Thursday, November 29, 2001

Damn, the American public school system is screwed up.

My daughter's middle school has a "scholars program." Kids with excellent test scores were put into classes working 2 years ahead of grade level. To get in, their parents had to commit to supporting them in the extra work, and the kids had to commit to the challenge. We got to the parent-teacher night and found, not to our surprise but to our sorrow, that the scholars' classes were lily-white in a majority-black school. That didn't change our decision about what was best for our daughter.

2 months into the school year it was discovered that the previous year's test scores were badly flawed. Lots of kids had test scores that qualified them for the Scholar's Program, but hadn't been informed. Furthermore, most of those kids were black. The Superintendent, quite correctly, said "This problem gets fixed now, not next year." So an entirely new block of Scholar's classes was created for the short-changed kids. They didn't have to do the forms that committed them to extra work, because the Superintendent felt this was discouraging minority kids from even trying.

The existing Scholars classes were overcrowded. So they moved 4 kids, including my daughter, into the new block. Where they have vegetated for two months, because the teacher has her hands full trying to bring the new kids up to Scholars' level. As of today, my daughter's covering material that her old class covered in September. And very unhappy about it.

So I called the teacher and pointed out that my daughter wasn't being challenged, which was the whole point of the program. She agreed, unhappily. She says she had already decided to set up a separate table for the kids who can deal with the material, where they will work independently. She admits that this is less than ideal, but it's the best she can do under the circumstances.

I tried to get my daughter transferred back to her old classes in October, when it became clear that she wasn't being challenged. That couldn't be done.

I believe in justice. I believe in not trapping kids in the ghetto of low expectations. But I also believe that my daughter is being short-changed by this particular decision, and in the last analysis, her welfare (and her brother's) matter to me more than anybody else's.

And we're moving someday. Probably not for months. But that limits the amount of energy I have to protest and advocate.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Spike. Buffy. Zipper. Pain. Conflicting needs. Gaaaaaah. Excuse me, let's roll the videotape. Again.

This is not a romantic relationship. Spike wishes it were. It's not Twuuu Wuuuv, it's two desperate people using one another. And I don't see it as a feminist failure at all. (A) Buffy is totally in charge and (B) she was kicking his ass all over the house, both emotionally and physically. I see a very strong woman falling apart in a strong-woman way.

One of the many weird things about having a house on the market is that you work hard to expunge all traces of your own personality. Two of the three kitchen crocks gone. 95% of the books. All the wall-mounted bookshelves. The bolts of crimson silk, the embroidery projects, the patterns. The stack of half-read magazines by the bed. The 40 (no, I'm not exaggerating) different bottles of perfume atop the dresser.

In exchange, I get beige everywhere. There are some improvements -- the clean, brilliant windows, the lack of clutter (who knew the playroom had a floor?), the space. Next house, please God, we'll manage to keep the clean. But I'll welcome the clutter back. Because it's clutter that makes it home.

Where am I? Whose house is this?

Four things you would eat on the last day of your life:
Ma Po Dou Fu; cassoulet; Julia Child's orange genoise with apricot glaze; soft-scrambled eggs, my comfort food of choice.

Four CDs from your collection that you will never get tired of:
Dar Williams, The Green World and The Honesty Room (thanks, Nestra!); Stephen Sondheim's Assassins and Follies

Four celebrities you would have sex with:
(bearing in mind it would be adultery, so I'd run for the hills at even the hint of reciprocated interest)
James Marsters, Stephen Sondheim (yes, I know he's gay), Alan Rickman, hmmmmmmm.

Four vacations you have taken:

Vacation? What's a vacation? 17 years ago I went to the Southwest of England with my husband. I have been owed a trip to Paris for three years, and haven't taken it due to family crises.

Four things you'd like to learn:

Fencing, Aikido, draping (a sewing technique in which you create by draping fabric over a dress form and cutting away the bits that don't look like your vision of the garment. Madeleine Vionnet was the Queen of this.), fluent Latin instead of my two-terms-of-college stumbling

Four beverages you drink frequently:
Tea, usually Keemun Ji Hong; Seltzer; Diet Coke; more seltzer

God, I miss nightly wine, which doesn't play nicely with my medications.

Four tv shows that were on when you were a kid:
The Avengers, The Flintstones (preempted for the Kennedy assassination), Mission:Impossible, Mr. Terrific

Four places to go in your city:


Four things to do when you're bored:
Read, embroider, watch scenes involving zippers, take a hot bath with a fashion magazine.

Four things that never fail to cheer you up:
Singin' In The Rain, Astaire and Rogers, new Buffy, a promising movie preview (Lord of The Rings, Eyes Wide Shut (better than the movie!), Spy Kids, Roger Rabbit)