Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Wolfson at the Door

If you want a chance to speak to those in power directly, here's your chance. Both David Cantor of the DOE and Howard Wolfson, chief architect of Bloomberg's third term run, are responding to Bill Thompson's scathing piece on the mayor's education record on the Huffington Post.

When you spend over 36 million dollars on your campaign by the middle of July and your poll numbers start to tank, you send out the big dogs. Luckily, on the internet, you're as big a dog as anyone, and here's your chance to piss on the mayor's tree by posting in response to Wolfson and Cantor. Here's the tinkle I let go on HuffPo, which I got from the Times:

Isn't it correct, Mr. Wolfson, that you said in 2005 that "Michael Bloomberg is an out-of-touch billionaire who can"t relate to the problems of ordinary New Yorkers."? What brought about this change of heart as it relates to this billionaire?

Thompson has gone from 22 points down to 10 points down. Bloomberg is under 50% for the first time in a long time. That means the race is up for grabs. Let your voice be heard.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Final Farewell from Randi

Randi one again decided to give us the finger by brokering the deal that returned mayoral control to Mike Bloomberg and his stooge Joel Klein. You know, the Joel Klein who Randi had us rate the last two years and who still worked towards giving him this job for life (or until Bloomberg decides to give up the mayoralty, whichever comes first).

Thanks to Randi, you now teach a longer school year and a much longer day. You have no seniority and no right to grieve letters to your file. You have to work potty duty and cafeteria duty. You make less in your TDA than ever thanks to Randi getting back the two days before Labor day that she herself gave away. You no longer have the right to teach what you want how you want. You are a test prep machine and Randi goes around saying what a great job you're doing because our scores have gone up.

Now she's off to greener pastures, and you're left wondering what that green ooze is in the corner of your room that even the custodian won't touch. But don't worry--class sizes haven't budged so you'll have room should the ooze spread.

“All’s well that ends well,” said Randi about the mayoral control deal. Well, it certainly ended well for her. For denizens of the rubber rooms she helped fill, and the ATR rolls she created, it may not end so well.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Congrats to Mrs. Mimi

Mrs. Mimi, the blogger who writes at It's Not All Flowers and Sausages, has written a book that will be published by Kaplan this September, and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.

All I can say is that many congratulations are in order. And as an aside to Kaplan, or any other publisher, should they be reading this--where is MY book deal? HUH??? Did you read my poem about Joel Klein? How about my snarky post on the ATR debacle? I'm just wasting away here waiting for that book deal!

Mrs. Mimi--congrats!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Mr. Talk's Language Lounge

I started this blog to be generally snarky about education and the people who run it, but lately it has taken an odd turn. It seems every other post is about some language goof made by a prominent politician. First, I had to give Mayor Bloomberg a lesson on hyperbole. Then it was Sarah Palin's turn to learn the mechanics of a complete sentence. Finally, I had to revisit my lesson on hyperbole to show Mayor Bloomberg how it differed from a euphemism.

And the beat goes on. As I noted four days ago, Mayor Bloomberg compared the state senate to Hitler when he said, "If you remember Neville Chamberlain, no matter how many times you said yes, that's the starting point for the next round." Showing their characteristic lightning reflexes, some state senators finally responded, demanding that the mayor apologize for his comment. Senator Carl Kruger, briefly emerging from his coma, said "We are not Nazis! We are legislators!"

Stu Loeser, speaking for the mayor, said, "It wasn't an analogy at all -- the mayor was talking about endless negotiations in general....The former prime minister's name is now synonymous in the American lexicon with appeasement and endless negotiations."

Here's where Mr. Talk's Language Lounge comes to the rescue. We can only hope that Mikey is reading.

According to Webster's online, an analogy is an "inference that if two or more things agree with one another in some respects they will probably agree in others."

So, had the mayor said something like "If you remember Neville Chamberlain, if I keep on buying Girl Scout cookies, those Scouts will end up invading Poland" it wouldn't be an analogy. Not much of one, anyway, because the Scouts do not have the power to invade Poland. At least I don't think they do. (I plan on buying a few boxes, just to be on the safe side.)

What the mayor did imply was that if he acted like Chamberlain the state senate would act like Hitler. Unlike Girl Scouts, state senators do have political power. And that, Mr. Mayor, is an analogy.

(The idea that compromise equals appeasement is beyond the scope of this post and can only be truly understood by billionaires.)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Always Wear a Sausage Casing

The Oscar Meyer guy lost control of his wiener and plunged it deep into the waiting garage door of a home in Wisconsin. It got stuck there, and the driver had to go into forward and reverse a number of times because the garage opening was so tight. The house groaned at the sudden jerking and seemed about to collapse when the Wienermobile suddenly pulled out, spilling its contents all over the driveway.

The shocked home owner owner, a Mrs. Bun, discussed the incident as she smoked a cigarette. "I'm really disappointed. First, I get rammed by this giant wiener and then slam bam its gone without so much as an howdy do. It's always this way with guys with the giant wieners. My husband may have a subcompact, but at least he knows how to park it in the garage and drive it home."

In related news, Dick's Sausage is still going strong.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Hubris seems to be the new national pass time. Banks run the economy into the ground and pay their employees huge bonuses at the expense of the taxpayers. Governor Sandford cheats in Argentina while Larry Craig taps dances in the third stall to the left at an airport. Eliot Spitzer thinks he's making a comeback. Sarah Palin runs for Veep. Paris Hilton.

Sometimes hubris catapults people to the top, and sometimes it throws them to the bottom of the pile. Right now, I'm betting on the pile when it comes to Mike Bloomberg.

The mayor said he would refuse to sign any changes to the mayoral control law, and as a result, the State Legislature has decided to poke him in the eyes, Curly style, by adjourning for the summer. Bloomberg spent most of the morning at his press conferences after the sunset of mayoral control calling the state senate a bunch of jackasses, and then he dug in and told them exactly what he did not want to see in the new law. His incredible hubris led him to believe that the senate would whimper and give in, but instead, they did what they usually do when the going gets tough. They disappeared.

They will not be back in session before September, when the new and incredibly bogus BOE is scheduled to meet again. Let's see whether the mayor learns some humility by then and does a bit of groveling. If not, the senate my decide to take a bigger step, such as grabbing the mayor's nose with a pair of pliers.

UDATE: No sooner had I posted this than I ran across an article in the Daily News that talked about the mayor's reaction. Besides calling the whole thing "bull" and accusing the senators of trying to create a slush fund, the mayor compared the senate to Hitler: "If you remember Neville Chamberlain, no matter how many times you said yes, that's the starting point for the next round," Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR Radio show.

Way to go, Mayor Mike! (Cue the Three Stooges theme)

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Frank McCourt Near Death

According to the Daily News, Frank McCourt, Pulitzer Prize winning author of "Angela's Ashes" and "Teacher Man", is near death. He taught in NYC schools for more than 2 decades, including 17 years at Stuyvesant.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Frank and his family.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Absolutely Spot On!

An article at discusses the overuse of the word "absolutely". It traces the abuse back to the OJ trial (for murder, not kidnapping), when the running back was asked his plea, and he replied, "Absolutely, 100 percent not guilty." It seems to me if that's when the overuse began, it's a bit misguided. OJ saying he's absolutely not guilty implies that "absolutely" means the opposite of what we think it means.

Personally, I don't think that's the worst abuse of the language going around. Look at the above use of the word personally--how else could I be speaking? The article also claims that the word "absolutely" has become a verbal virus, which is an abused word in itself. Whenever something is said to be popular, we say it's "gone viral", which has always had a kind of nasty connotation to me. And we shouldn't blame OJ too harshly for his misstep (the verbal one, not the stabbing one), because at least he didn't say "I'm 110% not guilty".

CNN asked folks to discuss overused words on video, which I'm too lazy to do, but I will report on what some contributors chose: like, cool, fierce, buh-bye, drinking the Kool-aid, and whatever top the list. They're all pretty bad, but none of them have the flesh-crawling effect on me that the phrase "spot on" does.

"Spot on" is one of those phrases people use when they want to agree with someone but have nothing intelligent to say of their own. They think saying "spot on" makes them sound deep and contemplative, but to me they sound like faux English twits.

And don't get me started on the word "faux".

Monday, July 13, 2009

Party Like It's 1984!!!

OK, so my last attempt at telling the future hasn't exactly gone as planned. If you recall, I predicted a number of things, such as the return of mayoral control of schools, and that at least one of your admins would continue to be a dick. I admit, those were pretty safe predictions.

I did make one other prediction that came true in a big way, however. All the way back in February, when the mayor was having a hard time finding a political party that wanted him, I predicted that he'd start his own. I even suggested some possible names for his new party, such as:

The Napoleon Complex Party
The At Least I'm Not Joel Klein Party
The Screw The Workers Party

Today, my prediction came true. Uncle Mikey has decided to start his own party. In a move so transparent and Orwellian that even I couldn't have come up with it, Bloomberg named his party --wait for it---the Jobs and Education Party.

According to the News, "A Bloomberg campaign source called this 'a way for us to communicate with a voter about the mayor’s record and vision for the future when they’re making their decision'."

Really. If that's what they wanted to communicate, they could have come up with a better name, like:

The Sphincter Party
The Train the Masses for Long Boring Jobs Party
The Mayor for Life Party
The Test Prep and High Unemployment Party

If you have any ideas of your own, post them in the comments section. But I doubt you'll come up with anything funnier than the mayor.

A Question on Mayoral Control

Let's face it. Mayoral control is a done deal. A major reason we have it is that Randi Weingarten supported it in the first place, and never changed her tune. When the New York Post encourages you to give your last blessing to mayoral control before you pass on to the AFT presidency, you know you've sold out big time.

I've opposed mayoral control from the beginning, and I still do. I know that Randi initially supported it because she wanted a good contract and mistakenly thought she'd get someone like Bill Thompson in there who she might be able to manipulate. Mayor Moneybags, however, threw a monkey wrench in those plans when he decided that the will of the people who twice voted for term limits just didn't apply to rich fellows like him.

The point is, I am opposed to mayoral control, period. It doesn't matter whether it's Bloomie or Thompson or anyone else. No one should have that kind of power over the schools because if they mess it up even for one mayoral term, it will affect children for many, many years. When you get tyrannical screw-ups like Bloomberg and Klein running things, it's disastrous. Even Obama has to bow to checks and balances--it is the foundation of our society. But not in NY.

So, the question is, where are you on this issue? Are you opposed to mayoral control, or just to Bloomberg having it?

Saturday, July 11, 2009


Sorry for not posting more regularly. Sometimes summer is the worst time. Other projects are going on and blogging sometimes takes a back seat. Still, there are a few things of note I wanted to mention.

Unbeknownst to me (mostly because I stopped reading the Pravda-like NY Teacher), Teacher's Choice was restored. For once, the UFT decided not to go ridiculously overboard in announcing they'd gotten something back that they had lost. If you read this blog regularly, you know how I feel about Teacher's Choice. Schools should have supplies, period. For this year, my principal has basically said that due to budget cuts, we shouldn't ask for copies of anything. They have no paper and can't afford any. This is insane.

The UFT did go overboard in announcing that they had "preserved" 55/22 (did anyone know it was on the table? I sure didn't) and got back our two days before Labor Day that they gave away in 2005. Of course, they gave away some of our upcoming raise for it, as well as agreeing to lower fixed annuity rates in the TDA from 8.25 to 7%. I calculated that this little agreement will cost me about $15000 over the next five years based upon the amount I have in TDA and lost salary. So the ten days I save will cost me $1500 each. Thanks, Randi!

There was a spirited debate over at NYC Educator about PCs vs Macs. I pointed out that Macs are PCs, and it's really a question of which OS you want to use. Personally, I refuse to pay a $500 or more premium for the privilege of using OS X on a Mac. Windows Vista works beautifully, and everyone who complains about it should just get over it already. It never crashes, it runs probably 50 times more software titles than the Mac, I can upgrade the computer myself, and I have never had a virus or a firewall breach in the last 15 years. I only bring up the discussion here because there were 20 responses to the post. I wish people would get as fired up about Bloomberg vs Thompson as they do PC vs Mac.

I'm now on the blog roll at Gotham Schools. I think this means I made the big time.

If Michael Mulgrew wants to make a splash, he will come out TODAY and state that tenure is absolutely off the table under any and all circumstances. And unlike Randi, he should mean it.

James Eterno is running for UFT president. He absolutely has my vote. And this kind of topic is the one that needs tons of discussion, no offence to PCs and Macs.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A New Kind of Mayoral Control

It looks as if the State senators will come out of hiding and pass the mayoral control bill back into law with few modifications. Then, if they see their shadows, we will have six more weeks of winter. No, that's Groundhog Day. The rodents in the state legislature portend five more years of dictatorial rule.

It no big surprise that the mayor's money talked. Billions of dollars together tend to speak pretty loudly. However, there is a sliver of hope that rarely gets talked about these days. While the mayor gets to control the schools, let's remember that we, the voters, control who the mayor is.

Voting Bloomberg out is the ultimate in mayoral control. I know some of you think he is invincible, but I think the cracks in the mayor's highly polished image are beginning to show. Witness how he angrily stared down a disabled man who had a difficult time turning off a tape recorder. Remember how he told parents that they should leave the teaching decisions to teachers (the very ones he cut out of the decision making process). Consider his silence as Eva Moskowitz plays Capture the Flag with PS 123. Think of the phony reconstituted BOE he stuffed with his own deputy mayors. Add in his power grab for a third term as mayor in defiance of the will of the people who twice voted for term limits. Finally, remember his moronic hyperbole in stating that there would be riots in the streets should one word of the mayoral control bill be changed.

So no, we probably can't stop the return of mayoral control. But we might be able to stop the return of Mayor Mike.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Education Governor? You Betcha!

No one was more disappointed than me when Sarah Palin decided to call it quits as governor of Alaska, effectively skewering any chance she had of running for president in 2012. Her candidacy almost ensured a win by the Dems, so I am sorry to see her go.

What interested me most about her resignation, as a teacher and a blogger, was the speech itself. It was rambling and incoherent, yet spattered with enough catch phrases that the terminally stupid might actually believe it had substance. However, to really understand the shallowness of the Wasilla Wonder, you have to read the text of the speech. I ran across a brilliant piece by Paul Begala on HuffPo that dissected the text. He noted some disturbing writing issues displayed by the governor, such as her tendency to use random exclamation marks and to capitalize words inappropriately. The best sentence was this one, taken exactly as written in Palin's speech:

*((Gotta put First Things First))*

Now, I can see someone doing this on their own copy, for emphasis, perhaps. But to publish it on the governor's website for all too see?

Even the first sentence of her speech is riddled with errors that would make a middle schooler blush. Again, here it is, taken exactly as written from the governor's text (italics mine):

Hi Alaska, I appreciate speaking directly to you, the people I serve, as your Governor.

Besides the comma splice, she leaves out a comma and capitalizes Governor when using it as a common noun. Sheesh.

She bemoans having spent millions of the state's dollars defending her many ethics investigations, saying "...that’s money not going to fund teachers...". And in that, I agree with her. One thing she desperately needs is more and better teachers.

The irony is that she is getting paid millions to write a book. Heck, I'd give her 100 bucks just for writing a coherent sentence.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

No, Not a Pun. It's a Palindrome!

Mayor Mike likes being a question on the Regents exam, so we thought we'd pose a question for him, ELA style:

Consider the following statement:

Changing one word of the current Assembly bill on mayoral control would "resurrect the Soviet Union" and "bring back chaos."

This statement can best be described as:

a. Hyperbole
b. Idiocy
c. Both a and b
d. Euphemism

The correct answer, of course, is c. That slab of idiocy is an example of the hyperbole Mayor Mike used to try to scare people into supporting mayoral control. But at today's press conference, when the mayor was asked to explain his bizarre comment, he said "It's a euphemism." So no perfect 4 on the ELA exam for the mayor. I say we make him attend 37.5 minutes until he gets these kinds of questions right.

In fact, the mayor's statement is about as far from a euphemism as you can get. For the record, a euphemism is the substitution of a mild statement for one that is harsh or troubling. For example, instead of saying mayoral control is dead, you might say that it "sunset". Isn't that nicer?

At least he didn't say it was a pun.

Would You Hire This Man?

Now that mayoral control has expired, there are already rumblings that Joel Klein should be fired. According to the Daily News, "Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. will name Dolores Fernandez to the board. Diaz said Klein is free to reapply for his job."

Am I gleeful that Klein will feel the same pangs that teachers feel when their jobs are in jeopardy, or that ATRs feel when they apply for jobs they should be entitled to? Yes.