Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Yurt place or mine?

Well, winter has officially smacked the north coast upside the head with a slush ball. The yard is six inches deep in snow, it's windy, and the sun is gauzed over with gray the same color as mold on an orange. Any sensible person would escape – and in a couple weeks we will be doing so. Where are we headed, Key West, Tucson, Jamaica? Not a chance – we trekking to glorious Kazakhstan! Of which the lonely planet guide quips, paraphrased: "If you're a fan of lunar landscapes, hypnotically long train rides and horse sausage – this is the destination for you!" Oh, and it should be colder'n a bejeezus there too! The country (the 8th largest in the world – who knew?); slapped to the left side of a border between Russia and China is the first of a triumvirate of trips we are making this winter. Our second is to Jakarta in February – a much more climatically timed excursion and Istanbul in March.

Like all folks making a living as poets we are filthy rich and globetrot for amusement.

Right, believe that and I have a bridge to sell ya in Brooklyn. We are lucky enough to have found our way into the international school circuit as teaching artists, spreading the power of poetry and performance as a part of an educational curriculum designed to enhance literacy and comprehension skills at all grade levels. So why do we work in such far flung destinations? First and foremost, we are adventurers – the opportunity to mix teaching with seeing different cultures and locales is an experience that appeals to both of us – we are not homebodies. But secondly – and a bit scary, because the opportunity to do our kind of work here in the US of A seems to be becoming fewer and further between we have to look across the oceans to practice what we preach.

The current climate of public education toward any programming that is not part of a cookie cutter fodder destined for a standardized test oven is as chilly as the wind outside my window at this moment. No Child Left Behind – sounds like a good idea. Of course, the folks who coined this phrase are also responsible for: The Clean Air Initiative – which actually relaxes emission restrictions for industry, The Healthy Forest Initiative – which allows more logging, Free Speech Zones – which are actually cordoned off areas far away from whatever event is being protested, and the granddaddy of them all – The Patriot Act – See a pattern?

Now while NCLB purports to bring responsibility back to the classroom and get back to basics – what it really achieves is can be summed up in this analogy that I have run across a couple times on the web:

No Child Left Behind - Football Version

The football version of what is going on in education right now. (If you're not an educator, this may not make a lot of sense to you. But send it to your friends who are in education. They will love it!)

For all educators in and out of the education system:

1. All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship their footballs and equipment will be taken away UNTIL they do win the championship.

2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time, even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents. ALL KIDS WILL PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL!

3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own, without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability or whose parents don't like football.

4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th game. This will create a New Age of Sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimum goals. If no child gets ahead, then no child gets left behind. If parents do not like this new law, they are encouraged to vote for vouchers and support private schools that can screen out the non-athletes and prevent their children from having to go to school with bad football players.

Now I don't want to go on forever here – 'cause I could, so I am going to cut to an ending kinda quickly. One question that I can never seem to get answered by the proponants of NCLB is: "If it is such a good idea – why aren't private schools held to the same rules?" You know, those schools where the folks behind NCLB send their kids? I mean it couldn't be that they want an end to public education. What good would an uneducated, demoralized, unquestioning labor supply be to elite robber barons and their inbred progeny?

Kinda sends a shiver down your spine – doesn't it?

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