Wednesday, June 20, 2007


Can Congress And The President Have Negative Poll Numbers?

Back on May 15, I noted a post by Alvaro Llosa about the situation France faces with new leadership in power. He made a comparison to Britain when the Thatcher government took control. The British discovered that it was a painful experience, making those changes, but that they had no desire to go back. The key bit (Llosa quoting Matthew Parris):
But even at the low point of Thatcher's first term ... you almost never heard anyone suggest a return to what had gone before. There was a sense, in 1979, that we had burnt a bridge behind us, and had wanted to.

Now if you would be so kind as to direct your attention to this Instapundit post, you'll note that Congress has reached an all time low confidence rating of 14%. Note also the Zogby result showing approval of the way immigration is being handled, by Congress and by the President, at 3% and 9% respectively.

Perhaps you'll be so kind as to share your thoughts about whether or not we might find ourselves burning some bridges of our own, and whether or not 2008 is too soon to start stockpiling matches.

Actual Update: Thanks to Instapundit for the link.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Put A Little Extra In The 401K, Mabel!

If you don't, you might have to go to a second rate nursing home. The sort of place that hires caretakers who wrote notes like this to other kids when they were in school:

Tew: ShoRty

Hey ShoRty. Wadd it DeW. Watcha been Up 2? Why Did Ya mamma bReaK UR fone? Why did u hav 2 go 2 theRapy. Well I was talking to my fRieND Angel He’s gonna go 2 juvy pRetty soon Cuz he stabbed DIS BoY with ScissoRs The Boy was talking shit I gess and anel went out ta ConRol and grabbed some scissoRs and started BeatiN dat dude. Da Boy DiDn’t die. Probably gonna hav some scaRs anyways watcha been up to. Me NuthiN. Well anyways Ilike ya sweater. Let me borrow it one day? Where DiD u Buy it? I’ma go Back with my dad pretty soon.
Boo Boo

Or maybe kids have always written notes like this.

Try not to cry yourself to sleep tonight.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


You Dirty Rat!

Let's have a little background. Other, who are much smarter than I am, have put forth an interesting notion elsewhere about the nature of dictatorships. In free western societies, we can be incredulous about how people can possibly be live under such conditions as are found in Iran or North Korea. Do they actually like living there? It seems impossible, so why do they put up with it?

Of course, they don't want to get killed. However, there's also the question of what we might call the perception of will to dissent. It may very well be the case that 95% of the people in North Korea hate the government. The number may even be higher. However, if the state police are doing their jobs, it may also be the case that every individual in that 95% thinks he is the only one who wants to rise up against the government. If voicing dissent gets you killed, you aren't likely to breathe a word of your true feelings. Unfortunately, neither will anyone else, and the 95% ends up feeling like they must be crazy to hate a society that everyone else loves. While each individual may feel a will to dissent, the perception is that each person is alone in a sea of conformity.

None of this is to say that my school is a police state. None of this is to say that the administrators here are power-mad dictators. I'm just saying that a recent string of events at school had some similarities that brought the perception of the will to dissent to mind.

We have a district email system, in which each employee has an email account. It is possible to send individual emails to anyone in the district. It is also possible to send an email to everyone at an individual school site. Since there is almost no opportunity for staff to give input or express concerns about issues at the school (sorry, we can't discuss that, this meeting is all about testing), you might imagine that there is the occasional temptation to vent in an email.

These may be issues between individual members of the staff, or between the staff and the administration. How often these are handled privately, with individual emails, I naturally have no idea. However, when they are handled in mass emails addressed to the entire staff, the administration often does see fit to remind us that the email system is for school business. Without going back to reread some of the disputes that have come up over this year, I will admit that some occasions were situations involving two individuals and did not need to be aired in public, as it were. Still, I'm also comfortable with the assertion that some valid issues were raised, about which the entire staff had a right to be concerned and on which the entire staff had a right to be heard, should they be so inclined as to comment.

It may be the case that even these issues should not have been handled over email. While technically that might be correct, shutting down staff input and discussion alienates the staff, and reduces effectiveness and productivity. The goals of the organization are less likely to be met. The workplace is not a positive environment. Your district gets a reputation for being one of the worst. Your district ends up begging 2,000 staffers to look high and low for new teachers who might want to join the district, at a $300 a head bounty (0f course, if you sell the district to a friend, you might gain $300, but you'll likely lose the friend). Your district ends up paying $175 a day for substitutes.

Let's pick a random issue. For example, if the school refuses to invoke discipline against tardy students, and the school refuses to back the efforts of individual teachers to invoke discipline against tardy students, how long are individual teachers going to make any effort to encourage students to be on time?

You may recall that we have somewhere upwards of 200 students tardy to first period every day. Or you may not recall, since I took a quick look and couldn't find it. You may also recall, or, again, not, that in a discipline roundtable (we had one whole meeting this year, woohoo!), there was some discussion of what to do about these tardy people. It had been understood at the beginning of the year that tardy students would get detentions. We were informed of several problems with that solution.

First, if we gave everyone detentions, that would mean 200 detentions a day, and where would we put all these kids, and who would monitor them? Second, given that we could expect that 80% of the detention kids wouldn't show up (yeah, you didn't think our school was well-run, did you?), that would mean sticking 160 kids into In School Suspension, and there's no way we can jam that many kids in there, and who's going to do all that paperwork for each of those kids? Third, ISS would only be an alternative to actual suspension, and if the AP's have to write 160 suspensions, why, they'd just spend the whole day filling out suspension forms! Can't you see how crazy that is??? So obviously, since we can't do any form of suspension, and the discipline rubric demands some sort of suspension for a student who doesn't serve detention, our only option is not to have detentions.

So what are we going to do about tardy students?

Well, we'll work on a plan.

That was back in October, maybe November. Meanwhile, I've got a little Sally in first period with somewhere in the range of ninety tardies. Hey! Don't sell her short! She'd have broken 100 if she hadn't also had twenty or thirty absences. The school doesn't care.

Each student who walks into school late is supposed to fill out this little tardy admit slip. It's a triplicate form. The school keeps one copy, the student gets a copy, and the teacher gets a copy. The school copies must be filed or stored or entered into some database somewhere.

No one has ever heard of anything happening as a result of getting any number of these slips filled out. And now we're back to the email. Any questioning of the regime is an improper use of email. I'd like to know what we're doing with all these tardy slips. I'm sure lots of other teachers would like to know what we're doing with all these tardy slips. Maybe even 95% of teachers would like to know what our school plan is for improving attendance and dealing with tardies.

One thing is for sure, we better not try to find out how many over the email. Ask the teacher across the hall, or next door? Sure. Get the opinion of six or seven people who sit with you at lunch? No problem. But one or two or three or six or seven is not a number that tells you anything about the school. It's a number that gets you ignored, and marked as a troublemaker. Then you'll hear, months later, from someone who was at some meeting somewhere, that when a certain topic comes up for discussion, your name is tossed out as being a rabble-rouser on that issue.

Now you can start to see the similarities. What really made the status quo stand out was a recent breaking of the status quo. One teacher stepped up and wrote an email to the entire staff, asking why she often sees a certain Billy wandering the school. That alone was unusual. Then a second teacher wrote, to the entire staff, mentioning that she sees that same student wandering. A third and a fourth teacher followed with Billy sightings. Suddenly, even though we see kids wandering the campus rather freely, an administrator came on the email to inform us that she had talked to Billy's mom, and if Billy is caught wandering again, he'll be suspended.

No wonder they don't want us discussing anything that makes the school look bad on email. Nobody knows what they're doing with all those tardy slips. Nobody knows what is being done about those kids. If nobody talks about it, nobody has to do anything. Without a name, it's just some kid, and without a name, the administrator responsible for that student is not identified.

But with a few public emails about a single, named student? Suddenly, there's action. I'm not sure if I'm holding my breath for follow-up with only three weeks left, but at least it's something.

Hell, since I'm already a rabble-rouser, I may keep this in mind for next year. Maybe publicly naming students and administrators will encourage the school to start controlling the students, rather than the other way around.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Don't Cry For Me Argentina

Two new tidbits from the district:

A memo has been circulated. If you tell a friend about our district, and they get hired, you'll get a $300 finder's fee.

Substitute pay is now $175 a day.

Neither of these details says anything good about our district.

Also not a sign of anything good:

The district has no idea what these two facts imply about the way things are done in our district.

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