Last week's news story about litigation targeting the L.A. Unified School District and its system of evaluating teachers drew plenty of commentary ("Lawsuit Aims at LAUSD Lemons," Hillel Aron, Nov. 18).
A reader who calls himself "Phobicbard" fires back with one modest proposal: "How about we start evaluating parents, too? We can draw up a four-page evaluation document and critique them on their parenting skills and see how they measure up to their peers. We'll then use said results to conjure some type of scale with which to rate parents, and we could even print these results in the newspaper for all to see!
"Or," he continues, "how about we start examining the real sources of the problems that prevent these kids from graduating: parents in prison, kids shooting up in the restrooms at school, kids rampantly cheating just to get points (Who cares about learning????), ... kids showing up for free/reduced lunch because it's their only meal of the day, kids walking to/from school in neighborhoods where murders and abductions are commonplace events...
"These are only a few of the issues that teachers encounter on a daily basis in their classrooms. For these kids, learning is the last thing on their minds. They are in survival mode — and they are not in the minority. You can evaluate the teachers on any scale you wish, using any criteria you like. Until people decide to look at the real sources of our problem, the results will never improve."
Artsoldier is less focused on society's ills and more on the district's lousy leaders: "It is ironic that many administrators at LAUSD are failed teachers who have a limited amount of experience in classrooms. They ascend not because they are educators, but because they are careerists. This means they are not concerned with students or community, much less quality control in instruction. They abuse their power, teachers and funding, ultimately betraying the public's trust."
Isn't It Ironic?
Speaking of irony, a fistfight nearly broke out at laweekly.com last week after Music Editor Ben Westhoff declared that Alanis Morisette's "Ironic" might be the crappiest song of its decade of origin. In his post, "The Worst Song of the '90s? A Line-by-Line Dissection of Alanis Morisette's 'Ironic' " (which you can read in this very issue, on page 62), Westhoff argues that not a single line in the supposedly irony-drenched tune is, in fact, ironic. He also thinks the song sucks. Cue the debate!
"Worst song of the '90s, huh?" writes Mrcookieface. "I see your 'Ironic' and raise you Crash Test Dummies' 'Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.' "
"I see your Crash Test Dummies and raise you a Hansons' 'Mmmbop,' " counters Crystene crystene.
Reader Jason C. took umbrage to Westhoff crapping on the '90s. "Wow, what a moron," he writes. "The '90s gave us musical prodigies and unique genres. The '80s were all just copycat disco burnouts, and while the 70s had some great tunes, they were lacking in ingenuity. ... The '90s will go down in history as one of the most prolific genres in modern music history. This author needs a reality check."
But is "Ironic" actually ironic? Eric Bright-well writes, "You fools! The irony of the song is the listener expects the lyrics of a song titled 'Ironic' to give examples of irony. It doesn't, though, so the song itself is ironic."
Andrew, who concurs with that theory, concludes, "Alanis Morissette may well have pulled off the greatest practical joke in popular music history."
But one reader, an English literature teacher, isn't laughing. As he informs us, "A little learning is a dangerous thing (as is using too narrow a definition of a thing). I mean, jeez, even a cursory glance at Wikipedia reveals different types of irony exist beyond those given in a Hollywood film (e.g., situation, dramatic, etc.). It's great fun to be glib and critical, but it comes off amateurish and irresponsible when done this way.
"The song, as annoying as it is, uses these very different types of 'irony' to reflect the very real (and valid) feeling people have when faced with a sense of situational irony. And as a musical form of expression, the song's allowed to do this. What's ironic here," he continues, "is that you're criticizing it for a supposedly uncritical use of irony. If you make a correction to the article, feel free to email me back. I'd love to use it in class." Alas for that could-have-been teachable moment: Westhoff stands by his story.
Elvis Is in the Building
Film fans took to Twitter to praise Karina Longworth's cover story about critic Elvis Mitchell's new gig at the L.A. County Museum of Art ("Going Hollywood," Nov. 18). As Longworth reports, Mitchell has a checkered employment history, but he has plenty of celeb friends — and, by the admission of LACMA CEO Michael Govan himself, was brought in partly to help the museum raise money from Hollywood studios.
"Does anyone at LACMA actually think of film as an art?" asks @stellameridien. "They are aware they are an art museum, right?"
Adds @nelliekillian, "Depressing read. Los Angeles deserves better than Govan's pandering."
Bwunderlick had a tart comeback to Mitchell's suggestion that film fans will come to the Bing Theater because it has a bar. "Someone should tell Elvis Mitchell the ArcLight has a bar, too," he writes, adding, "Oh yeah, he's never been there." Ouch!
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