Archive for October, 2010

Shakespeare Anagram: The Taming of the Shrew

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Here’s another Shakespeare anagram that started in comments, and I thought it deserved its own post.

After a Shakespeare-anagram debate about Waiting for “Superman,” reader Dharam posted her own anagram.

From The Taming of the Shrew:

The Taming of the Shrew

Dharam shifted around the letters, and it became:

Night of Wm’s theatre, eh?

Now, shift around the letters again, and it becomes:

Wish them together, fan?

Shift around the letters one more time, and it becomes:

The woman fights there.

Just Kidding

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Feedback on my recent post about The Rules has led to a concern that my humor is too subtle and not everyone might get that it is a joke. As this regularly happens to me in real life, I thought it might be a good idea to sprinkle a few drops of water on my dusty-dry sense of humor, and clear up a few items on the blog that were always meant to be taken with a grain of salt.

ONE. The Rules were a satire that applies equally to members of both sides of the political spectrum, including me at times. You should definitely vote.

TWO. To the best of my knowledge, Rick Astley never performed in The Two Gentlemen of Verona. That was a Rickroll setup. Sorry. But there really is a “never give her o’er” speech.

THREE. The rap song “Mary, Mary” by Run DMC is not really about Queen Mary I of England. The song was actually written by Michael Nesmith of The Monkees. No, seriously.

FOUR. King Henry VIII never really used online file-sharing services. Someone really did search for that, though.

FIVE. President Bush did not really let the door hit him on the ass on his way out of the presidency. That’s just an expression.

SIX. Shakespeare did not really use PowerPoint. If he had, he would have probably created the best presentations ever, and today’s scholars would be debating whether or not he had really created them.

SEVEN. I was never really serious about the feud.

EIGHT. I am not really a mixer, a battery, or any of the other riddle answers. I am forty, though.

NINE. Waiting for Superman is not really my favorite of the Superman movies. I like the one with Richard Pryor better.

TEN. I don’t really think my readers need a list of examples of when I was joking. I just thought it would be funny.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

I’m a whimsical gait that’s a step and and a hop;
When a train only makes every alternate stop;
Throw a stone in a lake so it skims off the top;
And I’m missing a class to sleep in or to shop.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher. See comments for answer.

The Rules

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

It has recently come to my attention that not everyone is aware of The Rules. I am posting them here as a public service. Please familiarize yourself with them, as you will be held accountable for knowing them.

1. I have very strong opinions on a wide range of political issues. These opinions are the correct opinions. If you disagree with them, you are wrong.

2. I do not know why I was the one who was blessed with the correct combination of opinions, but I take my gift seriously, and am always willing to share them with those around me.

3. If you are on the other side of the political spectrum, you are the opposition. You are not on that side because you have a different set of core values and beliefs about how America can be improved. You only pretend to care about America to advance your sick and twisted agenda.

4. If you are on the same side as me, but closer to the center, you are the lapdog of the opposition.

5. If you are on the same side as me, but farther from the center, you are a fringe lunatic.

6. If you share my exact positions on all of the issues except for one, you are tragically misguided about that issue and are probably being misled by the mainstream media.

7. The mainstream media is definitely the lapdog of the opposition.

8. There are a great many issues where I disagree with Hitler. If you disagree with me on any of these issues, you are Hitler.

9. If, however, you compare me to Hitler, you are behaving inappropriately, and have automatically lost the argument.

10. Politicians are all corrupt liars. That’s why I don’t vote.

This Election Day, be like me. Don’t vote.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

I’m a planned social function where people can meet;
A rotating device used for blending concrete;
An electric appliance for eggs you would beat;
And I’m used to make liquor more sour or sweet.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher. See comments for answer.

Shakespeare Anagram: Henry VIII

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

From Henry VIII:

The gentleman is learn’d, and a most rare speaker;
To nature none more bound; his training such,
That he may furnish and instruct great teachers,
And never seek for aid out of himself. Yet see,
When these so noble benefits shall prove
Not well disposed, the mind growing once corrupt,
They turn to vicious forms, ten times more ugly
Than ever they were fair.

Shift around the letters, and it becomes:

The director of An Inconvenient Truth lent aid to ruthless enemies of government-funded education.

Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for Superman should seek to learn the inherently right way: reform relentless poverty.

Instead, it prefers to foment barbed attacks on unions as anathemas. Why? Why?

Remember, the real superheroes teach in our schools.

More on Waiting for Superman here.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I’m a series of drawings a painter might need;
I’m the research a thesis will use to proceed;
I’m reviewing your notes for a test to succeed;
And a room in your house used to work or to read;

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by Asher Susswein. See comments for answer.

Film: Waiting for “Superman”

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

Davis Guggenheim’s new documentary about the need for reform in the American school system is one of the most important films of the year and everyone should go see it. Although I have a number of significant problems with the movie (which – rest assured – will be inventoried below), I think there are a lot of dark truths that Guggenheim brings to light, and even if we don’t all agree on what the solutions are, we can agree on what’s at stake in getting it right.

Waiting for “Superman” follows the journey of five students, and their individual quests to improve their educational opportunities. I’d say the movie gets about 75% of it right: the system is failing these students, and millions like them. But while it might make a good movie narrative to divide the issue into good guys (charter schools) and bad guys (teachers unions), the real issues surrounding education in this country are much more complicated than Guggenheim suggests.

I came out of the movie disappointed about many of the factual inaccuracies and glaring omissions that Guggenheim uses to make his case, but I found that these were well addressed by this piece in the Washington Post. Even better is this excellent article in The Nation, which digs much deeper into the issues surrounding the debate. I strongly recommend these two articles, as they cover a lot of ground that I consequently won’t need to cover.

I do believe that Guggenheim is sincere in his desire to reform education, and that’s important to say, because many participants in this discussion are not. Their goal is to end taxpayer-funded education entirely, and they tend to support measures that move the nation closer to this ultimate goal. The problem with this is that the free market will do an excellent job of educating some of our students, while a great number of children in this country will be starkly left behind. So I’m on my guard when I hear arguments about how charter schools have solved all of the problems faced by public education. But despite some of the darker connections behind Waiting for “Superman”, I do believe that the filmmaker is earnest and I can counter his points secure in the belief that we share the common goal of educating all of our students.

Not only does Guggenheim omit important details, but he often doesn’t even draw the correct conclusions from the evidence actually presented in the movie. What was most striking to me was how powerfully the film showed how the lack of economic opportunities for parents in these inner-city communities directly impacts the education of their children. That alone was worth the price of the surprisingly expensive ticket. But then, we’re told that “many experts” (who?) now believe that failing schools are responsible for failing communities, not the other way around.

Each of the five children depicted has a parent or guardian who is hell-bent on making sure the child has the best education possible. They enter their children into a lottery for the local high-performing charter schools. Presumably, all of the children in the lottery have similarly committed parents. That makes for a pretty good head start for the charter school. Public schools tend to have a more varied range of parent commitment. Also, did you notice how few students are accepted each year? What does that do for class size? And I have to mention, even though it’s well covered in the articles linked above, the large amounts of private funding that the high-performing charter schools depicted in the movie enjoy.

So yes, the charter schools in the film are doing very well, and that’s great news for the students who attend them. But if, as it is admitted in the movie, only one in five charter schools are showing results, that’s a dismal record indeed. And despite the emotionally manipulative scenes where each student’s “fate” was decided by random lottery, I felt myself more concerned for the students who were never in the lottery.

So perhaps the real lesson we can learn from the successful charter schools is that, if the school has a clear and progressive vision, then increased funding can actually make a difference in student achievement. And if we take a closer look at what Geoffrey Canada is really doing for the students in the Harlem Children’s Zone, we might realize that student achievement isn’t only impacted within the school building. He may have even created a microcosm of the society we would have if we could make the connection between our nation’s social fabric and the way our children are educated.

But “firing all the bad teachers” is a much more digestible solution.

And yes, there are bad teachers, and I agree that it should be easier to get rid of them. But in truth, this represents a very small part of the problem, and blaming teachers unions for the decline in educational quality is seriously misguided. Teachers unions have been and should be a partner in education reform, but they also have the task of protecting the rights of their members. Teachers have the same rights to collective bargaining as any other labor force in the country. To frame the issue as children vs. adults is a dangerous distraction, especially when our goal should be to attract the very best people to the profession, and retain them once they’re in. The movie makes the point that great schools start with great teachers. I agree! So let’s make teaching the most desirable profession in America. You can read more about teacher recruitment and retention issues in this Washington Post article. Because once we’ve fired all the bad teachers, who will we get to replace them?

By the way, nobody is actually waiting for Superman to come and save our children. It’s a classic rhetorical trick to frame the sides of the debate as the people who agree with the solutions provided and the people who would rather do nothing. But smart and passionate people are already implementing solutions within public education that resonate with the solutions presented by Guggenheim. Here in New York City, we’ve increased educational accountability enormously, and with the cooperation of the teachers union. Nationally, we’re moving towards Common Core Standards for student achievement. We’re not there yet, not by a longshot, but nobody in the system is complacent about that.

Still, despite all the movie gets wrong, it should be praised for shining a spotlight on issues that have been festering in the darkness. This movie has the potential to spark a national conversation about the problems in American education, and how we can best address them. If it does that, despite the film’s flaws, its ultimate effect will be a net positive. If it does that, it will be my very favorite of all of the Superman films.

UPDATE: An anagram review.

Thursday Morning Riddle

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

I am two guns or more that are used in a war;
I am testing galore that’s combined for a score;
An attack you are sure that you never asked for;
And an energy store that you keep in a drawer.

Who am I?

UPDATE: Riddle solved by DeLisa. See comments for answer.

eBook: Hear My Soul Speak

Sunday, October 3rd, 2010

Fellow blogger Duane Morin (aka The Shakespeare Geek) has written a wonderful book called Hear My Soul Speak.

I’m going to tell you about it, but if this is your thing, you should already be reading his blog on a daily basis. If you came to this blog looking for steady news and conversation about Shakespeare, his was really the blog you were looking for. My blog is really more about a weekly riddle and a heap of good intentions. But I digress.

Hear My Soul Speak is a collection of quotes from Shakespeare that anyone can use for weddings. No prior knowledge of Shakespeare is required. Duane helpfully breaks down the quotes into different categories, whether you’re exchanging vows, giving a toast, or even proposing in the first place!

Even if you don’t have a wedding in the near future, it’s a fun book to read to geek out on Shakespeare quotes with Duane. With his trademark infectious enthusiasm, he offers insight on what each quote actually means, and when it is most appropriately used. He also offers suggestions on which quotes not to use, because their original context may not be as romantic as they first appear.

Hear My Soul Speak is available for download for just under eight dollars. It’s definitely worth checking out.

The Shakespeare Teacher received no compensation for writing this review.