Thursday, May 10, 2012


Tomorrow, I leave The City for what will be nearly a month in the middle of the United States, the so-called "fly-over country" that all too many folks on the East and West Coasts disregard as consisting wholly of idiots and racist rednecks and without which they would likely starve to death.  Planned events include my being hooded for my PhD and spending several weeks with family in central Texas and central Iowa, as well as trips to local aikido dojo so that I can do something to keep my meager skills in that art from deteriorating while I am away.

The thought of spending the amount of time with my family that I will get is a pleasant one.  The knowledge that I do so at the cost of being away from my home, my life, and my lovely, loving wife is far less so.  I will miss the apartment and the wonderful woman with whom I live in it terribly, so I have another thing to look forward to this trip.

Coming home.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Just to follow up on a couple of earlier posts:

I mentioned here that I am the beneficiary of federal student loan programs, and so I have some concern for my interest rate...which looks like it may be going up soon.  The comments attendant on the later article, the one I cite second, worry me even more than does the event which occasioned them; the rancor and "I did it with no help; why can't you?"* attitude that pop up in them makes me shake my head.  Matters have changed, and not always for the better, and the lack of compassion for and understanding of others voiced...I cannot say I am pleased to see it.

Also, here I discussed comments about standardized state exams and the amount of money being paid to produce them.  One would think that something that costs several million dollars to produce would be put through a simple fact-check and quality control review.  That is one of the things that is pushed forward as the virtue of the free market, after all, that it efficiently self-regulates and makes good products.  So when I saw this piece on the news this morning, I was surprised...very little.  I am aware that the myth of business efficiency and the basic ethical stance of corporations is just that: a myth.  It came as no shock to me that a business, one not interested in teaching so much as in making money, would fail to do what it needs to do to make valid, reliable tests--insofar as any one test can actually be an adequate assessment measure or means to drive instruction.  And it did not escape my notice that test results support administrative bonuses rather than going to the people who are held immediately accountable for the creation of those results.

And we wonder where our school tax dollars go.

*Of course, "no help" is not so much not helped.  But when one commentator sought to point that out, referencing the immensely increased tuition and fee rates, decreased governmental subsidies for public institutions, as well as the public infrastructure used to get to and support the school, he was roundly condemned as making, and I paraphrase, "sissy, liberal complaints."

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


There is a large fly buzzing about the apartment.
I think it slipped in when I stepped out.
The cats follow it attentively,
Running from one room to another,
Leaping at it
And missing.
I am sure there is a metaphor in there somewhere.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


In just a few days, I will be taking part in the commencement exercises at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where I will be hooded in recognition of having completed the work to earn a PhD in English.  The event is an auspicious one, and its imminence reminds me that I am very much attuned to the meanings of rituals.  Something in the ceremonial, among the pomp and flourish of a well-executed traditional performance, speaks to me--and it has long been so for me.  I have invested much in coming to understand how insignia and their placement, what regalia are displayed and in what manner, what phrases are used and in what order, and what arrangement of seats and of things before those seats mean.

And they do have meaning.  Or they can.

I am well aware that a great many people put no stock in ceremony.  They do not attend to the actions they perform, and in many cases resist the performance as artificial and stuffy.  Their complaints are not wholly without merit; even in the case of my upcoming graduation, it is far more important that my transcripts show completion than that I wear a fancy, elaborate robe and get a highly decorated piece of paper with my name on it.  But there are things in ritual that are worth attending to.  It connects us to our pasts, to those who have gone before and upon whose achievements many of us have relied; certainly, I could not have done my dissertation project without a work to write about and without the research of others from which to develop my own ideas.  And attending to the small details of ceremonial activities can show--and for me does show--the belief in the importance of the thing being celebrated.  By making sure that each piece is in place and time, those participating in rituals demonstrate their devotion to the thing being celebrated; it is the very removal from simple efficiency and practicality that makes the ritual important.

I do not think I am the first to say so (although I do not recall where I have come across it before, for which I apologize). But that does not mean that I do not feel it.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


I was watching the news just now, and saw this piece.  I looked around a bit more, and found this article.  And I found myself annoyed.

The bit about teachers having "no expectation of privacy" is the one which concerns me.  While it is true that social media, being owned things rather than public domain, are monitored by their owners, and those who use them are putting things out so that others can see them, asserting that one specific group of people has "no expectation of privacy," singling that group out for examination, has unfortunate implications.  That the group is teachers reinforces the idea of teachers as somehow incompetent, as it is not those who are trusted who are monitored.

(And as far as the "co-parents" comment goes, what of the calls in the wake of school shootings and instances of bullying--or even in cases of student depression--that the teachers ought to have seen the signs of trouble?  Can we fault a person for not seeing what is on the other side of a door that has been barred to that person?)

My beloved wife points out that it is yet another in a series of such messages, that teachers are not deserving of the same protections as others.  And there have been no statements to other city employees demanding that they restrict their online interactions with those in their charge.  Despite the potential for inappropriate conduct between, say, police officers and persons who are nominally under their protection, or between administrators of various programs and those enrolled in the programs, there is no specific guideline in place to tell them who they can and cannot connect to online.  They are governed only by the laws already in place; teachers are being singled out, once again, as being untrustworthy.

Is it any wonder, then, that the quality of education students receive is perceived as declining?  Teachers work under what amounts to censure, and it is not as if the very web-savvy students whom the NYC DoE measures are supposed to protect are not aware of that censure; can they be blamed for resisting people whom they see as being denigrated by the community at large?