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.