Looking Forward: Politically Speaking

I have just looked at Teaching Television for the first time in a long time. A long, long time. I was shocked to see that my last post here was in May of 2011. In it was a nasty little review of a mean-spirited TV show called “Repo Games.” My feelings for the new rash of “reality” shows still hasn’t changed but I have to admit that I am currently following two new shows of this genre. They are “Face Off” from Syfy and “Ink Master” from Spike. I guess they appeal to me on a creative level. Since Syfy and Spike aren’t paying me, I honestly don’t care if you check them out or not.

Not Sure of Anything

I really don’t have plan here. Consider it an exercise in extemporaneous writing. There is one thing I am sure of..I am not sure of anything anymore.

I used to think that out government worked for all of the people. Now? I am not so sure. I have spent the last eight months watching the Republican party trot out a list of potential presidents that make a Ringling Brothers clown car look dignified. The parade has passed several of them by but the few that are left are not really any better. Rick Santorum seems to hate everyone who isn’t Rick Santorum. His ideas appear to be based on his own elitist, racist, homophobic, misogynistic ideology. One of my favorite WTF quotes from Santorum comes from his book It Takes A Family: Conservatism and The Common Good (2005).

“The notion that college education is a cost-effective way to help poor, low-skill, unmarried mothers with high school diplomas or GEDs move up the economic ladder is just wrong.”

I am not really sure where this stuff comes from. He has said many times that all of our rights come from God. For that matter, all of the Republicans claim to have a hotline to the Almighty. That should be very, very troubling to Christians in this country. It is my theory that if Jesus were to come and reclaim the planet, he wouldn’t be a Republican.

What Party Would Jesus Join?

I don’t mean to make light of anyone’s beliefs. I have my own and I very rarely share them. But I don’t care if you believe in a higher power or not. The stuff that Jesus said in the bible is not a bad way to live. Do you have to be a Christian to treat all people with dignity? To offer a hand to the poor? The sick? The imprisoned? I don’t think so. But the new batch of candidates seem to collectively believe that Jesus wants them to have lots and lots of money and He also wants them to keep as much of it as possible. Sure, He once said “When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required” but who cares? Right? Right? As long as the very rich remain very rich, the rest of the country should just shut up and keep on working. It seems to be the Republican way.

Treason As Policy

And speaking of the Republican way…I am of the firm belief that they are traitors to America. Harsh? Sure but I have my reasons. Number one is the Grover Norquist tax pledge. Here is a man, a private citizen, who has absolute control over the entire Republican party. 238 Representatives and 41 Senators have signed Grover Norquist’s pledge to never raise taxes. By signing this pledge, an entire political party has turned its collective decision-making process over to a single individual. Every time the “Super Committee” met to deal with the economy, half of them were working for Grover Norquist. The only way to save the economy is to spend less money and earn more. Cut and tax. But the Republicans have promised a billionaire that they would never do that. In spite of their oath to the people of the United States of America, they choose to serve a man named Grover.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.

Breaking this oath should be treason. Read it. Is promising Grover to enter into negotiations with a close-minded agenda equal to serving with true faith and allegiance? Can anyone who signed Grover’s pledge honestly pretend to take their obligations of office “freely, without any mental reservation”? And how, exactly, can a republican get away with swearing “true faith and allegiance” to Grover Norquist over the needs and interests of the people they have sworn to serve? I cannot understand how this happened and I cannot understand how it happened so universally. It is chilling and our country is facing a crisis.

It’s The Democrats Too…

I’ve been picking on the Republicans a lot but mostly because they make it so easy. But the Democrats shoulder a certain amount of the blame. When the last few real journalists point out things like the fact that insider trading is illegal for all Americans except for members of congress, there are democrats on that list. In 2001, Martha Stewart, acting on an insider tip, sold off just over 39,000 shares of stock she was holding for a company called ImClone Systems. She avoided a $49,637 loss by selling her shares before the ImClone stock prices were set to drop. Because of this, Stewart was tried and convicted on nine counts of securities fraud and obstruction of justice. She ultimately spent 5 months in jail, two years of supervised probation and 5 months worth of electronic monitoring via and ankle bracelet.

Meanwhile, members of congress have been allowed to serve on committees that oversee such issues as the economy, debit card fees, and healthcare and then use that information to purchase stocks in the very same industries they are tasked with overseeing. In our world, that is called insider trading and it is a crime. In congress, it’s called a perk. That is why the average US Senator’s stock portfolio beats the market average by 12%. That number is higher than corporate insiders and way better than “average US households.”

Now Where?

Some thing has to change. “We the people…” no longer has any meaning to the members of the Senate or Congress. I am not sure how it can be fixed or if it can be fixed but one thing we need to do is stop vetting our candidates based on their views on abortion, their religious beliefs or how many bad things they say about the other candidate. Like it or hate it, abortion is the law of the land. George W. Bush was president for 8 years and never even pretended to tackle the issue. The next president won’t either. A candidate’s religious upbringing should have no bearing either. If the candidate is the right candidate, their faith is not our business. Period. We are divided in this nation and it is why we are falling.

When I started this, I honestly had no idea where it was going to end up. J.R.R. Tolkien once said of Lord of the Rings that it was a tale that “grew in the telling” because when he started it, he had no idea where it would end up. Sort of like this post. Except that The Lord of the Rings was a little better. OK…a lot better. But I still have no idea where to go from here. Throughout my four years writing Teaching Television, I have bounced from mission to mission, voice to voice and outlook to outlook. I started out as a cut-and-dry technical blog on bringing the media into the classroom. That didn’t last very long. I dabbled in current events and political commentary and even design. I have no idea what is going to happen next. But I am pretty sure it won’t be another 8 months before the next post.


2011 in review

I actually read my e-mail an this is what the WordPress.com stats helper monkeys sent. They prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog. I really need to get back to it… Perhaps 2012 will be more prosperous.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,100 times in 2011. If it were a cable car, it would take about 35 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


The End of The World As We Know It…

…and it’s making me a little queasy. (apologies to REM)

I have always said that the end of the world would be televised. But when I said that, I was referring to a huge 2012 kind of apocalyptic ending. Cameras would roll to the last second and some junior reporter would be finishing his or her last live stand-up in front of an earth rending, lava spewing crevasse. I was not prepared, however, for how the world really ended or, for that matter, that end would come and go without anyone really noticing.

The Reality Game

The end of the world was not marked with lava plumes or giant CG inspired tidal waves or even a really big squid from outer-space. Nope. It was marked by a new show on Spike TV, Repo Games. The show is produced by the same group that brought Jersey Shore to our televisions so…at least we know it’s going  be classy. Right? Right?

Repo Games is built on the premise that there are people out there who are so desperate, so down-on-their-luck, that they will

Repo Games on Spike TV

do just about anything to keep their heads above water for just one more day. So, halfway through an auto repossession, they are offered the chance to win their car back, paid in full, by answering three out of five trivia questions while being insulted by a repo man. All for our entertainment. The fact that people actually agree to this is testament to both the power of television and state of our economy. By sinking this low, by turning misfortune into entertainment, we are all diminished.

I watched one episode of Repo Games and it made me feel dirty. As far as game shows go, it just might be the worst ever. It isn’t fun and, unless you’re the kind of person who laughs when someone is hit by a car, it isn’t funny. The “contestants” are a cross-section of society but most are poor and uneducated. They are first hit with a notice of repossession and, during the initial shock, they are asked if they want a chance to win the car back…all while being insulted, put down and treated like a human joke. Answer three out of five trivia questions correctly, and the show pays off your car. Miss three questions and you get to watch your car roll off in the sunset.

The COPS Connection

Producers like to call the show a hybrid of Jeopardy and COPS. They are, of course, wrong on both accounts. We watch Jeopardy to see other people show how smart they are and we play along to see if we are just as smart. It makes us better if even by a little bit. COPS is also different. The people who make it on to COPS have done something to deserve being there. They have broken the law and even though the show states that everyone is assumed innocent, we also know that the producers of COPS aren’t offering Get-Out-of-Jail-Free cards to the good folks who show up on COPS. Jeopardy is a game show, one that has stood the test of time. COPS is, at heart, a documentary look at crime and law enforcement. But Repo Games? It is exploitive and it’s sad.

Don’t Get Me Wrong

I know that everyone who has ever had a car repossessed is having it taken back for missing payments. I understand that by signing a loan contract, the buyer is agreeing to make those payments on time and that after 90 days of missed payments, the car is going back to the bank. I get all of that. What I just don’t get is this…Why do we have to put it on TV for the entertainment of others? Not all repossessions are the result of “deadbeats” are they? The economy went in the toilet three years ago. People all over America lost their jobs and their income. They lost their homes and their cars. All because Wall Street treated American finance like a game and now we want to play out the extreme financial problems of our fellow citizens for laughs. It’s unacceptable and, as I said earlier, it diminishes all of us.


Now In 3D!

3D is all the rage. Again. I personally find it difficult to sit through a 3D movie without way too much eyestrain but people seem to enjoy it so more multidimensional movies are being made and the process is creeping into our homes with 3D TVs and video games. But being an old-school kind of guy (I have yet to buy a cell phone. I am waiting for them to catch on…), I remember with fondness the red and blue glasses of my youth. They came in comic books and magazines and they turned those weirdly colored pictures into an adventure. Those old anaglyph images have regained their “cool” so I have been fooling around with converting some 2D photos into 3D. I would like to bring 3D creation into the classroom somehow but I am still working out the details.

I thought I might share some of the results from my little experiment. One little detail. You need some red/blue glasses to see the 3D effect. The pictures are 2D conversions and are the result of my very first efforts. I intend to refine my skills but these aren’t so terrible…Feel free to offer tips or tricks or to just be critical.

 

First we'll take Manhattan...

2D to 3D conversion.

Took this picture on the way home one day.

2d to 3d conversion.

2D to 3D conversion.

2D To 3D Conversion

Let me know if they work or don’t work.


Picking Up The Pace and Tying Up Loose Ends…

It has been a while since I put anything on this blog. There are plenty of reasons that I could share but none of them are particularly useful as excuses. Unless you count the attempted murder. Or the fire…

But that is behind us and it is time to move forward. I think that I need to pick up the pace in writing new posts. I also need to finish my unintentional series on Fixing Education. And, apparently, I need to quote Ronald Reagan some more. He seems to be very popular for some reason. OK. That’s a bit disingenuous. I know why Ronald Reagan is so popular. It’s because he was such a Liberal. Right?

Anyway…

I want to start posting on a weekly basis, at least. I would also like to narrow the focus here a little bit better. I seem to be all over the place. It kind of mirrors the way I think but I never intended the articles here to be a roadmap to my thought process. I would also like to get more comments from readers. Anything really. Suggest topics, share your likes or dislikes, or even just general comments.

There is a wealth of political topics to discuss also. It seems as if the Republican Party has been infiltrated by a radical cadre of hyper-rightwing, poor-people hating, money loving, union busting post-boomers. They hate the middle class and they hate the working class with such a passion that they seem willing to destroy this way of life as readily as they would swat a mosquito. The Tea Party Republicans hate everyone except those they aspire to be. The wealthy.

The Tea Party Republican Agenda

This is just off the cuff and poorly researched but…the Tea Party is perfectly willing to call teachers a drain on society because of their “thugish” unions and their ridiculous fiscal planning and uppity retirement plans. But GE, the world’s largest corporation, can announce a worldwide yearly profit of $14.2 Billion with just over $5 Billion coming from their American operations while still paying $Zero in taxes and the Tea Party is just fine with that. In fact, GE claimed, and received, a tax benefit of over $3 Billion. If we count just the North American profits of $5 Billion, that means that GE was taxed at a rate of -60%. So, using the new Tea Party math, if I made a very fictional $50K last year, I should expect a tax benefit of $30,000.00. Sounds fair to me. I need to get those union thugs on this right away…

…but these Union Thugs don’t spend $Millions each year on lobbyists and tax lawyers like GE does. They just bargain collectively for teachers, a high crime in the eyes of the new regime. But that brings us back full circle. You know who hated the GE tax dodge? Ronald Reagan. You know who didn’t hate collective bargaining? Ronald Reagan. So I will leave you with a quote from the Rightwing’s favorite pinko commie…

Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.

~Ronald Reagan


And Now This Word From Ronald Reagan

I believe a case can be made that the decline in the quality of public school eduction began when Federal aid to education became Federal interference in education.

~Ronald Reagan


Fixing Education Part 3: Taking Back Kindergarten

Educators and legislators need to look back at their own education and try to remember what they did in Kindergarten. Once they do, they need to take a long hard look at what Kindergarten has become.

Kindergarten Is The New First Grade

When I was just starting out in school, Kindergarten was fun. As a child I looked forward to finger-painting, playing with blocks and learning all about numbers and the usefulness of the alphabet. I remember learning to print my name and I remember learning to count to 100. I still have crystal clear memories of the accomplishment of reaching 100 for the first time. That number was such a foreign concept to my 4 year-old mind (yes…4 years old) that I had honestly thought that it would take a week to get there.

So we spent the day coloring, tracing letters, learning numbers and understanding what they represented. The teacher read stories to us and I learned to fall in love with Dr. Seuss and, by extension, reading. She showed us how to draw and paint and I learned to love art. She showed us how to carefully craft our letters so that they could form our names and I learned to love writing. We also played with toys and each other and we took naps and ate graham crackers and milk. I checked with my mother. There was never a day when I refused to go to school. Kindergarten was fun. But it was so much more than that.

Learn By Playing?

It took me a long to time to appreciate the depth of the education I received during that first year of school. I thought we were messing with paint. Turns out we were learning about colors and aesthetics and even cleaning up after ourselves. While we thought we were playing house, we were actually learning how to interact with other human beings, all about gender differences and equalities, and about fair-play. While we were playing with blocks and toy cars and stuffed animals, we were also learning how to share, how to resolve our own problems and how to deal with conflict. Everything we did, learned and experienced had one simple outcome. We learned how to learn. The lessons were simple but lifelong. And they are sorely missing in today’s education.

Getting my son to go to school everyday was a chore. Every day was a battle. Every morning was filled with tears and pleading to stay home. It took me a while to figure out why my son was so against school. His school had taken the Kindergarten lessons and tossed them out and replaced them with a 1st grade curriculum. It might have been my fault he wasn’t totally prepared but an hour of homework a day in Kindergarten is just wrong.         ~Georgia Mother

If we refuse to acknowledge the importance of play-based learning, we may never reach all of our students. And instead of figuring out how to learn and to love learning, we set our kids up for failure at a very early age. Putting five year-old behinds into seats to teach them through traditional lectures flies in the face of everything we know about education. Children at that age just don’t work that way. Children learn by doing and through experience. David Elkind, author and psychologist wrote, “Learning teaches us what we know, play makes it possible for new things to be learned. There are many concepts and skills that can only be learned through play.” Social skills are first on the list.

So, instead of well-rounded eager students, many of us are getting frustrated, burned-out students who lack social skills, impulse control and simple conflict resolution skills. Instead of students who read for the sheer joy of it, who write because writing is fun and who can slog their way through Algebra and Trig simply because they can add, subtract, multiply and divide, we get students who can barely read, can’t form a sentence and can’t do simple two digit multiplication without a calculator. It is not the fault of the students. It is not the fault of the teachers. It is because of a system that has been redesigned over the past decade, not at the hands of educators but at the hands of politicians.

Fitting Into The Plan

In order to save our high schools we must start in Kindergarten. In spite of what politicians want us to believe, kids aren’t failing because their teachers are bad. They are not failing because they have failed the system. They are failing because the system has failed them. The system is flawed and it places too much emphasis on quantitative data and not enough on qualitative data. Sure, a kid could be terrible at math but that same child could grow up to be a great author or songwriter or artist. We will never know if that same child learns, in Kindergarten, that he or she just doesn’t measure up. And that would be the real failure of our education system.


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