Standardized Test Thursday, Oct 31 2013 

How do we measure achievement?  Let me count the absurdity of our ways...

How do we measure achievement? Let me count the absurdity of our ways…

Standardized Test
Dedicated to teachers everywhere oppressed by asinine accountability and the sterility of standardization.
(Drafted while administering the CAAP achievement test to a section of English 1002 at Louisiana State University Eunice, October 2013)

This day I gave a test in English 1002.
A test standardized
and normalized
to be analyzed
(or scandalized?)
by researchers and administrators
and data freaks
to prove students
can read and write
(or not).

Watching students take a standardized is boring, like…
watching paint dry
or grass grow
or youth darkening hundreds of tiny ovals with dull pencils.

Wherefore, O truth, art thou hidden
in this tangled morass of t-scores and standard deviations?
Shall we propose a rebellion, then? May we give a test
not standardized, but substandardized?
not normalized, but abnormalized?
A test meant to prove nothing
but that time and boredom passes
as we blow a 50 minute class period to smithereens
to appease high-seated bureaucrats and scholastic beancounters.

Should we rather write sonnets,
lifting elegant songs with truth and meaning,
spun by youthful fancy?
I say, “Yay.”

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The Saturday Question Saturday, Oct 26 2013 

Let the record show that I posted the following this morning on Facebook:

Saturday morning question: to do, or not to do? The answer: let me draw another cup of coffee and think about it.

Let the record further show that I got more done than drinking coffee: by the end of the afternoon, I had run 3.25 miles, mowed and trimmed the back yard, cleaned the patio as well as my bathroom, watched one and a half college football games on TV, and grilled ground turkey burgers for supper.

I just needed this morning free to think about doing all that eventually got done.

Armadillo Beware: Louisiana Girls Are Harzardous to Your Safety Friday, Oct 18 2013 

'Dillers, beware!

‘Dillers, beware!

In English 1002 one day last week, I was introducing a poem in our literature anthology entitled “Dead Armadillos” by a contemporary poet, Gail White. The poem starts out on the subject of road kill, but the verses wind along, using the armadillo as an example, to ultimately reveal a disappointing propensity in human nature that’s much more universal than the demise of lowly ‘dillers. And so we prepared to discuss the poem, which depicts the disgusting imagery of the misfortunate roadside carnage that is so familiar to all who drive southern highways.

I once shot an armadillo in the woods as a hunter, many years ago, an act I avowed thereafter never to repeat, because an armadillo once mortally wounded performs 2 or 3 acts of sickening aerial acrobatics accompanied by a disconcerting death rattle. The scene is about as grotesque and unsettling as a chicken’s death dance after having it’s neck wrung in preparation for the frier’s kettle. So I started the poem discussion with a question:” Have any of y’all have ever shot an armadillo?”

Five hands went up out of twenty-something in the room. That wasn’t surprising, considering these are rural Louisiana youth from mostly rural areas.

But what was astonishing was that three of the five were girls. 18-19 year old Louisiana girls. More girls in the class had shot an armadillo than guys!

No doubt, some reading the title of this blog and the first paragraph about road kill probably jumped to the stereotypical conclusion that armadillos should fear Louisiana girls because these girls are typical female drivers, ergo more likely to crush armadillos on the streets and highways in cars than superior-driving males. But that stereotype be exploded and the truth be known: alas poor armadillo, the Louisiana girl you’d better fear is not the one driving the Toyota Camray, but the one toting a 16 gauge shotgun in the field behind the house!

Roll back? Maybe so, but not to WalMart Monday, Oct 14 2013 

Iconic   Americana or not, I've grown to associate WallyWorld with shopping misadvanture.

Iconic Americana or not, I’ve grown to associate WallyWorld with shopping misadvanture.

I have to go to WalMart at least once every other month or so. Not necessarily because they have what I’m looking for, but to remember why I resolved a couple of years ago to trade elsewhere.

And so I went in last Friday afternoon in search of the gasoline mixture for chain saw and trimmer engines. The stuff is a lawn ‘n garden section staple at any big box store that sells outdoor power tools, and since WalMart was the closest and also because I reasoned finding what I needed would be as simple as walking into the lawn mower/weed eater section, I struck out.

I went into the outdoor living section where I’m used to seeing lawnmowers and lawn equipment and, lo and behold, Christmas garb had taken over the shelves. Not a mower or weedeater or chainsaw in sight. I asked a passing associate where the lawnmower and chainsaw accessories had been relocated and was directed into the store to find that equipment near the sporting goods. So off I went. I knew exactly where that section was located.

After walking up and down the aisles in the sporting goods neighborhood and finding nothing, I approached the department service desk and told the clerk what I was looking for. She proceeded to explain, “That’s out in the lawn and garden section” as she motioned in the direction from which I had come. I politely objected, explaining I had just come from there at the instruction of the associate there. I got the blankest expression from that clerk, equivalent to an indifferent shrug, but not the slightest offer to assist or help me find out.

I could have hung around, probing and prying to get the facts straight, but what’s the use? In fact, at that instant the epiphany bulb went off in my brain: “Duh, remember why you quit shopping at WalMart in the first place?” So I hastened to leave the store to avoid wasting more time than I already had. (I had chosen WalMart that afternoon because I thought I would be in and out in a jiffy!)

Still needing the fuel mix, I stopped at AutoZone on the way home, not really expecting to find what I sought because AutoZone sells car parts rather than outdoor power tool supplies, but as I walked in, the sales clerk greeted me and asked if he could help me find anything. I told him what I was looking for, he pointed down the aisle to show me exactly where I’d find it, and within 90 seconds the transaction was complete and I was on the way home.

I’ll probably need to go back to WalMart in a month of two when the memory and the bad taste from this episode wear off, but until then, I’ll not be rollin’ back.

Citizen, Beware: Politicians are guarding the hen house! Tuesday, Oct 8 2013 

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Nefarious schemes of wanton men (and women) are afoot in Washington! Government is disabled. The art of statesmanship is dead. The middle class pines at the mercy of politicians and narrow ideologues.

Henry Clay must be turning over in his grave.

And the rest of us in middle America, we’re turning over sleepless in our beds.

Poetic License Tuesday, Oct 1 2013 

WriterPoetic License
(From a Word Up! youth writing camp pre-write in July 2013)

I write; therefore I am
liberated,
unenslaved to form or convention,
dogma or creed:
I can write
blank verse,
free verse,
open form,
closed.
Sonnet or doggerel,
Stanzas or not:
For free words flow in fragrant streams of Logos,
Eternal Truth inspired,
the Measure of Meaning
ushered from the Source of invention,
echoing through canyons of eternity.