Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Time to make this blog live again.

The president's been elected. Puyallup School District was sued. Lorri and I still have our jobs. The world goes on and on, and I've more or less survived.

The Christmas season has more or less ended, and we survived the great Snowpocalypse '08 more or less intact.

There is only one question left to answer: why is this blog here and what am I going to do with it?

Perhaps it will be limited to simple noodling and journaling about my life-what I'm doing on a day to day basis-what I'm reading and listening to. I do have a little project I've become quite interested in outside of miniature gaming and that is the Seattle General Strike of 1919. I think it is a fascinating event that many have an interest in, but little is written about. There is a wonderful website at the University of Washington that kind of sets one on the path of further research that I hope to follow over the years. I also hope to share my reading and research here at this blog, which is appropriately named for the topic.

I'm sure I'll have something ridiculous to say about politics, movies and spousal relations too, but the most important thing is that I say something (the blog name is simply too good to waste.)

Saturday, August 30, 2008

And before we even get started . . .

Yesterday I learned of a meeting between district officials and the high school principals regarding student first amendment rights. Regulation 3220R. In this board regulation the district asserts severe limitations on students' first amendment privileges. While I believe this is aimed particularly at the three high school newspapers/newsmagazines, there are also limits on student plays (which I believe may be more aimed at groups such as ER's Hypocritz.) You can examine this regulation here

This is a nasty business. There is a process for both prior approval of the paper's content as well as prior restraint of its distribution. The regulation calls for the principal to review the content of the paper and return it within 24 hours with deletions, corrections whatever. The adviser becomes the first line of censorship.

This is horrifying news. The question is what to do? I believe the regulation presents two problems (beyond the needless compulsion to limit student self-expression.) First, material that is subject to censorship is vague and way open to interpretation. It's a disciplinary action waiting to happen. This must be clarified to work effectively with the policy until, hopefully, it is rescinded or changed. Secondly, we must devise a strategy for enlisting allies that will aid us in overturning this abomination. Dunno exactly what this will look like, but we'll have to figure it out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The Choice is Biden!!!

Yippee!! This is the best choice Obama could make for Vice President. He brings the kind of senatorial experience and foreign policy expertise that this campaign needs. Yeah, Joe talks a bit too much sometimes, but he's smart, he's direct, and he'll provide a few of those turnipseed moments Joe Klein likes so much. Biden was my first choice for the veep, so Obama must have been channeling my handful of brain cells.

I know there will be some, like my beloved wife, who were holding out a secret hope that Hillary would appear on the ticket. Unfortunately, the Hillary package included Bill, a walking turnipseed moment, who unfortunately would only have made things worse. I don't think Biden will be the most popular choice, but he is exactly what Obama needs for a great presidency. Let's get out and win this thing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A New Direction(s)

I haven't posted on this blog in ages. Why? 'Cause I don't really know what I want to be about. Well, I've decided. It's gonna go in whatever direction I want it to go at the moment. If I want to write about books, I'll write about books. If I want to write about the ghastly Mariner's season-then by god expect to see pictures of Jose Vidro and Richie Sexson. If I want to talk politics-expect to see some Obama and McCain bashing.

While we're on the latter topic-today's column is about Iraq, judgment, and The Surge. I've spent the last few days listening to John McCain once again drag out the Obama didn't and doesn't back the surge argument. While I won't go so far as to say that he's questioning Obama's patriotism, but I think this is a bogus argument that Obama needs to focus on forcefully

1. I think it is foolish to allow McCain to make his argument that Obama used poor judgment on the surge, when McCain used poorer sense to follow the president and plunge the country into this war in the first place. The cost in lives and dollars has been too high for war that was not in our national interest. It is plunging our country further into debt, as the good senator has chosen to go along with the White House in not paying for this conflict, or even minimizing its costs.

2. McCain has fixed on Iraq as a surrogate conflict for his generation's own failings in Vietnam. He is scared to death that the United States stands to lose another war-not because the armed services have failed, but because another generation of leaders have chosen not to stick it out through all the bloodshed and cash thrown at a war with that has been fought at times with questionable behavior. What were our goals in Iraq? A friendly government, or one that can be controlled by the US? What will security for that country look like? What will the the remaining military footprint look like, and how will we pay for it? I believe this war, regardless of the military outcome is already lost, because it is has left us so much weaker economically, and less able to deal with needs at home, and a new confrontation from Russia.

3. The situation in Afghanistan remains dicey. We have plunged far too many of our manpower and material resources into Iraq instead of giving the Taliban the knockout punch and polishing off Al Qaida in Afghanistan. Now we must depend on the good offices of Pakistan (like that will happen) and increased support from NATO in order to continue progressing on this front. Right now we only seem to be holding our own.

4. The surge seems to have worked. So well, in fact, that today the Iraqi government announced agreement on a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. This measure was called for by Obama, al-Maliki, GW, everyone it seems except McCain. Regardless of the success, that doesn't make the war any more justified, or its results any more excusable. Photo is courtesy of Andrew Sullivan's (a good conservative) Atlantic Monthly blog

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Out of Business

Tuesday of last week (16th) was the last day of school. I received our ASB report for JagWire. Our balance was -$3,190. Not so good. I sat down with Brian and our ed board on Thursday to try and figure out what happened. We looked at our revenue statements, and compared them to the ads sold. We determined that we had collected $400 in ad revenue FOR THE YEAR! We sold almost $4000 in ads.

Tomorrow is the first in a series of meetings with the ed board to try to strategize about collecting our ad revenues. We'll see how it turns out. I've spent a good chunk of the day today putting together invoices. Tomorrow morning I'll need to write a generic letter to advertisers, and then the students will get to go collect the funds.

Without settling our account, it will be difficult to put out a paper next year. We'll begin with no ASB support, so collecting this ad revenue, selling ads for issue 9.1, and making sure those funds are collected is extremely important.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Revisions of Revisions

At my last posting, I announced my decision to go back to elementary. Well, I changed my mind again. Why? Well, because.

Some good things happened to me after Spring Break. The first was the trip to Anaheim. I got to know Jim Meyerhoff and Gary Osborne a bit better, and felt we were all trying to do the same thing. They are also CTE teachers, and I felt like was part of something. It was also great to hang out with students for the better part of a week. You feel just a little bit closer to them.

The other really important thing that happened was choosing a new editorial board. I am very fond of the five girls we chose. They are talented writers, and they want to become better designers. I think they are going to be fun to work with. They are also my board. As much as I loved the 07-08 edition, they were Nusser's kids. These guys will be mine, and I will work as hard as I can to support them.

My American Studies classes turned out to be a mixed bag. The morning class ended up being a fun group, but a mixed bunch of students. Some finished the year strong, others just played out the string. The afternoon class was just not fun--some great kids in there, but too many with special needs, and too many others who were just idiots.

My goal for next year is to be more focused in my approach to history, and to learn to become a better English teacher. I'll continue to work at being a stronger journalism teacher and adviser too. In fact, I'm still trying to understand the rhythms of high school. It is a much different gig than elementary. It's harder, the work is more constant and the hours are longer (if you do it properly.)

Sunday, April 6, 2008

All Things Considered

Last year I wrote how gaining my position at Emerald Ridge was like a dream come true. Today I say I was wrong. It has turned into a learning experience, but what I have learned most about is myself. I know now that I enjoy the small size of the elementary community. It simply seemed that we were all in this together. I have felt like a person apart this year, and that is not who I am. I've also had a difficult time connecting with my students. On reflection, the reason I remained at elementary for so many years is the connections I made with a class-having them all day long, getting to know them and their parents. For some reason I have not made a similar connection with my high school students.

All this, of course, is complicated by my relationship to JagWire. I have always enjoyed it. I love my students, I like the work, I love the learning. However, I have not liked the repercussions of the Oral Sex issue. I increasingly feel like I am being scapegoated for the fallout from this, and it is a humiliation I will not endure quietly. There is little question that the best thing for me is to return to Firgrove if possible.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Speech

I didn't have the opportunity to fully watch Obama's speech on race yesterday. I tried to pick it up on YouTube, but it was 37 minutes long. Of course Barak is a wonderful speaker, but the wonder was not just the in speaker, but in the words. I've heard lots of crap talked about this speech by those who must not have heard it. However, I believe it will be remembered as the most important speech on race in America in the last forty years.

In the talk Obama dealt with the issue of Jeremiah Wright, and the seeks to quell the voices of reproach and condemnation, but rejecting the divisive words of Rev. Wright, but with the understanding that his ties to Wright cannot be reduced to the characterization of pundits and YouTube videos. Beyond this explanation, however, Obama went on to acknowledge the reluctance of immigrant families-like my own-to share in the responsibility for the past injustices of slavery, and their remedies, such as affirmative action. In addition to listing the injustices African Americans have suffered even in the last fifty years, this speech was magnificent in its breadth and depth.

I've added a link to the Obama home page in order to link to the video, and just as importantly the transcript of the speech. Whether you are an Obama supporter or not, it will make you think.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Today JagWire won the Best in Show award for newspaper for our Oral Sex issue at yesterday's WJEA conference. I'm not sure what to make of it, and I left the conference feeling somewhat deflated. The kids were excited, as they should be, however I only know that I'm likely to suffer some sort of reprimand or negative feedback in my file. It is difficult when the journalism side of things is being honored, yet I'm being hung on the judgment/process side of the paper. There were no procedures to follow, no mechanisms in place to take questions or concerns, but I'm being held responsible. This is not so good.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My First Big Project

One of the things I really hoped to do upon taking the American Studies position at Emerald Ridge was to plan for some projects in which students could do some research, hone those research/writing skills and do a significant piece of writing. I've decided to take some of my extra time during this WASL week to do just that.

Students will be doing some research on the development and deployment of the atomic bomb against Japan as a prelude to writing a persuasive paper on whether the bomb should have been used or not.

I've just begun doing the research myself, and I'm showing the made for TV movie Day One from 1989 to provide some background to the chief figures and the important issues to be sorted out. I've managed to procure documents from the web from the Truman Library, the National Archives, and other sources. After reviewing the main themes-military, diplomatic, scientific and moral, I see that I still need more information, particularly military and scientific. In any case, I'm still working. It's been fun constructing the project, however.

I'm a little concerned about my students doing the work. We'll have to develop some note taking skills. I'll have a collection of printed documents in the classroom, as well as some web links, if they would prefer to view things on the computer. I haven't seen the kind of motivation many of my students will need to have to be successful. I hope they raise themselves to the challenge.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

JagWire: The Oral Sex issue

Actually, the official title of this issue is 8.5, our fifth issue this year. This is the promised issue, the one in which we tackled oral sex as one important to our student body. Our focus reporters did a superb job of considering the health, moral and educational issues around this activity, and questioned why further education around this has not made its way into the health curriculum. Two aspects of the focus have caused trouble for us: 1) the provocative photo on the front page. It's not obscene, but suggestive. 2) the use of student names by quotations about their participation, or lack of participation in oral sex.

We were advised by my predecessor about the sensitive aspects of the focus, particularly the use of names rather than giving anonymity to the students quoted. He strongly advised against the use of granting anonymity. This view was later endorsed by Kathleen Merryman, the News Tribune columnist who gave our focus favorable coverage last Wednesday.

There has been a bi-polar response to the focus. We have more or less won the public relations fight from those outside the Puyallup School District/ER community. The original article, and subsequent Merryman column have both painted a positive picture of what we tried to do. The inside the community reaction has gone less well. My principal was bombarded by parent, community, and district outrage. We met with him for some ninety minutes on the 4th to discuss his concerns about the focus-largely limited to the front page, and the use of student names. He raised a concern about district adoption of prior approval rules and a limitation on student expression.

With Brian, our principal gone on a recruiting trip the Thursday and Friday of last week, we're not quite sure where we stand. However, with the WJEA state convention coming up on the 15th, I'm reasonably sure we'll all have plenty to talk about.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Why Is This Here

I've reconstitued this blog. It was originally about my efforts to become National Board certified, which I abandoned a couple of years ago. Now it's really just my observations of and reactions to the world around me.

There will certainly be some things that attract a bit more of my attention. It's an election year, and a unique election year at that. I'm sure I'll have something to share about Barak Obama or whoever the eventual Democratic nominee is. This is my first year as JagWire adviser, I'm a new journalist in the making. Already with our very controversial oral sex issue, I've become something of a celebrity, though the fame is strictly unwanted. I may post some book reviews from my reading, and perhaps how that ties into what I'm teaching. Last, but not least, I confess to being a die hard Mariners fan. I am already excited that the home town team has at last embarked on their Cactus League schedule, and having answered some of their starting pitching issues will be playing some actual games. It's all a good thing.

Anyway, I hope somebody reads this once in a while, but if not, it's nice to have a place to come and share my perspectives.