October 7, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES III • Page 19 tradition into the United States, and we shouldn’t want to. Success in school followed by the arrest of the parent or the suicide of the student is not the goal of the public school system. The second taboo factor in the Hokum Sweepstakes: teachers who can’t teach. They exist. They are not common around here, but in the schools that need the most help, they are a staple. People less adroit with their fists than the average Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant, Army Ranger, or Navy Seal run the risk of getting mugged by their own students, and those who are exceptionally able generally relocate to other districts once the joy of combat wears off with the systemic production of testosterone or adrenaline. The brighter students, also, may feel their learning abilities challenged by the need to get home safely past bullies eager for their blood, or “classroom cut-ups” who literally fit that description. You shouldn’t need a black belt to teach high school math. One of my accomplice math tutors has one, but it is not really necessary most places in our area. A more benign problem, without mentioning fear of bodily harm, is that people with high qualifications in math or science, especially those who belong to the non-Asian minorities, are in such demand in private industry that they can find lucrative and comfortable employment outside the school system, and generally choose to do so. If you cannot find teachers who know the material and know how to convey the material to the students, no amount of time spent sitting at a school desk is going to improve the students’ ability to master trigonometry or calculus. People cannot teach what they do not know. The math tutors I work with are certainly not dumb, but they are frequently dumbfounded by the fact that the course levels and grade levels their students describe bear absolutely no relation to their abilities to score well on standardized tests. The problem may not be the amount of class time. The problem may be that the teachers pass people on to the next grade without making sure they know the material they are supposed to have learned. Have you ever seen a native speaker of French confront someone who has taken two, three, or four years of French classes? It is usually “funny video” material. People try this on me a lot. They find some French speaker and sic him or her on me to find out of I can really speak French. The people usually back away smiling and complimenting me on my excellent accent when I tell them I perfected my French “in the Legion.” I am referring to the American Legion, which was kind enough to have admitted me. But as Hemingway taught us, you can make a better impression if you leave out the adjectives. The third taboo topic for hokum: the mainstream culture and the subcultures versus academics. There are schools where it is cool to be dumb. There are families where intelligence is seen as pretentious and irritating. Unless you completely separate the kid from the family and put him or her in a barracks where the TV is left on PBS and classical music is piped in, no amount of time in class is going to help these people aspire to be any less “dumbed out” than the people around them. In some neighborhoods, smart students may need dumb students to stick up for them in fights, but the posse that nobody messes with doesn’t do homework, and would probably kill anyone who mistook them for the Math Team, even in jest. You are not going to turn these kids into competitors with the over-pressed students of Tokyo, Seoul, or Beijing by keeping them in school a few hours a day or a few extra days of the year. You could probable save a sizable number of them by one new law: Any student who harms or threatens to harm a teacher or another student who hasn’t engaged in violent provocation goes to prison and stays there until he or she finishes high school based on a standard GED test. The schools would then be safe so that even mediocre teachers and challenged students could complete as much learning as possible without fear of bodily harm. If the tough types see successful test-taking as a way to get back on That Street, some of them may finally apply themselves. I’m not a racist – ask the guys in the American Indian Movement I helped beat 400 years of hard time on eight federal charges – and I’m more than welcome in America by the rightful owners. I am, however, a taxpayer, and I’m tired of paying out money for stuff that won’t work, but will, taken to its logical conclusion, separate the country into a small minority of economic predators and thrifty heirs and heiresses and a big multi-racial majority of people who are totally dependent on the government for education and medical care if not for food and shelter. The people who care about helping the poor are not the government officials who live off other people’s money – those people want to perpetuate poverty so they can skim the taxes intended to terminate poverty. The people who care about helping to poor are those at risk of becoming poor themselves by funding programs that cost too much money and just don’t work. Make no mistake about it: I have no sympathy and no desire for contact with the kind of people who turn every Internet article about anthropology, archaeology, or astronomy into an attack on President Obama. The sort of racist garbage they churn up, along with the junk from people selling discount fashion apparel and work-at-home jobs that will make you a millionaire may ensure the survival of newspapers through the duration of basic literacy. It’s worth recycling some old newsprint into new newsprint trees to get away from that bunk. Much as I dislike these people and don’t want to encounter them over coffee, I probably owe them some civility for saving my job. There are some people who don’t like my column, but I think none can display any evidence that I start to snarl and go into the attack mode at the sight of a person of a different race in a responsible job. Having said all this, I have to point out that the idea that we can make American students competitive with people from Singapore or Tokyo by keeping them in school for a few minutes a day or a few extra weeks of the year. It’s hokum. It would be hokum if it came from a blue-eyed, silver-haired Navy pilot, a soccer mom who can see Russia from her back window, or the odd couple who kept China on the Most Favored Nation list despite lead-based paint on toys or the Chinese government’s previous abuse of Chinese Christians. It’s not hokum because of Obama’s race. It’s hokum because it’s hokum. The first taboo factor in the Hokum Sweepstakes: race. Most of the countries with really great math scores are made up of full-blooded Mongolian Asians: Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan are mentioned, though somebody left out Korea, also a forcing-bed of math prodigies. Singapore, a partial exception, also has a large component of high-caste Asian Indians, a section of an ethnic group also noted for high intelligence. People can argue endlessly over whether Asians are better at math than whites or blacks because the have a “math gene,” because they come from cultures that encourage introspection and concentration, or simply because mathematics is the one subject where grades cannot be adjusted downward for factors like class participation. I once had a serious talk with a couple of lead players on the Ridgewood Math Team – a Chinese three years out of Beijing and a Korean educated partly in Tokyo and partly in Seoul. These students came up with three conclusions. First, the Asians in the United States legally represented a selective migration from professional families and not a representative sampling of an entire culture. “There are plenty of dumb people where we come from, but they don’t show up in America.” Second, you put your best efforts into math because it was the one place a teacher could not lower your grades because he or she did not like you. This apparently happens from time to time, sometimes due to inter-ethnic hostilities, sometimes due to personal issues. Third, you didn’t bring home a bad grade in math because your parents would kill you. Any score below a 500 on a math SAT at any age was known as “a golf club” because that’s what they used to beat you. We cannot, I think, import this particular The Obama school plan and why it will not work Letters to the Editor Dear Editor: Thank you so much for your great article regarding the current unification project of the Church of the Good Shepherd in Midland Park and the Church of the Epiphany in Allendale. We have had numerous phone calls and inquiries regarding our Blessing of the Animals Service and other programs – a great affirmation of the importance of your paper in our life together as communities in upper Bergen County. Thanks for your continual contributions and great work! I would also like to clarify a couple of points of the article. First, the two churches have been very clear from the beginning of our conversations with each other that this was a unification of our respective parishes rather than a merger. Although this might seem trite, we realized that the term “merger” in today’s world denotes one entity taking over another. Our process, however, has been a unification of two parishes into one new parish that will honor the Clarifies article on church unification people, traditions, and mission of each parish involved in this exciting process. Regarding the present church location on Godwin Avenue: There has not been any discussion about the dispersal of this property because the intent of the new parish is to use this as an important and integral extension of our present worship, outreach, and ministry within the community. At the present time and into the foreseeable future, the new church intends to use the Midland Park facilities for its continued and expanded outreach ministries, including the Little Ivy Nursery School that is well known throughout the community. The buildings, including the church sanctuary, will also be used for special events and worship services throughout the year. Once again, thank you for the great article and your wonderful involvement and positive impact in our community! Father Michael Allen Allendale North Field project (continued from page 9) The plans also state that any disturbed area that will be left exposed for more than 30 days, but not subjected to construction traffic, will be temporarily seeded and mulched. If the weather does not permit temporary seeding, the area will be mulched and bound. After the rough grading phase, any areas that are subject to erosion will be seeded and mulched according to state standards. Driveways will be stabilized with crushed stone. In addition, the storm drainage outlets will be stabilized before the discharge points become operational. The borough has already received a $155,000 matching grant from the Bergen County Open Space Trust Fund for the field renovation project. The matching grant requires the borough to provide the other half of the funds for the project, and those funds have been included in the budget, according to Ho-Ho-Kus Borough Administrator Don Cirulli. The borough has also applied for a FEMA grant. An engineering error made in the 1930s reportedly exacerbated the area’s flooding problem, since the culverts at Route 17 and West Saddle River Road were installed at the same elevation. This situation causes the local stream to fill with silt. The board of education acquired North Field in 1966. In the 1970s, plans for a multi-sport complex and parking at the field were drawn, but no action was taken. In 1978, the school board agreed to lease several acres at the north end of the field to the borough, and the tennis courts were constructed. Current state regulations preclude the reconstruction of the courts at that location.