Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Fair Use Must Include Addressing Bias

I had planned to do some blogging tonight, but did not find myself inspired, so I thought maybe tonight would be (yet another) night with no entry.

Then I read this post, from Joel's So You Want to Teach:
If nothing else, this is a thought-provoking video. Perhaps a bit off-topic, in fact, I’m not even posting this to raise a political conversation. However, I would be interested in hearing from some of the social studies teachers out there. What kinds of things have you done to help your students overcome the ignorance of facts that these twelve interviewees demonstrate?

I worked hard to control my temper in my response:

Yes, as an English teacher I push kids to look at both sides of issues and consider the source of the information they view as fact.

My question for you is if you did the same before posting this video, which was funded by the RNC (not an unbiased source).

I had trouble controlling my knee-jerk reaction to this post–I was offended by the implication in the video (not addressed in your post) that Obama voters, in general, are ignorant.

Instead of writing a plain-old angry response, I did a little research online. The sample wasn’t of an appropriate size to truly address the question, the data is clearly biased (not addressing McCain voters with any of the same questions), and does not, necessarily address issues for voters at the polls (http://www.howobamagotelected.com/). The people voting weren’t voting for Nancy Pelosi or Barney Frank, and the questions themselves were clearly biased.

Though the Wikipedia entry on John Ziegler is also clearly biased, it raises some important questions about his work, which seems biased even before getting facts on the matter.

I’m sorry to rant. My hope is that your question wasn’t meant to be as biased as I read it to be.

Thoughts and responses? I don't think I'm alone on this, but I welcome respectful dissention.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

From the Land of Duh

Call me odd, but these headlines made me say, "DUH!"
Hat tip to the NCTE newsletter.

Fair Use Link Dump

This document, The Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education, is a long trip through some boringly written waters, but important.

Open source multimedia material is available at Wikimedia. I haven't been able to look at a lot of things, but it looks pretty wicked cool so far.

Cool Cat Teacher urges, "
Let's get kids out of Google Images and into Good, Free, Legal Photos."

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


The end of the term, for me, usually comes with a feeling of closure. Quarter 1 ended on Thursday.

Grades were due at 4pm yesterday.

I was at school grading, with help from amazing friends, until 6:30pm.

I don't feel closure, I feel exhausted.

Like my friend, and Dan, I'm having trouble finding the meaning. The last essay test I graded last night was plagiarized. Made me feel like an idiot for allowing the kids to prepare outlines before the tests.

On an up note, today third hour chose their novels for the novel unit. Even though there were three choices, the kids were pretty evenly split between two: Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye. This is the first time I've given kids choice on their big novel for the quarter, because I needed a change. I've taught A Separate Peace, a book I love, every year since I started at my school. It became stale. I wasn't having fun teaching it.

All this leads to a plea: if you have any ideas for teaching lit circle-style at the high school level, please leave me a note. I'm excited for the change, but also nervous.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

History and Hope

I'm so overcome, I can only share ideas from others:

Will Richardson:

Doesn’t matter who you voted for, history was made last night. I, for one, am happy for my kids.

No matter how the impact of paper newspapers is declining, at moments like these, there’s still nothing like the front page of the paper, not the website, that gives me goosebumps. And in that vein, I’m cruising through the hundreds of covers from around the world at Newseum. Amazing.

Cristina Pippa at Crucial Minutiae:
There’s a 180-pound dog lurking upstairs, terrifying our 180-pound dog. He doesn’t eat as much or slobber on my books or even spill lattes on my computer, but Porter is convinced that he’s the scariest dog in town. Maybe that’s because he’s the biggest he’s ever seen. When he approaches this beast, Porter’s bony legs quake and yipes of fright escape his underbite. Why would I keep this monster around? Because I can’t catch him.

The phantom lab/mastiff lives in a full-length mirror in the hallway.

Why tell you about a dog’s neuroses? Because I wonder how we all might react when suddenly confronted with our own greatness. Our country stands before a mirror tomorrow. Late tomorrow night, we’ll see what we look like and what we’re capable of.

Follow the link to see the puppeh in question.

Epiphany in Baltimore:
She smiled. Then she said, "Well, you know what? I'm just so proud of white people. Cuz, you know, when Jesse Jackson was running a while back, I just voted for him because he was black. I admit it. Now I hear the crazy things he says and can't believe I'd vote for someone because of that. But you white people, you're not like that. You didn't vote for McCain just because he was white. I'm so proud of you! All you white people!"

"I'm proud of all of us," I said, grabbed my wine and headed back out into the drizzle while chuckling at the goofy, but happy, moment that had jut happened. I waited 2.5 hours to vote today, more than two hours longer than I ever have waited before, and sometimes in spitting rain. It felt good, though. Felt like I was making history. Felt part of a movement, which is one of the greatest feelings a person can have.

Ohio just went for Obama. Never before have I actually voted for someone with so little cynicism. Obama isn't perfect, but he's the leader we need right now.

Oh, Epiphany, Hallelujah! A friend told me about long lines, where they warned people how long they would wait, and they stayed in line. Church groups were meeting at the polls and and hugging and voting together. God bless this country and all the people who stood in line, sat in wheelchairs, strolled in and VOTED. As Will said, it doesn't matter which way they voted. It matters that they cared enough about the future to do something about it. And Cristina, I am so proud of what I saw in the mirror yesterday, and I can't see what's the horizon, but I think it's going to be good.

Finally, Dina shares more hopeful ideas, and quotes my hero, as well:
  • Every vote in New York is checked six times by equal numbers of unpaid members of the majority and minority parties.
  • Republican and Democratic commissioner alike for my county had hilariously snooty scorn to heap upon voting procedures in Florida. “None of that around here,” they sniffed. “You’re in line at 9 PM, you vote. Period.”
  • As a pollworker one can, in fact, accept orange juice and doughnuts bought by a bipartisan slush fund without compromising one’s integrity.
  • Write-in candidates for office in New York have more often included Mickey Mouse than Charlton Heston.[....]
  • Obama won.
  • The horizon leans forward,
    Offering you space to place new steps of change.
    Here, on the pulse of this fine day
    You may have the courage
    To look up and out upon me, the
    Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
    No less to Midas than the mendicant.
    No less to you now than the mastodon then.

    Here on the pulse of this new day
    You may have the grace to look up and out
    And into your sister’s eyes, into
    Your brother’s face, your country
    And say simply
    Very simply
    With hope
    Good morning

    ~ Maya Angelou

Le happy sigh. Don't miss xkcd's take on post-election let-down.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Update

It seems that the month of October got away from me completely. I’ve been keeping up with reading my blog feed, but haven’t been blogging myself, which is a little frustrating to me.
October has been a pretty busy month. I think there’s been some sort of event happening every weekend. Even when those things are fun, like meeting with friends, they still take a lot out of me.

School has been pretty good. I’ve been procrastinating on my grading, but still getting things back to kids in a reasonable amount of time. Yesterday was a little tough: I collected research papers from the Regular 10 kids on Wednesday, but tripped and fell in the parking lot (ripped my work pants and my knee), so skipped grading that night for an early bedtime. Thursday night I only finished six after my visit with Erica Stephanie. Problem was, I was collecting two sets of research papers from Honors 10 kids on Friday. This Thursday is the end of the term, so time is of the essence. I managed to finish all the regular papers by the end of the day (maybe not as well as I would like), and a couple of kids stopped by after school to pick them up so they could rewrite over the weekend.

Today I’m going to try for the better part of one class set. Wish me luck.

In January, I’ll be going to LA with my buddy for IB training. I’m excited about learning more and becoming a better teacher, but a little scared about the amount of work being an IB teacher entails. I didn’t get to go on any of the school visits last year, so I’m feeling a little late to the party about knowing what really goes on in IB schools, as opposed to what the official line is.