The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Satan Was A Lady? Naw.

The Supreme Court struck down a Louisiana law allowing execution for the rape of a child. I have to agree--but not necessarily on the "proportional damages" argument, although I can grasp that as well. I jsut think that if you have the death penalty for rape, you remove motivation for the rapist to allow his victim to live. Not a good idea.

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I am willing to take another look at the school voucher issue...I realized that when I thought back to the first opinions I heard on the subject, they were given by teachers, and unfortunately, these particular teachers were not what I would call courageous. I could believe that they might place their own jobs above the welfare of their students. It's possible. I have to wipe my slate clean and look at it again. Just spoke to neighbors who are educators...and excellent...and they are in favor of vouchers, and believe that they would force the public school system to change in a positive way. These are truly excellent people, and I trust 'em.

So...a little re-thinking is called for. If it could lead to the identification of the 5% best teachers and teaching systems, so that their processes can be modeled and passed along and those teachers can be rewarded...I'm all for it.

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Wow. Who would have guessed that working out for twenty hours in 110 degree heat would trash me for three days? Who? Oh. All of you? Ah, well. Still sore, but quite happy. Odd little shift in my POV, though. I mentioned to a neighbor's boyfriend that I'd been at the workshop, and he starts telling me about his martial arts background. Seems he earned a 7th Degree Black Belt in kenpo in twelve years. Or eight years. I'm a bit confused...his story changed a bit. He doesn't remember the names of any of his teachers. Right. I'm always polite, even when I doubt a story, but I actually heard a voice in my head saying: "Really? Well, we'll just have to see about that, won't we?" Not today, not tomorrow, but I suspect that in the next few weeks somebody's heart is going to get a little broken. Strange. That's not my personality. Just spending too much time around knuckle-draggers.

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The last few days I've been watching movies as I do the gut-grindingly boring work of comparing a copyedited manuscript with the correct computer draft. Feh. Watched "A Man Called Horse" yesterday. Enjoy it mightily. Holds up pretty damned well. A film that earns its "R" rating with one scene--otherwise it's a Disney movie. But I also watched the Bogart "Maltese Falcon" as well as a version from 1931 (Pre-Hayes Code) that was actually pretty good, and one from 1936 (with Bette Davis) called "Satan Was A Lady" (I think that's called giving the secret away in the title) that was jsut unwatchable. The 1931 version SEETHED with sex, I kid you not. And the strange thing is that the "Joel Cairo" character so memorably played by Peter Lorre was almost exactly the same. I can only figure Lorre studied the earlier film. And the version is actually somewhat sadder, and I believe Sam Spade cared more about the ultimate outcome. A coda in a woman's prison is actually touching, and not at all "the stuff that dreams are made of."

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The question for the day is: What is your favorite mystery film of all time?

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I teach and, as you may recall, you spoke at my school in Pacoima during a career day that we held a couple of years ago. I don't see vouchers as a panacea, but I see them as something worth trying. For some reason their use is widely taken for granted as perfectly fine for college, but is terribly controversial on the primary and secondary school level. I paid for my college education, in part, with a voucher program known as the GI Bill. Many others have used Pell Grants or similar government voucher programs to pay for higher education. I have never seen teachers' unions or other political organizations protest the existence of such programs for college students, though they relentlessly attack the idea of vouchers for primary and secondary school students. I don't see any real difference in principle between the two. Perhaps the difference in politicization exists because there are far fewer college teachers and, if they have unions, they are much weaker than those that represent primary and secondary school teachers. Possibly it is because the GI Bill is over 50 years old and other college voucher programs are also decades old. People may just take their existence for granted, and not even think of them as voucher programs at all. Perhaps college teachers and administrators are more used to competition, and feel less threatened by it. This is all just speculation though.

Marco

Steve Perry said...

Got to go with The Maltese Falcon as first choice myself.

Bad Day at Black Rock, a close second.

Although that scene in Marlowe (James Garner in Silliphant's 1960's adaptation of The Little Sister) when Winslow Wong (Bruce Lee) destroys Marlowe's office was and still is one of my favorites.

Or Marlowe's wordless explanation as to what happened to Winslow on the rooftop? Priceless.

Steve Perry said...

Oh, and Chinatown ...

Josh Jasper said...

I'm mostly OK with school vouchers, but public schools need to be better at the same time. The only worry I have with the voucher program is that it might (and I'm glad that as far as I can tell, this is only a worry about potential) result in parents choosing either religious indoctrination, or a second rate school.

Marco, teachers unions don't talk about college because college professors don't have unions.

I'm assuming Steve is talking about school vouchers for elementary and high school education, not college. There's a big difference. Everyone pays (even if it's using grant money) directly to the college. Public high schools and elementary are not handled in the same way. Most voucher recipient schools in NYC, for example, are religious in nature.

The question for the day is: What is your favorite mystery film of all time?

The Third Man.

Anonymous said...

Sure Josh,

I understand that vouchers for pre-college education often tends to go to religious schools, I am not what most people would consider religious, but generally don't have a problem with that. I briefly went to an Episcopalian private school, and saw nothing terrible about it. The place actually had a reputation as a very good school. Catholic schools have long had a reputation of providing excellent educations, often to inner city kids. And if a veteran is accepted to Southern Methodist, Notre Dame, or any number of other religious schools, they can still spend the money from Uncle Sam on books and other expenses there. I believe that Pell Grants and other vouchers can be spent there too. I agree that there are religious schools that do a very bad job of teaching due to their particular beliefs, but I once taught at what was then the worst public high school in Los Angeles, and I suspect that, if anything, really bad public schools grossly outnumber really bad private ones. A very bad private schools may well close due to a lack of customers, but very bad public schools are seldom if ever shut down, though the principal may be rotated out, usually to little effect.

While you note a difference between how college and pre-college schools are financed, I'm not sure that I understand the point that you are making. Please clarify?

Thanks

Marco

Pagan Topologist said...

"...professors don't have unions"

Many of us do. My bargaining agent here at the University of Delaware is the AAUP. Some professors are represented by the AFT or the NEA.

Anonymous said...

pagan topologist,

Do you know if the AAUP has an official policy regarding college (or other) vouchers? If so, what might it be?

Marco

Pagan Topologist said...

I do not think we have such a policy at all.

Josh Jasper said...

Marco - While you note a difference between how college and pre-college schools are financed, I'm not sure that I understand the point that you are making. Please clarify?

So far as I know, you don't have to pay tuition to send your child to a public school. There's probably fees and such, but I don't think there's a tuition charge, even if it's covered by the state.

Private schools are different, and you do have to pay.

Again, as far as I understand. I don't have kids, so it's possible I'm wrong here.

Anonymous said...

josh,

Parents clearly pay tuition for public education in the form of taxes - all of us do actually, whether we have children or not, even those who enroll their kids in a private school. The state does not pay for public education. Private citizens pay for it. The delivery guy who brings the money back to the pizza shop owner didn't pay for the pizza. He got the cash from the people who chipped in and ended up eating the pizza. The difference is, in public education your neighborhood only has one pizza place, your kids have to eat there all the time unless you move, you can't pick the toppings, crust thickness or size, the pizza may be dangerous to eat, and your criticism has no influence on the quality of service. OK - maybe I'm reaching a bit here, but I'm enjoying this conversation, and just having some fun.

I'm not sure if this advances any thing, but public universities do charge tuition. I wonder why this difference exists.

Marco

Josh Jasper said...

The difference in tuition vs fully paid rides is that, no matter how many grants you get, unless the university its self pays for it, a college education still require more than just being alive and in elementary/high school.

College students these days either get parents to pay, or take out loans. No one has to take out a loan to send a child to a public school.

We have public schools, public armed forces, and to a really badly manage extent, public health care.

Without public schools, we'd have mass illiteracy. And also, we'd see an end to single parents in low income situations ever being able to get jobs.

Vouchers are much the same as public schools - no matter how little you earn, you still get one.

Anonymous said...

josh,

First off, to be clear, I don't mean to imply that I want to eliminate public education. I have some fairly strong libertarian leanings, but not to that degree. I toy with the idea that public education should be eliminated at times, but not seriously. I play around with many ideas. Again, like you, I favor vouchers, though I have some concerns about how they might be implemented. Still, I tend to prefer individual choice over government domination of our lives, so vouchers strike me as a good thing.

Do you have any sources to support your claim that we'd have mass illiteracy were there no public schools? I've seen little evidence that illiteracy was especially high in the U.S. during the nineteenth century among native born Americans before public education, as we might recognize it, was established. (An exception might be blacks in areas where the government and local white populace deliberately limited their access to education.) I suspect that we may have more functionally illiterate adults today in the U.S. than back then. The 9th grade students at my school in South Central read at a 3rd grade level, on average, for example. Few of my 10th graders could actually understand what their textbooks said. Still, it might be worth having a higher illiteracy rate among the overall population if, as you say, eliminating public education would effectively stigmatize out of wedlock births.

Marco

Scott Masterton said...

Josh -

I would like to explore a statement that you made in your initial reply to Steve. You mentioned that you were concerned that vouchers would result in parents choosing "religious indoctrination". I've heard this concern before, but am confused as to why a religious school choice has anything to do with the state or the public at large? Personally I don't hold any religion up as the ultimate, neither do I condemn them...but I have no problem with someone choosing a school for their child that has some prayer and/or bible/Q'ran/Talmud study involved in it's curriculum. Isn't that a personal decision between the child and the parent? I've heard your views expressed before, and am always confused by it.

I don't know if you have ever been personally involved in a religious school, but most "religious" schools are not that religious and usually do a pretty good job of educating their students.

Peace,
Scott.

Althea said...

My favorite mystery is "The Usual Suspects." Damn, I did not see that ending coming. My jaw was flat on the floor.
I'm watching "Chinatown" this weekend. I heard about the American Film Insitute's 10 Top 10
(http://www.afi.com/10top10/)
so I'd like to see all the movies I haven't checked out yet.

And as far as the school voucher issue, we are homeschooling our sons, for now. I'm going to stay out of that discussion because I've never looked into vouchers.

Brian Dunbar said...

. I have to wipe my slate clean and look at it again. Just spoke to neighbors who are educators...and excellent...and they are in favor of vouchers, and believe that they would force the public school system to change in a positive way

My youngest kids attend a virtual charter. That is they attend a public school, their classroom is in my house. They get a teacher, material and support.

It's awesome. The teachers are great, the material is miles better than their older sibs got. Kids can march ahead as they need and not have to hold back because the teacher doesn't have the time to mentor one kid while worrying about 30 others.

Example: my eight-year old is going to start pre-algebra next year. He's smart but (being fair) he's not a brainiac - he's just a kid who is allowed to excel.

...

I like the idea of public schools. I think if we're going to keep a Republic we need at least a mild amount of indoctrination: These are your rights and duties as an American, this the flag, this is why your country is special and what makes it work.

Josh Jasper said...

Marco - If schools become a function of being able to pay, then literacy becomes a function of a certain measure of wealth. A quick googling of the words "literacy" and "poverty" gave this result as a good example of one of the many studies on the subject.

As for the number of illiterate adults now vs in the 19th century, it's the percentage that matters.

Pagan Topologist said...

I don't know if you have ever been personally involved in a religious school, but most "religious" schools are not that religious and usually do a pretty good job of educating their students.

In my experience, this is simply not true. The Christian schools that I see more and more of are there to make sure that their pupils are not exposed to evils such as evolution and sex education. They do a good job with mathematics, which I find fortunate, but they do not produce well educated citizens.

Sadly, some of them are there so their pupils don't have to go to schools with people of other races.

Catholic schools are more balanced, in my experience. I still would not want a child of mine to attend one, since I see kids with rather warped views of reality come from them. They are either militant atheists who feel that they must break all the church-taught taboos, or they are rigid Catholics who believe that Catholic Christian mythology is indistinguishable from scientific fact.

My own undergraduate days were spent in a college which had required chapel services four mornings a week. Students were sometimes expelled for non church attendance, gambling, social dancing, or consuming alcohol. This did me considerable psychic harm, even though in many ways I got a good education there.

Scott Masterton said...

Pagan -

While I tend to agree with you in that I would probably not choose to send my children to a religious school as I think religion is organized nonsense; I still struggle with the the idea that it's anyone elses business or concern where others send their children to be educated.

I also tend to think that if a parent believes that abstinence is the best form of birth control ( I don't), they should be able to send their child to a school that supports that belief.

I struggle with the view that the general public has a monopoly on "right". I find that the majority can be and often is wrong.
Peace,
Scott.