Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Listen to Country Music and other random thoughts today

Some days the easiest blog is one that requires the least amount of thinking.

  1. Michael J. Petrilli over at Education Next writes in “Common Confusion” about the disconnect in parent’s ideas beliefs about their children’s academic performance and the reality of college-readiness. He argues that we must do a better job of providing realistic and honest feedback about academic performance. Too often, students go through school being told they are doing fine by teachers and getting good grades on report cards. While standardized tests could provide a wake-up call, too many parents dismiss those reports as unfair, arguing little Johnny isn’t a good test taker. Even more important, there’s no real information those mandated tests that tie the score to long-term academic performance, even though those scores often provide us with a pretty solid sense about how a student will do in the future. I can’t really argue with Petrilli’s idea that we need to be more open and honest about the gap between college aspirations and college readiness. We can start by reminding everyone, parents included, that a C equals average and average doesn’t equal failure. Most of us have strengths and most of us have some areas where we’re average. Being okay isn’t the end of the world. For most teachers, though, handing out Cs (or Ds and Fs) often leads to angry phone calls from parents that are often not worth the hassle of handing out failing grades. What I do like about Petrilli’s argument is the idea that defining the gap between college aspirations and college readiness might (and that’s a big might) spur parents to push for resources that will help unprepared students close the gap. However, I think Petrilli falls into the same trap that too many of us slide into, though, by ignoring that no matter what we do every child doesn’t need to go to college. Perhaps, instead of only identifying the gap between college aspirations and college readiness we should also use those standardized tests to reshape some aspirations and encourage kids from an early age to focus on skilled trades, military, or entrepreneurial opportunities that don’t need a college degree.
  2.  For a mere $425, you can buy jeans caked in fake dirt from Nordstrom’s. At the risk of sounding reductionist and immature, that’s the dumbest damn thing I’ve heard all day (and I work with college freshman). For my money (or someone else’s because I like to get my jeans dirty the old fashioned way), this is a bit like buying a Cadillac truck. If you want a truck, buy something you’re going to use. What’s next, a hammer pre-nicked, sold with fake bruised thumbnails and a list of cuss words to read in public? Of course, the jokes probably on all of us folks giving Nordstrom’s free publicity.
  3. Phillip Levine’s “Only a Misunderstanding of What College Really Costs Could Have Produced New York’s Flawed Plan for Free Tuition” is so much cleaner than my blog from the other day about the flaws in free tuition. The reality is that while college is expensive, actual tuition costs at many universities across the country aren’t nearly as exorbitant as most people think. Like the gap between college aspiration and college readiness, we have a perception gap for college students. College isn’t necessarily a place to go party, live on your own for 4 years, and rack up college debt. If you can’t afford $425 jeans with fake caked mud, don’t buy them. If you can’t afford $48,000 a year in tuition, pick a different college, live at home, and work part time to pay your bills. I understand the desire to move off, live on your own, and party with your dorm mates. Those are all valuable experiences, but flying to Paris and staying in a 5-star hotel is a valuable experience, too. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford such extravagance. Pick a college within your means (like Angelo State!). You’ll get a great education at an affordable price that ends with a college degree. Isn’t the degree the point anyway?
  4. Mama’s don’t let your babies grow up to listen to Country Music, unless you want them to learn all about how much fun it is to smoke pot. You read it right: Rock and roll might want your kids to rebel and fight the man, but Willie wants them to get rolled and stoned. Far be it from me to point out the contradictory nature of a genre that pretends to focus on family values and patriotic fervor (unless your an all woman band who offers political commentary). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised since so much of contemporary country music is really pop-light anyway. Either way, mom and dad, dust off those Tchaikovsky, Mozart, and Brahms albums. Those guys might have been radical, but at least they didn’t ruin any songs with bad lyrics or drug-references.

If the Shoe Doesn’t Fit, Stop Wearing It

ladygagashoesI don’t normally pay much attention to Lady Gaga. Early in my career as a teacher, I tried to keep up with popular culture, slipping in references to contemporary movies and songs whenever possible. I watched the Grammy’s, the Oscars, and occasionally listened to a top 40 radio station. I once made it through 5 whole songs before my stomach lurched, my knees weakened, and I collapsed under the weight of too much “Oh, Baby! Oh, Baby! Oh Baby! Uh!”

The goal, at the time, was simple. Like any good educator, I wanted to relate the material to things my students could understand. We could discuss ethics in relation to downloading music, gender as we see it in certain movies, Machiavelli and the East/West Coast rap schism, or poetry as a musical genre. Film angles helped explain narrative voice and if I could mention a film the students had seen, I reasoned, the material might seem more relevant. See, I could say, Milton’s struggling with evil just like Denzel Washington in Fallen. (I, actually, have never said those words, mostly because I can’t stand Milton and I don’t want to soil Denzel’s good name.)

I stopped keeping up with contemporary, popular music, though. One year I watched the Grammy’s and I realized two very specific things: 1) I couldn’t understand a word anyone was saying. It literally felt like I had traveled to another country where everyone’s songs had a bass pitch so low anyone over 30 couldn’t hear it or every singer was screaming at a decibel level I didn’t want to be able to hear, and 2) I actually found myself thinking, “why don’t those women put more clothes on? It can’t be comfortable dancing with that string right there.”

Continuing to use those popular culture references, I also thought, will turn me into the creepy middle-age guy who uses “party” as a verb around his kids’ friends.

I do still try to remain a little bit current. I check out the entertainment section of the Huffington Post, read some of the movie reviews at JoBlo.com, and read about the top 40 songs, but I’m comfortable growing old, grumpy, and out of touch. My students have Netflix, Pandora, and Google. I’ll leave it up to them to do some research. That’s real active learning anyway.

Either way, Lady Gaga is, evidently, the bomb (0r whatever goofy phrase exists out there to say she’s really popular), and evidently she just canceled her tour because she has a labral tear in her hip. Lady Gaga’s shows, as so many are these days, are less music and more aerobic workout. I was exhausted watching Beyonce’s Super Bowl Halftime show. I felt guilty, thinking I should get up, grab the leg warmers and headband, and start burning calories.

I don’t want to belittle Lady Gaga’s injury. I’m sure a labrum tear in her hip is painful and I have no doubt such an injury should keep her off the stage. Her shows are choreographed events of non-stop motion. It’s like world wide wresting set to music.  Gone are the days when singers canceled shows because they were too drunk to go on stage. More and more, we probably need to test for steroids, HGH, and PEDs as our musicians grow increasingly athletic. They’ve all become some weird amalgamation of Richard Simmons and Gene Simmons (no makeup but the short shorts survived). Thank goodness people like Snoop Dog and Willie Nelson are around to remind us some musicians still smoke dope and drink booze.

But I also don’t have much sympathy for Lada Gaga. Every time I see her in the news, she’s wearing shoes we could strap on a terrorist. I have no doubt they would beg for water-boarding after about 15 minutes of walking in those things. We might end terrorism with a pair of shoes and a cat walk.

Truth be told, I’m mostly surprised her hip is the only thing that’s pulled.

I know I’m sounding all old-farty here, and I’m not blind to the fashion foibles of the past. I’ve been to Graceland and seen Elvis’ jumpsuit. Kurt Cobain defined a generation of slackers and allowed Levis to charge us extra for torn jeans, Michael Jackson gave us one glove and red leather jackets, Olivia Newton John gave us headbands, and Madonna wanted us to act like a virgin but dress like god knows what.

But nothing they wore was a health hazard. I wish Lady Gaga a quick recovery, but I also recommend she start shopping for shoes at the Foot Locker. She’ll thank me later in life and she probably won’t have to cancel anymore concerts.

Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

FiveThirtyEight

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Scott Adams' Blog

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Dish

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)