Keeping, Culling, and Forgetting

Edward Scissorhands

Of course, certification is one thing; being able to actually teach ELA effectively is something else entirely. I could read and write well enough, and I considered myself respectable enough when it came to analyzing literature or composing a coherent argument. But a real English teacher? Hardly.

I worried I’d show up to my first department meeting and we’d all be taking turns reading from The Dubliners in the original Greek and discussing how James Joyce Carol Oates used it as inspiration for his adaptation of Undercover Brother, Where Art Thou?

I needn’t have been concerned. We haven’t had a department meeting in the entire two years I’ve been there, so the danger seems fairly minor at this point.

"In God We Trust" (Or Else)

Team JesusThere are certainly plenty of wonderful individual people of faith around, including many Christians.

I feel obligated to open with this acknowledgement (disclaimer?) because my next several posts are going to focus on clashes between religious folks and public education which have been in the news recently, and it seems like every time you come across a story about someone asserting their Christian beliefs via legislation or the courts, they’re doing it for one of three reasons: (1) they want more government money for something without having to follow the same rules as everyone else, (2) they want the government to like their religion best and tell everyone about it more often because that’s “freedom of religion,” or (3) they want to be horrible to some group of people everyone else is supposed to be kind to.

The Interstate Commerce Act & The ICC (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

1. After several states attempted to limit the power of railroads and grain storage facilities on behalf of farmers and other citizens, Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act (1887). This established the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to regulate railroads, including their shipping rates and route choices.  

2. The ICC was the first federal regulatory agency; it’s “success” spawned hundreds of others in subsequent decades. When you hear people complain about “big government,” these are a big part of what they mean. At the same time, they remind us that economic systems are not natural rights; they’re practical mechanisms designed to serve the largest number of people in the most efficient ways possible – at least in theory.

3. Ideally, regulatory agencies attempt to balance the good of society and the general public with the rights of companies to make reasonable profits from providing useful goods and services. They oversee “public services” – things considered essential for most citizens but which don’t easily lend themselves to a competitive marketplace due to the infrastructure required or the necessary scale of the service.

The XYZ Affair (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things 

1. France was mad because the U.S. was making nice with England, who France had only recently helped them break away from and who France hated most of the time anyway.

2. U.S. efforts to make nice with France led to serious drama when French representatives (code names “X,” “Y,” and “Z”) made demands the U.S. contingent found offensive.

3. The resulting kerfuffle led to a “Quasi-War” abroad and more pronounced divisions between political parties at home before being resolved by a new round of diplomacy and a new treaty. The dispute also prompted the Federalists to push through the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts (which didn’t turn out all that well).

Can You Teach Us?

Darth TeacherPublic education has been overlooking – or worse, neglecting – a golden opportunity to improve. It’s not only been right in front of us all along, it’s been kicking us and taking our lunch money! And yet, somehow, where we should have recognized an opportunity, all we’ve seen is a competitor. In some cases, maybe even a threat.  

"Have To" History: A Wall Of Education

H2H Wall of Education CoverIt's dangerous to start pushing a book when I haven't seen the physical final product yet. I learned last time that no matter how many weird formatting issues, overlooked typos, and random nude shots you're POSITIVE you've resolved, there are always a few more waiting to be discovered once you've started promoting the thing and your entire sense of self-worth is on the line. And yet, I'm pretty happy this one is finally "live," no matter what minor edits may be necessary down the road...

Barbed Wire (from "Have To" History)

Three Big Things:

1. Barbed wire became the fencing of choice in the west after the Civil War. It was relatively cheap, withstood a wide range of conditions, and held back the biggest, most stubborn livestock.

2. Barbed wire favored homesteaders moving west, who tended to be small farmers. It threatened, and eventually helped destroy, the mythical “open range” and cowboy culture.

3. Barbed wire is rarely asked about specifically in history standards; it’s central to a wide variety of stuff that is, however.

Teacher Evaluations (Hammers & Nails)

Reality TV MontageThere’s a difference between caring how well you’re actually doing your job and caring how well you do on official evaluations. Ideally, the two at least overlap - like a Venn Diagram or pop and hip-hop. That’s not always a given, however. In practice, it’s often more like the relationship between reality and reality TV.

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