42 Articles
G Bitch

The school did not have the facilities, teachers or technology to accommodate the 315 students the state approved them to accept. New Living Word was accepted in compliance with the state’s approval, which did not include site visits. Questions to the department and an email obtained by The News-Star support the department’s initial statements that it “left it up to the parents” to determine if a site met their needs.

Amorphous Funk
One day several years ago, I left a paid parking voucher on the designated area of my dash and grabbed a bite. When I returned, a meter agent was writing me a ticket, nonetheless. When I pointed out the voucher, she said, “I don’t see that!” and continued writing the ticket. As I protested, she said, “You’ll have to take that up with City Hall,” and walked off. I did. The ticket was immediately thrown out.
Jimmy Gabacho

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared March 16, 2011.

This post may be a little out of character, but there are things here that need to be said. It is regarding one of these projects I work on in my other life as a blunted academic, teaching an endless line of adolescents who think mommy and daddy will foot the bill forever. The rude awakening is coming. No wonder they call it “Commencement.” In any case, about four years ago, I met Dr. Carlos Azcoitia, the principal of a neighborhood school in Chicago. I was impressed by the guy. In 2003, he put his money where his mouth was and resigned from his position as Chicago Public School system’s Deputy Chief of Education to launch a new pre-K through high school program at John Spry Community Links Academy. This was the first time in memory that a member of Chicago’s Board of Education stepped down to take a position as a principal of a small school on Marshall Avenue in the Little Village section of the city.

Amorphous Funk

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared January 17, 2011.

At the beginning of my teaching career, delighted by class discussion of readings, yet appalled by the quality of my students’ essays and unsure how to explain concepts that I had assumed were intuitive to young writers, I set about grimly, devising a means of teaching them, these embodiments of the “crisis in literacy,” casualties of the Reagan era, MTV addicts, as I often heard them described in faculty meetings, calibration sessions, and the mail room. The most logical method to me was the sentence-level approach. I assumed that a good essay began with sound sentences and a rigid form. I taught accordingly and with the tenacity of a pit bull. My students would take diagnostic tests on grammar at the beginning of the term. They would perform drills and take more tests until they reached a level of proficiency. Classes on writing the essay would begin with instruction on how to write the first sentence of the essay, how to create common ground with a reader, how to state a sound thesis, and later how to create unity, development, and coherence. In fact, I often gave students step-by-step instructions on how to proceed with the whole assignment. Leaving these people to their own devices, I felt, yielded products that I would be incapable of grading. Surprisingly, these methods were successful inasmuch as students learned what I taught–in fact many learned so well that they could master grammar tests and frame their essays just as I had insisted. Still, I was constantly frustrated by their inability to translate the grammar skills they had learned from the handbook into their own writing. They could make 100s on pronoun references tests yet write papers so confounded by “it” and “this” as to easily serve as Rorschach tests. They could define “unity,” “development,” and “coherence,” yet in practice, these terms often seemed synonymous, all meaning “to wear out a superficial idea in written form.” More depressing was the misery that essay-writing obviously caused them. Many otherwise bright and articulate students seemed unable to write anything other than cliches that they mistakenly believed I wanted to hear. Worse, they seemed to be practicing civil disobedience on the issue of global revision. And I had a nagging sense that the proficient writers leaving my classroom were the ones who had arrived that way. The others left stoically, impressively informed about their deficiencies, ready to tell their next instructors in robotic tones: “I don’t know how to develop.”

G Bitch

Schools have big budgets and get millions of dollars from the federal government and state governments, an amount of money that can tempt the most sincere and well-meaning person. It can seem so easy to cut a teeny corner there and plump this account over here. Or to hand out enormous contracts to 1-month old companies. Just like high-stakes standardized testing linked to punishment [closing a school is a punishment, firing principals is punishment, firing teachers is punishment, tearing down a school is punishment] can lead adults to cheat in any way they think they can get away with.

G Bitch

“But education, since it deals in the first place with human organisms, and in the second place with individualities, is not analogous to a standardizable manufacturing process. Education must measure its efficiency not in terms of so many promotions per dollar of expenditure, nor even in terms of so many student-hours per dollar of salary; it must measure its efficiency in terms of increased humanism, increased power to do, increased capacity to appreciate.”