Showing posts with label Omaha North. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Omaha North. Show all posts

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Now it's just tone deaf as a cauliflower

I remember those days, fossil that I am.

Those days when Top-40 was king of the radio . . . and on AM. When FM stations were different -- and trying harder.

You know, when "stereo" was a selling point for an FM station.

When people were blind as carrots because there was nothing new on the radio. When people cared that there was nothing new on the radio.

When people said "radio" and not

YEAH, this 1974 ad for KGOR, taken from the pages of the North Star, Omaha North High School's student newspaper, is rather, er . . . esoteric. That's the point -- radio broadcasting at a time before a station such as KGOR had no selling point other than "Superhits."

That's it.
Superhits. Or, "tone deaf as a cauliflower."

And if you get lucky, there might be a real person behind the microphone, reading liner cards that say "Superhits."

Well, I may be as blind as a carrot, but radio is as dead as a doornail.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Shoot the messenger principal

Denial in the name of "school reform" is going to do no one any good.

And in Omaha, politically correct political posturing may have just turned into full-blown delusion. Unfortunately, Washington has the clout -- and state officials are craven enough -- to turn a public-policy psychotic break into a world of hurt for children . . . and for those struggling to teach them.

Here's the story: One day, Nebraska education officials are praising the excellence of four local high schools. The next, the state puts the schools on a "persistently lowest achieving" list, qualifying them for federal stimulus money aimed at lifting troubled schools out of the educational gutter.

To qualify for these stimulus funds, Omaha Public Schools must institute "reforms" at the excellent-yet-underachieving schools, reforms ranging from removing the "excellent" administrators to shutting down the "excellent" schools.

We are Americans. That means we do insane things, from destroying Vietnamese villages in order to save them from the Red Menace to closing "excellent" schools to rescue them from dissoluteness.

AND IN OMAHA, according to a story in today's World-Herald, Americans are about to elevate their "crazy" to a whole new level:
The full list includes 28 high schools, eight middle schools and 18 elementary schools. Two of the schools house both middle and high school students.

Included on the list are five Omaha area high schools Omaha Central, Omaha North, Omaha South, Omaha Benson and Bellevue East. Indian Hill Elementary School in OPS also made the list.

The designation could mean federal grant funding for the schools if their districts agree to reforms prescribed by the Obama administration such as staffing changes at each school building.

John Mackiel, superintendent of the Omaha Public Schools, expressed frustration Wednesday at OPS schools making the list.

The four OPS high schools made the list because they have graduation rates below 75 percent.

Mackiel sharply criticized state officials for labeling the schools in order to receive federal funding.

“I don't believe there's anything more reprehensible than gaming the system to access $77 million of federal money by accepting it and then labeling schools that two months ago you just celebrated in terms of the educational opportunities going on in those schools,” he said.

Schools on the list are eligible for a total of $17 million in grants, but there probably will only be enough money to serve schools with the greatest need of improvement. As a result, many of the districts with schools listed won't have to make difficult decisions on whether to remove principals or take other drastic measures.

Schools that accept federal School Improvement Grants would have to implement one of four models. The models range in severity from removing the principal to closing the school.

Nebraska sought and received a waiver in the federal rules allowing use of a graduation rate of 75 percent instead of the 60 percent called for by the federal government.

Nebraska Education Commissioner Roger Breed said no Nebraska high schools except for Native American schools would have qualified for funding at 60 percent.


Mackiel called it “a curious Alice-in-Wonderland contradiction” that in February, the Nebraska Department of Education performed an annual assessment of the district and issued a “glowing” report commending the leadership at South, North, Central and Benson high schools.

In the next 10 days, Mackiel said, graduating seniors at the four high schools will be awarded more than $25 million in scholarships, “but to see the list today you wouldn't know that.”
MACKIEL is right. Both Central and North, to name just two, are excellent schools. Both feature first-rate facilities, and Omaha North also is a magnet school.

What all Omaha's "failing" schools also happen to be are smack-dab in the inner city. What all Omaha's "failing" schools happen to be charged with is educating most of the offspring of the city's underclass.

These are the young victims of a failed culture, one which values many things, just not education, responsibility, achievement or familial stability. Back when I was taking just enough college sociology courses to be dangerous, one term of art for such was "deviant." Another was "dysfunctional."

As in "deviant behavior." Within a "dysfunctional environment."

According to the state -- and to the feds, eager to remedy a crisis, just not the right one -- the likes of Benson, North, South and Central are "persistently lowest achieving" schools because they graduate only 75 percent of the children who wander through their doors. According to the real world, Jesus Christ never performed a bigger miracle when he caused Peter to walk on water or fed more than 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.

Verily, I say unto thee if North, South, Central and Benson were more white, less underclass and a lot more suburban, the quality of teaching going on there would have the world beating a path unto them as the new MIT, if not the new Jerusalem.

But you cannot say that in America, because that would be impolitic.

IT IS BETTER for state and federal officials to ignore that Omaha, for example, has the third-highest black poverty rate in the nation. Ignore that its percentage of African-American children in poverty is atop the American hit parade of suck.

No, it is much more expedient to pretend that none of these things stack the deck against even the best educators and the best-resourced schools. It's a lot easier to downplay the fact that this kind of endemic poverty breeds real cultural deviance -- as opposed to America's everyday, middling cultural deviance -- and that a deviant hip-hop subculture glorifying Every Wrong Thing takes real cultural deviance and supersizes it.

Why, oh why, open up that can of racially-charged Whoop-Ass when you can just blame the schools instead?

Not acknowledging plain facts does not make them any less plain. Or factual.

It certainly doesn't make stigmatizing certain schools and punishing the educators formerly known as "excellent" any less of an insanely stupid starting point for embarking on the Sisyphean task of trying to fix broken people and a deviant culture.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Free press and the 'fun' of sexting

If anyone in the journalism universe is thinking about making the squelching of the March edition of Omaha North's student newspaper a First Amendment cause célèbre . . . don't.

This is no fit hill on which to die.

Take lazy student "journalists" who can't be bothered with more than a single viewpoint. Add an "in-depth" section on sex. Season with prurient photos and a condoms-on-bananas tutorial.

Then leave out all information on -- for just one example -- sexually transmitted diseases. Serve with a side article about the "fun" and risks of "sexting."


You mean "fun" like five years in the state pen on a child-pornography rap if someone forwards an explicit photo to a buddy?

IT TAKES some doing to make prior restraint seem the lesser of evils, but the staff of the North Star just may have pulled off something special here.

No, after
reading this morning's Omaha World-Herald article on the complete lack of professionalism (and good taste) at the North Star -- produced, regrettably, as part of the school's journalism curriculum -- you won't want to be organizing a First Amendment campaign on the students' behalf. Besides, there's also this.
The Omaha North High School journalism teacher has been disciplined after the principal stopped distribution of the March edition of the student newspaper.

A copy of the North Star viewed by The World-Herald included a four-page “In-Depth” section about teens and sex.

The main headline: “Life on the Sheets. Everyone has hormones, but learning how to control them is what matters.”

Articles and graphics focused on sex drive; masturbation; the district's pro-abstinence human growth and development curriculum; the fun and risks of sexting; and how to put on a condom, using a banana in step-by-step photos. Each article was written by a staff member.

There was no mention of the high prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in Omaha and no perspective from teen parents or from teens committed to abstinence.

The main photo, taken by a North Star staff member, shows the back of an unidentifiable female, with her partner's hands reaching around her to remove her bra.


Nelson said that the school has a “very diverse student body” and that the material would have been offensive to some North students and their families.

Aerts is “back in the classroom,” Nelson said. She declined to elaborate on how the teacher was disciplined, saying it was a personnel matter.
JOURNALISM ISN'T just about freedom of the press. Journalism is equally about the obligation its practitioners have to their public . . . and to the truth.

If the World-Herald writers have kept faith with
their public and gotten this story right, it's pretty clear North Star staffers violated the trust of the North High audience. And if the March issue of the North Star actually had gotten into the hands of the Omaha North community -- too many of whom know first-hand the serious repercussions of "Life on the Sheets," repercussions the newspaper staff apparently couldn't be bothered to investigate -- that breach could have been even more significant.

Prurience plus sloppy reporting equals misinformation. That's serious matter . . . and serious journalistic malfeasance.

The right to freely put pen to paper -- or type to page, or pixels to a computer screen -- is a lot like the sex act. It is exhilarating. It can be great fun. It is of great import. It is the exercise of tremendous power. It can be an act of love. It can be a wonderful, joyous thing.

Holy, even.

And it also can be exercised irresponsibly, thereby becoming the immediate cause of great pain. Great injustice. Even, you might say, of great evil.

Sex isn't exactly rocket science, despite its potential to blow up in your face if misused.
Ditto for journalism. There are important prerequisites for engaging in either, but they are pretty basic.

The lack of maturity exhibited by the would-be "journalistic" exhibitionists of the
North Star, however, reveals a bunch of snot-nosed kids who obviously have no business experimenting with either.