Essays


My apologies for not writing in a while. I have missed writing, but it is the thing that had to fall by the wayside as life got busy. So where have I been?

Well, there was a wedding back in Delaware (Delawho? Delawhat?). One of the boys who goes back to elementary school. We got the band back together and had a grand time. At the same time, it was finals week (we are on quarters here, which is why we are done so late.), so I have been grading papers like crazy, while…preparing to teach high schoolers for the first time–starting this afternoon. I will be teaching this group of twenty-four, hopefully future first-generation college students how to write a proper collegiate research paper. And I handed in my dissertation proposal to my advisor (a brisk 98 pages-without references or appendices). Oh, and my wife has got strep (antibiotics in full effect), the house was experiencing plumbing issues (resolved for $$), and two of our computers have gone on the fritz (not yet resolved for $$).

It should be stated that while I would prefer that my wife not have strep (I am sure she feels the same way), this is a good kind of life. I am pretty lucky. I am afforded a great deal of time to let my mind wander, and I try to let it wander in positive directions. But, occasionally, it just gets too busy for me to write.

Before getting back to grading, I should review some things, since that is what I normally do here. How about the cuisine of Newark, Delaware?  Don’t go to Newark for fine dining (check Wilmington), but check out the many great takeout options. For the best subs check Capriati’s and Cleveland Avenue Sub Shop (Cleveland Ave is the more traditional philly style sub place–and gigantic–a large is about thirteen feet and they have a jumbo size), Wings to Go and C.R. Wings are the places to go for wings (many wonderful sauces), I hear Cluck-U is good for chicken, though I have not had it myself, and for the best burgers and shakes (the fries are only ok), perhaps in the world, but definitely in all of Delaware, Jake’s Hamburgers. Jake’s looks like a cheap, little dive and it is; a cheap, little dive with fantastic burgers and brilliant milkshakes.

Also, I kind of liked that Polanski documentary on HBO, Polanski: Wanted and Desired. I liked it mostly for the fascinating story, which I had only a cursory knowledge of before. It was a bit of an odd feeling having some sympathy for a person seemingly guilty of statutory rape, but I ended up feeling this way. The film ends up being a pretty interesting examination of Hollywood, complete with the interweaving relationships between the judicial system, big business, and media, and how the person who should be the focus–the young girl-who has the most important needs to be met, got abandoned and lost in the spectacle (luckily, she seems to have turned out fine, though it is unfortunate that her life is defined by this event). I’ll give it a 71.

Back to grading.

I never give tests or quizzes in my class–I make them write a number of papers–but I gave this quiz to my class today to make a point about what our history textbooks are leaving out and how they as future teachers must do their best to represent a richer version of our past that includes the stories of all races, genders, religions, etc. and the good and the bad of our past actions. Don’t worry I didn’t grade my students, and i won’t grade you! Answers are at the bottom of the page. Good luck!

POP QUIZ!

 

1. Circle all that are true about the life of Helen Keller.

            A. She was deaf and blind and learned to read and write.

            B. She was a radical socialist activist.

            C. She was an animal behaviorist.

            D. She graduated college.

 

2. Who was the first person to send slaves across the Atlantic Ocean?

 

3. Where was the first, non-native, United States settlement?

 

4. Circle all that are true about President Woodrow Wilson.

            A. He led the United States into WWI.

            B. He was an outspoken white supremacist.

            C. He invaded six Latin American countries during his presidency.

D. He led the struggle to create the League of Nations, the precursor to today’s United Nations.

 

5. Of the 102 settlers aboard the Mayflower, how many were Pilgrims?

            A. 102                                                                         B. 97

            C. 75                                                               D. 35

            E. 0

 

6. Who discovered America?

 

7. What political party referred to itself as the ‘white man’s’ party for nearly century?

 

8. What was Columbus’s main purpose in setting sail in 1492?

 

9. True or False, when Columbus set sail most Europeans thought the world was flat.

 

10. True or False, Columbus died poor, not knowing what he had ‘discovered’?

 

11. Over what legislation did Senators carryout the longest filibuster in U.S. history?

 

12. What was the first colony to legalize slavery?

 

13. What countries fought in the Vietnam War?

 

14. How many of Thomas Jefferson’s 267 slaves, did he set free upon his death?

            A. all of them                                                    B. 150

            C. 5                                                                 D. None of them

15. Which of these is not true of the United States? Circle all that apply.

            A. We were the first country into outer space.

            B. We played a role in bringing down the elected government of Chile in 1973.

            C. We rigged the 1957 election in Lebanon, which entrenched the Christians on top and led to the Muslim revolt and civil war the next year.

            D. We played a role in bringing down the elected government of Guatemala in 1954.

 

ANSWERS

1. A,B,C

2. Columbus

3. In 1526, 500 Spaniards and 100 black slaves founded a town perhaps near the mouth of the Pee Dee River in South Carolina. (Not Jamestown or even St. Augustine)

4. A,B,C,D

5. D

6. Let us imagine all of the possibilities, starting with the first ‘Native Americans’ who came over on the ice bridge that existed between Russia and Alaska (70000 BC-12000 BC) to the Vikings (1000 AD) to about thirteen other possibilities, all of which predate Columbus in 1492.

7. The Democrats

8. GOLD!

9. False

10. False

11. Senators mounted the longest filibuster in U.S. history (more than 534 hours!) to oppose the 1964 Civil Rights bill.

12. Massachusetts

13. Vietnam (North and South) and the U.S.

14. 5–all blood relatives

15. A

 

How did you do?

If you want to find out more check out the wonderful book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, by James Loewen.

 

 

I am still working at completing school myself, but as a means to add a small pittance to my wife’s real, live adult salary, I teach an introductory undergraduate class in education at one of the local universities (I also tutor some future first generation college students). The class consists of a mix of freshmen and sophomores, with a sprinkling of juniors and seniors mixed in, most of whom are heading toward careers as P-12 teachers, speech pathologists, special ed teachers, coaches, principals, etc. The class covers the major social, political, legal and historical events and issues surrounding the world of education.

When I was a student, especially when I was but a wee tike, I was very quiet. I never spoke in class unless called upon, was reticent to work in groups and found it difficult to make many friends since, well, I would not talk to the other kids. Over the years, I became less shy, made friends and did fine in school. What I could never quite get over, my relic from the silent days, was that I never spoke in class unless forced to do so. It would not be until well in to my graduate studies that I would get past this.

Now, as a teacher/professor myself, I regret very much the student I was. I had a class last quarter that never spoke. It was like pulling teeth trying to get them to comment on some very interesting and important topics. One or two of them would occasionally poke their heads out, saying something, only to go back into their shells. I tried everything. A great deal of group work, group presentations, guest speakers and various other assignments designed to be intellectually stimulating and fun. I even cracked some hilarious jokes. This class went through it all with as little interaction and voice as possible, and the class trudged on until it mercilessly ended. By the end, the kids had produced subpar work and did not show the intellectual progress that I had seen from the students the quarter before (that class was great–very enthusiastic, engaged, a wonderful teaching experience). Ultimately, their grades were lower, and I am not a person who grades hard or cares that much about grades. I care about learning and preparing good teachers. 

The new quarter has begun, and I have an engaged, talkative group again.  It makes my life easier, and, more importantly,  makes the students learn more (whether they know it or not). So, to all of my former teachers, and all teachers everywhere, I am sorry for making your job more difficult.

Oh, Ohio.  

I am not from Ohio. I knew nothing about Ohio or Cincinnati before coming here. I am from a small state outside Philly. From that small state, I had travelled all over the country, and Ohio was a place I drove through without much thought. Then I met a smart, beautiful, talented woman, and she and Ohio became home.

Five years ago my future wife was starting law school in the Nati. We have stayed past her graduation because I started working on a PhD and she found a decent job. I have grown to love Ohio, especially Cincinnati, despite its many economic, social and cultural contradictions; its bubbling undercurrents of unrest and inequality. It is a good home with good people who have lived here a long time and will die here, having continued and grown a community that is not found in so many places in the U.S. anymore; that did not exist, does not exist, not in the same way, in my suburban home state.

Still, this morning I awoke frustrated.  I wanted Ohio to change and it wouldn’t. And I don’t mean change in the Democratic and Republican sense of the word (anyone but Bush!). I mean in the let us alter our course sense of change.  I wanted Ohio to be progressive and it wasn’t. I don’t mean in the liberal democrat sense of progressive. I mean the progressive that appeals for positive movement (one’s positive is another’s ‘not so much’).

What I love in Ohio, in Cincinnati is what I am frustrated by today (it now appears even Texas may have made some claims to change and progress). The roots here are strong and as a person who never had this before it is endearing, it is good for the heart, but when it means that we refuse to move away from the system that has lead Ohio to stagnation, to a lose in population due to lack of good jobs and to a general malase and/or angst amongst those who remain, it makes me worry for the future of this fine place.

There are small signs. The governor (granted he was running against a possibly very corrupt individual). And even yesterday, my beloved Hamilton Country voted in a surprising fashion. But is it enough? What will come in November? Will we keep the country from progress, from change? I hope not.