Monday, August 27, 2012

Second helping of #EdCampSFBay

EdCamp SFBay

So my wife asked me if I actually learned anything from my third helping of Ed Camp.  My first two experiences; EdCampSFBAY 1 in Oakland, and EdCampSocialStudies in Philadelphia, were extremely positive experiences and there was a thought that maybe the conferences were going to start to sound a tad repetitious.  I actually had that concern as well on my way down there on Saturday morning around 7 a.m.

Though not totally about technology, almost all the sessions within EdCamp are somehow geared towards engaging students through the use of all sorts of hardware, software, or Internet goodies.  Presentations are conducted using this technology so the whole presentation is not a lecture, it’s an engaging experience.  Everyone in the room has an iPad, laptop, or a netbook, and everyone is constantly on it.  Twitter backchannelling is active and strongly encouraged, although a little tougher on Saturday because Hillsdale High School in San Mateo had no Internet.  But usually people share thoughts online while in the same room or in other rooms.  You get comments from other sessions while you are in your own.  Don’t like the current one?  Leave and go to another.  It’s encouraged.  I walked out of none.

After the meet-and-greet, and the presentation of session ideas, I chose a session about 1st Day class ideas by Catlin Tucker, teacher at Windsor High School not far from where I teach.  She’s very into the ideas of class flipping and tech integration.  Some of the first day ideas were very good.  I then got ideas of some of the ed tech she was using in the classroom; Google Sites, Google Voice, Socrative, and Remind 101.  Catlin is a very powerful teacher, and I haven’t spent one second in her class or read one word of her book.  She just exudes good teaching.  I did a ton of listening in her session, period.

The next session was titled “Bridging the Achievement Gap using Technology and PBL”.  This was more of a discussion than anything else and I provided more input than anything else.  I stuck around because I wanted to get more PBL strategies but the conversation kept going tech, tech, tech….and I’m of the opinion that technology is not the answer to bridging the achievement gap, good teaching is.  I’ll get to that later.

My third session was my most productive, “New Ways of Thinking About a Flipped Classroom”.  It included a teacher from Marin County, a teacher from Hillsdale in San Mateo, and a teacher Facetimed in from North Carolina.  Instead of the technical aspects of Flipping, the teachers actually attempted (I say that because I’m not sold on everything) to address the actual pedagogical issues around the idea of individualized student mastery.  First, focus on the best use of face-to-face time.  Second, focus on Higher Order Thinking Skills, focus on student-centered and student-managed learning.  I liked that the focus got away from the whole “video outside the room” model and really tried to explain the mindset of flipped classrooms. 

My fourth session was the ever popular “Things that Suck”, where teachers discuss and debate all sorts of issues that revolve around education.  Teachers always have opinions on things about education (go figure), yet this session was a little more measured.  Comments about things like network filters and homework had plenty of teachers thinking in the realm of “what is”, not “utopia would look like this.”  I also notice that some teachers really have no clue about technological that exist for a lot of schools.  The conversation about 1 to 1 classrooms (one computer, preferably mobile, for one student) was thick and pretty unrealistic.  People were talking about dropping computer labs as if everyone has one.  Hey, I’d like one up and running before the plan comes down to get rid of it.

My final session was called The Smackdown, which is basically when volunteers quickly come up and describe some kind of ed tech situation that will help the teacher.  Believe it or not, 99% of the stuff is gold; stuff that you just want to use tomorrow because it is so damn cool/useful/awesome.  I contributed, a location where people that really want to Flip using videos can use those already created for many subject areas.  My favorite applications of ed tech included Flubaroo,, Youtube’s ability to clip its videos, and a cheap mobile document camera from IPEVO. 

People drove from all over California and Oregon to attend EdCampSFBay and I would like to think it will not be my last.  I get a lot of information from them although sometimes it feels like you really have to buy into a certain type of pedagogy to be taken seriously.  I was happy to see teachers this year that were a little more receptive to the idea that technology is a tool, not the answer.  But the complete objection to state standards (“they are only for weak teachers”) and calling the philosophy of Direct Instruction “Sage on Stage” (as a negative) really turns off a lot of really good teachers.  I immediately sent out a Tweet after the Standards comment that I thought that quote was shit, and the conversation went nowhere fast.  Anything done the old way, even if was and is effective, is pretty shunned.  New is better, even if there is no evidence that it really is.

Still, I get so much good knowledge from EdCamp that I can’t help not going.  I do make small changes here and there to my teaching and much of it comes out positive.  That’s what professional development is supposed to be about.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ronald McDonald goes on bender, wakes up on high school roof

My school week ended when I did my usual 6th period walk through the Admin building and was motioned over by a staff member to watch a totally bizarre sight.

Ronald McDonald was on a hand truck being rolled out to a pick-up in the parking lot.  It wasn’t the clown himself but the statue of McD from a local establishment that is being demolished for a brand new structure.  The staff member and I smiled in amusement of the scene in front of our eyes, and I was told that the prank was (obviously) that Ronald was left on a container roof near the back of the school.  The mystery is how the beast made it up top; it’s not like the statue was particularly light.  However it seems like the maneuver was done in good fun and the attitude was that it was a no-harm-no-foul situation.  No property was damaged in the stunt and Ronald McDonald went back to preparing to oversee the McCafe.  People got a good laugh and it was truly a harmless high school prank.

My regular week ended on Friday night when I played slow pitch softball for the first time in fifteen years.  Two things came to my mind while I was out in left field during the night game;

-Wow, I’m not 19 years old any more and don’t run very fast.

-Oh shit, that ball just sailed ten feet over my head.

I went 1-2, scored a run, and committed four errors while in left field.  All of them involved simply misjudging fly balls that looked like cans-of-corn off the bat, and ended with me looking like Alfonso Soriano on quaaludes in the outfield.  I might want to start back a bit next weekend.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Todd Akin sees Russia while discussing the physiological merits of legitimate rape

There are only so many times a person can face palm. 

I mean, it gets to the point where I can’t really talk politics any more because I have some distant political connection to the likes of Todd Akin, Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, and Christine O’Donnell.  I am a Republican.  They are Republicans.  Our political party is the same.  Ew.  I mean, these guys aren’t some serious political conservatives.  They are nuts.  They have turned the party into a total circus; complete with policy issues that make the clown car come into the tent and do a dozen Chinese Fire Drills while the rest of the crowd wonders what the fuck is going on.  I mean, what the fuck is going on?

And it’s not even really Akin.  He’s an idiot, a fly, a moron that is getting a lot of attention because the distraction of the abortion issue plays right into Barack Obama’s political theater.  Seriously, it’s like the Obama Campaign was dealt a hand of pocket aces and his grin shows to the other players that life is about to suck.  No, it’s the constant refusal to have a legitimate discussion on anything, anywhere, without insisting that every issue is black or white.  It’s the reliance on the Grover Norquists of the world who seem to have every Republican politician by the nut sack over the tax pledge.  If a Republican really wants to be President then they would take a copy of the tax pledge, go out on stage at the Republican Convention, and piss on it ala Coach Lou Brown in Major League.  Then bring in followers of Jon Huntsman dressed with Nation of Islam bowties to take over the town hall and announce over the loudspeaker that “the real Republican intelligentsia has arrived.”  To appease some liberals, allow Huntsman to throw Todd Akin into the Coleman Federal Pen to see how his body reacts to different forms of rape.

More than likely none of that will happen and the circus will make it’s way through town, Barack Obama will probably be reelected, and the Republican Party will insist that the problem was that Mitt Romney was not Conservative enough, when the real problem is that Mitt Romney should be acting like Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts.  With the current state of the economy Romney should win easily.  Yet polling is down across the nation.  Hell, it shouldn’t even be tied.  All because he’s not listening to the people, the majority of the party, or any person with common fucking sense.  Instead he’s listening to the “base”, which consists of people telling him that an “Energy Plan” is opening up drilling off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina……not two years after the Deep Water Horizon destroyed the Gulf of Mexico.

Excuse me while I go hide behind my couch.   

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beginning of good things

The sun is shining on Mr. Silva-Brown’s classroom.

Good knowledge is flowing, the problems are minimal, and there seems to be good connections with a whole lot of students this year.  I think part of that has to do with the smaller sizes of all my classes.  This year I have less total students than almost any time in my career, and that give me the ability to manage the class is a much better fashion.  The atmosphere isn’t crowded and my vision isn’t scattered.  I’m able to really get in and mingle with more students doing more things.  It’s the way it should be, and those idiots that constantly say that teaching with 40 students and teaching with 25 students produces no difference are idiots.

I could attribute the nice environment of 2012-2013 to a multitude of other variables except that those variables are not a whole lot different than last year, except I’m a year more experienced and the students are, for the most part, different.  I’ve actually been going through old blog posts from last year and found that I was this positive last year too and ended up kind of cranky by the end of the year.  Couple of things I want to look for in terms of distraction or energy suck:

-Does basketball take away from my teaching?

-Do complaints from parents when grades come out distract me from teaching?

-Will the greater sense of optimism from the district trickle down to my classroom?

-If the Giants can sweep the Dodgers tomorrow, will Juan Uribe demand a trade to the San Jose Giants because he realizes that members of their pitching staff are better than Joe Blanton?

In the meantime I’ll ride the wave of good teaching and insist that the distractions evade my presence.    

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The day before


It’s unfortunate to see this sight in Northern California in the summertime.  But it’s also normal, something that comes with the territory of living in this part of the world.  That’s a wildfire that is burning just east of Covelo, about 90 minutes northeast of my house in Ukiah.  In that picture I’m actually standing at Willits High School, 30 minutes closer to the fire and current employer of my wife.

And that was what my day-before-students day was like, hanging out with my wife whose school is going through the joys of “modernization.”  Today was the first day her portable was ready and that meant we spent hours moving furniture and boxes from across campus into her room, unpacked it, and had her ready to teach tomorrow.  Yes, it took a long time.  Yes, I kind of anticipated this was going to happen after the joys of my own experience with “modernization” a few years back.  So I was at the beck and call for today and by about 6 in the evening we went home with my wife confident that tomorrow was going to rock. 

And tomorrow will rock because it is year 12 of the teaching gig and I’m ready and raring to go.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

No National Board = Not a great teacher?

I remember first hearing about being a Nationally Board Certified Teacher at my Teaching American History Grant (TAH) workshop about seven years ago.  Since I was (and still am) interested in perfecting my craft, I investigated what it would take to become one of the few, the proud, the Nationally Board Certified.

Well, I found that it took money and the desire to start the teacher credential program all over again.  I would take the time to explain the entire process for National Board Certification except that it can be summed up into three primary focus areas.

Pay over $3,000 in fees.

Submit a portfolio of a bunch of teacher stuff that makes that one you submitted in the credential program look like a brochure for Proactive.

Jump through hoop after hoop for a credential that guarantees you zero financial benefit and expires in ten years. 

Darren over at Right on Left Coast pointed me to this article by Diane Ravitch on the corporate underbelly of Board Certification that further confirms that being part of this process weighs not-at-all on your ability to be a fantastic teacher.  In fact, exactly zero fantastic teachers I’ve had the pleasure to be associated with are Nationally Board Certified.  That includes my Master Teacher, the great teachers at my old high school, my current high school, and many high schools for which I cooperate in professional development.  It’s just not worth it. 

So now when a teacher boasts of Board Certification, I give a bit of an inner sneer.  In terms of Ivory Towers, bragging about National Board Certification ranks just above Google Certified Teachers and Apple Distinguished Educators.  Hoop jumping does not make the teacher.   

The Flow

Not too many people get to experience “The Flow.” 

That’s because it is pretty much reserved for people that get ideas and become excited when better one’s come around, and then they share them with other people.  Teachers get The Flow when lesson planning becomes deeper and more meaningful.  For me The Flow happened around 1 p.m. when I came upon an idea for morality in the development of law.  I started looking up information, tearing out old text books, and within an hour I had a weeks worth of lessons cranked out.  When I looked up it was suddenly 3:30 and I realized that I had to head off to Willits for my wife’s work party.  I didn’t want to stop.  I had all these ideas that demanded attention but I had to put them off until tomorrow, and remember to also do the little things before things start on Monday.

The attitude within the district is decidedly more optimistic than in past years and I won’t pile on the reason for that.  I can say that much of the district had this attitude towards some people in particular.

I’ll leave it intentionally ambiguous because those in the district will get it.  Me?  I don’t join people with pitch forks and torches in attempting to slam other people that haven’t wronged me in any way.  The overall point is that the overall attitude of the district seems better this year and that’s a very good thing. 

Tomorrow’s the district meeting and then the final tasks that will prepare me for students on Monday.  Saturday I’ll be in San Mateo at EdCampSFBayArea to get my tech integration on.  I might see you there.   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

March of little people

There are umpa lumpas at Ukiah High School.  Yes…busy, busy workers running around trying to find ways to fit in at their newest home.  We are talking about the Freshmen.
Today was Freshmen orientation at Ukiah High School, otherwise known as The Day Mr. Silva-Brown Stays in His Classroom.  The sight of hundreds of children running around campus with their parents and the dynamics of said relationships drives me nuts after about five minutes.  I watch parents push around kids, kids push around parents, both push around administrators, and gangs of 14 year olds roam the school acting extremely self-important.  My one interaction involved me saying “excuse me” while I was walking down the hall and the froshy saying “yeah, excuse you” as I passed.  And Mom just stood there texting on her phone, seemingly oblivious to the exchange.  Instead of a confrontation I walked back the classroom and continued to prepare for the year, thankful that my clientele is Juniors and Seniors and not those Smurfs that need a swift kick.
Somewhere in the afternoon there was an announcement about this guy.

Yeah, and that glass bat Melky Cabrera is holding might as well blast in his hands for all the good he’s going to do for the Giants.  Fifty game suspension.  When I heard the news I started looking on Twitter for the current status on this guy.
That’s Roger Kieschnick, probably the best power-hitting outfielder for the San Francisco Giants farm system, currently playing for the Fresno Grizzlies (AAA).  He was on the disabled list and is the best hope for some juice in left field for the Gigantes.
Jesus.  Enough already.  Frosh orientation, Melky, now Kieschnick is out.  What the hell happened to the day?
Two things.  One, I’m way to engrossed into San Francisco Giants baseball if I’m checking the disabled list status of farm hands.  Two, I’m pretty damn prepped and ready to roll.  Let’s go already.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Official return

I’ve been doing prep in my classroom for about a week now.  I like the feeling of being able to use this, the week before kiddos, to toy with curriculum and brainstorm new ideas.  It’s usually a good day.

Today I chatted with colleagues for awhile, filled out some beginning-of-the-year paperwork, and then went about looking for a better activity to start out Government this year.  I have Econ down, APUSH is going to be intense out of the gate, but it’s Government that consists of the majority of my students.  I want to make it sparkle. 

Today was actually the Buy-Back Day, where teachers have the option to attend professional development now, or by the end of the year, or get docked a day’s pay.  I don’t participate in district lead PD because it makes my hair hurt.  I’m really big into using my time in an efficient manner so I attend plenty of professional development throughout the year.  By the end of this weekend I’ll have more than doubled by required hours for Buy-Back when my “Meet the Experts” at the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, and my EdCampSFBayArea are through. 

That is not to say the return is not fraught with difficulties.  But the difficulties are beyond my control and what I need to focus on is that my classroom is ready and welcoming on Day One.   

Monday, August 13, 2012

Message to teachers

I’m sure there is a law that requires edu-bloggers to give some kind of beginning of the year message to all those that are about to start-up in the Fall.  Those that don’t add to the blogosphere are picked up by black sedans in front of their houses and take you to mock up of the movie Brazil.

Yeah, I can’t afford to let my face end up like Rue McClanahan on a bender so I better send words of wisdom (for what they are worth) to rooks and vets alike. 

Let’s remember that we have some one of the most important jobs in existence.  No pressure or anything but we really do.  We have the ability to shape and mold future generations to do really cool things like invent iPhones, win Olympic gold medals, and disclose hundreds-of-thousands of documents on Wikileaks.  Hey, it could happen!  Also remember that what is going to be learned as important to the kids might not necessarily be what you intend to be important.  I’m not under any illusion that AP U.S. History will all of the sudden create a deluge of people interested in investigating how fat President Taft was.  However you never know which little piece of everything that you do will impact that brain and therefore impact their life.  Teach with passion and the conviction that the students are paying attention, even when they don’t seem to be.

By the way, you are a paid professional.  Act like it.  Dress the part, prep the part, execute the part, and then reflect and make all the parts work better.  If people don’t really know how to be professional, mentor them.  If people refuse to be professional, make them a non-existent part of the educational process by being awesome.  If the shame doesn’t bring them around, find other professionals to tell the interloper that the teaching is bigger than their overinflated ego.  Tell them to get with it or get out. 

Expect to work hard.  If you are a rookie or have only been doing this for a couple of years; yes, it is supposed to be this hard.  It does get easier as the years go along but it will never be “easy.”  It’s not supposed to be easy.  We are doing something that is very difficult in conditions that are far from optimal.  Get over it and work.  Come to work early, leave late, and always work on making things better for kids.

And be yourself.  Teach within yourself.  As controversial as it might sound, most of the instructional models that you will be exposed to are crap.  All good teaching has essential elements that models simply put in a nice outline and force you to repeat.  Good teachers take the elements and make them a successful part of instruction by using their passion, preparation, and ability.  Kids don’t want an act.  They don’t want a script.  They want you to care, and not just about the curriculum you are teaching.  The curriculum is a vehicle to teach lessons that will never be in State Standards, Common Core, or any idiotic textbook maps, alignments, or whatever.  Bring “you” into the classroom, teach them something, and you will be rewarded with things that money can’t touch.

Your abilities are the most paramount thing to teaching these kids.  Don’t get wrapped up in all the conversation about technology.  Technology is a tool.  But it is currently being touted by everyone as one of the overwhelming necessities in the classroom.  It’s thought that if you don’t teach about or with technology you will doom the souls of your students to a purgatory filled with Wal-Mart Mac N’ Cheese and a constant loop of the movie Glitter on a drive-in screen.  That is not going to happen (we hope).  The iPad will not make you a substantially better teacher.  Neither will a QR Code.  Neither will Dropbox, Twitter, a blog, Wi-Fi, or the fastest computer this side of the HAL 9000.  Tech is a tool, not the focus of the teaching.  You listen long enough and it will sound like technology is a necessity.  Wrong.  Great teachers are a necessity.  The relationship between a teacher and the students is monumentally more important than the relationship between electronics and the student.  Period.

This is why you should ignore Flipping.  You should ignore it because if you try really, really hard to Flip your classroom, you will have found that you actually Flip much of it anyway.  Only you made your kids read, write, and didn’t bail them out by creating pretty videos.  Reading and writing is becoming a lost art in this world of technology.  You are bound by the ethics of teaching to stop that.  Technology is a wonderful thing.  But to the young minds that we teach technology has become an agitator against reading and writing.  It is the Echthroi, the Nothing, that which tempts people into a pit of ease and false serenity.  You must stop this.    Don’t do it as Atreyu or Charles Wallace, do it as yourself.  Bring your own talents and passions to the profession and bring about a new Renaissance of the read and written word.

The last thing I’ll throw out is to remember to focus on your students.  The most important things that will happen this year will happen within the four walls of your classroom, and almost all those other distractions are superfluous crap.  Unions will not make you a better teacher.  Neither will district-lead professional development.  Or pissing matches with colleagues.  Or confrontations with irrational parents.  Or anything that keeps you from focusing on best meeting the needs of the kids.  Learn to serve them in the best way possible.  Teach them.  Demand from them.  Hold them accountable.  Be there for them.  Support them.  Smile at them.  Shake their hands.  Laugh with them.  Cry with them.  Take this wonderful profession that you have chosen and do good.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Kids are kids. Blame the parents.

Joanne Jacobs (blogroll) is one of my daily reads.  It’s a total love/hate relationship with that blog.  Let’s just say her blog is like the Barry Zito of education blogs; at times she mows down stories with a wicked curve, and other times she latches on to the teat of “edu-reform” based around the wonders testing and KIPP, thus walking the bases loaded to a chorus of boos. 

However it is nice that she’s starting to throw out stories questioning the clientele of education; the students.  It’s not the problem, but it’s a step closer to the real problem with education which is, simply put, the parents.  Take the reference from this op-ed article from Utah’s Desert News.

“The problems of public education are a societal problem — a society that no longer values individual work ethic and a society that wants to place the responsibility for education on what is taught, how it is taught and by whom it is taught, instead of on the students who are responsible for learning.”

While this comment makes my eyes sting with the tears of joy, readers need to realize that the answer was not at the back end of the paragraph.  The answer was at the top.  Society has the problem.  And society is sending their kids to school with expectation that they will pass with a minimalist attitude, much like the child comes to school with.  But wait a minute; the kid is supposed to have that attitude.  They’re kids.  They will always look for the path of least resistance.  The difference now is that parents have no problem with that approach.  Back in the day, educational authority was respected to make good decisions and when students didn’t meet certain standards, parents held them accountable.  Now those standards have gone up (at the behest of parents) while accountability for the child has gone down (at the behest of the parents) and the scapegoat has been named (at the behest of the parents); everything else. 

It’s incredibly unpopular to place the responsibility of one’s child at the feet of the parent.  It’s parents that feed, clothe, pay of the cell phone, and sit on the District School Boards.  And I’m not saying that all my parents are enablers either.  I have really good relationships with lots of fantastic parents.  However, the majority of parents that I deal with not only want instant gratification for their children, they want it at no cost.  The simple act of being at school means the student should get the grade, and the act of being at school for thirteen years automatically means graduation from high school, regardless of academics.

The boo-birds are already out on the Desert Times article.  This piece from an Ed Blog went far enough to say:

“Are today's students too lazy or spoiled? Are they—and, by extension, family and societal influences—primarily responsible for schools' failings? Is there another side to the story? For example, do schools and educators bear part of the blame for failing to reach and support disengaged students?

And a more philosophical question for good measure: Is Talbot's (Desert Times author) viewpoint even workable for practicing teacher? I mean, if that's your perspective, do you stand a chance in the classroom?”

Of course schools bear some of the blame for failing to reach students.  Bad teachers still exist and are still protected.  The system is woefully underfunded and many of the allocated funds are used inefficiently.  And the system fails to let professionals do their job in the most efficient manner by constantly changing “reform” schemes.  But that’s not the majority of problems and a huge swath of teachers will tell you that support is the number one reason why so many quit within five years.  Administration is hounded by school board members and politicians, hand-cuffed to support the teacher because “local control” dictates “what’s best” for kids.  Teachers are more dedicated and passionate than ever, and they don’t like that the dedication is taken advantage of and that the passion is going to waste.

By the way, the last paragraph in the previous Ed Blog statement is pure trolling.  And trolling that blatant deserves a crazy animated GIF.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Summer camp sans iPhone

There is a point to which you say “this shit should not really even have to be debatable.”

 Take the recent story about whether or not summer camps should have a rule prohibiting cellphone use by campers, and the more disturbing revelation that parents were the primary rule breakers.  It’s summer camp.  I remember having the Walkman headphones on for about an hour on the bus during the 7 hour trip to Mammoth Lakes.  After the hour you were engaging with other kids and the camp staff was making sure you weren’t feeling left out. 

And when you got to camp you set up the tent and actually had play time with other kids.  Explore the area, play baseball using the bus as a backstop, massive games of Capture-The-Flag, bragging about how you will eventually end up getting down with some member of the opposite sex by the end of the week; oh how summer camp was so good. 

The phones need to stay at home and parents that send their kids to summer camp need to do so without constantly connecting with them.  If you think that a “no cell phone” policy is totally archaic, try telling your kid that they can’t go to summer camp because they don’t allow electronic devices.  That’s archaic. 

Monday, August 06, 2012

Bryce is a lie

Bryce Canyon simply does not, can not, exist. 

Nothing with that kind of magical beauty has any business existing on the same plane as Kim Kardashian and the Los Angeles Dodgers.  And nothing can prepare you to witness geologic formations that are so phenomenal that they look like Industrial Light and Magic whipped them up specifically for your viewing pleasure.  The Grand Canyon is magnificent.  Yosemite is a wonder to behold.  Bryce Canyon is a journey into something that just can’t be something created by nature.  It is a thing that can’t be described.  You must go.  Yes, you must go. 

On the way home I began to think about how much people don’t realize how important taxes really are.  I know, what the hell is wrong with me.  But I’ve seen so much protected space this trip and the oft argument is that if society saw the value in said space, then society would work to protect it privately.  The thing is that you can’t put a price on something like Bryce Canyon.  Get rid of the idea that it brings in revenue from tourism (there were loads of European tourists there), because that is a given.  We are talking about something that is unique to the world and an iconic image of the United States.  We aren’t tearing it down for mining, blowing it up because it represents something we don’t believe, or running it over because we are out of control with its essence.  No.  Warren Harding started protecting the land because it represents something very good about America.  We cherish that uniqueness and that beauty; that something that almost seems too good to exist on this planet.  Yep, government can make some pretty poor choices.  But protecting national parks shows that it still works pretty well.

Bryce was the pinnacle of the trip.  Can you tell?