The Alan Sondheim Mail Archive

August 22, 2008


 	January 25. I was working at the table while Seryozha was lying on the 
sofa and reading some tattered book with a green cover. Suddenly he jumped up 
and explained:

 	"Sasha! Just a minute. Listen to this!"

 	"I'm listening."

 	As solemnly and loudly as if he were reading to an audience of
thousands he read to me:

 	"'To deliver up millions of men, superior minds, scientists, even 
geniuses, to the caprice and will of a being who in an instant of gaiety, 
madness, intoxication, or love, would not hesitate to sacrifice everything for 
his exalted fancy, will spend the wealth of the country amassed by others with 
difficulty, will have thousands of men slaughtered on the battlefields, all 
this appears to me, a simple logician, a monstrous aberration.' Pretty good 

 	"Swell!" I agreed. "About Hitler, Eh?"

 	"You certainly hit the nail on the head!" said Seryozha bursting out 
laughing. "That's Maupassant, brother, 'The Sundays of a Parisian'!"

 	Somewhat embarrassed, I laughed too.

 	"Not so long ago I gave a talk on Hitlerism," said Seryozha. "I was 
asked why Hitler is burning the classics. I answered that fascism was the enemy 
of culture in general and so on. But what I should have done was read this page 
from Maupassant. It would have answered the purpose better. Pity I didn't get 
hold of this book before. This is one straight in the eye for crazy Adolf. 
There isn't a single classic in which he can't find a crack at himself. That's 
why he got so raving ad and gave orders to burn them all. Freaks don't keep 
mirrors in their houses. A mirror reminds them of their freakishness and only 
irritates them."

 	Then Seryozha took out his notebook and copied the quotation. Feeling 
extremely pleased with himself he began to walk around the room whistling an 
aria from "Carmen."

[ ... ]

 	Seryozha has summed up the work of the crew. We have 160 opera-
tional flights to our credit. We've done 180,000 kilometres over enemy
territory and dropped more than 200 tons of bombs on various targets. We
took a hand in defending Moscow, saw action on the Kharkov and Voronezh
Fronts and around Leningrad and Stalingrad. We've flown to Germany and to
Hitler's vassal countries. I must say that the "itinerary" of our crew
looks quite impressive.

 	"We've done what we could," said Sergei. "Wish to God that every-
one could do the same. And I hope that before the end of the war we'll
still manage to add something or other to our score. Right, Sasha?"

 	"Right," said I. "If only we're alive we certainly will."

From A. Molodchy, "180,000 Kilometres over Enemy Territory," in An Army
of Heroes, True Stories of Soviet Fighting Men, translated from the
Russian by Elizabeth Donnelly, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow,

1,2,3 sequences

1, universal slaughterhouse of the scrawl

death is accompanied by the annihilation of memory, the annihilation of
death. the political economy of death: I will Julu Twine to you; I will
Nikuko Dojoji to you. Nikuko Dojoji passes beneath the sign of Alan, Alan
Dojoji, another quality of identification that disappears. The beginning
of cache-drawing in Second Life, the opening of the maw of the true world,
virtual real, is gray mass, gray goo, outlines devoid of color. What is
discernible is the growing, cawing, of memory always already at work
signifying what is to come: proper names for these puppets or extensions,
these flesh-works redolent of the human. Inscribe Julu Twine, and that is
hir beginning and ending; hir cunt is dry fold in protocol codework dead-
space; hir skin tears at the seams. Look closely and frisson disappears
into ridging, swollen rips in the fabric of visual presence. Look closer
and real slaughter begins. blankgeneration jpgs

2, invasions once jpgs

torso-moss destruction of a great nation.
an environment for all ages and ideologies.
a platform for espousal of new ideas.
a compilation of redolent primitivism.
one-sided imaginary of dream-world imagery.
armies of the non-economic.
ruptured slaughterhouse of sea and island.
political economic of bandwidth bandits.

These will stop. These will come to an end, these experiments in space,
time, movement, bandwidth, interaction, perception, virtuality. These
will absolutely stop. These will absolutely come to an end.

From the concrete, steel, and brick building of the Virtual Environments
Laboratory to the invisible, transparent, physical, translucent, and
opaque manifolds of the virtual reality of Second Life - this is a complex
domain of phenomenological experimentation that continues to expand and

3, Julu Twine sky-writer flyingwoman jpgs

Julu emits particle torso smoke, black smoker as undersea, seabottom,
airless; her movements sky-write fluidly and beautifully for everyone
to see. I can demonstrate live in Second Life; let me know when you
might be present. In any case,

To access the Odyssey exhibition The Accidental Artist:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 22 Aug 2008 22:45:34 -0400
From: moderator@PORTSIDE.ORG
Subject: Why I Hate No Child Left Behind

One Teacher's Cry: Why I Hate No Child Left Behind

By Susan J. Hobart,
The Progressive
August 2008 Issue

I'm a teacher. I've taught elementary school for eleven years. I've always told people, "I have the best job in the world." I crafted curriculum that made students think, and they had fun while learning. At the end of the day, I felt energized. Today, more often than not, I feel demoralized.

While I still connect my lesson plans to students' lives and work to make it real, this no longer is my sole focus. Today I have a new nickname: testbuster. Singing to the tune of "Ghostbusters," I teach test-taking strategies similar to those taught in Stanley Kaplan prep courses for the SAT. I spend an inordinate amount of time showing students how to "bubble up," the term for darkening those little circles that accompany multiple choice questions on standardized tests.

I am told these are invaluable skills to have.

I am told if we do a good job, our students will do well.

I am told that our district does not teach to the test.

I am told that the time we are spending preparing for and administering the tests, analyzing the results, and attending in-services to help our children become proficient on this annual measure of success will pay off by reducing the academic achievement gap between our white children and our children of color.

I am told a lot of things.

But what I know is that I'm not the teacher I used to be. And it takes a toll. I used to be the one who raved about my classroom, even after a long week. Pollyanna, people called me. Today, when I speak with former colleagues, they are amazed at the cynicism creeping into my voice.

What has changed?

No Child Left Behind is certainly a big part of the problem. The children I test are from a wide variety of abilities and backgrounds. Whether they have a cognitive disability, speak entry-level English, or have speech or language delays, everyone takes the same test and the results are posted. Special education students may have some accommodations, but they take the same test and are expected to perform at the same level as general education students. Students new to this country or with a native language other than English must also take the same test and are expected to perform at the same level as children whose native language is English. Picture yourself taking a five-day test in French after moving to Paris last year.

No Child Left Behind is one size fits all. But any experienced teacher knows how warped a yardstick that is.

I spent yesterday in a meeting discussing this year's standardized test results. Our team was feeling less than optimistic in spite of additional targeted funds made available to our students who are low income or who perform poorly on such tests.

As an educator, I know these tests are only one measure, one snapshot, of student achievement. Unfortunately, they are the make-or-break assessment that determines our status with the Department of Education.

They are the numbers that are published in the paper.

They are the scores that homebuyers look at when deciding if they should move into a neighborhood.

They are the numbers that are pulled out and held over us, as more and greater rigidity enters the curriculum.

I was recently told we cannot buddy up with a first-grade class during our core literacy time. It does not fit the definition of core literacy, I was told. Reading with younger children has been a boon to literacy improvement for my struggling readers and my new English-speaking students. Now I must throw this tool away?

In an increasingly diverse public school setting, there is not one educational pedagogy that fits all students. We study and discuss differentiated curriculum, modify teaching strategies, and set "just right reading levels" to scaffold student learning. But No Child Left Behind doesn't care about that. It takes no note of where they started or how much they may have progressed.

As a teacher, I measure progress and achievement for my students on a daily basis. I set the bar high, expecting a lot.

I don't argue with the importance of assessment; it informs my instruction for each child.

I don't argue with the importance of accountability; I believe in it strongly-for myself and my students.

I have empathy for our administrators who have to stand up and be told that we are "challenged schools." And I have empathy for our administrators who have to turn around and drill it into our teacher heads, telling us we must do things "this" way to get results. I feel for them. They are judged on the numbers, as well.

No Child Left Behind is a symptom of a larger problem: the attack on public education itself. Like the school choice effort, which uses public funds to finance private schools and cherry-pick the best students, No Child Left Behind is designed to punish public schools and to demonstrate that private is best.

But I don't think we've turned a corner that we can't come back from. Public education has been a dynamic vehicle in our country since its inception. We must grapple with maintaining this progressive institution. Policymakers and educators know that education holds out hope as the great equalizer in this country. It can inspire and propel a student, a family, a community.

The state where I teach has a large academic achievement gap for African American and low income children. That is unacceptable. Spending time, money, energy on testing everyone with a "one size fits all test" will not eliminate or reduce that gap.

Instead, we need teacher-led professional development and more local control of school budgets and policymaking. Beyond that, we need to address the economic and social issues many children face, instead of punishing the schools that are trying to do right by these students.

We've got things backwards today. Children should be in the front seat, not the testing companies. And teachers should be rewarded for teaching, not for being Stanley Kaplan tutors.

Ten years ago, I taught a student named Cayla. A couple of months ago, I got a note from her, one of those things that teachers thrive on.

"Ms. Hobart was different than other teachers, in a good way," she wrote. "We didn't learn just from a textbook; we experienced the topics by `jumping into the textbook.' We got to construct a rainforest in our classroom, have a fancy lunch on the Queen Elizabeth II, and go on a safari through Africa. What I learned ten years ago still sticks with me today. When I become a teacher, I hope to inspire my students as much as she inspired hers."

Last week, I received a call from Niecy, another student from that class ten years ago. She was calling from southern Illinois to tell me she was graduating from high school this month and had just found out that she has won a scholarship to a college in Indiana. I was ecstatic in my happiness for her. We laughed, and I told her I was looking at a photo of her on my wall, building a pyramid out of paper bricks with her classmates.

I also had a recent conversation with Manuel in a grocery parking lot. He reminded me of my promise eight years ago to attend his high school graduation. I plan to be there.

Cayla and Niecy and Manuel are three of the reasons I teach. They are the reasons that some days this still feels like a passion and not a job.

When I pick up the broom at the end of the day to sweep my class due to budget cuts, I remember Cayla.

When I drive home demoralized after another meeting where our success is dissected with a knife manufactured in Texas, I remember Niecy.

When another new program that is going to solve the reading disparity, resulting in higher test scores, is introduced on top of another new program that was supposed to result in the same thing, I remember Manuel.

They are the fires that fuel my passion. They are the lifeboats that help me ride this current wave in education.

Eight or ten years from now, I want other former students to contact me and tell me a success story from their lives. I don't want to be remembered as the teacher who taught them how to sing "Testbusters" or to "bubble up." I want to be remembered as a teacher who inspired them to learn.

Susan J. Hobart, M.S. Ed., is a National Board Certified Teacher living in the Midwest.


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