a little bit of everything

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. -- Plato

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Pop Quiz

With all this talk about education I thought we should take a look back to see what we remember from school, try MSN's Summer Quiz.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Welcome Blog Box Readers

I would like to welcome Delilah Boyd and the readers of her Blog Box. Delilah, thank you for including one of my posts in this week's edition of the Blog Box! Blog Box readers, thanks for stumbling across my humble little blog here. I've enjoyed and appreciate all of your comments. It is a refreshing reminder that there is intelligent* life out there.

*some exceptions do apply, see anonymous below

Dear Anonymous

In response to my 1492 post someone named Anonymous writes:

My son has boy scouts, softball practice, basketball practice, student council
not to mention church choir. He depends on these things for a college scholarship.
When is he supposed to find time for something like history? Yawn!

I'm sorry, are you implying that your son's extra-curricular activities are more important than his school work? What is the point in getting him a college scholarship if he won't be able to answer grade school level history classes?

I am a huge proponent of students participating in extra-curricular activities, and I'm disappointed that so many fine arts and sports programs are being cut. I myself was a 3 sport student-athlete(note how student comes before athlete) all throughout school and I still managed to get good grades, as did many of my teammates. In fact more of my scholarships were academic rather than athletic. However, if you feel that history (and who knows what other subjects) is so unimportant you may have a difficult time finding any academic or athletic scholarships. All college athletic teams are bound by the rules of the NCAA which requires that student-athletes must receive a certain score on the SAT or ACT, as well as maintain a minimum GPA. In addition to this schools set their own grade standards which may be more strict than the NCAA's. Let's put sports aside for a moment. I'm wondering if history is so unimportant, or "yawn" inducing, why must you pass history and Constitution tests in order to graduate from both high school and college?

I understand that history is not the most fun or exciting subject, but it is an important one. Grades and tests aside, don't you think as an American citizen it's important to know this country's history? In fact it's because of a major event in the history and shaping of our country that gives us the right to express our differing opinions. That seems pretty important to me.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

In 1492....somebody sailed the ocean blue

I'm willing to bet that a large majority of Americans can identify that it was Christopher Columbus who sailed the ocean blue in 1492, but can they identify other historical facts? That is the question.

Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn) and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) convened a hearing to determine why U.S. History is our worst subject. Author and historian David McCullough was the key witness at the hearing and expressed two major concerns: history text books, and teacher training. As a middle school history teacher I can tell you that these are indeed two of the biggest problems when teaching history. Take a look at several different history books and you'll see that they're all the same, very basic and very boring descriptions of various events throughout the course of American history. Descriptions that barely scratch the surface and don't tell the whole story. McCullough has evaluated school history books and found another problem and trend, "typeface in those books is growing larger, the illustrations are more lavish, and the content is shrinking." It seems as though the textbook companies are assuming students don't like to read, or aren't good readers. But while they're cutting content and increasing text size the actual language of the text remains too challenging, making what little information they've included difficult for students to comprehend.

One way to side step this huge textbook issue is to improve teacher training. McCullough claims, "Too many (teachers) have degrees in education and don't really now the subject they are teaching." This statement is partially true. At the elementary level most teachers take several classes in a variety of subject areas, middle school teachers also take classes in a variety of subject areas but a majority of those classes focus on the subject they're teaching, making them endorsed to teach that subject (hopefully giving them some expertise in that area). Because elementary and middle school teachers typically have the same certificate (k-9) most elementary teachers also have an endorsement in a certain area. High school teachers typically major in a specific subject, theoretically making them experts in that subject. We all know it doesn't always work out that way. We've all had teachers who have very little expertise of anything. This puts the state of education in a tricky position. If teachers aren't trained properly how can they teach properly? Colleges need to ensure they are providing their students with enough opportunities in their area of study. I took nearly 30 hours of history classes in college but only half of those classes have proved to be beneficial to me in my teaching.

These two main issues collide when teachers with insufficient training depend on their textbooks to do the teaching for them. Unfortunately there are still teachers out there who teach by the book and only by the book. I've worked with a few of these teachers, it isn't pretty. History is a great subject to teach outside of the book. There are so many other things you can do with your students; use a variety of resources to see different perspectives, perform reenactments, have discussions and debates, even watch a movie. The possibilities are endless. If we make history more exciting and meaningful it won't be our worst subject for much longer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Chicago in 2016?

It's about time Mayor Daley! Now that he has financial support from local business leaders Daley is finally going to make a bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics. That gives me about 11 years to train for something. Too bad curling isn't a summer event.

What more?

As if the low pay, over-crowed classrooms, increase in school violence, lack of supplies, budget cuts, no child left behind, and lay-offs weren't bad enough now I have to worry about my retirement fund being available. I'm well aware my social security benefits will most likely be gone by the time I'm 65 but now I can't even count on my measly state retirement fund. There is currently a federal investigation of Illinois' Teachers' Retirement System looking into some shady investments it's made that total more than $1 billion. A big thanks to our trusty newswoman Carol Marin, and other Sun-Times staff writers, for investigating and keeping us informed.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Recycled Campaign Buttons

The Republicans were wondering what they could do with all these left over buttons from the 2004 elections. They just replaced a picture of Kerry with a picture of flip-flops. Who says the Republicans aren't environmentally conscious? This is a great example of recycling.

Flip-Flop Obsession

Is it just me or do the conservatives of the world have an obsession with the term flip-flop? First, they use it as the backbone for the 2004 Presidential campaign. Now, members of the Northwestern Women's Lacrosse team are being criticized for wearing flip-flops to the White House. Out of all the problems we're facing right now this is an issue? Rove did what? Our homeless rate is how high? How many people in Africa are dying of AIDS? Who cares, did you hear about those girls that wore flip-flops to the White House?

Can we all just hold on and look at the big picture. Literally look at the picture of the team with Bush. All of the girls are dressed nicely in dresses or skirts and blouses, their hair is clean and styled and their make-up and jewelry are appropriate. Yes, some of them are wearing flip-flops but they aren't cheap brightly colored flip-flops you wear to the beach, they are higher-end flip-flops that match their outfits. Really what is the difference between the nice flip-flops and the other open-toed sandals the rest of the girls are wearing? Another thing to take into consideration is that these girls are between 18-22 years old. It is perfectly logical for them to wear nice, designer flip-flops for a nice occasion. I will concede that the White House, even Bush's White House, is an important and somewhat formal destination that deserves a great deal of respect from those who visit. But what these girls did was not disrespectful. They believed that what they were wearing was nice and appropriate. Despite what some conservatives may think this was not some stunt orchestrated by the left as a way to thumb their noses at Bush.

What angers me more than ridiculous flip-flop argument is the fact that this team's achievement is being overshadowed by this ridiculous flip-flop argument. The Northwestern Women's Lacrosse program is only 4 years old and in that short time they managed to go undefeated and win the National Title. But unfortunately they are probably going to be more widely known as the flip-flop team.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Seventh Heaven

Lance Armstrong wins his 7th Tour de France. Congratulations Lance!

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Tour de Lance

With his first stage victory of the Tour coming with today's time trial Lance extends his lead and pretty much clinches his 7th victory. Tomorrow Lance and the Discovery Channel Team will begin their 144 km victory ride into Paris ending, like always, on the Champs-Elysees. If you'd like to tune in live coverage begins at 6:30 am (central time)on the Outdoor Life Network, however if you just want to see the thrilling end of the race you can tune in around 10 am.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Two BIG Thumbs Up

Fonzie may have made the double thumbs up cool, but Siskel and Ebert turned the thumbs up into a national symbol for a job well done. People everywhere can identify the oft repeated comments: "I give this movie an enthusiastic thumbs up, it's one of the best films of the year." or "Thumbs down all the way. This movie is so terrible I wish I could rewind it and erase it from my memory." Even people who've never seen an episode of Siskel & Ebert, or the present day Ebert & Roeper, know what it means to get a thumbs up or thumbs down. Who would have thought that a little TV show featuring two average and slightly dorky Chicago movie critics would become a phenomenom that has not only spawned a catch phrase but become a true test for filmakers everywhere.

Monday, July 18 was officially dubbed "Roger Ebert Day," complete with speeches, a fancy luncheon, and the unvieling of a sidewalk 'medallion.' Just last month Ebert became the first movie critic to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. If hadn't been clear before, there is no ignoring it now: Ebert is a true movie legend (perhaps a Godfather of sorts). People are not only eager to hear his opinions of movies but also his one of a kind quips and zingers. Ebert delivers some of the funniest lines on TV, lines that would probably be beneficial if they were in the movies he's zinging. Case in point a recent comment on the remake of The Longest Yard, "There is a sense in which attacking this movie is like kicking a dog for not being better at calculus."

Roger Ebert is not only a wonderful film critic he's also a truly good person who deserves to have his own day. The only surprise is that it took this long to come.

Mr. Ebert, I salute you and give you TWO ENTHUSIASTIC THUMBS UP!

CONGRATULATIONS (some restrictions may apply)

Once upon a time there was a girl named Kaylin. Kaylin was an intelligent girl who knew that to succeed in life you needed to work hard. And she did work hard, so hard that she managed to be in the top 5% of her high school class and scored in the 95th percentile on her ACT/SAT. To honor her great achievements the state of Illinois awarded her with a $1,000 State Merit Scholarship. Kaylin, who's been working part time at a convience store to help pay for college, was ecstatic and relieved to be receiving some financial help. But then the Big Bad State Assistance Commission came knocking on her door to inform her, as well as 6,300 other scholarship recipients, that they would NOT be receiving their "scholarships." Unfortunately there is no prince available to give this story a happy ending.

Apparently the Merit Recognition Scholarship Program was cut from the budget that was passed last month, after students were notified about their award. What kind of message does this send to Kaylin and the rest of the students in Illinois? "Congratulations and thanks for working so hard, you have a bright future ahead of you. Here is a scholarship to help you out, just make sure you read the fine print, some restrictions may apply."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Potter-Head : I swear I didn't inhale.

My name is Noel and I am a Potter-Head. There I said it. I was among the thousands of people who waited in long lines to get the newest Harry Potter book at the stroke of midnight (well actually it was more like 1:02 by the time I got my copy). Yes, I am that big of a dork and I'm okay with it. So judge me if you want but these books are damn good and I'm going to be sorry to see the series end after the next book.

Tour de What?

As I'm sure you all know Lance Armstrong is vying for his 7th consecutive Tour de France victory, or the Maillot Jaune for you Tour aficionados. Unfortunately it doesn't always seem as if our news and sports anchors are aware of this. Is it possible to get more than a 10 second comment at the end of the sports segment, if it is mentioned at all. "Lance Armstrong once again retains his yellow jersey." How about a short clip of the race or a clip of his comments afterwards? Is that too much to ask? It is ridiculous that in a major city like Chicago that is the only air time he gets. Please don't crucify me because I am a big Cubs fan, but can't we cut 15-30 seconds from their game day low-lights and focus more on Lance and one of the most grueling athletic events in history. He is well on his way to an unprecedented 7th consecutive victory and he is getting more fan fare and air time in France than in his own country. Also, let us not forget that this is his last Tour and who knows when we'll see another victorious American rider again. The 2005 Tour de France ends this Sunday, let's kick it into high gear and give Lance and the Discovery Channel team the support and publicity they deserve!


Hello and welcome! As the title indicates this blog is going to contain "a little bit of everything," news, entertainment, politics, etc. Anything from breaking headline news to silly random stories.
I hope you enjoy!