Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Standardized Slump

Welcome to The Mumble Mumble Mumble *yawn* Is it over yet?

Ah, friends, friends. It's Standardized Testing Season.

Last week was spring break at my school. The week before that was PARCC testing. If you don't know what PARCC stands for, it's Perfectly Awful Repugnant Corrupt Claptrap. My students have to sit through this every year, and they've done it every year of their lives.

Our current incarnation of standardized testing is so evil that teachers are not allowed to look at it at all. We can't so much as glance across a student's shoulder, let alone point out an errant comma. Students themselves are not to be trusted either. All cell phones are silenced and collected. Students have to sign a pledge that they don't have their phone. Students must be escorted to the bathroom, and only one student is allowed in the bathroom at a time.We wouldn't want anyone to give anyone else an answer, now would we?

Except, if that's the case, why is so much emphasis put on group work in the classroom?

This year my students endured three math tests of 90 minutes apiece and four language arts tests, two 90-minute and two 110-minute. Can someone add this up for me? How many hours is that? I keep wanting to say more than ten hours, but my brain won't let me. Clearly I wouldn't have a prayer of passing those math units!

Anyway, most of our testing occurred before the break. But today -- Tuesday -- on the second day back from break, we had one final 110-minute language arts unit.

It was raining outside.

The testing is done on chrome books. Testing began at 8:00 a.m.

Within the first 40 minutes, half the kids had fallen asleep. By 60 minutes, the slumber was universal. Even yours truly, the proctor, had to pinch herself to stay awake.

How many posts have I written on this wretched subject?

Back in the previous century, I had to take a high school proficiency test. It consisted of balancing a checkbook, using a train table, and following the directions to bake a cake. There might have been a short story and a couple of easy math problems. I particularly remember the train schedule and the checkbook.

Now, students taking the PARCC test have to write three whole essays based on long-winded passages of "classical" literature, much of it from across the pond. Need I say how unfair this is to urban youngsters of color? Nah, you already know.

I've been asleep on my feet since 8:00 this morning, so it's time to hit the sack. Like a ton of bricks. With sweet dreams of a world without standardized testing, where students are judged on their unique and particular abilities. On the content of their characters.

Good night!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Science Is the Poetry of Reality"

It's a very odd feeling when you participate in a March for Science, out of concern for the anti-science sentiments in government, and you find yourself marching in the footsteps of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson. This was the principal thing on my mind as I took to Market Street, with Spare and her friends, for the Earth Day Science March.

My simple sign was a photo of my dad, in his lab coat, with a beaker and an equation on the chalk board behind him. I also included his birth and death dates. In this way I felt that he was marching with me.

Spare, of course, is more flamBEEant.


This was the strangest crowd of marchers I've ever been in. I guess you could just say that these were all smart people. Call them geeks or nerds if you will, but you could almost feel the intelligence beaming off of everyone. Honestly, the signs weren't as creative as at the Women's March (Spare being the exception), but they were sincere. No one is taking this lightly, is I guess what I'm saying.



We barely got to Penn's Landing before it began to rain. It rained in earnest. Spare and her friends floated off, but I had a rain slicker, so I puffed out my chest and stayed for the speakers. I stayed and stayed. You remember how boring those chemistry lectures were in college? Well, those were the people who were speaking. It doesn't matter, though, because all the sentiments were the same. Science made this country great. Science has unending potential to benefit humankind. Science brings progress. Inventors should be respected. Energy should be renewable. We can all be scientists, even in small ways like monitoring our local creek. We should run for office, call our government officials, keep the pressure on. Vaccinations are a good thing, de-funding the EPA and Planned Parenthood isn't. Not all scientists are atheists. Geology is a helpful predictor of history. And I forget the rest, there were lots and lots of speakers.


Spare is in a dark place just now, so it was good to see her engaged in this worthy pursuit.

Benjamin Franklin was very much on my mind as I marched. Funny thing, as I was walking back up Market Street after the event was over, I passed a historic landmark that I'd never noticed before -- what's left of his house. So I walked back there to what might have been his front door. I thought about knocking, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. How could I look a Founding Father in the eye and say that the same great nation that put a man on the Moon is now dumping data and denying climate change? I let him rest.

The title of this sermon comes from a sign I saw but couldn't get a good picture of. It said "Science is the Poetry of Reality." Okay, well, poetry is the poetry of reality too, but I thought it was a good slogan anyway.

And of course we chanted as we marched:

What do we want?
SCIENCE!
When do we want it?
AFTER EVIDENCE-BASED PEER REVIEW

As I said, it was a rather strange march.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

More Marching Philosophy

The March for Science, being ... well ... scientific, asked everyone who has committed to march to explain why they are doing it. No doubt this is data gathering for further targeted political activity, so I was only too glad to do it. Besides, the George guy paid me $200, again. Talk about the gift that keeps giving!

I am participating in the March for Science because my grandfather and father were scientists. Two of my uncles were doctors. I have a cousin who is a doctor as well, and another who is a chemical engineer. (All male, which for me is another issue.)

Science runs deep in our family. My grandfather grew up in a tiny house on a farm in Appalachia. He was the first to attend college, and he was only there two years. All the same, he learned to use a microscope. He went on to design microscopic drill bits for a company called American Celanese. The synthetic fibers he helped to create went into gas masks that were used during World War II.

Dad taught high school chemistry. He loved teaching. I've posted his closed-circuit t.v. lessons on YouTube, and they are still being watched!

For me, going to this march is rather (believe it or not) a Pagan practice. My ancestors were scientists. If they were alive, they would be appalled by climate change and by efforts to squelch research and data. That would infuriate them. Ancestral work is part of the Pagan path. This fits the bill. Dad and Granddad aren't here to express themselves, so I'm going to do it. I'm going to take one of my photos of Dad in his classroom and tape it (gently ) to a sign. So he can be there.

Dad and Granddad both voted Republican their whole lives, because Lincoln won the war. I fervently believe that neither one of them could have pulled the lever for Donald Trump -- Granddad because of his deep and genuine Christian faith, and Dad because, well, science.

I'm going away for a few days but will return in time for the Science March in Philadelphia. You'll see the photos here.

Anyone who tries to undermine science is a villain. In the Shakespearean sense.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Tax March Philly

We have a leader in this nation who has refused to reveal his personal finances. We therefore cannot judge whether he is working for the American people, or working for foreign governments, or working to enrich himself.


This should be an outrage.

We have a leader in this nation who has absolutely no experience in governance. He has filled his inner circle with others -- including his own daughter -- who have absolutely no experience in governance. He has, with the help of a majority party in thrall to Big Business, set in motion efforts to dismantle public education, scientific research, health care and social services for the poor and elderly, and pollution controls.


This should be an outrage.

Know this: If you can't walk, I'm marching for you. If you care, I'm marching for you. If you believe, I am working the Work for you. If you are worried, I will worry with you. And I will act.

My feet are sore, but thank you bored Gods, I can still walk. The cause is just, the time is now.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Job Opportunity

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where our good fortune is your good fortune! Let's face it. None of us have all the money we'd really like to have, right? An extra Benjamin for a half-day's work always helps, huh?

I'm Anne Johnson, here to share with you a fool-proof money-making opportunity. For those of you nine-to-fivers, this still works because it is always on a Saturday!

About midway through last December, I got a phone call from a nice man who asked me just to call him "George." He made me an offer I couldn't refuse. And now he's making it three more times this month. Whoever he is, this George has, as my students would put it, "stacks and stacks and stacks."

George offered to pay for me to go to the Women's March on Washington. He paid for my two-night stay in a Hampton Inn, two tickets on a Rally bus for myself and the Heir, and he paid us each $200 for the day to march. Pretty generous, huh? I think so too!

At first I didn't want to take George's money, but he assured me that he was paying everyone who marched the same amount. This means if I hadn't needed to stay in a hotel or take a bus, I would have earned $500 for the day! And actually, at the Women's March, I met dozens of ladies who were equally impressed by his generosity. Many of them got all cash, since they lived close enough to take the Metro.

I asked them, "Do you know who this George guy is?"

"Who cares!" they chortled. "He's got stacks and stacks and stacks. After the march, we're going on a spa vacation!"

Seemed like everywhere you looked at that march, you saw a woman happily clutching a few Benjamins in her fist. One told me, "This is great, because I really don't want to work. I can just do this and get some money the easy way. I intend to spend it on drugs."

Who am I to tell people what to do with their money?

Long story short, George called me in March and asked what I was doing on the weekends of April 15, 22, and 29. I said, "Well, sir, you tell me. What am I doing?"

He hired me to march all three weekends. Heir too. We get a little less since we're staying in Philly -- $200 each -- but the math is still compelling. Between us we will earn $1200, just for protesting Donald Trump. George, it seems, does not like the sitting president.

At the Women's March it didn't occur to me to crunch the numbers and see just how much George actually pays for these events. Doesn't matter. I suck at math. I can't count that high.

For these April marches, George even sweetened the  pot. He gave me a clothing allowance! I bought a Union Thugs t-shirt and a baseball cap with the meanest-looking pussy you ever saw on it. Sent the bill to George.

Any of you who want to protest Donald Trump and earn some pocket change, give me a holler. I'll set you up with George. I think I even get a referral fee, so sign on and come aboard!

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

We Interrupt the Regularly Scheduled Ranting

... asking you to click the link and vote for my daughter The Spare's improv team. They want to get back into a competition they were eliminated from by one lousy vote!

Her team is Windows 98
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/DTRC57D


One of the good things about living in a big urban area is the opportunities it affords for chasing your Muse. The Spare's Muse loves to laugh!

EXHIBIT A: WINDOWS 98 (Spare on far right)



Don't ask me why, but Spare is convinced that my blog readership will push her team over the top in voting. I heard her boasting to her teammates: "Yeah, we'll put it on my mom's blog." Like I'm some kind of presence on the Web.

Won't take you a minute. No sea glass on offer this time, but if you stay tuned I'll tell you whether or not her team returns to the competition, and how well they do.

They are a hoot. She gets her talent from me, of course.

Monday, April 10, 2017

On the March Again

The rest of April will be a busy time for marchers. I guess I'll be flinging on my golden sneakers again ... not once, but three more times.

On Saturday, April 15, I will be in Philadelphia for the Tax March, sponsored by one of my all-time favorite nonprofits, Jobs with Justice. Look at this brilliant balloon we'll be floating over Market Street!

EXHIBIT A: TRUMP, RELEASE YOUR DAMN TAXES



I hope I can get my picture taken with this fine creation.

Having left my protest sign in Washington, DC during the Women's March, I need something new to carry. Okay, I suck at art. Luckily, my gig as a school teacher has provided me with inspiring signage.

Last fall I taught my students about symbolism. As most unimaginative teachers do, I Googled "how do I teach symbolism." I got a list of children's picture books that have symbolism in them. One of them was

EXHIBIT B: IT WAS PUBLISHED IN 2013 BUT IS OH SO RELEVANT


This is the cover! It's a picture book, so it's larger than a conventional book. How perfect is this to carry in a march that features a giant golden rooster?

The Snobville Public Library carries this riveting little volume. The story is so completely pertinent that when I used it to teach symbolism, my students were blown away. In this timely tale, a hedgehog wanders into the barnyard, slightly alarming the chickens because they've never seen one before. But the chickens are all ready to adapt until the rooster (who wants more attention) incites the chickens to be afraid -- very very afraid -- of the hedgehog.

EXHIBIT C: DID I SAY THIS WAS PUBLISHED IN 2013?


This is the rooster, exhorting his chickens to construct a huge, tall wall to keep out invaders. Does life imitate art, or what?

I won't give away the end of the story, because we are going to live through it. Suffice it to say that The Chickens Build a Wall will travel with me to the Philly Tax March. When we all get to the People's Plaza at Independence Mall, it may just be story time.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Palm Sunday Jackass

I'm sure you've noticed. People who drive luxury cars are more reckless than people who don't. They're more likely to run a red light and to speed on the expressway. It's entitlement, of course. The fact that they deserve such a nice vehicle also means that they deserve to get where they're going faster than the rest of us.

This morning my daughter The Spare and I went out for a little tootle in my 2001 Saturn, which belonged to my dear mother-in-law before it came to me. I have a whole philosophy of driving. First of all, no matter how slow you go, it always beats walking ... so why hurry? Second of all, the good state of New Jersey posts signs telling you how fast to go, and if there's a single house on the street where you're driving, the limit is likely 25. At best, 35.

As I said, Spare and I were tootling along, in an ancient and sputtering machine, when suddenly a gleaming black Lexus passed us on the right on a two-lane road!

"Jesus!" Spare exclaimed, rather taken aback.

"What a douchebag!" I responded helpfully.

Then, as befits the slight differences in our worldview, Spare complained about men and I complained about rich people. (She's a feminist, I'm a socialist.)

We watched this luxury automobile as it tailgated the next car on the road, a car that was no doubt minding the speed limit the way I was.

And then the entitled driver reached his destination: a church. He fairly leaped into the parking lot.

I looked at the clock in my Saturn. 5:00. (I can't get the Saturn's clock to work. It's always either five or six hours fast.)

Of course. Palm Sunday. The entitled driver was rushing to Mass! Jesus likes his rich people to be on time to church!

I believe that Jesus was a historical figure. I also believe he thought he was the Messiah. I believe the account of Palm Sunday that is in the Bible, and the crucifixion too.

I also believe that Jesus disdained the rich. His followers included well-off intellectuals (How else would we know about him?) but consisted mainly of ordinary, everyday kinds of people. Those people, and Jesus himself, would be flabbergasted to see what passes for a Christian these days.

This is the holy week of the bored Goddess Eostre the Christian calendar, so what better time to take a barometric reading of American Christianity? It's a topic I've explored at vast length over the years at The Gods Are Bored, but it never gets old. It only gets scarier.

One Christian got his butt into a pew on Palm Sunday by driving with reckless disregard for the other people on the road. Hallelujah! The jackass is important to the narrative.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Haiku

A Haiku about the New Supreme Court Justice


no no no no no
no no no no no no no
no no no hell no

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Afoot and Lighthearted

Last week I was sitting watching something on the t.v., and I saw a commercial for a high-end Volvo. "Hey," says I, "that narration sounds very familiar."

Volvo liked the commercial so much they made an extended version. My students liked it too. Never before have I had such an easy time getting them to like "the bridge guy."

Video below.

Volvo S90 Luxury Sedan | "Song of the Open Road" (Extended)