Archive for January, 2006

Checking Big Brothe


Quakers a Threat to Our Safety?.

This is an opinion piece about Quakers, amongst other groups, being spied on for possible terrorist activities by the Pentagon.

This is more of a story on it.

Quakers are pacifists, not terrorists.  Just because one, or a group, is anti-violence/anti-war, does not mean they themselves will be resorting to violence. There may be groups who are opposed to the wars that ARE violent. Quakers are not one of them.

They should have never been spyed on in the first place.  To all those who are angsty about it being a Christian nation, and that being a problem? Just look. The Christians are turning on their own.  It’s not even a matter of being Christian, anymore, you have to be the Right Kind. Quaker ain’t it, apparently. Not that I am suprised, I knew they were politicially active getting into it — they have been since day one…but you’d think common sense would play a small part in who the government decides to spy on of its own people.  What a waste of time and money when they do things like this. How does it make me feel safer knowing they seem so clueless about who they are spying on? 

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NYC Board of Education

This is quickly becoming a ‘disenchanted with the Board of Education" blog…but really, they give me so much material to work with!

They changed the school hours a bit, to reflect their convoluted extra help/new contract/no child left behind unless they don’t fit/we’re winging it schemes.

Fine. I’m a stay at home parent, I can just leave the house at different times for the different drop offs and pickups. We walk to school, after all, we’re just 2 blocks away and the kids go to the same school.

Strangely, though, we got a letter in the mail from the BoE transportation division.  They wanted to notify me that my daughter’s bus will be picking her up and dropping her off at different times.

Yes. Her bus.  They gave me route numbers, they may have even given me a bus number. Stop though? I don’t know — where would you pick a kid up that is two blocks away from school? A block away? And why just her? Why not her brother in the same school with the same hours?

So I phoned them.  Explained the situation.

They asked me to fax a copy of the letter back to them with a note.  I don’t have a fax machine so that would mean I would have to take a bus ($2 each way) to get to Staples to pay $5 to fax them the letter. As if.

If it wasn’t so funny, I’d be crying over the stupidity.

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I saw this coming

Link: New York Daily News – Home – Science friction as contest shuns city.

"In New York City, science is treated like a second-class subject," said Eva Moskowitz, former chairwoman of the City Council’s Education Committee, who had pushed for more science classes in schools.

I had my daughter in a science magnet school before we moved. From kindergarden on, they taught the children scientific theory, on the most basic level.  Kids were encouraged to make science fair projects. My daughter’s first project was what dissolved in water, and she gathered different things and put them in water, and made charts and showed how it matched up with her hypothesis.  Not groundbreaking science, but enough to know she understood the concept of coming up with theories, testing them, and then drawing a conclusion.  The other kids did too and it was great seeing their projects. Not a volcano in sight!

When we moved, we were put in the local elementary school. It is, at best, adequate.  But since they put her in this district’s gifted program we figured we’d be ok.

Well her first project was on memory. Who had better memories. Grownups or kids. Her theory was along the lines that kids had better memories because when you tell grownup things, they forget them.  Again, it shows an understanding of the concept behind science fair projects.  She made pictures of 15 or 20 objects and then let people look at it and then she asked about 10 questions. She seperated the results by age, and added the scores up. She then wrote her conclusion, using charts, triboard, all that fun stuff.

Well, the kids liked it but the teachers barely gave it a second look. They liked things like potato clocks and tornados in soda bottles though! More exciting! Less science but more — something.  She was very disappointed and didn’t put nearly as much effort in the following year, and I don’t blame her.

We simply are not nurturing the students in the NYC public school system. We’re so focused on those math and English scores we’re forgetting to teach them the other stuff. When we do, it’s just making sure they can parrot back the material on the tests. No need to understand concepts, concepts and understanding aren’t tested.  Memorization of facts are.

So if you can memorize how to make a potato battery, you are a-ok. Come up with an actual theory and testing it out? Ho-hum. How can you make something go BOOM or WOOSH with that?

The only WOOSH was the scientific method wizzing by the heads of the students.

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Gerritsen Creek

Gerritsen Creek
Originally uploaded by Kibbles.

I figured I should still put NICE stuff here, instead of ranting, ranting, ranting all the time.

Photos like this almost make me want to stay in Brooklyn…but a thought of the rent in one of those buildings in the distance makes it all fade away.

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Construction workers are entitled to unemployment when between jobs.  It’s always been the case.  They work, and if they can’t get on a new job right away, they are entitled to unemployment, provided they meet the basic requirements (worked enough hours in the last few weeks, tried to get more work, and so on).  It is a little bandaid on the gaping wound that is being unemployed in NYC.

The thing is, though, the NYS unemployment system penalizes those who go and look for work…preferring to hand checks out to people who just claim their benefits and make minor effort to work.

When my husband had a job that ended, there was no work for a couple of weeks. So he had his ‘waiting week’ and then the second week he got a check.  Then week three some work came up.  He, of course, happily went to the job site, even though it was short term, just a week. You are not supposed to turn down work (there are exceptions), and of course his job pays more than the pittance that unemployment pays.

Well, after THAT jobs ends, you are entitled to claim again, and get a check if you go without work.

This is where they get upset.  They will not send a check unless you talk to them or fill out a form, and even then they stall.

They question you like you are some sort of monster.  "Why didn’t you claim the first week of December?"

"I accepted a job."

"Why did you claim again?"

"The job was finished, lack of work."

And they cannot wrap their head ’round the idea that construction workers, when finished with a job, are not paid to stand around the finished building and look pretty. They either move on, or go back to the union hall in the case of a union worker, and try to get something else. If they can’t get something else, they are entitled to unemployment INSURANCE.

So they request that you fill out a form that never came, and when you say that, they ask "who did you work for" and you tell them, even though they have the information on file (because, of course, that company paid into your unemployment for that time you worked).  And then they say they will release the check.

And they will do that every day for a few days, and every day you check online and you find out they lied, and every day you have to call again to explain to someone that instead of sitting home and collecting a check, you actually took work, despite it being for only a week, because it is better to earn your own money than to dip into your unemployment insurance, and it’s the right thing to do and they ask if you refused work and if you did, that is a big no-no.

So meanwhile the bills pile up, the hairs get greyer.

And if they issue a check and it never shows up?

Wait 14 days to call. Sounds reasonable, right?

You know what happens when you call? They tell you they are sending a form out. Another form that will never make it.

It has taken over six months in some cases to get money he was legally entitled to. But not without putting up every roadblock out there, and even requesting hearings that would require taking off of work from.  And since they cut their budget, you can no longer go anyplace and talk to someone or fill out a form and hand it in on the spot. It is all done by internet and telephone and there is no end of them brushing you off — as if the money was just for jujubees and diet pepsi, and not sending a working man the money he is entitled to, the money from a fund he put into for over 20 years, is no big deal.

It’s just food and shelter and utilities and the like, right? No big deal.  And if you do the right thing? Well, you’re the fool for actually doing that. You should shut up and sit around and wait for a check. Less paperwork for them, that way, and they will happily cut it for you, week after week, until the funds run out.

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Link: giggle – healthy. happy. baby..

Store of fun stuff for kids. Pricey.

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I have a few posts to make about the NYC Public School system, mere speculation on my part, much of it, but some of the paranoid observations of mine just might be true, especially given the current climate when it comes to funding and standardized tests.  So I hope, in the next few days, to put my more outragious conspiracy theories up there for you to chew on.

We’ll start with standardized testing, and monies given to help students improve.

In the 3rd grade, I felt my daughter needed additional math help.  I was unable to get it for her.  She was in a gifted program and perhaps they felt that was good enough? But because we changed schools due to a move, the two different teachers and lessons had her behind, I felt.

In the fourth grade, we managed to get her some after school help. This consisted of a program where a disinterested teacher gave out problems and later on gave the answers out.  There was no instruction, nor was there going over why some children got the problems wrong.  If it helped my daughter at all, it was her teaching the other students how to do problems — despite having problems, there were children far worse off who couldnt understand the very basics of math.  I would imagine the practice helped her as well.

Later on that year she took a standardized math test and got a mid to high three. (Out of four.)  I think two is passing.  So she did well, not perfect, but got a solid score I was proud of.

So now in the fifth grade I was told that my gifted daughter with decent test marks behind her is REQUIRED to attend a 37.5 minute additional math class 4 days a week. We will put aside the inconvenience of picking up one child, turning home, dropping off books and coming back, or of staying outside in the cold for 37.5 minutes.  If my daughter were needy, I would do this, after all, I fought so hard to get her help in the third and fourth grades.

But her tests show me she doesn’t need it. Her homework questions to us show us she doesn’t need it.

What shows me she needs it is a school that probably gets money per seat filled in this special tutoring session after schools.

What shows me she needs it is the thought that getting a kid up from a mid to high three to a four is easier than getting a kid from a one up to a two or a three — and at the end of the day, those combined results of the children pushed to a four will make the school look a LOT better.  Is she a pawn to make a mediocre school look better?

I found out I can write a note requesting that I want her out of those classes. I do.  I don’t like to see my daughter coming out bitter and resentful like she did last year, especially knowing that she will not receive any instruction, nor will it matter at this point in the game.

Do I want my child to get a perfect score? Of course that would be great! This isn’t a matter of me wanting to deny my child an education. What I do want is my child to get one, not be placed in a seat for who knows what motive, losing interest and wasting time.  The enrichment I can provide is better than the tossing problems at children and then telling them what was wrong that the school offers.

I’m telling you, private school is looking better and better…

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