Archive for August 21, 2006

A Southern Man Don’t Need [American Idol] Around Anyhow

August 21, 2006

The trial did not happen, so I am surrendering to temptation and commenting on the B’ham tryouts for American Idol. All I can do is write about it, but I have a suggestion for American Idol.

I never dreamed American Idol would come to Birmingham searching for the next big thing. I’m also a simple man who has never watched even one episode of American Idol. (Nor will I ever willingly watch an episode of American Idol.) But let me say right here and right now, that any Ruben wannabe who sings “Sweet Home Alabama” for their audition should immediately be told they ain’t the one and booted out of the arena unless said poser can first:

1. Tell us who “Mr. Young” is.

2. Explain who “ol’ Neil” put down and how he did it.

3. Identify the Guvnah so loved by Birminghamians, and the source of the felicity.

4. Tell us why Watergate ought to have burdened anyone’s conscience.

5. Point to Muscle Shoals on a map.  

6. Finally, be a Ken Jennings wannabe and tell us to what question Montgomery’s got the answer.   

You got that right. If you are an AI contestant, before you can even tell the judges what’s your name, you have to answer these questions. The only thing you need to ask is was I right or was I wrong.   

I’ll allow some wiggle room on four, six, and the second half of three. Those answers require some factual knowledge, but are also a matter or interpretation. However, anyone who misses one, two, the first half of three, or five is in double trouble. Not only are they prohibited from singing the song, but they ought to be flogged for their presumption. After they get a head start of three steps towards the door, of course.


Equality of Opportunity

August 21, 2006

Jeff highlights this story:

When state Sen. Hank Sanders, D- Selma, informed legislative colleagues that Lowndes County public schools were using coal to warm students in the winter, they had a hard time believing him.

It was 2003 and some of the lawmakers who listened to him thought he was putting them on in an effort to obtain funding for his senate district.

“They associated coal-burning furnaces with the ’50s, but we still had it here so many years later,” Sanders said, referring to the nine schools in the system that once relied on coal and noisy radiators to keep students warm during the winter months.

The beginning of the 2006-07 school term in Lowndes County marks the second year that students will be more comfortable thanks to a $1.9 million legislative appropriation sought and obtained by Sanders. 

Sanders was familiar with complaints by principals, teachers and students, but without sufficient funding, there was little that could be done to improve the situation. In past years, when winter arrived, students wore coats, hats, scarves and gloves during class. Clanky, hissing radiators also made it difficult for them to hear their teachers. . . .

Last week, Sanders was joined by state Board of Education member Ella Bell and Lowndes County Superintendent of Education Daniel Boyd at Jackson-Steele Elementary School in White Hall.

Bell was even more familiar with Jackson-Steele than Sanders because she had made numerous visits to the school through the years.

“I used to come here and find soot on the walls because of the coal that was burned,” she said. “We’d have to wash them down to get it off. It was a bad situation for everybody.”

While the Lowndes County kids were getting black lung disease, students in Homewood Alabama got to enjoy this:

Sustainable design is crucial to the health and well-being of students in K-12 schools, many public health experts believe. Because young people’s immune systems are not fully developed, they are more susceptible to irritation resulting from the built environment. Students need fresh air, daylight, and a healthy environment to learn in.

Homewood (Ala.) Middle School [is] the nation’s first [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design] certified middle school. Completed in December 2004, the 1,000-student, $24-million, 180,000-sf middle school was designed by Giattina Fisher Aycock Architects of Birmingham, Ala.The building achieves 38% energy savings, 40% water savings, 50% reduced water use, and 95% daylighting of interior spaces.

I know, I know, you can throw money at the problem all day long without solving anything, parents need to get involved, personal responsibility is the solution, education should be controlled locally, when you were a kid you walked to school in bare feet through the snow uphill both ways, taxes are of the devil, the poor you will always have with you, yada, yada, yada.

But can anyone really salve their wealthy consciense with the balm of our alleged meritocracy while schools are this disparate? None of these kids had a choice in the matter. They went to school where the law and their parents said they had to go to school. For some, that was a wonderful new building, filled with all kinds of technological marvels. For others that was building without heat or air. Teachers, however, do have a choice. And in light of that, which school do you think gets the better teachers?

Sure you can explain the inequality, and even excuse it. But that does not make it right. If we really cared about giving everyone an equal opportunity, disparities like this would not exist.

Hurry Up And Wait

August 21, 2006

That’s pretty much how trials work. We probably, or maybe, or perhaps, have one starting this morning. If it happens, blogging will be light today and tomorrow. If not, I’ll have spent the last few days preparing for something that won’t happen for another two months or so. But at least I’ll be posting as usual.

If the trial does happen, maybe it will prevent me from doing something silly like posting about Alabama’s own John Mark Karr, or else the other non-football way for strange Alabamians to get famous.