Friday, December 05, 2008

Mr. Brooks, See Me in My Office After Class

copy to all Hillsborough County board members and upper-level administrators; copy to Mr. Brooks's bosses and fellow opiners of the op-ed page, on which sits one lone woman, Ms. Dowd.

Mr. Brooks: As usual you knock teachers’ unions for problems with education. All that good teachers unions do is fight for fair pay and decent treatment for teachers. What’s wrong with that? Before there were labor unions, we had child labor and hideous abuse of workers by the owners of industry. Then workers formed unions and fought for fair treatment. Now they have it for the most part. This circumstance just kills Republicans like you. You yearn for the return of this feudalism.

I was a career-long member of a teacher's union at the college at which I taught for twenty-eight years. In fact, I served for a time as the union’s president and am proud that I did. We leaders of our college union stood up for the teachers we represented. We fought the administration thugs for teachers' dignity and fair treatment. I am proud that I did that service to the conviction that labor is a product the owners of which deserve fair treatment.

With Obama, whom I supported, you Republicans who hate labor think you have a chance to bust teachers' unions. I don't think so. I think I judge the man whom we elected as president rightly--not to mention his formidable six-foot Valkyrie of a wife, First Lady Michelle.

You must exult that too many teachers’ unions are in bed with corrupt administrations that exploit teachers. Teachers pay these union leaders’ salaries, yet the union leaders kowtow to the bosses. This is the case in the Hillsborough County schools in Tampa, Florida. The CTA serves not the teachers but the administration that mistreats teachers by not even ceding them a place on the board agenda to voice their concerns.

You prattle about revolution to improve schools and cite merit pay as the goal to achieve that end. Merit pay is not revolution; it’s backsliding. Corrupt administrations such as that in Hillsborough County, Florida, would use merit pay as a weapon to reward collaborators with the administration’s anti-teacher, anti-education policies and punish teachers who do not collaborate.

What would be revolutionary is to pay teachers high wages so that the profession would attract intellectually gifted young people. The meager pay presents no lure for intellectually gifted students. Yet what is astonishing is how many smart college graduates still choose to teach despite the salary penury. They love the job despite the meagre pay.

In Hillsborough County the superintendent makes $300,000 a year. The decorative potted-plant board members who rubberstamp her agenda make $41,000 a year. A beginning teacher makes $33,000 a year. The administration sloths, who are the current or the previous superintendent’s buddies and sycophants, make from $130,000 to $140,000 a year. One of these administrative leeches doesn’t know the difference between “who” and “whom.” Smart people teach; dumb people clog the ranks of administration drones.

People caterwaul about how teachers should get higher pay than quarterbacks who say "He don't" in half-time interviews. Then they fund stadiums and turn down school initiatives. But this hypocritical chorus never results in one dime more to the teachers in salaries, which means many teachers must have two jobs to get by. In the last two years the Hillsborough County administrators got a nine percent raise while teachers got a 2 percent raise. Figure out how much a two percent raise is for $31,000 versus a 9 percent raise for $140,000. The people who pulled this scam off are the ones who will decide merit pay.

The reason for this disparity is that the administration gets its cut before the teachers, students, and schools get a dime. The Hillsborough County school system runs on the spoils system paradigm for the administration's sole benefit.

Republican columnists like you beat up on unions—even the good ones—and never mention how featherbedding administrations eat up tax dollars and live royally at the public trough although many of them have to get help from the schools’ Public Affairs people to edit their illiterate messages to the public. The Hillsborough County school system has to call in pricey consultants to flash-card the heads of departments on how to do their jobs. These department heads don't have doctorates or even relevant master's degrees. A recent consultant had to tell the administration how to get out of the mess its stupidity had created in bus transportation. It cost tax payers $350,000 for the Romper Room advice 1. to get scheduling software and 2. park the buses in convenient places. That the Hillsborough County administration couldn't figure that out without paying $350,000 for the color-by-the-numbers advice says something about its members' intelligence.

You have said in the past that the late William F. Buckley influenced your writing during your friendship with him when you were young. It’s too bad he didn’t guide your grammar and punctuation and assist your rhetorical ease. You abuse commas to a faretheewell, evidence that you don’t know the structure of a sentence. You overuse passive verbs. You are wordy. You are a cliche indulger. You are not at ease with normal syntax.

You need one of those tough public-school teachers of the sort that teach in Hillsborough County while enduring the abuse of a thuggish administration and lackadaisical school board. This pedagogical stalwart of literacy would teach you grammar, punctuation, and how to write pellucid prose. Superintendent Elia with board collusion recently forced such teachers to practice grade inflation so that she would be eligible for more bonus money for the pseudo statistics of student success that these fake grades would produce. She slammed teachers’ professional pride with not a murmur from the supine board. Ms. Elia's goal is to augment her salary as high as possible so that at her retirement she will get a pension that equals that of the AIG Republican CEOs when they exit the debacle they created in the financial industry.

I edit today’s essay for you below to show how bad your case is. If you weren't y-chromosome and if the dimwitted dauphin of the New York Times didn't hire right-wing male columnists to show how cool he is instead of more women to give Ms. Dowd company in the paper's male sweat lodge of opiners, you would not be able to get a job in a writing business.

lee drury de cesare

Who (Whom) Will He Choose?
Pronoun case: “Whom,” object of “will choose”


Published: December 5, 2008

As in many other areas, the biggest education debates are happening : flabby progressive verb: use crisper “happen” within the Democratic Party. On the one hand, there are the reformers like Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee, who support merit pay for good teachers, Wordiness: Revise to “Reformers such as Joel Klein and Michelle Rhee…”charter schools and tough accountability standards. On the other hand, there are the teachers’ unions and the members of the Ed School establishment, who The redundant comma cuts off a restrictive adjectival clause. emphasize greater funding, smaller class sizes and superficial reforms. Wordy; revise: “On the other hand, teachers’ unions and members of the ed-school establishment emphasize…” No rule supports capitalizing “Ed School” just as there is no rule capitalizing biology department."Ed School" drops its capitals and hyphenates as a word acting as a single adjective before a noun.

During the presidential race, Barack Obama straddled the Cut superfluous words, even articles for tighter sentences. two camps. One campaign adviser, John Schnur, represented the reform view in the internal discussions: Wordy: omit. Another, Linda Darling-Hammond, was more likely to represent the establishment view. Their disagreements were collegial (this is Obamaland after all), This comma is redundant: it splits a compound predicate adjective. but substantive.
In public, Obama shifted nimbly from camp to camp while education experts studied his intonations with the intensity of Kremlinologists. Sometimes, he flirted with the union positions. At other times, he practiced dog-whistle politics, sending out reassuring signals that only the reformers could hear.

Each camp was secretly convinced that at the end of the day, Omit this wordy, moss-grown cliche. Obama would come down on their side. The reformers were cheered when Obama praised a Denver performance pay initiative. Wimpy passive verb: Obama’s praising a Denver performance pay initiative cheered the reformers. The unions could take succor from the fact Dump. that though Obama would occasionally wordy redundant adverb talk about merit pay, none of his actual Redundant adjective: dump it. proposals contradicted their positions. You violate Strunk & White with redundant modifiers.

Obama never had to pick a side. That is, until now. Dump. There is only one education secretary, and if you hang around these circles, the air is thick with speculation, anticipation, anxiety, hope and misinformation. Every day, new rumors are circulated Passive circulate and new front-runners declared. It’s kind of Omit this pretentious colloquialism. like being in a The experience is like that of a Trollope novel as Lord So-and-So figures out to whom he’s going to propose.

You can measure the anxiety in the reformist camp by the level of nervous phone chatter each morning. Weeks ago, Obama announced that Darling-Hammond would lead his transition team and You here omit a comma for a compound sentence. reformist cellphones around the country lit up. Darling-Hammond, a professor at Stanford, is a sharp critic of Teach for America and promotes weaker reforms.

Anxieties cooled, but then one morning a few weeks ago, I got a flurry of phone calls from reform leaders nervous that Obama was about to side against them. I interviewed people in the president-elect’s inner circle and determined that reformers had nothing to worry about. Passive verb in a wordy sentence. “People in the president-elect’s inner circle assured me that reformers had nothing to worry about.”Obama had not gone native. This is your second cliche. It’s worse than the first. Come up with a standard-English sentence for the idea that this noxious phrase smothers.

Obama’s aides point to his long record on merit pay, his sympathy for charter schools and his tendency to highlighting his commitment to serious education reform.

But the union lobbying efforts are relentless Another omission of a comma in a compound sentence and in the past week prospects for a reforming education secretary are thought limp-wristed passive verb: Just say “have dimmed.” to have dimmed. The candidates before Obama apparently redundant adverb include Joel Klein, the highly successful New York chancellor who has, nonetheless, been blackballed by the unions; passive verb: "whom the unions have blackballed" Arne Duncan, the reforming Chicago head who is less controversial; Darling-Hammond herself; and some former governor to be named later, with Redundant comma: it cuts off a restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase. Darling-Hammond as the deputy secretary.

In some sense, Wordy: dump. the final option would be the biggest setback for reform. Education is one of those areas where implementation and the details are more important than grand pronouncements. If the deputies and assistants in the secretary’s office are not true reformers, nothing will get done.

The stakes are huge. For the first time in decades, there is real momentum for reform. It’s not only Rhee and Klein — the celebrities — but also superintendents in cities across America who are getting better teachers into the classrooms and producing measurable results. There is an unprecedented political coalition building, Redundant comma cuts off restrictive adverbial prepositional phrase.among liberals as well as conservatives, This comma is redundant: the “for’ prepositional phrase is restrictive.for radical reform.Hillsborough County does not have this kind of superintendent. Her main goal is to bloat her salary so that her pension payout will be huge. She also wants the community to stay ignorant of what's going on under her command when she targets teachers for firing when they speak up about the evils she promulgates; so she builds cases on teachers to fire them if they speak out. Her assistant in this ugly ritual is Ms. Linda Kipley, who has a home ec degree and a talent for sadism.

No Child Left Behind is about to be reauthorized. Awkward passive verb: "Congress will soon reauthorize No Child Left Behind." Everyone has reservations about that law, but it is the glaring spotlight that reveals and pierces the complacency at mediocre schools. If accountability standards are watered down, as the establishment wants, then real reform will fade. Passive verbs are limpwristed. Try this: “If the establishment waters down accountability standards, real reform will fade.”

This will be a tough call for Obama, because No comma: it cuts off a trailing restrictive adverbial clause. will mean offending people, but he can either galvanize the cause of reform or demoralize it. It’ll be one of the biggest choices of his presidency.
Many of the reformist hopes now hang on Obama’s friend, Arne Duncan. The comma cuts off a restrictive appositivee. Obama has more than one friend. In Chicago, he’s a successful reformer who has produced impressive results in a huge and historically troubled system. He has the political skills necessary to build a coalition on behalf of No Child Left Behind reauthorization. Because he is close to both Obamas, he will ensure that education doesn’t fall, as it usually does, into the ranks of the second-tier issues.

If Obama picks a reformer like Duncan, Klein or one of the others, he will be picking a fight with the status quo. But there’s never been a better time to have that fight than right now.

There has never been a better time to fight illiteracy on the pages of the NYT either. It scares the children and frightens the horses. Get out your grammar primer. And be more reverent toward teachers. If you had just one tough English teacher that had hammered the basics into your head before Mr. Buckley turned it, you would not wallow in such a pile-up of grammar and punctuation errors in this slovenly piece of writing.

lee drury de cesare

I shall post this homily on Grammargrinch.blogspot and send a copy to Ms. Obama. I supported Obama. You didn't. The sisterhood will figure out a way to get teachers better treatment with the new president. He's an intellectual. He will see around corners. I think the reason why so few Republicans are intellectuals is that their lust for money has acted like the deadly pyridium in the comet bollide that smashed into the earth at the end the Jurassic and killed both the dinosaurs and most of the species thoughout the world

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Pile-on Is Getting Tiresome

Mr. Cavett:

All that you say in your column on Ms. Palin is true. And yet I begin to feel protective of her because of the pile-on, which you have now joined.

I don’t see how her presidency could be any worse than Bush’s were the McCain-Palin ticket elected. Could she do worse than lie the nation into a war that has killed over 4000 of our troops, maimed many more, and killed uncounted civilians? Has she called off all the regulators so that the financially greedy could rape whatever financial instrument they had access to and plunge the country into financial jeopardy? Could she do worse than endorse torture behind the scenes and continue Gitmo?

I am beginning to think that Palin’s being a woman has something to do with her condemnation. Men get away with utter stupidity as part of the male affirmative action plan and have done since the Ascent of Man with the cover excuse of “he’s just a guy.”

I know there is sexism in this trashing of Sarah somewhere if I could just track it down.

I suspect Sarah’s being beautiful is a big part of the hostility toward her. The attitude seems to be “How dare a woman that beautiful think she can have a piece of power in addition to an exquisite face and good legs? Isn’t it enough for her that she is a knockout l and shapely? That’s purely greedy on her part to want political power too.” Only men get to be greedy. Women must be self-sacrificing.

I know Palin’s reproductive attitude is awful and that she shoots baby wildlife from helicopters. But every time I see her toting Trig around on her hip as she deplanes somewhere to harangue her loving fans, I can’t feeling positive toward her. And then she has that doting, attentive husband. I know he wants Alaska to secede, but he carries Trig around as much as Sarah does without losing his masculinity or his movie-star good looks.

And to top it off, Todd is his wife’s Number One fan. How many men could stand their wives being the center of attention instead of them? Todd stands modestly in the background on stage, outdoing Cindy in self-effacement. Speaking of Cindy, why doesn’t’ the press and public pile on her? She wears tacky, gaudily expensive clothes and jewels and looks like a female android from Dr. Spock’s home town. Yet nobody criticizes her because she defers to her husband obsequiously and puts up with his infidelity with a lobbyist as recorded on the front page of the NY Times. Such a rich, servile ditz who wears her improbably blonde hair starlet shoulder length despite her being 54 years old is the country’s ideal woman.

I want you to lay off Sarah for the duration of her place in the sun. Take your snide preciosity to another target. One shrinks back to think of the caricature of herself as portrayed in the press that poor Sarah may become in the future. I hate to think of the chortling observers when she crashes and burns, and they have to look around for a new freak.

In Sara’s defense, I will correct two of your comma errors below.

The ones she resolves to splinter and bulldoze her way through upon glimpsing the opportunities, revealed from on high.

You have cut off with a redundant comma a restrictive past participial phrase. You speak of the opportunities revealed from on high, not the ones revealed from hell.

…affecting the sense, if any.

The comma after “sense” cuts off a restrictive elliptical adverbial clause (if there are any).

Give Sara a rest, sirrah.

(ms) lee drury de cesare

Sunday, November 09, 2008

To a Junior Grammar Critic

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "Excuse Me While I Teach Grammar to the New Preside...":

'As the object it should be, as you say, "Michelle and me," but when speaking I hear so many people make this mistake b/c they are over-correcting and not thinking.'

This is another common error. Misplaced modifiers regularly produce hilarious results. Did you mean that when you were speaking the people make the mistake (as you have written) or that the people make the mistake when they were speaking?

There is a difference here between your error and Obama's. Most of the English-speaking world knows exactly what Obama meant, but your ambiguity means that I don't know what you are trying to say.

Publish this comment.

Reject this comment.

Moderate comments for this blog.
Posted by Anonymous to Lee Drury De Cesare's Casting-Room Couch at 11:19 PM

Oh, stop it already. You are out of your depth, or you would not have fallen into a dangling modifier:"but when speaking I hear so many people make this mistake b/c they are over-correcting and not thinking."

Your "when speaking:" is a dangling modifier in a construction in which your purport to correct me for some fugitive error. You are not in this league of grammar-and-punctuation savvy, so just retire and lick your wounds, sugarbritiches. If you are interested in grammar-punctuation big-time, keep in contact with my Grammargrinch.blogspot blog.

Most people's eyes glaze over in the dicussion of grammar. Only a few of us find grammar and punctuation enthralling.

The Grammargrinch blogspot forewarns that grammar is what it is about. I have been suprised at the hits I get on that site. Its aim is newspaper writers. Newspaper writers are interested in correct grammar. They are professinal writers and should be interested. lee

Love and kisses to a grammar wannabe, lee

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