May 31, 2006

life badly imitates art

We got snake in a m-----------' rental car!

[link via Obscure Store. Do you visit it daily? You really should.]

a whole new wooooorrrrld

Why is it that so many earth-shattering discoveries are found in caves in Israel? First the Dead Sea Scrolls, and now this.

big eyes, small stomach

As usual, I have more on my plate than I should--an improv comedy show to finish planning for, (yes, it takes planning and preparation and practice, lots), a graduation speech to write, plans for tomorrow's lessons, a parent meeting involving changes to the 9th grade curriculum, a staffing day to work on said curriculum changes, wrapping up speech and debate loose ends, and whatever else arises. Add to that: the second "Work to the Contract Day." (No link; the Olympian is currently down.)

Oh, and someone is singing operatically outside. Nice baritone.

Update: The improv show was a resounding success. A crowd that laughed at the slightest provocation. Goofy-as-heck performers. Moments of sheer comic genius. I'm so proud... James, Zach, Mark, Esa, Trevor, Shawn, Suvir, Jack, Ryan... Alex and Alden... and, of course, the powers behind the throne, Christina, Hanne, and Lena. You made my year.

May 30, 2006

Jim Anderson's day job

By night, Jim Anderson protects the weak, crushes the high-and-mighty, paints frescoes in basilicas, serves soup to orphans, fixes broken traffic signals, puts the toilet seat down, cranks out #1 hit singles, decodes semaphore signals from passing freighters, bakes a mean peach crumble, and does all the other noble deeds you'd expect Jim Anderson to do, given that he also blogs for a while before sleeping for thirty minutes in a hyperbaric chamber.

What, though, fills Jim Anderson's time during the day?

Thanks to the magic of telecommuting, Jim Anderson can participate in multivariate tasks from the comfort of his sofa. Upon rising, Jim checks Utah real estate listings and sends quick emails to his clients, finishing before his coffee percolates. A quick phone call to his recording studio placates a nervous industry exec--Anderson can stir the pancake batter while chatting on the cell. He spits out a new algorithm while playing three-deal solitaire, plugs in his digicam and checks out a batch of recent basketball portraits, dreams up new flower arrangements as the pancakes turn golden brown. He spills syrup on a drawing of a nifty new stained glass window for St. Claire's (where the orphanage is found, natch), then marks a few economics essays until stricken by the urge to blog again.

Don't you wish you were Jim Anderson.

[ninety-fifth in a series]

Jimmy Anderson tsunami

An inspirational tale.
Jimmy and Crystal Anderson were vacationing in a beachfront bungalow in Phuket when the tsunami struck. In three seconds, a giant wave turned their room into “a huge washing machine,” Jimmy Anderson, a freelance photographer, recalled. “This is it,” he told himself. “This is how our lives end.”

But the high school sweethearts, who married six years ago and moved to Singapore three months ago, escaped death. They swam out the bungalow's door, caught hold of floating chair cushions, grabbed onto a tree and climbed to safety.

The Andersons know they could easily have died. A month earlier, Jimmy had watched a special about tsunamis on the Discovery Channel. He said he knew the first wave would be followed by a bigger one. “We've got to get higher!” he yelled to his wife.

They watched the second wave approach, about 10 feet taller than the first. The wave ripped down bigger trees and lashed at the one they clung to. But there was a concrete wall around the base of the tree, and the tree held. “We were in the tree for two hours before the last wave went out,” he said.

Thousands of miles away in Spanaway, Wash., near Tacoma, Marianne Anderson, 53, feared the worst for her son and daughter-in-law. “We were just frantic with worry. I talked to the State Department and put them on the list of missing people,” she said.
This story is not about me.

My wife is not Crystal Anderson, and Marianne Anderson is not my mother. I never had a high school sweetheart. I rarely watch the Discovery Channel--no cable. I can't swim. I am not a freelance photographer. I have been married for one year, nine months, and ten days.

I have never survived a tsunami, and never will, given the chance. (See "I can't swim," above.) I have never visited Singapore, and can't say I've ever wanted to.

Lastly, I do not go by "Jimmy." At least not since the age of ten.

[ninety-fourth in a series]

Work 2 Contract 2

It's an irony of our profession that working only what we are paid to work seems like an act of defiance. These past two Wednesdays are as much symbol as anything. Sure they serve as symbols to the District of all the uncompensated hours teachers toil. But they should also serve as symbols to ourselves. We are generous with our time, and the District, no District in Washington, could run effectively without all that extra time. But we need to also think about how always giving in the short term, the day to day, minute to minute decisions can actually hurt the profession over time. If we give without expectations we allow the legislature to continually pull resources from education, to invest less in the best investment in our society. We allow, even encourage, policy makers to try to do education on the cheap which ultimately dilutes all of our commitments. I'm not advocating not working hard. I'm advocating not letting our hard work come so cheaply that the profession becomes less attractive to those preparing to make important professional choices. We need to attract the best new teachers. Currently 50% of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years. We need to pressure the legislature into financial commitments to invest in education. If the legislature just held even in percentage expenditures to education over the last twenty years we'd have TWO BILLION more dollars available in the state of Washington.
What we ask for on these two Wednesdays is to imagine what it's like to be paid fully for our time. To reflect on what we are worth. To envision a future when our investment in kids matches our rhetoric of expectations.
Have a good time tomorrow. Arrive on time guilt free. Go home on time guilt free. Then consider what you want to tell policy makers, our board, our legislators.
Our work has value. We don't do service to anyone by allowing others to value it less.

it's official

I was contacted by the ASB advisor this morning, warned that I'd be speaking at graduation--and, best of all, need to have a title for the program by Thursday.

I haven't even started writing the speech.

You can bet, though, that it won't be at all like this one or this one. (And they'll invite me onstage.)

Work to the Contract Day II: Teachers United

Yes, it's time again for Do The Impossible Day: work to the contract, no more, no less. (I know, usually "less" just isn't an option.)

See you there!

(Everything X-Men here. Everything sequel here.)

May 29, 2006

all Dispatches on NPR

It's as if NPR was channeling Ed Brayton this evening. First there was a story about the follies of the Kansas School Board--first, dissing evolution in the state science standards, and now, dissing science in the state sex ed standards. Then the discussion of Fred Phelps' abominable funeral protests (Phelps had the verve to call others "demagogues.")

Then came "This I Believe."
I believe in barbecue. As soul food and comfort food and health food, as a cuisine of both solace and celebration. When I'm feeling good, I want barbecue. And when I'm feeling bad, I just want barbecue more.
(Leave it to NPR to also cover the risks.) Ed Brayton, meanwhile, was deconstructing Bravo's Top 100 Comedies.

English teachers: help needed

TRP, working on his NBPTS, will soon have to write an exam question about a universal theme and connect it to a "non-print text." He's calling upon readers to join the "Help TRP Pass the NBPTS Test Movie Discussion Club." First official entry is on Pleasantville, which I haven't seen... but maybe you have. Click over and join in.

In other news, area English teachers have the assistance of paid readers who evaluate (and possibly grade) mountains of essays. I may have more thoughts on this later. Right now I have my own papers to grade.

Happy Memorial Day

We returned a bit early from the farm excitement, coming back yesterday afternoon instead of this morning. The abbreviated stay meant concentrated excitement, including...

1. Finding space for our tent among the over forty people and their various cars, tents, RVs, and behemoth-pickups crammed into close quarters. Next year, parking plan, please.

2. Assembling a beautiful stainless steel Charbroil grill, much assembly required, even more searching for teensy lock washers required when one of the many, many dogs plowed through the workspace and knocked into a table.

3. Watching the flames leap from a nameless pig, rotisseried Lord-of-the-Flies style, falling off the spit and into the coals until rescued from the conflagration and jury-rigged back onto the spit. Hours later, piping hot pork-on-a-stick. Mmm. "A wonderful, magical animal."

4. Taking a break from monitoring the bonfire to sing O Canada for the skeptics. To applause.

5. Waking every five minutes to the sound of dogs, geese, quads, or the peacock. (A "male peacock," as my wife put it.)

6. Ducking out of a Scrabble match, thus maintaining my undefeated record.

no retired teacher left behind

PRS Plan 1 is funded at 81%, and TRS Plan 1 at 88%, but this isn't a disaster in the making, according to Sandy Matheson, director of Washington State's retirement programs.
Matheson called that a “normal range.” She noted that only the Legislature can appropriate funds for the pension systems, and lawmakers took steps to reduce that gap this year.

Lawmakers earmarked $350 million for the pension gap. They also created a scale of steadily increasing contributions from the state and employees that is intended to avoid a steep jump in contribution rates.

“As much as they could, they committed to funding the plans,” Matheson said. “This catch-up is a long-term problem. It isn’t new.”
But that's not all.
Of more concern to state workers should be the increasing length of retirement. She explained that traditional pensions decrease in value over time because of inflation.

Matheson said her own retirement funds include a substantial amount of personal savings to supplement her employer-sponsored and Social Security benefits.
In the works? "More education" for state employees, so they can figure out how to survive when their pension doesn't. My crystal ball may be cloudy, but I think I see lobbying in the future.

May 28, 2006

a fine piece on a fine man

Dave McNett gets a great writeup in today's Olympian. A longtime birder and environmental activist, McNett volunteers every day at Capital, visiting my class now and then to offer observations on life, politics, and language--being an expert in each--in a voice that rasps and crackles like a campfire. If I hadn't met the love of my life, I'd have ended up just like him: a polyglot, polymath bachelor.

May 27, 2006

wish me back from the cornfield

The Onion AV Club's "Inventory" is my new favorite feature. This week, Chris Dahlen covers 11 of Video Gaming's Strangest Moments. The last:
11. Second Life (2004)

The moment: Getting banished to "the cornfield"

In the largely player-made online world of Second Life, you can find no end of surreal behavior. But one of the game's strangest features comes when you misbehave—by cheating other players, hacking the server, or whatever—and the administrators decide to punish you. When that happens, your avatar has to spend time in "the cornfield"—a kind of limbo where the player wanders through endless rows of corn, while a 1940 film about juvenile delinquency plays on a nearby television set. But this surreal penalty hasn't deterred the hackers who keep crashing the game's server; maybe it's time for Linden Labs to skip to capital punishment.
Remarkably, Dahlen misses the obvious pop-culture reference. Banishment to the cornfield comes straight out of The Twilight Zone, episode 73, "It's a Good Life."
Six-year-old Anthony Fremont (Billy Mumy) is a monster. He has eliminated the rest of the world, or has whisked Peaksville, Ohio into its own dimension. He creates, mutates, and kills animals for his pleasure. He's eliminated electricity, grocery supplies, and television signals. He controls the weather. He terrorizes and controls the people of Peaksville by disfiguring them wishing them away, forever into "the cornfield" if they don’t think happy thoughts or otherwise act according to his wishes.
The adults in the episode kowtow to Anthony--a "very good boy"--in a way that suggests religious obeisance and fear of divine wrath, making "It's a Good Life" one of the most theologically subversive of all the Zones.

That's all for this weekend. In a frightening coincidence, I'm headed back to the farm 'til Monday. I'll be back if Anthony wants me back.

one crazy Saturday morning paper

Capital Fastpitch continues its improbable run this morning--improbable only to outsiders who don't know Nicole Fernandez and Krista Shannon. Update: the run is over. Pity.

In other news, drunk and disorderly buffoons started a massive brawl early Friday morning.
The fight started about 2 a.m. at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Franklin Street as patrons trickled out of The Vault nightclub, Olympia police reported. It ballooned into an unruly crowd of about 300, with several groups scuffling and flashing gang signs as they clogged Franklin Street, police reported.
The comments veer off track as they always do.

Last, today's Orwell Award goes to "The Rev. Dylan Clifthorne" for his letter to the editor. Even if I might disagree with it, I wouldn't be sure what I was disagreeing with. Quoted in full:
We cannot afford to maintain the regime of rhetoric. There exists a plague in public language, and propagandistic speaking has been counted on before our chickens have hatched. The truth behind words is only supplanted with weighty shortcomings of the idea of truth itself.

Listen, friends, the map is not the territory. We should turn our gaze upon how we say things rather than what we are saying. Supreme vigilance is necessary in this era of self-propaganda. Tainted intention holds us in an enigmatic entrapment of understanding, but the outlook’s promising.

To the door of a better future, communication is the key which we have swallowed. I challenge all to blaspheme the convention of insipidly ideological language. We must raise plain-speaking high on the altar, for hypocrisy is our last bastion of Freedom, the dominant communion of patriotism.

Propagandists are all alike. They want to agitate emotions, exploit insecurities, and capitalize on the ambiguity of language by bending the rules of logic. As history has shown, they can be quite successful at it, but so can we.

We may climax at verbal illegitimacy, but we come down the gentle slope of unintended honesty and old-fashioned American perseverance, a beautiful example of commitment to integrity and democracy.

Our crusade against misinformation and manipulation of language will be cadenced by the beat of conveniently practical dismissal and tacit falsification.

In times like these, our only option is to turn to the age-old adage, “you best check yourself ’fore you wreck yourself.”
I vote it for most self-referential rhetoric of 2006.

(Unless it's satire, like a previous letter calling for thanks to Mt. Rainier. The Non-Reverend Clifthorne--any relation?--has a more prosaic style.)

(Incidentally, this may be the same Dylan Clifthorne who signed the TrueCost Economics Manifesto--"On campus after campus, we will chase you old goats out of power." Or maybe it's this '97 graduate of Beloit. Or maybe it's this "awesome guy" and bike-loving CHS grad. They can't all be the same person... can they? In-the-know Olympians are encouraged to comment.)

(Become reverendized here.)

May 26, 2006

veins of study that have not yet been explored

Aaron Cole, there is hope: you may someday pioneer research in an undiscovered field. Here are some choices. (Adjective + science = Nobel prize!)

endosymbiotic phrenology
taxidermic epistemology
nonsymbolic mathematics
kinetic botany
biochemical graphology
geostatic methodology
graphological topography
homeostatic linguistics
statistical demonology
logical scientology
asymmetrical entomology
applied skeletology

Damn, they were already taken:
inorganic zoology
futuristic archaeology
nonlinear physiology

[list of -ologies here]

to teach in infamy

Remember Robert Muzzillo? The teacher who charged a student with defamation for comments and jokes posted on a MySpace page? Turns out the charges have been dismissed as unconstitutional, to no one's surprise.
[Alex Davis] had been scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, but late Monday the charges against him were dismissed as outdated and unconstitutional, said Flint Judicial Circuit District Attorney Tommy Floyd.

“It’s just not a valid criminal charge anymore,” he said, referring to a statute that was ruled unconstitutional in 1982 by the Georgia Supreme Court.
No word on Muzzillo, though, who's still keeping a low profile (get it?).

more teacher protest photos

Apologies to The Olympian. (If they complain, I'll comply.)

Burly truck driver tells teacher, "You'd better make sure my daughter turned in her journal this week."

Sheriff's deputy arrests teacher for skulking without a hall pass.

Nervous guards with longstanding overdue books await wrath of librarian-turned-activist.

Recess is over, people.

Oops! Wrong protest!

May 25, 2006

in the mail today

The Smithsonian says, "Take your place alongside James Smithson." I'm already way ahead of Smithson, who, rolling in his grave, will never win this marathon.

Will the Community Savings Card be the death of the Entertainment Book? Will the two battle it out in the Thunderdome, attired in appropriately tacky costumes? The CSC is free, mind you, even if its date range is limited and its savings not as profound. No upfront cost = happy saver. And six McDonalds coupons! Six!

Washington Mutual (which just fired 1200 phone flacks so they could afford a mass mailing) tells me to
before you discard.
In other words,
steal this mail
Extended sigh.

I know you are, but what am I?

Ed Brayton exposes one of the strangest internet impersonations imposternations* I've ever seen.

Added: Of course, there's also the IP address evidence. Ed Brayton is a thorough investigator.

*Thanks to invaluable commentator Murky Thoughts.

Headlines Aren't the Story

A note about our recent coverage in the Olympian. I have found Heather Woodward, the Olympian's education reporter to be accurate, careful, and professional. Don't just read the headline and assume the content of the article. Reporters do not write their headlines, just the content.
Notice in the May 24th article no one is quoted using either the words "protest" or "march". Heather did her job. But since other people write the headlines and sidebars, these terms appeared lending a more militant tone to our activity than we had hoped to convey. Always remember we are not attacking people or trying to damage relationships we have worked years building up. We can be honest and professional and strong advocates. That doesn't mean we'll always be pleasant, or appeased, but it does mean we are not going to lose sight of our many goals in the pursuit of one. Our position is a stand we need to be taking. But don't let the headlines tell the story of the actions we take. If and when we decide to protest, we'll do that. But that's what we'll call it. We called this a Wellness Walk because that's what it was; a chance for us to get healthy together and let the District see our position as demonstrated by a line of people 200 strong.

200 Strong at the Walk for Wellness!

The count is complete. 200 people showed up for our Wellness Walk yesterday meeting downtown and hoofing it to Knox. The rain held off and people seemed to have a good time.
It was a powerful turnout. You can bet I was nervously watching the skies pour and pour and wondering what the rain would do to dampen the walk. But you all came through like the dedicated professionals you are.
We dropped off nearly as many letters to the School Board and Superintendent. Your positive support of our position MAKES ALL THE DIFFERENCE! Look for letter writing templates early next week to begin a letter writing campaign in support of our position.
Don't forget the second WORK TO THE CONTRACT DAY, on Wednesday, May 31st. I've heard some great stories about the first day. People giving each other the HONK signal from their cars, people meeting for doughnuts at Centennial, CHS gathering for a 7:30 a.m. photo opportunity, and at least one appreciative principal who came outside so he could walk in with teachers in a show of unity.
TAKE MORE PHOTOS ON THE 31ST!!!! and photos of staff wearing 5/17 buttons. Email them to and he'll put the best on the BLOG!

last word on the Wellness Walk

It was a "quiet protest," indeed.
They didn’t carry signs or shout chants.

But the roughly 200 teachers who quietly walked about a mile along Legion Way on Wednesday had a message for the Olympia School District administration: “We deserve better.”
We walked in waves from Sylvester Park to the district building, about two hundred teachers and family members in total, presenting little form letters asking for fair compensation.

The weather threatened rain, but never delivered. I took the opportunity to walk all the way from Capital to the downtown, stopping for just a moment to chat with a crossing guard about our efforts. To clear up one misconception: we left after school. It wasn't a walkout.

My wife came and walked with me all the way. After the walk and dinner, she dropped me off at the school so I could prepare for Arts and Recognition Night. When I left school at 8:15, the sun pierced the clouds and a rainbow cut a swath over the downtown. I'll take the weather as a divine omen when it suits me.

Added: Here's Justin Vela's perspective.

May 24, 2006

Wellness Walk

It was a great sight. Teacher after teacher walking up from the leafy green sidestreets around Knox, and dropping off their letter of support for our contract position. We had some foreboding weather early in the day, the rain pooling in the streets. But the weather cleared just after 3:00 and teacher after teacher met at Heritage Park Fountain, then joined another group at Sylvester Park and continued on to Knox. Many more followed as they showed up from some of the late ending elementary schools.
We were supported in our walk by the Carpenters Union and the Teamsters. It was a fun afternoon of measured, low-key strength. I was proud to be an Olympia School District teacher today and just as proud to be a member of a union, speaking in unity about the respect we deserve. Look for pictures of the walk soon.
Today was a great first step. Let's keep the positive pressure up. My hope is we come out of this both with a contract we can agree to, but a stronger more unified union as we go into the future.

even more Wellness Walk photos

This time, compliments of Scott LeDuc.

more Wellness Walk photos

Photos sent in by Sharyn Merrigan--click the timestamp to see them all. (If you know names, please inform us so we can provide correct captions.)

Wellness Walk photos

(click "read more" to see all the photos)

The Capital staff poses before entering en masse, 7:30 a.m.

Teachers from all over the district gather by the fountain, eight hours later.

Local teacher carries the burden of increased expectations without increased compensation.

Renowned social studies teacher leads masses, backs up traffic.

It must be true... I read it in The Olympian.

Area students show support.

Congregating in the shadow of the WASL Castle.

Ready to go in Sylvester Park.

The line got longer every time I looked.

The most politically savvy grandson in the state.

At long last: the Knox building.

A colleague pleads the case for greater compensation.

Work to the Contract Day: the day arrives

The planned "protest" hit The Olympian's front page today. "Hundreds" of teachers are expected. Should be fun. I'm bringing my digital camera, and will have photos later.

Oh, and one minor error to correct: the district is offering 14 hours of staff development, or additional training. We're asking for 9 hours of optional time and 6 hours of staff development, for 15 hours total, not 14 as the article implies.

Back to work.

Contract Day / Wellness Walk photos

(click the timestamp to see all the photos)

The Capital staff poses before entering en masse, 7:30.

Teachers from all over the district gather by the fountain, eight hours later.

Andy Nicholas carries the burden of increased expectations without increased compensation.

Mike Deakins backs up traffic.

It must be true... I read it in The Olympian.

Kevin Meserve and Christina Watts show support for their teachers.

Congregating in the shadow of the WASL Castle.

Ready to go in Sylvester Park.

The line got longer every time I looked.

The most politically savvy grandson in the state.

At long last: the Knox building.

David Johnston pleads the case for greater compensation.

Huge thanks to everyone who made it. We showed Olympia our strength, our resolve, and our unity. It brought back all the good memories from our last march three years ago, when I was a first-year teacher and fledgling union member. I am proud to teach with professionals who truly "keep the commitment."

Apologies for the CHS bias--if you have pictures (along with names of important figures), send 'em in and I'll be glad to post them, too. And don't forget that next Wednesday is another "Work to the Contract Day."

May 23, 2006

minimizing the suckitude of the WASL

Came across this letter to the editor about the WASL*, written from the perspective of a high school junior. I'll quote snippets, comment, and be done.
This test is supposed to be proof that a student can, at the bare minimum, read something and mindlessly regurgitate it back onto their paper....

If students do, however, decide to drain any amount of their lives worrying about this test, and if they take their time to carefully write and rewrite all of their answers, then the only reward they can expect is the angry stares of classmates who, having been done for half an hour already, are waiting to talk or play cards.
I'm not going to analyze the WASL in depth or talk about why it should be abolished. Instead, I'm going to assume for now that it's here to stay, and recommend one practical change so students who finish early aren't punished for their competence.

Let them quietly leave class when they're done.

Simple. It'll work, too, and here's why.

Excepting emergencies, no one comes or goes during the test. Cell phones and other pesky electronic devices are entirely banned. Consequently, there's no real danger that Joe Student will hop into the hall, whip out a RAZR and text the correct answers to his internet girlfriend in Ephrata.

Let them hang out in the gym or the commons or the library, where they can enjoy the solace of their iPods or gamble away their lunch money playing Texas Hold'em.

Once they go, they can't re-enter the classroom, so there's no risk of information contamination.

End of problem.

It's so simple I almost feel stupid for suggesting it.

*Washington's high-stakes standardized test.

Work to the Contract Day and Wellness Walk

Education, like politics, is local. Local teachers are going to enjoy two celebrations tomorrow: first, Work to the Contract Day, and second, a Wellness Walk to the Knox Building tomorrow--that's the district office, if you're unfamiliar. WttCD is all about reminding people that much of a teacher's work is done after the bells go silent and the halls darken. The Walk is a spirited, healthy, nonthreatening way to say "Hey, District, how about reasonable compensation for extra work?"

The Olympian calls it a "protest." There'll be no guns, and no daisies-in-guns, though, promise.

Now you know where I'll be tomorrow afternoon.

"Wellness Walk" in The Olympian

According to the paper of record, it's a "protest." Well, sorta.

It's more of a "statement." As David says, it's not about us-against-them. It's about us-for-quality-education.

Don't forget the daisies.

PT vs. PT

World War II "mosquito boat" piloted by your grandfather, who sailed with Jack Kennedy.

21st century fake nostalgia piloted by your grandfather, who once nearly ran over Ted Kennedy.

Thanks for showing up! On to Wellness!

We had a solid turnout last night for the Monday Board Meeting. Lots of great buttons and variations of buttons. Nice look with the oversized, upside-down button, Mimi Williams. It was a good, solid start to our efforts to dramatize to the District that we are serious about our bargaining goals and that it is time for local compensation, not more work for more pay.
Thanks to all of you who showed up, and don't forget the Wellness Walk on Wed. the 24th. Meet either at Heritage Fountain, or Sylvester Park. We'll have water for your trek and friendly kids to send you on your way.
Wear a hat and bring your 5/17 button or an appropriate variation of same.
Let's make this a positive, freindly event. Some Knox staff will inevitably want to come out to say hello, so make sure you greet them with warmth. It is an issue we are working through. This isn't about people being for or against us.
A reporter from the Olympian may ask you some questions. My advice is to keep your message focused and positive. "We are symbolizing today how rarely we leave work on time." "We are supporting are bargaining team." "We need to increase compensation for teachers, 50% of new teachers leave in the first 5 years and the number one reason is pay."
See you tomorrow. We need to show up, to show support!

and now, the rest of the story

I'm going to give you some links so you can check the facts for yourself--but stay with me for a moment.

One of the reasons we have this blog is to make sure you have access to sides of the story that the media are missing. Today's Olympian article on the board's decision to close the CHS campus is a case in point.
Capital High School students won’t be allowed to leave campus for lunch starting in the fall, Olympia School District Superintendent Bill Lahmann announced at the meeting Monday.

Lahmann told the Olympia School Board that district policy dictates that Olympia high schools keep students on campus for lunch unless there isn’t room in the cafeteria to feed them all.
Now, I've been following this story since it first broke, and this was new(s) to me. Why? Because in a chat with Olympia citizens, Lahmann never mentioned the policy, and made it seem like the option to keep an open campus was still on the table.
We'll be discussing once we have capacity for lunch for all students whether we need to close the campus at Capital High School, much like we have at Olympia High School.
The de facto closed campus rule also went unmentioned in a previous Olympian article.
Administrators at Capital High and the Olympia School District are weighing whether to bar students from leaving campus at lunchtime after the school's renovation project is complete this fall. They expect to discuss the issue May 22 at a school board meeting.

Capital's cafeteria isn't big enough to accommodate the 750 students who eat during each of the school's two lunch periods. But it will be once a $24.2 million renovation and expansion project is finished in September.

“The expectation when we passed the bond a couple years ago was that we would expand the cafeteria and that would allow us to close the campus at Capital,” said Peter Rex, an Olympia School District spokesman.
Again--no mention of the policy, though someone aware of its existence might make the inference from Rex's comments.

I took a trip to the OSD website to read the policy for myself. Here it is.
Students are to remain on campus unless leaving for a reason approved by parents and/or school officials. Students leaving without such an excuse will be considered truant.
Notice that it apparently wasn't even available on the web until May 18 of this year, four days before the most recent board meeting. (Or on May 22, if this search snapshot date is correct.)

What am I getting at? Here was a clear case where a subject ostensibly up for discussion really wasn't, because the district's forgotten policy--apparently in place since revision in 1995--left no room for debate. But no one, not the district, not The Olympian, not anyone I spoke to, mentioned that hindsight-obvious fact until Monday.

This is why we need your help to tell the whole story, no matter the issue. It takes five minutes a day. Read up. Dig deeper. Inform yourself. Better yet, join us and inform others.

May 22, 2006

sins of the 12 disciples

The twelve disciples were down-to-earth men and women just like you and me. Actually, they were all men, but that shouldn't dilute the point that they were human beings with human problems, the everyday pettinesses and foibles that we all experience, yes, you and me and and baby minus me makes two. Sorry. Tangent.

Some of the disciples' sins were relatively minor, if we take the long view. Simon Peter was a bit of a showoff, Andrew sometimes cursed at other cab drivers, John Zebedee had a thing for blond waitresses, Philip became addicted to Percocet because of a particularly rowdy class, Thaddeus gambled on chariot races, Bartholomew was probably stealing from his company, James Alphaeus secretly resented his wife's successful career, Thomas smoked.

The real "bad boys" of the disciples, though, were James Zebedee and Simon the Cananean. James Zebedee smuggled heroin for the Haifa mob, hiding packets of dope in a false belly while disguised as a pregnant woman. He met a bullet on his last day--not from cops, who were mostly too bribed to care, but from a football fan from Galilee who had heard one too many "Galilee sucks!" come from Zebedee's drunken lips.

Simon the Cananean walked a tightrope--literally. Small-time gangster by day, Ringling Brothers funambulist by night, Simon C. took a bullet in the kidney when running away from a rumble in South Jerusalem. The streets don't have a safety net.

[ninety-third in a series]

12 disciples' jobs before they joined Jesus

Simon Peter, a.k.a. Peter
Veterinarian in the Jerusalem area for over twenty years.


James Zebedee
Drug mule for the Haifa mob.

John Zebedee
Suspected member of Roman intelligence; never confirmed.

Kindergarten teacher.

Insurance salesman for Bethlehem Mutual.

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker.

James Alphaeus
Stay-at-home dad.

Thaddeus, a.k.a. "Gomer"
Machinist or electrical engineer, depending on minor variances in the textual record.

Simon the Cananean a.k.a. Simon the Zealot a.k.a. Jude James

Judas Iscariot
Haberdasher, "Judas's Fine Hats, Scarves, and Neckties."

[ninety-second in a series]

another post on the Monday board meeting

I can't make it to the meeting tonight, and I'm sure others can't either. We'd rather not rely on The Olympian to give us the rundown--we need a detailed perspective, with all the juicy quotes and exciting moments. So, if you attend, why not leave your thoughts and impressions in the comments? You can even post them anonymously, if you must. (Be forewarned, though, that this is not a place to name-call or make unsubstantiated accusations.)

Even if you can't attend, at least take a moment to let us know how we're doing, and what you'd like to see on this blog, or... this is going to be crazy, wait for it... if you'd like to join the team, and blog with us.

Knowledge is power. Get plugged in.

Update: See what I mean? The Olympian dryly reports on the elementary boundary vote.

fact check? why would we do that?

The setup is priceless.
I received this today from a dear friend that I’ve known and loved since kindergarten. We’re only a month apart in birthdays, were in every grade together through high school, and served together in the Marine Corps in the 1970’s. Just last year summer while I was on vacation in upstate New York and staying at his home for a couple days after our 30th high school reunion, we were struck by lightning at the same time as he was changing the front disc brakes on his wife’s SUV. The lightning hit a power line near the house, travelled into the garage and to the vehicle through the cord on a trouble light, and knocked the crap out of both of us as we were in contact with the vehicle. It might have made him a bit more religious all of a sudden as he had both hands on bare metal whereas I was just touching a painted surface with one hand.
The regurgitated email that follows is treacly, patriotic, and utterly false. Dembski and DaveScot crash, and crash hard, for a hoax that could be uncovered in five seconds by anyone with a quarter of an IQ point.

It's time for Dembski to dump DaveScot--and maybe even entirely leave blogging himself. He's gone from ID's leading light to its glaring embarrassment.

[via Ed Brayton]

the harping index: illegal immigration edition

I'm going to continue harping on this because it's important.

At latest estimate there are nearly 2.2 million people in jail or prison in the United States. (1.4 million in jail; .75 million in prison.)

At latest estimate 55,322 of these are illegal immigrants.

If we accommodate a bit and assume the number of illegal immigrants incarcerated has increased since then to 60,000 total, where does this leave us, statistically speaking?

60,000 divided by 2.15 million. Illegal immigrants represent 2.8% of the jail and prison population.

10 million divided by 300 million. Illegal immigrants represent 3.3% of the overall population.

58% of all arrests of illegal aliens occurred in California. Yet the Golden State doesn't even crack the top five for rate of incarceration.

We need more sanity in the immigration debate. Maybe these numbers will help.

May 21, 2006

how to fix education: some thoughts

In a discussion over at his brother's blog, Peter, as always, is chock-full of ideas. This time, the subject is education. His recommendations, paraphrased, followed by my responses:

(1) Make all education voluntary, and kick out slackers and miscreants. They can re-enroll next year if they want a second chance.
I think Peter might be surprised to know how many public school teachers would agree with him. Of course, by "voluntary," does Peter mean at the student's or the parent's choosing? The latter, I'd imagine, would do little to change the status quo.

(2) Eliminate multiple-choice tests.
Hear, hear. In fact, Peter might also be surprised to know that some standards-based testing (like our state's WASL) already devalues multiple choice. Most of the questions are essays or short answers, even in the math and science sections. However, the range of knowledge assessed in those tests is still rather narrow--which is why they are a waste of time and resources, adding little to nothing to education.

(3) Have teachers learn content, not "theories, methods, and gimmicks."
I can speak to this. I double majored in English and history, and gained a teaching certificate as part of a master's level course in teaching. Although my courses in theory and instruction were valuable, far more valuable were many observational experiences and two separate student-teaching stints, as well as one-on-one work with excellent mentor teachers. (I won't say much about Peter's limited-sample survey of the reading habits of teachers. I'm a high school English teacher with rather bright, well-read, non-escapist colleagues, so my views are biased in a different direction.)

(4) Reform labor laws so children as young as 10 could work in limited employment, with special protections from abuse.
This will never happen, ever, even if it would be a good idea.

(5) Let students decide earlier on a vocational or college-prep path.
This already happens in Germany (and other countries, I'm sure). Despite what's going on in some places, in others, vocational education is having a renaissance, thanks to its expansion into higher-tech realms. For example, a Capital High student can attend classes at New Market and learn computer programming, culinary arts, or auto mechanics.

(6) Enough with the "college degree gets you more money" rhetoric.
I share Peter's concern that our society has lost focus on the purpose of higher education. On the other hand, research in tracking shows that students of lower socioeconomic levels are underrepresented in college tracks. A college degree provides access to exclusive opportunities in many arenas. We have to be careful to not deny that access based on hidden biases, unquestioned assumptions, or structural inequalities.

(7) Revive apprenticeships.
I'm not qualified to comment on the particulars, but based on my own educational experience as a student teacher (and, Peter, my readings in educational theory), it seems like a good idea to me.

(8) No more celebrities telling us how to live our lives.
Amen to that.

ch-ch-changes. ch-ch-ch-chia?

In anticipation of the summer, a photo from last summer's up on the profile. Also, a new blog joins the roll: random_speak, by L.

It's also rumored that I'm going to speak at graduation this year. The ASB advisor said I was on the shortlist of six, and everyone else has an excuse. I welcome all stress.

May 20, 2006

Barry Who?

On this historic day, I cannot refrain from commenting on a great moment in sports. We're sitting at the dinner table when I announce that Barry Bonds has hit his 714th home run, tying Ruth's mark. "Barry Bonds?" says Sister One. "Hmm... that doesn't sound right."

"What do you mean?" I ask, dumbfounded. "Oh, right, it's 'James Bonds.'"

Determined to out-knowledge her sibling, Sister Two cuts in. "Barry Bonds plays for the New York Giants."

"If this is 1956," I say. "You mean San Francisco."

"Yeah, yeah, I know," Sister Two says, laughing guiltily.

"Hey, Sister Two," I say, "What was Barry Bonds' first team?"

Sister One jumps in with "The White Sox." Sister Two pauses for a second. "Chicago?"

"Which one?"

"The Red Sox!"

turning the libertarian tide

Long quotes seemed necessary, so click "read more" to see the entire post. I'll begin with two questions:

1. How does an essentially individualist enterprise attract new adherents?
2. If humans are as rational as libertarianism presupposes, why aren't more humans libertarians?

My questions are prompted by a series of posts over at Positive Liberty, where Timothy Sandefur and Alan Scott discuss John Sample on the future libertarian demographic--it's trending youthward.

Sandefur notes a "rising wave" of young people growing up post-Communism, post-Great Society, disenchanted by the futility of the War on Drugs, raised to be skeptical. He closes,
So I do think there’s something to the wave explanation. Certainly it’s gratifying to imagine. Of course, projecting personal experience onto broad trends is hopelessly speculative, but hopeless speculation is sweet to the delusionally optimistic.
Scott responds,
I’m twenty-two. I grew up in the Clinton Administration. The first time I ever remember hearing of the Soviet Union is when someone told me it collapsed. I didn’t witness the belated failures of the Great Society–I saw the belated failures of Reaganomics. The authority figure from my TV isn’t Boss Hogg, It’s Commissioner Gordon from the Batman Animated Series. Not only was I not of age in 1994, I was only seventeen when Bush was first elected in 2000.... [I]f you’re right about the new wave, then shouldn’t those thirty and thirty-one-year-olds be just as libertarian as you?

The problem is that they aren’t.... I think a simpler phenomenon is to blame....

Those in the youngest demographics are overwhelmingly liberal and libertarian. But older people become less and less likely to be libertarian and liberal, while they become more and more likely to be conservative or populist. I think it’s pretty clear that the older demographics are abandoning their support for social freedoms, not their love of economic liberty.

And in fact, they aren’t really abandoning anything. They’re just remaining in place while the battle lines are being redrawn about them. Their parents were being silly when they claimed that Rock and Roll and Comic Books lead to juvenile deliquency, but Video Games and Hip-Hop clearly breed Sexism and Violence. Of course Black People and White people should be allowed to marry each other, but men marrying men goes against the natural order of things.
To which Sandefur replies,
Interesting points, but I don’t think they do as much damage to my (admitted) hunches as it seems. For instance, my point isn’t that the 18-29 demographic remembers the fall of the Soviet Union; my point is that they’re the first generation to grow up without something that previous generations had: the constant misrepresentations of the Soviet economy in the west, whereby we were told that communism was just a different style of production, and perhaps even more efficient than capitalism, but in any case that nobody should cast aspersions. The 19-29 demographic certainly gets a lot of indoctrination on this head, no doubt—but it’s not the same as seeing Paul Samuelson come out with another edition of his textbook telling you that the U.S.S.R. will surpass us in twenty years. That’s what I mean....

As far as liberalism is concerned, it’s very obvious to me that the younger generation is libertarian on many social issues. Marijuana legalization, for example, has resolved itself into a purely generational conflict, and the legalization of marijuana is only a matter of time now, in my view. It is to be hoped that that will spill over into economic matters, too. Many libertarians obviously hope so; Reason’s now flagrant in its courting of the left, for instance. This is probably a good thing, since I believe that cooperation with conservatives was almost always a doomed enterprise and is now almost entirely dead.
I'm not sure which version is accurate--the survey isn't longitudinal, so comparing statistics across different generations is unfair, a form of the ecological fallacy.

Even if the upcoming generation is trending libertarian in some ways, its surrounding culture is overwhelmingly "ambivalent." For instance, although marijuana might be legal in a decade or two, it'll switch places with tobacco. Today's youth are remarkably loose with their privacy, and perhaps unlikely to resent government intrusion into their conversations--as long as it doesn't interfere with music downloads.

If there truly is a disappearing-libertarian effect, it might also be explained by a lack of capital-L Libertarian wins at all levels. People vote for parties, not ideologies, and often against their interests. The Libertarian candidate is usually a protest vote.

I agree with Sandefur, though, that libertarians have reason for optimism. Since one third of Americans don't associate with either party, and at least half of the others are potentially dissatisfied with their own, the time for Libertarian surgence (can't be "resurgence" if you've never surged) is now. Which brings me back to my first question: How does an essentially individualist enterprise attract new adherents?

gay adoptive parents are parents, too

More "judicial activism," this time in Oklahoma:
A federal judge struck down a 2-year-old law that prohibits Oklahoma from recognizing adoptions by same-sex couples from other states and countries.

U.S. District Judge Robin Cauthron ruled Friday the measure violated due process rights under the U.S. Constitution because it attempted to break up families without considering the parents' fitness or the children's best interests.

Gay-rights organization Lambda Legal had challenged the law on behalf of three same-sex couples....

"It's another case of an activist court trying to legislate from the bench," said Republican Rep. Thad Balkman. "It's unfortunate that a single judge is trying to rewrite the law."
A well-respected judge with a reputation for fair dealing who volunteers for Habitat for Humanity on the side. Now that's my kind of "activist."

Added: Oh, and she's a Bush (Sr.) appointee. Why do Republicans keep choosing judicial "activists?"

what to say when they ask about the button

(Click the timestamp to read the whole thing.)

One of the joys of wearing a cryptic message on a button is responding to the inevitable "What IS that?" Everyone is interested: students, friends, passersby, Top Foods courtesy clerks. If you're gonna wear it, you gotta be ready, as David points out, to answer the question.

At this point you might raise an objection. "I don't like to evangelize, especially in the classroom--it's not my job to preach." Or, "I always fumble for words when I'm put on the spot." Or, "If I talk about the button, it spoils the air of mystery I've worked so hard to maintain."

First, taking two minutes of class time to discuss your membership in a union isn't preaching, it's teaching. Students need to know what a union is and how it works--after all, it's likely that at some point they'll be in one. You crave teachable moments, don't you? Second, you can borrow heavily from David's or my responses, as long as you practice them so they don't sound canned. No zero for plagiarizing this assignment. Finally, that air of mystery was spoiled last week when a chunk of lettuce hitched a ride on your incisors.

Now that you're convinced, here's what some potential conversations might look like....
Friend: What IS that?

You: It's a date. May 17.

Friend: Yeah, okay, I figured that out. But it's come and gone already. What happened on 5/17?

You: Remember the teacher's union I'm in? Well, on May 17 we voted unanimously to reject the district's latest contract offer. You see, we've worked out agreements on every issue but one: compensation. The district wanted us to give us a sort-of-raise--14 more hours of pay for 14 more hours of training. We came back with a compromise--six extra hours of training-for-pay, and nine hours of compensation for the extra work we already do.

Friend: Why are you still wearing the button, then?

You: To show support for my colleagues. Our bargaining team and the district will go into mediation. When an offer comes out of that, we'll meet again and vote on what to do.

Friend: Cool. Hey--that chunk of lettuce is still there.

You: D'oh!

Student: Can I have the hall pass?

You: May I--

Student: Why are you still wearing your 5/17 button?

You: I'll explain to the whole class near the end of the period. Be on your way.

[twenty minutes later]

You: A lot of you are wondering why I'm still wearing the 5/17 button. As I explained before, on May 17 we had our general assembly meeting to discuss the district's latest contract offer. If you remember, our contract spells out our rights, responsibilities, compensation, and benefits, among other things. Well, we've worked out agreements on every issue but one: compensation. [drawing on the board] The district wanted us to give us 14 more hours of pay for 14 more hours of training, or "staff development." We wanted a raise--extra pay for the work we already do. We came back with a compromise--six extra hours of training-for-pay, and nine hours of "optional" time--pay for grading papers after school, planning lessons at home, work done on our own time. The district refused our offer, so we voted unanimously to reject theirs.

Student: Does that mean you're going on strike? [animated conversations]

You: No, no... A strike is a last resort. Now the district will call a third party--called a mediator--to come in, [drawing on the board] study the situation, and recommend a course of action. If it's a reasonable solution, we can choose to accept it. I'll keep you posted. [bell rings] Have a great weekend!

Not so difficult, is it? Now, go forth and wear your button with confidence and zest. And don't forget to check your teeth after lunch.

May 19, 2006

nature is a horror

Monday at a Dutch zoo, as onlookers watched in various shades of fascination and terror, sloth bears killed a monkey [warning: slightly squeam-inducing photo].
Visitors reported that the grisly scene began as several bears chased the monkey, a macaque, onto a wooden structure at Beekse Bergen Safari Park.

They said a bear tried unsuccessfully to shake the monkey loose, ignoring attempts by keepers to distract it. The bear then climbed up and grabbed the monkey, mauling it to death and bringing it to its concrete den, where three bears ate it.
Maybe Cobain was channeling Kurtz channeling Thomas Hobbes.

no respect

Someone recently found my blog by searching on What does Google have against the Bahamas?

Rosalyn Parris Stumbles, Nearly Drops Baby

WYOMING — Rosalyn Parris stumbled outside a Cheyenne duplex, nearly dropping her 8-month-old son and further fueling the ever-growing neighborhood scrutiny of her parenting skills.

In photos splashed across the front page and inside the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle on Friday, the 24-year-old mother is shown exiting the house with Jason Thomas Parris in one hand and a sippy cup in the other.

As her husband walked Parris to her car, she stumbled - her long pants apparently getting tangled in her open-toed shoes - and bent low as Jason's head flung backward, knocking off his orange hat.

Parris, though, was able to keep her balance and hold on to her son, with help from her husband who reacted quickly. A passerby snapped the pictures with a camera phone.

A call to the photographer Friday seeking comment was not immediately returned.

The baby bobble was the latest public incident involving the safety of Parris' child. Earlier this week, she was seen driving with Jason in a car seat facing forward rather than facing backward, which some safety regulations say is best.

Parris, who recently announced that she's pregnant with her second child, was visited by a sheriff's deputy at her home last month after Jason slipped from his mother's arms as she was lifting him from a high chair and something in the chair snapped.

In February, authorities visited Parris' home after neighbors reported the travel agent in a car with her son in her lap, instead of being strapped to a car seat in the back seat. She first blamed an overdose of Tylenol, but later said it was a "mistake."

What, this isn't news? Then why is this?

today's spam poem

Spam is oddly beautiful. William Carlos Williams would be jealous of its sparing yet powerful creations.

I'll keep posting these "poems" until someone politely asks me to stop. (And by "politely" I mean "with cash.")

Your life, theory-blind

squat-bodied cherry rum
wax brown carp sucker
lust-born epic marriage
sweet-bleeding axle forger
gate-legged fir wool
blood plum charity boy

Degas on district dime

Air fare to Europe: $977.47

Memory card for digital camera: $85.20

District support for teachers who think creatively about instruction: priceless.

Update: The News-Tribune editorial is pithy and positive, bad pun and all.

Friday fun link--Hamster Edition

Two years is an awfully long time to hold a grudge, but this revenge prank has to be the funniest I've seen in a while.
Luke Trerice knew revenge would come after he encased a friend's apartment in aluminum foil more than two years ago. Trerice, 28, did a gleeful dance of sorts when he opened the door to his downtown apartment and found one room had become a life-size hamster cage, according to witnesses. Hand-shredded newspapers 2-feet deep covered the floor, a giant water bottle dangled outside the window and a 6-foot hamster wheel sat prominently along one wall.
The picture is hilarious.

Whenever someone tells you America has lost its edge, you point 'em to this story and say, "Yeah, buddy, well, we've got sticktuitiveness, dammit."

Oral Roberts predicts tsunami

Not to be outdone, Oral Roberts has descended from his prayer tower to prognosticate thousands of casualties when a tsunami strikes this October.

In Wyoming.

[ninety-first in a series]

Monday Board Meeting 5/22

First, thanks to Jim Anderson, CHS, for being the energy and drive behind pushing me into this communication tool.
Here are a few reminders to those of us attending the Monday meeting at Boston Harbor.
• Be positive. Remember our attendance is in SUPPORT of our contract, not against any individuals.
• Attendance itself is a message. We want to send a message of unity. There is no need to speak to the agenda. If asked, speak in positive terms about our expectations.
• Leaving before the meeting is concluded is appropriate (they can be very long) but leave quietly when you do go. We are not attending to be disruptive.
• If asked by someone (what does your button mean?, why did you come tonight?, etc.), be ready with a short, upbeat message.
-I'm here to support my colleagues and our contract.
-5/17 is the date of the teacher general membership meeting where we voted to support our bargaining team's efforts.
-I'm here to support my bargaining team's efforts.
-I'm here to support a swift, positive solution to bargaining.
• If people want to speak further, gauge whether the setting is appropriate. If the meeting is taking place, it may not be the time. But be willing to go into specifics when the time is right. You can also direct people to me.
David Johnston 352-5255

Anderson's cinematic dictum

The Da Vinci Code novel took me two hours, twenty minutes to read.

The Da Vinci Code movie is two hours, twenty-nine minutes long.

Whenever watching a movie takes longer than reading the book, it's either a really bad movie, a really bad book, or both.

May 18, 2006

OSD Board Meeting, May 22

This Monday, 7:00, Boston Harbor Elementary School.
Attend if you can, and wear your 5/17 button.

"An Executive Session will be held at 6:30 pm prior to the Regular Board Meeting to discuss matters relating to bargaining."

On the Regular Meeting agenda, among other things: first draft of a new weapons policy (thankfully, dirks are still outlawed--no, not this Dirk), Westside Elementary boundaries, Middle-level math materials recommendations, Reeves Middle School modernization.

Need directions? Click here for a Yahoo! map.

Want to study up on the agenda? Lots of free time? Read the "Board Packet." Warning: 58-page, 2.15-MB PDF. Not safe for dialup. Trust me, I've tried.

Update: The Olympian has the rundown on the proposed Westside elementary border changes.

bacterial cheaters discovered by Googling; expelled

Not exactly.
Scientists have found that a one-letter change of DNA can transform a microbe with a habit of cheating its peers into a model citizen that cooperates with its bacterial comrades.

Researchers have long been trying to untangle the evolutionary roots of cooperation and altruism. It’s a confounding problem, since evolutionary theory, at least superficially, suggests cheaters should triumph and do-gooders should die out.
Read more about an important hack at the Gordian knot.

another day, another responsibility

The WASL isn't just about stress, standards, and lawsuits. It's a massive logistical headache as well, as the Tri-Cities Herald reports.
In Kennewick, a district of 14,500 students, there is no place big or secure enough to store the 26,000 test booklets, said Bev Henderson, director of assessment and achievement.

Principals and counselors collected and organized the booklets and stored them in various secure places in their buildings. Then, Henderson and two other district staff counted again at each school. It took three people about 15 hours over a five-day period to organize and sort the test booklets.

After they were sorted, logged and boxed, the tests were sent to the district's warehouse. The five pallets of boxes were picked up and shipped to Iowa and Texas today.
The last sentence of the piece is the most telling: "'It forces people to pull away [from] other jobs to make these things happen,'" notes College Place superintendent Tim Payne.

Assessment that takes away from learning. Remind me: why does it have to be a zero-sum game?

Does Sugar Lead to Bad Behavior?

a decorabilia exclusive

At eleven, Marianne Cisneros was the pride of Lincoln Heights Elementary. An honor student, her picture in B Hall, the concomitant bumper sticker displayed proudly on her parents' 94 Volvo Turbowagon, she had the world on a string. Now, at fifteen, Marianne deals ice cream bars behind the bleachers to a ragtag crew of miscreants, jocks, and drama queens.

Marianne is a victim of high-carbonate sugar. As hard drugs get harder and soft drugs lose their softness, so sugar has changed from a relatively harmless, mildly addictive treat to a psychoactive toxin. And people like Marianne pay the price in broken bodies, battered minds, and shattered relationships.

Tim--"Just Tim," he made me promise--hides sugar packets in a hollowed-out Gideons Bible. Tim is a pastor's kid, his cherubic smile spoiled by three fillings. "Splenda's damned sweet, but doesn't have the same kick," he says, tearing the top off another packet and pouring the sweet, sweet grains down his throat. Last week he was suspended for three days when sugar spilled out of his backpack. Today he's more careful.

From its invention by the Mayans in the 5th century BC until the early 1950s, sugar was a harmless delicacy enjoyed in moderate quantities by wealthy elites. Sugar cane and sugar beets dominated global trade as European nations built confectionary empires. The invention of high-carbonate sugar, or HCS, changed everything.

Princeton chemists discovered HCS by accident when an undergraduate mistakenly mixed acetic acid and honey, nearly blowing up the lab but creating a super-sweet, super-cheap additive in the process. Industry leaders quickly snapped up the invention, and, in the heady days of the space race, began pouring thousands into research and millions into marketing to beat the Soviets. Capitalism would taste better.

Marianne got hooked on the sweet stuff after "graduating" from diet sodas and Melba toast. Friends introduced her to cream puffs at a birthday party. "I saw things and heard voices. Everything was light and happy," she says, almost whispering. "My first rush was the best rush. I couldn't stop. I didn't want to stop."

Tim met Marianne at a youth group meeting at his dad's church, and bought his first candy bar when the other kids were playing kickball. "I almost went into shock," he reminisces. "I started bouncing off the walls, running around in circles. Dad and Mom thought I was possessed."

Tim's bizarre behavior upon first encountering sugar is typical. The same Princeton chemistry department, awash in grant money, teamed up with biologists and nutritionists to test HCS on cats. The results were disturbing--and immediately suppressed by powerful corporate interests.

Dr. Marvin Casey of the National Institutes of Health first uncovered a tattered manila envelope when he interned at the Princeton chemlab in 1993. It was lodged in the back of a file cabinet, marked "CONFIDENTIAL," and stuffed with microfilm of hundreds of experiments.

"'[Test Cat] #A113 attacked and severely bit #B184, its twenty-first mate,'" Casey reads from an early paper. "'Seven other subjects stood by, screeching and clapping their paws.' These are some of the more banal observations," Casey says dryly. "Cats hopped up on HCS would turn suicidal, cannibalize other cats, tear them limb from limb."

Two hundred million Americans are addicted to HCS, according to a recent NIH survey. Upsurges in crime, delinquency, vagrancy and declining academic outcomes all correlate strongly with the growth in HCS production, which has increased to four hundred times the levels of the 1950s.

Marvin Smith was a stereotypical jock. Quarterback and captain of the football team. All-American in baseball, football, and basketball. Dating a cheerleader. Failing algebra. Marvin used to snarf down HCS before games to get his game on. "I thought I needed an edge," Marvin says. "Coach didn't know. He didn't want to know, as long as we were winning."

But sugar isn't sweet forever, and the aggressiveness and energy will eventually take their toll on an adolescent body. Marvin lost weight. He couldn't concentrate on the field, started snapping at his teammates, even striking them. His coach had to pull him out of a playoff game when Marvin punched a referee in the face. "Sugar nearly killed me," Marvin says, stocking cans at Safeway at three in the morning. "Five months of rehab saved my life."

Recently, lawsuits and lawmaking have started to cut down on America's gigantic sugar addiction. Sugar is a $300 billion octopus, its tentacles in the pocket of nearly every political figure. Casey estimates it will take five years to win a significant court case, and another ten for sugar to join the ranks of heroin, cocaine, and LSD.

In the meantime, Tim and Marianne will choke down their shame and sneak behind the bleachers to buy and sell syrupy poison, devouring Jolly Ranchers and Jujubes to calm the beast that gnaws within.

[ninetieth in a series]

the who, how, and why of the 5/17 blog

You might remember me--I was the guy who dared to brave the stares and stand by the "Nay" microphone, even though I was just calling for the previous question. I was also the guy who dreamed up the idea for this blog, and set it up and ghost-wrote the first batch of posts. And now I'm the guy who's asking for your comments, questions, feedback, advice, suggestions, criticism, and ideas.

David and I want this blog to be useful, a source for news and information for the twenty-first century OSD teacher who's concerned for and involved in union activities.

If you're savvy enough to find this blog, you're probably savvy enough to figure out how to sign up, sign in and leave a comment. Or, if email's more your thing, you can contact me at jvanderson (at the usual suffix).

We're going to drag you into the future one pixel at a time. With your help, we're going to make a difference and have fun doing it.

And hey--blogging is just one more thing we'll do for free without complaining.

Robertson catastrophe prediction spurs federal action

In lieu of Oral Roberts' Pat Robertson's predictions of upcoming storms, President Bush has pre-emptively declared Washington state a disaster area, freeing large sums of federal cash for rebuilding the upcoming wreckage of the soon-to-be-possibilized calamity.
White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said the president's declaration of a major disaster in the region will open up assistance for local governments and nonprofit groups, supplementing the state and local recovery efforts.

The government will share the cost of emergency work and the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by severe storms, flooding, tidal surge, landslides and mudslides, Snow said in a statement.

The federal match is typically 75 percent.

Federal dollars also are available for hazard mitigation, the White House said.
Praise God--and George Bush--for foresight!

Okay, you got me, I'm kidding.

Pat Robertson is a raging doofus

Pat Robertson, idiot clairvoyant, predicts some predictions:
Robertson has made the predictions at least four times in the past two weeks on his news-and-talk television show "The 700 Club" on the Christian Broadcasting Network, which he founded. Robertson said the revelations about this year's weather came to him during his annual personal prayer retreat in January.

"If I heard the Lord right about 2006, the coasts of America will be lashed by storms," Robertson said May 8. Wednesday, he added, "there well may be something as bad as a tsunami in the Pacific Northwest."
Notice the hedging that allows Robertson to weasel out of a potential false prophecy. "If I heard the Lord right." "There well may be." And the uncertainty of the outcome--not a tsunami, but something as bad as a tsunami. Let's not forget that predicting storms on the coasts of America is like predicting crowds at Ichiro Bobblehead Night.

With all that static on the divine frequency, Robertson should check his antenna.

Public School Employees Are Generous

From The Olympian, a couple weeks back:
“They met our goals and then doubled it — incredible....” The generosity of public employees in this community is incredible.
Okay, so I've selectively quoted from an article that's really about a food and book drive.

But when you stop to think that the average teacher works an additional two hours per day, stocks supplies that don't fit into a shrinking budget, takes additional classes to stay certified, and helps students of widely different needs meet new requirements, all with minimal or no added compensation, it really is true. The generosity of public school teachers in this community is incredible.

The News-Tribune gets it

While we're focusing on compensation at the district level, remember the broad view: education funding in this state still isn't where it needs to be.
The Federal Way School District is eliminating nearly all school librarians. The Tacoma School District may cut 100 jobs. A dedicated Puyallup teacher tried to save a remedial reading program by paying for it himself.

Aren’t these the same districts that as recently as last month pulled off successful tax levy campaigns, in part by convincing voters that schools would be in dire financial straits without the local tax dollars? And didn’t the Legislature brag that it increased education funding last session?

Taxpayers are paying up, yet the bad budget news keeps coming. What’s happened? The answer is nothing, and that’s the problem.

These districts’ budget woes are just highly visible examples of what’s happening as schools continue to cope with lagging state support. School districts aren’t necessarily receiving fewer dollars. It’s that the dollars don’t have the spending power they once did, or the funding comes with strings attached that can eventually prove costly....

There might be more money for basic education had K-12 funding kept pace with the rest of the state budget. Since 1981, education spending as a percentage of the general fund budget has dropped from 50 percent to 42 percent. It’s easy to blame the Legislature for not living up to the state’s constitutional charge to make education its paramount duty. But that responsibility is shared by all of us who expect state government to do much more than educate our students.
Area organizations aren't just waiting for solutions from the legislature. Check out the latest WEA Chinook newsletter [pdf] to see how locals in Chehalis and Elma are working for better compensation.

Added: Bellevue and Everett and Olympia and Chehalis and Elma... bargaining even as you read.
Bellevue EA began negotiations in early April. Everett EA has 11 bargaining sessions set for May. They join approximately 100 other WEA affiliates who are bargaining new agreements this year. Most contracts expire Aug. 31, which means negotiations likely will continue throughout the summer in some districts.

OEA Wellness Walk

For your health, for your contract's health

Join your colleagues for a fun fitness walk on our first "work to contract" day, Wednesday, May 24. Wear your 5/17 button and--hopefully--a hat and sunscreen.

Choose your meeting spot:

3:30, Heritage Park Fountain
4:00, Sylvester Park

We'll walk to the Knox Building and back.

Everyone is welcome!