Monday, April 26, 2010
Meantime, as always, the window of the Official Clearinghouse for Al Hoang News & Infotainment remains open at the email address to your immediate right.
Thanks for your patronage.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Frankly, I have not been able to visit our schools as often as I would like.Obviously the super meant "Kashmere," another HISD school that has been in the news a lot this year. Other than the insertion of the parenthetical "(SIC)" –– that's Latin for "you big dummy" –– Ms. Falkenberg correctly passed on making any ado of the miscue, although some of her online commentators couldn't resist the opportunity.
Tomorrow, I am visiting Lee and Cashmere (SIC)--two of the schools that the state has labeled as 'failing.' Next week, I plan to visit Jones and several of our other 'failing' or low performing schools.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Now this particular debate over numbers strikes as being almost as meaningless as the semantic one over whether Houston is a “sanctuary” city ('tis what it is, y’know), although we have to give Perry comedy points for his baldly risible assertion that child mortality is is a factor in whatever the actual dropout numbers are. On the larger issue that White has been raising, however, we must rise again, all by our lonesome it seems, to point out what no other member of the Mainstream News and Infotainment Media has the wit, or the stick, to point out, and that is this: Bill White doesn’t have any more of a clue than Rick Perry about how to fix the “dropout problem” (we’re using quotes here because we are not fully convinced that the self-selecting clearing-out of the schools by teenagers who don’t want to be there is an entirely bad thing, but that’s pretty much beside the point we’re driving at, so let us keep our eyes on the road and our hands upon the wheel).
So far White has a little better than nothing, zilch, but clownish and ill-advised catchphrases and gusts of hot air, such as, “The governor is more interested in his own future than the future of Texans.” Yeah, that’s probably 'cause Rick Perry hates kids and wants them to be failures. You can see it in his eyes. And we all remember his wildly successful “Drop Out of School Right Now, Ninos” campaign. The Chronicle story kinda-sorta pointed out White’s nearly empty basket:
White, the son of public school educators, conceded there is no single or easy answer to the problem.Oh, it’s not like anybody ever thought of that before, or tried it. Scouring White’s campaign Web site last week, we saw the first item under the heading “reducing the dropout rate” was this classic example of Bill White’s full-court noblesse:
“You need to start early with early childhood education,” he said. “You need to offset summer learning loss (programs) for those elementary school kids who do not have access to books and computers at home during the summer. You need to have more flexible programs that accommodate and support those students in their attempt to graduate who must work when they are in high school.”
When a student drops out of school, it must be treated as an emergency, not just another statistic. In Houston we launched Expectation Graduation to cut the dropout rate. For example, each fall, my wife Andrea and I led thousands of volunteers to go to the homes of high school students who have not returned to school. Approximately 8,800 students have returned to school as a result, and this initiative has been replicated in communities across Texas.Yes, that’ll do it: A statewide version of the PR stunt that HISD and now other school districts pull every summer whereby teachers, administrators and concerned-citizen types go to the houses of dropouts to try and talk them back into school. (We are skeptical in the extreme of this 8,000 number and would suggest that some bored journalist –– a journalist, not a publicist –– track, say, 20 of these kids who answer the door when Bill White and Co. come a’knockin’ this summer to see how many of them actually make it back to school, and how many eventually graduate. Ah, but that would be real work and take lots of time and in any case would probably be a downer, so never mind.) There’s was one decent and very modest idea that White appears to have made, which we can't do justice to at this moment because the "issues" link on his site isn't loading, but it had something to do forging closer links between schools and businesses that employ students in after-school jobs.
If White were serious about the dropout problem and not just trying to warp reality by blaming Perry, he'd buck up and demonstrate some of the intestinal fortitude his successor as mayor seems to possess by doing the following:
2. Call for an immediate end to the requirement that students must complete four years of math, four years of science, four years of English, etc., to graduate high school. This, too, would skirt the boundaries of bipartisan heresy –– that no man's land where Bill White has rarely ventured –– because it would implicitly acknowledge the cold fact, verifiable by 4,000 years of human experience, that not all kids are cut out to master Algebra II. What you could do instead is retain the 4-year requirements for a college-bound track of study but offer an alternative for kids who’d rather learn some vocational skills and who probably aren't going to get a whole out of reading, say, Love in the Time of Cholera. Beginning with or just after 9th grade, the bewitching hour for most dropouts, the non-college track would consist of three hours in the morning of intense instruction and/or remediation in math and language arts, with three more hours after lunch devoted to the teaching of skills (plural) that will come in handy in the workplace. The choice of tracks would up to the student and his parents. This, too is no-brainer, but come to think of it we can't recall Rick Perry saying much on the subject (maybe he has and we missed it).
3. Start addressing the nettlesome and unpleasant cultural factors that are the main contributor to the “dropout problem.” Take to the bully pulpit and emphasize that it’s not a good idea for 12-year-old “shorties” to be having more shorties. Suggest to parents that it’s an equally bad idea to pull their kids out of school for a month in the middle of the semester to go back to Mexico. Explain why it’s not a sound parenting practice for mamas to drop their kindergartners off at school in the morning with the godawful rap music with its “motherfucker this” and “motherfucker that” blaring out of the windows. In other words, start putting the onus where it belongs: on the parents. Because no halfway sensible person is going to look at the "dropout problem" and think Rick Perry's the daddy.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
[Lady prosecutor] suggested that [Shaver] could have just left the bar if he had felt so intimidated.For readers unfamiliar with Mr. Shaver and his oeuvre, we must point out that he is not a 23-year-old hip-hop artiste of the Southern school but rather a 70-year-old Caucasian who could pass for 80 and many years ago lost parts of a couple of fingers while working in a lumber mill. We needn't add that they don't make 'em like Billy Joe Shaver anymore, although we're not entirely certain how we feel about that.
That would have been "chicken shit," Shaver replied.
[Lady prosecutor] asked whether Shaver was jealous that [the victim] at the time was talking to Shaver's wife, Wanda.
"I get more women than a passenger train can haul. I'm not jealous," Shaver said.
*Brought to our attention by the omnivorous and erudite Banjo Jones.
Sunday, April 04, 2010
We are not saying here that he mayor was absolutely 100-percent right in this move (and how could such an unpalatable action be "right"?), 'cause we don't have enough information to issue such a snap judgment, especially on the, um, complex political ramifications, not to mention the financial ones. We must admit that we did blanch a bit, in sympathy, as several under-65 and able-bodied (or at least able-bodied enough to get to the microphone in council chambers) ex-city workers bewailed the extremely large increases they'll be forced to bear in their monthly payments –– one guy said his were in the neighborhood of $700+ –– but then the il’ dude inside us who hut-huts along like either John Calvin or Edmund Burke (he dresses like a city employee –– a cop!) came a'strolling, twirling his nightstick and wondering, "Who but a public employee could afford to retire well before 65 in this day and age?"**** and "How many dependents are you carrying there on your policy?" Council members Clarence Bradford and Wanda Adams, especially the former, raised concerns about the mayor's action, which, if we can interpret their meanings within the broad confines of necessary council collegiality, seemed to imply that the mayor had been high-handed and not sharing information with them. The mayor, we noticed, did not flinch.
*In case you were wondering, we heard District F Councilman Al Hoang say nothing stupid or needlessly insulting during the part of the meeting we saw –– in fact we could not tell whether Hoang was actually present and accounted for.
**We would also paint local conservative talk radio with this possibly unwarranted broad brush, except that we rarely listen to any of it.
***Who was see is actually encouraging people –– or a person, to be exact –– to move away from Houston, but presumably only after he's returned his Census form.
***The aggrieved retirees we saw all looked to be of our vintage, mid-range Baby Boomers. One, who seemed to be a friend of the mayor, spent an unusually large portion of his allotted minutes congratulating her and the council for various unspecified fiscal accomplishments.