Showing posts with label column. Show all posts
Showing posts with label column. Show all posts

Monday, November 29, 2010

Avoid the clap. Just look at the Big 12.


Texas is like the clap. It's something you want to avoid.

Look at what happened when a perfectly fine athletic conference got all liquored up back in 1994 and hopped in the sack with a bunch of floozies from thereabouts. Not only was it not better in Texas, but the Big 8 ended up with a wicked case of SWC-philis.

And not only that, a TV network had the videotapes, and a shotgun marriage was in Big 8's future. The new union ended up being called the Big 12 -- as in,
"Come to think of it, not even a big 12-pack of beer could make this bunch look prettier at closing time."

Unfortunately, a shotgun marriage -- while it might have kept the videotapes in ABC's vault (and the Big 8 from becoming a celebrity like Paris Hilton) -- did nothing to cure that now-raging case of SWC-philis. Big 12 grew sickly as the years passed and, as the SWC-philis moved into its brain, became prone to irrational rages and sank into a quagmire of co-dependency.


"I hate this SWC-philis. How could I go on without my SWC-philis? Pass me another big 12-pack of Lone Star. (Urp.) Still uglier than s***. Kill me now, I married a f***ing cow. No, really."

ALAS, this is an ill-fated union that won't end until the fat Longhorn sings "Vaya con dios, mi sucker."

Until then, all there is left to do is endure the irrational ranting of The SWC-philitic Formerly Known as Big 8 as its appendages fall off one by one. For example, this insane rant, penned under the pseudonym of "Berry Trammel"
(God, the poor bastard can't even spell names right anymore):
Such is the fractured relationship of Nebraska and its soon-to-be ex-league, you couldn't blame Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe for telling the Cornhuskers, don't leave, just leave mad.

Corn Country is outraged that Beebe — nor anyone from the Big 12 office — showed up in Lincoln for the Nebraska-Colorado game Friday.

Beebe was honest about why he didn't go to Nebraska. He feared for his safety.

I talked to Beebe in the Boone Pickens press box Saturday night, and he said he had received enough threats from Nebraska fans — over the 2009 title game controversy, over his suspension of NU's Eric Martin for a helmet-to-helmet hit against Oklahoma State, over the officiating in the Nebraska-Texas A&M game two weeks ago — that he was advised to steer clear of Lincoln.

Now the Huskers consider it an affront that no one bothered to conduct a trophy presentation for the Big 12's North division title.
SIGH. They say that when the mind is being eaten up by the SWC-philis, gullibility is always the last thing to go.

Poor, poor bastard. God knows that's what got him into trouble in the first place. Read on . . . if your breaking heart can bear it:
I don't think Nebraska's football standards have fallen so low that the Huskers prize a We-Beat-Mizzou piece of hardware. I just think a once-solid fan base has lost its collective mind.

Nebraskans have resorted to bloodlust over their exodus to the Big Ten. They've demonized the Longhorns. Called the rest of the league rubes for staying aligned with UT.

Hey, Huskers. The Big Ten is a great conference that offers lots of money and lots of intriguing competition. Nobody blames you for going.

We blame you for losing your class.

Last November, one calendar year, I wrote a column with a banner headline: “Why can't every place be like Lincoln?”

I applauded Nebraska's commitment to hospitality and courtesy and a stadium experience the way it ought to be.

What happened to those people? Now Nebraska seems inhabited by a bunch of kooks who frighten off Beebe, an ex-NCAA investigator, and fire off uncouth e-mails like they're from Louisiana or somewhere.
POOR BASTARD. Stockholm syndrome.

Kids, let this be a cautionary tale about what happens when you jump into the sack with just anybody. Loss of virtue is just the beginning of the end result. You, too, could end up with a raging case of SWC-philis. And that's never pretty.

Avoid the clap.

Monday, June 14, 2010

More crap from the No. 2 state


Everything's bigger in Tejas.

First of all, there's the outsized ego of its state university. And don't try to convince University of Tejas fans theirs isn't the only school in Tejas, if not the world -- they won't believe you.

And the "bigger in Tejas" list also includes, no doubt, the feedlots. They'd have to be to hold as much bulls*** as what flows out of the Land of Big Hair and Small Brains every time Jennifer Floyd Engel posts another column in the
Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
One of the best rivalries in sports will not be the same; just ask Arkansas what happened to its rivalries after leaving the SWC. Can you imagine the Aggie War Hymn with "goodbye to Louisiana State University"?

Of course, Governor Good Hair wants A&M to stay with Texas.

What he needs to be doing is trying to save the Big XII. I do not say this lightly since this league obviously had fatal flaws, starting with its clearly overmatched commissioner, Dan Beebe, and a lot of schools who did not know their role.

And I am talking to my alma mater, Mizzou. Great job being played by The Big Ten, and enjoy begging for inclusion in the Mountain West. My check is not in the mail, nor will it be until heads roll.

I am also including Nebraska, which idiotically believes going to The Big Ten will turn back the clock to 1990, when 'roided partial qualifiers ruled the college football landscape. How smart are Nebraskans? They actually buy this "more aligned with culture and academic mission" nonsense being spewed Friday.

And who hasn't heard Nebraska referred to as Harvard on the Plains?

In fact, can everybody please dispense with acting like this is about academics, or worrying about being left behind, or anything except for money and super conferences.

Yes, The Big XII is dead, killed by corn shuckers, Tigers and greedy blank-blankers. And while this wake has turned into a roast, look for everybody to be mourning its demise in hindsight.
'ROIDED partial qualifiers? Harvard on the Plains?

Well, there is this story in the
Omaha World-Herald. Maybe that's where Ms. Jennifer Floyd Engel learned about NU's reputation:
Few doubt the University of Nebraska-Lincoln can more than hold its own on the football fields of the Big Ten.

A bigger question is how it stacks up in the classroom and the lab. Nebraska's flagship university ranks lower in the U.S. News & World Report rankings and pulls in fewer research dollars than all of its new partners in the nation's most academically prestigious athletic conference.

But regardless of UNL's current standing, almost any university would envy the upward trajectory the school has been on academically over the past decade.

Its U.S. News ranking among comprehensive public universities has jumped from 57th to 43rd, a measure of its rising reputation.

Its federal research haul has more than doubled.

The school is attracting more of the state's brightest students, and more students than ever from out of state.

Were it not for the marked improvements of the past decade, Chancellor Harvey Perlman said he doubts UNL would be the newest member of the Big Ten.

Now that that new affiliation will have UNL running and collaborating with some of the most prestigious public universities in the land, Perlman and other campus leaders say they see no reason UNL can't aspire to loftier heights in the decades ahead.

“It's a new bar for academics and research,” said Ellen Weissinger, UNL's interim vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Joining the Big Ten is going to accelerate our pace.”

UNL's upward trajectory did not go unnoticed when the Big Ten's presidents and chancellors considered granting the school entry to the conference, said Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University and head of the Big Ten's board.

While athletics and football were obviously the initial reason UNL was considered, she said, scholarship is taken too seriously in the Big Ten to add a school that was not a serious academic player.

“There was more to this than just a football game,” Simon said Saturday. “I think all of my colleagues felt very comfortable that Nebraska was an extraordinary fit.”

The recent boost in UNL's academic firepower has its roots in a period of serious introspection during the 1990s.
IT'S REALLY a shame that the best a sports columnist for an also-ran metro daily in north Tejas can muster is rank name calling. Then again, Tejas is the World's Biggest Feedlot, and the fumes from all that Chanel No. 2 must have gone to a Mizzou gal's head.

It's not like it would have taken much. As folks up here are keen enough to observe, the University of Missouri is close enough to the Ozarks to see your first cousin from there, and she/he is lookin' right purdy.

As much as anything, Engel's outpouring of bile reminds me of what became pretty much a yearly ritual for Missouri football fans after having their asses handed to them by the Huskers. Of course, they often didn't fare any better in the insult department than they did the football department.

I remember when my wife and I drove to Columbia in 1983 for the Nebraska-MU game. Of course, Nebraska won.

And naturally, some drunk-ass Mizzou student was staggering outside the stadium afterward screaming
"Nebraska sucks! Nebraska sucks!" at Husker fans (who, by the way, applaud visiting teams in Lincoln, win or lose). Of course, we responded by chanting back "Nebraska wins! Nebraska wins!"

He shut up. Really, some things are just too easy.

LIKE ENGELS succumbing to the temptation to just "phone it in" by ripping off the patented insult-column style of well-known "Colorado malcontent" Woody Paige. She imitates the Denver Post sports columnist OK; I do it better.

But
nobody approaches the real deal. And only a Tejas bulls*** artist would think she could.

That kind of baseless arrogance only can mean one thing. When UT starts up The Longhorn Network, Jennifer Floyd Engel probably will be the first hire.


Talk about your match made in Hillbilly Heaven.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

No roomah in the ummah . . . alhamdulillah


The trouble with Islam is that an infidel just can't catch a break.

If you trash the Prophet and his followers, you're going to catch hell.
If you compliment a Muslim when she makes a valid point, then point out the commonalities with the Catholic Church's theology of the body, you are called weird.

And when you leave a comment on Tokyo
Cairo Rose's blog to ask what's so weird about standard Catholic theology and cultural criticism . . .

The Mighty Favog Says:
May 6th, 2008 at 1:45 am

lol you’ve been edited. no anti-Islamic sediment on my blog. I had enough of that on the daily reveille. I can actually CONTROL comments here. you said somethign about wahhabis, etc. yeah not here go find someone else to spam

- Shirien

p.s. i also edited your URL, no music here either K? Thaaanks
NOW, I FULLY EXPECT that my response to being mendaciously tarred as "anti-Islamic" for politely asking some questions (and restating the Catholic position which seemingly agrees with the Muslim take on modesty) will be short-lived in Shirien Elamawy's (her real name) dawahland.

So, I'm posting it here . . . for posterity:

The Mighty Favog Says:
May 6th, 2008 at 6:02 am
Excuse me, but what was anti-Islamic about asking questions? Or are you incapable of defending your assertions . . . and your faith?

An honest question deserves an honest answer. Responding to an honest question — and an attempt at some form of dialogue — with disingenuous statements and rank hostility is both dishonorable and doesn’t exactly cover Islam in glory.

In other words, child, it would appear that you can dish it out, but you can’t take it. It likewise would appear that would be the modus operandi of your faith as well — if you are a truly representative witness to it.

Furthermore, if you are not Wahhabi (the no-music thing, I seem to remember, is a Wahhabi thing), what are you? I know not all stripes of Islam are anti-music, what others besides the Wahhabi movement among Sunnis are?

Or is asking that inherently anti-Muslim?

In the peace of Issa the Christ.

OH . . . AND WHILE I'm thinking of it, would you like to hear the story of how Ms. Elamawy came to be a columnist for The Daily Reveille and the explicit purpose of her column?

I knew that you would.

Again, straight from the ummah's mouth:

Anyway, fast-forwarding to the end of my freshman year at LSU. Everyone read and still reads The Daily Reveille on campus everyday. One day, I picked up the paper and saw a cartoon drawn on the op-ed page that not only caught my attention, it infuriated me. This wasn’t the first time The Daily Reveille printed something bigoted and completely offensive to Muslims. I decided to head over to the newsroom to have a little talk with the cartoonist but to my dismay he wasn’t there. Surely, I wasn’t going to leave without complaining. After all, I had to defend Islam. And I’m a girl, complaining is in our nature.

So, I requested to speak to the editor-in-chief at the time. It turned out I wasn’t the only one offended by a cartoon which depicted the Iranian President sitting at a laundry mat waiting for his brain to be finished being “washed” with “Quran Detergent;” other people had apparently been complaining all day.

After complaining about how unacceptable it was for him to print the cartoon, he sincerely apologized and told me he “wants to make sure that it doesn’t happen again in the future,” even though he was graduating only week later. He told me that at that very moment they were holding a forum for people who wanted to apply for being on the opinon staff for the next semester. He highly recommended I apply for a position after knowing I was a mass communication major. Subhanallah, it really was the Qadr of Allah that I went to complain at that very moment, because next thing I knew he led me into the room in which I was to apply. And I did. And so did about 100 other people who wanted one of 12 spots.

Anyway, I applied, got called for an interview and then alhamdulillah I got the job. And that started my work in mass dawah. Which wallahi has been such a blessing from the very beginning. However, you have to have a strong heart when speaking the truth about Islam. Don’t sugar coat things, don’t fall under the pressure of those around you.

Wallahi I can’t tell you all how many times I got people saying “Write about something else!” and subhanallah for a brief moment you think about it… then you realize that you are doing this purely for the sake of Allah and I figured if they fire me for not wanting to write about anything other than Islam, then so be it. But they actually loved the readers I would bring and the hits I would bring to the website too, alhamdulillah.
I HAVE just a single question.

If I were to return to LSU as a grad student, could I get a regular column in the Reveille for the explicit purpose of Catholic evangelization? No, I don't want to be just the token non-traditional student who's a "religious nut" but writes about all kinds of stuff.

What I want is the deal Ms. Elamawy got. I want a column "speaking the truth about Catholicism and the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Don’t sugar coat things, don’t fall under the pressure of those around you."

That's the deal I want. Fair is fair. Because I would be doing it purely for the sake of Issa the Christ, alhamdulillah.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

'White schools' and 'nigger schools'

The problem with conservative ideologues like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is that rarely do they "conserve" anything. Except, of course, the ability of radical individualists to blow up society for their own profit.

Thus, the dirty little secret behind the "school choice" agenda Jindal has embraced in his call for the state's second special legislative session this year,
as reported by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans:
The governor spent little time in his prepared remarks on the tuition tax deduction proposal. But teachers union lobbyist Steve Monaghan said afterward that it could define the tax portion of the session.

At a $20 million cost -- allowing parents to deduct half of each child's tuition cost up to $5,000 per child when figuring their taxable income -- the plan is a blip on the state's budget radar. But the precedent, Monaghan said, would establish that the state's educational priority list is no longer topped by public schools.

"This is a distraction," said Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers. "If we're truly concerned about building a world-class public education system, then we have to stop sending mixed messages. Why incentivize sending children to private schools?"

Jindal said the idea, which was not part of his campaign platform, came from several legislators and other advocates of "school choice."

"They made a persuasive case," the governor said. "We think it's important for our families to be able to send their children to high-quality schools all over Louisiana."

WHY IS IT that someone who bills himself as a "conservative" -- particularly a fiscal one -- is so enamored of what amounts to welfare for the well off? Or at least well off enough to shell out thousands of dollars a year in private-school tuition.

Welfare for the at least moderately well off is what Jindal's proposed tax credit is, too. And it's what passes for sound public policy in the eyes of Jindal's buddies in the "school choice" movement.

One of those "school choice" friends is Rolfe McCollister, publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report and a founder of the city's Children's Charter School.

McCollister, who's had his scrapes with the local school system, recently penned a column calling on voters not to renew a penny sales tax that funds part of teachers' salaries and provides funds for school construction and renovation. He decries the local public schools' poor performance, particularly their record with at-risk students.

This despite his own charter school's barely passing grade from the Great Schools website, which uses publicly available data and parent ratings to grade America's schools. In fact, according to Great Schools, McCollister's Children's Charter School had the second highest pupil-teacher ratio of any school within a five-mile radius, while earning only a 6 rating on a 10-point scale.

One would think Children's Charter School would be drawing the at-risk children of the most motivated of at-risk parents. Parents you would assume at least gave enough of a damn to try a charter school. Yet. . . .

On a college grade scale, 60 percent is a D. Barely. On my old high-school grade scale, 60 percent is a solid F. And one nearby public, non-charter school at least managed a C. Barely.

IF I'M BOBBY JINDAL, I'm going to be seeking out advice on education policy from "D" educators? And I'm going to be following these folks' advice to pursue a policy of undermining public schools . . . for what, exactly?

There are none so blind as right-wing pols who refuse to see.

"Conserving" a civic culture and a functional society does not include aiding and abetting the "school choice" of the relatively privileged while abandoning the rest to a "separate and unequal" public-education system. There is no "conservative" principle, properly understood, in tolerating decay and dysfunction as the normative environment of those "left behind" in public schools.

(East Baton Rouge Parish public schools, in the wake of court-ordered desegregation, now are 83 percent minority and 79 percent African-American. Most students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches.)

And there is nothing "conservative" about opening the public coffers, wholesale, to private groups for carrying out the public's business. In this case, that would be educating Louisiana's children.

"Conservatives" have forgotten -- utterly -- the flip side of freedom. That would be "duty." Just because middle- and upper-class folk have the ability to "escape" a struggling school system, that freedom to do so does not therefore become an entitlement underwritten in whole or in part by the state.

And it certainly does not translate into some "right" to cast the less privileged into an abyss of voters' making, either by commission -- as in the separate but unqual of Jim Crow days -- or by omission . . . as in the separate but unequal of some McCollisterian "I'm not paying a cent of tax money for 'failed schools'" dystopia.

When, by default, most white children attend private schools partially underwritten by public monies and most black children attend public schools abandoned to decay and dysfunction, it is difficult to discern how the "desegregated" present differs substantially from the darkest days of de jure segregation.

LONG AGO, before de jure school segregation had breathed its last in Baton Rouge, my parents used to threaten me with being sent to "the nigger school" when I misbehaved at the officially all-white Red Oaks Elementary. That was supposed to imply a fate worse than death to a young mind indoctrinated, from birth, into a white, racist milieu.

Now, in my hometown, they're working on making every public school "the nigger school" -- with all the awfulness that once meant to little white ears -- and all you have to do to get your kid sent there is not have enough money (or luck, or whatever) to get into this generation's "white school."

And if you don't have the dough (or luck, or whatever) to get into the "white school" in the first place, I don't see how Bobby Jindal -- or his proposed tax credits -- can offer you any hope. Any hope at all.

Let me know how that works out for you, Louisiana.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Washing their feet and looking at the moon


With people like Chas Roemer -- son of Louisiana's last (failed) reform governor -- running education in the Gret Stet, it's hard to hold out hope that anything will ever get better there.

Roemer, newly elected to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from Baton Rouge, is another Capital City swell who thinks teachers and children need to pay the price for the sins of the school board. He writes in the Baton Rouge Business Report:


Taxpayers are now faced with the proposition of either sending more money to the same system or being labeled as “against the kids.” Nothing could be further from the truth. I, for one, will vote against the tax—not because I’m against spending the money, but because I am against wasting the money. I would support any number of different approaches and, in fact, could support sending even a greater amount of money to a system that I believed put the kids first and not “the system.” I have witnessed firsthand the system making decisions that protect them while sacrificing potential opportunities for our kids. For example, the system turned away KIPP Academy—a nationally recognized charter school provider that specializes in serving urban kids. They turned down the Children’s Charter School in their attempt to expand—despite that their student body is 98% at risk and scores above the state average on school performance scores. Children’s Charter operates an 11-month school year with extended day for the same amount per pupil as the system. Furthermore, for years the Children’s Charter operated exclusively out of temporary buildings. Why can’t the system do some of these same things?
HERE'S A NEWS FLASH, podna. When you willfully advocate a politcal course of action that will force teachers to take a pay cut of between 2 percent and 22 percent, you're not only against the teachers . . . you're "against the kids."

And when you willingly advocate a politcal course of action that will doom the parish's students to remain in crumbling, outdated and squalorous "facilities," you're "against the kids." In fact, you're guilty of child abuse.

But that's OK. Baton Rouge's public schools now are 83 percent minority.

So it's not like the children of actual white people are on the line here. At least not enough of them to represent an unacceptable level of collateral damage when you blow up the public schools so that a magical voucher scheme might descend from the heavens and set everything aright.

BUT WAITING FOR GODOT is what my fellow Louisianians do. They're good at it. And the state's periodic political messiahs are happy to offer up the latest hare-brained scheme to throw Bubba a sop and stick it to the Negroes in the name of "reform."

Gov. Bobby Jindal (PBUH) is the latest to try that approach, just today calling on legislators to approve a tax credit for private-school tuition. In other words, welfare for people who have the money to pay thousands per year in tuition for their kids to go to private schools . . . so they don't have to give a damn about public schools.

Welfare is only a dirty word when it applies to minorities -- whose children are left to rot in defunded ratholes.

Gotcha.

IN OTHER WORDS, things ain't changed much in the Gret Stet since Gov. Earl Long stood at the dais in the Senate chambers and laid into one of its members, arch-segregationist Willie Rainach. In his book, The Earl of Louisiana, the journalist A.J. Liebling recounts the scene:

"After all this is over, he'll probably go up there to Summerfield, get up on his front porch, take off his shoes, wash his feet, look at the moon and get close to God." This was gross comedy, a piece of miming that recalled Jimmy Savo impersonating the Mississippi River. Then the old man, changing pace, shouted in Rainach's direction, "And when you do, you got to recognize that niggers is human beings!"

It was at this point that the legislators must have decided he'd gone off his crumpet. Old Earl, a Southern politician, was taking the Fourteenth Amendment's position that "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States . . . nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

AFTER THAT, they put Uncle Earl in the nuthouse. Being in favor of the Fourteenth Amendment . . . that'd always get you in trouble in the Gret Stet of Loosiana.

Still will, I suspect.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hurting people to make a point


R
olfe McCollister,
as we've discussed previously, wants Baton Rouge voters not to renew the penny sales tax dedicated to public-school construction and teacher raises.

The Baton Rouge magazine publisher asks voters to write out a spite-based public policy prescription because he's frustrated with the public schools and the poor performance of many. This, when local teachers are chronically underpaid and local schools fall apart around those inside them.


Here's a passage from an article on my alma mater, Baton Rouge Magnet High, from one of McCollister's own magazines, 225:
The Government Street school, decades behind in maintenance, is crumbling around the National Merit semifinalists it produces.

Plaster flakes from classroom walls. Mold and mildew feed on intruding moisture behind the crumbling brickwork, which has separated from the building’s exterior. It’s so bad it routinely sickens students and faculty.

“The mold and mildew on the third floor are just out of control,” Principal Nanette Greer says. “You wouldn’t believe the number of people who are sick or have problems due to allergies. It’s unbelievable. We’re all sick. I’m on allergy medication as is most of the staff. We don’t complain because it is what it is.
OH, BUT IT GETS WORSE than that. Here's an excerpt from a story about Baton Rouge High and the plight of local public schools in McCollister's other publication, The Baton Rouge Business Report:
The findings were no surprise to Dot Dickinson, who watched a tile fall from the ceiling before a performance of the school’s orchestra, which included her son, in the mid-1990s. Luckily, the wayward tile landed on empty seats.

“Seems someone would have noticed the need for maintenance at that time,” she says.

Most likely someone did. But at the time, every public school in the parish needed work, and there was virtually no money to pay for it, school officials say. The system isn’t in the crisis mode it was in 10 years ago, but there are still a number of school buildings that are drafty, leaky, moldy or otherwise disheveled.

The School Board was scheduled to discuss—and most likely finalize and vote on—the system’s facility plan on Jan. 10. The futures of Baton Rouge Magnet High, which is in line for a $62 million renovation, and Lee High School, which the system had considered closing before Superintendent Charlotte Placide proposed building a new Lee High on the same site, have elicited the strongest emotions.

But the problem is much bigger than two schools.
YES, THE "PROBLEM" IS BIGGER than Baton Rouge High and Lee High. The "problem" is as big as an entire city -- an entire state -- where public education, and generations upon generations of students, just aren't that big a priority.

The problem is as big as a magazine publisher who sits on the board of a charter school and loathes the public school system with such a white-hot intensity that he's willing to cut off kids' noses to spite the school board's face. And he hopes to accomplish this by convincing voters to effect positive "change" via means of material and financial destruction.

Really, what's condemning somebody's children -- though certainly not those of Baton Rouge's Brahmins -- to attend classes in squalor when it's all to fire a shot across somebody's bow. The shot may well cross the East Baton Rouge school board's bow, but here's a sketch of whom it won't hit . . . and whom it will.

Again,
from McCollister's own Business Report:
Thirty percent of children in East Baton Rouge Parish do not attend public schools, nearly double the state average of 16%, which the Louisiana Department of Education says is the highest rate in the nation. The private schools can pick and choose whom they want to let in, while public schools take all comers. Public schools tend to have nearly all of the special education and special-needs students, while private schools grab many of the high-achievers.

For middle- and upper-class children, private schools are the rule, not the exception. Nearly 77% of the students left in East Baton Rouge public schools are poor, as measured by how many qualify for free or reduced lunch. Often, poor children come from unstable homes or dangerous neighborhoods, and they bring those problems with them to school. Parental involvement in a child’s education, a key factor in academic success, is often lacking in poorer homes.
IT TAKES A BIG MAN -- and a classy city -- to kick kids who already are down. And, in the case of Baton Rouge High, an added bonus is getting to kick the crap out of the really smart kids Louisiana desperately wants to stick around.

The school board is clueless. Kids, however, get the message loud and clear.

For the former, may we have a standing eight count and a prison cell, please? And for the latter . . . a scholarship to an out-of-state school, a U-Haul and some mail-order Community Coffee.

Because now it's possible to get the coffee without having to live in a world of suck.

SO, WHOM ELSE is Rolfe McCollister willing to shaft to make the point that he's mad as hell, dammit, and he's not going to take this anymore?

Here's part of a comment left by a Baton Rouge public-school teacher in response to McCollister's diatribe:
If you run a business, you get to choose the best and the brightest people with which to surround yourselves. You get to choose from which suppliers and vendors you will purchase your raw materials to make/create/perform your products/services. If an employee is failing to do his/her job at a high enough standard, you get the luxury of firing him/her. We don't get that luxury. We have students that come to us with varying negative backgrounds, poverty, no adult supervision, no structure, exposure to violence, etc. over which we have NO control. We have students that come to us from homes where they are taught that the teacher is always wrong and "out-to-get-you." Sometimes, when I discipline a student in class for negative behavior, that student tells me "I'm going to tell my mom. She's going to come here and get you."

Yet, despite this, we work as hard as we can. We go above and beyond the call of duty. Even when we have NO support from administrators, and sadly sometimes no support from parents, we make strides to take kids from nothing to something.

I like my job. I like what I do. I love to teach and talk to the kids and see them learn and grow. I like to hear them laugh. I live for that rare moment when a kid tells me "thank you."

So, if you have a problem with the way the school system runs, then get involved. Work to make changes. Go into the schools and observe. Volunteer. Maybe you could offer your advice on something (since you obviously know so much about education). But, PLEASE, PLEASE do NOT take it out on us. Do not take it out on the kids. Do not take it out on the hard-working, dedicated teachers.

And, finally, if this renewal does not pass, my annual salary will drop by exactly $5218.00. How would you like to suddenly lose $5218.00 of your salary just because people don't like the school system for which you work. If I lose that salary, I won't be able to afford the house that I worked so hard, took a part time job, and struggled to be able to buy five years ago. I guess I will have to move back in with mom and dad.
REALLY, if you're willing to make children suffer for pique's sake, what's ruining the life and finances of a schoolteacher? It's all in the name of reform, right? Even if you don't have a Plan B yet to deal with the wreckage you leave behind.

I would ask Rolfe McCollister what the hell gives him the right to tell people to hurt kids and punish teachers in the name of making the perfect the sworn enemy of the good. But, then again,
everybody knows that "You can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Maybe it's time you tried, Baton Rouge


One has to wonder whether the animating political instinct of my hometown, Baton Rouge, is spite.


Confronted with pictures -- in his own magazine, no less -- of a public high school crumbling around the children and faculty within, the publisher of the Baton Rouge Business Report is foursquare against renewing a sales tax that could fix all that. And give raises to teachers, too.

IN SHORT, Rolfe McCollister is calling on his readers to put a bullet in the head of a school system that has come up lame:

I had a neighbor tell me last week, “I have never voted against a school tax, but I am going to have to vote no this time.” I think that’s the conclusion many folks have come to for the special March 8 election. I certainly have.

“Outrageous,” you say.

No, what is outrageous is what my neighbor said to me after he proclaimed his position. He said, “We have become the New Orleans school system.” Now that should make the hair on your neck stand up. Fact is, he is referring to the old New Orleans system characterized by poor performance, declining enrollment, resistance to change and a constant hunger for more money. New Orleans, as a whole, has been innovative about its school system since Katrina and drawn lots of attention. It still has issues and is struggling, but it has signs of new life and hope. Can you say the same for East Baton Rouge schools? This election is your opportunity to answer that question and speak out so the school board and the community can hear you loud and clear.

So why would folks oppose the school taxes?

It’s not because we think education isn’t important. It is very important. And many of us opposing the taxes have been involved in supporting education in many ways for many years.

It’s not because we aren’t concerned with the needs of children, particularly lower-income children. They are the ones who have been denied a choice and stuck in our failing system. More of the same provides them with no hope and no way out.

It’s not because we don’t appreciate teachers and the tough job they have. We have supported teachers and pay has increased—but are teachers and the classroom a priority for funds? Have the best teachers been rewarded and the worst removed?

It’s not because we aren’t patient enough. We have allowed time and supported previous taxes. We have watched for progress for years and passed millions in new taxes [property and sales taxes] and renewals. And what are the results we have to show for that commitment and investment?
GOT IT? The school system is failing. Ergo, let's take away the money to fix and rebuild crumbling schools, let's make sure teachers are paid less than surrounding school systems, let's give the school board a symbolic fickle finger of fate and see whether things get any better.

That's what we have to assume is McCollister's line of "thinking" since, unfortunately, he doesn't tell us what, exactly, he proposes to do about the quite live children crawling around inside the carcass of a school system euthanized by denying it nutrition and hydration.
The ballot will have three propositions funded by renewal of a sales tax. While the tax was previously authorized for a five-year period, this time they are asking for a 10-year tax which would generate $870 million total. Proposition 1 funds construction and technology, Proposition 2 is for discipline and truancy and Proposition 3 maintains salaries of teachers and school workers.

The school board points out they have done well in the last 10 years and built seven new schools, with three more under construction. They have repaired 40 schools, spent millions on technology and created six new alternative schools. So with all these millions spent, these accomplishments, facilities and new assets, we still have an F system, we’re losing students and now the state is even taking our schools away.

And the school board is asking us to sign up for 10 more years and spend $870 million more. For what? More of the same?

This is exactly why a tax is set up for a limited duration: So you can decide if it generated the desired results and if you want to re-invest. I would conclude we got little return on our investment, and we need to look for something new to invest in. This system is broken down like a car with no engine. Why would you paint the body and hire a driver when it is going nowhere?
WHAT DOES McCOLLISTER propose Baton Rouge invest in after it again cuts off its nose to spite its face? U-Haul? Ryder? Mayflower Van Lines?

Perhaps the citizenry might choose, instead, to invest in more prisons. Of course, McCollister might object to a new prison tax -- being that the recidivism rate never came down -- so Baton Rougeans might want to just invest in guns and ammo.

In 1981, white Baton Rougeans invested in private schools so their darlings wouldn't have to be bused across town to attend school with the Negroes. In time, Baton Rougeans also invested in new homes in neighboring parishes so their children wouldn't have to go to crappy public schools that really weren't any more mediocre than they were at 65 percent white -- just much poorer and much blacker, with all the baggage that connotes.

And, by and large, the East Baton Rouge Parish schools have been awful for decades, with some glaring exceptions . . . like Baton Rouge Magnet High, my alma mater and one of the schools most desperately depending on that tax getting renewed.

Part of the reason the parish's public schools have been so substandard for so long is that Baton Rougeans have been OK with that. After all, until voters approved the penny sales tax in 1998 -- the one up for renewal -- no school-construction tax had passed in three decades.

Indeed, most of the Baton Rouge schools I attended more than three decades ago were, shall we say, dumps. Except for Baton Rouge High. Now, it may be the biggest one of all.

IF INCOMPETENCE were a capital offense, the East Baton Rouge school system ought to have been executed years ago, when it was still mostly white and the public still was paying attention. Not properly funding it, mind you, but still paying attention.

But no. The Rolfe McCollisters of Baton Rouge only want to "pull the switch" after the public and "civic leaders" have really let it go to hell . . . and have let it become 83 percent minority, and largely poor.

Now it's time for the blindfold and last cigarette -- now that those who have better options largely have exercised them and those "left behind" have no better option at all. But only if we're sure there's no Plan B for doing this public-education thing.

But say there were a Plan B -- which there isn't. If there were a Plan B, a knight in shining armor to magically fix the school system and make every poor, ill-educated child suddenly above average . . . if there were such a savior on the horizon, where would these miracles be performed?

In the same old crumbling facilities, decrepit schools unfit for dogs but not for Baton Rouge's kids? Would that make the miraculous all the more . . . miraculous?

DOES ROLFE McCOLLISTER'S public-policy prescription include making children sit in squalor to atone for the sins of the school board? Or is it possible that the city might embrace an imperfect plan to fix up facilities in anticipation of a coming push to fix the problems with education administration and student achievement?

Baton Rouge never has been, is not now nor ever will be "America's Next Great City (TM)" so long as it is dominated by reactionary, spite-driven, race-tinged politics. It will never progress beyond "Southern backwater" in the eyes of the nation until folks down there figure out that they're all going to pull together or fly to pieces.

That starts with public education. Building a capable, literate and skilled workforce for a state that currently doesn't have one is a lot easier if you don't -- in a fit of pique -- throw your school system back to Square Zero in the name of "reform."

But then again, we are talking about my hometown, Baton Rouge.

They say that a dog won't crap in its own bed. That may be true for Phideaux, but not for the Baton Rouge that I know and love . . . and hate. (They get complicated, my feelings do.)

The Baton Rouge I know -- and the Baton Rouge evidenced by the deplorable conditions at my alma mater, and by that anti-tax McCollister column -- not only will crap in its own bed, it'll then plop its children in the stinking pile.

Change you can believe in (to steal a slogan) is a city overcoming a crappy legacy. A big part of that would be renewing the school sales tax to fix dilapidated school buildings and raise teachers' pay -- a first step on a challenging journey toward a better future for Baton Rouge's children.

In Baton Rouge, for a change.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The tragedy of Elden Francis Curtiss


The great tragedy of Elden Francis Curtiss, Catholic archbishop of Omaha, Neb., is that he could write
this column unironically:
There seems to be a growing number of people in our society who place a high value on spirituality, but a low value on religion, especially organized religion. It is like saying that they place a high value on democracy, but disparage democratic institutions. But how do we maintain democracy without any structures that make it possible? How do we keep a religious spirit alive in our country without any structures to support it?

Recently, I was reading some comments by Flannery O'Connor, the Catholic novelist who died in 1963 during the Second Vatican Council. In her collected letters, edited after her death under the title "The Habit of Being," Flannery writes about her experience as a Catholic with her church. She valued the church highly but was quite aware of the short-comings of some of her members. She observed that sometimes "you have to suffer as much from the church as for it. The only thing that makes the church endurable is that somehow it is the body of Christ, and on this we are fed."

Flannery O'Connor understood that the operation of the church is set-up for the sake of sinners, which creates all kinds of problems for those who are self-righteous. We do not easily accept the notion that God is as patient with the entire church as he is with each lost sheep. Some people expect the church, especially her leaders, to be perfect. The reality is that the church is holy only because Jesus stands at the center of her life. But all the members who make up the church are imperfect and sinful. This causes some people to be critical of the Catholic Church.


(snip)


Flannery did not hesitate to point out the faults she found with the church: 45 years ago she complained about the smugness she found in some clergy and laity - "do not take credit for possessing the true religion if you do not live that truth; and do not be glib in answering honest questions - a sense of mystery should give Catholic apologists a sense of humility rather than pride."

She pointed out the lack of depth in some Catholics who want to keep things nice, shallow, cute and safe - "but we are challenged at all times by the cross." And there is that perennial self-righteous on the part of some that disdains human weakness and questions any in-depth discussions about the doctrines of our faith - "the church for some people is not the body of Christ" Flannery wrote, "but a poor man's insurance policy." People need to wrestle with the church in order to refine their faith and their commitment to the Gospel message.

In addressing the need to develop a mature faith based on study and prayer, Flannery wrote that "conviction without experience makes for harshness." But experience not grounded in solid faith tends to go off on tangents. She was convinced that Christians have to struggle with their own demons in order to show compassion to other people who are struggling with their demons. The only thing worse than Christians who will not, under any circumstances, challenge bad behavior in others, are Christians who see evil in everyone else but not in themselves.

Flannery O'Connor had a remarkable insight into modern, sanitized, "empty" religion that was beginning to make inroads into society in the 1960s. This is what she wrote: "One of the effects of modern liberal Christianity is to turn, gradually, religion into poetry and therapy, to make truth vaguer and vaguer and more and more relative, to banish intellectual distinctions, to depend on feeling instead of thought, and gradually to come to believe that God has no power, that he cannot communicate with us, cannot reveal himself to us, indeed has not done so, and that religion is our own sweet invention."

I think the insights of Flannery O'Connor, writing half a century ago, were remarkably accurate. She lived and died a committed Catholic who knew that, despite the failures of her members, the Catholic Church was able to preserve the Gospel and her sacred tradition through every century. She knew that the living Christ revealed himself in the Scriptures and in the sacraments. She knew that despite its sordid history at times, and the scandal caused by some of her leaders, the church was the gift of Jesus to us - and that we should always rejoice in her continuity throughout the ages, and in the Lord's promises that the church would last to the end of time.

(snip)


It is all right to find fault with the human church, her leaders and members, when there is need for honesty and correction. Our criticism has legitimacy when we love the church and recognize that it is the presence of Jesus in our midst that is at the heart of the church's life. We need to defend the church against her detractors who want to undermine and weaken her with their own agenda.

Spirituality without religion is vague and tenuous. Religion without a church to guide it produces self-fulfilling prophecies and division. A church without continuity from Christ and the apostles lacks cohesiveness and authority. This is the reason that we are Catholics.

We should thank God everyday for the gift of the church that manages to keep Jesus at the very center of her life despite the foibles of her members. The church is weak only when we are weak. It is up to us to help keep her strong by focusing on the Lord who is always present in her midst. He is the reason for the holiness of the church despite the sinfulness of her members.
A GREAT COLUMN. I wonder whether His Excellency is aware he was making a fine argument -- with the help of Flannery O'Connor -- for sticking with a flawed institution when jackasses like himself are the ones making you want to run screaming into that dark night of the soul.

A few years ago, I was almost out the door myself because of people who were obsessed with the externals of the faith but less so with living that faith when doing so would make life a lot more untidy. Like what would happen if you called the cops on a kiddie-porn obsessed priest.

For more than a year -- daily -- I professionally inhabited a world where the most pious of Catholics covered for, sucked up to and rationalized a chancery that allowed such a priest to continue to work with kids. That is, until the cops finally arrested Father.

These people did not think something was wrong with Curtiss for valuing the "company" over Catholic children. But they did think something was quite wrong with the "secular, anti-Catholic media" for pointing out the problem.

Let me tell you, that does mess with your faith. When you are looked upon as a Bad Catholic for choosing right over wrong, and your bishop is The Embodiment of Wrong, you begin to furiously reevaluate a lot of stuff.

Ultimately, I chose to remain Catholic on quite O'Connoresque grounds. Basically, just because I worked with a bunch of hyperpious Catholics and my "shepherd" was a jackass playing chicken with an obstruction-of-justice indictment, it didn't mean the Catholic faith was a big lie.

It just meant I worked with a bunch of hyperpious Catholics and my archbishop was a jackass.

An amazingly non-introspective jackass who can write an objectively fine column that -- in the context of Curtiss' dysfunctional little see on the prairie -- is just another Holy S*** Moment in the collective life of his Bad Catholic flock.

Oh, and since the archbishop says it's OK to criticize the Church, now . . . he needs to sell that $389,000 retirement flop the archdiocese bought for him and use the proceeds to help the poor. It's a scandal and an outrage.