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Three Cheers for Lily Garcia

If anyone had asked me which union had more backbone, NEA (National Education Association) or AFT (American Federation of Teachers), I would have replied, “AFT, hands down.”

I’ve long felt that NEA leaders and members tended to be mealy-mouthed clones who meekly follow the latest directives handed down by theorists and bureaucrats who know more about statistics than about teaching.

I can’t speak for what kind of nonsense has been accepted by teachers of math, history, and other subjects through the years, but I’ve seen English teachers abandon effective methods of teaching because of the Reform-of-the-Day. Decade after decade the nonsense has been accepted: away with systematic phonics for beginning reading, away with handwriting instruction, away with formal grammar, away with the literary classics.

The specter of the Common Core already looms over the English classroom, prompting school superintendents and principals to command English teachers to replace literature lessons with “real-world informational texts.”

The new NEA president offers a breath of fresh air, telling teachers:

Don’t you dare let someone tell you not to do that Shakespeare play because it’s not on the achievement tests. Whether they [reformers] have sinister motives or misguided honest motives, you should say, ‘We are not going to listen to you anymore. We are going to do what’s right.

What’s right for teachers is to teach, not to a standardized test created by anonymous theorists sitting somewhere in New Jersey, but to the minds and spirits of the students sitting in front of them in their own classrooms.

Garcia seems to recognize the disconnect that exists between test scores and education:

I will go down to my last breath telling people that the most corrupting influence in public influence today is a high-stakes consequence for not hitting the cut score on a standardized test. Imposing this toxic testing regime makes no sense.

Time will tell if Garcia’s words will have an effect on the NEA membership. I hope that the new president will succeed in encouraging classroom teachers to balk at blind acceptance of directives that may or may not be in the best interest of school children. Common Core may not be the work of the devil, but it is a bureaucratic creation that does not deserve uncritical acceptance by every school and teacher in the land.

Related Posts:

Common Core and the English Classroom

Common Core Mission Statement

Cut Scores and Priorities


Scruffy-looking Celebrities

For some time now, I’ve wondered about the male celebrities who seem never to shave.

I don’t mean the men who wear discernible beards and/or mustaches. Well-kept facial hair is attractive on a man. I mean the ones who look as if they just forgot to shave that day.

I suppose that if I’ve thought about it all, I’ve assumed that the unshaven men in the television dramas that I watch–like the agent called Deeks in NCIS Los Angeles–are supposed to look scruffy because they work undercover and want to fit in with disreputable criminal types who practice poor hygiene.

Two incidents have made me realize that the unshaven look is intentional.

The first was watching a television ad in which a man’s face is shown surrounded by hands doing something to get the man ready for the day. One of the hands seems to be shaving him with an electric shaver, but when it withdraws, the man is still unshaven.

The second revelation came as I watched an episode of Major Crimes in which an actor named Luke Perry plays a fictitious TV detective. Perry didn’t strike me as being particularly good looking in the part, probably because throughout the story–which covers several days–he sports the scruffy unshaven look. Then I realized that two of the women, Captain Raydor and the Deputy District Attorney, were swooning over him.

I don’t get it. Is the partially shaved look supposed to be sexy?

Earth to Echo to Ennui

When I took my eight-year-old granddaughter to see Earth to Echo, I expected that she would like it even if I didn’t. The television ads showed a cute little metallic alien that reminded me of the owl in Clash of the Titans. We settled down with our movie treats and waited to be entertained.

And waited.

And waited.

Several uncomfortable minutes into the movie, seasick from the jerky camera movement and wondering what a second-grader was making of the adolescent comments about girls, I turned to my grandchild and whispered, “Do you like it?” She whispered back, hopefully, “Maybe it will get better.”

We continued to watch as the camera shots continued to shake, and the story progessed to the part where the boys bring the alien back to civilization where it proceeds to destroy a store interior.  I’m not sure how far we got. My eight-year-old companion was appalled when the boys broke into a girl’s house where the alien wrecked the girl’s bedroom. At some point we looked at each other and simultaneously said, “Let’s go!”

The chief thing that makes this film unwatchable is the amateurish “found camera” technique. That and the use of computer and iPhone screenshots. I don’t need to pay $10 for the opportunity to look at an unedited stream of computer images that a real-life 12-year-old video enthusiast would be embarrassed to post to YouTube.

When I left the theater, I was convinced that the movie must be the product of very young filmmakers with a meager literary background. I was astounded to discover that the director, David Green, was born in 1948 and graduated from Oxford University with a degree in English Language and Literature.

The handful of reviews that I have read are uniformly polite about this film, almost as if the reviewers don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.  They invariably conclude by saying that youngsters will like it.

I know one youngster who didn’t like it. One of her reiterated outraged comments was, “Once, all you could see was hay!”

Earth to Echo is just awful.

Modern Youth Lack Impulse Control

One of the stated goals of the Common Core Standards is to encourage “student-directed learning.” A possible obstacle to classrooms filled with self-directed, internally motivated students is the fact that children’s ability to self-regulate has declined steeply in the past 60 years.

Read “Impulse Control Lacking in Modern Youth” at BellaOnline.com/.

100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid--REVISED with Index

Print edition of 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid

A revised edition of  100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid is now available on Amazon.

Originally available only in digital form, this bare bones style guide for writers in a hurry is now available in both print and digital editions.

100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid is a guide to common errors of grammar, usage and spelling that can distract readers from the message a writer wishes to convey. It’s “a style book for writers in a hurry.” As I point out in the introduction, “this little book can’t replace a dictionary or a premium style guide like The Chicago Manual of Style (1,026 pages) or the Associated Press Stylebook (406 pages), but writers can save time by looking here first.”

Explanations are kept to a minimum. Most of the entries simply state that a usage is “correct” or “incorrect” in the context of standard English. Controversial usage is indicated, but there’s none of the ridicule or impassioned arguments that so often accompany the discussion of usage on the web.

It’s not a book for purists. It’s for bloggers and other writers who want to avoid writing errors that can damage their credibility. It’s for sellers who don’t want to drive away potential customers who react strongly to mistakes like it’s for its or seperate for separate.

Kindle Edition of 100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid

Get your copy Now!

100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid (print edition)

100 Writing Mistakes to Avoid (Kindle edition)

Maeve Maddox at BellaOnline.com

Maeve Maddox is the new School Reform Editor at the women’s online magazine BellaOnline.com/ where she offers  articles on the topic of education and what parents and teachers can do to improve the quality of teaching in the public schools.

Film Guide to Six Joan of Arc Movies

A Joan for All Seasons, Joan of Arc in History and the Movies is targeted not just to movie buffs, but to anyone interested in knowing more about the historical Joan of Arc.

Part One, “Historical Joan,” provides the facts about the peasant girl from her first appearance in history in 1428 to her death at the stake in 1431. It also provides a brief account of the royal in-fighting that caused and prolonged the Hundred Years’ War.

Part Two, “Cinematic Joan,” analyzes each of the six films in terms of historical accuracy and intended message. These six productions span the 20th century, beginning with Cecil B. DeMille’s Joan the Woman, released in 1917, to Luc Besson’s Jeanne d’Arc, released in its English version in 1999 as The Messenger.

Although some of these films are mentioned in guides to movies about war or movies set in the Middle Ages, A Joan for All Seasons is the only guide that discusses all six of these Joan of Arc films in one volume.

You can order A Joan for All Seasons from Amazon.com /.

So You Want to Write!

Thanks to the ease of online publication, more people than ever are setting up shop as writers.

So You Want toSo You Want to Write! by Maeve Maddox Write! Tips and Pep Talks to Get You Started and Keep You on Track is the ideal starter text for newcomers to the profession.

The 50 essays on the writing craft in this book by Maeve Maddox originated as informal blog posts at DailyWritingTips.com/. Edited and updated for this print edition, they provide practical guidelines for the beginner, as well as useful reminders for veterans.

In Chapter One Maeve addresses questions that beset every writer:

How can you know if you’re really a writer?
What do writers read?
What is talent?
How do you find time to write?

Chapters Two to Seven offer definitions and discussions related to genre, the writing process, style, technique, and the mechanics of presentation.

Chapter Eight emphasizes the writer’s need for three essential tools: dictionary, thesaurus, and usage guide.

Chapter Nine provides five specialized vocabulary lists, including terms for writing about religion and crime.

Chapter Ten illustrates and discusses common errors of grammar and usage. Without condemning regional or ethnic speech patterns, Maeve focuses on standard American English and its usefulness to speakers and writers of all backgrounds.

So You Want to Write! is available from Amazon.