Wednesday, September 26, 2012

"I have something to add..."

As someone who works regularly with high school students trying to improve their writing, I found this article in The Atlantic, about a Staten Island high school making massive strides in the quality of its student essays, useful and intriguing.

An excerpt, which I found inspirational and funny:

Classroom discussion became an opportunity to push Monica and her classmates to listen to each other, think more carefully, and speak more precisely, in ways they could then echo in persuasive writing. When speaking, they were required to use specific prompts outlined on a poster at the front of each class.
“I agree/disagree with ___ because …”
“I have a different opinion …”
“I have something to add …”
“Can you explain your answer?”
The structured speaking was a success during Monica’s fifth-period-English discussion of the opening scene of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. “What is Willie Loman’s state of mind? Is he tired? If he is tired, why would he be so tired?” asked the teacher, Angelo Caterina. “Willie Loman seems tired because he is getting old,” ventured a curly-haired girl who usually sat in the front. “Can you explain your answer?,” Monica called out. The curly-haired girl bit her lip while her eyes searched the book in front of her. “The stage direction says he’s 63. That’s old!” Other hands shot up. Reading from the prompt poster made the students sound as if they’d spent the previous period in the House of Lords instead of the school cafeteria. “I agree that his age is listed in the stage direction,” said John Feliciano. “But I disagree with your conclusion. I think he is tired because his job is very hard and he has to travel a lot.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

He Does It His Way

I will have some responses to the more recent posts on the behemoth politics post in a day or so.  In the meantime, I challenge any of you to get through this video without laughing with glee.  It's not until the 1:10 mark that the joy begins.  You'll see.

Hat Tip: Andrew Sullivan

Thursday, September 6, 2012

On the DNC

"In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: We left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in." 

That's one of the many great lines from Clinton's speech last night.   This Democratic Convention, I think, marks the death blow for the Romney campaign.  Assuming Obama makes no major gaffes between now and election, he's going to win.  That's not a bold prediction, I know, but I can't help that what seems obvious to me seems obvious to everyone else.  My hope is that an utter defeat this fall will help the Republican Party reform itself into a party of viable, responsible adults.

Can anyone who has watched both of the nominating conventions believe that the Republican Party, as currently constituted, deserves--or is prepared--to be in power?  Their entire strategy since Obama came into power has been to oppose his every attempt to do anything (including an attempt to balance a budget the substance of which they agreed with) in the hopes they could defeat him.  Or, as President Clinton put it last night:

President Obama...tried to work with congressional Republicans on health care, debt reduction, and jobs, but that didn't work out so well. Probably because, as the Senate Republican leader, in a remarkable moment of candor, said two years before the election, their No. 1 priority was not to put America back to work, but to put President Obama out of work.

This was Mitch McConnell, of course.  And this, at core, has been the motivating ethos of the Republicans--not we want to govern, but we want to WIN.

Another excerpt:

When times are tough, constant conflict may be good politics but in the real world, cooperation works better. After all, nobody's right all the time, and a broken clock is right twice a day. All of us are destined to live our lives between those two extremes. Unfortunately, the faction that now dominates the Republican Party doesn't see it that way. They think government is the enemy, and compromise is weakness.
I tend to value small government over large, and the private over the public sector.  I am fully persuaded that our most important challenge over the next ten years will be cutting entitlements and working out a sustainable model for balancing budgets.  I have many problems with several stalwarts of the Democratic base.  And yet for all that, I have never been so fully repulsed by the Republican Party as I am today.  I won't say they have no ideas--I think (hope?) they do.  They don't make arguments based on those ideas, however; they argue only that Obama is bad.  The entire Republican convention, last week, could be summed up in the phrase "Obama Is Bad."  It's lame dispiriting stuff.  What a contrast to what we've seen from the Democrats so far in Charlotte.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

NFL Season 2012

If there's one thing I'm for which I'm known and respected--nay, even revered--among my friends it's my abilities as a football prognosticator.  Each year starting in August the pleas to hear my predictions about the upcoming NFL season grow and more fervent.  Phones ring.  Emails are sent.  "Please, ANCIANT," they say, "Please tell us what will happen this year in the NFL."

Be calmed, my friends.  Your pleas need sound no more.  The knowledge is coming....

1) The NY Jets will finish under .500.  Rex Ryan will not be the head coach at the start of 2013.

2) Brandon Weedon will disappoint as the Cleveland QB.

3) Ryan Fitzpatrick--who I like as a person--will play poorly.  Everyone will talk about the huge contract he got last year and how much the Bills overpayed for him.

4) Sam Bradford AND Blaine Gabbert will shake off their bad performances from last year; both will play well enough to justify being number one picks.

5) The Steelers will not make the playoffs.

6) Defenses will figure out how to contain Cam Newton; his numbers will decline significantly from last year.  He will look average.

7) In Philadelphia, Nick Foles will play well enough for Michael Vick (who will suffer the usual out-for-four-games-with-bruised-ribs injury in week 6) to generate a QB controversy.

Most of my picks so far are about QBs, I realize.  Is it because my natural athleticism and steely-eyed badassery makes me essentially a pro NFL quarterback myself?  Probably.

8) The Falcons will make the playoffs.  The Bears will not.

9) I am still not a believer in the 49ers and Alec Smith.  I should be, I guess.  But I wouldn't be surprised if they finish at 9-7.

10) The Dolphins fire Jeff Ireland as GM.  This is a wish more than a prediction, borne of me thinking he's not only a terrible GM but a really unlikable person.  But I'm putting it here anyway, in the hopes it will be true.