Monday, October 30, 2006

Another 'Amazing' Nick Story: Identity Crisis

This is a story that I don't tell very often, and you will see why. I can only imagine the field day that someone like Emma or Jennifer would have with it, but here it goes:

It was my junior year of high school, and I was helping with a job fair day at my school. One of the groups there was a branch of the United States millitary. I don't remember which one it was, but I do remember going up to the booth and showing interest.

As I walked up to look over the display and grab a brochure, the man in uniform behind the desk said "Hello Nick, how are you doing?"

I was taken aback for a minute. I was sure I had never met this person in my life, but he had just firmly looked me in the eye and called me by name. He then began to give his pitch about the benefits of going into the millitary. As he talked to me, he continued to call me by name. I was listening, but my head was swimming in a sea of shock and confusion.

Now aside from being a huge X-Files fan at the time, I'm was not overtly paranoid about the United States government. But this had me freaked out. How did these people know who I was? Were they keeping tabs on me? Had they collected information on students before the job fair and profiled us? If so, would they really be so brazen as to flaunt the fact that they knew who I was before I had even introduced myself?

When the man was done talking to me, I shook his hand, took a brochure, and walked away. Once I was out of his line of sight, I ran to a group of friends standing nearby.

"Guys, you will never believe this!" I stammered. "I just went over to the millitary booth, and the guy there knew my name! These people know everything!"

At that point, one of my friends looked at me and said "Nick, you're wearing a name tag..."

Imaginary Stats: Edumacatin' our Kidz

Did you know that you are statistically more likely to be killed by an asteroid crashing into the United States then by being on a plane that crashes. 

I'm dead serious.

You see, if an asteroid hit the United States, it would most likely kill millions of people, while a plane crash would kill less than a hundred.

THAT is the wonder and beauty of basing things purely off of statistics, ladies and gentlemen. You may think that statistics can't lie, but they most certainly can. No Child Left Behind, the latest "great fix" we have in education (don't worry, there will be another in 2-4 years that won't work), is based purely off of statistical analysis. The better your school does at attaining the right statistics, the more funding you get. The worse it does, the more extra crap and paper work you get (along with less funding). 

One of the many things that I don't like about this system is the fact that it strongly encourages standardized testing, which in turn pushes teachers to simply "teach the test" rather than give a well rounded lesson in their subject area. 

It also strongly discourages class and study time in fine arts and physical education, since those really can't be standardized into one test. I know that standardized testing is an occasional necessary evil of the system, but to put the pressure of the school's funding and functioning on a test and diminish the importance of fine arts, PE, exploratories such as foriegn languages and computer classes is inexcusable. 

Now call me crazy, but I have yet to see a great school with a bad fine arts program. I have also yet to see a bad school with a good fine arts program. Maybe these things coincide, or just maybe giving kids a place to learn HOW to express themselves, create, and feel human, is just as important as learning about the War of 1812, prehistoric ecosystems, obtuse angles, and active verbs. 

To paraphrase Mr. Holland's Opus: Keep taking it (fine arts) away, and pretty soon they'll have nothing to read or write about.

And as far as P.E/Health goes, we better get on the ball unless we want our medical bills and insurance to be sky high in 20 years. America is not taking care of itself, and the answer is not to cut back on a time of day when kids actually get to release energy and learn about how to properly take care of themselves.

And while we are on the subject of what we teach kids...seriously, what are we teaching them? I remember learning about imaginary numbers in math. They are numbers that can't exist, but if they did, there are a whole set of rules for them and problems you can do instead of watching BATMAN: The Animated Series on TV or playing outside (I was 12, cut me some slack). 


What the heck am I going to use that for? Here's an idea: Why not a class about how to balance your checkbook, use your credit card responsibly, and invest for your family and retirement? (And not just a class near the end of senoir year in high school). These are things that everyone will need, but barely get touched upon in school.

If you can't tell, I'm a bit ticked at the state of things (especially being a music teacher) in today's educational system. Luckily, I live in the wonderful bubble of Mount Pleasant. Things might not be perfect by any stretch, but it's much better than everything else outside it...and the state of things on the outside is getting worse by the day.

Maybe we could try basing things more off of observations by top instructors in each field of study. Maybe we could look at what is actually going on INSIDE the classroom rather than looking at reports and data all day. Maybe we could realize that taking kids opportunities away in fine arts isn't working even though we keep doing it. 

Or maybe we could just wait for that asteroid to hit.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Spotting the Stupid Trends: Flashing the "gang sign."

1.)  No, those horrifying pictures you see are not an attempt to "connect" with the younger generation or to be cool.  They are there to prove a point.

This image seems to be a facebook/myspace profile picture epidemic amongst preppy white folks (like myself) trying to show how cool they are by how UNcool they can be. Seriously, check your friends on facebook and I GARUNTEE you that someone is doing this in an over the top "I'm so NOT gangster" manner. This will be one of those things like putting bunny ears on someone in a picture that we will look at later in life and cringe.

For all of you ladies out there, this song was written specifically for any of you that do this...which is way too many.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Another 'Amazing' Nick Story: A Chloe Concussion

Pictured above is my very cute (and sometimes very cranky) dog Chloe.

As you can see, Chloe has many sides to her 13 year old self. But as a young pup, she was a hellraiser. Being an athletic dog, this could make for a lethal combination. Chloe could run so fast across the carpet that sparks would fly up.

When Chloe and I were much younger, we enjoyed playing chase. Now I'm not sure how we did this, but as I was chasing Chloe, we would suddenly both stop...and reverse the chase. This would go back and forth for a while. One chases the other, ESP moment, now the chaser is the chasee.

My baby Chloe would never do anything to hurt me, but she was pretty serious about chasing me down during these games. She may not have been very big, but as any dauchsand lover (such as Anna Mathewes) can tell you, the only thing keeping dauchsands from taking over the world is not having opposable thumbs and vocal chords that enable speech....and the fact that they occasionally eat their own poop.

So during this particular game (which I believe happened while I was between the ages of 12-13), it was my turn to be chased and Chloe was hunting me down like a rabbit in the woods. Fortunately, I being a human can think through things and come up with a solution for escape. Or so you would think...

As I turned down the upstairs hallway and headed towards our front stairway, I could feel Chloe gaining speed and getting closer. Letting Chloe run on a straight away was a sure fire way to let her make up ground, and I had totally just done that. I decided to turn and run down the stairs, hoping she would be deterred...she was not.

As I began my descent down the staircase, I could tell that Chloe would catch me momentarily. Now nothing would happen to me if I was "caught.". In fact, if anything, it was Chloe who was in danger of running into the back end of one of my tennis shoes. But the thrill of the chase overtook these rationale thoughts. I decided that from about the 5th step (leaving plenty of stairs left to go down), I would jump.

What I did not take into account was the fact that we have a giant, square overhang that apparently protudes right into the trajectory of a jump by a spastic 13 year old from the 5th step. I lept, my forehead hit the overhang, and my body shot straight down onto our entryway hardwood floors.

As I layed there, Chloe (who was decidedly more clear thinking than myself) tore down staris and began sniffing and licking my face to make sure I was okay.

"Chloe," I said, "I think I'm going to pass out."

Now there were two things about this that were odd. First of all, why the heck was I telling Chloe, who could clearly not call a doctor or had a copy of my insurance information, that I was losing consciousness. She may have been the most responsible one in the house since my parents were gone at the time, but there was nothing that she could do.

Secondly, I had not, nor have I ever at this point in my life, passed out. Seriously. But I remember my head feeling very fuzzy, seeing spots, and not being able to focus. If I had been in a math class, I would know that this was normal for me and that I was okay. But laying on the floor, I knew this was bad.

I somehow halfway got up and crawled into the family room to lay down on the couch. Chloe stayed with me the whole time, and I was able to stay conscious. I'm sure if she could talk, she wouldn't have said anything about how ridiculously stupid it was that I jumped from near the top of the stairwell, hit an overhang, and (most likely) got a concussion just to outrun a 10 pound dog....but she probably laughed about it hysterically while she ate her own poop later that evening.