Support the Next Spielberg: The Michigan Student Film Festival and Joining DAFT

Support the Michigan Student Film Festival by December 31st to be eligible for a 2013 deduction by clicking here. Not a bad vibe.  A room full of students who had just been honored at the 45th Michigan Student Film Festival talking with a past winner, soon to be premiering Pixar’s latest hit, Monsters University. In May, Dan Scanlon, of Clawson High School, flew in from Hollywood  carrying with him a special showing of Monsters University–nearly a month before its release.  Pixar allows its directors to select a charity for a special screening benefit and Dan selected three non-profits:  the Assistance League, Friends of Detroit Film Theatre and Digital Arts – Film & Television (DAFT). Mr. Scanlon was only nine when DAFT first recognized his gifts of storytelling and animation.  Julie Hinds of the Detroit Free Press noted: DAFT board member John Prusak, an award-winning cinematographer, was one of Scanlon’s early… Read More…

Why Not a Charter Government–If 80% Raises for Everyone Doesn’t Make Sense?

Click here to read… 80-90% Pay Raises! Come and Get ‘Em! On a quiet Sunday, the Detroit Free Press has reported that the State of Michigan, under Governor Snyder, has decided it’s time to start paying people what they’re worth. “The State of Michigan quietly increased the salaries of its top investment officials in the Treasury Department by more than 80% this year, saying it was too difficult to attract and keep qualified people under the former pay rates.”  (Source:  Detroit Free Press) This is the same governor who agreed that Right to Work was not a good idea for Michigan and that he would not sign such a bill–then quickly signed this bill during last December’s lame-duck New Year’s Eve party. This is the same governor who has captained over a hundred laws crippling labor unions, raising health care costs and taxing retirees’ pensions. Charter schools are on the… Read More…

Go Pick on Someone the Size of a House: “Bullying” in the NFL

Yet another victim has fallen into the hungry maw of bullies. Another Rebecca Sedwick? Another Phoebe Prince? Thankfully, this is a man who did not die by his own hand, but still martyred himself to make us aware of an insidious problem. Jonathan Martin, an offensive tackle for the Miami Dolphins, endured a hardscrabble life, with nothing to go on but the example of a struggling Harvard professor for a father and a mother scraping by as a corporate lawyer. He grew to be a whisp of a figure, a mere 6’5″, 312 pounds, living no doubt on Ramen noodles and a paltry $390,000 salary in 2012. He was constantly mocked at work–at one point forced to pay for the expensive meals of his teammates. Ironically, it was at the lunch table that he’d had enough. He sat down, and everyone at the table got up. That was it. Off… Read More…

Former Students, Facebook Afterlife and Heartwarming Gore with “Deadheads”

It’s not every zombie film that you can share with a12 year-old daughter and 80 year-old mother in-law and have them exclaim they loved it.  Until Facebook, every June was like a funeral.  The likelihood that I would ever see or hear from the 300 or so graduating seniors was small–aside from an occasional homecoming game or trip to the mall.  But I finally dropped down the Facebook rabbit-hole and discovered what these folks had done with their lives.  Some might even meet up for a beer–if it wasn’t too awkward for the  41 year-old father of four to meet with his 46 year-old teacher–even if dropping the “Mr.” was too much to ask. They are dentists, funeral directors, roadies, teachers, doctors, store-owners and a few had found their way to Hollywood in various capacities.  Dan Casey, a 2000 graduate is a screenwriter and attended the Sundance Writer’s Workshop after… Read More…

Killing Kids’ Questions: Critical Thinking OR Critical of Thinking?

Bad parent!  I could read it in the old woman’s eyes as my eight year-old son let the door shut in front of her.  “Why do I have to hold the door open for her?” he pleaded to my embarrassed scolding. “She wasn’t carrying anything.” “Because it’s polite.” “Why?” “Why what?” “Why is it polite?” “Because that way she won’t have to open the door.” “But why can’t she do it herself?” It was bad enough to get the old lady’s glare, now I got the pitiful head-shake as she huffed past us. “Dad!”  He demanded, “Why?” I snapped, “Just do it, okay?” That was probably the moment, as I retro-grade my parenting ten years later.  Maybe that was when I had cut my son’s natural curiosity right in half.  Nature or nurture?  Do we, by default, stop asking questions as we get older?  Or are those questions driven from… Read More…

Imaginary Guns and Real Bullets

I’m pressed up against a wall, waiting.  Hunting.  The gun I’m holding is inches from my nose, my two hands folded as if I’m praying.  My enemy, James Lyons, is around the corner, and I’m about to spring as soon as he comes into view.  I’m secret agent John Lennon, and besides making the greatest music ever, I also work for the government, saving the world.  Yesterday, I was Captain Kirk.  I’m 12 years old at 6th grade recess, the gun is imaginary, but I did actually save the world.  (Things are still going on, right?  You’re welcome.)  Let me tell you a little something not about myself:  I am not a gun advocate, a gun owner or (liberal alert) a gun tolerator.  I am a Tarantino film-lover, but that’s about the extent of it.  I m also not the rhythm guitarist/vocalist/composer for the greatest band ever.  I was never a starship captain,… Read More…

Gorillas & Government Shutdown: What Would George Bailey Do?

[Updated after the September 30th shut-down.] Last night’s vain countdown to midnight with no expectations for our leaders to avoid a government shutdown seems to be creating a sense of normalcy with these panics–making the bank-scare of George Bailey’s savings and loan look like over-reaction. We’re pretty used to these games of chicken, unfortunately.   There’s the old joke asking where a gorilla sleeps.  The punchline of “Anywhere it wants” always made me chuckle.  It creates a visual of a Warner Brothers gorilla bending his cage bars and thumping Sylvester on the head as he chases the innocent Tweety. But even in those cartoons, the bully gets his due–even if it’s from another bully. All week, there has been plenty of roaring and chest-thumping and it’s going to continue. Some gorillas are going to celebrate today as a victory. Beaten Into Submission My son’s medication arrived via the drive-through window… Read More…

Thanking Two Men I’d Forgotten to Thank 30 Years Ago: Mr. Denstaedt and Mr. Wentz

After attending 25 years of high school graduation ceremonies, it finally dawned on me as I sat in my robe and was thanked by grateful students and their parents–I really didn’t deserve such nice seats. Compared, to the folks who were really responsible for the pomp and circumstance, my hourly contribution was minimal.  Elementary teachers put in the long hours and are stuck with the kids all day long.  Middle school teachers are fighting the two-headed dragon of hormones and immaturity in a short, nasty body that hasn’t often developed a soul yet. Within two days, Clawson lost two of its icons–John Denstaedt and Bill Wentz.  Both of them were outstanding educators and mourned by thousands.  Yet when I walked across the stage and grabbed my diploma in 1983 they weren’t there–or if they were, I wasn’t even looking for them.  I had moved on.  Clawson High School and Junior… Read More…

Cyber Schools–What the FAQ? A Union Goon’s Tea Party Question Reveals New British Taxation (with Podcast)

Podcast of interview with Kevin about this post by Night Shift’s radio host, Tony Trupiano (WDFN Detroit, AM 1130).  (Begins at 1:40) If Columbus explored as much as the Detroit Free Press, he’d have never left that dock in southern Spain. In a  “Free Press-Release” yesterday by Lori Higgins, “Michigan Students to Have Many Options for Online Learning,” we learn of the many choices that Michigan students now have to their education via online learning following the passage of Senate Bill 619.  I had high hopes that I’d finally learn a little more about the companies that are running these schools (if they are indeed companies). You’ll find all kinds of facts and opinions in the ever-popular comments section (from trolls and non-trolls) to the article, examining the ethics and big-picture questions that I won’t explore here.  I’m just trying to follow the money. You may have seen the marketing. … Read More…

Duck and Cover: Educational Fallout Shelters for a Sputnik Moment

I’d only been through this doorway a few hundred times in my life–and never noticed it.  There, on the top left. I certainly hadn’t noticed that there was a faded “capacity” circle.  I wonder who had to enforce that one? And who knew that the Department of Defense, while protecting us from Cold War nuclear fallout, was also eagerly pursuing copyright infringing pranksters who would try to divert the unknowing to faux-shelters? In 1958, Kimball High School became the second high school in Royal Oak.  It was the height of modern architecture, rebelling against all that was pleasant and pleasing to the eye.  It was a time of practicality; no one had time for cornices, trim or even placing the pretty side of the building outward. A year before, the unthinkable happened.  We dropped out of first. “Are you glad, mad, sad or afraid?” a psychologist once asked me.  “Because… Read More…

County-Wide School Districts? Kicking the Tires in Ol’ Machiavellian Michigan

Quoting billboards is kind of a family hobby.  “Keep up the good work, Governor Snyder,” my son read on I-96 last Tuesday. “Kind of like, ‘Brownie, you’re doing a helluva job,’” he chuckled. My poor kids have, surely by osmosis while sitting at eternal dinners with me, come to expect no good news from our state’s capital for most of their lives.  And this morning’s headlines didn’t change that pattern. Growing up in the micro-town of Clawson, Michigan, I was amazed, even as a clueless junior high student, that we had our own superintendent.  Heck, most of us couldn’t believe we had our own laundromat. So here are three simple questions for the salesman before you buy the 2014 County-Wide School District being rolled out by State Superintendent Mike Flanagan. The vehicle sure looks swell during the commercial and it looks even prettier in the showroom. And who’s not in… Read More…

The Four Ignored Elephants of Quality in the Classroom & Teacher Retention

I was reminded of Winnie the Pooh and his hallucinogenic-trip, envisioning heffalumps and woozles, the other day… My priest was giving me an update on contract talks with his elementary teachers. “I tell them, ‘You only work 3/4 of the day and 3/4 of the year, why should you expect full-pay anyway?’” I wanted to say “Yeah, Padre, and you only work three hours on Sundays and get free clothing, room and board.” But then I’d have to escort him to the confessional right afterwards for absolution of the sin of sarcasm. *** I gave up my calling last summer and quit public school teaching after 25 years. That was never my plan; I was going to go 40 years. It wasn’t “kids today,” parental apathy or even standardized testing. Frankly, we were going broke. After my state and city imposed four years of pay-cuts–including a 9% six-month retroactive cut… Read More…

Uncommon Sense: YouTube Teacher Resignation Reaches Nearly Half-Million in a Week

“No wonder teacher burnout and turnover are at an all-time high.” Few people turn pages of newspapers.  Fewer people flip their phone apps to the editorial button to read letters to the editor.  And the only thing smaller than the audience for a school board meeting telecast is the audience at an actual school board meeting. But in just over a week, nearly half a million people have heard why an Illinois teacher has had her heart broken too many times by the new politics of school systems’ reliance upon test scores and disregard for teacher worth. It’s not slick, like last winter’s Ed Asner-narrated modern fractured fairy tale that illustrated the California Teacher’s Union struggle:   The Asner video created more of a backlash against its production value and thus fogged over the facts that were present within its narration.  In fact, Ellie’s resignation resides in its complete lack… Read More…

You Can Take the Teacher Out of Service, But You Can’t Take the Service Out of the Teacher

One of the greatest gifts of teaching is spending the day with other teachers.  But even in the department-store enormity of a high school, we all close our doors at the bell and, in essence, work alone.  We meet in meetings that no one wants to attend, by the copy machine that no one wants to un-jam or by the mailboxes, that no one wants to look into–all of these situations aren’t the most positive climates for collegiality. I was fortunate to begin working in the late 1980’s, when Michigan teacher-strikes were winding down and school funding was healthy.  The veterans that were there when I started began their careers during the Eisenhower administration, many years before Mitt Romney’s father made teacher’s unions legal. Don’t worry, I’m not going on a political rant–I promise! In 1994, when school funding was removed from local communities in Michigan, things began changing.  And… Read More…