Saturday, July 30, 2005

So David Broder thinks we can’t teach

So Columnists David Broder thinks US teachers can’t teach.
As a teacher, I take exception to that.
First Broader blames the textbooks, which teachers don’t write:
“David McCullough's point. Late last month, the prolific historian had told a U.S. Senate hearing that his examination of school history textbooks had shown a disquieting trend. Over the years, he said, he has noticed that the typeface in those books is growing larger, the illustrations more lavish and the content shrinking.”

Then he blames the teachers:

“Problem starts with teachers”
“McCullough said at the hearing that the problem starts with the training that teachers receive. "Too many have degrees in education," he said, "and don't really know the subject they are teaching."
He also said: "It is impossible to love a subject you don't know, and without a passion for history, the teaching of history becomes a matter of rote learning and drudgery."
Without personal knowledge of history and enthusiasm for the subject, "you're much more dependent on the textbook," and, with rare exceptions -- he mentioned the great one-volume American history text by Daniel Boorstin, the late librarian of Congress --"you read these texts and ask yourself, 'Are they assigned as punishment?' " David Broder is a columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.

This is bull-shit. The standard of knowledge needed to teach history in Kansas is quite high and getting higher. I’m sure this is the same in many other states. You can’t teach it if you don’t have passion for the subject. And most of us would never rely entirely on a textbook. They’re never adequate and never will be. Many of us improvise with some very good movies, such as “Ride With the Devil,” 1999, a very good portrayal of William Quantrill’s raid on the Kansas town of Lawrence. We use other articles and books as well.
Too often I hear students asking me “when will I use this?” It’s even worse when I find out that adults are saying that.
Let’s just look at a few examples of the attitude we teachers have to put up with in the state of Kansas:
1. Too often I hear students asking me “when will I use this?” It’s even worse when I find out that adults are saying that. Let’s just look at a few examples of the attitude we teachers have to put up with in the state of Kansas.
2. We have a elected state-level senators and representatives that are fighting the “so called activists” courts for the right NOT to fund education. What good are decent teachers to states that don’t believe in funding education? The schools can’t afford to hire these good teachers.
3. The same elected officials have wasted valuable time trying to dumb down our science standards by replacing evolutionary theory with myths and fairy tales.
4. Attempts to revise history are being made by such US congress persons as Kansas Republican congressman Todd Tiahrt.. .) All images of gay gatherings at national sites, including the Millennium March on the Washington Mall have been ordered removed from videotapes that have been shown at the Lincoln Memorial since 1995 according to a civil service group.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) said that the directive came from National Parks Service Deputy Director Donald Murphy. Murphy is said to have been concerned about pictures in the video that showed same-sex couples kissing and holding hands after conservative groups complained.
In their place, the Park Service is inserting scenes of the Christian group Promise Keepers and pro-Gulf War demonstrators though these events did not take place at the Memorial in what Murphy called a "more balanced" version. So how are we supposed to teach proper history to students when our elected representatives are rewriting it.
5. Another example, thanks to Tiahrt once again, is the switch in the Washington DC hall of statues from George W. Glick, a forgotten figure in 19th-century Kansas politics, to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, the supreme allied commander in Europe from Abilene, Kan. His only ties to Kanas was that he grew up in Abilene. He never returned to Kansas.
“Every Kansan that I brought here had the same problem,” said Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who spearheaded the effort to replace the statues. “They didn’t understand who these people were.”
But Glick was no political slouch. A lawyer, farmer and statesman, he fought for the Union in the Civil War and was elected governor of Kansas as a Democrat.

So if our own elected officials can excuse their ignorance of history and that of the people around them, who cares if you have good history teachers? If history is not valued by society it’s not the fault of the teachers.

5. Broader also suggested that historical sites be emphasized for historical purposes:
“McCullough gave enthusiastic support to a suggestion from Alexander and Kennedy that the hundreds of national historical sites scattered around the country be used for seminars where teachers could visit the places where signal events of the past occurred and fill themselves with the stories the well-informed guides can provide.”
Again, That’s a problem here in Kansas. People feel a need to tear down historical buildings to build parking lots. According to Eagle Blogger Randy Scholfield:
“The bulldozers are set to roll, but a local historic preservation group is making a last-ditch attempt to save the historic Fidelity Title building at 221 N. Market. Greg Kite says his group recently offered the Wichita Bar Association $240,000 for the building — three times what the association paid for it just a few years ago. The preservationists even secured $500,000 for renovation. But the association, which earlier hinted it might consider just such an extravagant offer, now says forget it. Not interested. The Wichita Bar Association gains eight parking spaces, and Wichita loses a piece of its history and architectural heritage.”

We can teach all the history we want and we can try and create some enthusiasm, but our society has lost its interests in past events and only looks forward. The gods of economics and technology is where the schools put their money and that Mr. Broder is the problem.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Is Terrorism Democracy?

President George Bush has declared the Maoist insurgents of Nepal to be “terrorists.” This is not surprising with his “you’re with us or against us” philosophy. Of course many of us are against him.

According to Conn Hallinan, Nepal--Nursing the Pinion, February 15, 2005:

“The Bush administration sees the Nepal insurgency as another domino in its international war on terrorism, arguing that the country could become a "failed state" and hence a haven for terrorists. The CPNM has been placed on the State Department's "Watch List," along with Al-Qaida, Abu Sayyaf, and Hezbollah.
While the White House claims this is about "terrorism," there are suspicions in the region that American involvement is also part of an overall U.S. plan to ring China with military bases and regimes friendly, or at least beholden, to Washington.”

Unlike past Marxist-Leninist and even Maoists organizations have called for a one-party state, Maoist Guerrillas in Nepal have called for participation of all parliamentarian parties and a multi-party state. The guerrillas now control about 80% of the country side.

According to Baburam Bhattarai, CPN(Maoist):
THE ROYAL REGRESSION AND THE QUESTION OF DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC “Precisely in this context the question of anti-monarchy common minimum programme and slogan acceptable to all the democratic forces, including the parliamentary and revolutionary democratic forces and the international community, has become pertinent. It has been the considered view of the CPN(Maoist) that the programme of election to a representative Constituent Assembly and institutionalization of the democratic republic is best suited for the purpose. The old slogan of restoration of the parliament or re-activization and amendment of 1990 Constitution, advanced by the parliamentary forces and the international community, has been totally outdated and inadequate in the new context. A brief recapitulation of the incessant struggle between the monarchy and democracy since the 1950s in the country should leave no one in doubt that without the complete abolition of the archaic institution of feudal monarchy and its puppet RNA no form of democracy can be secure and institutional in Nepal. It has been proved time and again that the so-called 'constitutional monarchy' seen in operation in some of the highly developed capitalist countries cannot be replicated in a semi-feudal & semi-colonial society. Hence any attempt on the part of the parliamentary political parties and the international forces to preserve the thoroughly rotten and discredited institution of monarchy, in this or that pretext, does not correspond with the historical necessity and ground reality of balance of forces in the country, and the agenda of 'democratic republic' has entered the Nepalese politics.”

Monday, July 25, 2005

War on Drugs or War on People?: A Resource Book for the Debate

By Steve Otto
Ide House (February 1, 1996)

Still revelant – still available – a valuable tool

Book Description:
A chilling book, Otto exposes government corruption in their war on drugs: from the idiocy of outrageous prison terms for small amounts of pot, to minimal time for selling or possessing crack. Otto argues that the war on drugs is more of a war on people in an effort to stifle dissent and control personal actions in a draconian state, as seen in his confrontation with major politicians who accept kickbacks from drug overlords.


Review:
A reader from Amazon.com:
This information-packed book deals with an issue not taken seriously often enough. Read it with an open mind and a desire for knowledge. You just may be surprised by some things.

This book is available at:
Fetch Books,
Amazon.com,
Amazon.co.uk

Saturday, July 23, 2005

It’s sex Wichita, get over it

Sex is a normal part of life for most people, especially married people. And guess what? You won’t turn to stone if you see someone naked. Neither will your kids. Kids go to nudist camps all the time. They turn out fine.
So Click here and get over it.

As for religion; it is just a control mechanism. Hell is to scare us like small children. If we are bad, bad things happen to us. This is like being good for Santa Clause.

“The fact that the Bible's treatment of poverty and oppression is not one of calling for--let alone illuminating the path to--the abolition of these things, and the uprooting of their material basis, is typified in the Book of Isaiah. This prophetic book figures very prominently in the foundations of Christianity. It was said to have been a favorite scripture of Jesus, and it is supposed to provide the basis for Jesus' bona fides as the Messiah. And it is quite frequently invoked by those seeking to establish the Bible and Biblical tradition as the basis for acting on behalf of the poor and oppressed and for the creation of a just and peaceful world.”
- Bob Avakian, From “Preaching From a Pulpit of Bones--Putting an End to `Sin' “

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Are sex shops obscene? No religion is!

Once again the religious nuts of Kansas are on a crusade to close every form of adult entertainment. Think they mean just the hard-core paces? Think again. Pricilla’s has come under fire. Pretty much anything to do with sex, or nudity, is offensive to the religious nuts of Wichita and Kansas.
As reported from the Eagle Topeka bureau, July 21, 2005, “concerned citizens” are petitioning a grand jury to try and enforce anti-obscenity laws. The reason they are not being enforced now is because they really don’t exist.
There arguments range from trash coming from a nearby store, to “just not trusting the people who go there.” As a person who occasionally goes to adult entertainment, I don’t trust them. They worship an imaginary friend who encourages them to attack all entertainment for those of us adults who live in this area. They seem to want to run off all non-believers.
I’m sure they don’t read much and I doubt if they can. They can read the Bible, which they study a lot and then maybe Chicken Soup for the Soul, by Jack Canfield, a Christian fundamentalists favorite.
They don’t read Epicurus, Lucretius, Friedrich Nietzsche or any other writer that might disagree with them.
Their real argument is that they hate sex. That is their business, but they don’t need to spread their poison to the rest of us.
Some of us don’t care for Christianity or those ostentatious churches they clutter the landscape with. Maybe we should get a grand jury to have those closed down.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Bush and Blair are responsible this time

From The Associated Press – July 8, 2005

Toll From London Bombs Rises to Above 50
LONDON (AP) _ Police on Friday raised the death toll to more than 50 from London's terrorist bombings but said they hadn't yet been able to reach all of the dead. Commuters reluctantly returned to the Underground, but buses and subways carried fewer riders than normal in the aftermath of four rush-hour blasts. Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said the bodies of 13 people killed on the double-decker bus that was hit Thursday had been recovered, giving the first official tally from that attack.

Comments:
President George Bush was busy smirking at a press conference the other night, bragging that he had taken the fight to the terrorist in Iraq. In other words, we’re all safe because the terrorists are tied down fighting us in Iraq. After Thursday, it seems they didn’t stay there. This time it was the U.K. We could be next and if we are, we collectively earned it. We insulted people’s culture, imprisoned their entire nation, and played God with their politics. We tortured and humiliated individuals from the middle-east. This was a recipe for disaster and it’s about time we learned our lesson.
Prime Minister Tony Blair is nothing more than Bush’s lap dog. Many British people already know this, but as with our own country, organized opposition is confined being outside the government. There is no credible opposition to the Blair government today. Unfortunately, while our overconfident issolateda and protected U.S. president smirks on TV about his ability to rain war on other people’s countries, the innocent people of Britain have paid for this policy, some with their lives, other scarred for life.
An ancient proverb: Whack a hornet’s nest with a stick- you will get stung!

Other A.P. news for July 8, 2005
GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) - The Group of Eight expressed strong support Friday for Iraq's steps toward democracy and called for the United Nations to play a larger role there.
In a separate communique on Iraq issued at the end of the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, the G-8 leaders said they stood behind the transitional government and were committed to helping it complete the transition to a full-term government.

Comments:
The G8 is one of the least democratic institutions in the world today. For them to support democracy anywhere is the highest form of hypocrisy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

If you don’t live in Wichita – PLEASE DON’T MOVE HERE-PLEEEASE!

The Wichita Eagle has just published an editorial, July 5, 2005, called “Move here. Sell Wichita as affordable place to live.” Housing is much cheaper here than most parts of the country. But there are reasons for that. It all boils down the old expression “If it sounds to good to be true, it is.”
Wichita developers have glutted this area with large upper income homes. Many are empty because there is just too many of them being built. They have not only damaged the local environment, taken farmland out of production, increased traffic flow to intolerable levels, but they have also built in places that flood. Most of the business buildings in this area are not built to last over 70 years and most buildings are torn down by then anyway.
Then there’s the people this place attracts. They are not just conservative, they are religious fanatics with no sense of reality. The recent controversy over evolution in the schools is a perfect example. People want to replace scientific analysis of fossils and carbon dating with myths about magic shows that are disguised as science. Small groups of dedicated individuals continuously attack anyone connected with the abortion providing business and that includes motels were patience stay, hospitals that handle abortion related emergencies, even other churches that simply haven’t supported the ant—abortion cause.
Our elected politicians are among the most corrupted, with such individuals as Rep. Todd Tiahrt – Republican, paying for expensive vacations and promotional materials at the taxpayer’s expense. Yet he belongs to the Republican Liberty Caucus and other church organization that promote his so-called “pro-liberty individual” and “spiritual values.” He supports all the foolishness listed above to con a few churchgoers that he shares their spiritual commitments while he plunders the taxpayers at record levels.
The City council has attacked even mild forms of adult entertainment and as a result, this town is considered one of the worst places for singles and young people without children, from more than one survey taken.
This town already has half a million people in it, with all the problems that plague big cities. If you’re not a conservative, you’ll hate it here. If you are ultra-conservative you will find a lot of people who will not welcome you here and will do everything they can to encourage you not to stay.
The simple fact is we don’t need more people here.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

New Book Review

Memoirs of a Drugged-Up, Sex-Crazed Yippie
Sub-titled: Tales from the 1970s Counterculture: Drugs, Sex, Politics and Rock and Roll
By Steve Otto
Book review by John J. Mesh, aka, Ohnjaye

First of all as a small-town, semi-poor journalist, I have no shame. If there's free stuff -- food, beer, books, CDs, etc. -- I'm there without batting an eyelash. I have few ethics in this regard.I am also a big suck-up.So when my friend Steve Otto sent me a copy of his book for free -- which I will refer to by its first name Memoirs -- in the mail, I was euphoric.Then I started to read the book and realized what a deprived, sheltered upbringing I had.So my review -- like Steve's book -- should have a sub-title:"I was born a poor, deprived, sheltered, small town, middle-class Catholic white boy."I had a sister who ran away from home when she was 15 to become a hippie -- she's now the yuppiest of yuppies who owns two homes. But that's the closest this sheltered child of Hutchinson, Kansas got to the counterculture other than listening to his sister's Beatles records.However, I am trying to make up for lost time and I am living vicariously in the 60s and 70s, and this book is helping me do that.What's bizarre is Steve Otto is one of my best friends and I knew nothing of this life in the 1970s and early 1980s which is the backbone of the book, which is a realistic but fictional account of Steve through the experiences of Mark Spies -- his alter-ego.The book details the fact that -- much to the surprise of many -- there was a thriving counterculture in the late 60s to mid 70s in Kansas.Mark Spies was there.Spies started as a casual pot smoker as a 14-year-old high school student to being a habitual user of pharmaceutical narcotics and cocaine. He also becomes a dealer.The book also goes into full-blown detail on all the things associated with drug use such as the "rigs" used and violent confrontations and guns.Sex also plays a big part in Memoirs -- Mark gets laid a lot. The sex and the drugs are interwoven throughout Mark's experiences.Then we have the rock and roll part. Mark goes from grooving on the best music of the 60's and early 70's -- John Lennon and Frank Zappa among others are a big part of the soundtrack of Mark's life -- and hooks on to the punk music scene in the late 70's -- bands like the Sex Pistols and Blondie and icons like Patti Smith.Disco music in the late 70's and the drug use associated with it -- namely cocaine -- is also examined.Politics is also front and center in Memoirs -- from Nixon, Cambodia and Vietnam to various revolutions that occurred in 1979.The best thing about Memoirs is that it takes me to places I never really got to experience -- that's what happens when like me, you are born in a vacuum 10 years too late and you miss all the good stuff.Steve Ottos is a free-lance writer living in Maize, Kansas. He is the author of War on Drugs/War on People, published by Ide House in 1995. He has also owned and worked for several newspapers and written numerous articles in magazines, journals and newspapers.He currently runs a political blog:http://ottoswarroom.blogspot.com.Memoirs costs $18.95 can be found at these sites:At Amazon:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1420821067/ qid=1109800493/sr=8-1/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i1_xgl14/102-1412908-5766520? v=glance&s=books&n=507846At Barnes and Noble.com:http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp? userid=LF8RrP2BeB&isbn=1420821067&itm=1Straight from the publisher:http://www.authorhouse.com/BookStore/ItemDetail~bookid~28016.aspx

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wal-Mart and China: a match made in Heaven

Wal-Mart and China seem to be a match made in Heaven. (Or “under the mandate of Heaven” as the Chinese say.) The sweat-shop king united with the world’s last fake communist giant.
The TV’s and other products we buy, where we are told that prices are rolled back, are rolled back because Chinese workers earn about 50 cents an hour, or as Time reported in “Wal-Mart Nation,” June 27, 2005, $100 a month to make those products.
But don’t feel left out, according to the article China has allowed Wal-Mart the opportunity to invade China and is promoting its “consumer vs. worker” philosophy there. According to the article “The worlds largest retailer isn’t just buying-and selling- stuff in Chine. It has become a major force for change.”
What does that really mean? Time had a number of special articles on China. It looked at their political system and the capitalist policies it has adopted in an effort to become a modern economic “player.”
Although they adopted a “free-wheeling- free-market” system that lets people enjoy US style affluence, Time pointed out that the affluence is not uniform. Under “A New China Rises,” Time pointed to individuals who have been left behind by China’s market economy. They live in deep poverty.
Then there’s the political side of things. Time admits there still is no legal opposition to the Communist Party and criticizing it can lead to either imprisonment or a marginalized existence were people become “A non-person.” Time gave such an example in “The Last Frontier, Almost anything goes these days-but you still can’t oppose the Communist Party. Will China ever really be free?”
One thing that Time left out was that it is just as illegal to be a left-wing Marxists as it is to be a so-called “rightists.” Since the Death of Mao Zedong, the far right has arrested, jailed and kept out of site any of the old “left-guard.” Under Mao, both factions had the right to exist and did exist all the way to his death. Mao believed in the Taoist principle that the unity of opposite was required to keep harmony. He favored the left, but allowed the rightist to keep their positions in power.
Today the left faction of the Party has bee completely suppressed and made illegal. It has been wiped out of the government all together. One example of a person who stood his ground and defended his beliefs was Zhang Chunqiao. He was arrested after the “Gang-of-four” trials. He refused to denounce his politics so he was sentenced to death. The sentence was commuted to life-imprisonment. He remained unrepentant and spent the rest of his life in prison. See Revolution, May 22, 2005.