Thursday, October 27, 2011

Times are bad. Children no longer obey their parents, and everyone is writing a book.

Myself included.

Keep a weather eye on the Kindle Store.

This is just the tip of the iceberg......

Monday, May 02, 2011

I’m No Conspiracy Theorist…

But consider the following episode occurring in a fictional land, not unlike our own:

The President's poll numbers are down. He's getting slammed in the media for everything from his cabinet appointees to the price of gasoline. Practically every word of his mouth is a complete and utter contradiction of a previous campaign promise. Even one of the most popular public figures in the media is able to force his hand on a fiasco surrounding his place of birth. A victory by the other side is all but assured in the next election (if they can just pick the right candidate and get one whiny ignoramus to shut her hole for ten minutes) in the wake of policy after failed policy, a skyrocketing mountain of debt, rampant unemployment, and a completely untenable illegal immigration problem.

What's the President to do? How can he get the American people behind him again? How can he capture the "hope" he promised to every living soul in this nation? And more importantly, how can he distract the citizens of this country from the real issues plaguing the nation?

How about he takes out the most vile, reprehensible mass murderer in modern American history?

A plan is hatched in the darkest, most secret corridors of the White House. The President will do in 24 hours what couldn't be done in the past ten years – the terrorist mastermind responsible for the most deadly attack on US soil will be captured or killed. Within a day, acting on "information" from the CIA and Military Intelligence, as well as a few clues from an unknown source known only as "The Courier," the compound where the terrorist has been hiding for seven years is located – in a fortified lair an hour's drive from the capital of an allied country. Then, an elite, covert strike team is "hand-picked," and sworn to the utmost secrecy – even from their own immediate commander. The invasion is planned, scrutinized, and given the green light within 24 hours of its inception. Shadowy black helicopters descend on the compound, and even though one of them crashes within yards of the target, no alarm is raised, no defensive fire is encountered, and no members of the strike team are even slightly injured. The target purportedly used a woman as a human shield, and yet he is swiftly dispatched by a single shot from one of the elite soldiers. Either the other denizens of the compound meet the same fate, or flee into the night.

Within the same 24-hour frame, the body of the world's most infamous terrorist is examined, transported to an aircraft carrier 1000 miles away from the strike zone, the DNA tested, (against what is never explained) and, once his identity is "confirmed," it is subsequently dumped into the sea according to a religious ritual that experts say is not only untraditional, but offensive as well. Not one shred of evidence remains to prove such an event even occurred – the "strike team" is, of course, sworn to the utmost in secrecy; no names or details of the operation can ever be released to the public in the name of National Security. The President immediately goes on the air and informs the public that the man responsible for 3000 American deaths, as well as holding the entire nation in a grip of fear and panic, is no more. A cheer is heard reverberating across the country. Citizens dance in the streets and exalt his name in chants and song.

But there are no pictures. No eyewitness accounts. No testimonies given by the combatants of either side. No video, no physical evidence, no declassified documents, and most importantly, no body. The body of the most feared, hated, and wanted terrorist of the modern age simply no longer exists.

There is not one shred of proof that this event even occurred, except the words of a President and his Administration desperate to hold onto their waning power.

Sleep soundly in your beds, America.

All is well. All is well.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Truth About E$E, Part I

I realize that I haven't written anything in some time, but an article I came across this afternoon sufficiently raised my ire enough to say something. Over at gothamschools.org, the teacher layoff bill introduced by State Senator Flanagan was enumerated in plain black and white. I'm not going to go into the specifics of it – you can certainly read it for yourself, and, if you have a shred of intellect, grind your teeth in frustration over many of the details – but I'd like to comment on one point made in the article:

"…the bill was written with input from the mayor's office, along with groups like Educators 4 Excellence — an organization of teachers who, with funding from the Gates Foundation, has put forward its own proposal to change teacher layoffs."

I'd like to examine this statement, because people unaffiliated with the public school system might wrongfully conclude that any of those people mentioned have any idea as to how to educate children. Let's start with the obvious; I won't thrash a deceased equine here, because hundreds of people in and out of NY have previously pointed out that Emperor Bloomberg doesn't have the slightest idea as to how to run a school system. So, when the article mentions, "Mayor's Office" it should be noted that the two people involved in such decision making are the aforementioned Mr. Bloomberg, who has repeatedly demonstrated that he cannot effectively have the streets cleared of snow, let alone competently assess the state of the NYC Public Schools, and the newly appointed Schools Chancellor Cathie Black, a millionaire crony of Bloomberg who not only has never taught a day in her life (and as such, was forced by the state to employ an experienced "educational advisor", which begs the question, "Why wasn't the advisor simply appointed to the position?") but regards the schools as a business with a profit margin, and who has surmised that the solution to the overcrowding problem in the schools is "Birth Control."

But those two clowns are not the ones I take issue with – at least not here. It's the disingenuous group known as "Educators 4 Excellence" run by post-adolescent lovebirds and former NYC teachers Sydney Morris and Evan Stone. In the interest of fairness and disclosure, Educators 4 Excellence should point out two things. Since they won't, I will.

1) It is not run in any way by educators. Both Stone and Morris are no longer affiliated with the NYC Public Schools. In other words, they are not educators. After just three years of teaching, they abdicated their positions in order to secure a $160,000 grant from the Gates Foundation to run their propaganda machine. Perhaps that's for the best, as neither of them ever completed the certification process necessary to teach. Using the NYS Certification Database, one can plainly discover that the "Educators" are not licensed to teach in NY State. Even though through their TFA program, (more on that in a moment) Stone and Morris were guaranteed to receive a fully subsidized NYS Teaching License, they failed to do so. A person who spent less than three years in a classroom, never received tenure, never received a license, and walked away when a better, non-teaching opportunity came along, can, in no way, shape, or form, refer to themselves as "Educators." Who are you educating? You have no class. In more ways than one.

2) The only thing "excellent" about either of them is their ability to exploit the system for their own advantage. Both are Teach For America alums, and if you're not familiar with TFA, let me summarize the organization thusly: Freshly-graduated college kids from the Midwest and notoriously liberal California suburbs, with little to no "real-world" experience, are thrust into classrooms in economically depressed areas of the country with a scant five weeks training. Being part of the program, they are guaranteed teaching positions, oftentimes surpassing real teachers with real experience applying for the same position. Why would a principal want to hire some kid with no credentials? Two reasons – one, because they have zero experience and no license, they are paid at the very bottom of the NYC pay scale, which currently is $45,530. Conversely, a principal would have to pay a fully licensed teacher with a Master's Degree and five years experience $56,048. When you consider that a school of 650 students (the norm for NYC) has a staff of 70 or so teachers, that $11,000 savings per teacher is substantial. Secondly, since they are untenured, the Principal can effectively order them to complete any task or risk being terminated. It doesn't matter anyway, because "according to a 2006 Newsweek article, between 10 and 15 percent of [TFA participants] drop out before completing the required two years, forcing the schools to scramble for replacements while the students go without. Even if they do fill out their requirement, only one in three TFA teachers stay on at their school after those two years. 38 percent of TFA alumni do not work in education at all, and many of those who do leave the classroom for administration." Stone and Morris represent the vast majority of TFA'ers who want nothing to do with actual classroom teaching after their term of "service" is up.

Speaking of costs, TFA participants receive an education award of $5,350 at the end of each year of service (a total of $10,700 over the two years), and major expenses during the five week training " institute" (e.g., housing, food) are covered. Furthermore, Teach For America offers awards in the form of interest-free loans and, in some cases, grants to help cover "transitional" expenses ranging from approximately $1,000 – $6,000. In addition, in the case of TFA members working in NYC, they receive a fully subsidized Master's Degree from Hunter College, Fordham University, or Bank Street College. A graduate degree in Education from Fordham University costs $1050 per credit for a total of $31,500. Essentially, within two years, Sydney Morris and Evan Stone cost the taxpayers about $90,000. Actually, when you consider that the NYC Department Of Education paid $11,000 in overtime between them for the 2008 fiscal year, the two founding members of E4E have racked up over $100,000 in benefits. Truly Excellent.

I don't have a problem with people attempting to fix the problems and inequities of the NYC DOE. If you haven't noticed, my entire blog is dedicated to pointing out the failures of the city school system – failures that come from administration, parents, students, and yes, teachers. What I do have a problem with are opportunistic frauds and publicity hounds like Stone, Morris and their ilk. They are in no way "dedicated" to fixing the system, nor are they interested in educating NYC's youth. Every time Morris opens her mouth, she mentions "our children," or "my children." She's 25 and not currently employed by any school system. Unless she and Stone have finally tied the knot (yes, they are a romantic couple, in case you haven't figured that out yet), she has no children. The children of NYC belong first and foremost to their parents, and, when working closely with the schools, to the teachers that have sacrificed so much of their own time and resources to make sure that they provide those children with the best education that is possible within a flawed system.

You are not "Educators," Mr. Stone and Ms. Morris. You are not "Excellent." You are presumptuous, dishonest, hypocritical, inexperienced, exploitive and opportunistic. Drop the rhetoric, go back from whence you came and leave the policy making to those of us who have done so much more than merely dip our toes in the system in exchange for handouts, subsidies and payoffs.

You are not worthy to wipe the chalk dust from our shoes.