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April 05, 2005

Contributing to the End of Civilization

Can someone explain this to me? Has this country gone insane? This is the kind of mamby-pamby bullshit that... that.... I'm so upset, I can't think of a good ending for this sentence. But it's bad.

I am not a big believer in coddling. Cuddling? That's different. I'm at least as good a cuddler as Ned Flanders ("He looks like a cuddler, that Ned"). But coddling? No way. Just ask my kids. Seriously, it doesn't help. I just weakens people. And I would think that the teachers of today would be interested in..., oh I don't know, strengthening their students, rather than weakening them?

Let's look at some snippets from this story:

Parents objected. Red writing, they said, was "stressful." The principal said teachers were just giving constructive advice and the color of ink used to convey that message should not matter. But some parents could not let it go.

"Some parents could not let it go." Arrgh. Are you kidding me? These stupid parents aren't doing their kids any favors here. Can you imagine what goes on in the mind of a parent that would go to their kid's school and complain about the color of the ink that was used to correct their kid's work? I'm sure at least one of them had to stop at a traffic light on the way to the school. Hope seeing the red light at the top wasn't too stressful for them.

"You could hold up a paper that says 'Great work!' and it won't even matter if it's written in red," said Joseph Foriska, principal of Thaddeus Stevens Elementary in Pittsburgh.
He has instructed his teachers to grade with colors featuring more "pleasant-feeling tones" so that their instructional messages do not come across as derogatory or demeaning.
"The color is everything," said Foriska, an educator for 31 years.

No, the color is not everything. You sir, are just an idiot. This guy is a teacher, excuse me, an educator in an elementary school. Grades K through 6 I would assume. So kids are coming into his school with presumably no preconceived notions about the so-called evils of red markings on their school papers. Yet he is saying that if the words "Great Work" are written on a child's paper in red ink and not a color that features more "pleasant-feeling tones", then those words would "come across as derogatory or demeaning." Yeah, like if you had a class of incredibly intelligent students enter your school in kindergarten and through all their years of study all you had to do was write "A+" and "100%" and "Great Work" in red ink on their papers, would that be demeaning to them?

At Public School 188 in Manhattan, 25-year-old teacher Justin Kazmark grades with purple, which has emerged as a new color of choice for many educators, pen manufacturers confirm.
"My generation was brought up on right or wrong with no in between, and red was always in your face," Kazmark said. "It's abrasive to me. Purple is just a little bit more gentle. Part of my job is to be attuned to what kids respond to, and red is not one of those colors."

Boo to you previous generation, with your "rights" and your "wrongs". Let's have a world of "in between". A purple world of "in between".

Except, presumably, you'd like to teach your students to do things "right". How about making it part of your job, Justin, to have your students respond to *you* and not make this about the color of your pen? The point is to get the student to learn, not to feel better about not learing, or almost learning.

The disillusionment with red is part of broader shift in grading, said Vanessa Powell, a fifth-grade teacher at Snowshoe Elementary School in Wasilla, Alaska.
"It's taken a turn from 'Here's what you need to improve on' to 'Here's what you've done right,"' Powell said. "It's not that we're not pointing out mistakes, it's just that the method in which it's delivered is more positive."

Not to get all Ayn Rand/Incredibles here, but this seems like a bad approach. If you turn Powell's sentence around, it seems like she's being more positive about mistakes. But, um, making mistakes is a negative. Isn't it? Can you be positive and use red ink about what was done right and still be negative and use red ink when you point out mistakes? I would think that the last thing you want to do when pointing up mistakes to impressionable grade schoolers is to do it in and upbeat and positive way. Especially if it is the same positive and upbeat way that you're pointing out what they've done right.

That is a sound approach, said Leatrice Eiseman, a color specialist with a background in psychology who has written several books on the ties between colors and communication.
"The human eye is notoriously fickle and is always searching for something new to look at it," she said. "If you use a color that has long been used in a traditional way, you can lose people's attention, especially if they have a history of a lot of red marks on their papers."
Purple may be rising in popularity, Eiseman said, because teachers know it is a mix of blue and red. As she put it: "You still have that element of the danger aspect -- the red -- but it's kind of subtle, subliminal. It's in the color, rather than being in your face

God help me, they've brought in a color specialist. I think the fact that a job like this exists at all is part of the problem. Hey lady, guess why red is traditionally used for grading papers? Because red is a color that is easy to see. No more, no less. Not because it has an element of danger! Jeez, you have got to be kidding me. Some of my best papers from high school had a big red "A" on them. At no time in handling that paper did I feel that I was in danger. Oooooh, danger! And purple has "subtle" danger. Not truly dangerous like that in-your-face red, but more subliminal. Subliminal danger. So that the kids in school are all uncomfortable and feel like in the back of their minds they've made mistakes, but they just don't know why. Cause it's subliminal. No mixed message there, no sir.

To sum up: Some people are idiots. And those idiots are helping churn out a new and larger generation of idiots.

Posted by aellis at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

My Baseball Hell

Ah, the New York Mets. Today was the Met's opening day game. I was listening to the game while I was driving around doing errands yesterday. Everything seemed to be going well. All the new guys that the Mets added in the off season were doing great (including a pretty good performance by Pedro). All their young talent was doing great. It seemed like the season was getting off to a great start. Until the ninth inning. I went into Target just as the Mets' half of the eigth inning was over. The Mets' were leading 6-4 with Looper coming into pitch. I buy my crap, race back to the car to find out the game was over, Reds win 7-6. Ack.

This is the thing that is going to get Pedro Martinez pissed by July. Even though he wasn't in a position to win this game, I can see many blown win opportunities start to really piss Pedro off. If the Mets' bullpen can't keep a lead, look for Pedro to get crazy.

Posted by aellis at 10:32 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2005

The View Over the Fence

We have had a ton of rain of the last 24 hours. I would like to show you why I am so happy that we had our backyard professionally levelled and why we had two drains installed.

Click for larger image

Above is a view of our neighbor's backyard from our deck. In the foreground is the top of the fence, then their pool, then their... lake. To the right you can see a little grass at the bottom of their deck. After that, it's all water.

Click for larger image
Turning 180 degrees is the view of our backyard. Look at all that grass. That's not to say that our backyard is bone dry, but at least we can see our backyard.

Posted by aellis at 11:13 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2005

April 1st

Can you believe it's April already?

I played golf for the first time this year. And I was horrible. Just horrible. But it was nice to get back out there. Shooting a bad score didn't bother me as much as it usually does. I think that's just because I didn't have any great expectations for the first time out.

I was lucky to catch a break in the horrible, rainy weather that has drenched the Northeast. It stopped raining early enough in the week that the course had dried out somewhat. There was about a six or seven hour period on Friday that was sunny and 60 degrees. Then four hours after I played, the temperature dropped and the rains started again. We're forecast to have two days of heavy rain with the possiblity of four inches total. Which is fine because I have to travel next week and can't play golf this coming Friday.

Hey, the Pope is on his way out. Unless this is an elaborate April Fool's joke on the part of the Vatican. I can see what this is a big deal for the Catholic Church, but I don't understand why everyone is praying for him. I mean, if everything that the Pope says is true, then the John Paul II is going on to a much, much better place. I would think that Catholics would be really happy for the Pope. If anyone is going to heaven based on the teachings of the Catholic Church, it would be the Pope. Although I'm sure there are many people who argue that the Pope is the least deserving person to get to heaven.

I'm also kinda curious why Congress isn't passing some type of overreaching law to have a feeding tube inserted into the Pope.

I remember when John Paul II (and JP the first) were elected. I was 15 at the time. Not being a particularly relgious person ( ok, not religous at all) and not coming from a particularly relgious family, this was my first real exposure to all things Popey. I was fascinated by the whole Pope election process when John Paul was choosen. Then just a month later, I got to watch it all over again to choose John Paul II. I still think there was something fishy about that whole thing John Paul I thing.

The thing that I thought was cool (besides the whole black smoke/white smoke thing) was that all the Cardinals get locked up in a building until they can agree on the next Pope. Although it seems that John Paul II changed some of the rules recently so that it is easier and more comfortable for those crazy Cardinals.

Posted by aellis at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)