A Loss And A Memory
This week one of my former students was shot and killed by the police in his hometown, right around the corner from the school.
I don't know why he tried to leave when he was pulled over. I don't know why the policeman felt he needed to shoot him. I don't know the point of entry of the bullet. I don't know why he always slept in my class or why he didn't do a research paper. I do know that he was polite, when I woke him up, when I talked to him about his failing grade. He looked sullen but he was a nice boy. Looking back, I realize that he was probably a candidate for the Student Assistance Counselor or a Student Under the Influence Form. But as a first year teacher what I knew what that he was polite, not a behavior problem, a little unmotivated.
At my first pep rally I looked into the rowdy group in the stands helplessly--wondering how I could intervene while craning my neck, over the bouncing sounds of feet stomping and voices. Like me, a first-year History teacher found this student in the crowd and called out to him, reprovingly. This teacher seemed surprised, as I was, that a nice boy, a quiet and sullen boy, was at the center of a jostling, air horn blowing, silly string shooting crowd.
We looked at this kid. We were first year teachers, we were hopeful and desperate in that mess, and he looked at us and smiled. You can't get me now, he smiled at us. Then he looked away, and didn't look down again.
¶ 9:23 AM6 comments
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Evolving Standards Of Decency
The Supreme Court ruled today that people convicted of child rape cannot be executed. In their opinions, Justices discussed the relative impact of first degree murder and the rape of a child. They discussed the impact on the victim and the patterns of the offenders. Justice Kennedy wrote that the death penalty in this case would violate the Eighth Amendment and "evolving standards of decency" in this country.
I am waiting for the day our country's sense of decency evolves to the point that we don't execute people at all. Kennedy wrote about "proportional punishment." Being killed at the hands of your government isn't punishment; it's vengeance. This is just a nice way of saying "an eye for an eye." Yes, sometimes it feels f*ing good to know that a psychopath has been permanently erased. Especially if that psychopath has directly impacted your life.
But that kind of barbarism doesn't have a place in government. Take a look here, at the list of countries that permit the death penalty. If you go here you can read the abstract for a fascinating article in UK medical journal The Lancet (if you can get your hands on the full article, it is worth a read) about how inhumane the process of lethal injection is, and if you don't really care if the psychopaths suffer, consider that there are lots of mistakes that have been discovered--wrongful convictions that were overturned before the accused could be executed. Then there's the dubious claim that the death penalty is a deterrent to crime, which is not exactly debunked, but certainly crimped, here and elsewhere.
As far as overcrowding in our prisons goes, maybe if mandatory sentencing for non-violent offenders didn't make this particular industrial complex so profitable, there would be more room to pen away--and truly punish--those who cannot be allowed to participate in society.
¶ 3:48 PM6 comments
Monday, June 23, 2008
It's the last week of school. Every other district in the county (OK, every other district) is out for the summer by now. We have final exams and for me, grading advanced junior exams (four essays each), it is somewhat torturous. I'm sure the kids feel that way too.
It was a tough year. The state test pressure hit us hard, and even though the scores are in, the higher-ups are being remarkably cagey about whether any of that time and curriculum-sacrifice did us any good. It seems that most of the students who live in district but attend special schools have failed the exam, and their scores count against us, even though they don't attend our school. We may well be on the watch list yet again.
I'm still trying to decide whether to cave and add extra points to the quarter grades of my students who did well on the state test, as I've been instructed to do. I think it's gross, but it may not be a battle I have the energy for right now.
I got some really nice letters from my students this year. It helps when I'm questioning my choice to work in this building, in this profession. It was a tough year.
All of it gets put into perspective when I think about floods, ethanol and Mugabe, among all the rest. I'm tired.
By some whim I wandered over to YouTube today and stumbled across this. I think it's an updated version, but it doesn't much matter-- it still makes me cry, it still makes me feel jealous, it still makes me feel good.
Death Of Irony, And A Bunch Of Brown Characters I saw "Iron Man" last week. Sometimes I like an action movie. Sometimes I like Robert Downey Jr. Lukewarm reviews be damned, I thought. I trusted the reviews on "The Piano" and look where that got me.
Well I was just as horrified and disturbed by "Iron Man," but in a different way. First of all, its treatment of international issues was about as complex as "I don't know how but they found me. Run for it, Marty!" Much of the plot, much to my surprise, revolved around our boy Robert kicking ass and taking names in various terrorist caves and sandy villages. I like my dick-swinging to take place in fictional dark metropolises, not simulations of contemporary war-torn countries, thank you very much.
Oh, if you don't want any of the crappiness spoiled for you, don't read the rest of this post.
When the movie opened with RDJ and a bunch of American soldiers getting ambushed in the desert by a group wielding complex American weaponry, I thought: this is manipulative, but perhaps the filmmakers have shocked us with soldier deaths in order to make a point later.
When RDJ escaped his captors by building a suit with arms that are part machine gun/part flame thrower, and torched the shit out of the whole camp, I thought: that seems unnecessary.
When his character returns home and announces that his profitable weapons manufacturing company will no longer manufacture weapons, I thought: right on!
When he then devotes himself to building the biggest, baddest weapon EVER, I was confused.
When he then uses said weapon to kill a bunch more people to superhero rock god guitar music in the background, I waited for the ironic twist.
When he looked through the viewfinder of his suit and it identified people in the village as "Civilian" or not, then automatically shot the non-civilians dead, before leaving the one non-civilian to the hands of the angry mob, walking away stoically and saying, "He's all yours," I thought: holy crap this is blockbuster violence porn.
He might as well have been GWB in a bulging flight suit announcing Mission Accomplished. He was Cowboy-Kill-Em-All. The audience absolutely loved it. And Gwyneth? Really?
On the way home from work I always sit for a long time at one traffic light. It is a four-way light, a short light, people get confused, trucks take a long time to gear up, etc. To pass the time, I've started taking pictures with my cell phone of things in and around my car. The following series stars an origami turtle that Anthemsled got at a Japanese restaurant.
Origami Turtle steers the car
Origami Turtle looks out the window
Origami Turtle plays with my IPod Origami Turtle turns up the radio