Sunday, March 25, 2012

Three Dog Night (and Day)

We added a third dog to our pack. Gilgamesh had been wanting an English bulldog, and yesterday we decided to add a new puppy to our family. Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my privilege to introduce to you, Colonel Enkidu:

Colonel Enkidu
and a video:

Friday, March 23, 2012

John Kennedy Toole: The Omega Point

I spent the afternoon watching a fantastic documentary about the author of one of my favorite books: A Confederacy of Dunces. The film is entitled John Kennedy Toole: The Omega Point. Through interviews with Toole's friends and colleagues, as well as footage from interviews/performances from Toole's mother, it paints a background for Toole's creative yet disappointing life. I learned many interesting things, such as the book was written in Puerto Rico, and that only a couple of people attended Toole's funeral because of the shame his suicide brought his family. He's buried close to my house. The film also has some philosophical aspects, as you can see from the "Omega Point" in the title. One of the best has to do with a mysterious third manuscript that was found in Toole's car when he died. It was in the Biloxi police headquarters but got washed out into the Gulf of Mexico during Hurricane Betsy.

Thankfully, film maker Joe Sanford has the film online for free:

Finally, Sanford ends with the following quotation, one of the best I've heard about New Orleans:

"The older I get, the more I realize, that living here isn't a conscious choice anyway. It's the first joyful step on an elegantly worn staircase to oblivion."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Rewarding Quality Teachers in Louisiana

“Shouldn’t we reward the truly excellent teachers and incentivize others to achieve excellence?”
Bobby Jindal speaking about his education reforms.

I'm married to a public school teacher. Or as Editor B noted, I am married to a public school widow. I won't see her much until June. While Therese hasn't taught me anything during 21 years of marriage, people who know about these things say she is excellent at the craft. This includes former students, parents, fellow teachers and school administrators. She has a Masters degree and more than 10 years of classroom experience, and more important these days, her students score well on standardized tests. So by any standard she would be considered one of these "excellent teachers" of which Governor Jindal speaks. Last year she earned $43,000 in one of Louisiana's highest performing charter schools. Governor Jindal wants to use her charter school as a model, and thereby get school boards and government out of "public" education, and turn over control of charter schools to private companies. This is where he always brings up that excellent teachers are rewarded in these types of systems.

Schools that are not chartered in New Orleans are often governed by the Recovery School District. There the average salary for someone with her education and years of experience is $49,000. It's slightly higher for non-chartered schools in Baton Rouge. So in my wife's case, the "reward" of which the governor speaks does not have to do with salaries. Perhaps Therese's "reward" pertains to longer school years and more work, both of which are par for the course with charter schools.

I should add charters are definitely rewarding for some people. Private education companies are making a fortune from taxpayer money. Also, the person at Therese's school whom they used to call the principal is now the school's C.E.O. with a salary jump from $60,000 (before charter) to more than $200,000. That's what I would call a reward.