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brendanhalpin
Boston, MA USA
I write things and teach people stuff
Interests: Ramones, Husker Du, Minutemen, Prince, New Pornographers, teaching, Belle and Sebastian, Peter Jackson, Stephen King, Shakespeare, Connie Willis, The White Stripes, Wilco, Johnny Cash, religion, School of Rock, The Underground Garage, Public Education, Harry Potter, vegetarian cooking, vegetarian eating, guitar, muppets, All Girl Summer Fun Band, Elvis Presley, George Romero, fudge.
Recent Activity
Sounds good! Throw a SoulCycle and a SweetGreen in there and we'll have it swarming with upscale lefties in no time!
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So a bunch of us are about to get stuck with a president we didn't vote for and are feeling pretty frustrated that a guy could lose the popular vote by 3 million and still win the election because of... Continue reading
Posted Jan 20, 2017 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
This has been a hard year for just about everyone. It certainly has been for me, not only because of the election and all the celebrity deaths (Prince is the one that hit the hardest for me), but also because... Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
I've recently unfollowed some lovely people on Twitter. I'd like to explain why. I am opting out of kidlit Twitter. I believe that people who anger us are still human beings and deserve to be treated as such. I also... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
Most charter schools in Massachusetts serve students with disabilities at a much lower rate than the districts in which they are located. If you are skeptical of this claim, I encourage you to go to the DESE website and check... Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
I've been trying to focus my commentary about why we in Massachusetts should vote no on question 2 and keep the charter school cap on easily-verifiable data. (Find my previous posts on this issue here and here.) But I want... Continue reading
Posted Sep 26, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
I don't particularly want to write this, but I keep composing it in my head when I'm supposed to be sleeping, so here goes. I am a physically small person. I was beaten up with ease by people bigger and... Continue reading
Posted Sep 25, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
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In another lifetime, Frank Dolan and I were co-workers. And now we kind of are again, as Frank has written an absolutely first-rate crime novel set in a suburban high school. It's called The Long Detention, and Frank is launching... Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
I did not start an astroturf organization called "Families for Excellent Schools" or "Great Schools Massachusetts." Those are pro-charter groups. Charter advocates have been quick to accuse public ed advocates of wanting to deny great schools to poor kids of color. In light of this, it's fair to ask whether charter schools are actually great. You've effectively conceded that they're not. You should tell the venture capitalists who created those organizations. You say waitlist, I say retention: if MATCH is so great, why do a higher percentage of students leave MATCH than BPS before graduation?
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Charter school mythology maintains that charter schools are excellent. The astroturf organizations that venture capitalists fund in order to simulate popular support for charter schools have names like "Families for Excellent Schools" and "Great Schools For All." And, if you're... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
This November, Massachusetts voters will weigh in on whether to lift the cap on charter school expansion in the Commonwealth. Question 2 would allow for 12 new charters to open per year. This is an emotionally fraught issue that inspires... Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
As anyone who's ever unsuccessfully queried an agent knows, publishing is a subjective business. Which is to say this: whether your book gets published depends not on the quality of the book (assuming a certain baseline professionalism) but on whether... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
In a few weeks, my youngest child will graduate and I will be able to say I sent three children through the Boston Public Schools. Since I am a middle-class (holding on by my fingernails!) white person, I hear a... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
Despite your impressive use of Latin, you are wrong, both about what's happening and what I believe. Starting with the latter. I said in the very piece you're commenting on "I am an advocate of real criticism; if something sucks, say it. After you've read it. That is your right, and, I would argue, your responsibility as a reader." Maybe you missed it! As for the former: I am reacting to the current brouhaha, donnybrook, or controversy regarding Todd Strasser's American Terrorist. People are saying the stuff I'm reacting to all over my twitter feed. Go look the book up on Goodreads. The publisher has already pulled the description of the book (which makes it clear it's a fictionalization of the Tsarnayev case) and replaced it with the non-description you see there. You may note the number of one-star reviews expressing anger that this book even exists. I believe that is known as nihil scientes criticism.
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A lot of the conversation about young adult lit these days seems to focus on rules for what you as an artist (sorry--gonna use the a word throughout this post) are allowed to do. You are not allowed to write... Continue reading
Posted May 26, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
Well, in my second decade as a professional writer, I am becoming very well acquainted with rejection. The other day I was pondering one of my latest rejections, in which an editor said some of the elements of my book... Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
Under your overheated rhetoric, there's a valid point: I may have tied this piece too closely to Angela Duckworth, when she's not really the problem. I did read her self-serving Times piece before I wrote this--the idea that she created a rubric for something and is shocked and appalled that people are grading on it seemed more than a little disingenuous to me. But, as I say, my beef isn't with her, but with how the idea is being applied in the field. Though, by her own admission, she did work on this document, which I find frightenting, and which seems to contradict your assertion that it's all about long-term goals. (http://www.kipp.org/files/dmfile/January2014CharacterGrowthCard.pdf) I am working here from my own experience, though I know that it's much worse in other settings. I worked in an educational nonprofit with college-aged students. We wrote very extensive evaluations of them a couple of times a year. One day, "grit" showed up on the rubric. We weren't trained on it. You literally gave more information in your comment than I received as a teacher who was being asked to evaluate my students on their grit. The boxes on the rubric were similar to the KIPP document: doesn't give up on tasks no matter how stupid they are, stuff like that. My comment about a student who was abducted and tortured was not hyperbolic: I literally taught this person and was asked to evaluate their grit, which seemed to me to be so presumptuous as to be offensive. Your assertion that this is just doing for poor kids what rich kids already do is a ridiculous canard. Try scoring kids on that KIPP rubric at Weston High School and you can probably measure the rest of your career there in minutes. No, this is all about trying to make sure the poor keep their place and do as they're told. When I inquired about why grit showed up unannounced on our rubric, my inquiry worked its way through backdoor gossip channels, and the unofficial answer that got back to me was "funders like to see that." So for some reason, people with a lot of money are enamored of evaluating the grit of people who don't have a lot of money. I wonder why.
Toggle Commented Apr 1, 2016 on Against Grit at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
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The Premise If you were a teenager in the 90's, I am going to tell you something that will shock and disturb you. If you were not a teenager in the 90's, you already know this, but stay with me.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 28, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
If you spend any time in educational circles at all, you will hear something about "grit." If you want a lot of information about what "grit" is, you can google it, especially in conjunction with its foremost proponent, Angela Duckworth.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
Talking to a dear friend who got life-changing bad news the other day, and she was complaining about all the stupid things people say when they learn that something terrible has happened to you. Having had some terrible things happen... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2016 at Writer, Teacher, Writing Teacher
Thanks, Mary! So nice to hear from you again, and I'm glad you liked the piece. I have written a fair amount of posts that present the data about schools and never gotten the kind of response I got from this one. So I guess you're right--the situation calls for a smartass!
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Thank you, Mookie! I think I can probably do more by writing than by running, but I do really appreciate it.
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Thank you, John. I really appreciate it!
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@Vilma-- Thanks for your thoughts and your kind words. Keep up the good work.
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@Henry-- So, #notallcharterschools. Got it. But seriously, I'll take your points in order: 1. I've seen this line of thinking a few times in response to my piece: "you can't generalize about charter schools." I'm trying to keep it as civil as possible, but this just flabbergasts me. We've had decades of people talking about "failing" and "underperforming" public schools; two astroturf groups that advocate for more charter schools in Massachusetts are Families for Excellent Schools and Great Schools Massachusetts. I do hope you'll be visiting their websites and telling them that they really can't generalize about charter schools like that. How strange that the opposition to making generalizations about school systems only arises when people make generalizations about charter schools. One might conclude that people aren't completely sincere about their opposition to generalization. 2. I live in a city where the first charter school opened in 1995. We are as far along in this process as anyone. If I'm panicked, it's completely appropriate. Peaceful coexistence would be great, but it's not a choice the charter school lobby is offering us. It's increasingly an either/or proposition. Here's how they're doing it in Boston: imposing unnecessary budget cuts on the public schools while expanding the charter schools. So the public schools, starved of resources, will of necessity get worse. Parents will choose the charter schools with the ample public and private funding. Since charter schools effectively filter out English Language Learners, Special Needs students, homeless children, and a lot of other kids that are difficult to educate, they'll take more students who do well on tests. Charter test scores will go up, and they'll use this as a club to beat the "failing," under-resourced public schools where scores are going down. And soon we'll be New Orleans, with an all-charter district. This is the endgame that charter advocates want. The idea that these two school systems can peacefully coexist is, I'm sorry, dangerously naive at this point. 3. The piece is called "So You Want to Work in a Charter School." It is 1572 words long. It does not address the student experience. Or the parent experience. Or the administrator experience. It's almost as if I chose a topic and stuck to it. I note that your principled opposition to making generalizations did not stop you from questioning my interest in students based on a single blog post. Well, a foolish consistency and all that. 4. Sigh. Let me break this down for you, since you seem to have had some difficulty interpreting the piece. The line that provoked you is deliberately provocative. It does not represent my personal values--it is abhorrent to my personal values. It is also an attitude that I believe to be prevalent in many charter schools. How many have parent representation on their governing boards? Precious few in Massachusetts do. I wonder why that is? It certainly suggests that charter school operators do not value parents as partners in their children's education.
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