Monday, February 21, 2011

A Few Counter Proposals

People said it would never happen, but here it comes. You too will have to right to bring a gun on campus to “protect” yourself from those smarmy professors who give you assignments and to help heighten the culture of fear that drives America.
Scott Lewis,Texas director of Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, states that there won’t be many students who are of the right age and have clean enough records and have to resources to get the CHL so they can carry guns on college campuses. First of all, he’s dead wrong about the age. While the image of the college student is someone who is 18-19, in community colleges, the average age is between 27 and 29 (depending on the state). Second, if only a few could obtain the permit, then why are so many people working so hard and spending so much money to get it passed. You know the answer is because they do not expect this lunacy to stop here. Third, if the measure is so we can protect people, why should only those we “squeaky clean” records (his words, not mine) be allowed to defend themselves?
When asked to respond to the charge that such legislation is emotion fueled and reactive. Scott Lewis responded, “Well, yeah, there’s got to be some emotion involved.” That is supposed to be an argument?
There has been no proof, none whatsoever, to demonstrate that people involved in the mass shootings Lewis and Representative Van Taylor often cite would have been able to defend themselves. None. Zero. In fact, most of the data points the other direction, which is why few police officers working college campuses support the bill.
What evidence, proof, will administrators and the trustees of Dallas County Community College provide me that will make me feel safe? You see, I deal with angry people every day. From near-illiterates who feel entitled to an A on papers they either didn’t write or wrote badly, to stressed nursing students trying to hold a high GPA in order to get into the right school, to spoiled athletes who think my job is to stroke their egos, to bullies who don’t follow procedures and are surprised when they fail courses they didn’t turn work in for, to the wanna be rap star who has decided that outside the door of my classroom is where he must give his impromptu concert. And don’t get me started on their parents. I have seen many students go from zero to raging hate in a matter of minutes. Most of these can pass a background check and get on the campus and blow me away. Who will guarantee my safety from them?

There is also a problem concerning what is called a “hostile workplace.” All employees in this country have a right, already safeguarded by law, to a safe and non-threatening work environment. Allowing just anyone who passes a check and takes a course to carry something whose only purpose is to take life to walk into my classroom and or to expect me to be comfortable with that person in my office, is hardly reasonable.
Many teachers are already working in fear.  They don’t talk about it. They need their jobs.
So here are a few proposals, I’d like to offer to counter this wrongheaded idea:
Let the State (or district) pay for my CHL training, license, and weapon. Give me a list of all students in my classes with CHL and allow me to make sure they sit where I can get a good shot off without hurting anyone else should one of them get angry about a grade.
Reinforce a special classroom that cannot be entered without armed guard and let me lock weapons up during class. I’ll be safe from the shooter that could be in the class room, and we will all be safe from those outside too.
Put all classes online. That way potential victims can be home instead of in a dangerous school. (Of course, they are more likely to be killed at home by someone they know, but I don’t think that Misters Taylor and Lewis are willing to address that.)
Just let me teach online. Put all the gun toting people you want in a big classroom, and if they kill each other then, well, I’ll be safe. Surely, with all the budget cuts coming, Mr. Perry can afford special equipment for me to be in constant communication with my students who are not busy worrying about some jerk flying off and popping a cap in them.
Rick Perry has promised to sign this bill into law. Not  just in the past few weeks of budget wrangling, but his whole life in office, Perry has proven that his interest in education is negligible, non-existent, zero. So what can we do in the face of such a boldface liar?
Maybe there is another idea to consider. All of us teachers should just stop. I don’t mean a strike, because, of course, that is illegal. But just all of us, all at the same time, stop teaching. Let the little gunslingers take their shootin’ irons some other place. Let those who want to learn go to the library (until Perry shuts those down too). After all, Texas consistently ranks at the bottom in education. Maybe things will get better if we just leave these students alone and keep them from the burdens of actually having to learn.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Music Notes – Bolero (Stanley Jordan)

Recently found Stanley Jordan’s Bolero in the clearance bin at a Half Price bookstore. It does make me a little sad to see work by such a talent in the sit- on-the-floor-and-sift section of a store, but I suppose that is all to my gain. Well, mostly.
Jordan’s take on the classic R&B song “Always and Forever” doesn’t work for me. The vocal chorus makes the tune sound too much like smooth jazz despite some tasty licks. I much prefer the solo reprise version that closes the disc. There Jordan makes the most of the melody, making it his own.
The Herbie Hancock gem “Chameleon” comes off better, despite the programmed drums and synths. (I know such was all the rage when this was made, but jazz artists who used them well didn’t always have songs that sounded programmed.) Here Jordan takes the tune into his own atmosphere, especially on the solos.
Next, Mr. Jordan takes on another R&B hit, “Betcha By Golly Wow.” This sounds more like a Stanley Jordan song than the treatment of “Always and Forever,” but it is a little lush for my taste in places. Again, the vocals don’t improve or add anything to the song, but are distracting.
I enjoyed “Drifting” quite a bit though it also feels a bit lush with the supporting keyboards. Here Jordan almost rises above the programming with some delicious solos.
In “Plato’s Blues” Jordan takes his layered approach to solo guitar on the low end of the sonic spectrum and comes up with a nice tromp through a genre he doesn’t get into often enough. It begins slow and builds to a rocking crescendo which should please any lover of the guitar.
Of course the centerpiece of the project is the title song, a 22 1/2 minute rendition of Ravel’s masterpiece. There are some moments where the piece suffers from the same flaws noted above (especially from about the 11 minute mark to 15 minutes in), but overall, Jordan’s version is beautifully crafted, and never dull. Jordan solos in all the right spots, returns to the main melody with flair, and brings joyous life to what easily could become boring after three minutes or a vehicle for pretension.
Bolero is not Stanley Jordan’s best album. It sounds too dated in places and does not make the most of his skills as an improviser. However, it hardly deserves relegation to the bargain bin.