Thursday, May 05, 2005

Answers for Ian

Attention: for readers who do not know me or the friednship I treasure with Ian hear this. Ian is one of my most valued friends. I don't call him enough, but he doesn't call as much either. That is the beauty of it, I know I could go months without talking with him, but if a crisis came up, I could count on him being there for me. What follows is a truly friendly discourse on our differences in the political world.

Oh, Ian. I love you man. I honestly was not expecting a full post dedicated to roiling over my previous statements regarding your president.

Let me start my reply with saying that I have meant every single word I have said regarding the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I appreciated your not ascribing my statements to ignorance. I do wonder though about your implying my blindness or irrationality. I realize my words have a punch, I intended them to. Anyway, on to the matter.

On the charge of Murderer: The invasion of Iraq was a premeditated, 'pre-emptive' strike against terrorism,

or to enforce previous U.N. resolutions,

or to get rid of WMD,

or to free the Iraqi people,

or whatever the reason du jour happens to be coming from the White House.

In any event it was pre-planned. We can't argue that. The president and his planners knew there would be people killed. They planned, they knew. Thousands have died. At last count, there are least 7,000-10,000 dead Iraqis. And that does not even count the deaths that occurred due to the breakdown of law and order after Saddam's ouster. According to those pesky Geneva Conventions, when you occupy a country you are legally held responsible for that sort of thing. Conventional news organizations like CNN, MSNBC and the NY Times have run articles in the past year detailing the issue. I apologize for not having the links readily available. It is also fairly well established by the Defense department's own admission that they do not even count civilian Iraqi deaths for lack of 'credible' information. You asked who this guy is murdering. Simple, the deaths of thousands of Iraqis are the direct result of his plans. It is clear to me he planned, he knew, and death resulted from his actions. That my frined is murder. You can dress it up any way the GOP wants, but it is still murder. If there was no Second Gulf War, there would not be these deaths. I could easily apply this term to other presidents and world leaders. Would it bother you less if I applied them to a Democrat? Hmmm. . .

I have no problem with war. Sometimes it is justified. Not this time, Ian. Do you ever really sit and think about the thousands of Iraqi lives that have been ruined because of the president's actions? I do. The president never, I mean never talks about it, man. Because he knows that will direct scrutiny at the wisdom of his actions. How do you think this makes many Iraqis or Muslims feel? We kill their people and the guy responsible never speaks of it? What does this say about our culture Ian? A Christian president is reponsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims and the world knows that Christians supported this guy in the election. What does this say about our Christian witness? No, I have no problem with justified war. I have a problem with murder.

On the charge of Cheat: Actually, I used the term thief. But I digress. It is not what Mr. Bush's policies are personally cheating me out of that I take issue with. But I find it interesting that you would assume that I would be concerned with 'me', rather than others. Anyway, the Bush administration did indeed cook up legislation to do away with certain overtime laws that took away, stole, overtime pay from working people. The legislation affected 8,000,000 people. How much harder do you suppose it is for those families now to make ends meet without that additional pay they may have relied on? They used to have the money. Bush created legislation that took it away. Who do you suppose they blame, John Kerry? It is clear to me that this president, like others before them, have no real compassion for the working class. They might conjure up a pretty sound bite claiming they do during a campaign, but once elected and push comes to shove, he will sell the working class out to his big corporate benefactors. The money was taken from workers. Not elites. Not special interests. Not me. Just your average, working class American. You know, the backbone of America.

To take what previously belonged to someone else is called stealing. At least that is what my mother taught me. And yes, I am aware of the logical extension of this line of thinking to Native Americans. But that topic can wait for another post.

On the charge of Liar: I'll admit, because of the art of politics this is the hardest charge to prove. I will simply offer up a few of my own observations. I'm a well read person. Not as well read as some, but better than most people I run into on a daily basis. Forgive the sound of arrogance. In addition, I'm an avid newshound. I teach history. Today's news is tomorrow's history. Therefore I feel that I am a good observer of most things in the political/social arena. Having said that, it is clear to someone like me that by 2003, if there were WMD in Iraq, they would have already made their way into the hands of terrorists, if Saddam were truly that insane. Add to the fact that it was a fairly widely held beleif in political circles that Saddam was more concerned with Iran than the U.S., it seems unlikely that he would have passed on WMD to Osama bin Laden. Now it is true, the intellegence agencies of the U.K., France, Germany and Russia all agreed with the CIA that Iraq had unaccounted for amounts of chemical and gas agents. But Russia cannot account for 3% of it's nuclear material since the fall of Communism. Are they next on the Axis of Evil hit list?

All of this is to say that George W. Bush listened to what he wanted to hear. It is widely published that the decision to remove the Iraq threat was made shortly after 9/11. Probably after the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Before any new UN resolutions, he made a decision and then found morsels of 'intelligence' to justify the position without endeavoring to truly evaluate the validity of the information. In some cases he actually enhanced what was known, took suspicious claims as gospel and sold it to the American people because it suited his plans. You may be right. It might not be lying outright. But in college when I was taught how to do honest research I was taught to go into a topic blind and let the research draw the conclusion for me. Mr. Bush seems to have missed that point. Funny though, I think they teach that at Yale. . George W. Bush may not have lied like Bill Clinton did, heck, nobody can lie like that guy. But nobody died when Clinton lied.

On the charge of Simpleton: No, I do not think George W. Bush is the American Idiot. Nor the Resident Gas Man (catching your Green Day reference). I don't even think he is the brains of the operation. I give that label to Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. Rove has got to be one of the most brilliant political strategist in recent history. Your president's occassional mangling of the English language is nothing to make fun of. As someone who makes thier living by speaking to people everyday I know sometimes words get mangled, I do it myself. No my friend, Bush's stupidity stretches to who he probably really is. He is a simple guy. A straighforward guy. With very little interest in anything else than what is directly in front of him . He appears to have no sense of wonder about the world around him. For crying out loud, prior to the invasion of Iraq Colin Powell had to explain the difference between a Sunni and Shiite Muslim to him. He travels only when he has to and prefers other world leaders, Tony Blair included, to come to him. He is simple. Thus the use of the word simpleton. I'm sorry, I shy away from people who are not inquisitive. They kind of scare me because they usually tend to be narrow minded, or should I say 'resolute', or 'staying the course'.

Because of the above mentioned attributes, George W. Bush will listen only to people who think like him and buy into most things they sell him. You see, lack of inquisitivenes leads to this sort of unquestioning thing that starts wars, or raping of the environment or anachronistic energy policies. He is a simpleton because he allows himself to be manipulated in many ways by the people around him, because he lacks interest in dealing with details and readily leaves them to his associates. The Yale degree can't be taken away from him. I've never fallen into the trap that he bought it with his daddy's money. I don't believe he did. But I do know that Bush used that Yale MBA to drive every business he's ever owned into the ground. Smart.

To finish out, I didn't say the entire electorate was duped, merely many of the 51% percent of it who voted for him. And by the way, 51% doesn't make a mandate. I know that you made your voting decisions inteligently as you know I made mine, as I know others whom I love who voted for him. But many Bush voters were not hornswaggled by Bush, he is too simple to do it alone, yet clever enough to let others do it for him. It is all about Karl Rove. The entire campaign was about deflecting attention from Bush's record on certain wars and directing attention on isolated Kerry situations. Kerry, who by the way ran a horrible campaign. Karl Rove and Dick Cheney are the real Svengalis. If you don't believe me, you are just not reading enough.

You are correct, we have the best thing going. It is not perfect, but it continues to evolve in that direction. This election was special because it was a moratorium on the president killing thousands that he never speaks of, stealing money from working men and women, lying and 51% of my fellow Americans did not seem to regard those offenses as heavily as I did. Such is the nature of democracy. There is nothing special about George W. Bush personally, other than where he lives. He is a murderer, thief, liar and simpleton. I stand by my words.

Just to sweeten the deal, here is my voting record since 1988:

George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Al Gore, John Kerry.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The Test

Below is a to the editor of our local paper that I will never send.

Dear Editor,
This past week high school students in our district took their state-standardized exams. For the first time in several years the exams more accurately reflect the material that is taught in the classroom in accordance with state content standards. It troubles me as a local educator that something that should be viewed, as a time to celebrate student learning will eventually turn into a rapid blame game. You see, eventually the scores for these exams will be released to the public. And while scores have consistently gone up in the last several years, there will still be a vocal portion of the community that will decree poor student performance, ineffective and incompetent teachers and generally declare that the system has failed our students. This is the reason for my writing today.

Do not get me wrong, there are challenges in our educational system that are being met head on. However, the fault for less than spectacular test scores will not entirely be the fault of the person at the chalkboard. During this last round of testing I was surprised by the swiftness that some of my students completed their tests. For example, when given 85 minutes to complete a 35 question reading section, several students finished in 10-20 minutes. Granted some students are wonderful readers and can accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time, but come on, that’s about 17 seconds per question. And students were supposed to read large passages of text before answering questions. When I asked some students how they were able to finish so early they replied “ I just guessed”, or “I didn’t read the question”. I then made them go back to the exam and read over the questions, which they pretended to do. This happened in just about every subject matter exam that they took that week. So I asked many of them why they behaved this way when it came to the testing. They said things like, “These test don’t mean anything”, “I don’t care about these tests”, one girl replied, “If it doesn’t hurt my grades, why should I care?” So I consulted with my colleagues and found that their experiences were very similar to mine. Another student of mine asked me if she didn’t show up for a test what would happen. I told her that she would be called in another day to take it. She then asked what would happen if she were absent on that day. I asked what she was getting at. She said, “Well, what if you just don’t want to do it? You shouldn’t have to do something that you don’t want to.” Even when I attempted to explain that these test scores will affect their ability to get into certain classes or that these scores will go into their permanent student file, most of them didn’t really seem to care. Some students responded “ If I like the teacher, I might try on their test”.

So I ask you, as an educator, how am I supposed to combat this level of apathy and indifference? Where is the student accountability for their performance or lack thereof on these exams? Many students just do not care. These tests do not directly impact them and they know it. How are their test scores supposed to accurately reflect how hard teachers are working? Where is the justice in this outcome?

Then there is the exam itself. It gets better every year. That is one reason why scores continue in an upward direction for the most part. But the exam we use here was normed in the Midwest. Most of the students there do not have a lot in common with the average urban Hip Hopper in SoCal. The wording of questions is akward and for years, the exams were not even in line with state content standards. Think about it. For years hard working teachers have been teaching to standards that were not even being measured at the state level. Frustrating.

I’m optimistic, as a teacher you have to be, that our student scores will satisfy some. But ultimately, those who have an axe to grind against public education will sharpen it if they do not like the scores when they see them, never taking into account what I have just shared.