: half a shekel for an old ex-leper?"
"Did you say 'ex-leper?'"
"That's right, sir, 16 years behind a veil and proud of it, sir."
"Well, what happened?"
"Oh, cured, sir."
"Yes sir, bloody miracle, sir. Bless you!"
"Who cured you?"
"Jesus did, sir. I was hopping along, minding my own business, all of a sudden, up he comes, cures me! One minute I'm a leper with a trade, next minute my livelihood's gone. Not so much as a by-your-leave! 'You're cured, mate.' Bloody do-gooder."

"Stwike him, Centuwion. Stwike him vewy wuffly!"

****Weekend Update: Who else but Python could have done


Some people will follow anybody, which helps explain the Bush family phenomenon to me.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Those d***ed middle class values

Well, at our district we are entering year four of talking about raising achievement of minority students.

Do not think for one minute that I am kidding when I say:

First we listened to outside people read us really bad poetry. We listened to painfully cliched free verse with no internal meter, imagery, or intellectual or emotional heft beyond bathos (which can be fun to those who are looking for it) about sad-eyed puppies left out in thunderstorms and birdies with broken wings and acrostics spelling out "I CAN" down the left-hand margin. And then there's that R. Kelly song-- don't make me relive that. Those of us with a brain were then treated to these presenters then providing literary analysis of this treacle, too, since it was obviously so very deep that we just didn't get it on our own.

Then we spent six months (that's nearly an entire school year to you) trying to figure out what kind of communities made up our school. We spent four and a half of those months basically defining our characteristics.

Then we were told by more outside consultants that if we just loved our students really really hard that they would all achieve. And therefore, since they weren't achieving, we must not love them. So we needed to own up to the fact that we were all cold-hearted bastards who were not "child-centered" and either come to Jesus or leave the profession before we scarred someone for life.

Now, we are told that we should stop trying to impose "white" middle class values upon our students-- that's the problem, yeah.

Now, I have several responses to all of this:
One, when are we going to realize that it takes two to tango, and at least effort on both the parts of students and teachers not to mention parents to provide the opportunity for an education. Note I did not say "provide an education." Because no one is "provided an education." Would that it were so simple as to just pry open some heads and pour some knowledge in. How wonderfully easy that would be! But it's not. A student can sit in the most sparkly, well-apportioned classroom in the world, with a teacher with a Ph.D in her subject and empathy oozing from every pore, and if that student is not willing or able to tune in and spend some energy manipulating the content being presented, he or she might as well try to strap on a helmet and pads and claim to be Tony Romo just because he or she watched ESPN's Sports Center.

But more to the current, transitory point, before we veer off into yet another direction, is this one question that I would like to ask the people who claim that the imposition of middle class values (I will leave aside the "white" part for a moment) is the cause of all our problems:

Just where do you think you are?

You are in a school. The entire purpose of public education in this country is to instill so-called "middle class" values. Let us first figure out just what "middle class" values are, or at least are supposed to be. In an ideal world, this is what schools should teach:

1. Show up on time.

2. Follow directions.

3. Work for what you get. The world doesn't "owe" you anything.

4. Take responsibility for your actions.

5. Practice, study, sweat: this is required for improvement.

6. If you want more money, you need more skills and more knowledge.

7. Take those skills and knowledge and then go out and find a way to use them.

8. Persevere.

Now, notice I said "in an ideal world." Unfortunately, schools mirror society, which is another thing no one seems to get. But, as someone who has been in the working class and is now in the middle class, I can tell you that, rather than being a force for oppression, the above are the way out. Of course, they aren't easy. They require effort. They require personal responsibility. They require patience. They do not provide instant gratification.

I refuse to submit to the thesis that these are somehow evil concepts that are somehow prima facie racist. I don't believe that middle class values are "white," either, since that idea is related to the claim that minority kids who seek academic achievement are "acting white."

The crisis in our schools comes from the fact that education is denigrated as useless. Education is misunderstood as something that should be easy. Education is thought to be something that is provided to you.

No one seems to understand that education requires self-transformation, which is the most useful thing in the world, the hardest thing in the world, and can only be done by you.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Bar none, this bar is high

This seems interesting:
The math tests students take under the No Child Left Behind law are harder than the reading exams, a study finds.

States design tests for their students in both subjects in grades three through eight and once in high school.

By 2014, all students are supposed to reach the proficiency mark on those tests, which generally means they are working at their grade level.

What kids have to show they can do to be labeled proficient in math is typically harder in most states than what they have to do to in reading, according to a study released Thursday by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a Washington-based education think tank.

The findings come a little more than a week after the federal government reported students have been making much more progress in math than in reading in recent years.

Michael Petrilli, the think tank's vice president for policy, said it makes sense that students' math skills are improving if there are high expectations of them in that subject.

"If the bar is higher, you've got to work a lot harder," he said.

So what makes a test harder? Is it harder because there is less knowledge and understanding? If you live in a school district like mine, you've seen the powers-that-be go through math programs the way Britney goes through rehab.

Personally, I think what makes reading the hardest for many of my students starts with a basic lack of vocabulary, and let's not even talk about how many kids claim that they "just can't spell" to the point that words are unrecognizable. The I watch my honors students pull out calculators to figure out multiples of five, and I despair all over again.

Let's face it, when you have to THINK about simple multiplication facts when you're seventeen, I imagine math tests WOULD seem pretty darn difficult.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

For your clarification...

I usually avoid this, since it is all too easy, but I had to remind you all of the words of our Edjicator in Cheef:

"Childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured."

Got that, childrens?


Monday, October 01, 2007

Movie Madness Monday 85: taut white t-shirt edition

Here is this week's Movie Madness Monday, the movie quote trivia game. Just a mindless little waste of time while Ms. Cornelius wrestles with the school's computerized grading system for the forty-'leventh time. Not that she's counting. Or bitter.

So see if you can give me a quote from this one (in the comments section, not just in your head):

"We open in a week, people. The set isn't finished. Mother Abbess just quit because she got shingles! And every step-ball change would make Bob Fosse rise from the grave just so he could have a heart attack again!"

"I'm never gonna be able to remember your names because there's not enough time so you're Red One, you're Red Two, you're Red Three, and you're Red Baby."

"I am a professional. I directed Show Boat with Greg Brady. It wasn't union, but it was good. Good! Good! Good!"

"Den mother, you frighten me."

"I'm Vice Principal Murney, or 'Murnanator,' as the wrestling team calls me. My friends call me 'Little Puppet.'"

"We're gonna be late!"
"Not on MY watch!"

"We do this my way. There is no highway option."

***Weekend Update: He's no Binky, he's


Who knew Vin could be funny?

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