A realization

Friday was … quite a day. Like, I need to write about it, but I’m still thinking about it and I don’t think I’m ready yet. But something occurred to me this morning and I wanted to get it written down before it fell out of my head, so you stand a chance of getting more than one post today, particularly since I have a book review to write as well.

I have been writing about standardized testing for two decades. I wrote an entire-ass book full of essays that touch on it. And I have talked a lot in this particular school year about how my school is being set up to fail: we are a “turnaround school,” a phrase no one will define for us and does not seem to mean anything, and last year they fired our principal and AP and replaced them with people who had a grand total of zero seconds of experience in their new jobs.

This is not how you turn around a school. I feel like that fact is obvious; anyone who has ever managed anything in any capacity should probably recognize that if a place is seriously struggling what you do not do is turn it over to entirely neophyte management and expect good things to happen, particularly something as complicated as a middle school.

In addition, my school is nearly a third special-needs students. You would think that would result in blanketing the school with resources so that we can meet the needs of our students, but of course that has not happened. We are expected to hit the same pass rates as all of our other schools– including the one that took away all of our high-performing students, so that our smartest kids are the ones who are barely on grade level rather than five or six grade levels behind– and the fact that said task is virtually impossible is ignored. In fact, if we complain about it, we are accused of believing that our students cannot learn.

But something else hit me this morning– a detail about this little clusterfuck that despite twenty-plus years of thinking about it I don’t think I’ve ever recognized before.

Do you know what would happen if we somehow, miraculously, managed to create a school that was a third special-needs kids and high poverty and nonetheless managed to get all of our kids to pass the yearly high-stakes test?

We would be accused of cheating.

They literally wouldn’t believe it if all or even most of our kids passed. And if they investigated, and they didn’t find any cheating– and you can fucking well bet that they’d keep looking until they found an I undotted or a T uncrossed somewhere– do you know what would happen next?

They’d make the test harder. And they’d keep making it harder until they felt like they had “enough” kids failing.

Because student success is not what these tests are about.

I already knew we had been set up to fail. I just didn’t think deeply enough about it. Because none of this is about student success. We were set up from the beginning. Even if we succeed, they’re going to keep making it harder until we fail again. Because my school is full of poor kids and kids with disabilities and kids of color, and they want us at the bottom of the heap.

Not that I’ll take my own advice, but …

My grading for the weekend and most of my planning for next week is done already, which is a good thing, but that hasn’t stopped me from spending most of the morning doomscrolling. And something has occurred to me: this situation being what it is, we literally cannot trust a single thing we hear from anyone at all. Certainly not the administration, not the doctors, not photographs (note that this picture of him “working” involves signing a blank piece of paper, and this isn’t even the first time that they’ve been caught pulling that dumb-ass move,) nothing. Not one word that any of these people say can be trusted.

There are only two things that can be assumed to have some sort of reasonable truth value here: 1) he dies, or 2) he leaves the hospital. Both would be rather difficult to fake, although I’m sure it’ll be at least a day or two before they admit it if he does actually die.

(I paid fairly close attention once Herman Cain went into the hospital, checking in on his condition once every day or two, and they did the exact same thing– dude was in the hospital for weeks and they consistently insisted he was fine and/or getting better right up until he died.)

Anything short of release or death, good news or bad, has to be presumed to be a lie. And therefore there’s really no point in the doomscrolling, because if he does die or leave the hospital once that information leaks out it’ll be everywhere in seconds, so it’s not like we won’t find out.

So I’m going to try and do something else. I’m going to fail, mind you, but I’m going to try.

Speaking of noooooooope…

So, remember a couple of weeks ago when I said I was applying for a teaching job?  That wasn’t quite true, at least in the strictest sense of the word “teaching.”  It was a job, in a school, that would involve occasionally interfacing with kids but which seemed, from the description, to actually mostly involve backing up teachers and being a resource for them rather than a job where I was in front of a classroom all day.  I messed around with my work schedule a bit this week after getting a couple of emails from the HR director, who indicated there would be an informational meeting at the school that it might be useful to come to.

(I’m leaving out a lot of details, obviously; this program involves a pretty substantial infusion of money and is a new thing for the school to the point where renovations are happening in the building right now for it, so the idea that they’d invite people who are applying for the job to this informational meeting makes more sense than you might think– the building staff was also invited.)

So.  Yeah.  I went to the meeting.  There were maybe a dozen staff members present and at least three people who were there because they were applying for the same job I was– me and two others, in other words.

The lack of buy-in from the staff was a physical force in the room, and the sinking feeling that started moments after the presentation began never really got any better.

I happened, after the meeting was over, to walk out of the building with one of the other two applicants.

“Was that job what you thought it was when you applied?” I asked.

“Not even a little bit,” she said.  And she didn’t say “You can have it,” but it was pretty damn clear she didn’t want it any longer.

They are actually looking for two people to fill this job, who will both be in the new facility at all times.  Along with sixty kids.

Sixty.  At once.

Three blocks a day, of– lemme say it again– sixty kids.  Seventh and eighth graders.  In a program that, in my professional opinion, is a massive waste of time and resources if they’re going to treat it as a class that you get a grade for.   In a nicely renovated, brand-new space featuring two load-bearing walls in the middle of the Goddamn room that cannot be moved and guarantee that there will be no place where a single teacher can stand and see all of his or her students.



In which I contain multitudes


I have always been very ambivalent about Santa Claus.  Hell, as a non-Christian I’m ambivalent enough about Christmas, so the idea that I’m compounding celebrating a holiday that’s supposed to be about the birth of a divine being who I don’t believe in with lying to my kid about a white dude who drops presents down the chimney just hasn’t ever sat well with me.  I don’t like lying to my son– and yes, I think telling your kids about Santa is lying to them, unless you also want to explain why Santa seems to like wealthy white kids more than everybody else.  But I’m not so opposed to the idea of Santa Claus that I’m stomping on it, so to speak.  The position my wife and I have evolved over the years is that we simply don’t talk about Santa.  My mom can tell the boy whatever she likes; he can absorb whatever messages about Santa he wants from the wider culture.  Hell, I’ll even read A Visit from St. Nicholas to him on Christmas Eve if he wants, like my parents used to do with me.  I let him read Captain Underpants and don’t make a big stink about him not being real; why should Santa be any different?  My policy has simply been to neither confirm nor deny, and I don’t write “from Santa” on presents that we bought him– the “from” tag on all his presents is just left blank.  He hasn’t seemed to notice that Santa seems to think he lives at his Grandma’s house.  And we’ve never done the “go to the mall and sit on Santa’s lap” thing either.  Which, honestly, as I’m typing this, I gotta admit I regret just a little bit.

So last week he told my wife that one of the kids in his class was telling everyone that Santa wasn’t real.  My wife, caught by surprise, fell back on our usual “What do you think?” shtick and eventually he dropped it, or so we thought.  This morning, as we were getting in the car to go to school, he ambushed me with the same question, and seemed frustrated that I reacted the same way.  He is 6, and in kindergarten, just so you can properly contextualize this if you’d like.

And then he said something that really caught me by surprise, which was that he thought that this other kid was “ruining Christmas” and “taking all the fun out of everything” by telling the other kids that Santa wasn’t real.  I pushed back on this as gently as I could– if Santa wasn’t real, does that mean that the tree and the lights and the presents and the cookies and the family stuff weren’t fun anymore?  Surely the fat white guy isn’t the most important part, right?  He didn’t answer, but I could see him thinking about it.

And then my reaction surprised me, because I found myself more than a little bit pissed at this kid, and by extension this kid’s parents.  I think the family in question is at least nominally Muslim, as I’m pretty sure they’re ethnically Pakistani, but at any rate they’re from that area (the boy may or may not have been born here; I’m certain the parents weren’t) and while in general they’ve struck me as more or less secular people they’re definitely from an area where Christianity isn’t the majority religion.  So, okay, your kid got raised with no Santa.  You told him the truth.  Cool.  But maybe you go ahead and make sure your kid knows that showing everyone else the light isn’t so much the way to go?  My son is friends with this kid, and he’s visibly upset with him for, again, “ruining Christmas.”  And if my son decides that the boy is right about that, then I’m going to have a talk with him about not screwing the shit up for the other kids.

And I gotta admit, I’m thisclose to dropping an email to either my kid’s teacher or this other family (our school makes sure everyone has everyone else’s emails) and in the most polite way I can manage to phrase it suggesting that they tell this other kid to knock it off.

That’s probably in utter contradiction to everything in the first couple of paragraphs.  Do I care?  I dunno.  I care enough that I wrote this to try and hash it out in my head, and I probably need to be talked out of contacting any of the other adults involved– which, again, I promise I’d do politely.

“Eventually ruining Christmas for him was my job, dammit” is not the most persuasive line of argument, after all.

Blech.  Parenting is stupid.

I’ll kill your friends and family to remind you of my love: In which I liveblog the #2016Debate

wegotthisOh god just kill me now

FOR THE RECORD, I’m gonna be reuploading this every, oh, I dunno, ten minutes.  It will update frequently.  Feel free to do whatever in between hitting reload all the time.

8:47: In a move that will be meaningless to all but a very small number of you who have been following me for decades, I put on my Jackass wristband.

8:56:  I realize that CNNGo isn’t working and briefly scramble to get it back on again.

8:57:  Is Lester Holt Matt Lauer?  Is that the same person?  Oh, God, what am I doing?

8:59: Dear God, an hour and a half?  No commercials?  This liter of pop I have sitting next to me is going to be a problem one way or another, isn’t it?  Some dipshit CNN commentator admits that the first 15 minutes are the most important because the other dipshits who have his job are going to start writing their stories right away.

9:02: Shouldn’t they have started by now?  C’mon.  I don’t wanna listen to these dumb CNN people any more.  I wanna listen to other dumb people, like the moderator, and the vulgar Cheeto.  Oh, and occasionally throw Hamilton lyrics into the liveblog, because I’m behind the times and just got into that.

9:03: The nationwide polls aren’t a dead heat, Wolf.  Hillary has been ahead the entire time and Trump has never been ahead once.

9:04:  Woo here we go.  Are we sure this isn’t Matt Lauer?

hwP00V9:o6: God help me, my first thought is “Why did she wear that?”  I’m a bad person.  I am vaguely surprised that Trump’s tie isn’t red.

9:08:  Hillary starts by surprising me, not spending the first several minutes talking about thanking people.  I’ve already forgotten what the first question is before she really starts talking.  Jobs.  I dunno.

9:09: Dummy has his Serious Face on.  Hillary is a little hesitant at first; I’m assuming she’ll hit her stride in a bit.

9:10:  He relies on Terk Err Jerrbs, which isn’t surprising.  I already suspect the story of the night will be Trump sniffling.  He’s actually giving a half-decent answer to the question, up to the point where he says we have to stop companies from taking our companies.

9:12: “Trumped-up trickle-down” isn’t funny and she almost forgot what it was before she said it. Hits him right away with inheriting money from his dad.  Is she standing on the left on the stage?  She’s looking offscreen the way CNN has things set up.

9:13: Oh, this’ll be fun; she’s under his skin already.  Back to the breathing.  The “small loan” from his father was millions.  He’s talking faster and sniffling more.  My wife says he has a cold.

1517206039753204911.gif9:16:  “That’s called business, by the way.”  Oh, this is gonna be fun.

9:18: He’s tried to interrupt her two or three times and she’s treating him like he’s not even there.  He’s not gonna make it through the entire debate if this keeps up.

9:21: Dude can’t stand still.  I haven’t looked at Twitter.  I take a second to do that and see that people are already RTing where Trump blamed global warming on the Chinese.  Now he’s trying to holler over her.  It’s not going to work.  I seriously thought the guy would last more than 20 minutes before he started falling apart.

9:25:  “I’m going to cut taxes big-league, and you’re going to raise taxes big-league.”  Sure, dude.  She plugs the fact-checker on her website and my wife audibly starts laughing.

9:26: “You’ve been fighting ISIS your entire adult life.”  Huh?

9:27: I go to both Clinton’s website and Trump’s.  Clinton’s website, yes, has a fact-checker.  Trump’s is down.  Every answer he’s talking faster than the one before.  He’s stopped sniffling for some reason.

WhDxv1i.png9:29: Man, searches for “Donald Trump tiny hands” return a cornucopia of riches.

9:31:  I’m really not sure what “the worst recovery since the Depression” actually means.

9:32:  Ruh-roh.  Lester Lauer is bringing up Trump’s taxes and who he may or may not be in debt to.  My wife notes that Trump’s skin looks surprisingly normal.

9:33:  Whoa.  Lauer directly points out that the IRS has stated nothing is stopping him from releasing his taxes.  Whoopsie!

9:35:  The knives are out.  “That makes me smart,” he says in response to Hillary claiming he’s paid no federal taxes.  That was the wrong answer, dude.

9:37:  I’m kinda surprised that he kept his mouth shut the whole time she was eviscerating his ass about his taxes.

9:38: Someone Tweets at me saying “It’s like watching a lion rape a sheep only in a bad way.”  Which I laugh at and then feel bad about.

9:39:  Imagine if any Democrat said we were a third world country.  He’s done nothing this entire debate but talk about how terrible America is.  But Colin Kaepernick is a problem.

.новый-коллаж__700.jpg9:40:  Oh shit.  Oh shit.  OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SHIT.  She’s going straight at his business dealings.  Oh god I didn’t think this was going to be this much fun.

9:42:  Any second now there will be video of Trump saying he’d negotiate down the debt.  He keeps his mouth shut while she cuts him apart again.  I hope she brings up the little kids who were singing at his rally and are now suing him.

9:44:  “Let’s talk about race.”  OH THIS SHOULD BE GOOD.  LET’S DEFINITELY DO THIS.

9:45:  Wait, I was gonna quote Hamilton as a joke.  Uh… young, scrappy and hungry.  Or something.

9:46: Say Black Lives Matter, Hillary.  SAY IT.

9:47:  My “Interesting People” list on Twitter is moving so fast I can’t even keep up.  I can’t imagine what my full feed looks like.  He got the FOP endorsement at least a week or two ago, not today.

9:48:  Oh, good, let’s talk about taking guns away and stop and frisk.  That will help you a lot.  2600 shootings in Chicago in 2016 so far, btw.

trump-nope.jpg9:49: Matt Holt is actually doing a pretty good job so far of pointing out Trump’s bullshit.  Holt points out th
at it was ruled unconstitutional and Trump flat-out denies it.  Untrue.  He’s back to sniffling again, btw.

9:51: My five-year-old son, who is supposed to be asleep, walks out into the living room to announce that he needs a drink, and looks at the TV and says “Is that Donald Trump?”  HOW THE HELL DOES MY SON KNOW WHO DONALD TRUMP IS?

9:52: I’d like to hear the phrase “Systemic racism” from Hillary right now.

9:53:  HOLY SHIT SHE SAID IT.  My wife is demanding Law & Order memes.  I swear I really did type that right before she said “systemic racism.”

9:54: Trump is about to call himself the least racist person who ever lived.  Hitting update before he says it.

9:55:  I’d like to point out that I thought Barack Obama lost his first debate against McCain and against Romney.  So I’m generally not shy about saying it when I think Dems are losing debates.  Hillary is grinding Trump into a thin orange paste right now and he’s STILL defending stop and frisk.  Holy shit.



10:00:  “I was preparing for this debate.  And I’m also prepared to be the President of the United States.”  She’s been waiting for a chance to use that line.  He has no response at all.  He’s less manic now; he seems to be getting tired.

10:02:  She’s about to cut his balls off again.

10:03:  Have I made this clear yet?  I will be proud as hell to vote for this woman.

10:04:  He still hasn’t actually said “Barack Obama was born in the United States,” by the way.

10:05:  That should have been an applause line.  And Clinton’s team did nothing to advance the birther nonsense.  I was paying really fucking close attention, goddammit.  I would have noticed.

10:06: “Everyone got sued for it, and I settled the lawsuit without admission of guilt” is not a good defense, Donnie.  I can’t believe he’s not actually bleeding at this point.

suwpx2jobnn6ruqmg9hd10:09:  She’s leaving absolutely nothing on the table with this guy, and it’s all going to happen again twice more.

10:10:  Who or what is Ice?

10:11:  “As far as the cyber…”

10:12: Sure, let’s fat-shame nerds too while we’re at it, assholes.

10:13:  How the fuck is ISIS beating us at the Internet?  What the shit does that even mean?  STOP SAYING CYBER.  Does he even know how fucking stupid he sounds when he says that?

10:14: Holy shit, there’s only fifteen minutes left.  This was actually fun.  What the hell’s wrong with me?

10:15: The second I type that, my feed goes to shit.  DAMMIT!

10:16:  I get the feed back on and he’s yapping about “taking the oil” again.  I have never had the slightest idea what the hell “take the oil” means.  It ain’t like you can fly a giant biscuit over there and sop that shit up.  You can’t do it.  And he never gets called on it; I hope she does.

10:17:  It occurs to me that maybe my Twitter feed is actually somehow killing my internet connection because it’s moving at Goddamn lightspeed.  I shut it off.

10:19:  I may have blacked out for a second.  Why is he talking about NATO?


10:20:  He’s pronounced “terror” three different ways in the last thirty seconds.

10:22: What the hell is this “no one wants to call Sean Hannity” nonsense about?  They did an article in a major magazine?  But he doesn’t mention the magazine? tumblr_nlsosxLH3C1tew7o3o1_1280.png.jpeg

10:23: He says he has a better temperament than Clinton does and there is audible laughter in the audience.

10:24:  Ba-da-da DAT da!  Dat da-da da DIE da da!

10:26:  The weirdest thing about Trump tonight is how quiet he’s been while she’s been tearing him apart.  I don’t know if his attention is wandering or what but there are places where he SHOULD have been interrupting just to try to knock her off her game.  She just had two uninterrupted minutes and ripped his ass to shreds.


10:27: Seriously, how can he get away with constantly saying “We lose on everything!” and the Republicans just lap it up?

10:28:  He doesn’t know what “the current policy” is, Lester.

10:29: I kinda hope Clinton points out that he has no idea what policy Holt is talking about.  For the record, I actually don’t either, which is why I’m certain that Trump doesn’t.


10:33: CALL ME SON ONE MORE TIME it may be time for bed

10:35:  “Secretary Clinton, would you care to sautée Trump’s balls one more time?”

10:36:  “Why yes, Lester, I would.”

10:37: Okay we’re way past OH WAIT HE CANNOT BE TALKING ABOUT ROSIE O’DONNELL my bedtime and maybe it should be time for these people to stop talking now.  His defense just now appears to be “I was gonna say mean things but I decided not to.”

10:38:  He really shouldn’t have had to ask that question.  Trump, naturally, doesn’t answer the “Will you accept the result of the election?” question.  (Wait.  No.  He does at the last second.  Good.)

In summary: