Saturday, June 16, 2007


(H/T: Dave Barry)

Here's the scenario:

A mom in Connecticut asks her kid where all that lunch money is going that she's been giving him for the past few months. Shuffling of the feet, downcast look of abject guilt, then a defensive posture.

"My teacher took it."

This is filed under Dave Barry's "Public Educator of the Week So Far" file:
A public school teacher has been suspended with pay while Hartford school officials investigate allegations that she took cash to excuse students from detention.


One parent who made a complaint said that the teacher took $30 or $40 from her son.

"She was always getting $2 or $3 for him not to serve detention," Raynette Little told the Hartford Courant.
So which reaction makes more sense to you?

[Mother's apparent reaction]: "The teacher took how much money??"

[Woody's probable reaction]: "You've been in detention how many times??"

I mean, okay, the fact that this teacher was probably bending some obscure school district regulation is, on the surface, disturbing. I personally lost gobs of money in high school by throwing it away on things like cafeteria "food" and getting "shaken down" by seniors who'd been shaving for twenty years already. But here we have a kid who (depending on how you work the math) has been in detention anywhere from 10 to 20 times, and his mom wonders where the money has gone.

I'm not altogether certain that a questionable public education employee is the real issue in this particular case.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bottom-Dwelling Teachers

Reason number 27 why we homeschool.

Imagine this scenario: You're a kid in the sixth grade. School is probably not your favorite place, and you certainly weren't counting on receiving any awards as the school year winds down. Mostly you're just dreaming about what kind of fun you can have this summer, and hoping against hope that Mom and Dad won't enroll you in summer school this year.

Then comes the "awards ceremony." You know, one of those deals where other kids — not you — are called up in front of everyone to receive awards for "Perfect Attendance," "Most Improved in 5th Grade," or "Only Kid to Actually Complete a Science Fair Project." You clap politely, if half-heartedly, for the winners. Please let this assembly be over soon, you think to yourself.

Suddenly you hear your name. You wonder why two of your teachers are grinning. Sandwiched between them, the teachers give you two awards. Not awards for some outstanding achievement, but awards designed to destroy what self esteem you've managed to build up over the course of the year. The awards are "Most Likely Not To Have Children" and "Sir Clowns-a-Lot." You also realize that not only are the teachers laughing at you, but so are the rest of the kids, especially those snotty ones who received the "Perfect Attendance" awards.

If you feel the pain and the humiliation, then you understand how this kid must have felt.

I was never one of those kids who got school awards. In fact, the only awards I can actually remember receiving were from my senior year in high school, and they were performing arts awards. I suffered plenty of humiliation as a squirt, but none of it came from teachers. Oh, they may have kept me after class on occasion, or even embarrassed me by pointing out that I was the only one who didn't seem to get whatever math concept we were studying at that moment, but it was never done maliciously.

This kid's teachers probably thought this was all in good fun. Let's tease this kid whom we will never again see, just to let him know there's "no hard feelings." Well, ha, ha. What a great joke.

Now, of course, we're only hearing one side of the story. The local school administrators are doing their best Watergate impression, although they did indicate that apologies were forthcoming (but not so far). Perhaps this child is one of those challenges that make teaching a chore rather than a noble calling. Maybe he was continually being sent to the principal's office for various infractions.

The larger question remains, however. No matter what challenges this kid may have presented in class, does any of it justify the humiliation that these teachers put this kid through — humiliation that will follow him for at least the entire next school year if he stays in his local system — just so they can have the last word?

My daughter works as a teacher's aide in Maryland. She gets assigned the really challenging kids; the incorrigible ones that always seem to come from homes where the parents are as bad as, if not worse than, the kids. The kids she deals with have no respect for authority, no intention of ever doing any actual school work, and she spends the entire year caught inbetween the forces of school policy and parental demands. As bad as these kids can be, they are always dealt with privately. They are never humiliated in front of other kids unless the kid initiates the humiliation.

No, there's no excuse for what these idiots in Indianapolis have done. They need to be permanently removed from the teaching pool before they find some other kid to destroy.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Attention, Arnold Schwarzenegger

If you've read this blog for any length of time, you probably know of my predeliction for vehicles that have a more streamlined appearance. I despise the "box" look, both for its aesthetics as well as for its counter-intuitive aerodynamics. If I want to drive a box I'll buy an old Jeep, put mud flaps on it and drive around the high desert. Since I despise the high desert as much or more than I despise boxy cars, you can imagine how likely that is. I've already excoriated Scion for their pathetic-looking cracker-boxes-on-wheels. I considered it my duty to common sensibilities.

This disturbing trend toward "military chic" in vehicles today was never more evident than when I saw this jaw-dropper on the freeway yesterday. This from Mercedes-Benz, whose love affair with Chrysler is coming to an inevitable end. The model I saw was black, and looked (by Mercedes standards) downright cheap.

You had to have been there, probably. The moment I saw this... this thing rolling along in the carpool lane, my jaw hung limp for a moment or two. Then my brain re-engaged and my very first thought was, "Gee. Looks like a Matchbox car that said, 'I wish, I wish, I wish I could grow up to be a Hummer!'"

Yeah, a Hummer worth around $85,000, thank you very much. I didn't pay that much for my first house.

So, this being Orange County and all, I expect to see quite a few more of these things. The northern section of the county is renowned for two things: the worst drivers in the state of California, and the HUGE vehicles they insist on driving. Vehicles containing multiple area codes. Vehicles that make John Edwards' carbon-wasting mansion look like a bungalow on the beach. Vehicles capable of carrying BOTH Ted Kennedy and Al Gore. And now they can have the ultra-chic Mercedes brand emblazoned on their machines of doom. (Interesting corollary: The fewer children Orange County families have, the larger the vehicle they will be driving.)

Schwarzenegger must be choking on his cigars just looking at them. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he's already put in an order for five of them.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wherein Congress Seemingly Takes My Advice

Or not. Hard to tell, with Congress. I pleaded with them to kill their silly attempt at immigration "reform," and they appear to have heard me. They're still hemming and hawing about resurrecting it, but, unlike Lazarus, some corpses should stay dead.

Like many on the right, I'm most concerned with the fence, or lack thereof. Some 370 miles completed, at last count. But McCain himself said there likely wouldn't be any more fence built just because this bill becomes law. Putting it in a bill is one thing. Paying for it is entirely different. One of the more charming problems with the bill as written (and amended ad nauseum) is that all of this bureaucratic paper-shuffling to issue visas and ID cards, and verify compliance on the part of people who previously had shown no inclination to abide by existing laws costs money. Lots of money. All of it, just like our extremely popular war, coming out of taxpayer pockets. With so many competing priorities, it's little wonder that building an actual fence will have a difficult time getting any. Money, that is.

So I repeat: Go back and create legislation that makes sense, then come talk to us about it. Don't try ramrodding it down our collective throats and expect us to be happy about it.

One of the common whines we've heard since this bill took its well-earned nose-dive last week is that Congress and the President don't understand the vitriol. Why are we so dead-set against this bill?

Here's where politicians earn their reputation for living in selective seclusion. When a senator wants opinion on a topic, that senator doesn't pick up a phone and say, "I think I'll call Woody over in Orange county. I wonder what he thinks about all this?" No, that senator is more likely to say, "I wonder how much grief La Raza will give me if I don't support open borders?" You show me the last time Congress paid attention to one of those opinion polls that get input from actual voters, and I'll show you the exception to the rule.

Whether or not the Immigration Reform bill is dead, one thing is certain: the next incarnation won't — given the current makeup of this Congress — be much better, if at all. There's just too much fear of alienating powerful interests that tend to keep politicians in power for us to expect any real improvement.

So it's back to our respective corners. Congress and the President will hash out their next hackneyed agreement over in their corner, while we sharpen our poisoned pens keyboards in ours.

I suspect this one may go fifteen rounds.