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American Dream Price Tag

If you are willing to do just about anything to earn a higher grade in school you should stop and figure out why?  Why are you so bent on earning the highest grade in all of your classes because I have yet to be persuaded that this  is the way to go in life.  Sure I get it some of you may come from families that anything less than a A is shameful.  On the other hand I cannot get over how kid’s in high school cheat willy-nilly in upper level courses at a higher rate than kids enrolled in general level courses.

Ultimately sure schools may boast of their growing Advanced Placement programs available while at the same time their student body throws the dice to see how long can they cheat using notes, technology, whatever means to earn a higher score they are more than happy to do so but here is the part that is a real eye opener:  student’s do not feel shame for cheating for higher grades they view it as something everyone does so there is no real problem since everyone is doing it.

So in a system that is predicated on grades that represent a student’s academic intellectual ability ultimately this model is easily corrupted and all along the real lesson is economic.  We are creating a culture of cheating because it is for a worthy cause: college tuition.  Would we have rampant cheating if the cost of college tuition in America wasn’t creating a whole group of monetary indentured slaves who leave college with mounds of debt and no real job opportunities!

There was a time when adults still lived at home it was because they were fuck ups but now it just means they graduated college and hoping for the American Dream to be less pricey.

Ms. Sisyphus

I think there are about 24 school days left for the remainder of the school year and it already feels like summer today.  It is sweltering hot but I’m still tucked away sitting in the shade enjoying the weather with my little doggie sleeping next to me.  We do this every weekend.  I love sitting outside- even if my neighbor Bob is blaring his jazz station super loud so the entire block can hear-sitting outside reminds me of being a kid.

Oh, now its “break time” for me.  I will go inside.  Make some toast and a delicious second cup of coffee.  When I return I will snuggle up to my doggie and zone out.  Ah it is a good day.

He Vas My Boyfriend

Around September I decided that I wanted to take voice lessons again.  I like to sing.  I use to do musicals and I really have had a great time doing them.  But it had been almost ten years since the last musical which was so memorable.  I was Lucy VanPelt in an unappoved adaptation of A Charlie Brown Christmas  in beautiful Hollywood, California.  My husband said he fell in love with me all over again when he saw me in that role.

Like I was saying a few months ago I started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be fun to do another show but I don’t even have an audition song or anything.”  I finally remembered I had worked with a man named “Alan Chapman” who you can hear on USC’s classical station every day and he’s rather popular that my mom has a mad crush on him.  Alan is not only a popular radio personality but is an accomplished musician so I contacted him to see if he could recommend a vocal coach.

“Hey Stef, actually my wife Karen Benjamin is a vocal coach.”

And once I got my head on straight I made an appointment and started singing again.  In less than three months I auditioned for a local city college musical entitled Young Frankenstein by Mel Brooks.  I auditioned and was cast as the role of Frau Blucher (FX horse whinny).  I immediately was impressed by the cast and became quite fond of many of the company members and not so fond of some them.  (Seriously if one more theatre geek was going to attempt to give me a massage I was going to scream.) I’m not weird cuz  I don’t want cast members massaging me okay.

Anyways fast forward to I had a wonderful artistic adventure.  I was nervous I wasn’t going to be able to memorize my lines…and for the most part I did.  And of course every night required I do a solo.  Yikes.  I was panicked each night I just might forget a word or an entire phrase but alas the singing goddess smiled down upon me and I enjoyed quite a run.

It was indeed a special event in my life.

Torture and Save a Baby

I was listening to the “other” public radio station this morning when I almost hit another car when I heard the word “torture” being stated not just once but at least three times in one news story. That’s right after years and years and years of saying anything but the word torture, like “enhanced interrogations” or “bad stuff” or “we’ve been naughty” they finally decided to report the news since congress released a controversial report regarding the United States and our tactics of torture.

How is this news? Are we so unaware that no one over this past decade realized we have been torturing people? The facts show that we are a country that unlawfully detains people and tortures them. We don’t like doing this but how else are we going to protect our nation against “Evil Doers”?

Some people are against torture cuz they haven’t weighed the pros and cons.  For example: What if the people we torture are going to blow up a building filled with babies? Huh, then what would you do?

The only answer is first start an illegal war, invade a country like Iraq, and pretend there are weapons of mass destruction!

Next, circulate false information under the guise it is based on facts and then go on all the Sunday morning news programs…I mean propaganda programs and announce how the “bad guys” are so bad we must use any method at our disposal therefore sealing the deal that we indeed must start a war to spread democracy even if it means we are going to beat the fucking shit out of potential terrorists.

And I wouldn’t stop there -cuz of all those babies in the building about to be destroyed- I would imprison these suspected terrorists (even if it means detaining a fourteen old cuz he may be involved with terrorist acts) and the only way to really get to the bottom of all of this terrorism stuff is to secretly break the Geneva Conventions in the name of democracy. That way everyone knows we really wouldn’t want to torture anyone but we have to cuz of the babies!

Bill Cosby Spanish Fly or Not to Spanish Fly?

Bill Cosby is all over the place.  Whether on the news, The View, Facebook or Twitter there have been far too many disconcerting conversations regarding Bill Cosby’s predilection for drugging and raping women.  There seems to be a strange reaction from grown ups who supposedly have brains and no longer have a moral compass.   And the kind of stuff that makes my head hurt the most is when I hear other women voice stuff like this:

“What happened to innocent until proven guilty? Why would you want to see someone flung into jail without proof? Or do you really feel that these women are telling the truth about Bill Cosby? If he did it, then he’s a scumbag — BUT — these women freely walked into his hotel room, had a drink, accepted drugs on their “free will” and then cry rape almost 40 years later? Rape is horrible! But so is lying in order to get $$$.”  Debra Pasquella (Super Important Blogger)

First, these allegations have been voiced for decades.  And if you spent anytime investigating these claims you would soon discover just how troubling this really is and justice is not likely to occur.  Pointing any accusatory finger at the victims is a grim indication of a person’s lack of a moral compass and up is down.   

With that said, I have been alone with men in the past.  I have even shared a glass of wine or two glasses while alone in their company and fortunately nothing scary or violent occurred.  That’s right, I freely walked into their apartment, got a little buzzed and nothing terrible transpired.

When people like “Debbie Downer” say these women “cry rape” that is suppose to immediately discount the victims as unreliable gold diggers.  In other words, it was their fault and if they got intoxicated then these women received exactly what they  deserved: rape.

What is wrong with people and their brains you might ask…

Sure I get it ,some people just don’t want to accept the ugly truth about a man that is an American icon.  Who doesn’t have fond memories  of Cosby’s old comedy albums or laughing at Fat Albert?  Maybe you relied on Papa Huxstable to guide you through life in the 80s and you can’t believe such a wholesome nice guy who makes kids laugh about pudding and jello could do anything so vile as rape.  How could Bill Cosby, a super star in family entertainment, do such inconceivable acts again and again and again!

And before your knee jerk reaction to defend him please consider that a millionaire doesn’t need you to defend him!

Bill Cosby is worth over $350 million dollars.  Let me repeat $350 million dollars and there are nitwits attempting to defend him and actually worried that Bill Cosby is being unfairly accused and we should not judge him until all the facts are in.  Do you really believe that a man who is worth over $350 million dollars needs you to defend him?  I bet Mr. Cosby has every legal resource, recourse and protection available to him and I’m sure he takes full advantage of that too.

Let’s face it Bill Cosby is no ordinary man and you know why I know that?  Because he is worth $350 million dollars.  Even Whoopi Goldberg finds it necessary to defend his good name.  (Let’s not forget Whoopi also found it necessary to defend Roman Polanski who admittedly drugged and anally raped 13 year old girl.) Whoopi even wants to question these women (more women stepped forward and so far 20 women are willing to speak about their experiences with Bill Cosby the $350 dollar millionaire) so she can form an opinion on whether or not Cosby is the predatory beast we’ve been hearing so much about.  At least Whoopi is consistent, she consistently defends super wealthy powerful rapists.

Before you start convulsing because Mr. Cosby’s good name is being trampled upon why not take a few minutes to enjoy his “Spanish Fly” stand up comedy routine.   Maybe that will bring a smile to your face…or not.



Looks Like War

WWII was the last time the United States DECLARED WAR.
WWII was the last time the United States DECLARED WAR.

Last week President Obama announced we will still be fighting terrorism across the world utilizing the latest technology in warfare so we can make the world a better place and safe from ISIS. I feel safer already.

Some people may be asking: Why does it seem that United States continues to police the world against terrorism?

Answer: Cuz, we are pretty darn good at it. That’s why. Just look at the results.

Whatever America chooses to do we can’t help but excel at it. Even if “it” is WAR.

See at the root of everything: we are a violent country, wearing designer clothing, texting on our smart phones, while we turn a blind eye to TORTURE and loss of our liberties BUT stay abreast regarding Kim Kardashian’s breasts.

We invade, we abuse, we torture, we ignore, and we forget and look where we are today. More WAR just without our designer boots on the ground.

Didn’t a dude named Eisenhower warn America about the military industrial complex? But what does an old dead white guy know anyways.

It is September 2014 and we are still in Iraq and Yemen and Pakistan and Syria and Somalia and Afghanistan. We will never leave alone the Middle East as long as there is OIL to protect from the “evil doers” that must be punished .

We must solve the problems of the world not through peace but through killing so democracy may live on and oil can flow freely.

On the other hand who really has time to think about war when everyone’s Fantasy Football league has suddenly turned into a nightmare. Am I Right Ladies?

Obama: Back to the Future?

obama-gives-iraq-speech-1I can’t even turn on my television or computer to watch President Obama make the case to have America continue to spread Democracy while annihilating ISIS.   Or is it ISIL?  I cannot believe we are entering into war again!

How can anyone in the United States really justify our participation in any war in light how it has NEVER WORKED OUT!

So instead of viewing the presidents speech I’m outraged at the completely irresponsible behavior on the part of the NFL and Roger Goodel.  “It would have been illegal if we had attempted to get the video” Goodel purports.   Turns out that Goodel is a big fat lying commissioner.

I don't know anything about anything.  --Roger Goodel
I don’t know anything about anything. –Roger Goodel

Oh, I miss the good old days when football meant good American fun while getting drunk and beating your wife.  And America actually stood for what was right…that seems so long ago.

Technology Over Teachers!

$3.6 Million Dollars for iReady?
iReady assessment program is the magical answer to all our educational concerns.

What would you do with $3.6 million dollars and it had to go towards public education?

Recently our school district paid $3.6 million dollars on a new program– iReady –to help track each student’s progress throughout the school year in English/Language Arts and Math.

Students in elementary school on up through twelfth grade will begin to take this assessment program that promises to provide results that can be immediately implemented in the classroom.  In only six (most likely 12) online hour sessions each student will be evaluated on their ability and then provided with “something” to support their ongoing academic goals.  See technology and online programs for student use   sounds like the very best solution to all of our educational problems!   Right!

Hey kids look at how much fun staring at a screen can be!
Hey kids look at how much fun staring at a screen can be!

Um, I’ve been teaching for over 25 years and I’ve got an idea of how to improve student’s academic performance:  Hire more teachers to instruct students!

Just hire strong experienced teachers.  That is the real answer to all of our educational woes.

Sure, it is not a sexy new technologically advanced answer;  its a real “old school” answer.  A common sense type of answer that Eleanor Roosevelt would love and Henry David Thoreau would applaud and Cesar Chavez would support.  Viva!

In the meantime I will be a loud mouth about how ridiculous all this money is being spent on a product that actually takes me away from my classroom not just once or twice but I will lose 12 hours of classroom instruction so I can be told what are my students areas of strengths and weaknesses.  Oh and I bet I will have to be out of the classroom another full day so I can be trained on how to utilize this program that truly undermines my classroom instructional experience with my students.

Just this week I had to stop my instruction while in the middle of discovering why Oedipus Rex is having such a difficult time of it in the land of Thebes.  We stopped reading our classical literature so kids could sit in front of a computer monitor select their favorite cartoon character and take a test that has absolutely nothing to do with what is happening in my classroom and/or their lives.  It is enough to make me stab my eyes with a number two pencil.

To be continued…



Adios Muchachos!

d51f93c8ba240d24015085b4329f0d21Recently on Meet the Press while discussing the growing number of children seeking asylum in our country, Raul Labrador, U.S. Representative for Idaho’s 1st congressional district recommended, “…our country needs to immediately deport these children back to their country.” He continued, “I know it sounds difficult but they are creating a crisis at this time and it actually is harming the children”…huh?

Dear Mr. Labrador and every other gutless asshole who wants to send these victims back to a horrific situation that isn’t changing anytime soon, maybe instead of visiting the border for a photo op you should actually go to Central America and try to exist.

So what’s it going to be America?  Are you going to welcome these refugees from Central America or are you going to turn these children away cuz they are inconvenient and too costly.  I guess WE can’t afford to be compassionate humanitarians.

But we can afford to: Subsidize Fortune 500 companies like Walmart.  (FYI Walmart workers cost taxpayers $6.2 billion in public assistance annually.)  Oh and we are spending 2 billion dollars a day on things that go “boom”.

Now let me get my facts straight: We can subsidize Wallmart, spread “Democracy” –by occupying other countries –but when people like what we are peddling throughout the world, aka “Democracy”, and then come knocking on our door we say, “You are breaking laws by crossing the border to afford yourself a better life and sure you’re five years old so here’s some freshly laundered clothing, some Snapple and now go back to where you belong muchacho!  We are closed for business!  But, if you have some valuable resources– such as oil–we may be able to help you out and invade your country to spread “Democracy”. Wink, wink.ChildrenSupportImmigrants072514









End of the School Year!

The end of school is fast approaching and I indeed have survived unscathed and yes there is not one scratch, no skinned knees, not one bruise but a definite addiction to coffee is evident.  Teaching high school English is a wonderful odyssey.  Each year brings forth new discoveries, obstacles, conundrums and tears.  Sure there are some academic triumphs that almost make it worth it.  This week I am reading over student’s final written assignments.  I actually assign stuff that I believe will elevate their learning experience and actually enlighten the student along the way.  They hate it.  They’re done with school and frankly I am hanging on savoring each moment with them.

Today I am reading their autobiographical pieces and I only wished I had assigned this particular writing sample at the beginning of the school year to provide more insight into the student but now that I reflect upon that I do not know if they would have written with such heart.  Sure there are some students that are simplistic and perhaps on the vague side but on the other spectrum there are students that composed such poignant writing samples that it evoked deep sorrow and laughter.  The mixed bag of emotions are as varied as the students enrolled in class.  And now after reading some of their most personal thoughts and experiences I’m suppose to grade it?  What was I thinking?

“Hm.  This student wrote about their childhood pet named “Bob” that saved her life but had recently died after 16 years.  C+.  It lacked details.

or “Maybe you could have provided more names and vivid imagery when describing your Nana’s funeral last week.  B- it just didn’t have a finished feeling.

“Super effort describing the time your parents divorced and you felt abandoned. Way to go. A- be sure you can demonstrate MLA required format.”

There are only two more days left before summer begins so in the meantime I will continue enjoying student work (aka samples of their true intellect and artistic sensibilities) and marvel at the “Super Stars” in the class who somehow have the time and talent to produce incredible student work.  I shall miss these students!  We had a wonderful school year together.

The odyssey continues…