Yesterday, one of my kid reporters emailed me for help with a debate on standardized testing. I gave her some input, including sending her to Google the two major scandals -- the "Texas Miracle" that started it all, plus the Atlanta fraud it touched off -- plus the slightly-less-clear-cut cheating on Superhero Michelle Rhee's watch.
And I told her that, first of all, use of easily-graded multiple choice tests mostly tests ability to take tests, and that, my senior year in high school, I passed the final for a course I hadn't taken, based almost entirely on my test-taking ability.
Secondly, I said, tracking test scores by grade level instead of by cohort provides data that is often, if not always, misleading and inaccurate.
Then this morning, I looked at Dilbert and thought, "There will come a time when all the kids who are now in school being raised under this testing regime will be grown ups. And this strip will no longer be funny because that's how they will think the world is supposed to work."
Except for this kid
There's been some buzz in the comics world over a story from Romenesko about an eight-year-old who called the Bloomington, Ind., paper and left a message protesting their cuts to the comics page.
The dismaying thing is the comments on Romenesko's site. Granted, "don't read the comments" is good advice, but up until a few years ago, Romenesko was the prime water cooler for working journalists and, while most comments these days seem to come from first-year j-school kids, low-level wannabes and "tourists," it's still sad to see them pile on the kid for his use of naughty language and for liking comics at all.
Turns out, by the way, that the publisher had ordered cuts and that Universal U-Click had balked at simply charging less for content, hence the paper is now all Creators and King Features strips, which is why those particular strips disappeared.
So it's really the publisher, not the editor, who is the shit-hole (or, grammatically, their newspaper).
As I have said before, it is not the Internet that is killing newspapers. It is the corporate beancounters, but they are aided by newsrooms who don't get it and don't know they don't get it.
The kid read the paper. He liked the comics. And they're dissing him because they don't like comics and they don't respect his taste and they'd rather run the content they like than the content their readers want.
Mostly, I think they're just jealous because, if they wrote "shit-hole" in a story, his great-grandmother would call to complain, and the publisher would listen to her, because he considers her demographic the future of the industry.
And now, this flashback
Jim Horwitz is playing with fire in the current Watson.
I know, because back at the dawn of time (1967), a friend of mine satirized the panic over drugs with a funny story for the campus magazine about students taking PEZ and being transported into giddy nostalgia, which he blamed on the stuff being psychoactive.
As you can see by this current portrait, he is an extremely serious person whose every word should be taken, I daresay, at face value. Or possibly he's a resident of New Orleans.
The good people of the Pez-Haas Incorporated chose Option #1, and were amused neither by his japes nor by his shenanigans, and promptly (well, more or less 'promptly') sent the magazine what is known in the business as a "nastygram," sparking the following retraction.
Watch your mail, Jim. Big Dispenser Is Watching You.
Good guys finish first (sometimes)
On a more serious and somewhat less psychotropic note, I'm not breaking my political-cartooning fast, but rather passing along the pleasant news that, while a lot of people don't get it, a few people still do, as a result of which Kal Kallaugher has been awarded the Herblock.
Best part of the Herblock is that it comes with a check. Well, okay, the best part is the honor, because this one is well-considered.
Still, you can't hock a chunk of Lucite for very much, and so the check is not to be despised.
Not only do artists not earn what they used to, but I once heard a writer growl, "When I want to 'see my name in print,' I look in the phone book" and I doubt they'll be printing phone books much longer.
Better far instead to 'see your name in print' when it is following the words "Pay to the order of."
Not to belittle the prize itself, however, which, as I said, is one that actually honors quality of work.
Kal is a terrific cartoonist and a darned nice fellow, and he's joining some good company, by which I mean a company of cartoonists each of whom has graced the pages of this blog. (Thus getting to see their names in print.)
Including John Sherffius, who later gave up cartooning, inspiring this rant, and whose kids used to write for me until they aged out of the program, which brings us back to the top of the blog and the end of it as well.