Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Edwize Post

Here's a comment I left on Edwize. They may regard it as a "personal attack" and delete it, so I thought I'd post it here as well:

We don’t need more competitive salaries. In this week’s New York Teacher, UFT President Randi Weingarten reveals that we’ve finally become comparable with the suburbs in terms of time and pay.

Oddly, I thought we worked 7 days more than they did, and were paid 10-20,000 per annum less. Doubtless I’m laboring under the outrageous misconception we are the very lowest paid and hardest working teachers in the area.

Or perhaps President Weingarten meant we’d caught up to where they were three or five years ago. Or maybe the extra days of training are regarded as “fun” days and don’t really count.

In any case, I strongly agree with (article writer) Mr. Halabi that when people use statistics to lie we must not look away, and that someone must tell the truth.

It's Nice to Know...

...there are some things you can absolutely rely on. For example, when the president calls himself a "uniter, not a divider," you can be sure that he's going to run the most hard-right, ideologically driven, secretive administration you've ever lived through.

When Randi says, "We've caught up with the suburbs," she means you've managed to keep making 10-20,000 less than they do.

When Mayor Bloomberg says "I'm building 13 billion dollars worth of new schools," he means he'll do it as long as NY State picks up 10 billion's worth of the tab. Mayor Bloomberg believes passionately in the CFE ruling as long as he does not have to contribute one red cent toward it. That, apparently, is what New Yorkers want in their mayor.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Randi says..

..in NY Teacher that we now measure up to the suburbs in terms of time and pay. Thanks to James Eterno for the heads-up on the ICE blog. It's less than encouraging that our president, after having negotiated the very worst contract I've seen in 22 years of service, appears ready to rest on her laurels. In terms of time, ICE cites several examples showing we work 7 days more than many suburban districts.

What about pay?

The following, according to NYSUT, as of January 05, were Nassau maximum salaries without a doctorate. Assume that by the time we reach the much-lauded 92K max, they will have gone up several points, as they do every year. Assume also that they will not be accompanied by the draconian givebacks our crack team of Unity negotiators were able to come up with. You may also assume they will be on time, and unaccompanied by years or months of zeroes, unlike those Unity relentlessly sells us.

Most require 60 credits beyond the Masters, which I believe I have, and I assume you would get if NYC paid. Some districts below have not yet cracked 100K, but unlike NYC, they’re on their way.

You can subtract a few thousand if you want to see MA + 30. Still, since we haven't even got the option of MA + 60, it's remarkable and outrageous that our president would say we're comparable. Furthermore, most of these districts offer several thousand more for a doctoral degree, yet another option we don't have.

And if I, a lowly teacher, can get this info, why on earth can't Randi?

Baldwin 105534
Bellmore 92957
Bellmore-Merrick 104123
Carle Place 98451
East Rockaway 100590
East Williston 105764
Elmont 97815
Farmingdale 102081
Franklin Square 98136
Freeport 97960
Garden City 108097
Glen Cove 104114
Great Neck 108280
Herricks 105498
Hewlett-Woodmere 110394
Hicksville 93959
Island Park 106004
Jericho 113789
Lawrence 112176
Levittown 102332
Locust Valley 107328
Lynbrook 102354
Malverne 100096
Massapequa 97537
Merrick 101530
Mineola 105758
New Hyde Park 87383
North Bellmore 102167
North Merrick 101445
Oceanside 107339
Oyster Bay-E. Norwich 110325
Plainedge 95961
Port Washington 106400
Rockville Centre 106136
Roosevelt 97916
Roslyn 111548
Seaford 91767
Syosset 107052
Wantagh 102611

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bumper Sticker

Things to Do Today:

1. Get up.

2. Survive.

3. Go back to bed.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

It's Easy

One of the highlights, if you're crazy enough to drive to Florida from New York, is the trip back. You just hop in your car, and you're there in eighteen hours.

My Prius gets 52 mpg here in Florida, though. If they let me retire before I die, I might just relocate here.

Travel Broadens

An article in today's NY Times suggests international experience may be very valuable to job-seekers:

"When I went, I was hesitant because people looked at me and were surprised that I would graduate with a degree from Colgate and take time off to work and backpack around Australia," said Ms. DiCioccio, who picked grapes and was a short-order cook at a roadhouse in the outback. "So when I came back and had it on my résumé, I couldn't believe all of the interviews were about my time in Australia."

Once back in the United States, she said, she applied for 10 jobs, received 5 interviews and was offered 2 positions at the beginning of 2004. She became a program assistant at the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, Calif.

This article hit home with me. I worked my way through college as a musician, and afterward, in a resolute effort to put off working as long as possible, spent a few years in Switzerland backing up singers. When I interviewed for the 2 colleges at which I've worked, that was the only thing the interviewers were interested in talking about.

I don't blame them, actually. If I ever became an administrator, God forbid, I wouldn't want to sit around discussing the latest articles in whatever educational journal my job required me to read. Discussing whatever trendy new teaching method was popular that week would probably be out as well, as I'd already be required to take that up at meetings.

I would, however, make the candidates teach demo lessons, something I was never asked to do. One of the college interviewers was very frank with me. He said "We'll observe you. If you do well, we'll all be happy. If not, you won't be asked back."

I proved to be very popular, as the other section's teacher opted to teach yoga in lieu of writing. Half his class transferred into mine. This demonstrates that you don't necessarily have to be good, as long as you outdo your competition.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Creative Problem Solving

Here's an interesting approach to a discipline issue from Three Standard Deviations to the Left, a blog I just stumbled across:

Today I had a girl eating an apple in class, so I told her to put it away. I go help some other students, and as I get back to this girl, I see that she's taken another couple of bites out of it, but it is sitting on her desk.

So, I pick the apple up and lick it from bottom to top and put it back down on the desk. She shrieked, and the other kids around her laughed so hard I thought they'd pee on the floor. She did stop eating the apple, though.

It's reminiscent of Frank McCourt's approach in his great new book Teacher Man. Much as I like this solution, I have a feeling some moronic administrator would charge me with corporal punishment if I tried it.

While the Prez Strummed Along...

NEA local chapters will now be permitted to affiliate themselves with the AFL-CIO. This is good news for the AFL-CIO, which has lost one third of its membership in recent years.

More powerful unions will have more money and influence, which can be crucial in the fight against the anti-labor, anti-middle class, union-busting Bush administration.

USA Today reports that average family income dropped 2.3% after adjustments for inflation. Unless you're making over 300,000 per annum, of course, in which case you benefited greatly from Bush's tax cuts. If that's you, congratulations.

In the face of exploding energy costs, it's more urgent than ever to rid ourselves of a congress and president that cares not a whit about the lives of ordinary people.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Testing the Testers

The barrage of testing endured by our children my go largely without criticism if FairTest is permitted to disappear. Michael Winerip writes in today's NY Times that if the independent watchdog loses its funding, testing companies won't need to worry so much about the minor errors that result in your kid being denied admission to college, or promotion to the next grade.

I have decidedly mixed feelings about testing. On the one hand, if testing is so vital, how on earth did those of us who predated the craze ever learn to read and write? On the other, how is it that so many incompetent readers and writers graduate from colleges?

Whatever you think about testing, if you've followed the professional test writing of the NY State Regents, or the incredibly inconsistent and completely unreliable testing of ESL students around the city and state, or even if you've just seen the film Stand and Deliver, you know that test writers are quite capable of human error.

It's vital to have independent organizations like FairTest around to keep their eyes on the test writers.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


..to the American Federation of Teachers for showing the good sense, keen discernment and fine taste to add NYC Educator to the blogroll of NCLB-Let's Get it Right.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Republican Strategy in 06

Things are not looking rosy in Bushworld. The deficit is ballooning, the unnecessary and apparently endless Iraq war is sucking billions, the dollar's value is steadily being degraded, and the "ethics-shmethics" philosophy of the neocons is finally beginning to get some traction in the timid and clumsy mainstream media. Sure, the vice-president went out and shot someone, but that's better than hearing that he authorized Scooter Libby to out a CIA agent. Maybe he's not such an inept hunter after all.

USA Today reports that there will be initiatives in 16 states to ban gay adoption. Forget about Iraq. Forget about all the money we owe China, and continue to borrow. Forget about health care costs, and forget about the Trojan horse of a Medicare prescription plan. Forget that the government is now frantically classifying documents and we're not even allowed to know which agencies are involved.

The thing you need to remember is that only Republicans can protect us from the evils of gay adoption. God forbid these people should care for children unfortunate enough to lack parents.

Though they can't get married or adopt children, they can still pay their full share of state, local, and federal taxes. That, apparently, is one of their remaining civil rights. What's next in the Republican war against homosexuality? Perhaps they shouldn't be allowed to vote. Look for that in '08.

Oddly enough, I'd venture to say that an overwhelming majority of these gay folks came from heterosexual parents. Perhaps we ought to ban heterosexual adoption too, just to make sure.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Death to Ronald MacDonald

I'm in a hotel in Orlando, Florida, where the obesity epidemic seems to have surpassed epidemic proportions. It doesn't seem to bother anyone, as buffets of all sorts are overflowing beyond capacity.

The hotel distributes USA Today, which ran a point/counterpoint about regulating the food industry. One writer argues that regulating advertising is useless, and points to the example of the tobacco industry. He conveniently forgets that tobacco advertising was ended on TV and radio many years ago.

I side with eliminating ads toward kids, as some European nations have done. MacDonald's is an evil empire, seducing children to eat its miserable products and drag their parents along, who doubtless need them even less. In Macdonaldland there's no obesity, no diabetes, no heart problems, and no discernable intelligence or discipline.

I had mixed feelings about the overweight teenagers who sued MacDonald's. Certainly their problem was of their own doing. But every parent who takes a kid to the supermarket is bombarded my a torrent of advertising--Jimmy Neutron and the Rugrats calling from junk-food
boxes to kids, who relentlessly seek cooperation from parents.

Let's end advertising to kids too young to discern between propoganda and reality, and make our country a better and healthier place to live.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pants on Fire

Mayor Bloomberg is now very publicly moving away from his pledge to build new schools. He claims it's because he isn't receiving the funds promised in the CFE lawsuit.

Governor Pataki is now appealing the lawsuit. While I've mentioned this before, I must point out once again that the governor was willing to pay for most of the lawsuit. The judge specifically said that NYC could be compelled to pay a reasonable share. This is due to Sir Rudy's policy of reducing city aid by precisely whatever amount the state raised it. This shows exactly how much Rudy valued NYC schools.

How much does Mayor Mike value NYC schools? When the judge ruled, CFE suggested the city pay 25%. Governor Pataki suggested 40%. Mayor Blomberg's rep said the city would say "No thank you if compelled to contribute one dime.

It's highly disingenuous to blame the state when Governor Pataki is the only one of these three politicians who's shown a willingness to sacrifice anything whatsoever for NYC's 1.1 million schoolchildren.

A Humble Suggestion

Poor old Chancellor Klein sits around his luxuriously appointed office all day wondering why, oh why are all those teachers so awful. Could it be I don't pay them enough? Nah. My ads all say teaching is a calling, so it can't possibly be about money. Here I am, pulling out my last few hairs trying to figure how to make myself look successful without spending any money.

Well, a South Korean company has its employees wear pajamas to work once a month to stimulate creativity. While that probably won't increase productivity any more than any of his other initiatives, it could perhaps continue giving the impression that he cares.

I mean, why not? It couldn't hurt, right?

Notes from Brunswick, Georgia

Traveling down 95 last night, I saw a few interesting signs:

100% American owned and operated! Pets welcome.

You gotta wonder how many people are xenophobic enough to stay in a literal fleabag hotel just to make sure they don't run into any of those scary foreigners. Or this:

2400 American soldiers dead in Iraq.
11 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Bring the soldiers home and have them protect our borders.

I find that remarkable. Even peaceniks are now xenophobes. Were they calling for the expulsion of white Protestants after Tim McVeigh blew up the federal building in Oklahoma?

One more:

20 ounce ribeye steak $9.99

I'm wondering how they sell a room like that for a price like that. Till I pass the place and see a big flashing sign that alternates the steak ad with the following:

Big tire sale--buy three get one free

I always wondered what those places did with the old tires. Now I know. They feed them to the xenophobes.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Oh, the Outrage!

A pot smoker complained to police about the poor quality product he'd been sold. Not only that, but his dealer refused to refund his money. The police, apparently, failed to act on this complaint and decided to arrest the pot-smoker instead.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Oh Boy! Where Do I Sign Up?

If you're one of the countless DOE employees smuggling your kids in from those abysmal suburban schools so they can get a first class NYC education, it's your lucky day. Here's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get the same deal Lee McCaskill got.

Better hurry up. If you, like McCaskill, happen to appear regularly in the pages of the New York Times, there's the off chance you could get caught.

Is this a cynical ploy to give the appearance of fairness, or does the DOE actually expect to catch someone?

Improved Unacceptable Excuses

I grow weary of student excuses for lateness.

"The bus was late."

"The halls were too crowded."

"I was talking to my counselor. No, he didn't give me a pass."

I taught my ESL students some new things today.

"Boy, this place is hard to find."

"What, this period is English? I could've sworn I had bio this period."

"I must be getting senile."

They'll still be late, and they'll still have terrible excuses. But at least they'll be a bit more interesting.


I received the following anonymous comment from a Unity loyalist. Unfortunately for them, the topics here are not controlled by the autocratic Unity-UFT management. Nonetheless, it's interesting to see why they're unable to respond substantively on Edwize.

You are a bitter old curmudgeon that has nothing better to do than complain.

While name-calling may pass for argument on junior-high playgrounds, it's hardly a substitute for reasonable discourse.

We do live in a democracy. But that doesn't give you the right to yell fire in a movie theater just because you don’t like the movie.

This, apparently, is Unity's most powerful argument. I know this because I've seen it used repeatedly on Edwize. While they imply criticizing Unity is the same as yelling fire in a movie theater, this point boils down to "Shut up."

I will not.

Nor does it give you the right to defecate relentlessly, anytime or any place you feel like it, at least not without consequences.

That's interesting. Our commenter, no longer content with mere invective, has chosen to emphasize the point (shut up) by resorting to the scatological. While some may consider this juvenile approach colorful, it's hardly a substitute for argument.

What you advocate is not democracy, but anarchy.

It's interesting that Unity supporters, who've changed the UFT constitution specifically to preclude democratic election (so the high school teachers couldn't select a non-Unity VP) regard calls to elect new leadership "anarchy." This, again, is baseless name-calling.

Democracies have rule of law and order.

They do indeed. Too bad Unity won't allow high school teachers the right to choose their own leadership. Too bad Randi won't allow the CCs to select UFT workers anymore. It speaks volumes of Unity's interpretation of democracy.

And most importantly, a sense of decorum.

That's code, again, for "Shut up."

I think your biggest problem is that you aren’t on meds, and you need to be, desperately.

The highly prized "sense of decorum," seems to apply only to others, not this commenter. If that's the best retort they can dream up, it's no wonder the censors at Edwize need to work overtime.

You shouldn't be teaching children in that condition.

The commenter suggests criticizing Unity is tantamount to insanity. What on earth could this person be thinking?

Why, oh why would anyone criticize my cozy little double-pension patronage mill? They should enjoy working more hours for, effectively, less pay.

More interesting still is the commenter's implicit assumption that I treat my young students in the same manner as corrupt, ineffectual, self-serving adults.

One can only hope this poster does not treat kids with the same "decorum" shown here.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Teacher Morale

Jules at Mildly Melancholy, for my money, wrote one of the best critiques of the 37.5 minute class that the cowards from EdWize refuse to talk about.

I teach four periods in a row. I am doing instruction for the near-equivalent of four periods. I cannot leave my room between 12.38 and 2.57.This should be illegal.

Know why it's not?

The union, god bless their ignorance, still insists that this "small-group tutoring" is not instruction.

Jules is stuck there continually, without even the possibility of a bathroom break.

She insists she is actually teaching, and I don't doubt it. How ironic and horrible that she has no recourse as a result of the pig-headed stance her own union took while trying to ram the very worst contract I've ever seen down our collective throat. She's "tutoring" low-level math, not her specialty, to needy kids who don't even have books. She wishes "that this whole thing was just a bad dream and no one had to deal with this nonsense."

Unity is tired and decadent. Its propaganda blog, Edwize, refuses to address issues that directly affect teachers and now simply deletes comments that don't follow the party line. So much for free and spirited discussion.

Let's send them to the unemployment lines before they get a chance to do the same to us.

(That is not actually Jules in the picture above. Not yet, anyway.)

DOE to McCaskill: You're Our Kind of Guy

Lee McCaskill, imperial principal of Brooklyn Tech, got a very sweet deal from the DOE. The special commissioner of investigation for the city school system is now complaining that he was allowed to retire before an investigation had been completed.

McCaskill, among other things, claimed to have a scond residence in Brooklyn. To prove this, he produced a lease, supposedly signed in 2001, on form s that bore a 2004 copyright.

As if that weren't enough, a substitite teacher blacklisted by McCaskill appears to have lost his life as a result of ensuing despair.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


...to Eduwonk for adding me to his blogroll. I'm a little shocked, since I rarely agree with him. Still, I will return the favor.

On the other hand, the AFT, to whom I've been paying dues for 20+ years, refuses to add NYC Educator to its blogroll, nor do they see fit to respond to my requests in any way whatsoever. I only asked them because they emailed me, asking me to hype their cartoon, which I did.

You'd think that would merit the courtesy of a reply. But you'd be mistaken.

The Finest Technology Money Can Buy

My school is very much with it. First of all, we hard-wired every clasroom for broadband access years ago. Now, we've had the entire building set up for a wi-fi network. How many schools are completely set up for wireless? Not many, I'd guess. Now there are some nattering nabobs of negativaty who'd neglect these niceties. They'd say "Sure, you've got a wireless net work, but there are no computers in any but two classrooms."

I decided to use it anyway, and bought a laptop from Dell. While waiting for the school to finish setting up the network, I bought a wireless router and set up my home, so my daughter would stop kicking me off my computer. Oddly enough, the wireless network registered, but IE showed a blank screen. Being the resourceful guy I am, I hooked the laptop up to the ethernet wire. Nothing.

I called Dell, waited on hold for twenty minutes, and got transferred to a friendly fellow from India with an accent thicker than peanut butter.

"Type eye for eye-glue please"


"Please type eye for eye-glue."

After an hour of restarting, retyping, and repeating, the technician determined the problem must be with my DSL modem.

"Why does it work with the desktop?"

"It works with the desktop?"

"It does."

"Well, then sir, we will send a technician to your house on Wednesday"

"I work all day Wednesday, and also all evening."

"Perfect, sir. The technician will call you Wednesday before he comes to your home. Thank you for calling Dell. Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

The Wheels of Change...

...in the United States turn a little too slowly for my taste. Still, there are encouraging signs looming beyond the outrageous scandals finally coming to light around the unelected and thus far unaccountable federal executive.

A very good one is the Ohio decision to rely on science rather than scripture when teaching "science" classes. The embarrassing spectacle of "intelligent design" is being forced out of Ohio schools in the form of a lesson plan offering alternatives to evolution. It's remarkable that 80 years after the Scopes trial, there is still controversy about relying on science, rahter than religion, in public school classrooms.

If religious schools wish to teach "intelligent design," or "creationism," or whatever they wish to call it, that's their prerogative. But that's one more reason, as though another were needed, to reinforce the separation of church and state and flatly deny public funds to religious schools.

The Wheels of Steering...

The ban on Saudi Arabian women driving may be overturned in a legal challenge. Next, they may start working on the right to vote.

Hopefully, as women move forward elsewhere, they won't be forced backward in the USA.

Not Just Spinning His Wheels..

Kudos to Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich for proposing Universal Pre-K in his state. It's encouraging to see a politician stand up for something worth standing up for.

If only Pataki or Bloomberg had that sort of character, my kids wouldn't be studying in a triple-capacity building from dawn to dusk.

Monday, February 13, 2006

It Was Bound to Happen..

Well, Vice-President Dick Cheney finally went out and shot someone.

Yet Another Modest Proposal

Many commenters on this blog are extraordinarily upset with my repeated suggestions that we enact the ruling of the NY State Supreme Court that mandates good teachers, smaller classes and adequate facilities for NYC's 1.1 million schoolchildren. Many have chided me for my lack of a more imaginative alternative to paying competitive salaries, building more classrooms and hiring more and better teachers.

Doubtless Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki, who have both claimed to support the CFE ruling (as long as they don't have to pay for it) would applaud that sort of thinking. But how on earth do you achieve these goals, which no one will stand up and admit they don't care about, without actually paying for them? Is there nowhere for our heroes to turn?

Maybe there is a good way to pretend you're taking action without straining yourself too much. A South Wales Church now has a dial-a-prayer service. If paying for decent schools seems too much, you could pray for them instead. I cannot, however, assure you it hasn't been tried before.

Plagiarism Checker

Is your student who arrived 8 days ago from Korea suddenly writing like Garcia-Marquez? Exactly like Garcia-Marquez?

Does the borderline illiterate sleepy drug-addled kid in the third row who writes in graffiti letters turn in reports that appear to be written by a professional hack writer? Are you at your wit's end?

There's no need to get excited and cancel your rhumba lesson. Here's a plagiarism checker, developed by a teacher, for teachers, and best of all, it's very reasonably priced--free (slightly higher in Canada).

(Full disclosure--NYC Educator gets a 10% cut of the purchase price.)

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Discount Tuition for Illegal Aliens

Virginia State Senator Emmett W. Hanger Jr. has reversed his position on awarding resident discounts to college students who are illegal aliens. He's predicated that on their being Virginia high school graduates pursuing legal residency who've been paying income taxes for three years.

Of course, those who fail to meet the requirements will have to pay a higher tuition. I have decidedly mixed feelings about this.

What do you think?


Let's see, a spelling bee..a pleasant little contest where kids compete to correctly spell some tough words. It's tougher still for eighth-grader Sara Beckman of Reno, Nevada, who correctly spelled discernible, yet lost when visiting judge Dan Quayle incorrectly rang a bell. Okay, it wasn't Dan.

But now they say the parents should have protested immediately, and have no right to further appeal. Actually, I could understand being intimidated by a spelling bee judge sitting there with a dictionary, thinking "Boy, I'm even more ignorant that I'd thought."

Sara's mom isn't taking it lying down and plans to sue. A school spokesperson hopes for an amicable settlement, contending defending itself against lawsuits is not the best use of school funds. Perhaps they ought to invest in a spelling-bee judge who knows how to spell, or at least read a dictionary

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Not Recommended

Perhaps if you're a substitute second-grade teacher it would be prudent to avoid staging mock hangings with your young charges as models.

(With all due respect to Mr. Lawrence, who certainly has the good sense not to engage in such reckless behavior. Other varieties of reckless behavior, perhaps.)

Father Knows Best

Mayor Bloomberg hired a parent coordinator for every school. In my school, that means one parent to represent 4400 kids. Our parent coordinator is very hard-working and well-intentioned. Nonetheless, she has an impossible task.

So it's little surprise to me the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Council has chosen to boycott Mayor Mike's Lobby Day in Albany, albeit by the narrowest of margins. If I were a city parent, and my mayor refused to contribute one dime toward the landmark CFE lawsuit, I'd be disappointed too.

While it's Pataki now technically fighting it, when the judge said the city could pay a portion, he offered to pay 60% of its cost. CFE suggested the state pay 75%. Bloomberg's rep, by way of negotiation, said the city would say "No, thank you" if compelled to pay anything whatsoever. This ought to make it very clear to anyone exactly how much this mayor values substantive change in city schools.

The Council will indeed go to Albany, but on March 14th with the UFT.

"There is no consultation prior to Lobby Day of what parents want," said Juan de la Cruz, a member of the council who has two children in Queens high schools. "It's always their agenda, and we're just there for bodies." He added, "The only way we could voice what we want, what parents want, is to go on our own."

You Are Getting Sleeeeepy...

Look into my eyes...

We are not financing tax cuts for billionaires by slashing education aid and programs for people who actually need them...

Vice President Dick Cheney did not authorize Libby to out a CIA agent....

President Bush is not Jack Abramoff's pal...

We didn't know about the flooding or the levees when we claimed no one could have anticipated what happened...

The trade deficit has not hit an all-time high...

Brownie did a heckuva job and is not blaming us....

CIA officials are not accusing us of cherry-picking information to falsely justify a war....

and 8.8 billion dollars did not disappear in Iraq.

When I click my fingers, you will believe all of this.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Good Teachers

The most essential element of a good school, if you ask me, is good teachers. Where on earth do you find them?

Well, it isn't that hard. My daughter's school, for example, is full of them. She's gotten good teachers one after another, and if she hadn't, her school would be hearing about it from me on an inconveniently regular basis. They know that, particularly since my vocal nature is typical of my community.

What do we do differently from NYC? For one, we pay teachers well. My district, actually, is among the lower paying in Nassau County. Nonetheless, we get hundreds of applicants for each position. As you can imagine, that allows our district to pick and choose. Also, there is no need to discuss merit pay, or extra pay for math or science teachers.

When teachers don't work out in my district, they are not granted tenure and quickly find jobs in NYC. Few are denied tenure in the city, and while it's popular to vilify the UFT for that, we have no say in who is and is not granted tenure.

NYC, in another inspired money-saving scheme, pays the very lowest salaries in the area, and has the lowest standards in the area. Again, while the overwhelming majority are miraculously OK, many who slip through the cracks would fail the more rigorous interview requirements at Burger King (Click here for examples).

The "teaching shortage" has officially ended. Why? Because generally, NYC now has at least one applicant for each position. Does anyone besides me see how that is less than satisfactory for NYC's children?

If NYC were in a position to pick and choose, as it was before the 70s, it could certainly find better teachers. When NYC had the highest salaries in the area, it had the best teachers, and the best school system. The decline in salaries directly parallels the decline in quality. Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein, I suppose, attribute that to coincidence. In any case, even if NYC were to pay more for math teachers, the overall quality of the staff would remain much as it is now, and having enough math teachers is not necessarily tantamount to having good math teachers..

Raise salaries and raise standards.

Otherwise, be prepared for another 30 years of excuses.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Bad Teachers

Schoolgal asked me what I’d consider to be a “substandard” teacher. My reply was too long for a comment, so I’ll put it here.

I apologize to all the fine NYC teachers who may feel I’m stereotyping. I’m not. Most NYC teachers I’ve met are good, many are outstanding, and I consider that a minor miracle. Here’s a fact, though—there is very little screening beyond ensuring minimum, or sub-minimum state standards are met. The Daily News wrote of thousands of teachers who failed the LAST test multiple times who were allowed to teach NYC’s children.

When I talk about bad teachers, I don’t mean the ones who forget to write an aim, or don’t open the windows to the specified height, or allow kids to wear hats in the classroom. I don’t mean teachers who give spotty lessons now and then. We all do that sometimes.

Let's say I go out to lunch with a Spanish teacher. I converse in Spanish with the restaurant employees, but he cannot. That may not be much, but it qualifies.

Let's say another day I find him gleefully telling anti-Semitic jokes to a bunch of young Latinas, and encouraging them to respond with Hispanic jokes. Let’s say the next day he’s sitting in front of his classroom eating a bowl of Cocoa Puffs and reading the cereal box while the kids in his class are doing God knows what.

Or what about the one who calls a female student the most vulgar word I've ever heard in my life, a Spanish word I'd never heard before that manages to be both sexist and racist at the same time? The one who takes his shirt off in front of his classes to show them his muscles. The one who calls a kid out to fight him behind the school in front of the class, and then says his wife will beat the kid up too.

Or one who wears sunglasses in the building, talks to herself half the time, whistles the other half, spends her free periods in the bookroom in the dark and refuses to teach on Tuesdays and Thursdays?

Let's say a Taiwanese teacher of Chinese shouts in front of God and everyone "I hate Chinese," and proceeds to denounce the majority of our Chinese-speaking students as shiftless commies. Let’s say she treats them as such and manages to stay in the system until retirement.

Maybe a teacher posts on the board an offer to write college recommendations for 50 bucks a pop. Let's say that teacher is from Spain and regularly tells Dominican and South American kids they are ignorant and don't know their native languages. Let's say further this teacher makes disparaging remarks about their parentage, of a most unpleasant and vulgar variety.

Let's take a teacher who teaches a foreign language, but is verbally incomprehensible both in that language and English as well.

Let's throw in a teacher who allows students to throw chairs out the window and play handball against the back wall. Or one who dresses as though he’d slept in a garbage can, and eschews personal hygiene to such an extent that no one wants to be within six feet of him.

How about the one who has an affair with a young student, leaves her when she demands he marry her (his wife and baby notwithstanding), then, when thrown out by now clued-in wife, begs the student to take him back? It makes little difference the student, by then, had the good sense to refuse.

How about the history teacher who berates speakers of English as a second language for their unforgivable lack of English ability, then stands up in the middle of the lunchroom with a rousing rendition of Deutchland Uber Alles?

Let's take the one who teaches a college writing class, but being incompetent in written English, has high school students grade the college papers in the department office.

Or let’s not take them.

But NYC took them all.

Who's to Blame?

Why, teachers, of course. Amidst a grade-inflation scandal at low-performing John F. Kennedy High School, the only consequence has fallen to the UFT rep who reported it.

Apparently, It's OK to select an English Department head who is unlicensed in English. It's also OK if she's never taught English. It's no problem whatsoever if she, having never graded an English Regents exam herself, reverses the grades of a trained and experienced staff in order to make the school look better.

The only problem is if teachers use school fax machines to report such actions to the media. That merits immediate placement in the rubber room. Thank goodness Chancellor Klein's DOE has its priorities straight.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Another Heroic Quest

Chancellor Klein went to Albany this week, to boldly ask for more money. It's vitally important that we get another 5 billion a year, and he and Mayor Bloomberg has made it quite clear that gyms, labs, and replacing old buildings are essential priorities.

In fact, Mayor Bloomberg's representatives have repeatedly asserted they will do everything possible to provide this aid, except of course, paying for it. Upon being asked to shoulder a portion of the lawsuit costs, Bloomberg's aide told the New York Times the Mayor would say "No, thank you," rather than pay one dime of the CFI lawsuit.

Mayor Bloomberg would love to fix the schools, but he needs to save money for tax rebates. Perish forbid New Yorkers should be asked to pay for anything so trivial as the education of its 1.1 million schoolchildren.

And Now, the King of Cartoons!

Today's cartoon is brought to you by the American Federation of Teachers.

They make some good points. They gotta work on those vocals, though.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Bun Ban

A British school has banned hot cross buns, fearing they may offend Jehovah's Witnesses.

Without administrators of this caliber to protect us, where would we be?

The Imperial Principal

It's odd how those who are so particular about what others must and must not do so often fail to hold themselves to their professed standards. That's certainly the case of Lee D. McCaskill, now ex-principal of Brooklyn Tech.

McCaskill spent years of pursuing petty vendettas against teachers in his employ. Oddly enough, he had no compunction whatsoever about sending his child to a local Brooklyn elementary school while residing in New Jersey. He and his wife both worked in the city. Why spring for day care or babysitters when you can simply drive your child back and forth and put it on the tab of NYC taxpayers?

The DOE agreed not to press charges against McCaskill in return for payment of $19,411 for stolen education. Carmen Farina, deputy chancellor for teaching and learning, said, "I wish him well. I think he's done a lot of good in that school."

That's right. Destroying 4,000 copies of a school newspaper written by the brightest kids in the city is not so bad. Nor is his illegal and larcenous behavior.

As long as he's willing to harrass and intimidate teachers, and who cares why, the man is tops with Bloomberg's DOE.

Monday, February 06, 2006

To Ask or Not to Ask?

The internal union politicking on this board is inexcusable and has no place in a discussion of the implementation problems created by the DOE.

That's what Bill Stamatis, who runs New York Teacher, told me on Ms. Frizzle's site when I chided him for, among other things, denying high school teachers a democratically-elected VP.

It's rather remarkable that Mr. Stamatis has the audacity to set norms for a blog that is not his by any means. Mr. Stamatis, like his Edwize colleagues, feels labeling inconvenient ideas as "politicking" is a sufficient rejoinder. Lord knows, both the Democrats and the Republicans condemn one another's activities as "partisan politicking" when it's too inconvenient to come up with a credible response.

Unfortunately for Mr. Stamatis, I happen to believe democracy denied is a topic worth bringing up at every opportunity.

I'm good friends with a pair of right-wing social studies teachers at my school. We tend to agree on nothing whatsoever. When I recounted responses from Edwize editors and Unity supporters, we did agree that they amounted to the same thing--basically, they were all telling me to shut up.

"Do you know what that means?" asked one of the social studies teachers.

"It means they don't like hearing about this," I said.

"Maybe," said the other one. "But it also means you must be right. Otherwise, they'd have answered."

Ignorance is the Ideal Excuse

Mamacita, at the curiously named Scheiss Weekly, is constantly making me laugh. She's got a very good eye for absurdity.

Her most recent post tells of an administration that decided to deal with a pervasive school-wide smell of sewage by ignoring it.

It's remarkable how well administrators are able to pretend nothing is wrong. Politicians can do that also. My union leaders were pretty good at it when they were selling us the very worst contract I'd seen in 22 years on the job.

Me, I have no ambition or diplomatic skills whatsoever, so there go my union and administration careers. And patience I seem to have only for children.

I'm thinking, though, of getting active in the union as a sort of public nuisance. It may be my true calling.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


My daughter brought home a few unusually good report cards. I took her out to dinner at places of her choosing. I'd always read that it was bad to motivate kids with money, so it never entered my mind.

Several school districts, though, disagree, rewarding attendance with money, iPods, DVD players, and even a car, in the case of one district in Hartford, Connecticut.

I think a big problem in this country is that we see little or no intrinsic value in education. But let's forget about that.

Are our kids now so short-sighted that they can't see the practical potential of an education in this job market without us waving immediate incentives in front of their faces?

Guilty Pleasure

I love watching Monk. Tony Shaloub is wonderful playing the brilliant obessive-compulsive detective. Now you can play Monk's Mind Game on the net.

If you have a few spare minutes, there are four levels, the game is very clever, and unlike most video-based games, you don't necessarily need the expertise of a child to play it.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bloomberg: Food Guru

Mayor Bloomberg isn’t all bad. In fact, he’s absolutely willing to improve education as long as it doesn’t funnel money away from vital projects, like constructing stadiums for needy billionaires. In fact, here are three concrete improvements the mayor has made:

1. He’s replaced sugary soft drinks in vending machines with juices. Sure, he used a no-bid contract to do so, and his motivations are therefore questionable. But the naturally occurring sugars in fruit juices are somewhat less objectionable than the processed cane sugars and corn syrups that form such a large portion of the great American diet.

2. He’s banished white bread from school cafeterias and replaced it with whole wheat. Even the questionable school-cafeteria cheeseburgers and frankfurters are served on whole-wheat buns. They probably still contain sugar or honey, but they also contain fiber, which is assiduously avoided in many adolescent diets.

3. NYC has just banished whole-fat milk from its cafeterias, much to the disappointment of the dairy industry. When the largest purveyor of fat-laden milk products in the school cafeteria business takes a step like this, it’s likely to be emulated elsewhere.

So please don’t say I never said anything good about the mayor.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Uh Oh...

Here's an unsettling message...

Beware the Ides of March

by James Wolcott

...warns William S. Lind at Antiwar. The war in Iraq has bloodily settled into a seesaw rhythm. He perceives rumblings of breakout action just in time for the spring collections. What gives?

"Osama bin Laden's latest message. Most observers, including the White House, seem to have missed its significance. In it, bin Laden offered us a truce (an offer we should have accepted, if only to attempt to seize the moral high ground). The Koran requires Muslims to offer such a truce before they attack. The fact that bin Laden himself made the offer, after a long silence, suggests al-Qaeda attaches high importance to it.

"Why? My guess is because they plan a major new attack in the U.S. soon. I would be surprised if the plan were for something smaller than 9/11, because that could send the message that al-Qaeda's capabilities had diminished. Could this be "the big one," the suitcase nuke that most counterterrorism experts expect somewhere, sometime? That would certainly justify, perhaps require, a truce offer from Osama himself. Of course, al-Qaeda's plan may fail, and it may be for an action less powerful than setting off a nuke on American soil. But the fact that Osama made a truce offer should have set off alarm bells in Washington. So far, from what I can see, it hasn't...

via Simply Left Behind

New Math

A criminal broke into a Norweigian school, but rather than rob the place, simply sat down and took a third grade math test. Apparently, the thief did very well.

Who says crime doesn't pay?

In other news, I found 80 bucks in a parking lot this afternoon. All funds, of course, will go into supporting this blog.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Suozzi's Plan

I've long been a fan of Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi. He bucked the Nassau Democratic machine to get the nomination, and ousted the incredibly corrupt Republican machine from the total power it had been enjoying for years.

Now, though, I don't know what to think. He's running a quixotic race against Eliot Spitzer for NY Governor, and his platform seems to be delay or cancel the aid promised by CFE in order to fund property tax cuts for suburban homeowners.

As a suburban homeowner, I say bravo. But 1.1 million NYC schoolchildren need that money more than I do. I doubt Mr. Suozzi will get my vote in this primary.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Another Stirring Tribute...

To Chancellor Klein, this time.

From the UTP.

A Rainy Day

We Americans are not savers. We borrow, and spend, and then borrow some more, from the President, right down to folks like you and I. Thankfully, pioneers like Mayor Bloomberg are quite willing to set a good example for the rest of us.

Mayor Bloomberg is planning to just sit on his surplus, and save it. Randi Weingarten, UFT President, characterized his decision as "prudent."

It's a good thing NYC schools are not horrendously overcrowded. I'm glad all our teachers are absolutely first-rate. It's nice that we don't have the highest class-size in the state.

Because if we were laboring and learning under conditions like those, "prudent" is not precisely the first word that would come to my mind.