Friday, 1-18-2002

Iced Fish

Dear Political Diary,

After speeding through the vender exhibition to scarf up some chocolates I caught the last fifteen minutes of a session on Minnesota's Profiles of Education. Since none of the other sessions appealed to me I stayed to attended it in full on its second go round.

I have my own personal reasons for keeping an eye on the Profile and its infamous grad "packages." Some of Duluth's vocational teachers pioneered standards and they have been a great hit with students. Unfortunately most of our other teachers were force fed prepackaged units developed in other districts by an earlier autocratic Curriculum Director. 

This resulted in a great resentment and foot dragging by many of our teachers. Its also been a challenge to administer in Duluth. We required students to register with both courses and grad standards in mind. My wife found the registration process Byzantine and incoherent.

My son, who is pathologically opposed to "busy work" has for four years barely completed any of the grad standards in his classes. Many of his teachers were quick to pass their contempt for the standards on to their students. Unfortunately, the month long packages are now required for graduation and its been all my wife and I can do to convince my son to complete them. Fortunately his teachers have been permissive about giving him credit. So much for innovation. 

The profile is a wonderful theoretical concept. American education is often derided as being "a mile wide and an inch deep." In other words we tell kids everything but do it superficially. By making month long packages Minnesota tried to give depth to coursework. Had we allowed our teacher to develop their own packages that fit into their coursework we could have had a much more professional and positive experience. Unfortunately we went for the assembly line approach to insure "accountability" and "measurability." Heil Hitler!

This was the substance of the question I directed to our presenter Mary Lillesvie of the CFL. She said that I had just described her typical day. My complaints are a daily occurrence in the CFL. I learned one thing. Apparently Minnesota is the only state to have put their graduation standards into law so that only the legislature could change them. I was told later that this was the only way that the CFL could force school districts to adopt the profiles of learning.  Talk about force feeding! 

I was looking for Julio when I ran into one of the Rochester School Board members. Apparently they had already bumped into him and promised to check out the rumor about the software piracy detectives. I never found Julio but I was hailed by two Hermantown school board members who wanted to introduce themselves. 

Three more of their Board members joined us as well as their Superintendent Fred Majeski. I joked with them about their poaching students from Duluth's disgruntled parents. Fred was apologetic saying that he had no desire to profit from other district's misfortunes.

Apparently there are over 30 students on a waiting list to get into the Hermantown schools. Contrary to Bob Mars's assurances most of the Districts surrounding Duluth have vacancies in grades K-3. These are just the grades where Duluth is most vulnerable. One of the Hermantown board members told me that Cloquet had recently advertised for students in the Duluth News Tribune. Well, this is what our parents advised us to do last October. What's sauce for the Goose...

I headed home determined to get a better long term financial forecast from our administration. If things look grim I'll continue "grandstanding" about two high schools. It will take some work to convince me we'll be better off closing elementary schools to keep our three high schools open 

I left at noon which gave me enough time to tinker with my trio of fish back in Duluth. When I got home to pick up some carving tools my son hollered at me from the basement. He complained that I never told him where I was going to be. (He should talk!) He found about my schedule from his friends who had heard me on KOOL radio the previous morning.

I discovered that my fish had been iced up to protect them from saboteurs. Last year's sculpture had almost been toppled over by vandals the night before the Carnival. The coating of ice was like a kevlar jacket. I putzed with the tails a bit and made a few cosmetic changes but there wasn't much I could do and the sculpture was still pretty crude.  Oh well.

It being Friday I caught up on local politics in the evening with Claudia. It seems that our City Counselor Greg Gilbert has endorsed Green Party candidate Joel Sipress against Yvonne Prettner.  Like a good elephant I've never forgotten Sipress since he sneered at some political flyers I was passing out at Leif Erickson Park a few years ago. He wears his all too evident political prejudices on his curled lips. Mary Cameron told me she saw him putting up Eileen Zeitz Huddelson's lawn signs during the recent campaign. Birds of a feather?

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