Monday, May 30, 2005

Recent commentary: Recommended community reading

What book would you recommend for community-wide reading?

(published 30-May-2005, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Nothing wishy-washy, touchy-feely, or namby-pamby. I think that “A History of the American People” by British historian, Paul Johnson, should be read in every school and library in America. It takes a Brit, an avowed fan of the United States, to get us to stop feeling sorry for ourselves. For those whose education left a black hole where American history should be, come to it, as Johnson did, “completely fresh.” In full disclosure, he describes his approach à la former Vice President Spiro Agnew in his salad days: “I have not...accepted the fly-blown philacteries of Political Correctness.” Johnson's history is a tribute to us, the American people, “thrown together by fate in that swirling maelstrom of history which has produced the most remarkable people the world has ever seen. I love them and salute them, and this is their story.” How could you turn down an invitation like that?

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I love stories like this XXIV

I was beaten up by a couple of bullies when I first started to attend Edison Elementary School in Appleton, WI, after my mother moved us there. But my mom never thought of such a wonderful retribution as in this story from the Associated Press!
Irate parent rams van into school

PHILADELPHIA - A woman apparently upset over the treatment of her children by other students rammed her minivan into the front of the Huey Elementary School in West Philadelphia this morning.

No children were injured, but a bus attendant standing inside the school was slightly injured when the van with the woman and three children crashed into the front door of the school, about 50 feet from the street.

There was no major damage to the vehicle or the school building and little more than a bumper mark on the door of the school.

School officials say the woman had been complaining that her children were being picked on by other students since being transferred to Huey Elementary in December.

Investigators say they found signs in the van protesting the children's treatment. Authorities say the woman had threatened to drive into the school on Monday, but police were notified and an incident was averted then.

The three children, two boys and one girl, were taken to a nearby hospital to be checked out.

The mother is in police custody and is being questioned.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

VDH on what the Democrats need to do

I highly recommend Victor Davis Hanson's latest piece for National Review. A couple samples:
[T]he Democrats need a little more humility, a notion that the country is not so much an us/them dichotomy, but rather all of us together under siege to maintain our privileges in a tough global world — and at least one spokesman who either didn't go to prep school or isn't a lawyer.
And this one on the issue of race:
An Alberto Gonzales or Condoleezza Rice comes across as proud, competent, and an expert rather than a tribalist, while those in the Black Caucus or La Raza industry appear often the opposite. Would you want a sober Colin Powell or an often unhinged Harry Belafonte and surly Julian Bond in your party? Did Condoleezza Rice, answering acerbic senators without notes, or Barbara Boxer, droning off a prepared script, appear the more impressive in recent confirmation hearings?
And on defense:
[I]f al Qaeda, operating from a sanctuary in Iran or Syria, took out the Sears Tower, how would a Kennedy, Kerry, or Gore respond? Six cruise missiles? A police matter? Proper work for the DA? Better "intelligence"? Let's work with our allies? Get the U.N. involved?
And a fine finale:
When we see Democrats speaking and living like normal folks — expressing worry that the United States must return to basic education and values to ensure its shaky preeminence in a cutthroat world, talking of one multiracial society united by a rare exceptional culture of the West rather than a salad bowl of competing races and tribes, and apprising the world that we are principled abroad in our support of democratic nations and quite dangerous when attacked — they will be competitive again. Since they will not do that, they will keep losing — no matter how much the economy worries, the war frightens, and the elite media scares the American people.
Go read it!

From my brother, Dan, in Iraq

Goodbye, insurgents! And precious! The first deserves this explanation:
The video was filmed by some Air Force Joint Tactical Air Controllers (JTAC) in Tal Afar, west of Mosul. They were with Marine Advisor Support Team - they are attached to Iraqi units and help train their forces on a day-to-day basis - who were in a fairly sustained firefight in the streets of Tal Afar with about 3 Anti-Iraqi Forces (AIF). They set their video camera on the bumper of their Up-Armored HMMWV which they were using for cover. You can hear them shooting back and forth. The rounds you can hear are from the Marines and the ones you hear pinging against the side of the vehicle with no accompanying pop are from the AIF. When the JTACs say they just "fired rifle" that means the aircraft just launched the Maverick. You can hear it come in and see it strike the vehicle the AIF were using for cover.

I love stories like this XXIII

"They thought I was mocking the school," said 18-year-old Lake Geneva, WI, high school senior Kerry Lofy of his $249 disorderly conduct ticket. He came to the prom in a dress:
When Lofy showed up in the dress, a blond wig, open-toed platform sandals, blue earrings and a necklace, teachers turned him away. He said he showed up later with a tan-and-black plaid leisure suit over the dress, went inside and whipped off the suit during a dance-off. A security guard escorted him out, he said.
They thought he was mocking the school. Gad! Doesn't this prove that they deserve to be mocked?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

I love stories like this XXII

This article from the St. Petersburg Times leaves me scratching my head:

Hillsborough High School in Tampa earned a D grade from the state last year. And under federal standards, it fell far short.

But on Monday, Newsweek magazine named it the 10th best high school in the country.

In the country.

Would anyone care to explain? Well, there's this:
The Newsweek list is based on a single factor: the number of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests taken by all students at a school, divided by the number of graduating seniors. The students don't have to do well on the tests either. It matters only that they take them.

Test scores? No.

Graduation rates? Nope.

Closing the achievement gap between whites and minorities? Forget it.

Critics say the formula is simplistic. For example, a school's rank can actually improve if it has a high dropout rate.

Beats my pair of Jacks...

I love stories like this XXI

Unintended consequences of the No Child Left Behind Act: New York City 8th graders are failing state social studies exams at very high rates:
The failure rate for eighth-graders on a test that measures students' knowledge of basic history and government has climbed steadily from 62% in the 2001-02 school year, to 76% in 2002-03 and 81% in 2003-04.
J.C. Brizard, the [Education] Department's executive director for high schools, said the real problem was that the 60-question standardized test requires that students be able to read and understand the questions - something he said many cannot do. "They have trouble comprehending what they are reading," Brizard said.

Indeed. Fred Reed said it best:

How is it possible to spend twelve years in school and not be able to read? How? It is beyond me. A sheet of dry wall would be reading in less time.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Recent commentary: Pet peeves

What's your biggest non-political pet peeve?

(published 9-May-2005, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Driving: People who slow way down coming down the on-ramp to merge with traffic on the highway. Fast food: Getting onions when I asked for no onions. Raising teenage boys: Having them complain about taking out the garbage because it interrupts their precious video games — and can someone explain to me the value of a game that costs $40 to $50 but that’s hardly ever played after the first two weeks? Raising a little girl: Seeing her practice pouting in front of the mirror. Household: Family members leaving the jug of milk on the table instead of returning it to the fridge. Wife: The way she has to have everything absolutely perf ... oh! Hello, darling! What? Oh, nothing ... just writing my little blurb for The Post-Crescent. Heh! Heh! Sure, what do you need?