Category Archives: education

class of 2009

I just registered my daughter for her senior year of high school. That meant that in addition to the usual handful of papers — schedule, lunch information, PTO forms, and so on — she received an oversize, glossy color catalog from a company that sells every variety of graduation souvenir, from gowns to announcements to mortarboard tassels.

She’s excited.

I’m wondering how I’m ever going to get along without my girl after next year.

conversation with a 7th grader

“I’m not hungry.”

My 7th-grade son has said that the last several nights at dinner time. When asked why, he just shrugs. Tonight it had happened enough times that I was worried, so we pushed the issue. Why aren’t you hungry? Don’t you feel well? When you went over to Grandma’s to watch TV, did you have a snack?

“Well, yeah.”


What did you have?

“Umm, a pack of Oreos and two Pop Tarts. I took those over with me.”

A pack of Oreos, as in an entire sleeve of Oreos out of the package? How many is that?

“I don’t know, maybe 12.”

A pause.

“And I had two chocolate bars.”

Another pause.

“Oh, yeah, and two glasses of milk.”

Gosh, I wonder why he isn’t hungry.


Later, as we were eating, he cheerfully began to recount the tales told by his Geography substitute, who used to be a Marine. How if you’re stationed in the Far East, and you go out and get really wasted, and you wake up the next morning feeling awful, you can drink something alcoholic that has some opium stirred into it, and sleep for about 6 hours, and you’ll wake up feeling fine.

And how opium can get made into heroin, and heroin addicts use a needle to shoot it into their arms like this. [Demonstration of shooting-up motion into a vein]

Ummm, yeah… Those don’t exactly sound like appropriate things for him to tell you. Did he say that he did those things?

“No. But he looks like he’s stuck in the 70s and was probably a hippie. You know, he had his hair like this. [Motion outlining the shape of a long pompadour] They were cool stories!”

(My husband to me, afterward: “Do you want to call, or should I?”)

“Oh, yeah, and Mr. W [his health teacher] was telling us how if you have a hole in your throat, and you take a shower, the water can get into it and you can drown!”

And so forth.

Dinner conversation with an adolescent is never dull.

paper (n.) daugher, a high-school junior, came home today with this wonderful definition from her History teacher:

A high-school paper should be like a girl’s skirt: long enough to cover everything, but short enough to still be interesting.

where I’ll be tomorrow I’m planning to spend much of the day in northern Kentucky at the Rally for Reason, peacefully expressing my opinion about the opening of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum, a multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art facility devoted to teaching creationism as fact and illustrating “scientifically” that the Earth is less than 5,000 years old.

Hundreds or perhaps thousands of similarly minded people will be there, listening to speakers, displaying signs, handing out literature, and making it plain to muscum visitors that not everyone believes as they do — and, in particular, that not everyone believes it’s appropriate to teach a nonscientific view of the Earth’s origin to our children.

If you agree, and you’re within driving distance, I urge you to come. If you’re too far away, please visit the resources at the rally’s website and express your support.

There are those who feel that by rallying, we only give more attention to this sadly misinformed take on history and evolution. I suggest that you read this, written by the rally’s organizer. Some excerpts:

“Answers in Genesis” has managed to get world wide press for their fantasy presentations. The “Creation Museum” is being endorsed by official convention and tourist outlets for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. The Governor of Kentucky has expressed support for teaching Bible stories in public schools, and Boone County, Kentucky is giving breaks on laws and taxation, denied others, to the vendors of religious dogma. The temporary President of the United States has even opined that the jury is still out on evolution.

Foolish ideas can come dressed up, just as there can be dressed up fools. And the presentations of the “Answers in Genesis” ( outfit are well dressed indeed—yes, this is a compliment to their marketing. But such well dressed ideas can deceive many to their great cost. Just ask some Germans and Italians whether they would rather their country had not been treated to, much less accepted, the dressed up ideas of Hitler and Il Duce.

If, given all of the publicity that has been generated, nothing supporting science and evidence is offered, the impression will be given to the public, the press, and lawmakers that no one objects, and that if fancy, growling, expensive, mechanized displays of dinosaurs and humans living at the same time, and sharing “Noah’s Ark,” are presented as true, with no word to the contrary, then it must be so.

… The attitude that it is best not to give nonsense credit by opposing it can be quite dangerous. School boards and legislators might well conclude, without further information, that if scientists, teachers, and the public are not opposed to the well publicized idea of teaching Bronze Age myths as fact, then such misinformation is okay.

… And, if you think being outdoors in response to a threat to the foundations of knowledge is too much trouble, do not worry. Those who would establish a theocracy over us have promised to attack only when it is convenient for you, when it is not raining, when you can be warm, dry, safe, well fed, and have had plenty of time to engage in Liberal Angst over just what to do. Meanwhile, others will fight the American Religious Civil War and protect your freedoms for you.

irony, pt. 2

The president came, my husband saw him, and he lived up to our low expectations. My husband subsequently wrote a letter to the editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, and numerous people have thanked him for writing it.

The morning of the presidential appearance, my husband and I had a lengthy discussion of whether he should wear any of his numerous peace-related buttons or pins, or whether doing so would cause the Secret Service to reflexively deny him admittance. We settled on a relatively subtle bar-shaped pin with a peace sign over an American flag background. However, he later decided not to wear it, after further conversation with co-workers who felt he would be seriously jeopardizing his chances of getting in for the speech.

I watched the event on local TV news. The school gym was done up like every other political stop, draped in “No Child Left Behind” banners and a huge backdrop. The place was crammed with cameras and chairs, and every political figure representing anyone within 200 miles was in attendance. W spent the first several minutes of his time thanking and praising all of these assorted politicians, along with the school principal and superintendent. He was then — as he was, according to my husband, the entire time before and after his speech — a consummate good ol’ boy, grinning and joking.

The speech itself was run-of-the-mill crap about NCLB, what a great law it is, and how it should be continued without substantive changes.

Keep in mind, this speech was at a school. Part of the point was to praise this elementary school, the children, and teachers, and the principal for achieving “adequate yearly progress” under NCLB. Thus, you might expect that children and teachers would be prominently on display before or during the speech, and/or that the president would spend a fair amount of time visiting classrooms. After all, the build-up to the visit was huge: The school was shined up to a fare-thee-well, and all the kids were hugely excited.

Well, guess what? Almost no kids laid eyes on the President of the United States, who was right there in their building. He didn’t stop in any classrooms. His handlers made no effort to stage a situation with all the children in one place, where W could say hello for a few minutes. All the visitors behaved as though the children and teachers — the people who did the teaching and studying and test-passing — didn’t exist. Later reports were that the students were hugely disappointed, and who can blame them?

Hey, kids, welcome to the world of politics, Bush style. You aren’t old enough to vote; you’re only a set of numbers to be talked about in the abstract — test scores to be held up as supposed evidence of the success of a failing education policy.

After his speech, W took plenty of time to shake hands with practically everyone in the room. My husband was not among them. He took some pictures of the president from a few feet away, but he felt no need for a personal photo with this laughing goofball who has failed at every venture he’s ever touched and is now monumentally failing the American people.


You may have noticed that I’m a Democrat. So is my husband. Our cars are plastered with stickers promoting liberal causes. What we think of President Bush, his war, and his policies is mostly unprintable. Among other things, my husband, who is president of the local teachers’ association, despises W’s “No Child Left Behind” education plan.

Now, guess who’s coming to town on Friday and speaking at one of the elementary schools in our school system, to promote NCLB? And guess who’s been invited to attend the event, to represent local teachers?

I wish I respected W even slightly, so I could be excited about the prospect of being married to someone who may very well be personally introduced to the POTUS. I wish I wanted to be there and wanted to take my kids to maybe see W enter or leave the building. Instead, I feel only the irony that my husband, who disagrees completely with NCLB’s approach to public education, is being asked to represent 600+ teachers, most of whom also disagree with NCLB, at an event that promotes the plan’s supposed success.

Of all the presidents… why does he have to be the one to come to town?

misplaced educational priorities: what good is a kid who doesn’t do sports?

Today I sent the following letter to our local school board, the school system’s superintendent, and the principal of my daughter’s high school. The kind of thing it describes is all too common in America’s schools. We say we want our kids to be the best and brightest in the world; we talk about losing out academically to other countries; and we throw money and laws at programs to boost test scores. But when the rubber hits the road, sports always — always — come first.

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