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Artificial Stupidity

A song of myself, sung by Make Me a Status app.

“if there are things that drag us down. But here is a bad episode of LBJ, and the same?’

” Learning how to swallow. Another famous republican, Romney had a very Jeffersonian.”

” I am leaning toward Oregon, because I really bored.”

” Despite not being able to mosh, it.”

” Perhaps wear a mansion you are the oldest. You despise me employment guess she is going to shawna and Dragons Monster Manual based literacy with phase one handed.”

” . guess she is truly sad. I just saying that passes”

” My photogenic ways have only increased. Another good year.”

” Going to help. insurance won’t cover awesomeness.”

” Toadies 3/22 Independent in an article about the racial makeup of modern churches and you are saying we don’t wait up. Quizzical glances were exchanged.”

” Or perhaps best part of concern, but you gotta love the suffering…”

” At work, and otherwise, the KKK, Andrew Jackson, the little wizard, the election of Damocles dangling above me…”

” I am now halfway to being highly qualified to show the noobies how it.”

” Summer School is the University of all.”

” I am doing a big old bag of socks. or ducks.”

” I am sticking with my shelf from the Constitution I am having students have outlawed miracles.”

” You are the gulag archipelago of the Bible, then a picture of their minds upstairs, doors wide open. I still haven’t gotten over a piece of string.”

” She said what he had great job offer from the Heritage Foundation. exponentially expanding knowledge is on facebook mobile.”

” Yeah, my students were impressed that I have ever had surgery on Zombie Highway’s Hardcore level!”

” Greg Graffin also well armed for Community College in that graveyard!”

” Give me In many schools that seem to help. Amon Amarth main stage, rob zombie, children stop yelling, pooping and giving me want a peanut?”

” I am now halfway to bless the U.S.A.”

” What’s the opposite of bumblebees on Earth and poster board.”

” Seems like a million dollars a class with thrilling words introducing me of ravenous chipmunks. Either way the frontier, Indian Wars and put a good time at a new album, new tour.”

” Seems like a million dollars a class with thrilling words introducing me of ravenous chipmunks. Either way the frontier, Indian Wars and put a good time at a new album, new tour.”

” Rise against, bad religion to crack dealers, make sure.”

” At work, my boss calls and yells at me for not answering the phone right. I am governor Jerry Brown, my schedule is fun!”

” Much like the Next Generation crew could hold their own against Romulans and Kilngons, races that education departments remain constant…”

” Time for supply side economics because he lays waste to live in equality, which you I would. auto correct.”

” Spent a Ferengi. Golden Bears.”

” I am doing a great reflection on santa’s bad governors list!”

” Congress, you with blazing fire coming forth from Your Southern neighbors.”

” Remember your glory is unlimited. You will be me.”

” if there any evidence of weapons of mass destruction in America is hard to the craft store for materials for my mom.”

” Soon I will be a geek.”

Hashtag

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Millenial Manifesto

What the hell is a millenial? Some kind of monster, stalking society and plotting the downfall of fogies everywhere? Twitter yetis smothering the world with mountains of useless data? Worthless individuals permanently stunted by easy access to the internet, their pathetic brains shriveling under the weight of the knowledge of the world?

Yes. That is true. I listen to a lot of AM radio and check in with news outlets frequently. It seems that everybody is talking about how to deal with millenials. I got scared. I looked over my shoulder in my car. They are out there, holding cell phones, demanding that things go faster, that using paper is foolish, that old people are going to mandatory death camps. The Baby Boomers are portraying these poor bastards into the dustbin of history. It only makes sense. They use cell phones and talk to their friends electronically. God, just listening to the news talk about this generation makes me want to move to the hills and live a simpler life, in a yurt without electricity. Off the grid. Oh wait, I already did that when I was a child.

I have yet to find a good definition of a millennial, besides the hundreds of definitions I have been supplied with. Their brains are different. They are barely human. HOW CAN WE DEAL WITH THESE PEOPLE? THEY ARE RUINING THE PLANET!

Concerned, I took an internet test. Shit, that might push me into the millenial camp. I should have taken a Cosmo quiz like the “normal” generations of people that came before. I graduated high school in 2000, the actual millenium. I remember the Y2K scare and thought that everybody was a damn fool for making such a big deal about it, especially older folks that, like the communist-hunting Yancy Fry Sr., feared “The Y2K.”

390px-Yancysr

Thank God we survived that. Thank God. If all those computers had their dates messed up….something terrible would have happened. Or something. Let’s just say I didn’t build a doomsday bunker. I just got to listen to the media and others expertly discuss computer programming – “the dates won’t roll over!” Good times. I am starting to feel milennial. I can feel myself changing. Must fight it. I don’t want to be one of those brain-dead monsters, feeding on the bounty of previous generations. NO!

Just to keep my sanity, I took the aforementioned internet test. I was shocked and dismayed. I fell out of my chair. I cried. I wept. I looked myself in the mirror and punched it, splintering my images into countless shards of failed life. I grabbed my smartphone and threw it into the sea, tears streaming down my cheeks, as I cursed the gods for creating high-speed internet and data plans.

satan lol

I fell to my knees and screamed out “FACEBOOK! You murderers! You made me type words on a keyboard! How will I ever communicate with a normal person again?!” Dramatic lightning flashed across the sky. A person walked up to me and asked what was wrong. Dumbstruck, I replied “I am a millenial.” Their eyes widened in terror as they backed away slowly, step by step. Madness-stricken, I cried out: “I am going to unfriend you!” Life as I knew it was over. My entire existence was pointless. The media was right.

Perhaps it is because previous generations control most of the media that this stereotyping is going on. I am tired of being branded a different sub-human because I prefer to verify information on the internet. And I am careful about what I cite from the web, and I teach my students the same skills. God forbid, we are the generation with access to all of mankind’s history, knowledge and traditions at the touch of our fingers. Apparently I am on the tail-end of the millenial thing, but I still have many of the same habits. Texting instead of calling. Why waste time calling? Is that really better? Unless it is important, I would rather just text.

“Hello. How are you? What are you doing later? Do you want to go to the movies? Really? That stinks. How is the cat? Small talk. Weather. Ok, talk to you later….guilty feeling that we should be talking about something else.” Are you really spending quality time with this person on the phone?

Or: “Want to go the movies?” “Busy – got a thing.” 30 seconds. For me, it is just more efficient.

I agree with many things that are said: people are reading less, thinking more shallowly and latching onto fads. As a historian, I would say that is all part of the trend. The zeitgeist is shifting, but it has always shifted. I had an argument with my sister-in-law about Presidents and the first thing we both did was reach for our phones to settle the dispute. We are terrible people. Arguing about politics and verifying information.

During the 2008 and 2012 elections, I felt more informed than ever, more connected with national politics, more involved than ever. The campaign was “real” and virtual as well. The politics changed by the hour, data was managed, I gained a real sense of the electoral college. Terrible milennials. Arguing with each other about which state should get the most attention to maximize our time. Having long, drawn out arguments during the interminable Clinton-Obama primary. Message board wars with hundreds of participants. Interactive maps. Up to the minute information. I guess we are just ignorant.

I do like to take pictures of things. I revel in the beauty of the world, the randomness of humans, and the mundane mysteries of the cosmos. I like to share them with people. If nobody looks at them, oh well. I enjoy seeing what other people are doing. To an extent. People that talk about themselves constantly on the internet usually do the same in “real-life.” Would a Baby Boomer that talked about themselves constantly and showed pictures of their families to everyone get the same sort of social beating? You showed slideshows of your vacation! You are a troll of a person! The great thing about the internet is, you don’t have to look at them all. JUST DON”T CLICK ON THEM!

I do get tired of uninformed people. I get tired of people that get mad at me for using a GPS instead of a map. I love using apps like Yelp. Nothing like going to an unfamiliar city and getting reviews from ACTUAL customers about hundreds of restaurants. I have found some killer eats that way. I think that these kind of apps bring people together, even if it is not always in person. Generally, I use the internet to make plans to meet up with people that I know, arrange activities, spread the word about birthdays. I could call forty people and invite them, or I could click and send a notification to them all. I could do both. Being a milennial doesn’t mean being hopelessly addicted to technology. I also think that people that use phones while they are talking to somebody is rude, especially from other generations. It is about respect, and if young people are lacking in that, take a look at the 1960s. Imagine the types of peace protests you could have organized with social media. The old-fashioned way was great, but the internet is a tool. Technology is a tool – I WILL NOT USE THE SEED DRILL! Jethro Tull’s newfangled machine is going to ruin farming.

I think there is much more of an entrepreneurial spirit in this generation. I constantly check the value of things on Ebay to get a sense of price. I try to turn the internet to my advantage. I think that milennials have a good sense of marketing, profit and the profit motive (especially advertising).

I don’t think students should use phones in class. I don’t think they should have the right to use them whenever they want. People using phones on the job drive me nuts, and I would give them a negative performance review for it if I had the chance. I have seen older teachers (NOT milennials) abuse their phones frequently. I have seen staff meetings in which half of the staff (NOT millenials mostly) were on their phones or laptops screwing around while the boss was talking. Why is this generation singled out for historical circumstances?

By the way, I know how to read. More than likely I know how to read better than you. I have a long and distinguished academic career that was fueled by technology. I read more than my fair share of traditional books, and I firmly believe students need to read hard copies of classic books. When I was doing research during grad school, I was amazed at how many articles I could find, even though my college (Sonoma State) didn’t have the biggest library. I got hundreds of articles through things like EBSCO and JSTOR. Even at the college where I teach (Mendocino College), we have access to these kinds of resources. The research game is miles above of where it was when I started school.

A message for previous generations. You have spoken, loudly and mostly ignorantly, of this “milennial generation” you have created with mutated brains and technological superpowers. Look at what we inherited from YOU:

A massive recession fueled by greed and corruption.
A horrific job market. I worked at a gas station after graduating college.
A generation of parents mistrustful of government from the Vietnam War.
Legions of angry hippies and rednecks still arguing about said War.
The hangover from the Culture wars of the 1990s.
Your antiquated notions of race and gender.
You suspicion and bewilderment.
A sense of alienation, like we live in a different world than you do.
A stagnant, bloated labor force.
Legions of Boomers that refuse to retire, forcing us to work at menial jobs without hope of promotion.
Massive deficits and debt.
Foreign Wars without end.
Politicians that speak ABOUT us, and not TO us.
The knowledge that we will not make as much as our parents.
The god damn Clinton sex scandal.
Schools that resemble warzones.
Gas prices through the roof.
Credit that has dried up due to the mentioned recession.
A ten-year gap between when we should be starting our careers and when we actually do.
Rising costs in everything.
Stories of drug abuse, free love and violence.
Student loan debt that can never be repaid.
Increases in medical technology that will guarantee the Boomer and Gen Xer lock on jobs.

JOHN BOEHNER AND MITCH MCCONNELL

So, if you bother to read this, give some thought to the next time you lampoon “milennials” and give yourself a big old pat on the back for your cleverness. Or at least google some better jokes.

A $40 Million Dick Joke

At least it should be funny.  I just forced myself to sit through A Million Ways to Die in the West, and…. man.  There are bad movies, there are terrible movies, there is Bruno, and now there is A Million Ways to Die. The worst part of all is that i dragged my wife to the theater with me. Personally, I have been sick of the canned comedy of Seth McFarlane for about a decade now, but people keep regurgitating tired memes from the various clones of Family Guy, from the Cleveland show to American Dad.  Since I teach in a high school, knowing the lingo of McFarlanism is a valuable commodity, even if I inevitably get compared to Peter Griffin.  Every single teenager that makes the comparison thinks they are the first ones in the universe to make it. 

This time it was different though.  The trailer looked decent.  Funny.  Perhaps original.  Turns out I was wrong.  Dead wrong.  The movie is a travesty.  Possibly a crime against humanity.  Waterboarding or watch this movie….
….
….
Probably the waterboard. From the opening credits, the avalanche of expletives and dirty jokes overwhelms the viewer. Within 30 seconds of narration, I was burnt out on cuss words. Fuck shit dick pussy fart, poop, sex, repeat ad nauseum. Cuss words are meant to mark points of emphasis, strong emotion and surprise. Used , they can be hilarious. Override means the words lack all meaning. There is nowhere else to go. The characters drop cuss words about everything.

The worst part about the movie is the wasted potential. A Million Ways to Die had a cast that on paper looms like a winning formula. Instead I had to sit there and watch Seth McFarlane ham it up next to great actors. I just wanted him to get out of way and let the professionals act. I could watch Liam Neeson in almost anything these days. Except in this movie. Brilliant in The Lego Movie. Charlize Theron plays a love interest of the main character. Too bad to her.

I think it this film might be a community service requirement for everyone in it. What awful, disgusting crimes could they have committed?

Neil Patrick Harris. I loved him in How I Met Your Mother. Lucky for me he plays Barney Stinson in a Western setting. He even says “Challenge Accepted!” Sigh. How the mighty have fallen. The mustache craze, which seems to have died out of late, is played out to a sickeningly repetitive degree. Fart joke. Poop. Fuck. I am beginning to think I could make a movie.

Save your ten dollars to buy a hammer. Smash your own hands. You have already had more fun than I did sitting through this film. Try to eat a bag of nails.

I think I am going to throw up reliving the horror of viewing this.

Summer holiday or teaching routine?

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Yes, I gave my seniors an essay for a final.  It’s that time again – finals at the public school.  A time marked by desperate students seeking grade bumps, and teachers wearing shorts and Hawaiian shirts.  The closer to the last day, the higher the proportion of shorts.  The last day of the school year is generally a faculty work day.  Most of the work to the year is already done.  Grades are for the most part done, and the campus has an eerie calm.  Unless you are in my boat, in that case grumblings and packing and cleaning.  One job skill I have picked up over the years is an ability to clean out a classroom.  I have done it five times.  Five end of year brunches, five years of packing the same crap into boxes.  Luckily I only had two boxes of books, my trusty plastic drawer thing and a box of primary sources in case I teach again.

With the recent ruling neutering the California teachers’ unions, I am thinking this tranquil transition into summer might be different next year.  No more seniority rules, no more “last hired, first fired.”. Perhaps people like me can keep a job instead of being laid off at the threshold of tenure. 

I am in an existential crisis at the moment.  Should I try to get another teaching job?  I think this is a dilemma every teacher faces at the end of the year.  Except for the – I’ll give an uneducated guess and say 50%  – of teachers that are locked in via tenure or completely dedicated to their craft.  Despite what is said, I think their is a always a nagging doubt in their minds.  I can hear it in their voices when they ask me what I am going to do now.  Some of the more burnt-out teachers ask me if I will look for a teaching position.  A retiree that shall remain nameless told me if he was given a chance to do it all over again , he didn’t know if he would.  Kids are getting worse and caring less.  A person with decades – longer than many lives – of of experience.  At the end of the year, since teaching is arranged on a neat yearly schedule, there are retirements.  The economy must be getting better because Baby Boomers are starting to retire en masse.  Every retiree is celebrated.  Each time I ask myself if I would like to be in their shoes with decades of teaching behind me.  With thousands of students edumacated, moving on to bigger and brighter things while I stood behind cheer leading them on.  Careers that pay more, have more recognition besides people saying they couldn’t do what I do when I run into them in the grocery store.  How would my other friends that went to college and got advanced degrees would be materially after a life of work passes through my mind. 

There is always a brunch looking back on the year and planning for the year to come.  I’ll admit I was in a lot better mood when I had a job lined up for the next school year. This year our new principal talked about pride and family and Wildcat pride.  He also took credit for a teacher’s new class that combined drama with teaching English Language Development (ELD).  “I thought of that too independently.” Of course you did.  I had to practice holding my tongue.  I felt like yelling out “You Lie!” but this was not President Obama.  The same canned speech about innovation.  Principals always seem to praise teachers that gave them the most trouble.  Warm glow.  Me glowering.  I really was moved by the retirees this year though. 

I teach (I guess taught is the correct word now).  The high school and the Wildcats made me who I am today.  I am always, or was as the case may be, ambivalent about teaching at my alma mater.     On one hand, it is the classic “local boy makes good” scenario.  Considering that most of my true peer group ended up in menial jobs or hopeless scenarios. The students like that I was in their seats.  I get a sense of pride, nay perhaps even Wildcat Pride.  I played football and wrestled – a lot of my coaches and old teachers.  They seem proud of me, especially since most of then knew me when I only wore the same pair of camos every day.  My glasses were two inches thick and I had no idea what I was doing.  My mother had skipped town and I lived with my step-dad who kept me on track.  Indeed my entire personality and aspirations were transformed.  We won the NCS championship in a Cinderella season playing Wildcat football with reckless abandon.  I lost in the championship of the NBL wrestling tournament 4-3.  Good times along with the bad. 

On the other hand, it doesn’t feel like I have gone very far.  I work alongside many of my former teachers.  At times I feel blessed to receive their wisdom.  Other times I dislike seeing them as real humans instead of an adolescent abstraction.  Getting tossed from your home school is just awful. Like you have let down all those people who inspired you. 

The campus empties and I clean up.  Wipe the boards, I even pull staples out of the wall.  Awkward goodbyes.  I don’t even want to see most of them.  What can I say?  At times a heartfelt handshake manages to convey all the unspoken words.  I would like to tell every student and staff member exactly what they have meant to me over my tumultuous tenure there. 

Students.  So hard to figure out.  The most random students come to tell me how awesome my class was.  I am a popular flop.

In the end you never know what mark you made, which students got my style and hopefully used it.  You always think as a teacher, “I’ll get them tomorrow.” When the tomorrows are gone you always think “if only I would have…” My annual vow to get to 9/11 did not come to pass.  Probably better anyway – I can’t teach 9/11 without getting into an argument with students who laugh because they are goofing off.  Must be getting old. 

Images from my classroom.

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I found this ad in a science magazine I got for free because I was a teacher.  I learned ‘em to clone with confidence.

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My visual explanation of the Cold War.  First I have to explain what stroganoff is.  I borrowed this from a YouTube video.

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I challenged my Intro American Institutions class to come up with a caption.  We did a pretty good job.

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“North Korean Space Program” was all me. 

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Halloween I used a generic website to give my sophomores spooky names.  Then the had to draw a vocabulary word on the card and then we did a gallery walk.  This one was…. Drum roll… Thomas Hobbes. ,

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Protesting ants = Protestants.

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Natural Law

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White Out Wildcat.  I briefly considered lighting it on fire, but decided to keep it.

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The Rooster Croweth.  I started writing quotes on the whiteboard that came up organically in class.  Classic LBJ on Vietnam.  I probably lost sensitivity points for all those poor students with one-eyed mothers-in law in their living room.

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I was really into Yeats’ “The Second Coming” for a spell.  I used it to teach the craft of semicolons to my CAHSEE prep class.

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Infinity.

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My classes had a year-long homage to Yakov Smirnov.  Soviet Russia was the meme due jour.  I came up with this one. 

One bonus however.  I no longer feel obligated to keep my teacher persona up out in public.  I was never any good at it anyway.  Most of my clothing is blasphemous or offensive in some way.  I can come up with things like…… Well I thought of a dirty joke but you’ll have to see me in the street to find out what it was.  Censorship.  I can feel it creeping back in as I look for work.  Not a lot of job opportunities in this area.  Especially since I spent so much time and money getting my credential.  Oh well, the goodbyes and awkward handshakes are over for now.  I was complaining about paperwork yesterday and realized it was all in.  Still panicking at the thought of bureaucracy.  Free at last, free at last, great God Almighty free at last!   Well I am off for interview season. 

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(Yes we did read a snippet from this book.  Tear his genitals off!  No more little Fritzes!)

An F Too Far

Today I experienced the most degrading, disgusting and unprofessional moment in my tumultuous teaching career.  All year long I have dealt with a problem student, one the entire campus is sick of.  Since I am at the bottom of the Totem pole, I was blessed with presence in my classroom for two years.  All period, every day this student does absolutely nothing except for talk shit about everyone and everything around him.  I can’t count the number of times he has made fun of me, classmates, the school, my choice of careers, my wardrobe.  Constantly busting out lame-ass attempts at rap, because he is going to be a rapper or grow weed.  I have been patient, I have approached teaching this student with many strategies.  I have give him multiple referrals.  Subs send him out.  His grade is hovering around 20% today.  I gave my economics class a written final – write a two page essay about what you have learned about economics.  I have given the class plenty of class time to write.  Today, during fifth period it was the last time to work on the final.  Senior grades are due tomorrow.

Student asks to go see his counselor.  No problem, he leaves without getting the pass I wrote.  Fifteen minutes later the student returns with his counselor beside him. 

Having been non-reelected for reasons beyond my understanding, I am in my lame duck period.  “You have to be fucking kidding me, I said aloud.  ” Watch this, he told on me and I am going to get yelled at” I said to a pair of students I know well that sit next to my desk.  I stood up to talk to the counselor, a young looking Latina. 

With a smile: “I need a list of make up work for him.”. I point at the essay on the board with instructions. 
” He should be working on that.  It’s due tomorrow.”.

“Right, but I need a list of makeup work he can do to bring his grade up.”
“All the work he hasn’t done for the last four months?  It is irritating to be dealing with this now when grades are due tomorrow.”

“The time is now,” she says.  The classroom is watching and listening.  My authority as a teacher is being undermined.  The tone is that I screwed the pooch somehow.  It’s my fault. 

“The time was four months ago.” Awkward silence.  She stands there, asks for the makeup work.  Didn’t occur that I might not even offer makeup work.  Seeing she wouldn’t give up, I said I would make a list and give it to the student in question.  Many of my students looked on in horror, and some got mad.  I was ferociously angry.  This is the problem with our school system. 

We reward failure.  The more a student fucks up and fails classes, the more support they get.  It is a zero sum game.  Pouring resources into students like like this is a waste of time.  Hey just use the system to oppress and abuse others.  Failed?  You need more help.  That help comes in the form of Special Ed teachers and counselors.  I “just don’t understand” what these poor kids have been through.  The only thing they help with most of the time is inflating grades.  Squeeze them through, lower our standards until you can reach them.  Because a report has to be filed, the principal and superintendent are looking at numbers.  It’s only natural for people to juke the stats to cover their hindquarters. 

Passed the CAHSEE?  Congratulations, your graduation requirement is reading at an 8th grade level.  Sometimes I calculate how much money goes down the bureaucrat hole at staff meetings. Once I calculated that for one pointless poster we made in a staff meeting it cost $3,000.  Hefty price tag for pedagogical masturbation. 

So there we were, me shamefacedly writing down the assignments I k now won’t get done.  The whole charade was so that the student could pretend to care.  Make up four months in a day.  That makes my job a joke.  The months I put in trying to teach econ to a rowdy group of students (who nobody will sub for) down the drain.  Everybody in the new room knew the game.  I’ll probably get called racist too.  That happened when a student threatened to beat me up at school.  It was because I hated the student because I am a big fat racist. 

I used to b passionate, liberal, full of Howard Zinn style enthusiasm for learning and teaching.  The last four years have really quenched that fire.  Having been stuck in the sewers of public education has jaded me.  It’s not about teaching.  It’s not about students.  It is a pissing contest between AP teachers.  It is a bureaucracy run rampant.  Paperwork, endless IEPs, juking stats, faking sincerity, union politics (listening to old people argue about raises), ridiculous discipline policies, vainly trying to get students off their phones, getting chewed out over tiny details, being endlessly examined and commented on, seeing your beloved subject trampled by ignorant masses assisted by soulless bureaucrats. Pressured into grade inflation by half-assed JV coaches.  Teachers yearning to fit in with the cliques that scorned them in their youth. have paid for my credential 5 times now (that’s $350 dollars I’ll never get back).  I spent two years doing BTSA at night, making posters and wasting more money learning how to do paperwork better.

I have had four principals in four years.  Each time a new scheme, a new ladder climber using my head to get a leg up.  From the torture of Explicit Direct Instruction (EDI) – “the answer is Greece.  Call on non-volunteer.  What is the answer?  Greece.  Call on non-volunteer.  What is the answer?” To the absurdities of Doug Fisher’s social learning.  My one evaluation I did have this year I was told that a perfect class would be me doing nothing and the students doing all group work.  That sounds like….total horseshit.  I was criticized because students like me too much.  Luckily all my students spent 10 years in college – wait, I’m the one with the Master’s Degree!  Sacre bleu!  I will let you all talk about the latest pointless app as I sit in the corner. 

We reward failure.  Each year our standards are lowered, and our schools vomit forth masses of complacent morons that are trained to look to the Nanny state for their every need.  Trying to force me to pass a student lowers the value and credibility of a High School diploma.  Each student we force through chips away at the foundation of society.  Each shitbird you cram down the gullet of education rots the core. 

I’ll give the F and face the wrath of family, administration and student. As my master teacher said “no good deed goes unpunished.” He also said liberal teachers damaged kids by never holding them accountable.  “We’ll all be happy in a Chinese socialist paradise.” He has a point – there is no incentive to follow the rules.  Anyone can find a way to cheat their way to a diploma.  Undermining the teacher of record in front of a class.  I’d complain but nothing would happen and nobody would care because I won’t be there next year.

I might get out of the game.  So far teaching has brought me mountains of feces, and a plastic spoon to shovel it with. 

Teaching is an expensive joke.  I’d laugh if it wasn’t so fucking depressing.

Literature offends me.

I was just reading an article published by the New York Times titled “Warning:  The Literary Canon Can Make Students Squirm.”  I was at first thoroughly amused, but after reading the article, I had a “trigger,” and flew into a flashback of whining students sitting around at major universities with nothing better to do than try to create a political issue to ensure their bona fides amongst the intelligentsia.  Now, at times, a warning is definitely in order, such as when viewing graphic material such as footage on the Holocaust or war.  That I understand, it is visceral and gives an immediate powerful image.  As a teacher of history and English, I grapple with this daily.  It is rare to see math teachers have to deal with  the ethical dilemmas of showing the full power of algebraic expression. 

The problem is when the label itself guides the reader to an established conclusion.  Labeling great literary works is like censoring the Sistine Chapel, and most of all art actually.  At what point does “protecting” people from issues such as this actually create ignorance and superstition?  If you are warned ahead of time about the graphic violence and death in The Lord of the Flies, it robs the book of the emotional and unexpected plot of the novel.  How specific should the warning be?  Beware:  the boys sodomized a pig with a spear.  Out of context it sounds terrible and would make many people not read the book.  The buildup to the event is a part of the majesty of the work, as innocent boys embrace their darker selves and get carried away in a blood orgy.  When I taught that book, I had a sub the day after we read that section of the book, and the sub got offended when my students said that yesterday we read about a blood orgy.  Literature is meant to shock and offend, to surprise, to bring up issues that are uncomfortable.  Doesn’t that label on literature defeat the purpose of literature itself, to promote critical thinking and deal with universal themes?  People have been reading about these things since the creation of writing. 

Another question:  who should decide on the labels?  Is there going to be a committee that oversees the labeling, which works, goes over every single syllabus, checks with every single student in every single college in the nation to make sure none of them have a “trigger” over an issue in a book?  I am sympathetic to their plight, but literature allows for the expression of powerful emotions. 

Odyssey:  Warning, contains everything.  Do not read.  Death, violence, sex, drugs, paganism, chauvinism.  Chuck it. 

Illiad – Warning:  contains everything, including the special relationship between Achilles and Patroclus.  We might have to discuss homosexuality.  You’re gone. 

Smurfs:  Warning:  contains issue of incest, paganism, domestic violence.  Chuck it. 

Sesame Street – Warning:  poverty issues, monsters living in garbage cans, scary vampires, obesity and addiction (Cookie Monster), mental illness because clearly these creatures should not be wandering around town. 

Lolita: Don’t get me started, you’re gone, even if you are the most brilliant and repulsive book ever written. 

Book of Laughter and Forgetting:  Child nudity, sex, sex, sex.  Chuck it even though it is one of the greatest books ever written. 

MacBeth:  Violence, murder, abortion.  Chuck it. 

Moby Dick – Trying to kill a whale.  Out

Watership Down – Warning, animal on animal violence

Catch-22:  Violence, death, PTSD (a character actually has to deal with this issue himself), violence against animals (Huple’s Cat), mental illness, sex, sex, prostitution, racism.  Clearly, the greatest book written in English is garbage.  Chuck it. 

Crime and Punishment:  Murder, violence against women (it is Russian after all).  You’re toast Dostoyevsky. 

The Handmaid’s Tale:  ridiculous levels of sex, violence, themes of sexual assault, murder, slave labor.  Clearly this brilliant novel that is about these issues should be labelled. 

Any book about war:  label that sucker, you’re out. 

The Bell Jar:  warning, contains suicide.  Gee.  Didn’t ruin that one did you? 

Personally, I am offended by any book about gender or sex.  I think they should be labelled. 

Every single day I teach history, I should probably label it.  In fact, I will label every controversial theme we talk about. 

Clearly, the biggest and most offensive book in history that deserves massive labels everywhere is the Bible.  Let’s look at it.  Slavery, incest, misogyny, violence, circumcision, extinction, torture, mental illness, war, death, sex, sexual imagery, death of children, famine, disease, sodomy, homosexuality , feet washing (in case this kind of thing happened to you), animal abuse, sacrifice, domestic violence, child abuse, people getting sold into slavery by their families, mass circumcision…. pretty much every single offensive and controversial issue in human history has been written about in the Alpha and Omega of books. 

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SPOILER ALERT: MAN GETS CIRCUMCISED

That’s the point of literature.  Political correctness has gone too far.  I agree with Harley Brown, racist hero of the Idaho Republican Primary debate.  “Hey diddle diddle, right up the middle,” and his policy on P.C.issues.  “P.C. is bondage,” says this modern-day champion for Civil Rights.  At least he is honest. 

Fringe Candidates Steal Show at Idaho Debate

The refined debate featured above brought up real issues.  As Alexis De Tocqueville pointed out, censorship has a peculiar role in a democracy.  The benign shaping of public discourse leads to a narrowing of ideas and opinions.  Despots attack the body, while democracies attack the soul. 

“Democratic republics have applied despotism to the minds of men.”  The warning label craze sweeping across academia is in my opinion, disgusting and counter-productive.  How can new professors or teachers ever assign books that are “too risque” for the average college student that may have ever had any problems in their entire lives?  Rape, PTSD, mental illness, racism, violence and other taboo subjects force people to think deeply about subjects.  If we shield the next generation from the realities of human existence, are we doing them any favors?

WARNING – DO NOT READ THE FOLLOWING POEM.  CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT, VIOLENCE, SEXUAL ASSAULT, VIRGINITY, CAPTIVITY, DIVORCE, VIOLENCE. 

Dear Lord, I shouldn’t read this poem either, although it is one of my favorite poems ever that has made me think  since Mr. Albrecht made us read it in Honors English in High School.  I am offended that he did not supply a label so I could leave the room when we discussed this saucy piece of poetry. 
BATTER my heart, three person’d God; for, you
As yet but knocke, breathe, shine, and seeke to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow mee,’and bend
Your force, to breake, blowe, burn and make me new.
I, like an usurpt towne, to’another due,
Labour to’admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in mee, mee should defend,
But is captiv’d, and proves weake or untrue.
Yet dearely’I love you,’and would be loved faine,
But am betroth’d unto your enemie:
Divorce mee,’untie, or breake that knot againe;
Take mee to you, imprison mee, for I
Except you’enthrall mee, never shall be free,
Nor ever chast, except you ravish mee

Sacre Bleu John Donne!  My eyes are burning from reading that.  Seriously, I don’t think I can go on today.  It’s too much. This is why people leave teaching.  Get out of the way and let teachers teach, and let professors profess. 

Things I do when I am bored. MAKE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS WHILE WORKING AT HOME

It takes years of doodling to be this untalented, or talentless if you prefer.  Don’t ask me why ….. there is a hot dog….or a reptile of some sort. 

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Found this on my computer and I have no idea why I made it.  I think it was to entertain one of the kids….. more likely to entertain myself. 

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For this one I was going to U.C. Berkeley and had to hear the LaRouche people standing on the corner spouting off about how role-playing historical drama would lead the masses to….something or other.  I don’t remember.  I probably should have dropped acid first before trying to read their paper. 

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One of the first poorly drawn ramblings I ran across this morning. 

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I signed it so it is more artistic that way.  I deliberately was going for a minimalist feel.  I swear. 

 

High-Level Historiographical Hilarity

Today I managed, with the collaboration of a Mendo student, to make the most nerdy, abstract and completely ridiculous joke I have ever heard.  It actually takes a lecture to understand the humor.  So here I go:  My Native American history class has been going pretty well, we learned all about Indian Removal and how the Five Civilized Tribes attempted to follow the path of the white man and take up Christianity, sedentary living, fashion, constitutional government, written alphabetic language, capitalism etc… Since the Cherokee lands were in the South (Georgia region), some of the Cherokee elites even picked up slaves to make like white people already.  

Today we were talking about the educational assimilation and assault on Native American culture after the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890.  I know, hilarious right?  I had a slide up talking about the Society of American Indians and their middle-class values and opposition to “Wild Westing” and other kinds of cultural issues. 

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I pointed to the man seated at the lower right hand side of the picture and made an off-hand comment about him not being happy. 

Student:  “He probably wants his slaves back.” 

Me:  “I bet he is thinking ‘God Damn 13th Amendment.” 

 

Laughter all around from the four of us that got that joke. 

I love you, California.

In every way.  From your verdant north, to your curvaceous coastline, to your desert-circled south.  Your sordid history appeals to me.  Show me this land, this secret, this history that is so unique among nations of the world.  California is sui generis, an independent being.  All others bow before the beauty of the Golden State.  Feline, she bears her hand on her hip, defying the world.  Asia, North, South, East, West, Native and Foreign, Forbidden yet open, mercurial.  You change like the wind.  Your passions know no bounds.  Alone, you stride amongst the nations of the Earth.  You treasure knowledge, you are Athena incarnate.  The crossroads of history and destiny belong in your bosom.  A mother, your nurture your children.  You protect us from the winds of fate, fooling the furies for our sake.  Your children walk amongst your crags and valleys, your deserts, your forests.  We marvel at the regal mystery of the redwoods.  The fog enshrouding certainty, you tease us with your liquidity.  The coasts are passionate crashes, cold in their fury.  They smash against your contours like a neglected lover.  You rattle with passion.  Fires ravage your body, yet you carry on.  Your children have suffered, yet you provide comfort.  The valleys produce an abundance for your people, a feast for the sense.  The winds move over you, stirring the soil, shaking the leaves, enveloping us with your embrace.  Your back is cold, sheltering us from the abuses of nature.  Frozen rage bombards your sides, yet you persevere.  Thirsty, you seek relief.  We pray for your salvation, knowing that your fate is ours.  We love you, yet fear you.  Vast, your power moves worlds, sews together peoples, connects the dispossessed.  Your mind guides the world.  The visions you produce provide a relief for the peoples of the world.  They envy you, yet they disdain your.  The nation condemns you.  Yet you persevere.  You give, to the nation, to your people, to the world.  Parasites climb your body.  We work.  We hunt.  We hate your enemies.  We hate those who speak in your name, claiming knowledge of the unknowable.  Capricious, mood altering every year.  You are bipolar.  Your people cry out for help, they try to uplift the people with your power.  They call on you.  They yearn for you in their sickness, in health.  For education.  For food.  For water.  We demand, we complain.  We curse your bounty while feasting on the surplus.  Disgusted, we turn away from you.  Yet you still offer sustenance.  You don’t abandon us in our plight.  Steadfast, you forgive our trespasses and open the horizons.  You teach the world.  The citizens of your kingdom pay homage to you.  Foreign nations fear and respect you.  Your brethren denounce you.  You pay, yet they hate you.  You carry the nation, but suffer its wrath.  Your lantern lights the way.  Our faith in your shall never waver.  Democratic, you allow dissent.  You invite discourse.  The laboratories of intellect confound mankind.  A warrior, you fight the world.  You bring hope and progress.  Alone.  Jealousy fades before your greatness. 

God bless you, California.  May your glories be sung through the heavens. 

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