Life, politics, Reflections, The Good Fight

No Culture Left Behind

I’ve a third component for my list of agitators resulting in school violence, read about the first two HERE. I’ve pontificated HERE on the dog and pony show that is standardized testing. The third element in this trinity, along with 1. The second amendment(al), and 2. “Snowflake Syndrome” (we’re all part of the same compost heap), is the education system itself.


I’ll start with a picture –

Snap 2018-03-03 at 19.06.44

This image doesn’t reflect the myriad of technological changes in education, which is the point. I wouldn’t be out of line if I say that learning modalities and the tools to cater to those modalities are vastly different. In a manner of speaking, it’s like trying to upload rotary phone firmware (insofar as it has firmware) onto iPhones using a coaxial cable.


That is to say, the content is outdated and the transmission medium is incompatible with the hardware.


What should we do? Give the kids more tests and give the teachers guns!


I think it’s time for some fun facts about standardized testing –


Listen, I don’t have access to fancy databases like I did in college. I know what I’m looking for, but JSTOR or Ebsco Google Scholar is not. That being the case, the information contained here is a curious mix of stuff I go looking for and what Google allows me to have. In this case, I would’ve liked an article from a longitudinal research study based on data from a tidy sample of a few thousand students from all grades across the country (notably high schoolers and people who were in HS during the NCLB transition from 2003-2007). I actually did find something like this, but I found myself more concerned with figuring out how NCLB SOOO left children behind.


Allow me to digress briefly – among educators, NCLB is a four letter word (… you know what I mean).


Briefly, it turned teachers into robot bureaucrat prostitutes (hereafter referred to as “robureaucrutes”) whose primary functions are to submit a form for just about everything that happens in the classroom or during school hours and turn their tricks (teach) to tests whose validity and reliability are questioned to this very day. In exchange, they are given a pittance.


By its title, we are to conclude that no child will be “left behind”. There isn’t a “No robureaucrutes (Teachers) Left Behind” bill.


Indeed, I am one of those lost souls, but that is a horse of a different color – I will digress no more.


In fact, I’m at a good place to relate it to our troubled times. If NCLB can be said to have one lasting impact on public education, it’s unrest. Students are nervous that, despite high grades, they’ll perform poorly on the state exam, and potentially get held back, or denied entry into a desired academic program – be it college or maybe a HS AP class.


Meanwhile, the robureaucrutes are scared they’ll lose their jobs if their students’ scores don’t cut the mustard.


That’s okay, these rigorous assessments hold every child to a high, transparent achievement standard, right?


If by “rigorous” you mean hard on minority groups, the answer is yes. We know this because, in many cases, test scores have stagnated and the achievement gap has widened.


For example, according to THIS ARTICLE, math and reading scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or NAEP (a standardized assessment of student achievement in a variety of subjects – scores are reported by demographic group, race/ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status), shows both a widening achievement gap between minority students and white student and diminishing returns in both math and reading in grades four and eight.


Much time and resources go into teaching strategies that target minority students.


But all the shooters have been white dudes, right? I can only speculate that white students feel marginalized by an increased emphasis on closing the achievement gap.


Another theory – school staff are so busy with minority groups that they don’t notice the warning signs.




More to the point, I am pointing out that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Assuming this is true, we can expect school officials to start scrutinizing the metrics of their white male students, to the detriment of minority groups.


Thus the cycle of extinguishing the fires of the American public education system continues.


What about the tests themselves? THIS ARTICLE says students spend 20-25 hours each school year taking a test. This amounts to “about 2.3 percent of classroom time for the average eighth grader.”


This may not sound like a lot until you consider the hours upon hours of test prep. Put another way, teachers are forced to forgo more useful skills – say, coming up with a simple monthly budget or reading and writing cursive to have more time to “teach to the test”.


Concerning the former, the PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) contains a “financial literacy” component that purports to measure –

knowledge and understanding of financial concepts and risks, and the skills, motivation and confidence to apply such knowledge and understanding in order to make effective decisions across a range of financial contexts, to improve the financial well-being of individuals and society, and to enable participation in economic life.

I tell you what, dear readers, in my ~12 years in education, this is the finest example of educationese I’ve come across – it lithely straddles the hair thin line between ingenuously vague and technically obnoxious. It’s verbose – pregnant with buzzwords (“effective”, “knowledge”, “skills”, etc.) to show the reader how important it is, but it doesn’t state any concrete or measurable parameters. Fear not, dear reader, I’ve waded through the mire of needlessly grandiose *ahem* verbiage contained in the PISA supporting documentation to give you a clearer idea of what 22% (roughly one in five) of our nation’s youth don’t understand.

Here’s the gist – “financial literacy” as defined on the PISA includes an understanding of –

  • Insurance policies
  • Pensions
  • Budgeting for “household goods and personal items”
  • Bank accounts
  • Inflation
  • Interest
  • Accessing financial information
  • How to calculate a percentage
  • Currency conversion

There is quite a bit more, find it HERE if you’d like some stimulating reading while on the toilet or some such situation.

It is long time for me to get to the point. In short, the focus on testing has pulled the rug out from under the culture of our education system. Education doesn’t serve students anymore, it serves itself. The result has been the neglect of students who feel lost. They’re given little direction beyond always having a #2 pencil and filling in the right bubble – this is not a life skill. Imagine your outlook on life if you suddenly discover that the “real world” is a place where you have to manage your own money, but you have no money because “bubbling with extreme care and meticulous detail” is not counted as a worthy skill.

While writing this, quite a few ideas poured into my skull related to this issue. Firstly, are testing companies, like ETS and Pearson, pulling strings at the US DoE? Seems to me that a company that has made a name for itself through standardized testing would go to great lengths to make sure the government continues to mandate tests.


Also, I’ve posted a few times about peddling the English language like so many products at your local convenience store (HERE and HERE if you’re still on the toilet or like to read great writing). I teach English to Chinese kids online. In a recent conversation with an older (age 16), nearly fluent student (fludent?) the issue of school shootings came up. He likes to talk about lofty, philosophical stuff so he perked right up. I asked him, with an education system far more strict and intrusive than ours, why weren’t they having trouble with guns. He thought about it, and he answered it jokingly, but it was more profound than he realized. He joked that they do shoot each other with guns…water guns.


Then I jested that I hope he didn’t melt, as per Isaac Asimov’s “Rain, Rain Go Away” and that led to a discussion about how the commoners of today are the sugar people and the government is rain… it was way philosophical.


The profundity comes from the idea that he would find humor in the very idea of someone shooting up a school in China. I’m not suggesting that education is without dysfunction in China, but that is another horse of a new hue…


For a third time, I’ve wandered away from my thesis – “trigression” to be sure.


I’ve produced a flow chart summarizing my stance –


As I was producing this graphic, I investigated mass shootings and found that many are not in a school. However, most were perpetrated by a white male who was school age when NCLB took hold – this is a broad generalization I know – I think I’ll look at the shooters themselves next time to get an idea of their school lives.





Rhyme Time

Rhyme Time: Get a Job(s)

Teaching aboard the Millennium Falcon. Obi-Wan isn’t pictured, he had to go to the bathroom. The sign with the rooster reads “this isn’t the rooster you’re looking for”

My injourney

has led me

To many

Ways to make a penny.


My preservation,

Indeed, my continuation,

Rests on many a vocation.

A patched together living in summation


The latest of these

I do with ease,

Lounging in my jammies

Teaching English to Chinese…


…Children. Thanks to the internet,

I don’t get wet,

Or take a jet.

I Haven’t even been to China, yet.


Pronunciation and grammar are my trade;

American dollars are what I’m paid.

Fortunately, I don’t have to grade…

…Papers, and the lessons are already made.


I simply report to the designated digital place

With a smile on my face,

Speak at a slow pace,

And keep a clean workspace


“No, not ‘parsent’

“It’s pronounced ‘parent’

Don’t worry about your accent

I know what you meant


This pedagogical enterprise

Supplements my daytime guise

Where I mesmerize

Teach and civilize…


…local students at the secondary age

In order to engage

Them with sage

Advice for life on the world’s stage.


These jobs offer little remuneration,

But, keep in mind, monetization

Isn’t the only form of “job well done” dispensation,

Much of my efforts are met with adulation.


Indeed, the compensation is sufficient

For spiritual nourishment,

But the commercial payment

Won’t even cover rent.


Such is the way

I earn my pay

Allowing me to stay

Productive and bizzay (busy)


Life doesn’t stop because of brain injury.

I’ve still got to get out and feed the monkey.

I just never imagined I’d be

So busy…





Marginalization of Honesty

If you haven’t heard yet, Donald f*in Trump is the next president of the United States. I’m sure many would agree that this is some bullsh*t, but I’m going to stop there. I think I’ve a more poignant point (pointnant?) that rings oh so loudly.

You see, I’m a teacher. As such, I’m on the forefront of the future. This is not me bragging or patting myself on the back, I’m simply stating that children are said to be our future and teachers work with children, ergo I get to see what may be a norm in the generations to come.

I gleaned what may well be a new cultural standard in the coming years from a recent conversation with a talkative, precocious first grader with long, scraggly blond hair. I was in the library at a local elementary school when this insightful ragamuffin voiced his gaiety that Donald Trump will be our next president.

Of course, in my head I’m thinking kid, we need Donald Trump as president about as much as we need an enema (entertaining when it happens to someone else); but I held my tongue, and I’m glad I did because his next comment both frightened and amused me.

As if trying to sell me on Trump as president, he very casually said,

“He only lies a some of the time, not as much as he used to.” I guffawed. He reacted as if it were a statement of fact, not meant to inspire comedy.

It occurred to me then that honesty has been compromised. It’s no longer about lying or not lying. It’s about who lies the least and/or who’s best at covering it up. Shouldn’t the expectation be total transparency from our elected officials? Will this become a party slogan in the years to come? “Vote for Justin Bieber (I can conceive of this happening now), he tells 40% fewer lies than his opponent.” Or maybe, “research indicates that one out of every four statements made by Trump in the 2016 election was found to be a lie. Justin Bieber vows to lie only once for every five statements*. That’s a 20% reduction in zingers coming from your commander in chief. So a vote for Justin is a vote for more honesty (not too much though).”snap-2016-11-11-at-22-43-08

Anyway, I’m getting off track here, the point is the ethical landscape of our culture is overgrown with lies and deceit without a standard of decency to maintain it. The boy can’t be faulted for his opinions, he’s only 7 or so; but do his words ominously predict a future of “honest enough”? Or am I overanalyzing something a child said?

*This statement may or may not be true.



brain injury, living with tbi

The More You Know…


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I’ve started substitute teaching. You probably remember crusty, old geezers teaching your class when one of your teachers was gone. These fossils were fond of telling students that they don’t know what hard work is, that they had to recite the pledge of allegiance in Greek and had to learn math with an abacus.


Whatever the case, there was always the assumption that, like teaching vampires who only came out during the school day, subs didn’t have an everyday normal life; when the school day was over they’d retreat to the school basement to read the textbooks for enjoyment before using them as a bed to sleep on until they were called to action again.


My point is that, with a single day substitute, there isn’t really a chance to get to know the sub.


I typically sub at the school where I once taught and assisted librarily, so I know most of the teachers and they know of my condition. Given enough notice, I’ll offer to give a presentation to the kiddos about me. This way the teacher doesn’t have to prepare as much and the students get first-hand knowledge of why I am the way I am. I’ve posted a version of this presentation before (LINK), but it was a raggedy old PowerPoint.


AND THEN…last summer – I went to a writer’s conference to pitch my memoir. I wanted to stand out, so I put together a presentation. I had just given the students a crash course in PowerPoint presentations and Prezi, so I thought I’d give that a try. I didn’t get a book deal >:(, but my presentation was pretty sweet. Find it HERE


AND THEN…a new school year started and the sub jobs came pouring in. So far, I’ve presented to about 250 seventh graders, most of the eighth graders saw it last year.


AND THEN…my younger sister, a Latin teacher (She teaches Latin, she’s not a teacher who is Latin, no one is or really has been since the Roman empire), asked me to come talk to one of her classes. I thought that this nexus of presentation opportunities called for a revamped presentation.


AND THEN…I combined the raggedy PowerPoint with the fresh, shiny Prezi to create a PreziPoint (PowerPrezi?). The svelte can be viewed in all its smoothly transitioning glory HERE. Or, for your convenience, I’ve reproduced the presentation here in slideshow form.


AND THEN…actually, ‘AND THEN…’ doesn’t work here, but I’m nothing if not consistent, the frames with a 🌟 in the lower right corner were adapted from the original PowerPoint. This means that the ones without a star make up the original Prezi.


AND THEN… If you don’t notice, apart from the book excerpts, it rhymes! Isn’t that delicious?




AND THEN…@JarrettLWilson


Technology, Topic not about Brain Injury

Fun with Acronyms vol. 1

I’ve spent my career in education. The world of education is festooned with Acronyms. As a result, I’ve developed an Acute Compulsion to Rearrange Objects into Names to Yield More Significance. You might say I’m an acronymphomaniac, even though I’m a dude. Moving on, I’m no longer in education, but my obsession with acronyms lives on. In this series, I’m going to provide the words that, in my mind, describe three establishments of our culture – Apple, Walmart and Starbucks. That said, this post is not meant to disparage the fine products of the three corporate icons I’m about to “acronymize” (except Apple. Having an iPhone is sorta like having an awesome phone (read: an Android), but it comes with an Apple rep who slaps your wrist ever time you even think about purchasing content not authorized by Apple, and if you manage to get outside content on your iPhone, the rep laughs derisively, chiding, “Fool! iOS doesn’t support [insert content name]”).
Naturally, I have to begin with Apple now – Apple stands for “Average Products Presumably on the Leading Edge”
I’ll admit that iOS is a very user friendly, intuitive operating system. It’s just that Apple polices it the way a jealous, overbearing boyfriend would look after a girlfriend – no communication with unapproved parties, can’t go anywhere without his permission (if you do, you’ll pay for it), and he only makes a change after you scream in his ear and threaten to break up with him (I was an iPhone user until the disappointment of the iPhone 5, so I broke it off with “him”).
Listen, iPhone is like the marijuana of smartphones; that is to say, it’s a gateway smartphone. At first, it was great – then I needed more. So I jailbroke it, a lot. A jailbroken idevice will take you “higher”, if you will, but I just knew there was more.
A quick note about jailbreaking 4+ years ago. Jailbreaking allowed an iuser to do many things that Apple would brag about adding a few years later – stuff like WiFi sync and turning the status bar into a connection and notification hub – stuff Android had been doing for years – hence the acronym.
Anyway, if a plain ol’ iPhone is Mary Jane, then a jailbroken iPhone is cocaine and an Android is the big H.
The point of that analogy is, if you’re going to do drugs, go big or go home (of course, you’ll want to go home after you go big, you might be a little disoriented).
Next, let’s talk about that titan of “Great Value” (the food might not taste very good, but it was a great value). I speak, of course, of Walmart. I don’t want to put too much in this post; I was explaining to my daughter, a rabid YouTuber and budding video artist that most viewers/readers are turned off by content that’s too long. That being my philosophy, I’ll stop here and continue next week.
Adios People, Please Like this Entry!

living with tbi, NeuroPolitics

SSI & Medicaid Straight Dope

Recall my earlier post concerning the ABLE program. Twas from researching this program that the truth about SSI and Medicaid really slapped me in the face. What is that truth? Quite simply, to get accepted into these programs, you have to be poor. To continue to receive benefits from these programs, you have to stay poor. There is no allowance for monthly expenses or the degree to which you’re disabled. The bottom line is $2,000 – if you’ve more (including assets, etc.), so sorry. If you’ve less, you’re in so long as you don’t cross that $2,000 line.
I’ve since looked into this matter more, and have labored to produce, for your viewing and listening pleasure, a blog post with moving pictures and sound featuring me, Jarrett L Wilson, giving you, the Internet, the straight dope on SSI and Medicaid. Let’s start the show…



Pooled Trust –







cavernoma blog, Uncategorized

Presenting – My…Presentation

I used to work at a middle school.

I’ve was employed there in some fashion for a number of years.

My first two years I taught 8th grade US history and coached boys’ athletics. The next year I taught 8th grade English and coached girls’ athletics.

At the end of that school year some blood vessels in my brain leaked like so much kiddie pool left to rot in the sun.

I taught 8th grade English for half of the next two school years. I came back the next school year as the assistant librarian and have filled that role for four years.

Assuming my math is correct (2+1+.5+.5+4), I’ve been working there for 21,554 years – this raises a few questions.

Firstly, I’m only 32 years old. Secondly, the school has only been there for 40ish years. Let’s round that figure down to eight school years.

I did so enjoy working with students. Thing is, I’m was’t like any of the other teachers/professionals in the school.

When I returned to teaching after the hemorrhage, I created a PowerPoint presentation about my condition to show to my class to prepare them for my uniqueness.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to the new seventh graders. I modified the presentation to fit my condition today. I thought I’d share it with you, the internet –


This is the title slide – note that it has the title written (in English, no less!) on it.


This slide is for a handout. The students were given the same graphic, but with blanks. In essence, they started with an empty brain and ended with a full one (symbolic, no?)


In the same fashion as the previous slide, the students filled in the blanks on the same graphic.


This slide is a pictorial representation (pictoriational?) of the functions of each lobe. For instance, the temporal lobe (orange) controls the instinct to swat things away from your ear (actually, that represents hearing), and the frontal lobe controls the confusion that comes from staring at gibberish on a sign post (actually, that represents planning).


Now we get to my contribution – you see, the seventh grade reading classes at the school where I work are covering non-fiction. They are reading Gifted Hands by Dr. Ben Carson – the brain surgeon that removed half of a girl’s brain. One of the teachers is a friend of mine and asked me to present my experience as a primer. The image in the slide is my brain (isn’t it beautiful?). The white dot in the middle is my cavernoma isn’t it (or rather, wasn’t it) ugly?


Not much to say about this slide that isn’t in the slide. I’ll just add that the symptoms listed are enough to get you a 20 minute helicopter ride.


Much like the image in the “My Brain Issues” slide – the head pictured is my head. My head is perfectly round and my brain has many different colors. I know what you’re thinking, “But Jarrett, there weren’t no color in the other image and your head ain’t perfectly round.”

I’ve a twofold reply to this comment. First of all, I was joking – that’s not my head. Secondly, you need to work on your grammar. Moving on, this one has info about the surgery. That fact weighed heavily in my decision to title the slide “The Surgery 9/2009.”


A few summers ago I went on a tour of a Nair factory – this happened to be the day that Gillette planned to sabotage the Nair factory. They set explosives…I’m tired of this explanation. It started off with promise, but now I hate it!

Truthfully, a few summers ago I wanted to see the scar, so I shaved my head.


This slide is linked to a file with moving pictures and sound! This “video” is about *drumroll* neuro-plasticity! A fancy term denoting the brain’s ability to form new connections.


This is a visual representation of how your brain thinks. For instance, you see a donut with your occipital lobe. That info shoots to your frontal lobe and activates your happy gland. Your happy gland shoots a message to your parietal lobe “GO GET THAT F’N DONUT!” Someone gets it before you can, so your temporal lobe tells you to break out your megaphone and shout obscenities at this person and threaten to call the police. This guy grabs a nearby napkin dispenser and wangs you in the Temple…


…That blow to the Temple gives you a TBI. Your brain rewires itself and finds an alternate route to your happy gland.


I included this slide to give the students an explanation as to why I sometimes shake when I speak and why I walk with a limp and hike up my left arm like so much Bob Dole. It also helps explain the little girl in the moving picture mentioned earlier. It also gave me a chance to…

Treating Hypertonicity with Pic

…mention the painful treatments. One thing I’ve learned from working in a middle school is that, as much as the kids want to be treated as adults, they still love to hear about people getting poked with needles and meeting a real life cyborg.


I like to pepper in some humor here and there to make sure the kids are awake. When this slide appears, it’s accompanied by a very loud, obnoxious laugh.


I don’t really do any of these anymore, but I mention it because I did it for so long, and it drives home the point that I’ve had a long road.


In my mind, all of these will someday be replaced with “Painfully normal”. For purposes of this presentation, it gives the students an idea of what to expect when they see me.


It can be difficult to work around young people with my disabilities. Instead of hiding or pretending that I’m no different, I encourage the students to come talk to me if they have a question. I want to think that I’m an ambassador for the disabled. Hopefully, these students will apply what I’ve tried to teach them to others with disabilities.

I included the last bullet because I’ve had some students speak very loudly and very slowly to me. You see, they have to tell me their student ID number to check out a book. In previous years, a student or two would speak to me as if I was unable to type and listen at the same time.


I’m a pretty smart dude and I can be pretty creative, but I didn’t discover any of this and I didn’t make this sh*t up.

If there’s one thing I learned in college, it’s that Keystone Light is super cheap and tastes like weedkiller. If there’s a second thing I learned in college, it’s that plagiarism is bad (I remember a syllabus that said there’s a special place in hell for those that plagiarize).

We try to instill that fear into the students, so I model the proper citing of sources.