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WHAT IF WE GAVE A TEST AND NO ONE CAME?Mar 06, 2014 -- 9:48pm
On March 4th, the Chicago Public Schools administered the ISAT exams citywide. Well, not quite. Illinois law mandates the students get tested using the ISAT, but the parents have the right to opt their kids out of the test. Teachers and parents at 74 Chicago schools boycotted the ISATs.
Things get murkier. The ISAT’s obsolete before the students get their #2 pencils. Next year, it’s being replaced by a test that supposedly will better measure how the students fare on Chicago’s Core Curriculum. So CPS mandated that Chicago’s students take an obsolete test that was randomly administered to an incomplete student sample.
That didn’t go unnoticed by the Board of Education. In an effort to compel all Chicago teachers to administer the test, School Superintendent Barbara Byrd- Bennett threatened teachers who refused to administer the ISATS with job and license loss. Those threats stopped neither the teachers nor the parents, but it sure exposed the CPS administration as a bunch of bullies.
After school, the teachers and parents at Maria Saucedo Academy held a press conference. It turned out that those students who didn’t take the ISATS spent the day actually learning. Picture the movie: School officials George Clooney and Denzel Washington standing on the school steps flanked by parents Sally Field, and Jimmy Smits, with the press shouting questions and snapping away!
The ISAT at best measures students’ ability to remember factoids and write grammatically, not their ability to think, absorb, learn and apply. These tests also fail miserably at predicting who will do well in college. Students who perform well on tests rarely outperform students in college who do not do as well on the tests.
A student I know took the French exam at a public university but realized he’d forgotten everything. Figuring that he’d be taking French for Idiots, he answered questions using a pattern he made up—and consequently placed out of all university foreign language requirements. Tres bien!
Students, you’ll score higher by guessing. Prepare by singing, “Luck be a lady tonight.”
WHAT KIND OF GAME IS THIS ANYWAY?Feb 27, 2014 -- 9:13pm
On February 23rd the Sochi Olympics ended. Whee! The Blackhawks will play on the same team again.
Now on to Rio and the 2016 Summer Olympics! A new set of athletes will become household words. New scandals over biased judges will drive the Sochi judges off the front pages. Betcha’ Brazil is hoping that revolution takes a holiday and watches the games instead. Best of all we won’t have to watch Russian President Vladimir Putin riding around shirtless.
What’s the Sochi Olympic legacy? It’s sure not Jesse Owens, Mark Spitz or Michael Phelps. Perhaps Sochi’s legacy is the Russians outlawing Gay activity, Pussy Riot getting banned again and, oh yes, the return of those darling Russian Cossacks.
Unfortunately, one person’s darlings are other groups’ thugs. My grand parents remembered the Cossacks as fun-filled mustachioed soldiers who enjoyed looting, raping and pillaging unarmed Jews. They also loved smashing heads of Russian intellectuals and dissidents. Putin wants to preserve their legacy. That fits; Putin headed the KGB, the Soviets’ secret police. I’ll bet he also plans to turn the gulags into fun-filled amusement parks.
The Sochi Olympics also harkened back to another Olympics: Berlin, 1936. That Olympics was designed to show off the Nazi master race. Many of the anti-Semitic laws were eased slightly during the games so the Nazi thugs looked almost human. The main story, though, was how African-American track star Jesse Owens, an unmensch or sub-human by Nazi standards, won four gold medals and broke all the track records, leaving the blond German Aryans in the dust. Like the Sochi games, Berlin showcased Olympic hypocrisy.
Let’s face it. Politics and racism must be eliminated from the Olympics or we need to find another way of showcasing our athletes. Sochi was no sports competition but an ill-fated attempt at creating a propaganda piece. Leni Riefenstahl did a better job in 1936. Any relation between these games and what actually occurred at Mount Olympus was purely coincidental.
The Sochi Olympics was a sham, making a mockery of the athletes training and work. They deserved better; so do we.
OUT FROM THE SHADOWSFeb 20, 2014 -- 10:43pm
Monica, Eli, and their children Sofia and Pedro are a delightful, loving family—a welcome addition to Javaland. But, they’re anything but typical, and their story needs to be told.
Monica and the children are American citizens. But Eli until recently was an undocumented immigrant, AKA illegal alien. For a decade they lived in the shadows. Eli’s family lived in Mexico City. There wasn’t enough money, so Eli came to America seeking a better life. Eli crossed the Rio Grande 4 times, clinging to an inner-tube because he couldn’t swim. Three times he got caught and was sent back. The 4th time Eli eluded the guards and flew to Chicago.
Here, Eli lived in a crowded, sub-standard basement apartment. He learned how to install carpets and do construction for people who didn’t look too closely at papers. Driving was risky because he couldn’t get an Illinois license. There was always the danger that someone would report him, or the police would ticket him and discover his undocumented status. Think of a Jewish European living as a Christian during the Holocaust. That describes Eli’s plight.
Contrast Eli’s life with my grandparents’ experience. They, too, came here in search of a better life, but they came legally. By the 1920s, my grandparents owned property and had started profitable businesses. When my maternal grandmother married my grandfather she automatically became a citizen.
When Eli married Monica they both went into the shadows. Monica worked legally. When Sofia was born Eli became a house husband. He could get neither a credit nor Social Security card. The family feared being torn apart on a moment’s notice. Recently Eli went on an errand and got lost. Monica nearly went mad with worry.
With Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky’s (D-9th) help, Eli obtained a green card legally. The process cost nearly $4000, but Monica considers it a small price to pay for walking in the sunlight.
Let’s pass immigration reform and bring all the Eli’s out of the shadows and into the sunlight. It’s the American thing to do.
MAYBE WE CAN DO SOMETHING ABOUT ITFeb 13, 2014 -- 10:23pm
“Now is the winter of our discontent.” Is it ever! Even Santa’s thinking of moving to Florida. If it keeps on freezing and snowing, we’ll be skiing down I-94, and skating to Benton Harbor, Michigan. Everyone’s fighting a) colds; b) the flu; c) pneumonia; d) all of the above. My street resembles Dr. Zhivago’s Moscow. And I half expect my neighbors to call me Judith Leonovna.
Everyone complains about the weather but nobody does anything about it (except shovel the snow). Why blog about it? Wrong! We could have done something about the weather. Now we really must do something about it.
Hard as it is to believe, winter 2014 is the result of global warming. The polar winds have been pushed farther south by the warmth in the Arctic atmosphere, and the increased heat is due largely to the weakening of the ozone layer. We’re suffering the consequences, brrrr!
It could have been worse. The earthquakes, tsunamis, drought, and power outages that have plagued the rest of the world largely skipped over Cook County. But we’ve been warned. It’s time to do something about the weather before we go the way of the dinosaurs.
First, let’s beef up recycling. The more we recycle the less the waste. Let’s work big-time on developing green energy and once developed for larger markets, using it. Just as there’s no such thing as the tooth fairy, there’s no such thing as “clean coal.” Let’s purify our water. Licorice is a candy, not a water flavor. Let’s work on sharing rides and beefing up public transportation. The fewer cars on the road, the cleaner our air. Finally, let’s end the food deserts by getting fruits and vegetables to everyone—not just those people who can afford Whole Foods.
Let’s keep this world green so our children and grandchildren and their children will enjoy it. We’re wearing out our planet, but we can do something it—and we’d better. Mother earth is depending on us.
STAND UP FOR SARAH!Feb 05, 2014 -- 10:57pm
Winnetka resident, Sarah McCausland 19 was blessed with brains, curiosity, musical talent, kindness, and beauty. But all that talent and brilliance was cut down last Friday night when Sarah was run over and killed in a hit and run accident. The driver, Carol Boeck has been charged with driving drunk and 1st degree Vehicular Manslaughter. She has a previous conviction for drunken driving. If convicted, Ms. Boeck faces a possible 15 year prison sentence.
Sarah will never graduate from Bard College, nor enter graduate school, nor marry, nor have an illustrious career. She’ll never have the joy of becoming a mother or grandmother. She’ll die all over again whenever her family looks at her things or hears the music she loved. Time may dull, but it will never erase that pain. Ms. Boeck also maimed Sarah’s family and friends for life.
Sarah’s death demands we strengthen the penalties against those who through drinking turn their cars into murder and maiming weapons. Okay, alcoholism is a disease and should be treated with compassion—as well as a 12-step program. But treatment should never include letting people with a drinking problem drive. As for those who drink socially, don’t even think of getting behind the wheel. If you need a ride take a cab or ask a non-drinking friend.
In Sarah’s name and in the names of countless others who have been killed or maimed by drunken drivers, it’s time to hold the Carol Boeck’s of this world responsible for the havoc they wreak by driving drunk.
Here’s my suggestion for laws governing drunken driving: First offense; suspension of driving privileges for at least a year, coupled with mandatory counseling. Licenses should be restored only after the counseling professional certifies the driver can be trusted to drive alcohol free. On the second offense and conviction, the driver’s vehicle license should be revoked—permanently. If caught driving without a license, the driver should be incarcerated for at least five years. No one should die before their time because of a drunken driver.
Rest in peace, Sarah! We’ll not forget you.
 Sarah attended Bard College. She was killed in Tivoli, New York.
REQUIEM FOR AN HONORABLE MANJan 30, 2014 -- 11:49pm
Folksinger and activist Pete Seeger died on January 27th; he was 94. Upon hearing that news I spent a few minutes leaning against the door jamb in my office. Seeger’s death tugged at me.
What I admired most about Seeger was his strength to stand up for unpopular causes—no matter the personal price.
Seeger supported labor unions when the “establishment” claimed labor unions were purveyors of anarchism. His refusal to “rat out” his friends to the House, Un-American Activities Committee, led to his being blacklisted and barred from TV until 1967. It also led to Seeger being beaten and his beloved banjo smashed. Seeger supported a nuclear freeze during the Cold War when many Americans believed in the bomb as an effective deterrent to Soviet aggression. He stood for diversity when racists decried, “you can’t legislate morality.” Seeger helped clean up the Hudson River, inspiring a movement to keep Lake Michigan clean.
No matter the price, Pete Seeger kept on singing…giving solace and hope to those who believed themselves scorned by society.
I was privileged to see several Seeger performances. Seeger was blessed with a resonant voice and a great gift for playing the banjo. It wasn’t long before the audience sang along with him. By concert’s end all the audience resolved to stand strong another day.
By 1970, most Americans had turned against the Vietnam War. But all the protesting, letters to the editor, and speeches didn’t accomplish anything. By the end of a Seeger concert we found the strength to protest another day.
Pete Seeger spoke truth to power. He defined American honor.
Seeger gave me hope that there was something good left in America. No matter the cause, Pete was there first, turning it to music and rallying support. It’s said, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The pen when coupled with music forms an unbeatable phalanx…and Seeger was its Field Marshal.
So long, Pete. It was good to know you.
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