Sunday, April 16, 2006

Which Media Should Alabama 8th Graders View?

For this first paragraph only, DO NOT CLICK THE LINKS! provides a slide show titled "American Civics II" and via we can see a video labeled "Topless Car Wash". From their titles alone, one might think that at least one would be appropriate for an 8th grade class in a North Alabama High School named West Limestone. It is a science class taught by Steve White. Which one might be appropriate? You can look and especially think now, as you really ought to before you making any decision.

Mad Michelle Malkin gave her "Unhinged Teacher of the Week" to Steve White calling his actions "the latest government education outrage from Alabama" Congrats for the snaps Steve but it takes little to get Ms. Malkin stirred up. Especially if she can use the angle to stack cheese. This is of course the loony that wrote a favorable book on Japanese CITIZENS being placed in concentration camps in the early years of WWII. Her Asian ethnicity helps her in her shrill shilling of GOP talking points. I think the editor for her work has lately been Box Turtle Ben of WaPo infamy.

Kelly Kazek of The Athens Herald reported "Demo candidate accused of showing Bush-bashing video to his students : Parent says West science teacher showed eighth graders video with obscenities"

The Athens Herald editorial on the issue is entitled "Questions need answering about video incident" with the only question seemingly being asked being what punishment, if any, was handed out by the school system. The editorial reads in part,

...we received a copy of Carroll’s two-sentence statement Friday: “The matter at West Limestone is a personnel issue and has been dealt with. There are no additional comments.” By state law, personnel matters concerning school faculty, administrators and staff may be handled internally and kept confidential if they concern “the good name and character” of the person involved.

However, in a public school board meeting in December, Carroll recommended the board fire a bus driver who allegedly said the phrase “p—-ed off” and the d-word to students on the bus. The board voted not to terminate the driver.

We want to know how a teacher playing a song with the word “a—hole” seen and sung 20 times and the s-word once to a science class of eighth grade students differs from the bus driver’s uttered phrases. Now that the matter and the name of the person involved have been made public, there is no reason not to disclose what happened in that classroom and how it was handled. ...

Kelly Kazek and Sonny Turner reported at the Athens Herald a piece entitled "West teacher subject of new complaints" that,

Christy Jackson, whose son is in White's eighth grade science class, ... also made her son say “John Kerry rocks” before leaving class one day.The clip ... also included the s-word and showed someone “flipping a bird.”
Additional reporting by Kelly Kazek is entitled "Student: Clips show drinking, partial nudity" where "Bobby" and his mother Christy Jackson are the identified sources. Ms. Kazek writes,

The clips typically came via e-mail to White’s classroom computer, he said. Other clips the boy said he has seen in class include, in his words:

• “A girl with a beer in one hand and a cigarette in the other with her bikini top pulled down. It showed everything but it had a little star over the nipple. It said ‘Alabama fan’ at the bottom.”

• “A guy with a clear glass of beer, drinking from, like, a tube from a keg. He would drink and as he would get full, he would throw it back up and it would go back into the tube and he would drink it again.”

The class also saw clips of The Fruitcake Lady, an elderly woman character who appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno to dispense “naughty” advice, according to the show’s Web site.

• Bobby said in a Fruitcake Lady clip “about a month ago, in one of them, they would ask questions like, ‘My boyfriend’s cheating on me, what should I do?’” The teen said the character would then begin cursing and saying what she would do to a cheating boyfriend.

Bobby said the videos and filmstrips took precedence over schoolwork in White’s class. “I’ve never, all this year, had a decent science class,” he said. “Even if you could pass up the videos, you weren’t learning anything.”Bobby said he knew his mother would not approve. “She would not want me watching this,” he said. “I didn’t really hesitate to say anything to her about it.” Bobby said he would not mind giving his name if not for his mother’s concerns.“I’m not worried about it at all,” he said.

Bobby asked if he could say one last thing about the filmstrip describing President Bush and his administration in vulgar terms.“I think this one about President Bush, whether you like his values and opinions and morals, he’s still the president of the greatest country in the world and you shouldn’t disrespect him,” he said.

Young "Bobby" I will write later yet right now I'll suggest that Mr. Bu$h has shown disrespect and in fact utter contempt for our Constitution and this nation's citizens, plus basic rights of any human being on this earth. Also, there's a big chunk of the world that does not accept American "exceptionalism". In fact some even resent the hell out of it. I'm sorry I dropped a "worty dird" on you and I'm sure you never hear any profanity in a high school. That being offered, I agree that perhaps some of your teacher's actions do need examing and I'll do this before I wind up this increasingly long post.

Even more reporting by Kelly Kazek entitled "The Creator of controversial filmstrip asks teacher ‘What were you thinking?’" provides a rather complete update in pointing out that White had been given a formal letter of reprimand. The feedback section for creator "aV guy" has a few interesting comments (Some on the March 22, 2006 portion linked to above and others that you can find to the left. Also, DON"T LOOK BOBBY AS YOU"LL SEE SOME REALLY FOUL LANGUAGE .... plus some dreadful typos!) such as

What a bunch af ASSHOLES to publish such garbage ! This is our American President ! A total lack of respect for ourcountry, the office of President, and self respect for themselves could only be at the root of this tactless display ! Regardless of who the president is, which party he represents, he is still the President of the United States of America, the greatest country on earth. My turn for a question- Where are the ASSHOLES that were going to leave this great country if George Bush were to be elected to a second term? The scum sucking assholes are all show and no go ! Good-bye Seam Penn, Jane Fonda, Alec Baldwin and the like, keep your word, LEAVE- permently- I for one will help finance your one-way trip to your home in Afghanistan or Iraq.... good ridance.. GO ... PLEASE ! Maybe someone will have the chance to breathe the good air you don't deserve ! GOD BLESS THE USA, her people and her leaders !- DK, Texas (DK leaves us, and I'll circle around to this one for certain, with a quote that this generous man attibutes to Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father, reading "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.")

HEY #10! Yeah, the one who called us a bunch of whiny cunts and defends Shrub by saying that being President is such a hard job- Were you that understanding of Bill Clinton, when he was doing a GOOD job of protecting us from terrorist attacks AND balancing our budget AND doing it all with the existing laws and the support of the free world?No, you were there cheering during that pathetic Republican coup attempt called an Impeachment. Because you're an ignorant redneck who hates America and all we stand for.- WPD, California

The ideas of the people who made this filmstrip are far beyond my realm of reasoning & thus I can only describe it [& them] as totally DISGUSTING!!!!If this is how these people feel about Bush with all of the good he's done, they must love that drunken bum, Ted Kennedy with his Chappaquiddick 'incident' let's hope all their red noses burn like Hell!!!! Anyone UNpatriotic enough to believe this junk should not be allowed to live in the USA, but thank G-d, they have President Bush to protect their right to do so!!!!And, if they really hate it SO much.....there's still room left in the Al Qaeda Camp, just for them!!!!SRH[A VERY Patriotic Republican American who is VERY Right Wing & proud of it!!!!]- SRH, Rhode Island

The "You're An Asshole" one was preaching to the chior with me since I already knew that most republicans, heterosexists and religionists are. There are a few good people in each of those three groups I just mentioned, but unfortunately not nearly enough to make any difference.I wouldnt vote for anyone in ghe current White House regime for dog-catcher.- D.H., America

Such a fitting tribute to a group of "assholes" that all should be six feet under instead of the 2000 plus true american heroes that layed down thier lives on fake intelligence but did it for the love of this country. Karma is a bitch and there will be a day that everyone of these "assholes" will have to come to terms and pay for what they have done.- dc, florida

It is a daily grief to live in a state where your sisters and even some of your friends voted for this child of Barbara & GHW. I do not know how they insulate themselves from the horror of their own tenure in the White House-- which saw the FIRST invasion of Iraq on behalf of an oil interest--much less the willing deceit of their son in unlawful ascent (twice) to the office of the president, and the depravity of his soul in the foundation and fueling of a web of lies and secrecy. The worst of all, however, was knowing that he actually won on the votes of so-called Christians who were sucked into the republican strategy to go to the polls and vote against gay and lesbian citizens of this country. They weren't voting for him so much as they were voting against same-sex marriage, because they were told that was what the election was all about. Ignorance and fear. Apparently it is the winning ticket. And they will be using it again in the Fall 2006 elections because, at this moment in time, the Democrats also are neither smart enough nor brave enough to stand up and tell the truth.- thh, the blue center of a red state

Also, Ms. Kazek tells her readers that Mr. White is now on administrative leave while new allegations are being investigated. She writes,

Limestone County School System administrators Wednesday discussed the investigation into allegations that White showed additional obscene clips, including one of an sexually explicit animated chip (sic? - likely a typo of "clip") of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. No action was taken Wednesday but an outcome was expected today. White has not returned calls.

Ms, Kazek gave holocaust denier David Horowitz space to shill his books and talking points however on "academic freedom" She did not mention his She gave his Center for Popular Culture ink. This organization is funded by the various Scaife Foundations, the Coor's Castle Rock Foundation, ... plus Fox News "Hannity and Colmes" and even Governor Riley to express his outrage. "Beyond you" indeed Governor? Maybe Michael Scanlon could explain? Yet, referencing the filmstrip creator's website commenting she does not supply a URL or link or ...

Holly Hollman of The Decatur Daily reported "Teacher who showed students offensive Bush video is candidate for state office". She reported the clip was shown right before Spring Break with no explanation given. Ms. Hollman wrote in part,

... It refers to a country at war, the poor getting poorer and jobs moving overseas. Then it shows a color photo of President Bush with a profane caption.

That upset some parents, who complained to school officials about the content of the clips featuring Bush, members of his administration and his supporters.

Other captions, some containing profanity, are shown under photos of Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, Vice President Dick Cheney, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. ...

Parent Christy Jackson, whose son saw the film in White's class, said she thinks the motivation was political. Jackson said White is anti-Bush.

Jackson said she is upset because she wants her son to respect other people's religion, beliefs and political views.

Pam Wallace, chairwoman of the local Democratic Executive Committee, said she is in Montgomery and had not heard about the incident. "So I don't see how I can comment on it," Wallace said.

Jim Burden, chairman of the local Republican Party, said, "It bothers me that he took his political opinion into the classroom. That's not what we're paying him to teach. He should be teaching students how to make gold out of lead and stick to science."

District 4 Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, who is seeking re-election, said this is "absolutely not appropriate material" for eighth grade or high school. "I know he's my opponent, but I would say this about any teacher who showed something like that. You shouldn't use your position as a teacher to influence children about your political opinions," Hammon said. "That is wrong. He's abusing his authority."

Hammon said legislators are debating getting the Bible taught in schools as an elective, and "we sure don't need to have to come back and battle over stuff like this getting in the classroom."

Hammon said the school system needs to reassure parents that "this won't happen again."

I found this Easter edition editorial from The Decatur Daily rather interesting,

..."unless" is mighty because it trumps all other. Time marches forward unless we accept the renewal offered to us through the death of Jesus, a renewal whose power we saw, and see, through the resurrection. Death comes ever closer unless we accept a renewal that rebukes the hurry of time, that topples the temple of the finite.

We are so immersed in the temporal, we so often "hurry up please" for time, that we struggle to recognize the gift that undoes time. Like Cleopas on the road to Emmaus, we can't see renewal when it stares us in the face.

But the rebirth promised by the resurrection is real, indeed far more real than football or overdoses or cancer. Those realities are fleeting; the reality bestowed upon us by a man in pain and slumped on a cross is eternal. God forecast the renewal offered through his son with Abraham, whom God "reckoned righteous." He let Abraham rewind to a point before sin. He let Abraham accomplish what eludes us in daily life. God washed out Abraham's past sins.

Almost as implausible, Jesus washed out our finiteness even as he understood it. He understood our fear of hunger because he fasted. He understood our thirst because he went without. He experienced our pain, and our fear of it, as the thud-thud-thud of a hammer pierced his living body with nails.

He understood because, out of his love for us, he experienced it. And, of course, he experienced death. He dragged his cross toward death, soldiers and Pharisees reminding him, "Hurry up please it's time." He locked himself in linear time from birth to death so he could make our time his, and so he could kill it by dying himself. He wept with us for Lazarus, consuming himself with our grief and denying himself the escape from mortality that God withheld until Easter morning.

We hope you have a wonderful Easter. Enjoy the colors of Easter dresses and dogwood, of blue skies and green grass. Soak up the beauty and pleasure that, while finite, bring joy. But don't immerse yourself entirely in that pleasure, or in your grief. Through his death and resurrection, Christ washed out the limitations of a life that ends with death. He promised us renewal.

Wow! I'll drop the post but it is a work in progress. I need to stew on this one. Peace ... or War!

Update - I've stewed a bit and even contacted a single source that lives up that way. I understand the school system is looking at the hard drive and servers to see what nasty deeds Mr. White has been up to. I also need to remind you that I tried my darndest to teach 8th graders for four years and tackled efforts with 9th-12th graders in this last year. I'll write on my personal experiences and ideas later.

I'll do this sort of in order according to the post and then also in my stream of consciousness style. First of all, "Bobby" has likely seen a few beer advertisements, perhaps even from Anheuser-Busch and Coors. Second of all, The Fruitcake Lady is hardly on the edge appearing on the Jay Leno show.

Young Bobby, I've been in the trenches with 8th graders and I'll offer that "Mother would not approve" is seldom a consideration. Indeed, she might not and perhaps you are a model student dedicated to advancing your education. Not having a serious science class per your description might be Mr. White's fault or maybe he's doing the best he can with what he has been given or ... I just don't know. Yet it would be interesting to observe these classes and talk to some of Mr. White's teachers. Maybe he's a "moonbat lefty" and maybe you are a "mama's boy" but I'm betting there's more to the story.

Mr. White should have not shown the ***hole video. Perhaps to an older or more sophisticated class. I've previewed and let my kids "opt out" when I've been on the edge. Mr. White might be trying to connect with the class. I know 8th graders seem to enjoy gross and tastless humor. He seems to enjoy humor and in today's classroom it is good to laugh to keep from crying.

I already mentioned that Bu$h might merit some disrespecting. As a science teacher, Mr. White might be especially frustrated with this administration. I'll give you just a few "Bobby" ... Let's start with CBS News "Rewriting the Science". Even though I know you think cartoons are a waste of your time and are greatly offended by profanity I'll send you to Current's "I'm Dreaming of a Warm Christmas". There's also the Union of Concerned Scientists. The Nation gives us "The Junk Science of George W. Bush". Even the Libertarian leaning Economist provides us "Science and the Bush administration : Cheating nature?"

Many profesional educators are also very frustrated with the Bu$hCo No Child Left Behind legislation, which I've labeled as No Data-Obsessed Bureaucrat Left Behind", and his Department of Eduation. Indeed we've had this trend toward even more conservativism in education around for years. Neil Bu$h certainly has been in the corporate education mix as well. Heck, you don't even have to be family to get help via Bu$hCo if you are a supporter. Alabama has always found frustrations with DC bureaucrats. This legislation is simply a disaster. Plus it was sold on a lie, a bit of fuzzy math at best. (Sort of like a war in Iraq that has killed and maimed thousands and cost at least a trillion. This misguided and mismanaged war has alienated our allies, pushed some fence sitters over the edge, and provided recruiting fodder for jihadist for years to come.) Yet there are options to NCLB. Son/Folks, I simply don't have time or space to tell you what would perhaps really work yet if you are interested I'll be happy to share.

I gave you a heads up on DK from Texas and his quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father. Jefferson, certainly among the first American lefty enlightenment thinkers, was actually not a Founding Father, which is generally reserved for those that drafted the Constitution, in that he was in France, you know he's a Commie now hanging out with the French, when The Constitution was drafted. Indeed he crafted the Declaration, an idealsitic document built on Enlightenment ideas. The irony (You do undertand the concept of "irony" don't you DK?) is that this quote "Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism" is actually attributed to Howard Zinn, a flaming lefty.

I also found some irony in the local GOP chair speaking of creating gold from lead. At least that works in conservatism taking over the public schools. Yet he might see his party and other opportunist teach the Bible in school so "alls well that ends well".

Finally the editorial mentioned Pharisees. A little irony there I'd offer. While I love the idea of erecreation as to the editorial I'd refer you to Captain Jimi. You guys are hardly putting the fun in fundamentalism with your literalism. And while I guess that your approach might satisfy some local legitimacy I do wonder if it is appropriate for the free press to give us such blatant Christian dogma.

Here's the bottom line from the Captain ... Mr. Wilson failed to use the best judgment perhaps yet I'd almost bet that his kids are mostly OK with his approach. Playing off kids' natural distrust of authority has served me well. I've hardly ever if used Jib Jab yet Current's SuperNews has been effective in teaching at times. Today's kids enjoy being entertained and they respond to this sort of material more than many might imagine. I have no idea who this teacher is and yet I natually empahize. Here's why ...

It is right before Spring Break and the natives are restless. This teacher is passionate. He's entertained somewhat by contact with the outside world via e-mail. He is teaching in a poor school. He's a smart guy that thinks from a liberal perspective. He might believe that the idea of industrial education where young adults are placed in seats inside a cement block room is hardly ideal. He is worn out from wrestling with bureaucrats and bozos and ... So he takes a few minutes to "entertain" even without previewing the clip. Bad idea. Lack of discretion. Perhaps forgetting these kids are so young in that he's been seeing more and more adult behavior as the line between child and adult can seem blurred. So he goofs up.

We've now got an opportunity to shill our talking points. Messy issues and it takes time to figure them out. I've actually spent a few hours playing with this post. No profit and no agenda beyond writing and learning/sharing. Might have helped me more than others yet I'll share. Education young Bobby is about exposure to ideas that force us to examine the world around us. A perfect paradox is the idea, per Bertrand Russell, that as we become educated we examine the world in which we've been educated. If teaching is simply transmission of knowledge then you can have that done via a computer or some related approach. Teaching and learning is more art than science, even in a science class.

Worst administration ever! But conservatism as a whole has proven a disaster! Progressive ideals are the answer! Peace ... or War!

Update - April 17, 2006 - News Hounds has posted how the Alabama GOP was summoned for "non political " commentary for Faux New Vanity Hannity. WAFF48, an NBC station in North Alabama, owned by Raycom Media, reports "Tough tenure laws protect trouble teachers" yet the artcile sources simply talk of due process and the idea that law has been followed so far. WAFF48 also posts "Mother says teachers actions forced her daughter to leave school" with the student's mother, Mandy Wilson, claiming "He says that he hates teaching. He hates being there. He doesn't like the students. He calls them immature, idiots, stupid."

Context might explain as every teacher I know has tried to rally the troops in perhaps what seems harsh. I'm leaving the classroom as I don't always like the student's behaviors, how they've been prepared before I get them, the limitations on my creativity, conservatism's hold on education, dreadful parenting, challenges of "learning" in a concrete block room, ... plus I can do more from outside the tent I hope to help our children and their children and ...