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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Special and Driving

My brother and I were having a conversation about some of the more odd things that go on during our day.  One of his students came by his office to try to re-take the midterm.  At his school, the semester is about over and the final grades are done.  Why was this person asking to take the midterm again?  Apparently, this guy 'didn't feel well' and was 'stressed' and 'had had a bad day' on the exam day.  It is also interesting to note that this student had told my brother in the beginning of the semester that he was a special education classified student and 'could he get more time'?  The class is 3 hours long, and my brother told him that he could use all of the three hours, but no extra time after that.

It was the direction and focus of this guy's motivation that was fascinating.  Some things:  This man found my brother's office address, and went out of his way to drive there simply to ask a question.  He is competent enough to have passed the drivers exam, a test where no one is allowed extra time.  It isn't even graded - it's simply pass / fail.  We'll never know his score, nor are our drivers exam scores posted on the side of our cars.  If scores were so important, why don't we know everyone's driver's exam scores or SAT scores for that matter?  If you don't care, then why is it a big deal?  So few fail the drivers exam, a test you can take repeatedly until you pass, that the test is practically meaningless.  This throws the Testing Program system we're in into the waste bin.  People can operate a ton of steel at high speeds, with 3 sticks of dynamite in the back, and the "exam" to do this is a pure farce.  Why do we need managers or politicians if people can be trusted to roll around at high speed in explosive high speed projectiles?  (a stick of dynamite and 5 gallons of gas have around the same explosive potential).  Gas happens to also be readily available to anyone with a loose tank or a car.  Seems to put the gun control argument into the circular file.

This reminded me of a John Taylor Gatto snippet where mentions school and special education.  I'll paraphrase, but he mentioned how in school a boy who reads at age four is slowed down to wait for the other kids, and the girl who doesn't read until age nine is labeled "special ed" and relegated with that black mark for the rest of her life.  When did you learn how to read?  When did I?  Do you know when your dentist or the airline pilot who flew you around the country learned to read?  How much does it matter?  People learn at different rates and different times.  I have had meetings about our special ed students, and the entire meeting is about providing their services, to which they have a 'right'.  A huge file and a massive bureaucracy is set up around the student, and a laundry list of ailments is used to describe teenage behavior.  The student, after 12 years of this, begins to think that this is how the world works - I'll get 'help' at every turn, and I can't be disciplined if I cause havoc.  Special ed students have a different, and much more lenient set of rules for discipline.  I can't help but think we are harming these students.  Not only are they seen as coming from the "bad" school, but they are doubly charged with being 'special ed' and having 'issues' like ADHD.  We're stifling creativity and entrepreneurship and rugged individualism with all of these students.  Most of the special ed students require someone to read the exams for them.  This is creating battalions of entitled students, who are intellectually limited and feel that they are owed 'services' at every turn.  This is creating a nation of serfs.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Journey

I used to see the meme that "it is the journey that is most important" often, and dismiss it.  As I get older I feel more and more that this is true.  I used to even teach "The Odyssey" and preach about the journey being more important than the result, and not completely believe it.  I tell my students that they should ask all of their teachers, at any time, "why is this important".  Well, we finished "The Odyssey" not too long ago and one of my students asked that selfsame question.  It is rare that a student will ask, as they have been conditioned not to, so I was caught by surprise.  I was finally able to tell that student that it is, actually, the journey that IS most important, as the final result is unknown, and it is the path there where the learning and the relationships lie.  I began thinking about my own 'journey' as well.  I guess it is important to explain how I came to think the way I do, and be someone considerably out of the 'mainstream'.

Everything is due to the world wide web.  Had I been born earlier, my transition would have occurred later, or probably not have happened.  I have to go back to around 2005 or 2006 or so.  I had, after ten years teaching high school English in the bad neighborhood, with students from the wrong side of the tracks, figured out that something was wrong.  It wasn't really proper to state such a thing, so I didn't really state the obvious too much or too loudly.  Nor did I have the intellectual self defense to adequately state anything profound.  Wasn't this the 'right' way to do it?  Education is the key, yes?  Public school is the path to success, and the great 'leveler'.  I had been taught these things, and I believed them, and knew of no other way for people of any sort to advance.  Hadn't this been the path for everyone, at all times?  Around this time I was seeing reactions to Bill Cosby's "poundcake speech".  Cosby had cut down to the bone about the failings in many Black neighborhoods.  He said what I had seen, and been too shackled to say aloud.  I read what he'd said, seen that it was the bald truth, and then seen reactions to it online.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were sites, like Booker Rising, that held the same views as he did.  I guess when the 'truth light' goes on, it's hard to turn off, because the people attacking Bill Cosby had either no experience in the area, or an obvious agenda to keep the status quo alive.

It was one of the regular commenters on the BR site that sent me down the next road.  Someone who called himself "Noah - Indentured Servitude" copied a link to something called the 'Crash Course' by a guy named Chris Martenson.  It was only because this commenter had made cogent, dispassionate remarks that I clicked on the link.  Through the Crash Course I learned more economics than I had learned in all of my years of schooling combined.  It was all backed by historical fact, and easily understandable.  What really hit me hard was the explanation of what the Federal Reserve did.  I had heard of it before, but never given it much thought.  What Martenson's site did was explain to me what was happening right in front of my face.  Honestly, I was more than a little embarrassed as I was so ignorant to the ways of American finance and banking.  I considered myself well read and well informed. I read the NY Times every day - wasn't that a good thing?  I found out how limited my knowledge of economics was when, in one of the forums, someone had posted a video of Peter Schiff giving one of his weekly VLogs on the current state of the economy.  Once again, when you are hearing the truth, you Just Know.  My friend Hec then informed me that this guy Schiff was Ron Paul's economic advisor during the 08 campaign.  I then proceeded to journey further.

Lastly, I was given a copy of 'Nightly News', a graphic novel about a cult like secret society that begins to assassinate the talking heads on the news.  It was a total broadside on the 'news' that we consider to be impartial and fair.  Jonathan Hickman totally dismantled the mainstream media in his work.  More noteworthy, were the statistics and footnotes within the graphic novel.  One of them lamented the sorry state of education, then married it to the stock price of Novartis - the maker of Ritalin.  I had never made this connection before.  I was bereft of the basic logic, the trivium, that would have allowed me to see this earlier.  In the footnote was a link to John Taylor Gatto's site, and the rest, as they say, is history.  Now the journey is much further along.  This is how a person goes from an entrenched Mainstream Left garden variety English Teacher, to an unorthodox, status quo battling autodidactic libertarian.  This path, this place, is infinitely more enjoyable, and honorable.

Recommended Reading: The Creature From Jekyll Island, by G. E. Griffin