We ain’t go no place to go, let’s go the bro-rawk show
August 1, 2008, 5:51 pm
Filed under: Music Reviews | Tags: , ,

This is my account of a concert that I went to recently:

I recently spent an evening at a musical performance of Maryland-native jam-band O.A.R. (Of A Revolution). The concert was solid, the crowd friendly, and the bros out in full force. Yes, you read correctly – the bros were in their element.

(If you are unfamiliar with bros, watch this.)

As I pulled into the parking lot, the first thing I saw made my (strong, well chiseled) jaw drop to the floor (immediately followed by uproarious laughter) : An approximately 22 year old Caucasian male, shirtless, sitting on the roll bar of his jacked up yellow convertible Jeep Wrangler, complete with a can of bro-favorite Natural Light – more affectionately known as Natty. This is too good (funny) to be true.

Apparently, beautiful (often scantily clad) girls go for this, because there was one nearby every bro.

I decide that I can have too much fun with this: I will join them. I make a solemn promise to myself to “bro out” until the night is finished. I remove my shirt, grab a solo, and begin what seemed to be a never ending evening of guys chanting, arms slung over one another, in the bliss of drowning away insecurities with beer and “Bro-therhood.”

After 3 solid hours of tailgating, my friends decide that the crappy opening band is done, and that those of us with lawn seats need to get a good spot. We get a good spot – front “row” of lawn seats, but to our dismay the opening act is not finished. We are happy to hear them announce that this is their last song, and that they are from Sydney, Australia. OK, so the Sydney thing isn’t that great, but we are certainly glad to hear that they are soon going to shut the hell up. Their “last song” is a 20 minute slow jam that nobody there liked. Their feet apparently were cemented in place, and there were no words. Then they decide to tell us again that they are from Sydney, and that this is their last song. Everyone there though that they played the same song again.

After the set change, the lawn starts to fill up. This is a homecoming show for Rockville, MD darlings O.A.R., and people are excited. The energetic jam-band has grown recently in popularity, famously being one of the “smallest” acts to sell out Madison Square Garden. By the time the lights dim, you cannot sit down. Merriweather Post-Pavilion is at capacity.

O.A.R. plays a great show for their voracious hometown crowd, but I think that the real show was not on the stage, but in the crowd. My buddy’s friend is truly enjoying himself. I turn around and see him talking to two girls who had been hitting on us earlier – I tried to keep my distance. They were nothing special. I turn around again a few minutes later, and Jared is making out with both incredibly below average girls. They had tried to say that he was gay, and he later told me that he had to “prove them wrong.” This saddens me in a way, because I had been told multiple times that night that we both looked and acted the same. I feel like my allowance of him to make this grave mistake was similar to me doing it. I felt better about a half an hour later, when he was dancing with what I will refer to as a “Babraham Lincoln.”

At least 75 percent of the people there are not wearing shirts. And if they are, they are either lacrosse jerseys or have a popped collar.

I did not break character. I am a method actor. I feel like the Daniel Day-Lewis of investigative reporters. A guy spills some beer on me, and apologizes. “Sorry bro – my bad.” I break into a brief but severe fit of laughter (as do my friends who are aware of my objective). “No problem bro,” I reply, huge grin on my face. He offers me a cigarette, which I decline. I decided not to call him “bro” again, lest he catch on to my thinly vailed “bro-verload.” (Note: Bro-verload is the abundance of bro related topics, or conversational over usage of the word itself.) I’d like to see Geraldo’s mustache do that.

As I lay in bed that night, I thought to myself, “I had a great time.” I had a great time… pretending to be a bro. Oh no.

Why the U.S. Education System is Failing (and Why I’m an Authority)
July 21, 2008, 11:59 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

My brain just exploded.

As an AP student in our awesomely failing compulsory education system, I agree.

I am the student that deserves a C in one class and suprisingly receives an A or a B. Sure, I’m thankful when I do get rewarded with an easy A (though, often it’s not an A awarded, which brings me to my next point). I am the kid who should be in Honors for some of my courses, but instead is forcefully pushed into a realm of education that should be beyond what my personal limitations are, all to avoid being in the cut-up class of Honors students who were pushed into that level of education. In a nutshell, I am a prime example of the failure of the U.S. education system. I am a product of my environment.

The A that I was awarded (or that 5 on an AP exam) may get me into a college – but what for? To be in another institution filled with students who were also pushed into courses in which they were given A’s but should have earned C’s?

This degradation of the public school system may put more kids in college, but only hurts us in the long run – that “long run” being the post-college career. It would not be so detrimental to the U.S. if the education system were slackened (as it has) were it not for one minor problem: The global position of U.S. education. This (pardon the cliche) “real world,” in which economics and business and policy are all counted and measured and judged and pitted against each other play out on the international stage – not the American stage. In this worldwide play, American students are slowly becoming the extras – the ones which people know are there, but everyone except that kid’s parents are too captivated by the leads to notice. Perhaps the most poignant observation (among many) is that College Board should grade teachers.

Here is a prime example of why.

Starting with the class of 2009, the state of Maryland’s Public Education System put in place standardized High School Assessments – tests which all MD students must pass to graduate. Is this fair? Does it ensure that teachers are being held accountable? To put it simply, no. This new, shiny, state government supported, fail-proof, strict measure has already been given elasticity to its intended rigidity: Students did not pass, teachers are not being fired, and not surprising in the least – its being challenged. Parents will not stand for their child, who is enrolled in an advanced Science course, to be told that they did not make the cut.

This intended swift hammer of justice did not strike. Nor will it. Not until school systems stop pushing for the school with the most enrolled AP students, and start pushing for the most students passing the AP exams.

We need to follow a survival of the fittest approach to education, not the “Oh-well-everybody-had-fun-here’s-a-juice-box” t-ball technique that we are using now.

The Glorious Failure of Charter Schools…
July 21, 2008, 11:58 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: ,

this is a short paper that I wrote for an argument assignment in my AP Language course back in November(I chose to do mine on charter schools). Just putting it out there:

“They are so common that students have given them names… drawn pictures of them”. These are the words of Ariel Smith, a college student who worked at an after-school program at in a Washington, D.C. public elementary school. The “they” she made reference to was not a local running group, a nest of birds in the school yard, or interesting cars. “They” is a reference to the rats seen running through the cafeteria and kindergarten room. Why, you may ask, has this D.C. public school (and so many like it) been neglected, been allowed to fall through the cracks? While some may say that it is the school principal’s fault, it is actually caused by a relocation of educational funds. Where is the money that could be saving the community’s schools? The answer is obvious: charter schools. Charter schools are public education facilities which have been created for any student who wishes to “escape” the disintegrating public schools. While many may say that this is an excellent idea because it allows students to get away from unproductive learning environments, it is, in reality, causing the existing schools to be further neglected, and in the end, allowing students to become “left behind”.

The District of Columbia has put great faith in charter schools to be the savior of the public school system. The charter schools, once seen as the magic remedy of the ever failing facilities and staff, have themselves failed. This year, a review of all public schools in the District was conducted to determine if they met health and test standards. 30 of the schools failed. Included in the list are charter schools. Although some of the charter schools have seen moderate success, a great number of them have failed to meet educational standards. 26 out of the 30 failing schools are regular public schools; the other 4 are charter schools. Washington charter schools are evaluated every 5 years by a charter committee, as well as an annual review (which the regular schools are subjected to as well) dictated by the No Child Left Behind Act. If it is determined that test scores are too low, they have a two year probationary period to improve them before they are added to an “In Need of Improvement” list. If after those two years the school still fails to raise its scores, the school is eligible for additional monitoring, or to be shut down. It is evident that charter schools are not only failing to be the champion of public school system, but rather they are becoming the nemesis of success, as is obvious in the growing number of schools who after more than two years still cannot raise scores.

Some say that charter schools are a great success because test scores are rising. However, this rise in test scores is found only in the charter schools, which draw the more academically advanced students from the regular public schools, and not throughout the entire District school system. Besides failing to ameliorate the entire District’s failing test scores (three out of four D.C. students fail to meet math standards), charter schools also use vital funds which should be used to rehabilitate the struggling regular public schools. Although in theory charter schools should be met with great success, they are actually money pits which consume large amounts of government funding. The school system fails to be productive with the money granted not because of a fundamental flaw with charter schools, but because of the District’s crumbling infrastructure. Blatant statistics show misuse of funding (and of deep internal issues) in Washington’s school system. The school system ranks third in the nation’s 100 largest school districts in spending, while it ranks last in the classroom and instruction spending category. Charter schools are merely the latest step in a colossal fumbling of grant location; they are the biggest layer that needs to be peeled away, and one that when removed will make the underlying infrastructure problems visible and ready for reform.

The first step in fixing the mounting problems in Washington, D.C. schools is to phase out charter schools and focus on rehabilitating the decrepit facilities which already exist. Once this happens, more qualified teachers will come to teach in the District, and eventually, test scores will rise. But I stress once again, to give incentive to these teachers, it is paramount that we refocus our funds away from money pit projects (such as the $125,000 “production room” at a Washington middle school intended for announcements and television broadcasts, which, after three years still has not been used due to miscommunication between the school board and the principal) and towards the rehabilitation and expansion of regular public schools.

Teachers do not want to work where rats scurry through classrooms, adorned with rusted through lockers, and where they will lack proper funding for classroom instruction. Until these issues are met head on, Washington test scores will fail to improve across the board. While system-wide reconstruction will not be easy, the first (and always hardest) steps are to phase out charter schools and refocus funds.