Friday, October 24, 2014

Ukiah Teacher’s Association circumvents democracy, emulates the United States Congress

Hmmmmm.

The Representative Council of the UTA (Ukiah Teacher’s Association) looks a tad bit bigger than I remember.  It also looks vaguely like the House Ways and Means Committee, the tax-writing arm of the United States Congress.  Nah, unions…taxes…they don’t share the same space.

“The UTA Executive Board is recommending a $6 a month Local Dues increase. This money will allow UTA to send more teachers to conferences and qualify for California Teacher Association (CTA) crisis intervention funds. Most importantly the proposed dues increase will balance our budget.”

Typical.  The teachers get a raise and the union decides that they need more money to send members to propaganda functions and balance the budget.  But I am but one of many so let’s let democrat process play itself out.  Here was my response:

As with the contract raise, can it be requested that the fee increase be put to a popular vote?  That worked very well in June. 

In June the District and the Union worked out a contract agreement that our Union was not going to let membership vote on.  After some very pointed e-mails the Union set up an electronic polling site and we conducted a very simple vote.  The contract passed and all was well.  Since over $60 a year more was going to be taken out of our paychecks, I just assumed that the membership should be able to decide for themselves.  Well….. 

“We will vote in Rep Council. Please feel free to engage in the process. And to work with Rep Council to get a technical component integrated into our bylaws? Or, at least, to work at the high school level on democratic/representational delegation.”

Well that door totally closed quickly.  It’s an absolute conflict of interest that the group that reaps the benefits of a fee increase votes for a raise.  So the popular vote, the vote by the people getting fined, is out of the window.  Ok, they mentioned a “technical component”, so let’s start with getting an initiative process going for any and all dues increases.  Sounds good.  And since my Union is having a budget problem, how about we look at it!  So, I wrote this:

“I only request this because it is money taken directly from the membership.

But if we are not allowed to vote, then can each member be sent a copy of the budget so we can see where spending has outpaced current income?  You are requesting thousands of dollars from the membership without consent, and I think that at the very minimum we should have the information available about how that is being spent.  And your presentation is a one hour block that prevents many teachers (including myself, a coach) to get adequate information or have a voice in the process.”

The response I got….

“….if this is as important an issue to you as you make it sound, then re-arrange your schedule to make the meetings!”

I coach.  For Ukiah Unified.  And the practices and games happen to be at the same time as the meetings.  And a dues paying member is treated like this when requesting budget information that he helps pay for.  Interesting and disturbing.

Instead I was sent a copy of the bylaws.  Fine.  I tried the legal approach using the bylaws and wrote these words and these words only:

“I request a copy of the expenditures and incomes of the UTA.

I also request the standing rules for referendum and initiative created by the Executive Board.”

Silence.  Nothing.  A dues paying member to my Union and not only could I get no information about how my money was being spent, I couldn’t get information about the simple democratic processes that are supposed to exist within the worker’s friend that is this labor union.  I sent that request on October 7. 

On October 17 we were given this message:

“Last night (Oct. 16, 2014) we had a special UTA Rep Council meeting at 4:30 to vote on a proposed amendment to our bylaws.

Motion from Oct. 7th Rep Council Meeting read as follows:

“The Associations portion of the basic annual dues shall be established by action of the representative council as part of the annual budgeting process commencing with the first representative council meeting of the
school year.”

The Proposed Amendment was unanimously approved at this meeting by 12 UTA
Representatives.”

And now it’s all legal under the UTA bylaws.  It’s now October 24 and I still haven’t seen any information.  Ignore requests from the membership and take their money anyway.  Yep, sounds like Congress.

This is why I detest our Union.  I’m forced to pay into an organization that;

A)  Can’t manage a budget.

B)  Raises money by taxing members without their consent.

C)  Won’t respond to simple requests for information.

D)  Suppresses the power of membership by actively denying a majority membership vote.

I don’t quite understand why you wouldn’t make a rule that says that anytime anything that requires either a direct addition or subtraction to a teacher’s income is introduced, it requires a popular vote.  It would maintain legitimacy, it would answer to the will of the membership, and it would create a more participatory labor union. 

Of course, being a totally political organization, it’s probably exactly what they don’t want. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Corporation gets little girls to say “fuck” a lot to sell t-shirts, and thus troll all feminists.

There is a good chance that if you disagree with this video for any reason what-so-ever, you will be told that you are missing the point. 

And thus begins the uber-troll.

Potty-Mouthed Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism by FCKH8.com from FCKH8.com on Vimeo.

How adorable. 

Little girls saying “fuck” doesn’t offend me if that’s what you are looking for.  It’s stupid and pathetic but hardly offensive.  No, the joy in this is the reaction online by people that find female empowerment within this video.  While some statistics are very accurate (one in five do report being a victim of sexual assault), and some are a bit more loaded (the 77 cents to a $1 stat can be debated), the whole thing loses it’s legitimacy when Cindy Brady starts going Denis Leary on the world.  But don’t tell those “feminists” because apparently people need to see through cursing girls and focus on the message. 

Ok then.  How about the message on, I don’t know, the shirt?

FCKH8.com is a for-profit T-shirt company with an activist heart and a passionate social change mission: arming thousands of people with pro-LGBT equality, anti-racism and anti-sexism T-shirts that act as “mini-billboards” for change.”

Let me translate. 

“FCKH8.com is a for profit T-shirt company that has tapped into a market just like any other T-shirt company, only they use little cursing girls saying “fuck” to effectively market their product.  Hey, at least they aren’t corporate.”

Yep.  Even the next generation of feminist can be given a market set and assessed a technique that will effectively promote and sell product.  They must be proud that a director that exploited young girls for profit was representing such a staunch feminist message.  But hey, at least they aren’t some corporation like Wal-Mart.

“In a effort to get tees to supporters even faster, the FCKH8.com brand recently became owned and managed by Synergy Media…”

Supply chain issues huh?  Say, about Synergy Media….

“Synergy Media Ltd. is a boutique design, merchandising and marketing company dedicated to innovative brand building. We generate results by engaging people's minds and igniting their emotions. We help a diverse range of businesses establish and strengthen their brands, developing brand identity, collateral materials, packaging…”

Oops.  Looks like a corporation decided to entice people to buy shirts by using young girls to talk fuckenese, and now it’s the new anthem of empowerment.  Shocking.  I’m sure it can’t get worse.

image

TROLLLLLLLLLLSSSSS……IN THE DUNGEON! 

Nothing like money hungry corporations marginalizing women and minorities in an attempt to increase profit margins. 

But wait, you are missing the point….

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Good for Shealynn and Charley. Homecoming still sucks.

 
Homecoming is over at Ukiah High School.  I didn’t say much about it because I’m past the point of hating weeks of pointlessness that invade the souls of Ukiah youth. 
Instead I’ll mention a Homecoming from a school about an hour way.  Maria Carrillo High School is a rival school in Santa Rosa; a very wealthy rival school who probably can do Homecoming like no other. 
“….Shealynn Stillman and Charley Gittins made history Friday night.  With the announcement of Maria Carrillo High School’s homecoming royalty, the couple — two girls — became the first same-sex couple in the school’s, and maybe the county’s, history to win the honor.”
Told you. 
I honestly don’t care about the royalty aspect of said popularity contest except that it seems like these two actually like each other.  That’s nice to see since most Ukiah couple candidates come together about day before the nominations are due and Billary it up for the contest.  Good for the Maria Carrillo High School administration for not discriminating based on sexual whatever and letting the vote take place as it should. 
By the way, don’t get pissy about the “sexual whatever” comment.  Shealynn and Charley see themselves as pansexual; which might be omnisexual, if it isn’t polysexual, ambisexual, or queer.  Why any teacher, or anyone else, should care about who-loves-who or who-likes-who or who-is-banging-who is still beyond me.  This story isn’t really news except for the fact that they seem to like each other.  Hopefully in the future this doesn’t become news because it really doesn’t matter.  They seem like two fantastic young women.  They won.   
And screw Homecoming.
And screw Willow Canyon High School in Surprise, Arizona.

The Advanced Placement U.S. History argument is full of dumb people


Ben Carson is the Islamic State personified. 
Take a fundamentalist and have him use vindictive rhetoric to attempt to eviscerate everything his puny little mind doesn’t understand.  Then have him march across the country and preach hatred for intelligence.  Yep, sounds like a clear ISIS/Carson standard for me.
Benji is angry because of the new Advanced Placement United States History framework.  Last year the College Board changed up outline curriculum requirements to become more thematic while attempting to create questions that were more within the realm of critical thinking.  Carson is fairly upset about that.
“There’s only two paragraphs in there about George Washington. George Washington, believe it or not. Little or nothing about Martin Luther King.”
Carson is correct in the dumbest possible way.  Washington is literally hardly mentioned at all, and the fact that he isn’t is not unusual in an AP framework.  In fact, because he is mentioned at all is a sign that he’s actually really important (or at least his Farewell Address is important).  No, instead of a huge list of names/dates/events, you have things like this:
ID-1:
Analyze how competing conceptions of national identity were expressed in the development of political institutions and cultural values from the late colonial through the antebellum periods.
Hey look, no names.  Well actually the teacher will have to address a whole lot of names because it is literally impossible to deal with that learning objectives without lots of information on the Founding Fathers and the Framers.  Any good teacher will nail that and any bad teacher that doesn’t should be fired anyway. 
And what about Doctor King?  Nope, Carson is idiotically correct here too.  The name is absent.  Instead, you have this:
ID-8:
Explain how civil rights activism in the 20th century affected the growth of African American and other identity-based political and social movements.
POL-5:
Analyze how arguments over the meaning and interpretation of the Constitution have affected U.S. politics since 1787.
How is Martin Luther King not a part of those learning objectives?  He is!  But there seems to be a radical fringe of the population that wants teachers to either be on leashes or they have the image of teachers that is incredibly demeaning. 

Then there’s Julie Williams, member of the Jefferson County School Board.  I’m sure that you have heard about the Denver area’s Board of Education taking the torch to the APUSH test.  What about it Julie?
“APUSH is new. This is important to state because some may not know it is NEW. It came into existence quite recently under dubious and secretive circumstances…”
The redevelopment of the APUSH standards has been common knowledge of most teachers for, I don’t know, about two or three years.  In fact, I would like to take you back to the Advanced Placement Annual Conference in San Francisco in July 2011.  Scroll down to the bottom of the post.  Notice the afternoon session.  Previewing the Revised APUSH Course.  For the record anyone that paid the fee could attend that conference and I signed no paper that revoked my citizenship if I gave up APUSH secrets.  In fact, we were asked to promote it. 
So back to Julie…
  “…instructional materials should present the most current factual information accurately and objectively. Theories should be distinguished from fact. Materials should promote citizenship, patriotism, essentials and benefits of the free enterprise system, respect for authority and respect for individual rights. Materials should not encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law. Instructional materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage.”
Clearly Julie did not get the full scoop on the history of the United States.  Something is weirdly off when someone manages to put “materials should present the most current factual information accurately” and “materials should present positive aspects of the United States and its heritage” in the same paragraph.  It hardly promotes the best and brightest thinkers.  What Julie and Ben both want to do is create Storm Troopers.  Who needs the next generation of Patrick Henrys when you can have armored simpletons running around checking on hull popping noises and smacking their helmets on bulkheads.   
At it’s core this isn’t about curriculum, it’s about teachers.  Julie and Ben fear that bad teachers can’t understand the outline and therefore want to define it for them because the Union won’t allow them to be fired.  Sort of, in a marginal sense, ok (hey thanks unions).  But more so Ben and Julie really fear good teachers.  Those that tell the whole story without censoring the mistakes.  Those that consider the United States exceptional (I do) and yet remind students that the whole democratic experiment has things like the Trail of Tears, Japanese Internment, Slavery, Women’s Rights, Jim Crow, and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  Good for the Jefferson County students, screw you Ben Carson, and school boards all across the land might want to focus on that really matter.

Hazing incident shows how stupid people are

Hazing is idiotic. 

It’s one of those things that one would hopefully look at in the modern age and say “wow, it was stupid that we did that” because it really served no point.  It was a “rite-of-passage” ritual that didn’t mean you accomplished anything at all except joining the organization that had just insulted you.  Brilliant.

Seven New Jersey teenagers from Sayreville High School took hazing to a disgusting level that included holding freshmen against their will and sexual assault. 

“….three of the players were charged with aggravated sexual assault, aggravated criminal sexual contact, conspiracy to commit aggravated criminal sexual contact, criminal restraint, and hazing for engaging in an act of sexual penetration upon one of the juvenile victims. One of those defendants and four others were charged with various counts including aggravated assault, conspiracy, aggravated criminal sexual contact, hazing and riot by participating in the attack of some of the victims.”

Seems like quite the geniuses.

So the school dumped the football season for the school and part of the community is outraged.  Social media is active and lots and lots of players and parents are saying that the season cancellation was an over-reaction by the school.  Those people are morons.  While everyone is innocent until proven guilty, let’s remember that police don’t simply arrest people without probable cause, and a freshmen simply complaining about hazing is not grounds for probable cause.  Something is out there that is strong evidence that a crime has been committed or this thing would not have blown up like it has. 

And yes, the coaches should be fired.  If they had any inkling at all that this was happening then they are just as guilty as the perpetrators.  If they had no knowledge of incident then they are guilty of complete and total mismanagement of an educational situation involving children.  Fire them.

If this act actually happened then the death sentence for program is more than appropriate.  Is is tragic for the kids involved on the team?  Yes but not as tragic as the fact that they didn’t act on what certainly had to have been a rumor about bad things happening to teammates.  A man wouldn’t have stood by while assaults were happening, a man would have stepped up.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Monday is Day 1. And Close Reading is Ebola.

Monday is my first official day back at school.  It’s my fourteenth year.  And the first three hours of my fourteenth year will be sitting in a large room discussing the enthralling topic of Close Reading. 

Again.

Excuse me for a second…..

/lights match

I’m not usually one to burn books.  In fact if you look at my home you’ll see that the den of my house looks more like a used bookstore than a den.  We have stacks of books.  Books everywhere.  Close reading just does something to me. 

For those of you that are uninitiated, Close Reading is basically hyper-analysis of a small text or a small piece of a larger text.  Kids identify first impressions, vocabulary, main idea, points-of-view, contextualization, and so on.  The goal is to get students to not only have a greater understanding of the literary passage but to also be able to apply it to something else.  It’s actually a very effective method of analyzing text. 

Ok then, what’s the problem?

The problem is that we’ve had in-school professional development for this strategy all the time, every year, forever and ever, Amen.  Close Reading has now become the buzz phrase that makes a teacher say “Are you kidding me”, and then begin the charge of the iPad so they can read a whole lot of Tweets during the presentation.  I could go on-and-on except that John Spencer has a better grasp of why I hate Close Reads.  In summation:

-It’s consistently forced because of bad policy.

-You are told you must use it.  A lot.  And damn the fact that you are a professional.

-It’s not really good for all subjects.

-Advanced students hate it.

-It’s often done within the context of itself, not with a bigger idea in mind.

-It’s horridly overused.

-It’s something teachers have done before.  Many times.

-It’s boring.

-Teacher’s chose bad literary choices.

-The skill becomes the important part of the exercise.

I even know and like the presenters and I’m still prepared to use my three hours of human capital in a more efficient way.  One of these days teachers are going to be able to figure out there own professional development and not cop out to the schools to rescue them from laziness.

In the meantime, Angry Birds is here somewhere….. 

School hasn't started but I’ll go back anyway.

I don’t have students until August 25 but I’ve already been to my classroom three times in the last few days.  It’s therapy time in the Coach Brown classroom and over the course of my first few hours I’ve purged many old projects, dumped an old television cart, and got rid of a massive bookshelf.  My classroom space has now become cleaner and more simple.  Textbooks found there way into enclosed locations, old supplemental materials found their way to the warehouse, and the recycle bin became my new best friend.  It felt good to purge.
*****
The varsity boys basketball team played 47 games this summer, and thanks to a very hard working staff, it went off without a hitch.  Now the question is whether or not this season will go off without a hitch.  A lot rides on our gym, which is currently a mammoth, gutted cavern that stands to be a pain in my side if not done by basketball season.  It’s supposed to be done by basketball season.  Being me, I’ve already got back-up plans in motion but the season would flow much better if I didn’t have to play in other gymnasiums. 
*****
This is going interesting start to the year if for no other reason than that I don’t teach AP U.S. History this year!
/dances around house
It was the ultimate pro-con class; I got to teach very driven students a very hard subject in a very rigorous manner.  And it was successful.  The bad part was that the class nearly took over everything and it never felt totally complete.  Now it is gone and I can drop the guilt of APUSH, moving forward with my AP Comparative Governments class, and my American Government/Economics class.