Winnie Hu, "Teachers Get Chance to Fix Poorer Schools". September 6
HAPPY Belated Birthday to D. Sidhe, who is the reason I blog but is in all other respects a wonderful person.
As someone who's spent over half a century in America's Heartland (Motto: "If You Don't Like the Weather, Just Wait Five Minutes, and If You Don't Like Never-ending Discussions of the Weather, Move") yet still cringes every last time someone uses seen as the simple past tense of see (which, for example, occurs in 98% of all local news involving an eyewitness report), just let me say that if you suffer the same affliction do not go nosing around online through bicycle sales, where "This bike was rode very little" qualifies as the fancy book-larnin' version of "This bike is hardly road."
It is possible, I guess, that the confusion of see's past participle for simple past and the difficulty over ride's simple past, variously orthographed, as past participle, which manage to travel both directions down a one-way street and get it wrong each time, somehow cancel each other exactly in some grand Cosmic scheme. I won't speculate. I've never been a particularly big fan of the Cosmos, anyway.
Any road, the accompanying snapshots of said bike speak of a comfortable middle-class existence, or more, at least in our limited sampling. So while we bemoan the intrusion of partisan politics into every corner of American life, still, if some extension of Truth in Advertising regulations forced said eBayers and craigslisters to reveal their personal positions on Our Failing Schools we would all be in some ways the better for it. Once we seen it in action.
Now, I've been busy with more than window-shopping bikes, so that in addition to missing D. Sidhe's birthday I returned late to this post from brave Indiana blogger Doug Masson, which had taken note of Eric Bradner's August 29 piece in the Evansville Courier & Press chronicling the Dick Lugar-led takeover of Marion county by the city of Indianapolis, which put Republicans in charge of things for a generation by diluting the votes of African-Americans inside the old city limits. And which, specifically, did so while preserving the then-lily-white township schools on the outskirts. I said my piece; by the time I got back I found I'd been challenged to defend Gary schools, 140 miles to our northwest, on the grounds that Gary had not annexed Marion county in the 60s, and, as the district is 98% African-American, automatically qualifies as Failing, especially if one either makes up graduation numbers or borrows some from Colin Powell, a distinction without a difference. All of which proves, somehow, that We aren't racist.
I undertook the defense, anyway, which proved remarkably easy: beyond the typical misuse of per student spending, Gary's students, despite a poverty rate which was approaching 40% in 2007, score roughly 90% of the state average in math, and mid-to-upper 80s in English, on the state NCLB test. This is, of course, in comparison to the rest of the state's public school students, who are being prepared, more or less, for the same test; figures comparing the results to The Average Suburbanite With a Bicycle For Sale were unavailable.
If this is Failure it's a peculiar sort, in a world where C students become President, serial community-college attendees with no discernible language skills become nationally recognized political philosophers, and weak-hitting utility infielders pull down $3.3 million per. It's something we'd like these Do-Gooders from Teach for America to consider before they run off to the consulting careers they know await, leaving a generation of real career teachers to clean up more than the occasional lunch table: improving test scores is a noble enterprise, but a journey of a thousand miles begins, not by rushing off in every direction at once, but by switching on the GPS so you can figure out where you're standing to begin with.