Where things will go your way...or they won't

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Local Politics as Unusual Wednesday: Education

If you didn't know there is a school voucher program on the ballot this year in Utah. Here is pro-voucher crowds website.

Megan McArdle has stirred up quite a storm on this topic.Here, here, and here. Kevin Drum responds. Ezra Klein disagrees with McArdle, as does Matt Yglesias. None of these posts discuss vouchers vs. public schools except in the most general terms. What specific policies would actually help kids and why is left mostly unanswered.

As someone who actually went to public schools K-12(as well as having been married to a public school teacher, and having more than a few friends who are also teachers), I think I have a better handle on this than most private school educated pundits.(I know Yglesias and McArdle were educated in private schools, my apologies to Klein and Drum if my assumption, that you were as well, is wrong.) For different reasons, I think I probably have a better understanding than my teacher friends do, as well.

This understanding has to do with the the unstated assumptions of those involved in this debate. Both sides of this issue make an unquestioned assumption about the "good" of educating children. The benefit of having well educated children is questioned by neither side. What they should ask themselves is, what is the goal of the public school system? To produce adults with both problem solving skills and critical thinking skills that are necessary to be a good citizen, I think most people(esp. those above) would answer.

Where is the evidence for this? At what point in American history has education been anything but a way for the elite to continue their dominance. You could make the argument that post-WWII until 1973(the year I was born, of course) the education system provided more than adequate education for all economic classes. If they were white, at least. But almost everything got better for people during this time, so it was less a function of desire than economics.

I think that the public education system in this country works almost exactly as it is supposed to in a capitalist economy. It produces a consumer. That is, someone who can read price tags and name brands on the back of there clothes. This requires very little above a fourth grade education, which happens to be the par set by marketers, the entertainment industry and journalists for their audience. In short, the disagreements about how to fix the education system are meaningless because it is not broken, it achieves the exact results that are required in the United States.

The other assumption, made by pro-voucher people, is that private schools are mystically, magically, and marshmellowy better than public schools. It would not be because they have more money, fewer students, and better parent involvement, would it? No that couldn't be it. It is because the market makes everything better, just ask Halliburton or Blackwater USA. They had to pull themselves up by bootstraps without any government assistance. Right?

McArdle poignantly shows that her concern is for the children and only the children.

I don't. Care. About. The. Teachers.

I don't dislike them. Nor do I like them. I don't care whether they are, or are not, represented by a union. I think they should be paid more, not because they're lovely, special people, but because I hope that would let us attract and retain a higher caliber of teacher.

I care about educating the kids.

And as her posts make obvious, poor children in particular. I find this concern for the poor from upper middle class college educated folks(this includes all journos and pundits not just McArdle) touching. And by touching I mean like a hand job. Do any of these "experts" know any poor children or any poor people at all besides the folks who clean their buildings? I work with young adults who come from some of the most impoverished circumstances I have heard of and I would actually be considered just outside the impoverished myself given my income.

I went off on a little tangent there, my larger point is that one the main reasons that private schools seem to perform so much better than public schools is that there are very, very, few poor kids in private schools. I would even argue that if there were significant numbers of poor children in private schools the problems of public schools would be duplicated. This why no one seriously advocates the privatization of schools. The problems poor students have are not caused by teachers or schools and cannot be solved by teachers or schools. So in the end the voucher programs become a kind of educational white flight boondoggle that help the rich and about to be rich while as usual the poor get screwed.

That is all.

So long Castro and East Village. Hello Marmalade?

NYT notes that old gayborhoods in San Francisco and New York are becoming a thing of the past but are growing in smaller urban areas.

“Twenty years ago, if you were gay and lived in rural Kansas, you went to San Francisco or New York,” he said. “Now you can just go to Kansas City.”

I guess the same is true in Salt Lake. Last night, the soon to be gentrified Marmalade District, becoming a gayborhood was at issue in the mayoral debates. It seems premature to me. First they will have to actually make the area friendly to any non-criminal, because what is now being called Marmalade is actually not a real nice part of town. That said, go gayborhood!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

NBA Time

The Jazz-Warriors tonight. Lets go Jazz!!!
Here is Scoop Jackson's NBAiepedia so you can catch up with the League.

7EO halloween pictures

Alice in Wonderland but hotter.

Me and Alex from Where the Wild Things Are.

More pics later must actually work right now.

UPDATE: More pics

Fire Marshal Bill and Brokeback Bill.

White Trash man.

Really quite frightening actually.

UPDATE II: Apparently at some point I became incapable of taking more pictures but Brokeback guy used his iphone to take some embarrassing pictures of me. I will post those if I can get a hold of them.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Islamofascism Week an Ode

Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber celebrates Islamofascism week with a poem.

Thursday is Politics as Unusual Day!

As you can see, Thursdays are now Politics as Unusual Day. I will link to interesting political posts/articles/videos and occasionally add my own pinko commentary on issues that I find important and/or ignored.

Here are some quick links to issues of interest.

That is all.

Jesus hates queers, just ask the Bible.

Here is a trailer for the movie For the Bible Tells Me So.

If you are in SLC, it is at the Tower Theater. It looks like good movie, check out a review here. Unfortunately tonight is the last night is playing in SLC. So check it out if you can.

Heroin Kingpins for Giuliani

The "small man looking for a balcony." Is well liked by drug kingpins.

Go Rudy!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Autumn attempts comeback!

Sunday was a beautiful fall day. As you can see from this picture at the 7eo. The Cowboys lost to the Belicheats but you can't have everything.

Update: Also it has been Monsoon-like weather ever since. There was an awesome thunder storm last night... No more weather posts I promise.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Green Mind

Dinosaur jr has a new album out and I think it is great. But of course I would. It has started me on a Djr renaissance. And I had forgotten how much of my life has been lived with and described by the lyrics and noise of J. Mascis. In particular the Green Mind album, and this verse from the song of the same name.

Oh it's nothing new I been bouncing off the wall I can't handle them for long They're cool, but I need you On a certain level I think they're great But on another I can't relate To anything they do On the outside Might be with them tonight Unless you decide to come in I'll check out you Hangin' heavy, such a routine I've just begun to forget why I seldom try To break out of their scene And now I gotta work on you So the frogs will hang They'll always be hangin' Now we're here, what do we do I've been sortin' through the pros And cons of your eyes, they're well told Can't you help move it along? I been pickin' through my thoughts It's a shame I just can't rot And I sure feel rotten long
Or by the last line of the song.

If I keep stewin' 'bout how I feel The plate will split, then I won't have to deal Sounds like a plan But it's kind of lame to let it slide Knowin' either way I haven't tried Can't figure out where it all stands In a green mind
So that pretty well describes my life up to this point(irony alert!!) and I am not really sure how I feel about that.

Dinosaur jr never made a major impact on the charts or radio but when I was a kid that was considered a virtue and not a curse. (This makes me sound so old, but wtf happened to the good old days when commercial acceptance = Suck) So I am glad they have a new album that while displaying some maturity still contains enough lyrical angst to accompany Mascis' incredible guitar work.

UPDATE: I remembered this verse from nothings goin on and it reminded me of my favorite person, who doesn't read this blog,(at least I don't think so) but nonetheless here it is...

Every angel's a suspect
Every creep's your friend
When I've gone away, get back again
I won't help you if you walk away
Nothing happening, nothin more to say

T.O. to media and world "Getcha Popcorn Ready!"

T.O. leaves a note for reporters. I have got to say I haven't been this excited by a non-playoff game involving the Cowboys since they played the Niners in '94 and I was at the game. Sunday 2:15 MDT. The game is on. You know the rest... How bout them Cowboys?!!?11!!??

Saturday, October 6, 2007

No Fall(Autumnlessness)

It looks like Baby Jesus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, whoever runs this shit, has decided that we don't need any slow descent into winter here in the land of the blessed souls. It went from being hot to cold overnight at the beginning of September and is now starting to snow with regularity in the mountains. It was like 79 degrees in Boston for the game last night and it is freezing here. How is that fair? Fuck Boston. I haven't got my winter clothes out yet. I blame the Mormons, it is conference weekend, which made me late for work this morning. Thanks Baby Jesus.

There is no poem for losing fall but here are two haikus mourning the loss of summer. So here is my own contribution to haikudom.


Mets miss playoffs, no
losses for the Cowboys yet
My life is a game

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

10 Lessons from the Road

I have returned to the land of salvation and sin. Road trips are grueling and this one was no exception. The overall effect is one of constant movement that still hasn't stopped. Here's the lowdown, last Thursday at 10:30 am we left the valley. Saturday at approximately 4:30 pm local time we arrived in Bradenton, Florida. Sunday was football day, Monday at 9:30 I was on a plane for JFK. After a brief layover I was headed back to SLC. By 4:30 I was back home and headed to the 7eo. So that is how far I have gone in under five days. What have you slackers been doing?

Trans-continental road trips can be instructive so I thought I would explicate some of the lessons I learned, or in some cases relearned.

LESSON #1: The first day always sucks. It is simply impossible to get your mind right before you are on the road. I suggest that in order to alleviate some of the difficulties you leave a day early and use it as a kind of warm up day. Obviously I will never do this because it would require planning that is beyond my capacity. The first day of this trip is indicative of the problems that can occur. First of all we were towing a U haul trailer with BBA's Hyundai Elantra. This made trekking over the Rockies a real joy. The normal 5 to 6 hour drive from SLC to Cheyenne took eight hours. We decided to find somewhere to sit down and eat, we looked for an Applebees because we had seen the sign upon exiting the freeway. We drove around for almost an hour before we stopped to ask someone where it was. If you don't know Cheyenne is small and in an hour we covered almost all of it except where the Applebees was located. Upon arriving at said Applebees, we decided to go to the Chilis across the street. We sat at the bar ordered a drink and our food. There was a nice woman who thoroughly enjoyed the fact that we had been lost in Cheyenne. We chatted with her for a few minutes and then Boom...The power on the whole block went off. They promptly told us to leave and we were still without sustenance. When the power went off I, in classic Chancelot mode, said, "Fuck it! I'm going to smoke and wait for Armageddon." After I leave the lady who had been laughing at us says to BBA, "Is he always like this?" To which he responded, "Oh this is nothing, you should see him in everyday life." or words to that effect. Which is funny because I was at that moment on the phone with my previous road trip partner, KJ, who was telling me, "You know sometimes you get grumpy when you travel." or words to that effect. This caused me to have an existential crisis, as I have said before introspection is not really my thing. This is all leading to...

LESSON #2: I do not deal well adversity. The above anecdote displays this trait quite accurately. While I do not generally completely fall apart I tend to adopt a "woe is me!" attitude which is rarely productive and in the worst case sends me into turtle mode. Mostly, this does not cause me many problems, but looking at my life I can see times where adversity has kicked my ass and my reaction has been inadequate or down right harmful. Anyway enough about me.

Lesson #3: Nebraska is way better at night. Nuff said.

Lesson #4: I am really good at driving across the country. I did some calculations and in the last 11 years I have driven from Salt Lake to the east coast or from the east coast to SLC 10 times. Five times heading east and five west. I have never received a speeding ticket or had an accident. Admittedly on this last trip I was encumbered by a trailer and couldn't speed if I had wanted to, but still that is pretty good, I think.

Lesson #5: Utah is not the only place you can see Bush/Cheney bumper stickers. I love the South, really I do.

Lesson #6: Road trips are better if you are with someone with whom you can have sex. I'm just sayin.

Lesson #7: KFC in KC delivers. Why can't this happen everywhere?

Lesson #8: You always get lost in the ghetto at least once. This time it was in St. Louis, where you can't make a left turn and we ended up in south STL looking for a gas station. The first place we stopped the local squiggey guy thought he knew BBA and said "Hey, Nathan..." before he realized it wasn't Nathan. I thought it was funny, BBA not so much. The gas pump we were trying to use was of course broken so we headed to East St. Louis and pulled over at a gas station next to Larry Flynt's Hustler Club on King's Highway. A really nice part of town.

Lesson #9: The south is sexually repressed. The adult supercenters that litter the highways really speak to the level of repressed sexuality in the Bible belt. Do these idiot Bible thumpers think that the .001% of the population that are atheists in the south support all these stores?

Lesson #10: Flying is not so bad. My flight home was quite enjoyable. I watched the West Wing for most of the way, thank you Jet Blue.

That's all.