Sunday, October 2, 2016


For the first time since May, 2009, I didn't post for a full month, with no updates for all of September.

The reason for this is writing. Namely, as the school year started up, I discovered my students couldn't write.

For the first time in a few years I am teaching high school again, and my students have a weekly essay assignment (nothing monstrous - just a page/page and a half). The first one I collected required 90% to rewrite. Now, as six weeks have gone by, they've gotten better. Now it's 70% rewrites.

My life/work balance has shifted rather dramatically, due to the need to edit and line-edit these works. It's easy to slap a grade on it and move on, but then they won't get any better. So I take time and work closely with them. Which cuts into the free time I had during evening and weekends.

Due to the volume of work (I have three sections of high schoolers) I've subsequently not had any desire to do any writing of my own; hence the month lapse on the blog.

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One thing I've been thinking about a lot is how 'Millenials', such as myself, are consistently touted, and perhaps rightly, as the best-educated generation America has ever seen. (Although this claim is increasingly dubious considering the number of Gary Johnson supporters in our age bracket.) The rising generation, whoever they are, share one disturbing quality: they are the No Child Left Behind generation. Bush-era educational models have ruined many of these kids, which is how you can get a class of juniors and seniors in high school who can pass a standardized test, but not write a one-page essay.

Moving forward I can't help but think this is going to be one of the big tensions between the generations, a source of decades-long friction, as a highly-educated older generation despairs for the poorly educated youngsters who follow. Granted, this form of woe for the future is not new ("Young men these days are graduating from University without having to learn Latin! Can you imagine?"). But, for all of its terrible consequences, NCLB at least provided us with data, so now we have the stats and figures to back up our concerns for the end being nigh.

Back in 2008, during the primaries, I voted as a Massachusetts resident for Hillary Clinton. She had the better education plan than Obama. Obama has done some work in dismantling NCLB, but not as much as I'd hoped. Granted, he had a lot on his plate. As this surreal election continues, of course, I am supporting Hillary again. On her website she has a nice section on ideas to fix education. Unfortunately, the standardized testing core is not mentioned.

By comparison, Donald Trump is crazy. So.

(For the sake of quasi-journalistic blogging integrity I waded through his website to find his views. He wants tax dollars to pay for private schools. The guy is nuts.)

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It's a lazy Sunday afternoon here in Berkeley. I'm listening to the slack guitar of Hawaiian musician Sonny Chillingworth. The sun is out. And the real reason I wrote this post? To postpone for another half-hour grading the rising generation's essays.

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