Thursday, January 17, 2013

Congress Passes Gun Violence Law Banishing Children From Country Altogether


NRA strongly endorses bipartisan legislation; President Obama to sign

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a stunning development on Capitol Hill earlier today, Congress approved comprehensive legislation aimed at curtailing gun violence against children by making it illegal for children to live in the United States, period.

President Barack Obama signaled that he would immediately sign the bill, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. The National Rifle Association (NRA) also endorsed the bill.

The law, titled the “Getting Them Far Overseas Act” (or the GTFO Act), calls for the immediate deportation of children under the age of 18 to randomly assigned foreign countries.

Families who are “conscientious objectors” to sending their children to any foreign nation have the option to place them on a rickety old sailing barge that will float aimlessly throughout international waters.

Women who are currently pregnant will not need to worry about unintentionally breaking the law when their new infants are born. A section of the GTFO Act, popularly known as the “Nermal Clause,” stipulates that all children born after January 15 will be mailed to Abu Dhabi within 72 hours of birth.

In Washington, D.C., within minutes of the news that the GTFO Act had passed, parents were already lining up their kids at Reagan International Airport to send them off to their new homes.

“I saw daddy dancing in the hallway, hugging his hunting rifle and saying ‘Thank God I don’t have to give you up,’” one 8-year-old boy said. “Then he grabbed a baseball glove and took the rifle out to the backyard to play catch with it. Daddy never played catch with me.”

Reaction from the White House was considerably upbeat.

“This is an historic day in the fight to end gun violence against children in our country,” President Obama said, speaking to reporters from the White House press conference room. “Working together with parties on all sides of the issue, we were able to determine the best possible solution to this problem; that solution is GTFO.”

“Obviously, there were a lot of folks around the country who insisted on clinging to their guns,” the president noted. “But remarkably, almost nobody was opposed to the idea of getting rid of our kids.”

President Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden last month to lead a task force addressing recent mass shootings in the United States. The task force spoke with legislators, health care professionals, members of the NRA, officials from the video game industry, and others about how to curtail gun violence against children.

“At one point during our talks, I mentioned to everyone, ‘the common denomination here seems to be keeping our kids safe,’” Biden said, speaking via conference call. “Then someone corrected me by saying, ‘Joe, I think you mean common denominator.’ I was never really that good with fractions.”

When the vice president realized that everyone involved in the talks were concerned about the safety of the nation’s children, an unorthodox proposal materialized.

“As we were finalizing our recommendations to the president, we sort of had an epiphany,” Biden said. “We’ve tried banning guns, but there’s a fat chance of that ever happening. So we asked ourselves, ‘what if we tried banning kids instead?’ After all, there are two sides to gun violence: the guns, and the victims. Eliminate one side and the problem goes away. We’ll never get rid of guns, so we’re getting rid of the victims.”

“This is a big [bleep]ing deal,” the vice president added. “And I can say that freely, because there won’t be any impressionable young children around to hear it. Hell, I can just say whatever the [bleep] I want now. This is great!”

House Speaker John Boehner had high praise for the legislation.

“The true brilliance of this law is how it narrows the gap in the deficit,” Boehner said. “With all of our children being sent overseas, American taxpayers won’t be able to take any child credits on their returns, which will generate billions in revenue. So not only do we solve the gun violence problem, but we also eliminate a tax loophole that has long plagued our nation’s fiscal health. Good riddance to those little brats, I say.”

NRA president David Keene embraced the news that the GTFO Act had passed.

“It was really the only sensible thing the government could do,” Keene said.  “I’m thrilled that our government recognized the need to protect the 2nd Amendment while at the same time keeping our children safe. It’s certainly not easy to choose between your kids and your guns. I mean, the eleven SIG P229s I conceal and carry at all times are just as much children to me as my actual children are. But we’re doing the right thing.”

When asked how he thought America’s children would handle the transition to living in other countries around the world, Keene showed little concern.

“Naturally, we want to make sure our kids are safe as they’re involuntarily scattered across the globe,” he said. “I would love to let each of them take their own guns for protection. But, countries like Great Britain and Australia have extremely tight restrictions on owning firearms, so that’s not possible.”

“Fortunately, the rate of gun violence over in those countries seems to be far lower than it is here,“ Keene added. “So our kids will be in a much safer situation. Thank goodness they have their [bleep] together over there.”

While international reaction to the GTFO Act appeared mixed, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated that member nations would be ready and willing to accept the incoming throngs of American children and help them adapt to a life of exile.

“It’s not exactly the craziest thing the United States has done, so whatever,” Ki-moon said.

Meanwhile, President Obama contemplated how the law would affect his own family.

“With Sasha and Malia gone, I won’t have to listen to those goddamned ‘One Direction’ punks anymore,” the president said. “That’s what makes this law beautiful.”


So yeah, today's entry is in the style of The Onion. If you found it even remotely humorous, I will consider this entry a tremendous success. Thanks for reading!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Should I Even Bother Reviewing For Final Exams?

Happy New Year, everyone!

It's been a while since I last released one of my incoherent ramblings into the wild jungles of cyberspace, and I have much to talk about, so expect to see a few more posts in the coming days. (And if you don't see said posts materialize, please nag me until I get them done.)

(As a side note, as of this writing, my blog has about 25,000 views accumulated since my first post in July. 20,000 of those views are attributed to a post I wrote in August about the ninja board. Apparently Google likes ninjas.)

My school resumed classes today, and 1st semester final exams are coming up in a week and a half. That means the time has come to start reviewing for finals.

I've been wondering about this lately, the idea of spending a week and a half of class time reviewing for final exams.  I'm not completely sure I ever do it the right way. Actually, I often wonder if there even is a right way.  

Does it even do any good to review for final exams?

Every semester, I take the last week and a half or so before final exams to review with my students everything that we learned over the prior 16-17 weeks, tell them what kinds of questions to expect on the final exam and how many, give them time to work on review packets/assignments/flaming obstacle courses, etc. and so forth.

I've tried various ways of helping my students to take stock of what they learned (or were supposed to learn) over the semester. We've done the "review for finals process" as a project (with a rubric and everything) where students had to develop and publish their own study guides. We've done the classic "Jeopardy!"-style review game. We've done notecards that students were allowed to use on the final. We've done review assignments with the final exam questions literally lifted from the exam itself, with the numbers changed.

And what bothers me is this: Not once, that I can recall, in the four years I've spent teaching so far, have I been able to discern whether or not these methods of reviewing have done any good to any of my students.

What appears to happen is that the students who more or less have been "getting it" (or have been perpetually on the cusp of "getting it") all along are best equipped to understand and solve the problems set before them on the review assignments. Students who have been struggling all semester -- for whatever reason -- also struggle to find success on review assignments. It strikes me as a situation where the students who benefit the most from reviewing for finals are also the ones who need it the least, and the ones who benefit the least are the ones who need it the most.

I don't know why this appears to happen. (Or, if I'm really being honest, if it actually is what happens.) Maybe I haven't been making enough of an effort to find out. Maybe it's some bizarre phenomenon that can't be explained, like Honey Boo Boo. Maybe I suck at teaching. (Okay, maybe not.)

I was discussing this matter with my lovely wife the other night, and she asked me, "well, how do you know whether or not it's helping your students?" I thought about it, couldn't come up with a great answer, got childishly frustrated then stammered something like, "it's just based on what I've observed in class, I don't know how to explain it!" Then I pouted and decided to go do something else, because I'm so mature.

The bottom line is, I've never really been confident in my approach to reviewing for finals. I haven't made it easy for myself to tell whether or not my approach has a positive (or negative) effect. Maybe that's what makes me wonder if reviewing does any actual good.

Perhaps in the naivety of being a young teacher, I've been thinking of it the wrong way.  I think the best way to describe how I've approached reviewing for finals is that I've seen it as an eleventh-hour scaffolding activity, intended to give students one last hope at having a mathematical epiphany, a lifeboat that will float them safely through the perilous, shark-infested tides of the final exam.

It never seems to really work that way. No lifeboats. Sharks with happy tummies.

Maybe I should be looking at reviewing for the final exam as part of the cumulative assessment itself. Reviewing should really be more of a time for reflection and fine-tuning, not making a last-ditch effort for comprehending something for the first time. That's not to say there won't be a few students that do get that benefit from reviewing, but that shouldn't be the point. The point should be to look back at all of the work we've done all semester, take stock of what we've learned and what we still have questions about, address areas that still need addressed, and perhaps even celebrate.

My angst aside, here's what I'm trying this time around. The other day, I remembered something I read on David Coffey's blog about giving students the answers to the problems and having them explain how to get that answer. In my case, I'm going to provide students with a set of problems that are similar to what's on the final exam, give them all of the answers, and require them to explain how to get each answer. This way, they focus on how to solve the problem as opposed to focusing on getting the right answer.

I don't really know if this will be any better or any worse than what I've tried in the past. But, I think it will at least alleviate some of the anxiety and second-guessing that comes with reviewing for final exams. We have a week and a half, which should be plenty of time to address any questions or concerns that arise as students work through their review assignments, particularly since I am putting the focus on articulating their mathematical thought processes.

Will it do any good? Your guess is as good as mine.