Blue Parents on Red Kid Alert

Iowahawk reports on the latest way for blue-state adolescents to rebel: They're going "Dollywood" in Palo Alto, Calif., he writes. Satirically.

The story starts with Rain, who insists his mothers call him Bobby Ray.

She opens the door to a reveal a riot of George Jones CDs, reflective 'mudflap mama' stickers, empty foil packs of Red Man, and U.S. Marine recruiting posters. In the middle of the room: a makeshift table made from a utility cable spool, bearing a the remains of a gutted catfish.

"This used to be all Ikea," she says, rocking on heels between heaved sobs.

"It's too late for us. Maybe it's not to late for me to warn others."

"Cracker" culture is spreading across blue America like trucker hats, the story warns.

"It was one day last spring," says Ellen McCormack. "My life partner Carol and I were in the garage, working on a giant Donald Rumsfeld papier-mache head for the Bay Area March Against the War, when Rain walked by. I thought he looked kind of strange, so I stopped him and looked closely into his eyes. Then I realized the truth -- he was wearing a mullet. I was shocked, but he swore to me that it was only ironic."

"After a few months, it was clear Rain had lied to us -- that hideous Kentucky waterfall was completely earnest," she adds, choking back sobs.

Her 18-year old son would soon exhibit other signs of disturbing changes.

"I was driving past a McDonalds one day last summer, and I thought I saw Rain's bike outside. He had told me earlier that he was going to a friend's house to stuff envelopes for the Dennis Kucinich campaign. I pulled a U-turn and headed back," she recalls. "When I confronted him in the parking lot, he started giving me a lame story about how he was only there to protest globalization, but I could smell the french fries on his breath."

It starts with french fries and pork rinds. It ends with bass fishing and stock car races.

Twirps Will Out

Cross-dressing, a homecoming tradition in the East Texas town of Spurger, has been banned because a mother complained it encouraged homosexuality.

As a substitute for "TWIRP Day," the schools ranging from elementary to senior high decided to hold "Camo Day" -- with black boots and Army camouflage to be worn by everyone who wants to participate.

TWIRP stands for "The Woman Is Requested to Pay." The original idea was to encourage high school girls to play the male role by buying sodas for boys. I'm not sure what Camo Day is meant to encourage.

Suspended for Cartwheels

An 11-year-old girl was suspended for doing cartwheels during lunch period at her Southern California school. School officials said the girl's cartwheels and hand stands were unsafe; she'd ignored orders to stop. Her parents will teach her at home until they can find a school that tolerates playing on the playground.

Thinking About Learning

Are college students learning? In the Washington Post, Jay Mathews writes about the National Survey of Student Engagement, known as Nessie, which is trying to answer the question.

Only 11 percent of undergraduates surveyed said they are doing the 25 hours of class preparation each week that their professors recommend. About 44 percent of freshmen and 25 percent of seniors said they don't discuss ideas or reading from their courses with faculty outside of class.

But in its latest annual report released this week, the national survey group revealed some good news. The percentage of seniors who think their campus administrations are helpful, considerate and flexible has increased from 48 percent in 2000 to 63 percent this year. And 55 percent of students report having serious talks with students of different social, political and religious views, up from 45 percent four years ago.

Cranky Professor and his art history colleagues are consuming wine, cheese, nuts and olives while discussing "what we think our students are getting out of our classes. We've tossed all of our syllabuses into a box and have looked at them. We're approaching the big question -- do we as a group (of 5) have any common idea of what an art history graduate of this department should know or be able to do?"

Read the comment by Dr. Cookie, who's completing an education doctorate.

Professors have no idea what other professors are teaching, she writes, because they don't share syllabi.

At one meeting, the profs began to complain about the teaching workload, and if they had to share ideas and articulate the core courses, then it would be hard and blah, blah, blah.

So I asked, "Do you think it would be better to first decide what you think students should know? Like when I leave here, and go out on the job market and say I have a PhD from this university, what should people think I know? What do academics assume you have taught me?"

They were silent. They had never really thought about it that way before.

It was particularly sad that professors had not thought about student knowledge, when we're in an education department.

Joanne Jacobs writes about education and other issues at She's writing a book, Ride the Carrot Salad, about a start-up charter high school in San Jose.

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