About Me

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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Primary Results in Oklahoma

Do Something Truly Revolutionary: Register and Vote
Oklahoma held its primary for in-state candidates Tuesday. (Our presidential primary was in February.)

The voter turn out statewide was very low, only about 18% of registered voters bothered to show up at the polls. Democrats showed up in slightly larger numbers than Republicans by about 50,00 voters.

There were some surprises, but all incumbents running for the legislature won reelection.

Andrew Rice won the Democratic nomination for the US Senate, but his opponent, Jim Rogers who didn't do any campaigning won 40% of the vote and actually won some counties mainly in the southern part of the state. (Oklahoma, in many ways, is the last stand of the Dixiecrats.)

My friend and fellow teacher Bert Smith lost his bid to be the Democratic nominee for the 5th US Congressional District. Steve Perry, who traveled with me in the Bethany July 4th parade, is our parties nominee for Congress. Steve is a very personable man who will give a good accounting for himself in the campaign.

The most positive news of the evening actually came from the Republlicans in Oklahoma County who showed good sense and voted Brent Rinehart out of office as county commissioner in District 2. Rinehart is under indictment for campaign fraud. He published a comic book that gained national attention for its homophobia and paranoia. Rinehart seemed to be claiming that Satan was the campaign manager for his opponents whether Republican or Democratic. Of course, the county's good news is actually not so good for the county Democratic Party since having Rinehart for an opponent would have been an easy victory for us. But it is very to know that he will not be a part of our county's government soon.

Now its on to the general election. The Republican believe that they can finally take over the legislature this year. They have been claiming that for years now. We will give them the fight of their lives.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Statues on the Southern Nazarene University campus

I've been cleaning out a storage unit I have had since Cat and I merged our houses together. I'm trying to clear it out and close it down, so I can save the $85 a month it is costing me.

A big part of the collection is boxes and boxes of books. I am trying to force myself to give up all of them that I don't need and won't read, but it is tough to do.

Many of the books have to do with religion and literature. This comes from the fact that I studied for the ministry during my undergraduate years and even got a Master's in religion afterwards. Then I decided I'd go into teaching English at the university level.

Life happened, and I ended as a high school English teacher.

I am donating as many of my religion and English books as I can bear to part with. I still have a great interest in religion and theology, but there are many upper level works that might be of more use to some present religion or than they would be to me. The same is true with books dealing with the more arcane topics in literature like Deconstruction, Structuralism, and Linguistics. None of these are of much help when it comes to teaching reading and writing in an urban high school.

Today, I visited my Alma Mater to drop off some books for the English and Religion departments. It's always nice to visit the campus now and again. They've added some nice statuary.

"Do as I have done. . ."
This is a statue of Jesus depicting a scene from the Last Supper where Jesus washes the feet of his disciples and commands that they do the same for others.

"A Cup . . . in His name"
This is one done by Scott Stearman who was at the college when I was there. He is quite a talented sculptor of religious art. Mom and Dad have a copy of this which I believe they got as a reward for service to others.

Dr. Fred Floyd
This statue is of particulary interest to me. The statue on the bench depicts Dr. Fred Floyd, a much loved professor of history at the college. Dr. Floyd taught at the college for several decades. He always claimed that his PhD dissertation was on "dirty stories." In reality, it was about the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma. Note the stick in his hand. Dr. Floyd walked to and from the campus nearly every day with an "idiot stick" or a broom handle with a nail in the end so he could pick up trash that he found along the way.
Close up of Dr. Floyd's statue

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hate E-Mail and Obama's Prayer

Sen. Barack Obama places his prayer in a crack in the Western Wall in Jerusalem
I have a friend nicknamed "Freenie" who sends me the e-mails that she gets from several of her more conservative friends. Most of these are rants, rumors, urban legends, or half-truths that deal with current events, politics, and scare mongering. Occasionally there is one of two that are mostly true, but not often.

Her reason for sending me this stuff is to alert me to what's out there and for me to do a little fact checking for her. I usually use the Urban Legends Reference page, aka Snopes.com, which catches about 90% of these things.

Of course, this being a presidential year, there are many e-mails dealing with politics, particulary the candidacy of Barack Obama. His presumptive nomination seems to have hit a nerve with many on the lunatic fringe. You've probably seen them. Obama is a Muslim, an athetist (sometimes in the same e-mail!). He is secretly plotting to hand us over to the terrorists. He is a black racist. He hates America and won't salute the flag. He took his oath of office on the Koran. None of these are true, but trying to refute them seems to be the equivalent of trying to rid your house of a particulary nasty infestation of cockroaches.

Here's one e-mail report that probably won't be making the rounds, but it should. Obama has been doing a tour of the Middle East and Europe that has been rather successful, IMHO. While he visited Israel, he visited the Western Wall, the holiest site for Jewish believers worldwide. He left a prayer there that, without his knowledge or consent, was removed and published by an Israeli newspaper. (This violation of Barack Obama's privacy has outraged many in the rabbinic community, but that is another story.

His prayer shows a lot about the man who is villified by many who use the ease and relative anominity of the internet to spread their hate. It is as follows:
"Lord — Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."
This prayer is very much in the spirit of the man who wrote The Audacity of Hope: spiritual, humble, a seeker after God's will. Those who try to impugn his character need to ask forgiveness of the God who Barack Obama serves.
Israeli paper publishes Obama's private prayer

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Third Man Movie v. Book

I recently finished reading Graham Greene's novella The Third Man. Greene wrote this books as a sort of a "first draft" for the screenplay he wrote for the movie directed by Carol Reed. As noted by Screen Online ,
The Third Man was never intended to be more than the raw material for a picture. The reader will notice many differences between the story and the film, and he should not imagine these changes were forced on an unwilling author: as likely as not they were suggested by the author. The film in fact, is better than the story because it is in this case the finished state of the story.

I agree that this is one of those rare cases where the film tops the novel. (Another example, IMHO, is the novel Forrest Gump by Winston Groom.) However, the book isn't a bad read at all. The novel is told from the point of view of the military officer/detective who has been dealing with Harry Lime, the blackmarketeer of bad penicillin and friend of the film's protagonist, Rollo Martin, (Holly Martin in the film). This gives the reader a much more sympathetic view of the plot's foil, and helps to show the changes that take place in Martin's opinion of Lime. I like books written from a minor character's viewpoint like The Great Gatsby, because they give a reader one more factor to consider when interpreting the plot and characters.

This book will probably be the last of my "summer reading" or reading for personal pleasure. It's now time to turn toward preparing for the next school term. So my next book will be When Kids Can't Read—What Teachers Can Do by Kylene Beers.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

McCain's Two Options on Iraq

From WesPAC:

Senator McCain once said that if the Iraqis asked us to leave, we would have to leave. Those of us who served agree with that. Senator McCain now either has to back off his refusal to set a plan to leave Iraq, as Prime Minister Maliki requested a number of times in the past week, or tell the American and Iraqi people why he would overrule Iraq's government and turn our troops into an indefinite occupying force. Those are his only two options.

A Vacation Trip to Remember

Honey, did that sign say "10 Feet" or "11 Feet" Clearance? Oh, never mind.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Texas Public Schools Out Perform Charter Schools in Latest Study

Charter schools have become the latest education "quick fix". In Oklahoma, where we are in love with education reform without pain, we have recently passed a law allowing cities, colleges, and even entire school districts to set up a charter school district (as opposed to individual schools) that would be exempt from the state regulations regular public schools are subject to. Another aspect that appeals to these institutions is that the teachers in these schools are unable to join unions or other teacher representation organizations without the district's permission which effectively removes these teachers from any right to collective bargaining or due process rights.

Texas, a few years ago, allowed for the state creation of charter schools operating independently from local school districts in a manner similar to the new Oklahoma law. There are currently 332 of these campuses in the state of Texas, most of them created by non-profit organizations. The latest official report on these school finds that as a whole they under perform the public schools they are supposed to replace. The report by the Texas Center for Educational Research states:
Charter schools created directly by the State Board of Education--so-called "open-enrollment charter schools"--continue to produce "lower TAKS passing rates in all tested areas compared to traditional school districts statewide," according to the latest official evaluation published this month by the Texas Center for Educational Research. "Compared to traditional public schools statewide, open-enrollment charter school TAKS passing rates for 2007 are 5% lower in writing, 7% lower in reading/ELA, 12% lower in social studies, 14% lower in mathematics, 21% lower in science, and 14% lower in all tests taken." The study also found that, "compared to traditional public high schools, open-enrollment charter schools have lower graduation rates, lower percentages of students who complete the Recommended High School Program, and lower advanced-course completion rates."

When the economic and demographic situations of the schools student bodies are matched, public schools in Texas still outperform similar charter schools.

There are no quick fixes to public education problems. All the problems of our society walk through our school doors every day of the term.

TCER Report Link (355 pages in pdf file.

Monday, July 21, 2008

At the Ole' Ball Game!

Cat and I went to see the Red Hawks play the Memphis Redbirds Sunday night. The Red Hawks are a Triple A affliate of the Texas Rangers and play in the Pacific Coast League. This was our first time to see a baseball game at the Bricktown Ballpark this year which shows you how busy this summer has been for us.

We had a great time. Well, I had a great time, and Cat had a great time watching me have a great time. Cat is not at all a sports fan, but she has indulged my passion for baseball.

The Red Hawks 6-5, BTW. Our team is in 1st place in the Southern Division of the league.

"Rowdy the Red Hawk" signs autographs for his young fans.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Clinton Library Visit Part of Our "Mini-Vacation"

Cat and I decided we'd get out of town for a trip together, so we decided to go to Little Rock, Arkansas mainly to visit the Clinton Presidential library there. Other people take trips to the lake or beach. We go to political and historical sites.

The Clinton Library was very impressive. The building is designed to look like a bridge to go along with the theme for Clinton's successful "re-election" campaign: The Bridge to the 21st Century."

President Clinton Presidential Library

The library includes a replication of theCabinet Room,

And theOval Office

President's get many gifts from citizens and foreign visitors. This puppet was one of my favorites: Clinton Hand Puppet

The were even gifts of chess sets, so I HAD to include these.
"Masters of the Sea" Chess Set
"Celtic Themed" Chess Set

Monday, July 14, 2008

"McCain=Bush" Sign Gets 60 Year Old Busted at McCain Event

Carol Keck

Carol Keck, a 60 year old librarian, was cited for "trespass" for having a sign that read "McCain=Bush" outside a "townhall meeting" in Denver, Colorado. A McCain staffer evidently saw this as a "protest sign" and asked that she be removed from the event which was held at a public venue, Denver Performing Arts Complex .

Ms. Kreck was not inside the hall where McCain was holding his Town Hall event when security approached her. She was standing quietly in the public plaza between the Bonfils Theatre Complex and the parking garage.

First, I'm not a big fan of "passive-agressive" tactics, so asking why "McCain=Bush" can be considered offensive is a bit disingenuous. However, having people show up at an event that is "open to the public" and then arresting that part of the public you don't like seems rather, well, unpatriotic. Far worse than whether one is wearing a flag pin or not on their lapel.

Carol Keck's Blog

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brunelleschi's Dome

The Dome from ground level

I have just finished reading Brunebleschi's Dome by Ross King, an interesting insight into both the mind and workings of a genius as well as how things got built during the Renaissance. Flippo Brunelleschi had mto invent machines to build his dome, the largest masonery dome built before or since.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Hate Mail in the Shopping Center Parking Lot

This is not what my sticker looks like, but it's the same message.
Cat and I did some shopping this Saturday, and while we were in the store, someone saw fit to put an anonymous note on our car. I have a few bumper stickers on my car. One is in support of Andrew Rice who is running for the Senate against Jim "Global Warming is a Hoax" Inhofe. Another sticker reports the fact that when Bush took office, gasoline cost on average $1.46 per gallon. Then there is my most recent addition: a sticker with the single word "HOPE" with the "O" in the word formed by Barack Obama's campaign logo.

As I said, someone took exception to them and put the following note on my car windshield under the driver side wiper:
Bush doesn't rule the world. (Thank God for large favors!) He can't control oil prices, the weather, idiots who buy homes they can't afford (aka "whiners"), or who shoot at rescuers attempting to provide aid. At least we are still a free country (Checked your Bill of Rights lately?) and have no more terror attacks. That will change with Obama be afraid. Are you ready for a Socialist nation (I assume you are refering to something other than the Corporate Socialism we now have.) that will cumble--that's what will happen if idiots like you elect a Muslim (Big Lie alert) sypathizing Socialist?

Well, there you have it. Elect Bush for a 3rd term or elect a "Muslim sympathizer" who will welcome terrorists to America. At least I out to give Mr. Anonymous credit for not claiming that Obama is a Muslim. (He is, in fact, a member a church that traces its roots all the way back to Plymouth Rock--The United Church of Christ.)

But this shows something of how this election will be run: Hope v. Fear. As John F. Kennedy said:
We should not let our fears hold us back from pursuing our hopes.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The NBA in OKC: A Personal View

Kurt Streeter, a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times who grew up in Seattle, wrote a )column on how much the Sonics move to OKC affected him emotionally. Most of what he said was entirely understandable, but there were the inevitable "digs" at Oklahoma City and Oklahoma that I decided to write to him about how I felt about the whole thing.

He wrote me back to thank me for my response and wished us all "Good Luck" with our new team.

Here is my response to his original column:

Dear Mr. Streeter:

I read your column "SuperSonics' move leaves a bitter taste" on-line and while I sympathize with the fact that the team that was a part of your youth is no more, I hope that you realize the fact that few things associated with our youth actually remain fixed and eternal. I grew up in Kansas City rooting for the Athletics at Municipal Stadium. Neither they nor it survive anywhere except in my moments of nostalgic reveries. There they remain eternally for me as I am sure yours will for you.

Please understand the fact that I am pleased that a whole generation of young people in my hometown of Oklahoma City will now have the opportunity to develop their own memories. That is the cruel reality of the business of sports: your pain is some OKC kid's gain.

I take exception to the digs that you and other West Coast folks have made at those of us living in the Heartland. I often get the feeling that those living out in your part of our nation feel entitled for some reason. Most of the great cities of our nation can be found on the coasts or the Great Lakes region. This is due to their access to ports and other means of water transportation. Nature built you.

Oklahoma City was born, literally, overnight. We grew without your accidental advantages. We have managed to flourish despite the worst that Nature (the Dust Bowl and our famous tornadoes) and humans (the Depression and the Murrah bombing) are capable of doing. We are called Okies, Tumbleweed hoppers, Dust Eaters, and perhaps we are all these things. But there must be rock beneath this dust because we have managed despite it all to build a great community and thriving city.

Again, I recognize your column was written out of your emotions, but I thought that you might wish to consider this event from our perspective. I hope that one day Los Angeles will have an NFL franchise. I still find it hard to say "St. Louis Rams", but then again, I have the same problem with the "Arizona Cardinals." Sic transit gloria mundi.

Sincerely yours,

Robert Lynn Green
The Village, Oklahoma (the Little Town inside the Big City

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Clem McSpadden Dead at 82

Clem McSpadden
Former Congressman Clem Rogers McSpadden died Monday night. Congressman McSpadden gained fame as a rodeo announcer. (He was the first American citizen to ever announce the Calgary Stampede Rodeo.) He was the grandnephew of Will Rogers, and being related to Will is a good thing to be if you want to go far in Oklahoma politics, especially during McSpadden's generation. He served in the Oklahoma State Senate from 1955 to 1972. In 1972 he was elected to the United States Congress and served one term before he decided to run for governor.

That's where I come into the story, sorta. The year was 1973, and I was a 3rd year student at Bethany Nazarene College. A young Oklahoma representative named David Boren came my government class to talk about his campaign. Boren and McSpadden were both running against incumbent Oklahoma governor, David Hall. Hall was facing corruption charges that eventually would land him in prison. Boren was a rather unknown candidate except for the fact that his father Lyle Boren had been a US Congressman during the 30's. I was impressed with Boren, and decided to work for his campaign even though I was a registered Republican at the time.

Boren was a huge underdog, but his campaign caught fire. His campaign symbol was a broom since he was promising a "Clean Sweep" reform as governor. Boren came in 2nd during the first round of voting to McSpadden, but he quickly seized the initiative when McSpadden made some very ill-advised personal attacks on Boren.

That was my first big foray into Oklahoma politics. It was also the doorway for my into the Oklahoma Democratic Party. The governor's election in 1974 was one of those "generational" races between the old and outgoing and the young and up and coming. Now we have another such race on the presidential level. We will see if now as then, youth will have its day.
McSpadden's life, accomplishments remembered

Monday, July 07, 2008

My "Commonplace Book"

I've been trying to clear out a storage unit I have had ever since I moved out of my apartment into Cat's house. (I sorta married into property.)

Anyone who has tried to merge two households together knows what problems this often creates. So I have had a storage unit at a local U-Haul place that has been costing me monthly rent for the past 6 years. Every summer I have pledged to get in there to clear out, throw away, donate or keep what I find.

In some ways, it's like Christmas in July. I'm discovering a lot of stuff that I thought I had lost: books, pictures, furniture, and a lot of junk.

One thing I came across was a "Commonplace Book" I started way back in the 80's. This was a little brown pocket journal that I used to write down thoughts, quotes and information that I discovered in my reading and studies. (I was a graduate student for nearly all of the 1980s.)

Here are some of the items I wrote down in the book:

A library is a sort of ammunition dump of unexploded arguments ready to burst forth the moment a live reader opens a book.--Jacques Barzum and Henry F. Graff, The Modern Researcher

The ability to remain independent is God's greatest weapon against evil.--Personal Thought

Ignorance is the night of the mind.--African Proverb

He that goeth about to persuade the multitude that they are not so well governed as they ought to be, shall never want attentive and favorable hearers.--Richard Hooker

Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.--Isaiah 5:8 [This is a warning for our time!

Karl Springer named as Superintendent of OKC Public Schools

Karl Springer has been named to be the next superitendent of the Oklahoma City Public Schools. He has served as superintendent of the Mustang Public Schools. Mustang is a fairly affluent suburb of Oklahoma City. Mr. Springer fulfills at least part of what I believed to be a requirement for the next superitendent in that he is a local person. He is not what I call an "Insider." I am not certain at this time how much experience he has had with urban schools like those in OKC, nor do I know what kind of "blue water" experience he has had in the classroom.

All of that will come out soon, I'm sure.

My concern is that he knows that working in an urban school district won't be like working in a suburb like Mustang. One problem he will have is gaining the trust of teachers who have seen the superintendent's office become a revolving door. A lot of the attitude will be, "I've was a teacher before this guy came here, and I'll be a teacher after he has gone." He won't gain trust by simply ordering folks around. That's not how a democratic school system works.

from The Oklahoman Springer named OKC schools superintendent

4th of July Parade in Bethany

This was the Oklahoma County Democratic Party's entrance in the Bethany 4th of July Parade.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Birthday America!

As Mankind becomes more liberal, they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations of justice and liberality.--George Washington

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The NBA coming to OKC

NBA Now in OKC
Well, as anyone following the Sonics saga knows, Oklahoma City will be getting the "Franchise Formerly Known as the SuperSonics" in time for the 2008 season.

I am glad for my city, but I understand the pain and anger of basketball fans in the city of Seattle. I have always said that I wish we were getting the Los Angeles Clippers instead. Not only does LA already have an NBA franchise, I really don't care much for the city (what I've seen of it). On the other hand, Seattle is where 3 members of my family; my father, mother, and sister; live. I also consider it the most beautiful city in America that I have visited (even better than San Francisco).

However, I am happy for the city that has been my home for all but 9 years of my life. The NBA box score will now have "Oklahoma City" or OKC in the standings.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Back to Harry Potter

I am trying to read the "Harry Potter" series before the next movie comes out. I got half way through The Order of the Phoenix and got distracted by something, probably school. There was also the problem that Harry was starting to sound as whiny as some of my students! Of course, that's part of the genius of Rowling's books. Harry is a typical kids growing up with a few things through in that make him less typical (and his problems worse).

I can't understand why some evangelicals have had problems with this book. True, there is no mention of God in Harry's life, but the same can be said for The Lord of the Rings. Harry certainly displays many very good character qualities like courage, perseverance, and resourcefulness. He may not be a model of faith, but he is a model of grace under pressure.