the last word (tm)
18/No. 4 - 454th issue - September 14, 2009
firstname.lastname@example.org - http://www.bunkerblast.info - Bellevue, Kentucky
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Our Back-to-School Ish!
TEACHER ACCUSED OF SELLING GRADES
Sep. 7 – Silly me. I was just getting to a midlife crisis in which I was starting to suspect that everything I'd known since high school about wealthy schoolmates buying good grades might - just might - be a figment of my imagination (even though I've practically witnessed it firsthand).
But now I know my longstanding belief was correct all along.
At Colts Neck High School in New Jersey, a social studies teacher is accused of accepting payoffs from students in exchange for better grades. The instructor stands accused of collecting over $1,400 during last school year. According to police, the teacher said the money was for charity but she kept it all for her little self.
Everyone remembers the worthless dolt in their class who could barely form a complete sentence but somehow got better grades than them. I thought much of this was because the school was afraid of being sued by the student's parents or (especially in the case of a private school) losing donations from them.
When I was a victim of this phenomenon, it's clearly not because I was less industrious than loutish schoolmates who got better grades. If I was as lazy as some of my teachers at Brossart told me I was, I wouldn't be able to juggle The Last Word, The Online Lunchpail, LeftMaps, and an upcoming second book.
But the New Jersey case shows that bribing schools outright seems to be much more common than I thought.
That's not to mention the few students who have enough clout to have their grades inflated anyway - whether it's through family connections or other reasons. Most of America's school employees are honest and competent, but one corrupt faculty member can begrime the entire system.
Don't get me wrong. This problem isn't limited to schools by any means. Since Facebook became popular, I've seen that there's a web of closely allied individuals just in Northern Kentucky who infiltrate our schools, universities, law enforcement, business, government, the media, and other institutions. And they all seem to have that nasty "conservative" label on their profiles or have right-wing politicians and causes in their list of "fan" sites.
This exposes another major scourge we've known about for years: that of public and private organizations refusing to hire anyone who is not a Republican. It almost appears as if Ernie Fletcher still runs the entire Kentucky school system as well as most of the state's major businesses. If you're not on the far right, and you suspect you've been blackballed from employment, your suspicion would be correct. Folks who are moderate to progressive have been passed up for employment because of politics. I have, and many others have too.
With the web of right-wing cohorts as thick as it is, how do you expect anyone who dissents from their order to get ahead?
FANS BEHAVING BADLY
I used to think the unsportsmanlike reaction by some of Bro$$art's fans to their teams losing was bad, but now I know they're sore winners too. If one of Bishop Brossart High School's teams wins the finals, I wonder if some of their fans aren't going to celebrate by torching the whole county.
In 1990, following the basketball homecoming game that Brossart lost, fans protested this loss by stampeding onto the court and practically demolishing it.
The Last Word of 2/3/05 reported that Brossart was forced to send out a letter to deal with misbehavior by adult fans at an invitational basketball game at Lexington Catholic. Evidently, fans verbally threatened the referees and went on another rampage. The fact that this happened at an invitational game further highlights the offending fans' lack of class.
But some of the school's fan base seems to be just as classless and clueless when they win.
Recently, Brossart's football program scored its first winning game in the entire history of the team. But a well-written account of the game says that some of the players as well as some of the fans of the Brossart Mustangs believed that the refs were conspiring against the school.
Translation: there was probably another fan rampage.
See, even when they win, the bad sportsmanship comes out. It reminds me of how the Republicans kept accusing the Democrats of voter fraud even when the GOP won.
I thought one of the purposes of school athletics is to teach good sportsmanship. Obviously, some folks haven't learned shit.
PRIVATE SCHOOL BAILOUT COSTS PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Ohio has long been plagued by EdChoice - a taxpayer-funded voucher bailout for private schools. Why it's called EdChoice I'll never know, because taxpayers have no choice whether to fund it.
Kentucky is no slouch at showering private schools that are already swimming in cash with taxpayer funds - but I'm sure Ohio has us Bluegrass peeps beaten hands-down. Ohio is one of the most spendthrift states when it comes to giving taxpayer money to private schools - even after it slashed welfare for poor families.
The Cincinnati Enquirer - a far-right rag known for its support of such bailouts - reported on September 1 that DreadChoice is giving private schools funding to cover the tuition of 12,685 students this year alone. This is a 20% increase from last year despite the state's budget crunch. Despite the increase, right-wing groups cry that EdChoice was singled out for "cuts."
Lo and behold, the Enquirer reported on September 3 that public schools in Ohio (as well as Northern Kentucky) are having to resort to private funding to pay for new facilities. Public schools no longer have the money to pay for it themselves.
Gee, I wonder why. If Ohio had taken all the money it spent on EdChoice and used it for public schools, there would be more money for these new amenities.
One is reminded of how California can't find the money to keep its state parks open but can somehow find the money to fund a racist charter school.
Unfortunately, before Ohio abolishes DreadChoice, I expect this to happen first:
That's because there is a very powerful web of private school supporters and political activists who believe their schools are literally entitled to government funding - even at the expense of public schools, which they consider lowly.
EdChoice isn't even the only method Ohio uses to fund private schools. For each of the next 2 years, Ohio will spend $162,800,000 on private school funding. Yet - outrageously - some of these schools are complaining they're not getting enough.
Taxpayer-funded voucher programs meld social and economic engineering. Among the main purposes of these programs are to "prove" public schools are inferior, expose young people to a pre-approved set of ideas, and funnel money to private schools. If backers cared that much about the poor, they wouldn't have slashed antipoverty programs. If they cared that much about choice, they wouldn't have barred kids from going to out-of-district public schools.
Under vouchers, families are expected to surrender their autonomy to a rigid gamut of conservative ideals.
Over a century ago, a serious effort was made to amend the U.S. Constitution to keep religious schools from receiving public funds. Many states have clauses in their own constitutions to this effect. The First Amendment would seem to prohibit programs that use public funding for religiously affiliated schools, but activist courts lately have ignored this argument. So I think it's time to revive the effort to amend the Constitution.
TOP 5 WORST THINGS ABOUT BROSSART
The Last Word has become the leading clearinghouse for dissent against the right-wing Brossart empire. Once again, we're living up to this reputation.
It's remotely possible that Bishop Brossart High School in Alexandria isn't the bullying mill it was in the '80s and '90s - especially with the recent regime change there. But I have to go by default. I will continue to be on this embattled Catholic high school's case like stink on shit because of this, and because of the school's historic conniving with abusive teen confinement programs.
If someone can prove Bro$$art no longer encourages student harassment or tries having dissenters locked up, I'll treat its history as past rather than present. Until then, I will fight Brossart.
It's been suggested that I create a ranking of the worst things about Brossart. That's proven to be a harder task than one would think, because the school has so many aspects that seem to be almost equally bad. The dress code is outrageously moronic, but I don't think it even ranks in the top 5 on its own - unless you consider the fact that its rigid enforcement led to other problems that were far worse.
So here's my top 5:
5) Extorting money. Blaming students for destroying textbooks that someone else tore up (if the textbook existed at all) and making them pay for it is theft. That's it. Charging students 3 times as much for locks as they'd pay at the supermarket (and making them buy the lock through the school) is price-gouging. That's it. I'm surprised I haven't seen more complaints on the Internet about schools wrongly charging students for ruined books. (Cline Middle School pulled the same fraud.)
4) Grade deflation. Good athletes, the financially secure, and those who conform to the system generally don't have to worry about this nemesis. But the rest of us? At any other school, spending 6 hours on homework each night would be acceptable to at least pass. At Brossart, don't count on it. And the school was proud of this!
3) Confinement efforts. The school's attempts to send dissidents to confinement facilities should rank higher, except once things get to this point, you're pretty much cast out of the "community" - so if you know what you're doing, you can probably avoid it. And that's when you truly realize what a shithole Brossart was. Most folks though will cave before the school takes its case too far, because the school threatens them so much.
2) Destructive form. Sometimes it almost appeared as if Brossart had never even heard any ideas other than its own. You can split this problem up into several separate items, but either way it boils down to the school's habit of trying to fit students into a mold where they don't fit. The school broke students down. And it hurts. For the life of me, I cannot believe anyone possibly thought this was a good idea. I'm all for order, but there's few things worse than having the life completely sucked out of you, and feeling powerless to do anything about it.
1) Bullying. Of course. Is the school going to deny this like it has before?
I may have inadvertently skipped some items. The raw bigotry that underwrites some of the acts seen at school should be listed too, but this list is more about acts than thoughts. Still, the point stands: What went on at Brossart in my day should not be allowed to be repeated - anywhere! If Brossart is as much as of an unqualified disaster now as it was 20 years ago, I encourage people to speak up. I haven't set foot in the school since 1990, and the younger generation needs to help pick up my mantle of dissent.
Break the Brossart cycle!
MUCUS ADVENTURE NOTHING TO SNEEZE AT
Aah! Adventures in mucus!
Since this is our annual Back-to-School issue, a humor article is almost obligatory. And nothing is more humorous than snot.
Let's rewind back to 7th grade - right after I was expelled from Cline (illegally, I might add) and began attending the nun-run conglomerate known as St. Joseph's School in Cold Spring.
Quite a disaster St. Joe's was. Now it was costing money to be beaten up each day, instead of being beaten up for free like at Cline.
Like Cline and Brossart, I'm convinced St. Joe's was a sick building. Not only did I suffer communicable respiratory infections about once every 2 weeks or so through most of my run there. I also had allergies the whole time.
Which resulted in many boo-gars.
I had bouts of sneezing that were so forceful that I thought I had snapped a facial muscle. But sometimes I can see the humorous side of things. So, when I sneezed in class, I often followed it up with scattered singing: "AH-CHOO-ba-doo-ba-doo-ba-doo-ba-doo-dabba-dabba-daaaaah!"
Many an instructor was not pleased.
One morning, I had a fit of sneezing in the hallway near the office. It was just outside the window where the school sold school supplies at outrageous prices. (This included the book covers full of ads that I always turned inside-out so I could write "YOU STINK" on them.) Usually this window was staffed by 8th-graders. The wall in the hall was red brick.
I sneezed into the palm of my hand. This sneeze produced good, thick, liquid, sticky, yellowish-green mucus.
I promptly high-fived the brick wall next to the window. I slapped my palm on the wall, leaving a huge, gooey, hilarious, snotty handprint.
I was reminded of a Saturday morning kids' TV show I used to watch called The Red Hand Gang. The kids on the show always slapped red handprints on stop signs, school buses, and other venues. The difference is that I was a "yellowish-green hand gang."
One of the 8th-graders threatened to go tattle like a big baby. Apparently, this student forgot to carry out this threat. The boogery handprint remained on the wall.
Days turned into weeks. Weeks turned into months. Still it remained. By that time, the mucus had dried, but the handprint still had its original shine!
For 3 months, the wall next to the office bore a looming reminder of the school's refusal to clean the air of mold and pollen. Which I'm sure is less harmful than Brossart currently having asbestos in a brand new building (which the school actually admits in its current newsletter), but that's another topic.
The '90s were my lost decade, and to this day, I still reel from the sting of some of what occurred in these pages so many years ago. I want to move past it.
I tried my best at the time, but accomplished little but to aggravate my state of confusion. I make no apologies for a vast majority of what I did and said here (including my campaigns against certain schools and local businesses) - but some of what transpired still makes no sense to me. I was in a daze, and I feel used.
There's no doubt that at the time I had to go to great lengths to get folks' attention just to be heard - because the garbage Rush Limbaugh was spewing was deemed so important by the media gatekeepers that everyone had to listen to him before even reading a word of what I had to say. But that's no excuse.
The fact is, I unwittingly allowed the Last Word crises of the '90s to happen.
I allowed it, it was wrong, and I'm sorry for it.
And I will do my best to make sure it DOES NOT HAPPEN AGAIN!
Life is short, I'm old, and I have to think positive from now on.
Call it positive recidivism!
Wikipedia defines recidivism as "the act of a person repeating an undesirable behavior after they have either experienced negative consequences of that behavior, or have been treated or trained to extinguish that behavior. your butt sticks out." (Just joking about the "your butt sticks out" part.)
What I do now is channel repetition of past behaviors into good uses. I'm going to keep doing the same things I did 15 years ago - the difference being that each act will have only a positive purpose. Much like the outlaw heroes of old.
I tried to have a positive purpose back then. But I was recovering from so much abuse by the school system that a lot was still going through my mind, and I couldn't perform my duties as effectively.
The Far Right is going to hate what's coming. They'll keep assailing me and trying to silence me just as they have for years. But it'll accomplish nothing for them except to prove my hat is brighter.
AMERICA'S FIRST AUGUST FLU EPIDEMIC?
Sep. 14 - Another entry from the "only in Kentucky" files.
Even the marathon flu pandemics that the region has been known for have been almost exclusively winter phenomena. Our schools are giant petri dishes that lend themselves to that sort of thing. You never see flu epidemics in the summer, because we don't have school in the summer. The conditions that allow such efficient spread of illness seem to be almost limited to schools, for it's not as if everyone becomes a hermit in summertime.
Flu was a winter phenomena - until now, at least in Kentucky, where the idea of summer vacation has become a distant memory in many communities.
By August 18 (!), schools in Boyle and Letcher counties already had to cancel class because of swine flu.
By August 29, a swine flu outbreak plagued (where else?) Campbell County.
In my senior year of high school, school didn't start until after Labor Day, and I didn't die because of it. These days, half the student body can be out with the flu even 2 weeks before Labor Day! All to please our schools' vanity and desire for control.
Not like I've been paying as much attention to epidemics as I once did. My experience was that our schools seldom gave a burnt steak shit about the spread of disease and expected us to go to school even if we had a fever of 104° F. After decades of being told to drop everything else upon the schools' say-so - an attitude that expands yearly - you get used to the schools' controlling ways.
It's time for a law.
Kentucky needs to have a law that says schools can't start school too early in the year - or run too late. It was in my lifetime that America got along fine with far fewer days of school. This arrangement served the country well, and we must bring it back.
Otherwise, get used to the horror of seeing your children molded into cheap, docile labor and doomed to a lifetime of lockstep living.
STADIUM INCIDENT LEADS TO RESIGNATION
We've been raked through puddles of slurry for waiting until (gasp!) September to publish our Back-to-School ish. But when you try to keep on top of the web of strange characters that pervade not just our schools but also our other organizations, there's so much to cover that we couldn't help the delay.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch of August 6 reported that a 25-year-old woman was charged with third-degree assault for allegedly attacking an usher at Busch Stadium who was in a wheelchair. This occurred after the usher tried to talk to her about her drunken behavior at a baseball game. Another woman involved in the incident was accused of hitting another stadium employee.
Turns out the woman who allegedly attacked the usher happened to be a teacher at a Catholic elementary school. This incident led to her resignation.
America is not only being run by right-wing ideologues and corrupt characters. It's also being run by people such as this teacher who don't know how to act right in public.
In my day, there used to be standards. Granted, getting drunk at a ball game is pretty minor. I'm not concerned about drunken fans per se. But for an educated professional to assault a disabled usher is a whole other matter entirely.
I think stuff like this happens now because a bullying atmosphere has become so pervasive in America over the past 20 years that everyone just thinks it's not a big deal. Modern suburban America means growing up surrounded by pathological individuals who think there's no standards. That attitude rubs off on others.
Our society has truly gone to hell.
INDIANA SCHOOL CHIEF SUPPORTS SCHOOL ON WEEKENDS?
Meet Indiana school czar Tony Bennett (not to be confused with the singer of the same name).
Tony Bennett. A weird one indeed.
Last month, the Palladium-Item of Richmond asked Bennett (who is a Republican) if he supported increasing the number of school days per year "from 180 to 280 or more."
You guessed it: He does.
It's one of those things you hope is a misprint. But apparently it wasn't. I've yet to see a correction. I've seen equally bizarre ideas that I thought were misprints turn out to be real. So assume the worst.
To have 280 days of school a year, you'd have to chip away at weekends. I firmly believe our schools would if they thought they could get away with it.
Once thing is clear: This would be as much of a failure as the other gimmicks that have defined American schools in recent years - which Bennett also supports. He has clearly voiced support for mandatory public school uniforms (another right-wing idea) and seems to also support fascist legislation to bar parents from suing schools over unreasonable discipline.
This should all be irrelevant, of course. That's because I knew long ago that most of America's schools were soul-smashing abattoirs, and I've long advocated homeschooling. But if people sit back and let right-wing gimmick pushers run their kids' schools year after year, it's going to keep getting worse.
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