Friday, January 14, 2005

Quick hits...

I used to teach English and Comp Sci to Philadelphia area HS students and I have to say that the No Child Left Behind program isn't just a car wreck...its sinking this country's education system faster than that iceberg sunk the Titanic - consider the following:

* When I was in a senior HS in the 80's, long before No Child, I went through my classes, learned what I was being taught, and then found, the next year in college, that I had already learned in my senior year much of what the college wanted me to in my freshman year there. If my teachers were forced to teach to a standardized test, which is what is happening in school districts all across the USA right now, I wouldn't have been anywhere near as prepared to face college life as I was.

*Currently teachers in many HS's across the nation are teaching almost solely from handouts in order to prepare their students for the standardized tests that the students will be facing.

* The model that the government used when designing No Child is that of communism - the same model used by the Soviet Union from the 1940's to the 1980's...the FAILED MODEL the Soviets used.

* Many teachers are afraid to use "teachable moments" from outside the classroom, because they feel that the students might fall behind in their test preparation.

* and my favorite - If a school has too large a percentage of its student population fail the state testing, the school will either lose federal funding, or won't qualify for it. The schools most likely to miss out, due to academic issues, are the inner city schools that most need the funding (possibly the worst logic I've ever seen - picture Bush in his Texas drawl, "Well, if ya show us ya don't need the extra help, then we'll be happy ta help ya out.")

I'm amazed by these studies that are released that "identify the problems" in education in the inner cities - too often, I feel like I'm reading a detailing of one of the symptoms, and some stopgap solution for it. I worked with these students for half a decade, and let me tell ya, it starts in the home...
Too many times for parent-teacher nights, I would see the parents of the kids that had no problems (ie: the parents that were giving support and making sure the kids did their homework, etc.), but I almost never saw the parents of the kids that weren't doing their work. Additionally, more often than not, it was obvious that those students had no desire to be there,and they viewed school as little more than either a social function, or a place where they could make their drug connections.
Bottom line, after five years of washing student blood out of my clothes from breaking up fights, and a few years of the government saying, in essence, that I couldn't challenge my students to do better, I walked away.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

AFC Champion Colts...?

Okay, so I'm watching and listening to all these pundits talk about how the Colts are going to march away with the game this weekend at the Razor. They keep talking about the loss of Ty Law as though its the end of the world for the defending champs. Certainly this is a significant loss - I will acknowledge that, and it has me worried, but I refuse to give in completely to chicken-little-ism.
The pundits point at the hot offense and what they call a much improved defense, then they look at the Patriots and this is what they say they see -
A) a team that cannot defend the pass because their secondary is too banged up
B) a team that will not be able to pressure Manning because Pats DE/T Richard Seymour might not be 100 percent
C) a team that will not be able to handle the pressure from the Colts "improved" D (I believe the question I keep hearing is, "how are they going to handle the pressure from Dwight Freeney).

What I don't seem to hear -
A) of Freeney's 16 sacks this season, 13 came on turf, in previous meetings with the Pats Freeney has done little more than cause Brady to step up in the pocket occasionally and has been little more than a non-factor, plus, if DE Mathis is out, the Colts will have to rely more on sending extra people from the linebackers or secondary to pressure Brady.
B) the Colts improved defensive statistics have come against, at best, second tier teams that were often down by two or more touchdowns at halftime. Easy to compile good D stats when you can pin your ears back and not worry too much about being too aggressive or over-pursuing.
C) Peyton Manning has a career QB rating of about 78 against the Pats - 20 points lower than against the rest of the league.
D) In the Belichick/Crennell defensive era, the Patriots are 12 - 0 when given the opportunity to game plan against the same quarterback for a second time in a season.
E) The banged up secondary will have its starting safety tandem (1/2 the starting defensive backfield), its nickel-back, Asante Samuel (who is being groomed as Law's replacement, has acquitted himself nicely in his starts, and, most likely, would have been likely to start next year for Ty Law as the Patriots were unlikely to carry his large cap number into next season), and a street free-agent, Randall Gay, with whom as a starter the Patriots went 8 - 1, and helped hold opponents to an average of 15.1 ppg (six times they held opponents to less than 20 points, including KC's vaunted offense). Somehow I think the quality of these guys has been highly undervalued this week.
F) Tom Brady's highest QB rating ever came in a game against the Colts and Brady has never lost to them.
G) Also, lost in this somewhere is the fact that Seymour's back-up, Jarvis Green, has tended to have career days against the Colts, and...
H) The last time I checked, the following playmakers on defense were all healthy; Tedy Bruschi, Ted Johnson, Willie McGinnest, Mike Vrabel, Roman Phipher and Roosevelt Colvin. I seem to remember that, for whatever reason, the Pats linebacking corps tends to give the Colts offense fits.

I could go on, I could talk about Troy Brown, the other receivers, the O-line, the tight-ends, Don Davis, and Adam Vinatieri, but I would be here for days.

Do the Colts worry me? Yeah, they've got a great offense, but people seem to forget that the Pats O has gone toe-to-toe with them before (remember September?) and come out on top in the high-scoring affairs. Bottom line, I'm not convinced the Colts D can close the deal.

Let the games begin...