Friday, December 19, 2008

Wintertime at Camp Nickleby

Well, the end of fall semester is upon us here at Camp Nickleby. A light dusting of snow covers the ground. The campers are taking their last finals today. Most have already packed up their stuff and are ready to get out of here for three weeks. Parents will be coming up this afternoon to pick up their little darlins.

As usual, most of them have waited ‘til the last minute to turn work in. Even though the deadline to turn in work was last Friday, they try to slip their work in under the radar. Over much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I have to let them know that ‘the train has left the station’ and they can round-file their work in the trash.

Christmas celebrations here at camp were somewhat subdued this year. Superintendent Kim Chee sent out a memo two weeks ago concerning upcoming budget cuts. It doesn’t look good for next year. One of the first things to go this year was our yearly Holiday Decoration Fund. If we wanted to decorate our rooms with yuletide flair, it was going to come out of our own pockets! Not having much extra coinage in my pockets, I did the best I could. I went in to Cedarville last week and purchased this second-hand decoration at the Salvation Army thrift store. It was a bargain at $2.99! I told the campers that is was truly the ‘first no-L’! They didn’t get it.

And in the Hey Barack, WTF? category, most of the staff here who supported him for POTUS are wandering aimlessly around camp, shaking their heads. First, the nomination of Arne (close them schools) Duncan for Secretary of Ed, and now choosing Rick Warren to give the invocation on 1/20/09? Coach Shrewsbury has been walking around the last couple of days with a big grin on his face, carrying his autographed and dog-eared copy of Warren’s A Purpose-Driven Life. Can't wait to see what happens next.

And that’s the news from Camp Nickleby, where every youngster enjoys the great outdoors, clean fresh air and daily mountain hikes, where NO CHILD'S LEFT BEHIND!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Hmmmmmmmmm, maybe not so much.

Well, Barack picked his Secretary of Education. Wow, another non-educator telling educators how to do their job. Why did we even think things would be better? Greg Palast has a great article here to clue you in on what’s to come. God help us all!

Protractor Origami

While I encourage my students to use non-traditional materials in making art, sometimes you just have to wonder what goes on in their little minds. I get the feeling that some of them come in the classroom, look around, and try to figure out what they can destroy or screw up that day. Yesterday, while putting some art supplies away, I can across these poor, defenseless little protractors. I’m sure they weren’t hurting anybody. Just minding their business. Helping students figure out angles on their color wheels and such. And then, tragedy struck! One of the little darlins’ thought it would be hilarious to see what would happen if you combined an aluminum protractor with a bench vise. And voila, this is what you get!

When purchasing art supplies and equipment, I attempt to buy those products that have been thoroughly tested in a cage full of bonobos. Apparently, these did not receive the Bonobo Seal of Approval.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

They should know how to take a test by now, right?

These are some of the more remarkable results from a Diego Rivera test I gave last Monday. Out of 80 tests given, about 10% got No. 9 wrong. How is this possible? Did I not give them enough of a clue? Seven years of teaching kids test-taking skills, and still they haven't figured out the game.

Oh yeah, and I was wrong about the election! Now we wait. Coach Shrewsbury, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, is finally getting use to having a democrat in the white house. This should be fun.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

She ain’t singin’ yet!

Twenty months. Well worth the wait. Today’s the day. Will the Democrats continue their time-honored tradition of snatching defeat out of the jaws of victory? Will Obama become the new POTUS? I’m thinking the whole thing is going to crumble at the last minute. Ooooooooooooooooooooo, beware of the Bradley Effect. Will they really vote Obama after waiting in line eight hours? Are the polls really indicative of how people are going to vote? I don’t know, I want to feel optimistic, but something just doesn’t feel right.

I’m reminded of the Dead Kennedy’s remake of the old Phil Ochs song, Love me, I’m a liberal. Used here without an ounce of permission from either Jello Biafra or the late Phil Ochs.

Love Me I'm a Liberal

I cried when they shot John Lennon
Tears ran down my spine
And I cried when I saw "JFK"
As if I'd lost a father of mine
But Malcom-X and Ice-T had it coming
They got what they asked for this time

So love me, love me, love me,
I'm a liberal

I go to pro-choice rallies
Recycle my cans and jars
I'll honk if you love the Dead
Hope those funny Grunge bands become stars
But don't talk about revolution
That's going a little bit to far

So love me, love me, love me,
I'm a liberal

I cheered when Clinton was chosen
My faith in the system reborn
I'll do anything to save our schools
If my taxes aint too much more
And I love Blacks and Gays and Latinos
As long as they don't move next door

So love me, love me, love me,
I'm a liberal

Rush Limbaugh and the L.A.P.D.
Should all hang thier heads in shame
I can't understand where they're at
Arsenio should set them straight
But if neighborhood watch doesn't know you
I hope the cops take your name

So love me, love me, love me,
I'm a liberal

Yeah, I read the New Republican
Rolling Stone and Mother Jones too
If I vote it's a democrat
With a sensible economy view
But when it comes to terrorist Arabs
There is no one more red, white, and blue

So love me, love me, love me,
I'm a liberal

Once I was young and had an attitude
Stickers covered the car I drove in
Even went on some direct actions
When there weren't rent-a-cops to be seen
Ah, but now I've grown older and wiser
And that's why I'm turning you in

So love me, love me, love me,
I'm a liberal


Monday, November 3, 2008

How to tell a Marxist from a fabric swatch

Teaching high school is its own reward sometimes. Actually, more times than I'd like to think about.

During today's art lecture, a photo of Groucho Marx justaposed with a photo of John Lennon was shown to the kiddies during drawing class. I asked if anyone got the joke. Anyone? Anyone? Of course, nobody knew what the hell I was talking about. Most of the kids did know who John Lennon was. That Groucho guy? Forget it. I explained who he was. Blank stares. Then I explained the joke; Marx and Lennon, Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin. Blank stares continued. I asked if anyone knew who Karl Marx was. Anyone? Communist Manifesto? Anyone? Did anyone know who Lenin was. Anyone? One brave soul offered, "Isn't it a kind of fabric?" A home economics major, no doubt. You just have to wonder how they have gotten this far with so little.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Home schooled perhaps?

Coach Shrewsbury received a letter from Sarah Palin yesterday. He was so excited that she took the time out of her busy schedule criss-crossing the United States, spreading her message of the eminent communist takeover of this country, to personally write him a letter, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that it was a mass-mailed form letter, and her signature was actually printed on the page. He was beside himself with glee and just had to show the letter to me. In about two nanoseconds of proofreading, I noticed that the FIRST WORD in the letter was misspelled. How in the hell is it possible, in the 21st century, to misspell the word WEDNESDAY??? Those little red squiggly lines MEAN SOMETHING people! How is it possible, in the 21st century, can you own a computer without SPELLCHECK??? This letter was sent out by the Republican National Committee. WTF, are they still using Trash 80s over there? Margaret Spellings, please proofread their stuff for them! THIS IS JUST SUCH A MAJOR FAIL!

Which naturally brings me to this . . .

Sarah Palin was seated next to little Johnny on an airplane trip back to Washington.

She turned to little Johnny and said 'Let's talk. I've heard that the flights go quicker if you strike up a conversation with your fellow passenger.'

Little Johnny, who had just opened his book, closed it slowly and said to The Palin, 'What would you like to talk about?'

'Oh, I don't know,' said The Palin. 'How About What Changes I Should Help Make to America'? and she smiles.

'OK,' little Johnny says. 'That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first.A horse, a cow, and a deer all eat the same stuff - grass. Yet a deer excretes little pellets, while a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse produces clumps of dried grass. Why do you suppose that is?'

Palin, visibly surprised by little Johnny's intelligence, thinks about it for a second and finally says, 'Hmmm, I have no idea.'

To which little Johnny replies, 'Do you really feel qualified to help change America when you don't know SHIT ?'

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Please say it's almost over!

Well, it's been awhile.

The presidential campaign has hit Camp Nickleby. Yesterday, our campers participated in the National Mock Election, complete with the myriad of California ballot propositions. If yesterday’s election is any indication of what the real election will be like next Tuesday, we are in big trouble.

First, most of the campers did not know anything about the propositions, except for Prop 8, the anti-gay marriage initiative. I thought it would be a good idea to run through them quickly before they voted. With their usual five-nanosecond attention span, I’m not sure if this helped or not.

Second, the ballot designed for this exercise in futility was so confusing, most of the kids had no idea what or who they were voting for. Hmmmmmm, can you say Florida 2000? Although there were no hanging chads, most of the kids’ pencil erasers got a workout!

The camp powers-that-be initially considered giving the students a real U.S. election experience, and have them wait in line for three hours before they voted. At the last minute, they thought better of it. There were, however, some voting irregularities reported. Many of the campers came crying up to me, complaining that when they bubbled in Obama’s name, John McCain’s name was mysteriously bubbled in instead. Oddly enough, no kids claimed that Ralph Nader's name was magically bubbled in. Very curious. I emailed investigative journalist Gret Palast, and he promises to look into the matter.

On a darker note, several days ago, one of our Camp Nickleby Young Republicans came to school hysterical and claimed that she was accosted the night before at the Dairy Queen down in Cedarville. Heather Mumsford reported that a large, angry Obama supporter, seeing her wearing a McCain/Palin t-shirt, grabbed her milkshake, threw it to the ground, and proceeded to carve an ‘O’ into her forehead with a plastic spork. Many of the campers believed her without question. “That just sounds like something an Obama supporter would do”, they opined. But Flower Rainbow Light, president of the Nickleby Young Socialists club, sarcastically claimed, “She’s such a freakin' moron. She just carved it into her head herself, and carved it in backwards too!” After careful examination by the camp nurse, the carved ‘O’ was actually just an extreme case of ringworm!

And that’s the news from Camp Nickleby, where every youngster enjoys the great outdoors, clean fresh air and daily mountain hikes, and NO CHILD'S LEFT BEHIND!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Uh, like, such as . . .

Tonight’s the night! A few of the staff are getting together in Spellings Hall to watch the Vice Presidential Debate. We can’t wait! We’re taking bets on both sides of the aisle. About half of us think the Palin Express will derail about 25 minutes into the thing. The other half think Joe Biden will not be able to keep his mouth shut and just ramble on and on with each answer until it becomes unbearably painful to watch. In either case, we expect a fun evening.

Millicent Shrewsbury, president of the Palinites For Freedom club at the camp, has graciously volunteered the services of her three club members to provide us with snack items and beverages during the broadcast. The group plans a menu of hot dogs, ‘freedom’ fries, and Cheetohs, all washed down with Monster energy drinks. Yummy!

Millicent is the daughter of our coach and athletic director and is very involved in local Republican politics. During this election season, she has been canvassing the foothills, to drum up support for the McCain/Palin ticket. But two days ago, she came to class crying. Apparently, somebody took the McCain/Palin yard sign from her house and altered it, placing Palin’s name on top! By 10:30 that morning, after some thought, she thought it would be a great idea if indeed the ticket was inverted.

It looks like we’re all set for an interesting evening. Along with the wonderful grub, we have also armed ourselves with a set of Palin Bingo cards, to spice up the festivities. We plan on making a large bowl of ‘punch’ just for the occasion. Every time Ms. Palin uses one of her time-tested sound bites, we’ll throw back a shot of ‘punch’. I’m calling in sick tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It just gets better and better . . .

With only four months of the Bush Administration remaining, we thought the piggy bank was finally robbed of all of its contents. Apparently we were wrong. There was a bag of money still left. The bag contains $700 billion and George wants to give it the those poor mega-rich folks who weren't able to make enough money during the last eight years.

We wish some of that money could find its way to Camp Nickleby. We would use it to purchase computers that actually work and function using up-to-date technology. We would like to purchase enough tables and chairs for our campers to use in the class room. They get tired sharing chairs or sitting on the floor. We would like to buy some current books and dictionaries for our library. There have been a lot of words coined since or 1957 copyright dictionary was published. We would love to have a functioning heating system for each classroom cabin. It gets cold up here in the mountains! But we are not worthy!

If there is one song that sums up the last eight amazing years we’ve had in the United States, this is it. It’s by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Eliza Gilkyson.


The party’s over, we had us a time
Everybody got loaded, everybody looked fine
We emptied the coffers of water and wine
The party’s over, we had a good time

We danced on the tables midnight ’til dawn
‘Til all the time was up and the good stuff gone

The house is a shambles, broken glass in the streets
Guttering candles, blood on the sheets
We burned all the kindling, passed the bottle around
Watched the last coals dwindling and the ice melting down

We danced on the tables midnight ‘til dawn
‘Til all the time was up and the good stuff gone

The party’s over, we had a blast
Brought in the lawyers to cover our ass
Left a note for the children to clean up the mess
The party’s over it was a big success!

We danced on the tables midnight ‘til dawn
‘Til all the time was up and the good stuff gone

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Oh the sponges, the sponges . . .

I spent the majority of my Sunday grading students’ papers. I took a box of work down to the boat launch at Lake Mukasey. I also took a picnic basket filled with a wonderful wedge of well-aged Stilton, some dry salami, some rye crackers and an unassuming bottle of Chianti. I settled in, preparing to slather pages and pages of 20lb. white paper with red ink. After the sixteenth poorly-written art criticism essay, I put my correcting pen down, whimpered a bit, took a generous swig of Chianti, and thought, “Where exactly did the “Dry Sponge Theory” come from?”

With the presidential smear campaign race in full swing, we have been hearing a lot about America’s favorite whipping boy, PUBLIC EDUCATION! The rhetoric I have heard and read seems to point to one conclusion; that both camps think teaching is an easy job because of unions, that kids aren’t learning because teachers are lazy and only care about their retirement benefits, and every child is a dry sponge, just waiting to soak up a puddle of knowledge each day, if only their damn, union-loving teachers would supply that knowledge! Wow, wish it were that easy!

Even though I’m a tad long in the tooth, I am a bit new to teaching at this grade level. I am constantly amazed, on a daily basis, how much most campers at Camp Nickleby don’t give a rat’s ass about school or learning. School, apparently, is the last place they would like to be spending their little teenage lives. Go figure! Although there are, of course, some bright stars that show a glimmer of hope for the future, most just take up usable volume, waiting for the last bell to ring.

We are into our fourth week of the new school year at the camp. Using my magical powers of seeing into the future, I already know which kids are going to do well, and which kids are probably going to crash and burn. It is just that easy. I get it wrong every now and then, but usually I’m correct 90% of the time.

Searching the Internets, I read that Johnny Seven Houses and the Big O both have their ideas concerning how to ‘fix’ public education. Johnny S. H. wants to send all children to private schools, where of course they won’t have to deal with that icky theory of evolution, and they can hunker down with their abstinence-only sex education studies. The Big O wants to increase the number of charter schools (including Camp Nickleby) where parents can send their children, thinking they will get a better education. A better education? I’m thinkin’, not so much.

My take on the whole thing is that we teachers just do the best we can with the raw materials we have. Most of our time as teachers is taken up by overcoming obstacles such as too many kids in the class room (37 kids in a room that can safely handle 24), obsolete technology (ancient computers which have molassesly-slow processing speeds, prone to crashing every three minutes. How long ago did they make the Apple Lisa, anyway?), and a resource budget that is slightly higher than dumpster-diving.

Here’s your homework!

I came upon these two articles. One is by a teacher who was able to put in writing all of my thoughts that only got to the second-draft stage. The other is by Lake Woebegone raconteur Garrison Keillor. Each one is a spot-on summation of the current, knuckle-dragging attack on public education. Please read.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Crying in my adult fermented beverage

Well, Camp Nickleby received their API scores today. It was a little too late in the day to really digest what the numbers mean. It will take awhile to sort it all out and make a full report to you, our loyal readers. Until it is all sorted out, her is a small gem I uncovered tonight on the Net, while pouring over the State's API report, between sips of Gallo Hearty Burgundy (burp!)

You gotta check this one out. I'm just glad to help.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Is it over? Is it safe to turn on the television?

During this past week, when all of the campers were safe and sound in their cabins, some members of the staff here at Camp Nickleby gathered in front of the Sanyo big-screen TV in Spellings Hall to watch the Republican National Convention. We suffered through the Democrats last week. We thought we'd double up the pain. What the hell.

Using footage of the terror of the World Trade Center attacks was a real nice touch, wasn't it? Do they have no shame?

Was it just me, or did anyone get the feeling Tuesday night that Laura Bush was blinking, "HELP ME, PLEASE GOD, HELP ME" in Morse Code during her inspiring speech? Or was that just the Gewürztraminer talking?

And did you know that John McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam 'conflict'?

The speech of über-weasel Joe Lieberman was definitely a high point of the convention, ending with the from-below shot looking up at him with a super large American flag waving in the background. I got so excited I soiled myself!

I was somehow able to get through W's video presentation. On January 24, 2001, I purchased a Bush-Off manufactured by Ronco. It has been a real brain saver. It attaches to any television or radio and mutes the device when it detects our President speaking. Apparently it works by detecting smarminess, bull#%&t and unbelievable arrogance. Thank you Ronco!

And did you know that John McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam 'conflict'?

The RNC was truly an example of diversity on parade. I enjoyed watching the news media play Find the Person of Color. Sometimes several minutes went by before they were successful in their quest. I think they found a total of seventeen during tonight's broadcast.

Apparently from time-to-time during the week's proceedings, zookeepers from the Minnesota Zoo threw large chunks of raw meat on the floor of the convention center. Whenever this occurred, chants of 'USA, USA' and 'Country First, Country First' could be heard, drowning out many speeches, including Mr. McCain's. The blood lust was palpable.

As I was watching the goings-on during the last four days, I kept asking myself, "Do they really believe their own bull@%#t, or do they know it's total bull@%#t, but they just want to see how incredibly f#$%ing gullible the American public is. My guess is, the American public is VERY f#$%ing GULLIBLE!

And did you know that John McCain was a prisoner of war during the Viet Nam 'conflict'?

Tonight, we decided to have some fun and gave the convention a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 treatment. To add to our enjoyment of the spectacle, we watched Cindy McCain's propaganda speech with the sound off. With the quasi Farrah Fawcett hairdo, she looked and gestured just like a Sunday morning TV evangelist. Kinda creeeeeeeeeepy!!!

And did you know that John McCain was a prisoner of war during the Viet Nam 'conflict'?

Our future president kept asking the crowd at the RNC if they were having trouble finding work, putting food on the table (or on their family), and making their mortgage payments. WTF? Who the hell did he think he was talking to, po' folk?

Of course we waited and waited. And then it finally happened. McCain meandered his way to the issue of public education. Mr. McCain described education as the CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE of the century! WTF? Of course, he repeated the obligatory wingnut meme trashing public education and failing schools (read f@$# the pond-scum teachers' unions and their communist, liberal, homosexual, pro-choice agendas). He wants 'competition' and 'school choice' to attract good teachers. Who the hell wants to go in this profession nowadays? A little masochism is OK, but geez, there's a limit to how much nonsensical crap a person can put up with! Can't wait to see the whole mess implode soon.

Our steadfast vigilance was rewarded at the end of Mr. McCain's speech. We were all totally blown away when OJT Sarah Palin reached into her Louis Vuitton handbag, apparently handed down to her by Cindy McCain, pulled out a live, dapple-colored rat, and tossed it to McCain. And unbelievable as it seems, he proceeded to tear the head off of the poor little creature with his bare teeth, then spat it back to VPILF Palin, where she caught it with her new handbag! We looked at each other with disbelief! What the @#%k was that? We waited anxiously for the political pundits to put a positive spin on it. And they did! On FOX news, Sean Hannity was beside himself with glee. So excited was he that he almost choked on a piece of raw sirloin. He said, "This is proof again that John McCain was a real maverick and is what the greatest country God has given the world needs right now." Tony Blankley, of the Washington Times and resident right-wing tool on KCRW's Left, Right and Center, said it was a bold move on McCain's part. "Not many presidential hopefuls would have the chutzpah to try something this visceral only two months before the presidential election, but it does add greatly to his image as a maverick," opined Mr. Blankley. Even Chris Mathews of MSNBC said it really proved that, "A maverick like McCain had what it takes to tackle, head-on, the issues important to the Republican party; turning Iran into a parking lot, punching more holes in the earth's crust to increase Big Oil's profit margin, scraping public schools from the American landscape, and marching towards the End Times."

And did you know that John McCain was a prisoner of war during the Vietnam 'conflict'?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ooops, one got passed the goalie!

Oh, who are we kidding? There was no goalie. Hell, the goalie never even made it to the game.

The selection of Sarah Palin as the Republican choice for vice president may just well be the gift that keeps on giving. With the announcement of her 17-year-old daughter’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy, she kinda throws a wrench in that whole ‘party of family values’ crap, doesn’t she? It is hilariously fun to watch the wingnuts try to put a positive spin on the whole thing.

While perusing the tubes of the Internets, I came across this gem in a comments section on a related story:

"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body, but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body" I Corinthians 6:18 (I checked my King James version; it’s correct)

Her daughtereth commitedeth fornication. She goeth to hell, together with her mothereth , fathereth, and McCain.

Why McCain? He can catch bin Laden while he is there.

Thank YHWH for the funny people.!

Oddly enough, Miss Palin (mother-to-be) is somehow connected with Camp Nick! She attended Pastor John’s Christian Camp this past summer. Some kids described her as cherubic. Although she eschewed the firearms training (she, unlike her mother, does not find any joy in killing cute little forest critters) she was the head youth counselor for Pastor John’s abstinence-only sex education program for his campers. The slogan of the club was “Keeping Them Crossed for Chris!” Dripping with irony, no?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sharing is Caring

Would like to share another gem of the Internets with you. Check this out! Hilarious.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Curiouser and curiouser

It would be impossible for someone to write this stuff and have anybody believe it. Truth is stranger than fiction. Ol’ Johnny Seven Houses picks Sarah Palin for his veep. And within nine nanoseconds of his announcement, the blogs were abuzzin’. God bless the Tubes of the Internets for all of those Cheetoh-munching folks with computers who have way too much time on their hands. This website has already popped up!

One wonders what thought processes went on within the McCain camp on this one. I feel completely comfortable with the fact that a creationist who wants to drown polar bears and punch more holes in the earth for three months’ worth of crude oil might be a heartbeat away from the presidency.

And the Big O didn’t sound exactly friendly to the teaching profession in his speech the other night. More accountability and more testing and more senseless political crap to struggle through. Don’t expect any real change concerning NCLB. It ain’t gonna happened until the crap finally hits than fan.

I think I might go with Nader this time around. What the hell.

To paraphrase Bette Davis, "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy ride!"

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Closing the Cheese Mint Gap

What's all this I keep hearing about a cheese mint gap? Seems to me you'd want a gap between cheese and mint. They just don't go together, no matter what type of recipe you use them in. The tastes of each are just too different. They're just not compatible. I'm all in favor of continuing the gap between cheese and mint, as God intended because . . . what? Oh really? Never mind! *

One of the favorite buzzword phrases used by the accountably-in-education clowns is The Achievement Gap. Holding a prominent place within the NCLB insanity, this is yet another hurdle teachers and schools are expected to clear. Teachers are expected to work miracles. We are expected to somehow nullify negative forces outside of the school environment which affect student performance and make things nice! Looks so nice on paper or in a speech.
Two weeks ago, before classes started for the new school year and the campers were back at Camp Nick, I got on my vintage Italian road bike and took a spin down the mountain and around the surrounding area. I took a right turn up an old, abandoned logging road. I was shocked by what I saw. Hidden in the mountains, among the pines and firs, I witnessed a community that surely missed out on the American dream. Most of the 'homes' people were living in (if you could call it living) would not be suitable for a dog. I witnessed soul-grinding poverty at its worst. Apparently, many of our students come from this environment. And I thought to myself, how in the hell are we expected to close a gap, when the playing field is marked with large boulders that must be rolled out of the way first? What is glaringly missing from all of the nonsensical hype spewed concerning NCLB is any mention that a student's home life 'might' figure mightily into their school performance.

But I accept the challenge. I have a plan. I figure if I'm going to close the 'gap', I need to give my students the same opportunities that more affluent students are given. First off will be help with homework. When my teaching day ends, I plan to visit each student's cabin in the evening and help them with their homework. Taking into account I have more than 150 students on my roster, I probably won't be able to spend much time with each student. I figure each kid will get two minutes of my time. Hey, better than nothing. Let's see, 150 kids times 2 means I should make it back home to my cabin around 1:00 a.m. Utilizing my Dianetics training from the 70s, I'll get about three hours of sleep, then back up at 4:00 a.m. to start my breakfast run. Armed with my portable, propane-fired, non-stick griddle, I will be able to supply each camper with a protein-rich and balanced breakfast, so they will be ready for the day of learning awaiting them. I'm also willing to take time to post bail for students' parents, if the need arises, and help parents get to work, if they indeed do have a job, when their car won't start or if it was stolen in the night.

I know this will work. Our motivational speaker told us we had to go that extra measure if we wanted to be 'good' teachers. Hell, if Santa can hit the entire world in one night, I think I can hit a handful of mountain cabins! Piece of cake!

*with heartfelt apologies to the most wonderful Gilda Radner

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back in the saddle!

Well, it’s day two of a new school year at Camp Nickleby, and chaos has already reared its ugly head. Too many campers and not enough space to house them. Predictably, my classes are bursting at the seams, and not enough chairs for the youngins to sit on! We’re off to a good start! Our enrollment is up this year, apparently because many parents are opting to send their kids here instead of a regular public school. They think that, because we’re a charter school, their kiddies will get a better education. What idiots! We’re only in it for the money!

I guess we look like we need more motivation

The week before camp started, the faculty was subjected to several days of mindless meetings, going over the plan for the year, and discussing ways to keep the NCLB federales off of our backs for another year. We were also forced to sit through the obligatory, yearly staff rah-rah session, headed by yet another down-on-his-luck motivational speaker. Geez, where do they find these people? This year’s speaker spent most of his hour-long diatribe proclaiming that teachers just don’t do enough for the kids and that if they were really serious about teaching, they would start work ½ hour earlier in the morning and leave ½ later in the afternoon. Say what? I don’t know, but I think I give 110% already, thank you very much!

A new viceroy, chancellor, superintendent at Camp Nick

On our return, we learned that the Camp’s Board of Trustees, including the newly-elected Mr. Young-Smith, hired a new superintendent! Her name is Kimberly (Kim) Chee. She comes to us via Washington, D.C., where she was the CEO of a right-wing educational think tank called Blame the Teachers First. Methinks we are in for some rough times. Kim Chee has suggested that the Board change our teaching contract so that they can pay us minimum wage! In addition to this, she has made it clear that we should all be fluent in a foreign language. Unfortunately, the language she is proposing in Swedish! And to heap injury upon injury, she has suggested that we start wearing our underwear on the outside of our clothing! This is gonna get ugly!

What are we gonna do with these mother@$%&in’ snakes?

The Board is reconsidering renting out the camp in the future. This past summer’s experiment renting to Pastor John’s organization didn’t go too well. The renters left the camp a complete mess. There were empty shell casings everywhere, not to mention fish entrails clogging up the sinks! And for some inexplicable reason, they left behind three cages of live, poisonous snakes! What were they doing with snakes??? The cages were marked ‘religious supplies’.

Packing heat!

On the plus side, the Board did decide at their last meeting that they will allow camp counselors to wear a concealed weapon! Apparently it was thought that this would motivate the young children to come to class on time, do their homework every night, and do well on the standardized tests. This is going to be totally AWESOME and is much cheaper than paying the kids for better test scores. Public education in America just keeps getting better and better!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Margaret Spellings just cost me $675!

The comically-delusional Margaret Spellings appeared on the Colbert Report Tuesday night, July 22. A five-minute segment on that show ended up costing me $675.

With the ominous possibility of me not having a workable television next year, I succumbed to the sirens’ song and purchased a new one at a local electronics store. Not a big screen, not the best picture, but it will work come February 2009. I took it home, plugged it in, and watched The Colbert Report. I usually watch the 8:30 p.m. rebroadcast of The Colbert Report because I can no longer stay awake until 11:30 p.m. Much to my surprise, our very own Secretary of Education was a guest. With much trepidation, I decided to see what she had to say.

In über-cheerleader mode, she of course praised the wonderful transformations that have come about in public education since the incorporation of NCLB. She also praised Senator Ted Kennedy and all the other bleeding-heart liberals who thought they were actually voting for educational reform (what freaking morons)! Rattling off statistics that were dubious at best, with glee did she promote the Bushites’ master plan for public education’s demise. And when her eyebrows went up and a maniacal smile appeared on her face when Colbert suggested schools allow federally-mandated spanking, I just started getting the dry heaves.

It was at this point that I heard a little voice in my head, telling me, “kick your TV, kick your TV, kick your TV.” And I did.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mad Cow Disease (sort of)

Went down the mountain last night and went into town for some live music. Caught a group from Chicago called Mucca Pazza (mad cow in Italian). If Camp Nickleby had a marching band, this is what it would be like! Way too much fun. Check them out! Their website is here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

What Would Jesus Shoot?

I heard through the grapevine that there seems to be some problems going on at Camp Nickleby. The organization that rented the camp for the summer, Pastor John’s Hunting and Fishing Christian Academy and Institute for the Study of Biblical Prophecy apparently went afoul of the law. Some parents of the campers got wind of the fact that the Academy was planning a gun giveaway to campers as a reward for their hard work during Bible studies. Guns were to be awarded for memorizing various chapters of the Bible. Who thought this was a good idea?

Any student able to memorize the Book of Genesis would receive a Glock 17. Memorizing Exodus or Numbers would garner a camper a Walther PPK. Leviticus or Deuteronomy was worth a Beretta 3032 Tomcat. Any student willing to memorize the entire Pentateuch had their choice of either a Remington Model 7400 or a Ruger Model 99/44 Deerfield automatic rifle!

To motivate students even further, any student willing to memorize the Gospels in the New Testament would be given a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. Can I get an amen?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mr. Dobbs Goes to Camp?

This past Saturday while channel surfing, I caught the last few sound bites of Lou Dobbs Tonight on CNN. The panel of talking heads was discussing Obama’s ‘learn a second language, dammit’ statement. I heard Dobbs say, “. . . not that we have children who are not speaking a second language, nor whether that be Spanish or any other language, but that many of our children cannot even speak English to begin with. And secondly half of black students in this country, half of Hispanic students in this country are dropping out of high school. We are permitting an entire generation of young Americans to be failed by a public education system . . .” Of course, blame it on PUBLIC EDUCATION!

I checked out Dobbs’ website and found this gem concerning public education:

Failing Grades

Education is the great equalizer in America, but we are failing an entire generation with substandard schools and teachers who are not held accountable. The future for students is increasingly one where they do not graduate, and not only are their job prospects severely limited but the nation’s ability to succeed can and will be impacted.

I invite Mr. Dobbs to visit my classroom when camp starts up again in August. I will introduce him to students who are totally unmotivated. I will introduce him to students who are burnt out on school because they are tired of filling out mindless worksheets from another ‘research-based program’ that doesn’t work. I will introduce him to students who are tired of taking test after test after test which reinforce their feelings of inadequacy. I will introduce him to students who must work a job at night to help their families make it financially. I will introduce him to students who aren’t interested in school because art, music and vocational programs have been gutted in order to raise the all-important test scores. And I’m sure it’s all the teachers’ fault! Damn teachers!

Mr. Dobbs, please e-mail as soon as you can and we’ll set up a time for your visit. I’ll even let you present a lesson. It should be lots of fun!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

How Could I Have Been So Wrong?

While surfing through the Net the other day, I came upon an interesting site which I would like to share. Although a majority of Americans consider George W. Bush to be the greatest disaster to hit the United States, this site carefully enumerates the many accomplishments of the Bush administration. It was written, anonymously, in June of 2004, so it unfortunately does not include some of the more impressive accomplishments of his second term in office, such as the Bush Administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina or the wonderful medical care our war veterans were receiving at Walter Reed Hospital until a journalist ruined everything.

It is truly a sobering document. I have listed only a few of the entries. The list is quite exhaustive and somewhat nauseating. Which is your favorite? The comments at the of the list are quite entertaining too! And keep in mind, these people are allowed to vote.

PRESIDENT BUSH'S AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENTS (click for the ride of your life)

  • Handled himself with enormous courage, dignity, grace, determination, and leadership in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 hijackings and anthrax attacks. He almost single-handedly held this country together during those searing days. (I thought this was Giuliani’s job!)
  • Turned around an inherited economy that was in recession, and deeply shocked as a result of the 9/11 attacks. (Who’s going to inherit his economy in recession?)
  • Changed the tone in the White House, restoring HONOR and DIGNITY to the presidency. (You’ve got to be #%&@ing kidding me!)
  • Has reintroduced the mention of God and faith into public discourse. (This is also very popular in Iran)
  • Signed the No Child Left Behind Act, delivering the most dramatic education reforms in a generation (challenging the soft bigotry of low expectations). The very liberal California Teachers union (#%&@ing teachers unions!) is currently running radio ads against the accountability provisions of this Act. (Why have soft bigotry when you can have it HARD!)
  • Increased funding for the Troops-to-Teachers program, which recruits former military personnel to become teachers. (Yeah, PTSD in the classroom. Good idea! Those test scores should go through the roof!)
  • Established a $10 million grant program to promote private conservation initiatives. (Chump change!)
  • Successfully executed two wars in the aftermath of 9/11/01: Afghanistan and Iraq. 50 million people who had lived under tyrannical regimes now live in freedom. (WTF?)
  • Improved government efficiency by putting hundreds of thousands of jobs put up for bid. This weakens public-sector unions and cuts undeserved pay raises. (Once again, those #%&@ing unions!)
  • Converted federal service contracts to performance-based contracts wherever possible so that the contractor has measurable performance goals. (We need to electrocute only three more soldiers to meet our performance goal this month!)

George Orwell is looking down at us and laughing his ass off!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Got My Kicks

Greetings from summer vacation. I just got back from a week in Arizona. My ladyfriend and I did the Route 66 thing and drove some of the old, blistering asphalt through Barstow, Needles, Kingman and eventually set up base camp for several days in Flagstaff. We did forget about Winona, but I got a chance to stand on the corner in Winslow, Arizona!

How to Save Money on Science Textbooks

Never having seen the Grand Canyon before, a side trip was a must for me. The many photos I’ve seen do not, in any way, do it justice. While perusing the official, U.S. Government-sanctioned gift shop, I came upon an amazing book, entitled The Grand Canyon, A Different Perspective, a compilation of writings by various scientists and other experts. I thumbed through it and quickly realized that everything I learned during my tax-supported public school education about how the Grand Canyon was formed was wrong. Instead of being the product of millions of years of erosion created by the Colorado River, this book explains that the Canyon was actually the result of Noah’s Great Flood, described in Genesis. Instead of millions of years old, the Canyon is actually less than 6,000 years old! All of those years I had been lied to by my teachers, who were bent on spreading their godless/liberal/communist/homosexual agendas! I feel so betrayed. And dirty. The book was written and compiled by a canyon river guide, who came to Christ after years of drunken debauchery (where have I heard this story before?)

I sat down with the book and started reading. The book explains in great detail the overwhelming evidence that proves its theory. Interestingly, it never bothers to question the whole flood story. Apparently the writers of this book, along with most fundamentalists, are comfortable worshipping a deity who punishes a few people who piss him off by also drowning innocent babies and small children. I know that some four-month-olds can be a pain in the ass, but the whole drowning everybody thing seems to be going a bit far. Apparently the God of the Old Testament really should have entered an anger management program! The guy was just out of control! I think it’s time for somebody to put the FUN back into fundamentalism.

Another NCLB Casualty

After visiting numerous Route 66 sites and way too many souvenir shops, we decided to make another visit to the Canyon, but this time by train. Being a bit of a ‘foamer’, I was greatly disappointed that their steam engine was in the shop that day. Apparently, it needed new wheel bearings. Where do you find wheel bearings for a 90-year-old steam locomotive, Kragen? While suffering through well-meaning singing cowboys and ‘indigenous peoples’ entertaining passengers during the two-hour train ride, we met a teacher from Flagstaff. We struck up a conversation, and she mentioned that she was a 5th grade teacher, but that was soon coming to an end. After seventeen years of teaching, she was packing it in, pulling up stakes and she and her husband were moving to Bogotá, Columbia, where she would resume her teaching career. She seemed to be a very dedicated teacher, and I’m sure her students will miss her, but she finally reached her limit. She just got tired of all of the NCLB b.s. and ineffectual administrators she had to deal with on a daily basis. Teaching in the United States was no longer a joy for her. NCLB continues to work its special magic.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

What? They lied about NCLB too?

I am shocked, I tell you, shocked!!! An article in Time Magazine actually makes the assertion that NCLB was never about educational reform and all about privatization of our public schools! The article also makes the claim that NCLB’s goal of 100% proficiency by 2014 is unrealistic! Duh! Talk about being a little late on the uptake, Time!

Just wanted to share. This article goes particularly well with an aged Stilton, some whole wheat crackers and an Aussie Shiraz. It is a wonderful read, but they stole my Trojan horse metaphor!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Summertime at Camp Nickleby

It’s quiet at the camp this Sunday morning, only the sound of the wind blowing through the pines and the occasional squirrel chirping. All of the campers have headed home for the summer. Most of the counselors have packed up and left. My car is packed and I’ll be leaving too, as soon as I finish my bowl of low-fat granola with soy milk.

Friday night saw 48 Camp Nickleby seniors graduate. For some, it was a miracle. Even though all of them passed the Exit Exam, supposedly ensuring to the business world that schools are no longer graduating students who can’t think their way out of a paper bag, many still wouldn’t be able to tell you what 15% of $20 was or when to use ‘their’ or ‘there’ in a sentence. But when it came time to guess right on a standardized test, they got lucky.

On Wednesday, I was given an end-of-year gift by a student in art class. Three months ago, the students were given an assignment, based on the work of artist Andy Goldsworthy. They were to create a work that changes over time and incorporates a principle of design. They were to document their work with photos. The main caveat was that I didn’t want pictures of ice cubes melting in a bowl! Only a few of the students bothered to do the assignment. And of course, I received pictures of bowls of ice melting, some pictures of plants growing in pots, and photos of rotting fruit. But the most curious submission was Marianne’s project. Three months ago, she was given a new puppy for her birthday. She decided to take photos of the dog as it grew during the past three months. To help me with the grading of this project, I asked her what principle of design she used in the creation of it. She looked up at me and replied tentatively, “Repetition?” I gave her an A minus!

Camp Nick will be closing down for the summer. In order to pay the bills and keep the place open for next year, the directors have decided to rent the place out for the next few months. Tomorrow, the camp changes hands. An organization called Pastor John’s Hunting and Fishing Christian Academy and Institute for the Study of Biblical Prophecy will be taking over. A truck drove into camp Thursday and dropped off a load of bibles, rifles and fishing gear. Some of our regular Camp Nick students are planning to attend. I just hope they don’t leave the place a mess. They expect Somebody else to pick up after them.

I’ll be posting occasionally on this dopey thing, whenever I get the urge. It will be interesting to hear what the candidates have to say about NCLB. Have a great summer!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Jayson Blair Excellence in Plagiarism Award for 2008

We have a winner! Each year around this time, all of the counselors submit their entries to the Jayson Blair Excellence in Plagiarism Award committee, hoping their camper is chosen for the prestigious award. This year’s award goes to 9th grader, Duane Daryl Pigwhistle.

Young Duane’s writing endeavor pushed the envelope and went well beyond the norm in the art of plagiarism. Here are some of the reasons why the committee had an easy time selecting this year’s winner:

The paper was one month late. Even after he was told that his paper would not be accepted, he persevered and turned it in anyway, fully expecting to get full credit because, “I turned in my work”.

It was a verbatim download from Wikipedia. He didn’t even bother to cut-and-paste.

It still contained every hyperlink embedded in the original Wikipedia article.

But the pièce de résistance was the fact that Duane left the caption of the illustration to the original article in his paper. No photo, just the caption!

Thank you Duane. You make teaching exciting and fun!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

Navy jets fly overhead the camp, in honor of those who have given their all for freedom and access to the world's natural resources. We take solace in the fact that we have not lost a Camp Nickleby alum to the wars yet. But we anxiously wait. We are now in the sixth year of a manufactured war, brought to us by BushCo., with no end in sight. Wars are easy to start, but a bitch to stop. A few years ago, when the U.S. death toll was only 1025, I had a zealous, war-mongering student in my class who remarked that 1025 deaths was nothing to defend our freedom and punish the Iraqi people for flying planes into the World Trade Center. He is now serving with the Army near Sadr City. I think about him all of the time.

Many people think that we need to stay in Iraq until we 'win', whatever that means or looks like. I believe we extract ourselves like you would out of any alcohol-induced mistake; wait 'til they're asleep, then just sneak out around 2:30 in the morning. And don't call them later! Bring them home now! Please vote accordingly in November.

I came upon the following poem by Mark Twain. It was written in 1904, but it still rings true today. Although some people might consider war 'romantic', it is anything but.

The War Prayer

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen".

--- Mark Twain

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's Good Though!

It’s a sad day at The Nick. I started my Sunday morning by tuning into Across the Great Divide on KPFA. Robbie Osman, the host, was playing a Utah Phillips song early into the show, and I knew something was wrong. I checked Utah’s blog and learned that Utah made the transition from is to was Friday. Needless to say, I unplugged the big screen and put the Indy 500 on the back burner. For a KPFA archive of Robbie’s show, go here:

For those of you ‘Nicksters’ who don’t know anything about Utah Phillips, he was a folk music legend, peace and labor activist, and a favorite ‘curmudgeony’ raconteur of mine. In 1956, he joined the Army and did a tour in Korea, which would motivate him to become a peace activist. Go to for a complete article about Utah.

I first discovered Utah Phillips in 1980 or thereabouts. I lived and worked in the San Jose area and listened to the very iconoclastic radio station KFAT. We ‘FATheads’ were fed a daily dose of Phillips’ Moose Turd Pie, a hilarious retelling of his times as a cook while working on the railroad. To this day, I know every word by heart.

Seeing Utah Phillips perform live was always high up on my ‘bucket list’. I was able to scratch this off my list about six years ago, when I traveled to Fresno to see Utah perform at the Forestiere Underground Gardens, an ‘earthy’ venue to say the least, a cross between an art farm on steroids and the catacombs of Europe. Although a physical condition prevented him from playing his guitar most of the night, just hearing the guy tell his endless stories was well worth the admission price. Being a ‘foamer’, I also enjoyed Utah’s train songs. Utah Phillips should be considered a national treasure. He will be missed.

“My God, that’s moose turd pie! (pause) It’s good though!”

For further info, go to

Friday, May 23, 2008

Real fuzzy math!

A new study from researchers at the University of California at Davis and the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities suggests something we in this crazy business have known for some time, that "state requirements that students pass exit tests to graduate from high school appear to do nothing to improve achievement on federal reading and mathematics tests." According to the study, comparisons of math and reading scores "of children in states with exit examinations to the scores of children elsewhere in the United States...concluded that there was no evidence that requiring passage of such tests improved academic achievement in those subject areas." No @$#& Sherlock! And I am reminded of this fact on an almost daily basis.

Yesterday, I started my ceramics class on a glaze testing assignment. Each student is to mix a dry glaze with three different percentages of a glaze stain, apply to three individual test tiles, and fire them in the kiln. The percentages used are 2%, 4% and 6% of a 50 gram test batch. Of course, to ascertain prior knowledge, I made the mistake of asking them what would 2% of 50 be? Mind you, this is a class made up primarily of soon-to-be-graduating seniors. They have ALL PASSED THE HIGH SCHOOL EXIT EXAM. I found out, much to my surprise, that 2% of 50 is 25!!! How is this possible? Bet the folks at ETS just laugh their way to the bank everyday.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What we've got here is failure to communicate!

Yesterday was just wonderful! I gave each camper a printed progress grade for the semester. As expected, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth. Some were even close to tears. A great way to start the week! And as usual, I feel like I’m in a remake of Cool Hand Luke, and I’m cast in the Strother Martin role.

It never ceases to amaze me how many campers still haven’t learned how to actually listen. I can only imagine what it sounds like in their little skulls. How much of what I tell them actually gets through the barricades. My most recent guess is about every fifth word. Could be less.

There was a steady pilgrimage to my desk yesterday, each camper asking when projects were due and if they could still make up work, even though I gave each camper a very nicely printed end-of-the-year calendar for them to keep, with due dates clearly showing. As a back up, I have a large calendar posted in the room. Didn’t matter. They don’t read either. Would take up too much of their time.

And of course, I was the one giving them an ‘F’. Their performance was nowhere in the equation. Two more weeks to go. Dear gawd make it go faster, please!

Monday, May 19, 2008

If you're flunking and you know it, clap your hands!

You can almost smell it. Like blood in the water to a shark, the scent of the end of the school year is in the air. And the kids are falling apart. Three weeks away. They can’t wait. The staff can’t wait.

How come I’m flunking, I do all my work?!?

Today, in a few hours, I will hand out progress grades. I can almost hear the shrieks of pain and hopelessness coming from the seniors. Always my favorite time of year. And I will get the usual question, “how can I be flunking, I do all my work.” Not really sure where this phenomenon started, but I hear it over and over. Somehow, in their little academic careers, they learned to equate just turning in an assignment with automatically receiving an exemplary grade. They don’t understand the concept of a ‘spectrum’ of performance.

Of course, most will be in denial. They can’t possibly be flunking an art class! Then comes the anger. They will hate me for giving them an F. It’s all my fault, of course. Then the bargaining. There will be last-minute negotiations. Maybe they could clean up the room for a bunch of extra credit??? Next comes the depression. They will mope around for the remainder of the semester, digging themselves even deeper in a hole. And finally the acceptance of the fact that they won’t be graduating this year with their friends. That cap and gown purchase was all for naught.

I love this time of year.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The itsy-bitsy spider tried to stop the war

This has nothing to do with NCLB but we at Camp Nickleby would like to extend our kudos to singer/songwriter Neil Young. He has had an honor bestowed upon him that is not received by many musicians -- his own spider! This is, like, totally awesome!

An East Carolina University biologist, Jason Bond, discovered a new species of trapdoor spider and chose to call the arachnid after his favorite musician (mine too), Canadian Neil Young, naming it Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi.

"There are rather strict rules about how you name new species," Bond said in a statement." As long as these rules are followed you can give a new species just about any name you please. With regards to Neil Young, I really enjoy his music and have had a great appreciation of him as an activist for peace and justice."

A dog-eared Neil Young songbook and my Guild D-35 served me well in my college days. Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi . . . long may you run!

Oh yeah, the resemblance is uncanny, no?

Who let the horse in? Who, who, who, who . . .

Wheeled within the barricades of public education six years ago, th
e Trojan horse known as No Child Left Behind is finally getting a chance to work its magic. Unable to meet unattainable goals set forth by this draconian and ridiculous law, more and more school districts throughout the United States are coming under sanctions by the Federales. And we can all be proud that California, according to a recent report, leads the nation in the percentage of school districts not meeting NCLB mandates. California has 97 school districts that failed to meet their goals under the law for four years, more than twice as many failing districts as any other state so far. Nationwide, 411 school districts in 27 states now face intervention. We can all be truly proud of this accomplishment. WE’RE NUMBER ONE, WE’RE NUMBER ONE!

Luckily, these failing school districts will now have ‘experts’ to tell them how to correctly teach children! How wonderful this will be. Apparently, educators have been doing it all wrong for so many years. Of course, no one really knows how to close the so-called achievement gap and raise the all-important test scores. It’s like trying to tie rocks to clouds. But that’s the real beauty of NCLB! This is what it was designed to do; decimate public education. And yet, every day I read or hear about how the goals of NCLB can be met, if only more money was spent, or if a school district hired better teachers or principals, or if Martians came down from space and gave everyone an anal probe.

Predictably, the always comically-delusional U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings says California is taking the right steps to punish school districts that are failing. Speaking of our beloved Governator, Spellings said in a recent interview, "He is the first governor to kind of embrace this law, to take it on himself, to be acting for it, and in keeping completely with the spirit of No Child Left Behind.” KIND OF EMBRACE??? What the hell does that mean?

On the positive side, by taking action now, California can collect $45 million from the federal government. The districts facing the most severe sanctions each will receive $250,000 in federal money to pay for intervention teams (ooo, do they getto wear cute little uniforms?) and to start following their suggestions. And what will these intervention teams suggest? More math and English classes, less science, social science, arts and music, of course. Let’s see if we can get that dropout rate to 85%! Why not just turn public schools into little gulags? With this new money, schools might be able to purchase new ‘programs’ like Reading Frist (sic)? It works so well! According to a recent article in the New York Times, “President Bush’s $1 billion a year [Reading Frist] initiative to teach reading to low-income children has not helped improve their reading comprehension, according to a Department of Education report. Reading Frist did not improve students’ reading comprehension . . . The program did not increase the percentages of students in grades one, two or three whose reading comprehension scores were at or above grade level.” Not surprising, our leader, Commandante Spellings, had “no comment” on the report. The best part is, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Education and Workforce Committee (and misguided NCLB supporter), charged that Reading Frist officials had "wasted taxpayer dollars on an inferior reading curriculum that was developed by a company headed by a Bush friend and campaign contributor (not to mention El Presidente Pantload’s brother, Neil). Instead of putting children first, they chose to put their cronies first." Miller asked the Justice Department to initiate a criminal investigation. Didn’t happen. Won’t happen.

As part of the restructuring process, schools will need to hire turnaround experts, new principals and coaches, and many more teachers to replace those judged to be ineffective. What the hell’s a turnaround expert? Where the districts will find these top-quality educators is unknown. California expects to face a shortage of as many as 100,000 qualified teachers in the next decade. It all is quite insurmountable.

Spellings, of course, has a different take. "I think it's going to take leadership, commitment and expectations," she said. "It's just like with the kids: If you think you have a bunch of kids who can't get to grade level, that's what you have. If you think you have superstars, that's what you have." My god, she’s right! That’s all it will take. The Power of Positive Thinking. Close down the schools of education throughout the land and just reanimate the corpse of Norman Vincent Peale. Why hasn’t anybody thought of this before?

So I checked out The Power of Positive Thinking at the camp library. Took it back to my cabin and read it by the warm glow of my Coleman lantern. The next day, I was determined to turn my kiddies around. I entered my classroom and looked at all of my ‘superstars’. I gave them a test on Renaissance art. I took the tests back to my cabin and graded them. Spellings was wrong. It didn’t work. I still have a box of hammers.