God Bless America: School Fight Song for Our Times

25 09 2007

What an odd mix of politics, prejudice, socialization, schooling, private ignorance and public religion! Dawn found some real power of story in this one . . .and I feel a song coming on!

Perhaps in response to Rob Sherman’s atheist activism or his daughter’s recent (successful) campaign to get God Bless America off of the Homecoming Dance song list at her high school, the family evoked a response from the suburban Chicago community.

Their home was vandalized Friday night . . .

It’s a curious sort of counter-melody, isn’t it, for schoolkids to transpose GBA into this fight song key? God Bless America has been playing “good cop” to The Star-Spangled Banner’s bad cop, the song nobody can sing or wants played at their school dance or baseball game.

I learned as a schoolchild to sing gospel as popular music and not in church, while my guitar gently weeps: “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” Singing and dancing, too. So if there has to be just one song, something like this would make the most sense to me.

But if we must fight over god and country songs for the public school dance and make God Bless America a winner or loser, it seems to me that even between “believers” and ‘atheists” the discor-dance (pun intended) is more politics than religion. More about purposes of war and peace than heaven and hell. Flag and country today, not ancient prophecy of kingdoms to come in the end times.

God Bless America hit the charts as an armistice song celebrating peace, while The Star Spangled Banner was inspired by war — bombs bursting in air, rockets’ red glare, the Flag was still there — so which really suits the purpose of school “homecoming” — defending the homeland or homecoming for the troops, both, neither?

And sing out right now if you believe it’s unAmerican that we teach kids to believe in the lyric, “school homecoming” which surely is unworthy here in the Land of the Free. Maybe what homeschooling freedom fighters really need for their time and purpose, is a stirring and easy-to-sing anthem about coming home, rather than those droning responsive readings from the dictionary. . .

Guess what happened to my senior prom? It never happened at all, canceled by song-fighting. We the diverse and contentious student body of a recently desegregated public high school, couldn’t agree on which band would play what kind of dance music (white or black, basically) and the obvious compromise of having two bands — one at each end of the ballroom as we’d done for the junior prom — hadn’t solved anything and wasn’t any fun. The one thing it turned out our schooling gave us in common then, was learning that lesson the hard way.

Read the rest of this entry »

Schools Re-forming Into Substitute Families

24 09 2007

“His plan is to have the schools be more than schools. They have to be substitute families . . .

It is an all-fronts, total-war strategy on what is certainly this city’s most deep-rooted social problem . . . “Insofar as one can accomplish anything in the New Orleans public school system,” said Mr. Bankston of Tulane, “he probably can accomplish something.”

So who is this transform-society-with-school-over-family hero, here to save New Orleans from itself? Maybe no surprise that it’s the same “school leader” who pioneered parent report cards, first in Chicago and then Philly — MisEducation critiqued that overreaching administrative conceit in 2003, for the parent-directed education website and NHEN.

She called her commentary, “Should Schools Decide Whether Parents Make the Grade?”

From the CNN story at the time:

. . .No other Pennsylvania school district conducts parental evaluations and it is a rare practice nationwide. The Chicago school system started a “parental checklist” program in 2000, but it was dropped a year later under a new administration.

Paul Vallas, the former Chicago schools chief who now heads the Philadelphia district, said the program was voluntary and each of Chicago’s 600 schools was given discretion to develop its own format.

“They weren’t report cards as much as they were parental advisories” he said.

The idea drew some criticism. . .

The “idea” of government grading parents drew “some criticism”?? Imagine that.
To quote Rizzo in the musical Grease, upon being caught disrespecting the heroine — some people are so touchy!

“Banned Books Week” Needs More Than Celebration This Year

23 09 2007


“Free People Read Freely!”


Last year Snook the Blog sprang into being just in time for the silver anniversary observance of Banned Books Week.

At my house we love banned books, read them and champion them every chance we get. I’m not just talking Harry Potter and stuff that sets conservative churchfolks’ hair on fire. I mean book language that liberal pc-speak tries to censor by just changing a few words here and there too, in Mary Poppins and Huck Finn, Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None. (Wonder if that was supposed to be ironic?)

Considering what’s afoot in the real world as this year’s Banned Books Week approaches, for 2008 maybe we should worry about all public repression of expression — and invading privacy in its service — throughout schools and whole communities, in the news and on the campaign trail, not just in libraries and Bowdlerized textbooks.

Stage and screen, Don Imus on radio, Dan Rather and Swiftboat veterans on TV, the school play canceled just for having a vaguely offensive name like “Urinetown.”

“Playing to the Puritans” by Marc Acito
. . .three members of a local church objected to the high school’s fall production of the musical “Grease,” even though one of them hadn’t even seen it. In a response that would have made Joe McCarthy proud, Mark Enderle, the school superintendent, then proceeded to overturn the choice of “The Crucible,” Arthur Miller’s indictment of McCarthyism, as the spring play.

Instead, the students in Fulton [Missouri] just finished performing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” that wholesome frolic about youthful rebellion, pagan magic and bestiality. As Dr. Enderle told Wendy DeVore, the drama teacher, her actors “shouldn’t do anything on stage that would get a kid in trouble if he did it in a classroom.” Read the rest of this entry »

School’s Out — of Control

22 09 2007

“Johnny’s parents don’t want his first-grade teachers packing heat.”

A Medford high school teacher is arguing she has the right to carry a concealed semiautomatic pistol to her classes to protect herself from a violent ex-husband in a case certain to set off alarm bells in schools across the state. . .

And if it’s a dad? At a school football game? Or a janitor exercising his civil rights to pack heat in the elementary school little kids are forced by law and rule to attend?

Portland Public Schools has a rule that no one can bring a concealed weapon on its property, even though the district has been forced to acknowledge state law trumps its rule. That was proven when a parent brought three guns to a Lincoln High School football game in 1999. School security officers were outraged and took him into custody. But ultimately the district conceded the law was on his side.

Silly me, I always thought the law was on the side of kids entrusted to the school for education’s sake. But the kids and their education are barely an afterthought in such stories.

The gun-seeking teacher story is well-blogged here but seems to have gotten precious little attention as an education story — maybe we’re all too busy thinking about school police tasering that mouthy UF student, for felony abuse of a campus microphone?

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Civic Literacy Best Learned at Home

21 09 2007

. . .informally, among family!

So much for public school defenders like Professors Reich and Apple, with their perverse theories about home education jeopardizing American civics and citizenship. (to open and read any NHEN forums, just hit “printer-friendly” in the upper right of screen.)

Forget theory, let’s look at the hard data. Your child is so smart and so good at taking multiple choice tests like the SAT that, schooled or unschooled, the Ivy League beckons — say Princeton or Yale.

But what you’ll get for that sky-high tuition and possibly a crushing debt load for the whole family, may be civic and economic “unlearning” (no, not unschooling — unLEARNING, schooling that literally takes one’s education backward, growing less learned with each year you spend with your face buried in the Ivy.)

That’s the opposite of value added — call it value subtracted.  Too bad the most thoroughly schooled folks will have trouble understanding this basic economic principle!

COD has more on the Civic Literacy Report. Take the 60-question quiz yourself; if an overblown university didn’t sabotage your actual education, you too may outscore America’s college seniors. . .

Jesus Flashcards in the Cafeteria: Back to School with FavD

20 09 2007

Favorite Daughter met some nice Mormons recruiting on campus today.

There are a lot of tables in the Student Union of my community college, especially at the beginning of a new year.

To the left of the door is a gentleman in fatigues, attempting to recruit me to the Army; to the right of the door is a lady in fatigues, trying to recruit me to the National Guard; by the back door is a woman in a crisp suit attempting to recruit me to the Bank of America.

I have learned that it is best not to make eye contact with any of these people, lest they lavish you with gifts of free key chains, pencils, and checking accounts, all while asking you penetrating questions along the lines of, “Would you like to take a test to determine your eligibility to join our bank/army?”, (oddly, everyone seems to pass) and “Would you like our bank/army to pay for your college education? All we’d need is your soul!”

But never, in all my days, have I seen Mormons recruiting in the Student Union. . .

Gideons for the Gifted (and Greedy?) Giving Out Ayn Rand at School

20 09 2007

I thought I knew all about how Big School affects (not just reflects) our culture and society, but darned if I don’t learn something new every day –never mind military recruiters, prayer oil smeared under desks before the big test, An Inconvenient Truth and It Takes a Village as competing ideology infringing on academics, how about this?

Almost three times as many copies of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged are offered free to Advanced Placement classes each year in standardized, publicly supported school programs, as are purchased by individuals in real-world capitalist bookshops!

Every year, 400,000 copies of Rand’s novels are offered free to Advanced Placement high school programs. They are paid for by the Ayn Rand Institute, whose director, Yaron Brook, said the mission was “to keep Rand alive.”

Last year, bookstores sold 150,000 copies of the book.

So this how-to-live handbook by a revered Russian immigrant is perpetuating its ideology directly and primarily through our high schools, sponsored by a foundation of True Believers who make no bones about their “reason” for doing it this way: whatever works to get us what we want is good, because it’s good to get what we want!

Let’s apply some of Rand’s vaunted “reason” to this reality. Getting what you want and believe in is great, but can you eat your philosophy and have it too? When what you want and believe in is respect and self-determination for each individual, can you possibly achieve it by seducing conscripted masses, privileging your view over others and stacking the intellectual deck against reason? Read the rest of this entry »