Saturday, November 21, 2009

Teachers love to tell stories. For example, my dear friend Joe Everett, a Spanish teacher, has three favorite words in English. He may have favorite Spanish words, but since I don’t understand most of his Spanish, I couldn’t tell you what those are. His three favorite ones in ingles are “But I digress…” Occasionally, we teachers will run into former students. Invariably, they do not remember the boffo lessons we taught about Poe, or congruent angles or eukaryotes or the irregular verbs; they remember the anecdotes we peppered our lessons with. Students know we like to tell stories, and even though a teacher may be aware that a question asked by certain students who are deliberately asking it to try to derail class, we’ll bite, because through stories we can teach other lessons, which are sometimes on topic, other times only loosely related to the topic but may be way off topic.
I have stories I tell every year, like the Don MacDonald story about letting rumor and reputation determine how you treat people. Yesterday’s story was one I tell about seating charts and choosing groups, two of the more annoying necessities of teaching. It would be fantastic if a classroom full of kids could choose partners or seats wisely, that they would sit where they will not be distracted and choose an arrangement which did not isolate anyone. Without teacher direction, they will invariably choose their buddies and not be able to focus on work, and if there is any way the seating arrangement can isolate the “weird” kid, they’ll do it.
In my very first year of teaching, I had a 10th grade English class that was difficult to control. My teacher preparation at EWU and Whitworth did not include any successful strategies for classroom control. I had one master teacher whose 10th grade class was amazingly well behaved, but his tricks did not work for me. To this day I don’t know how they worked for him. I got there in April, after the students had been trained, and I think I missed crucial steps in the process by which he beat them into submission convinced them to comply. My 10th graders one year later never did settle down. Discipline is one of the most, if not the most, difficult parts of teaching. It involves saying “no” and punishing people you like. I liked that class, but nailing down what the problems were proved extremely elusive.
Finally, one day, needing to create yet another seating chart that would make us all happy or at least not aggravated, I decided to use one of the strategies I had been taught in teacher school. I had everyone write down two people they wanted to sit by and one person they preferred not to sit by. It backfired horribly. That afternoon I tried to accommodate one of everybody’s desired neighbors and seat each person at least one seat away from the person he or she chose to “keep away.” It was immediately obvious that it would be impossible. Each person, save one of course, had chosen the same kid as their personal anathema. No one wanted to sit by Bob.
I liked Bob. He was smart, funny, nice-looking, animated, alert to the lesson most of the time, although maybe that’s just because no one wanted to talk to him, now that I think about it. I could not imagine why he was the target of so much enmity. I was troubled about how to deal with it. The seating chart I created was of my own device. I included not a single request, partly out of pique.
The next day, Bob was absent. I still don’t know if it was the right thing to do or not, but I decided to confront the class about their shared feelings about Dennis. I asked them what they did not like about him, why did no one want to be by Dennis. They shifted uncomfortably in their seats, their eyes darted to the floor or their desks. Nobody had anything distinct about Dennis that they could put a finger on. Eventually, after a long enough awkward silence, I gave them a mediocre lecture about tolerance and blah, blah, blah.
The next day, when Bob returned, he brought me his homework and pointed to the heading. “Miss Kurz,” he said with a twinkle in his eye, “I no longer want to be Bob. From now on I’m Baub,” he said, sounding out the vowel tone just a bit longer than 'Bob' would.
“Baub?” I said, imitating him, "like bauble?"
“Yes,” he said, “Baauuuub.”
“Ok.” Names are important to our identity, what did I care how he spelled or said his name.
Years later, at a retreat for an A.I.D.S. peer education group I advised, I met a young may named Tom, oops, Thom. As he was short, slight and a tad effeminate, I teased him by calling him Thor. He realized I was riffing on his uncommon choice of spelling Tom with a th. He was a pretty good sport about it, and he even taught me about a tendency among gay men. “Gay men,” he said, “often will choose to either go by their complete name, like Thomas, or they’ll change the spelling, just to be different or special.” The next weekend, I went to Ivar’s with my family. Our waiter sashayed (yes!) up to our table and announced, “Hi! I’m Eric; I’ll be your waiter.” At least it sounded like Eric. I looked at his name tag. Sure enough, he spelled it Aeryk. Poor Bob, er Baub. Now I knew why the other kids did not like him and also why they couldn’t articulate their attitude. It was 25 years ago, and very few people were comfortable talking about homosexuality anywhere and certainly not in a classroom. I don't know if Baub is gay, but he was certainly flamboyant and expressive in a similar way to other gay men I've known. He also did an expository speech on Madonna. As any teacher knows, merely appearing effemnate in any way, what am I saying, just being different from the common herd in high school can make you a target of horrifying cruelty.
I have recently been reconnected with him via Facebook. He’s doing extremely well, having landed in La La Land (Hollywood). I heard part of his podcast today. It's wild and fun!. He has his thousands of followers and is of course a growing force on Twitter.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Today’s Meet the Press has a segment on education. They played a sound bite from Obama reporting that his daughter says she does well in school because she just likes having knowledge. At breakfast today at Knapp’s Pat told of being at the aquarium watching kids excited to learn things about the ocean environment they didn’t know and comparing it with having kids in a science class who truly could not have cared less about knowing anything about the ocean or any other subject in biology. I have to say I have real trouble understanding that portion of our student body that is not only uncurious, but even openly disdainful of learning, knowing things. To be smart would be anathema.
When the administration of the school offered to support a committee to discuss discipline in school, despite being really busy, I jumped to join it. We call it the Safe and Civil committee. After the last meeting, another member expressed appreciation for my presence on the committee basically because of my ability to be blunt. It’s one way I deal with discipline in my own classroom. I just like to cut to the chase. Whatever the situation, instead of dithering through discussion or argument, I want to discover exactly what’s going on, get to the bottom right away. Time is too precious. Sometimes that makes me appear confrontational, and I get in trouble sometimes. Why mess around?
My father influenced me a bit in this regard. He’s scrupulously honest, even returning extra change to a clerk. Another influence comes from my fundamentalist period. Matthew 5:37. Let your yes be yes and your no be no, anything else comes from evil. Don’t bother lying or prettying up your prose or adding obscenity or swearing to your discourse. Tell the truth and tell it plainly. Emily Dickinson notwithstanding (tell the truth but tell it slant), I’ve worked hard to try to speak plainly and honestly. Do I never lie? Well, not never, and I don’t always tell everything I know, but I do speak plainly about what my students are doing. If they’re mocking me, I let them know I recognize it. If they’re trying to control the classroom, I’m going to let them know I understand their need for control, but that I have to run the class. During my very first year of teaching, I had to confront a student who had erased other students’ work from a floppy disk (remember those?). At one point he said, “Are you calling me a liar?” Of course I did not want to admit that I was indeed calling him a liar, but that’s exactly what was happening. It was a horrible feeling.
That situation taught me a lot. Later that afternoon I called his mother. She was very grateful for the call. Her son had planned to go to a party that weekend that she did not want him to attend. She thanked me for giving her a reason to say “no” to him. I was shocked. To be fair, I don’t have kids of my own so I do not know how difficult it is to say “no” to my 14 year old son when he wants to go to a party where I suspect there will be drinking. His behavior in class was consistently poor: talking, ridiculing others, refusing to stay on task, bullying, insubordinate, surely his mother saw some of this behavior at home!
The way teachers are treated by kids completely shocks my 80 year old parents. My dad looked forward to school; he respected his teachers. I loved school, although I did not respect all my teachers I certainly did not treat them badly (except Mr. Jensen, but boy is THAT another story). Some of my students still like school, come to school ready and willing, desirous of learning and treat their teachers very well. They are not the majority. If they were, education would not need fixing. Teachers are being asked to motivate the unmotivated, move the immobile. Lots of people are talking about extending the school day or school year, but forcing unwilling kids to endure more of something they hate or are not prepared for makes no sense. Am I too blunt? More to follow…

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A long time ago, seems like a different life, now, my goal was to live in Forks and ride my horse to my job at the local radio station. I was a camp counselor at the time at Camp Sealth, now just across the Puget Sound from where I work at Gig Harbor High. Even back then I was torn between loving primitive, natural things and technology. Ah, technology! How you’ve changed. Riding home from the movie tonight we had to stop at a red light by a Radio Shack, now just “The Shack.” There had been a radio shack in the movie, Amelia. An aside about the film: Hilary Swank will not be winning as Oscar for it. Not many radios being sold in Radio Shack these days I don’t suppose. How things change. CenturyTel is now CenturyLink, I noticed. Not too long ago, in Cheney, I had a party line as my only phone. Now we connect by land lines, cell phones, Blackberry devices and computers via wi-fi and Skype. Communication is instantaneous and ubiquitous. Whereas a letter might have taken weeks to travel, we can now send our words immediately. Science fiction is real.

We must know so much more about each other now. We are constantly in touch with our friends and acquaintance, right? Wait, let me navigate away for a second and check…

I have another new follower on Twitter, even though I don’t tweet hardly at all. My dad has forwarded another uber-conservative rant, and several newspapers have updated me. Amazon is letting me know that one of the authors whose books I have bought will be publishing a new one, etc., and two of my co-workers are currently logged in to their facebook accounts. I could click on chat and talk to them. I could also just pick up the phone and call them. In actuality, I feel as though I have already made a connection. I fertilized their farms on Farmville AND Farm Town. Our friendship is so much stronger now. There: I just sent them a turkey. Maybe they’ll gift one back to me. I especially hope they’ll send me a red maple tree, otherwise they’re too expensive. I may also have some Farkle chips waiting for me.

Walking through the halls of the high school, the students have their noses in a tiny keyboard, texting each other. It’s what passes for conversation. They’ll sit next to each other, never speaking, while they send cryptic alphabet soup through the ether. Well, they can’t talk, they’ve got earbuds plunged into their ears forcing digital music deep inside. I love music; I used to listen to more music, before it got so convenient. I have an iPod, Bose headphones, Skullcandy earbuds, even a sound dock. More and more I want to hear real sounds, people, wind, birds, breathing, paper shuffling. There’s music in those sounds, too.
I guess I’m having connectivity issues, besides having my network cable cut because I wasn’t home and SOMEBODY didn’t know where that wire went. No, my issues are that I’m too connected and I don’t know whether to reject it or not. I don’t know whether I want to ride a horse or buy one for my digital farm.
Eh! I’ve got to hurry and post this on Blogspot; My TV show is starting.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In '91, I learned a Ukrainian dirty word. I was teaching in the Everett School District and was forced to divide my time between the high school, teaching English, and the middle school in a poor section of town teaching English as a Second Language. I had no training, no materials, no help and a principal who thought I should write Individual Educational Plans for each of my students, one of whom was VietNamese, one of whom was Romanian, 2 of whom were ethnic Russians, and the rest of whom were Ukrainian refugees from the former USSR, most of whom shared the last name of Babak; they were all cousins, apparently.

After attending a conference, I learned that immersion is the best way to learn a language. It takes about three years, but so does any other method, so I divided class time into two parts, some direct instruction in English, and watching English language movies. This seemed to work pretty well. Soon, they learned enough English to express preferences, one of which no surprise, was cartoons. The other was religious movies, chiefly, Ben Hur, "Judahbengur, judahbengur," I would hear every day. "Teacher, teacher! Judahbengur!" I guess the chariot scene crosses culture barriers. Actually, these were the children of Christian refugees. They left the USSR because to stay meant daily humiliation and oppression from ethnic Russians who had been sent to Ukraine to be teachers and other authorities. The children refused to wear the red scarves that signified Communism, so they were fair targets for any bullies, including teacher bullies. They did not love Russians. The two Russian boys in the class, the Rubashkas, were ok, because they were members of the same fundamentalist Christian faith as the Ukrainian children.

Sasha Rubashka was one of the most memorable of those kids. He would speak to me frequently, quite urgently, in Russian. Every time my answer was the same, "Sasha, I don't speak Russian." He would grimace in frustration, but repeat the performance some times several times the same day. One day, as I was asking him something in English as part of my unscientific immersion style teaching, he answered in his thick accent, "I don't speak English," and then laughed uproariously. The others joined in, and so did I. It was brilliant.

Oh yeah, the dirty word. One day, as I prepared that day's video extravaganza, they gathered around me shouting "Cartoon cartoon!" but I assured them there was no cartoon that day. One of the Babak's was walking by the VCR flopping his head back and forth and repeatedly muttering, "Cartoon, pardoon, cartoon pardoon..." I asked Natalia, whose English was very good, what pardoon meant. She blushed a bit and said quietly, "um, it mean, bottom poo."

I'm remembering all of these kids because of the recent flap over R-71, the referendum to the people that endorses the legislation already passed by the state legislature that gives domestic partners, same sex or heterosexual seniors, "everything but marriage," insurance coverage, inheritance, visitation in the hospital, things like that.

By purely anecdotal evidence, the largest contingent of anti 71 demonstrators in Tacoma all attend a local slavic church. It's likely that this is the same type of fundamentalist group that fled the Soviet Union to escape persecution. Like most religious groups offended by gays, they do not make the connection between their own persecution at the hands of a government that refused to allow them their beliefs and persecution of homosexuals. The irony is that in the USSR, they could not speak freely ANY of their beliefs, and yet here in their adopted country, they are free to believe whatever conservative faith they'd like and to protest the granting of rights to another persecuted minority. Although I disagree with them, knowing as I do that being gay is no one's choice and therefore not possibly a sin, I am happy they are here in the US and free to announce their opinion and thus their bigotry. Only they don't know yet that it is bigotry. They need to be educated, to learn that whatever they fear is not really anything to fear. Gays are not going to destroy their marriage or devour their children. They will learn it, but it will take time. Immersion is the best method, though, and eventually they will immerse themselves in American life.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This morning I received a gift I do not deserve. I accepted it as graciously as possible, meaning I stuttered, spluttered, stammered and then burst into tears. A co-worker, whose boots I am not fit to lick, gave me a quilt she made specifically for me. It is perfect. Had I shopped for one for ages, I could not have chosen a better one. She meant the gift to thank me for my friendship. I have done a few nice things for her but not nearly as much as she has deserved for being a friend and mentor. We're both teachers, but she is an amazing teacher. She can reach the slowest student with compassion and encouragement and the speediest learner with intellectual stimulation and motivation. She is a caretaker, not only for her own needy family members, but also for everyone around her. No one ever knows how much she grieves or struggles, because she is always, ALWAYS, upbeat, energetic and positive, always working for the greater good of her students, the entire school and by extension, the community and the rest of the world. None of us is an island. I believe six degrees of separation is more like three and Patty Robison has sent ripples of guidance, encouragement, humor, camaraderie, and love all across the world. I am indeed fortunate to be in the first degree, receiving the first wave of the energy she exudes. Thank you Patty. I am honored beyond belief to be cuddled up in this gorgeous quilt.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Capitalism in secret

Moore, in his latest film, blasts Capitalism, calling it evil, apparently inherently so. He even calls on priests to weigh in in agreement. Here’s the definition from :
capitalism definition
capi•tal•ism (kap′ət 'l iz′əm)
1. an economic system in which all or most of the means of production and distribution, as land, factories, communications, and transportation systems, are privately owned and operated in a relatively competitive environment through the investment of capital to produce profits: it has been characterized by a tendency toward the concentration of wealth, the growth of large corporations, etc. that has led to economic inequality, which has been dealt with usually by increased government action and control
I must admit, I expected a different definition, one that included the concept of the free market economy, the idea of supply and demand. I learned in economics class that a free market was an essential part of a capitalistic economy. Wealth might result from entering into the free market, but only by filling a demand with a product or service that either no one else produced or that you could produce better. The free market would foster healthy competition and innovation. It’s why Bill Gates owns a healthy complement of Apple stock. It’s not just to keep away from anti-trust issues. If you’re the only game in town, there’s no impetus for improvement. Coincidentally, a PC/Apple ad just played on TV.
In the film, Moore spends a significant amount of time showing that it is unlikely that Jesus was a capitalist. He wasn’t very materialistic, pretty much insisted on monopoly and hung out with tax collectors. The deeds of American barons and magnates don’t much resemble his. I don’t agree that an economic system is evil in and of itself. It seems to me that it’s not the profit, even the obscene profit, that makes our society so unbalanced between the rich and poor, but the secrecy. If the CEOs and traders and shady realtors showed openly the kinds of shenanigans they’re pulling, then the free market laws of supply and demand could protect unsuspecting consumers from being taken advantage of. A mortgage document with the increases in interest rate hidden in fine print and written in lofty sounding legalese seems innocuous. If the prospective home-owner saw clearly and could understand the danger, or if the kindly realtor was open, honest and above these financial board about it, fewer of those dangerous sub-prime loans would have been granted, fewer people would have defaulted, fewer low-income people would have been hurt and the ripple effect of the defaults would have been drastically reduced.
I loved the part about derivatives, another culprit in out recent financial troubles. I recently took a refresher course on the calculus, the lofty math some financial geniuses used to gamble on the lending industry. These are the tiny numbers that allowed banks to spread the risk to insurance companies like AIG. If the guys who manipulate them can’t even explain them, what gives them the hubris to base a company’s financial security on them?
Shine some light on these guys and their business practices. If people are informed about what a company’s policies include and if they don’t like those policies, the free market will kick in and they can chose to patronize a competitor. For example, recently, Hall’s has produced an ad for a new cough drop which shows a mother taking with a boy her son’s age. They both suck on cough drops while staring into each others’ eyes, exaggerating their mouth movements as they enjoy the lozenges. It’s quite sensual. I wrote them and complained that I thought it was tasteless and offensive. They did write back, but just to defend it. I did learn from the exchange that Hall’s is part of Cadbury who used to own Snapple and 7-Up but now they don’t, but they still own Schweppes. Giant corporations buy and sell segments of companies to and from each other with alarming frequency. It’s just a game of number to them. Consumers beware! Capitalism isn’t inherently evil, but in the dark and in secret, capitalists do evil things.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Years ago a friend who was (and still is) a science teacher at Everett High School took me to attend ancient music concerts with her. The music was performed on period instruments by people who were expert in their use in buildings in and around Seattle with some pretty amazing acoustics, churches, actually. Hearing medieval polyphony played this way is truly transcendent. It's as if there is no other music in the world, nor does the world need any other. I was quite happy to accompany my friend to these concerts and didn't mind a bit that I was only there so she would not have to go alone. Sometimes profound experiences come from mundane , even inelegant ones. She also purported herself to be an atheist. After one particularly amazing performance, as we discussed the music, she expressed with amazement the idea that there must be something to all that religion stuff since religious belief had inspired those ancient composers to create such incredible music.

I did nothing to disabuse her, but it's also likely that the religio-politics of the time obviated any other form of music. More on this anon...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

If newspapers die completely, I'll be honest, what I'll miss most is the comics. I can't miss the funnies. Today, in Dennis the Menace, Dennis was sitting at the dinner table opining that he would rather eat next door at the Wilsons'. Looking at his plate, you see the typical cartoon drawing of food, various lumps. I had an epiphany this morning, which may explain why I truly love mashed potatoes. The only thing I really miss on those high protein diets in mashed potatoes. They aren't really the most flavorful thing on the plate, nor are they extraordinarily nutritious. They do, however, resemble cartoon food. Just check out the Simpsons or any other cartoon where the family sits down to eat. What everyday food could possibly look like those lumps? It's gotta be mashed potatoes. I remember wondering why the food on my dinner plae did not resemble comic strip food. For some reason, it all looked really tasty, just lumpy squiggles on the plate.

On a related note, go here: and get the comic for July 1, 2009.

I think this comic is quite apt for Americans. After I got back from six months in China, I started to notice how fat we are as a people. We're fat. Not all of us are, of course, but lots of us, dare I say tons of us. I'm fat, but I'm not as fat as many, so people say, oh, you're not fat. No, I'm fat. It's affecting my health in many not good ways. If you're fat, do what you can to become un-fat. If your health is not suffering now, it will be. It's only a matter of time.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Let's wait and see," he said. Exactly a year later, I went back to him with my foot. He still had no clue, so he decided to send me to a specialist. At the time, my insurance, like so many plans, did not allow me to decide for myself whether or not I should see a specialist. He sent me, after a full year of suffering constant pain, to the best podiatrist in Seattle. He looked at my X-rays, poked at my feet and announced that I had soft tissue damage and now that a year had passed, it was too late to do anything but amputate my little toe. Or I could wear shoes with a straight last, shoes that cost $300 dollars.

The shoes eased the pressure on my throbbing foot, and the following year, my school district offered a new insurance option, slightly more expensive of course, wherein one could refer oneself to a specialist. I jumped all over that. Over the next several years I found 6 different ortho guys who also perused the X-rays and found nothing. I kind of gave up and went with my $300 shoes. Then, after moving from Everett to Tacoma, one of the other ailments I had brought to my "wait and see" doc got so much worse I needed a complete hysterectomy. While in the hospital with a morphine drip, my foot hurt so bad I could not sleep. OK, I thought, one more podiatrist.

My new podiatrist looked at my old X-rays and immediately saw two breaks in my fifth metatarsal. That was ten years ago, and although my foot still hurts, I now have much better ways to deal with it. It will never be cured. That ship has sailed.

All this talk about having a government bureaucrat come between you and your doctor is amusing to me. A bureaucrat might have been helpful, since my own doctor came between me and my health care. Options people, we want options. It may be true that the best health care exists in the USA, it is also true that our system often keeps us separated from it. That's ridiculous.

The hysterectomy, BTW, went very wrong and that will be the subject of a future installment of Rosewoman's take on health care needs in America.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Quackery, and I don't mean AFLAC although it's related

When I lived in Everett, I had a doctor I liked; I liked him as a person. We had great conversations, but as a doctor I did not like him. He was a "wait and see" doc. I say that to other doctors and a knowing half-smile creeps across their face. They know just what I mean. He was so poor at diagnosing he would say, "Let's wait and see," perhaps in the hopes that whatever problem the patient has would simply go away on its own and he would therefore be absolved of any responsibility for actually doing anything.

Well, back then I had four problems I took to him, all of which received the wait and see method, but I'll spare you the details of all but one, my left foot. It was Christmas, and I was walking downstairs in my new abode. I thought I was on the last step, not so much. I felt the popping as my foot broke. Doc saw nothing on the X-ray. "Let's wait and see...."

I waited one year...
I had a different topic in mind for today, but it'll keep. I finally remembered to write a letter to Comedy Central.

Here is my letter, edited blog-style:

Ever since I discovered The Daily Show with John Stewart, I have been amused at Stewart's use of what most consider foul language, only to have it bleeped later during the broadcast. After all, it's pretty obvious what he's saying. His show is not ad libbed, it's scripted, so if Comedy Central really wanted it censored, it seems like Stewart would write his material without obscenity in the first place.

Lately, though, I've noticed that although the "F-bomb" is censored, the "b-word" is not. Obviously Comedy Central does not think the "b-word" is as offensive to people. Maybe they even have focus groups to determine these things. Until recently, I'd have agreed with them.

I now believe the "b-word" has evolved from mildly racy to patently offensive. Here's the link to my favorite dictionary site's entry for the word.

From simply meaning female dog, it became a description of an unpleasant female and by extension, the act of complaining or nagging. Kwitcherbichin is a nicely alliterative and assonant phrase popular in my family. Recently, however, from hip-hop, the phrase "make you my bitch" has shaded the meaning of the "b-word" more maliciously. To be someone's bitch is much more demeaning than just to be an annoying woman. As someone's bitch, you're their ultimate servant, complete underling, even sex slave. As difficult as it is to do after 50 years of using this word, I have deleted it from my vocabulary. As a teacher, it is on the list of words not to use in the classroom and words I will not ignore if I hear them, even if said quietly.

There is a specific image that was in the news that really convinced me to rail against this word: Snoop Dogg at the 2003 MTV Music Awards. It can be found here.

A picture is worth 1000 words, isn't it?

Frankly, I'd rather hear the f-bomb than the b-word.

Thank you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Last evening, we attended Jose's graduation from the Goodwill Industries Youth Build program for kids who have had poor starts in life compounded by a series of bad choices on their parts. Using the setting of the construction industry, young people who are no longer part of the public school system gain preparedness to pass the GED, earn a pre-apprenticeship certificate and be able to get jobs or further training. Jose did very well in the program; he worked for a time as a laborer on a site with a major construction company, got his GED and remained substance-free during the entire duration of his enrollment, something he told us the other kids mostly did not do, even though it could have meant expulsion. One of the final activities of the program was a tour of several local colleges.

I know what colleges popped into your mind, community colleges and technical schools, institutions that are a logical step for youth who have struggled, whose reading levels were barely 9th grade and math levels were middle-school when they started 8 months previously and have now improved to GED level, which isn't very high. Part of the graduation ceremony was a slide show chronicalling major events and activities for them. They hauled these newly hopeful youths to Central Washington University, Gonzaga University, WSU and University of Oregon.

I don't want to denigrate their achievement. Without Youth Build, these kids would still have no credentials nor training nor job readiness of any sort and be sleeping all day and roaming the streets at night (I'm just quoting the commencement speaker), but there is no way any of them, many with felony convictions, are going to get in to Gonzaga. There was one photo in the slide show that I think was unconsciously symbolic. It was at Gonzaga. All of the kids, identifiable by their Youth Build T-Shirts, were peering in to an vague space through one of those roll-down barriers, essentially through bars. Whatever was behind the barrier was clearly fascinating to each of them. But like Gonzaga itself, clearly unattainable. As good as the program is, it's not enough to get them into a four-year university of that quality. Maybe CWU, or even WSU, but Uof O and Gonzaga? I do not understand why they spent so much money on such an excursion. Why not take them to area 2 year colleges and training programs? Why give them a false sense of encouragement? True, I don't know how the trip was presented to them, but seeing that photo, disadvantaged kids, clinging to a barrier at an institution of higher learning while peering intently inside, really stung my heart.