Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ratko Mladic & Ethnic Cleansing

Just started my new job, folks, and things have been busy; not much time to expound on all things cool and uncool...though I went to Territory Days yesterday and had a lot of fun.

With the recent reappearance of Ratko Mladic in the news, I am moved to re-post the following document, which first appeared in my "Three: REVELATION" article.

Ethnic Cleansing Operations

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Gender 101

And all this time, I've been mindlessly adhering to the archaic gender binary...

Decoding Skorman: Concession Speech

No commentary necessary.

The Devils

So, has anyone taken me up on my wager, and ventured a glance at this film?
I dunno, but I'm awake at 3:37 a.m because of it -- again.
I can't get anyone to watch it, and feel an overwhelming need to discuss it with someone who's seen it.
So, here's a clip, in hopes someone will watch it and feel a similar need to mine own...
Please comment on the movie if you've seen it, I remain disturbed and cannot stop thinking of it.

If you can sit through the parts you think don't matter, 
or seem like unnecessary camp and overdramatization...
I guarantee, you've never seen anything like it and will never forget it...
you'll be the better for having seen it...
even if you can't sleep afterward...

Can't even remember what I was looking up that caused me to stumble across this 1971 film titled "The Devils" -- starring Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave.  Oliver Reed is my "Oliver!" boyfriend, and I always liked the work of Ms. Redgrave.  The brief synopsis sounded interesting, so I decided to download and watch it.

Lessee.  Um.  Uh.  Well...I'm at a complete loss for words.  Suffice it to say I was left disturbed and dumbfounded by the time the credits rolled.  I will have trouble sleeping tonight...and tomorrow night...and yes, Spydra has been scarred for life.


I don't much care for scary movies, but this is not your average scary movie...and makes every other horror film I've seen seem like the work of rank amateurs...NOT SCARY...and totally make believe.

I guess this was based on a true story.

FIVE STARS. If you have the cojones, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS FILM.   That's all I'm gonna say about it. 

The Devils is a 1971 horror film directed by Ken Russell. It stars Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave. It is based partially on the 1952 book The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley, and partially on the 1960 play The Devils by John Whiting, also based on Huxley's book. Derek Jarman was responsible for the film's production design.
The film is a dramatised historical account of the Spanish Inquisition; it tells the story of Urbain Grandier, a 17th century French priest executed for witchcraft.
"The Devils" is a highly controversial film which has a history of censorship. The film is a strong condemnnation of religious institutions such as the Catholic Church and organized religion in general. This, combined with its unrelentingly graphic depictions of sex and violence, has led to its history of censorship.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Am I dreaming friends?  I don't know.  I'm stuck in a nightmare and can't wake up.

Everything is turned upside down, including my heart.

The only thing to make me laugh in three days comes at the very end of this post.

* * * * * * * *

Parents keep child's gender secret

May 21, 2011 * Jayme Poisson * Staff Reporter


“So it’s a boy, right?” a neighbour calls out as Kathy Witterick walks by, her four month old baby, Storm, strapped to her chest in a carrier.

Each week the woman asks the same question about the baby with the squishy cheeks and feathery blond hair.

Witterick smiles, opens her arms wide, comments on the sunny spring day, and keeps walking.

She’s used to it. The neighbours know Witterick and her husband, David Stocker, are raising a genderless baby. But they don’t pretend to understand it.

While there’s nothing ambiguous about Storm’s genitalia, they aren’t telling anyone whether their third child is a boy or a girl.

The only people who know are Storm’s brothers, Jazz, 5, and Kio, 2, a close family friend and the two midwives who helped deliver the baby in a birthing pool at their Toronto home on New Year’s Day.

“When the baby comes out, even the people who love you the most and know you so intimately, the first question they ask is, ‘Is it a girl or a boy?’” says Witterick, bouncing Storm, dressed in a red-fleece jumper, on her lap at the kitchen table.

“If you really want to get to know someone, you don’t ask what’s between their legs,” says Stocker.

When Storm was born, the couple sent an email to friends and family: “We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now — a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...).”

Their announcement was met with stony silence. Then the deluge of criticisms began. Not just about Storm, but about how they were parenting their other two children.

The grandparents were supportive, but resented explaining the gender-free baby to friends and co-workers. They worried the children would be ridiculed. Friends said they were imposing their political and ideological values on a newborn. Most of all, people said they were setting their kids up for a life of bullying in a world that can be cruel to outsiders.

Witterick and Stocker believe they are giving their children the freedom to choose who they want to be, unconstrained by social norms about males and females. Some say their choice is alienating.

In an age where helicopter parents hover nervously over their kids micromanaging their lives, and tiger moms ferociously push their progeny to get into Harvard, Stocker, 39, and Witterick, 38, believe kids can make meaningful decisions for themselves from a very early age.

“What we noticed is that parents make so many choices for their children. It’s obnoxious,” says Stocker.

Jazz and Kio have picked out their own clothes in the boys and girls sections of stores since they were 18 months old. Just this week, Jazz unearthed a pink dress at Value Village, which he loves because it “really poofs out at the bottom. It feels so nice.” The boys decide whether to cut their hair or let it grow.

Like all mothers and fathers, Witterick and Stocker struggle with parenting decisions. The boys are encouraged to challenge how they’re expected to look and act based on their sex.

“We thought that if we delayed sharing that information, in this case hopefully, we might knock off a couple million of those messages by the time that Storm decides Storm would like to share,” says Witterick.

They don’t want to isolate their kids from the world, but, when it’s meaningful, talk about gender.

This past winter, the family took a vacation to Cuba with Witterick’s parents. Since they weren’t fluent in Spanish, they flipped a coin at the airport to decide what to tell people. It landed on heads, so for the next week, everyone who asked was told Storm was a boy. The language changed immediately. “What a big, strong boy,” people said.

The moment a child’s sex is announced, so begins the parade of pink and barrage of blue. Tutus and toy trucks aren’t far behind. The couple says it only intensifies with age.

“In fact, in not telling the gender of my precious baby, I am saying to the world, ‘Please can you just let Storm discover for him/herself what s (he) wants to be?!.” Witterick writes in an email.


Stocker teaches at City View Alternative, a tiny school west of Dufferin Grove Park, with four teachers and about 60 Grade 7 and 8 students whose lessons are framed by social-justice issues around class, race and gender.

When Kio was a baby, the family travelled through the mountains of Mexico, speaking with the Zapatistas, a revolutionary group who shun mainstream politics as corrupt and demand greater indigenous rights. In 1994, about 150 people died in violent clashes with the Mexican military, but the leftist movement has been largely peaceful since.

Last year, they spent two weeks in Cuba, living with local families and learning about the revolution. Witterick has worked in violence prevention, giving workshops to teachers. These days, she volunteers, offering breastfeeding support. At the moment, she is a full-time mom.

Both come from liberal families. Stocker grew up listening to Free to Be ... You and Me, a 1972 record with a central message of gender neutrality. Witterick remembers her brother mucking around with gender as a teen in the ’80s, wearing lipstick and carrying handbags like David Bowie and Mick Jagger.

The family lives in a cream-coloured two-storey brick home in the city’s Junction Triangle neighbourhood. Their front porch is crammed with bicycles, including Kio’s pink and purple tricycle. Inside, it’s organized clutter. The children's arts and crafts projects are stacked in the bookcases, maps hang on the walls and furniture is well-used and of a certain vintage.

Upstairs they co-sleep curled up on two mattresses pushed together on the floor of the master bedroom, under a heap of mismatched pillows and blankets. During the day, the kids build forts with the pillows and pretend to walk a tightrope between the mattresses.

On a recent Tuesday, the boys finish making paper animal puppets and a handmade sign to celebrate their dad’s birthday. “I love to do laundry with dad,” reads one message. They nuzzle Storm, splayed out on the floor. The baby squeals with delight.

Witterick practices unschooling, an offshoot of home-schooling centred on the belief that learning should be driven by a child’s curiosity. There are no report cards, no textbooks and no tests. For unschoolers, learning is about exploring and asking questions, “not something that happens by rote from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in a building with a group of same-age people, planned, implemented and assessed by someone else,” says Witterick. The fringe movement is growing. An unschooling conference in Toronto drew dozens of families last fall.

The kids have a lot of say in how their day unfolds. They decide if they want to squish through the mud, chase garter snakes in the park or bake cupcakes.


Jazz — soft-spoken, with a slight frame and curious brown eyes — keeps his hair long, preferring to wear it in three braids, two in the front and one in the back, even though both his parents have close-cropped hair. His favourite colour is pink, although his parents don’t own a piece of pink clothing between them. He loves to paint his fingernails and wears a sparkly pink stud in one ear, despite the fact his parents wear no nail polish or jewelry.

Kio keeps his curly blond hair just below his chin. The 2-year-old loves purple, although he’s happiest in any kind of pyjama pants.

“As a result, Jazz and now Kio are almost exclusively assumed to be girls,” says Stocker, adding he and Witterick don’t out them. It’s the boys’ choice whether they want to offer a correction.

On a recent trip to High Park, Jazz, wearing pink shorts, patterned pink socks and brightly coloured elastics on his braids, runs and skips across the street.

“That’s a princess!” says a smiling crossing guard, ushering the little boy along. “And that’s a princess, too,” she says again, pointing at Kio with her big red sign.

Jazz doesn’t mind. One of his favourite books is 10,000 Dresses, the story of a boy who loves to dress up. But he doesn’t like being called a girl. Recently, he asked his mom to write a note on his application to the High Park Nature Centre because he likes the group leaders and wants them to know he’s a boy.

Jazz was old enough for school last September, but chose to stay home. “When we would go and visit programs, people — children and adults — would immediately react with Jazz over his gender,” says Witterick, adding the conversation would gravitate to his choice of pink or his hairstyle.

That’s mostly why he doesn’t want to go to school. When asked if it upsets him, he nods, but doesn’t say more.

Instead he grabs a handmade portfolio filled with his drawings and poems. In its pages is a booklet written under his pseudonym, the “Gender Explorer.” In purple and pink lettering, adorned with butterflies, it reads: “Help girls do boy things. Help boys do girl things. Let your kid be whoever they are!”


Storm was named after whipped winds and dark rain clouds, because they are beautiful and transformative.

“When I was pregnant, it was really this intense time around Jazz having experiences with gender and I was feeling like I needed some good parenting skills to support him through that,” says Witterick.

It began as a offhand remark. “Hey, what if we just didn’t tell?” And then Stocker found a book in his school library called X: A Fabulous Child’s Story by Lois Gould. The book, published in 1978, is about raising not a boy or a girl, but X. There’s a happy ending here. Little X — who loved to play football and weave baskets — faces the taunting head on, proving that X is the most well-adjusted child ever examined by “an impartial team of Xperts.”

“It became so compelling it was almost like, How could we not?” says Witterick.

There are days when their decisions are tiring, shackling even. “We spend more time than we should providing explanations for why we do things this way,” says Witterick. “I regret that (Jazz) has to discuss his gender before people ask him meaningful questions about what he does and sees in this world, but I don't think I am responsible for that — the culture that narrowly defines what he should do, wear and look like is.”

Longtime friend Ayal Dinner, 35, a father two young boys, was surprised to hear the couple’s announcement when Storm was born, but is supportive.

“I think it’s amazing that they’re willing to take on challenging people in this way,” says Dinner. “While they are political and ideological about these things, they’re also really thinking about what it means and struggling with it as they go along.”

Dinner understands why people may find it extreme. “Although I can see the criticism of ‘This is going to be hard on my kid,’ it’s great to say, ‘I love my kid for whoever they are.’”

On a recent trip to Hamilton, Jazz was out of earshot when family friend Denise Hansen overheard two little girls at the park say they didn’t want to play with a “girl-boy.” Then, there was the time a saleswoman at a second-hand shop refused to sell him a pink feather boa. “Surely you won't buy it for him — he's a boy!” said the woman. Shocked, and not wanting to upset Jazz, Witterick left the store.

Parents talk about the moment they realize they would throw themselves in front of a speeding truck to save their child from harm, yet battle the instinct to overprotect. They want to encourage independence. They hope people won’t be mean. They pray they aren’t bullied. No parent would ever wish that for their child.

On a night after she watched her husband of 11 years and the boys play with sparklers after dark, Witterick, in a reflective mood, writes to say we are all mocked at some point for the way we look, the way we dress and the way we think.

“When faced with inevitable judgment by others, which child stands tall (and sticks up for others) — the one facing teasing despite desperately trying to fit in, or the one with a strong sense of self and at least two 'go-to' adults who love them unconditionally? Well, I guess you know which one we choose.”


Diane Ehrensaft is a California-based psychologist and mother of Jesse, a “girlyboy” who turned his trucks into cradles and preferred porcelain dolls over soldiers when he was a child. Her newly published book, Gender Born, Gender Made, is a guide for parents of nonconforming kids.

She believes parents should support gender-creative children, which includes the transgendered, who feel born in the wrong bodies, and gender hybrids, who feel they are part girl and part boy. Then there are gender “smoothies,” who have a blended sense of gender that is purely “them.”

Ehrensaft believes there is something innate about gender, and points to the ’70s, when parents experimented by giving dolls to boys and trucks to girls.

“It only worked up to a certain extent. Some girls never played with the trucks, some boys weren’t interested in ballet ... It was a humbling experiment for us because we learned we don’t have the control that we thought we did.”

But she worries by not divulging Storm’s sex, the parents are denying the child a way to position himself or herself in a world where you are either male, female or in between. In effect they have created another category: Other than other. And that could marginalize the child.

“I believe that it puts restrictions on this particular baby so that in this culture this baby will be a singular person who is not being given an opportunity to find their true gender self, based on also what’s inside them.”

Ehrensaft gets the “What the heck?!” reaction people may have when they hear about Storm. “I think it probably makes people feel played with to have that information withheld from them.”

While she accepts and supports Jazz’s freedom “to be who he is,” she’s concerned about asking two small boys to keep a secret about the baby of the family. “For very young children, just in their brains, they’re not ready to do the kind of sophisticated discernment we do about when a secret is necessary.”

Jazz says it’s not difficult. He usually just calls the baby Storm.

Dr. Ken Zucker, considered a world expert on gender identity and head of the gender identity service for children at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, calls this a “social experiment of nurture.” The broader question, he says, is how much influence parents have on their kids. If Ehrensaft leans toward nature, Zucker puts more emphasis on nurture. Even when parents don’t make a choice, that’s still a choice, and one that can impact the children.

When asked what psychological harm, if any, could come from keeping the sex of a child secret, Zucker said: “One will find out.”

The couple plan to keep Storm’s sex a secret as long as Storm, Kio and Jazz are comfortable with it. In the meantime, philosophy and reality continue to collide.

Out with the kids all day, Witterick doesn’t have the time or the will to hide in a closet every time she changes Storm’s diaper. “If (people) want to peek, that’s their journey,” she says.

There are questions about which bathroom Storm will use, but that is a couple of years off. Then there is the “tyranny of pronouns,” as they call it. They considered referring to Storm as “Z”. Witterick now calls the baby she, imagining the “s” in brackets.

For the moment, it feels right.

“Everyone keeps asking us, ‘When will this end?’” says Witterick. “And we always turn the question back. Yeah, when will this end? When will we live in a world where people can make choices to be whoever they are?”


From a Yahoo! commenter:
Why stop with sex? They shouldn't assign a species label to the kid either! Maybe it doesn't want to be a human. Maybe it wants to be a dog or a giraffe. Freedom of choice, I say ! Hopefully the kid won't want to be a lion and eat his stupid parents.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sour Grapes

Clockwise from top:  Barry Noreen, John Hazlehurst, Ralph Routon and Rich Tosches

Click here to hear John Weiss whining for "healing" and asking the important questions...like why "Steve Bach won't walk in the Gay Pride Parade."

Quick -- somebody call the man a "waaahhhhmbulance."

SO WHAT?!?  Gay Pride was never one of Steve Bach's campaign platforms.   

Besides, WHO CARES?!?  Lots of people dislike parades like they dislike Ethel Merman's voice; like me, for instance.  I'll come right out and admit that I even dislike the Parade of Lights parade...and only watch if and when my kids' marching bands are in the line up. 


Not to rain on anyone's parade, but while there are some who devote an entire year to planning their hella-tacky costumes, decorating their hella-ghetto floats, stenciling their poster-board protests, and practicing high-heel walks and falsetto talks, LET IT HEREBY BE KNOWN THAT THE VAST MAJORITY OF US ARE WORRIED ABOUT FAR MORE IMPORTANT ISSUES THAN YOUR GAY PRIDE PARADE.

Listen:  I am tired of pussy-footing around this make-believe and manufactured issue, and refuse to do so any longer.  

The Colorado Springs Independent is a great big gay megaphone, with the Gazette increasingly following suit...allowed to shout down as "bigots" and "bullies" anyone who would disagree or dare to adhere to alternative points of view.

Well, those aren't the first or the worst "B" words I've been called, boys; bring it:  I can handle it -- hell, I'm used to it.  

Believe it or not -- more often than not -- that's what happens when one decides to roll with the punches, rather than tiptoe about on eggshells; one develops what is known as a "thick skin"...and learns to do other things besides nursing one's wounds, examining one's bruised ego, and rubbing salve on ones chapped ass.

I have had it with the constant crying about this and that perceived injustice; WHATEVER.  


But conservatives are all expected to keep their mouths shut.  


Conservatives can be tolerant too; we keep tolerating this kind of crap from the left, don't we?
I hope you understand what it is I'm about to say...but if the left has Dr. Tosches irreverently clobbering their funny bones with that little rubber hammer thing, then the right has Spydra...and my schtick is all mine and all free -- WHADDA BARGAIN, FRIENDS.

This conservative black woman considers Weiss' KKK crack to be ENTIRELY out of line, uncalled for, and indicative of the true, blue little bigot he really is -- a hella-wealthy, angry little hypocrite who doesn't give a damn about what kind of dishonest garbage he spews or whom might take offense.  I guarantee you, this was not the song Weiss was singing when the boat made out of black people happened to jerk *my* chain.

For more on this story -- including some withering commentary from Weiss' soul-brother and fellow raisinette, Barry Noreen -- click here.

*Unlike Noreen and Tosches, John Hazlehurst is an excellent writer...and so is Ralph Routon, though to a slightly lesser degree.  I liked them both a lot more when they *weren't* writing for the Independent -- now, back on the Indy's payroll, their mutual lopsidedness detract from their innate talent.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I'm *so* glad the mayoral race is over.

I poured my heart and soul into exposing the local liberal left, and know I made a significant impact.

Unfortunately, it was all to the detriment of my family: 

  • My husband reminds me again and again that I didn't get paid for any of it -- not a single solitary dime, matter of factly.  
  • My house is suffering and overflowing with laundry that needs to be done and we don't have the money to do; 
  • My marriage is suffering, and our kids are feeling the results of it all.

Will we work it out?  Probably; hopefully; prayerfully.

But at least I know that this city -- my hometown -- is the better, in part due to *my* efforts; I truly and honestly believe that.

I'm going to take a short break from everything for a while; the computer has really become my square-headed boyfriend, and I guess it's not cool how much we dally with one another, unmindful of who's around, whether they're watching and how they might feel about it.

So, I'm going to re-run my sybilline series of articles, along with some other favorites of mine; just re-runs until and unless I feel the need to opine on something big...or until I get my head on right again -- which ever comes first, I guess.

Take care and God Bless kids -- I'll let you know if and how it all works out.

peace out

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

!!!!!!!! Steve Bach Wins !!!!!!!!

Thank God!

The best man won!

Congratulations Steve!

Now show us what you're worth!

Kicking hard on the homestretch

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! VOTE STEVE BACH ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

We're in the homestretch, folks - time to kick hard. 

Steve Bach simply *IS* the RIGHT choice to lead Colorado Springs.  Bach has an easy confidence about him; Bach walks tall; Bach speaks well; Bach is sincere; Bach has focus.  I like him, and I like what he has to say...I like what he says he'll do, and you know what?  I love his idea of "Elevating Our Experience."  I LOVE IT.

In contrast, Skorman always looks like he's shrinking from something...like an abused dog does when you raise your hand; Skorman flinches.  Skorman bumbles.  Skorman rambles.  Skorman mumbles.  Skorman WHINES...CONSTANTLY.

Skorman is a more boring, less mellifluous, and far less eloquent version of another elitist know-it-all, former D-11 Board President John Gudvangen -- and whether you know who he is or not...THAT AIN'T A COMPLIMENT FOLKS.

Take another listen to Bore-man Skorman from a little while ago -- I guarantee you, it will be a long minute and a half.


I've been in Colorado Springs all my life.  I am telling you the truth when I say that I have had the opportunity to know Richard Skorman; he is NOT what we want or need for this beautiful city.

We would not become more prosperous under his limp leadership, or benefit from the change he envisions for us; we do not want or need Skorman apologizing to everyone for the city that we are, or changing us to be more in line with his own peculiar perfect picture.  

We will ALL be the sorry ones, and DEFINITELY REGRET IT if we actually make the mistake of putting that flim-flam man into our driver's seat.

Here's some food for thought:  I read yesterday that Skorman's wife, Patricia Seator, specializes in "Ecological Psychology." 


I can just imagine what that "science" would entail:

Patient:  "Hey, Doc...when I look in the mirror, I see my reflection, but deep down inside, I feel like a yucca -- what should I do?"

Doc:  "Take a walk in the woods and call me in the morning; that'll be $200."

My animal-spirit totem is a spider, as you all know; I swear to you, Richard Skorman's is a SILVERFISH.  Eewwwwww...

I just re-posted all of my Skorman articles right now, in succession; re-read them folks...tell your friends, your neighbors, your casual acquaintances to vote...Vote...VOTE!

I believe that Steve Bach will win; I believe that Steve Bach should win.

But there's always a chance that the "Chicago Method" may have come into play in this election -- that is, "vote early, and vote often."  And who knows what kind of shenanigans we can expect with the I'm-not-your-black-slave city clerk Kathryn "Weezy" Young and her half-steppin' early-to-bed crew counting the ballots.


One thing is for sure...I won't be getting off Skorman's back, regardless of the outcome of this election.  Which ever way it goes, Richard Skorman has become my male Jan Tanner -- congrats on that, buddy.

Jan Tanner,
with "a-s-s" on her chest

Unless you want Obama Springs; unless you want a born-into-wealth-and-hella-hella-wealthy supporter of the radical gay agenda; unless you want someone who is quietly sleeping with the developers he decries; unless you want a tree-hugging, leftist, cross-eyed silverfish to lead us into tomorrow...

! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! VOTE STEVE BACH ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

Decoding Skorman: On Abortion

I see that someone is curious about Richard Skorman's stance on abortion; I hadn't posted this video before now, because it's just annoying.  But perhaps at this stage it will be helpful.

And in response to the person who keeps asking about Richard Skorman's voting record while on city council; I'm sorry I never found the time to comb through the meeting minutes and post the details.  Suffice it to say, Skorman was often the losing end, as well as the "lone liberal" vote.

If you go to the city's website at springsgov.com, you can enter in: 'Skorman AND council AND _____'; enter the topic of particular interest, and CODE BABY will help you find what you're looking for!

Some suggested topics:  Banning, benefits, Confluence, LandCo, Memorial, Noyes, Pike, Pikeview, prayer, pride, tax, USOC, utilities, water

Have fun, kids...and VOTE STEVE BACH!

Monday, May 16, 2011

the fiddleback's promise


i know a secret...

stay tuned

and if your ears are burning,

watch for flak

Decoding Skorman: Complete Mayoral Forum


I still haven't listened to it all yet, 
but for starters, it's hard to hear. 

More later.

Decoding Skorman: No Joke -- John Weiss -- FairTest


     Bein' lazy on a Sunday morning, mulling, musing and puzzling things...layin' in bed next to my hubby, who was dozing with the comforter pulled all the way over his head.

     I asked him, "Daddy...if you were somewhat of a public figure, and kind of an attention whore...and you personally knew and had worked with Barack Obama -- what reason would there be for you not to have ever mentioned it publicly?"

     Came his instant response from beneath the comforter, 

     "Because I was embarrassed."

* * * * * * * * 

     The following article is very long, but worth it.  It goes back in time, and explains everything...And so, while you are reading it, I want you to really ~think~ about it:  a group of rich people -- deluded with the belief that they knew it all -- decided that standardized testing was somehow unfair, in primary part due to the test makers' own racist bias against minorities.

     According to what I've read, John Weiss is FairTest's founding father.  As recently as 2008, he sat on its board of directors with Barack Obama.  FairTest has always been a case of the fox watching the proverbial hen house, with John Weiss manipulating things and then watching quietly from a distance.
     Oh yes, John is practically a local celebrity as the owner of the Colorado Springs Independent newsweekly...but his other, far more noble job as Barack Obama's Public Education Standardized Testing Czar has been kept carefully on the DL -- that's right, the Down-Low, friends...his cronies and co-horts playing their assigned parts as though it were a school play...pointing out real and imagined educational injustices, aggressively wielding their pro-gay, pro-atheist, pro-socialist monkey-wrenches all over the place, and using them to break down even further an already-broken public education system.   

     With the passage of No Child Left Behind and its nonsensical goal of 100% proficiency for all students,  the good ol' Iowa standardized test vanished, having been unfairly deemed unfair -- by Weiss' testing fairness watchdog organization -- and in turn replaced, first by one and then another and another and yet another standardized testing mechanism -- each, presumably more fair, and less biased and than the one that came before it.   

     When kids continued to perform poorly on the standardized tests regardless of how they were skewed, the people at FairTest shifted gears...announcing that *all* standardized testing is flawed and faulty.  Patiently, the know-it-alls explained it to the steadily credulous public:

"Some kids have different learning and thinking skills...and many times, those kids don't do well on timed and standardized tests.  Kids should be permitted to submit portfolios of their work for college entry officials to pore and peruse over; the whole 'test score' thing is so needlessly harsh and cruel and judgmental...especially on the dumb kids, and that's not right -- those kids can't be left feeling excluded and rejected like that, all because of some impersonal number score."
     And so now here we are:  across the nation, school district administrators claw and scratch to lead Obama's Rat Pack Race to the Top "contest" for the chance to chase after a slice or two of Obama's big money pie ...introducing "fair" and innovative curricula and standardized tests approved by FairTest.   

     Then, the data is shuffled however necessary so that blame is placed on everyone and everything but watch-dog organizations like FairTest, who are single-handedly ruining public education with their short-sighted, knee-jerk reactions to their whining, crybaby bleeding heart bully friends who love nothing more than to caterwaul over their latest perceived slight and imagined insult.

   All that innovation...just so kids can learn in "safe and inclusive climates"...with ever larger groups of our children labeled "learning disabled."  

    I was personally astonished to learn that John Weiss -- a college drop-out like me -- has for the past twenty years presumed to tell everyone what is and isn't fair.  Tracing back to when things began going seriously wrong in our public schools, it's more than a little troubling to see how the timeline coincides with FairTest's busy-body, smarter-than-you, in-your-face meddling.  

   Much like The Colorado Springs Independent has done to the city of Colorado Springs. 

   Wow, John...thanks so much for all you've done and continue to do for the community; twisting and warping life's good things entirely out of shape is definitely your forte.

    * * * * * * * *
    A Contrarian View of the Testing Industry  FairTest argues that standardized tests are a poor predictor of student success
    By Robert A. Jones Cambridge, Massachusetts Monty Neill, the executive director of FairTest, stood in an empty room on an empty floor of a vintage office building near Harvard University. He motioned to a corner.  That's where a FairTest researcher once worked.  And over there, along the wall, stood a row of file cabinets packed with research materials going back 20 years.

    Robert Schaeffer, one of FairTest's founders and still its public education director, stood next to Neill, looking a bit uneasy. Even now, he said, it can feel embarrassing to talk publicly about the near collapse of the organization that has consumed most of his life's work. FairTest, he said, has played its role as gadfly in the world of standardized testing for so long that many assumed it could not stumble and fall.

     But stumble it certainly did. Over the past two years FairTest has progressively retrenched as its financial backers, mostly foundations, withdrew their support. Last October, the situation became so dire that the Board of Directors briefly considered shutting its doors. Ultimately they decided to hunker down instead, leaving only Neill and Schaeffer on the payroll and shrinking the office space to a fraction of its former size. 

     Now, nine months later, FairTest's crisis has eased somewhat. Revenues from the organization's website increased in the spring, thanks largely to the group's role in uncovering the SAT scoring scandal at FairTest's longtime adversary, the College Entrance Examination Board. Visits to the website increased dramatically along with some private donations.

    Monty Neill is executive director of FairTest, persistent critics of standardized testing, especially the SAT.
    (Photo by MJ Maloney, Black Star, forCrossTalk)

    The notion of FairTest being saved by the errors of the College Board may seem ironic but, in fact, it is emblematic of the group's history. From its start in 1986, FairTest has played the role of outsider in the clubby, often opaque world of standardized testing. It has specialized in pricking the reputations of the College Board and other institutions, arguing that their much-feared tests are often faulty by design and, more often than not, fail in their primary mission of predicting student success. 

     Upstairs, in the remaining office, Schaeffer said the reprieve has given FairTest the chance to continue offering its contrarian services. "There's always been certain groups who have been attracted to us because we offer the other side of the story," he said. "If you want a non-industry, non-establishment view of the testing industry, we can provide it. Frankly, there's no one else who can do that." 

     Over the years FairTest and its allies have made notable gains in their struggle with the industry. The testing process now is more open, and industry research is available to the public. Test questions contain less bias. And the SAT and its midwestern rival, the ACT, have been stripped of some of their fearful power by the acknowledgement of test makers that test scores are not immutable but can be altered through coaching. 

     Throughout, FairTest has proved difficult to ignore because of its aggressiveness and in-your-face style. When the group announced its founding in 1986, for example, it did so at the College Board's biggest event of the year, the College Board Forum, where it proceeded to lambaste the SAT for various alleged biases against minorities and low-income groups.

    And just recently, when Schaeffer appeared opposite Gasper Caperton, president of the College Board, at a New York state hearing on the SAT scoring scandal, Schaeffer told legislators that the breakdown in scoring proceeded from the fact that the testing industry "has no enforceable quality control standards and lacks basic accountability to students, teachers and the public. 

     "The truth is, there is stronger public oversight and control over the food we feed our pets than for the tests administered to our children." 

     This approach, essentially political, does not mesh easily with the academic style of the psychometricians and administrators of the testing industry, and it has not won FairTest many fans within that world. Several prominent members of the industry, in fact, refused to comment on FairTest for this story. 

     One such leader, Kurt M. Landgraf, president of the Educational Testing Service, not only declined to comment himself but had an ETS spokesman convey the message that the entire organization would remain mute on the subject. 

     Wayne Camara, vice president for research at the College Board, was one of the few willing to discuss the group. After expressing his support for several of FairTest's positions on standardized testing, Camara then ripped into their brash approach, particularly the recent comment comparing the SAT to pet food. 

    Laura Barrett, FairTest's board chairman, thinks college applicants should be judged on their overall performance, not just on test scores.
    (Photo by MJ Maloney, Black Star, forCrossTalk)
    "That's a great sound bite," he said. "But what does it mean? It's not like we're manufacturing pet food, where you open up a can and test it for the nutrients. I mean, it's a spurious issue. What regulatory body was going to catch the scoring error? Would this (regulatory) agency watch them scoring the test, overseeing what they are doing?"

     In actuality, FairTest's approach is more or less the classic strategy of underdogs in the world of public policy. Snappy language and sound bites are used by small players to attract attention when they are hopelessly outgunned by larger rivals. With FairTest, the brashness has given the group an influence far larger than its tiny size and budget would suggest. 

     That influence extends to college admissions officers and high school guidance counselors around the country where FairTest's arguments are widely known and often supported. In many such offices the decades-long willingness to accept SAT or ACT scores as holy writ has been broken, probably forever. And in its place, a more complex system of assessing students has arisen. 

     The most vivid evidence of this change can be seen on the FairTest website (FairTest.org), which now lists more than 730 colleges and universities around the country that allow some or all applicants to forgo submitting test scores for admission. Some institutions allow all students to apply without test scores, and base their review on high school grades, portfolios of student work, personal interviews and other material. Other colleges allow test scores to be omitted only if students have achieved grade point averages of a certain level or higher. 

     The 730 institutions on the list include a wide spectrum ranging from state universities to elite private schools. No Ivy League schools have gone test-optional, but, according to FairTest, the list now includes 25 of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News and World Report rankings. Actually, FairTest did not originate the test-optional movement. That role falls to Bates College in Maine, which took its action a year before FairTest was founded. But FairTest has tirelessly promoted the idea that students and colleges are better served when admissions officers employ an array of assessment measures rather than relying on test scores as a principal guide. 

    Every year, more colleges and universities make SAT and ACT scores optional for some or all applicants, says Robert Schaeffer, FairTest's national education director.
    (Photo by Todd Anderson, Black Star, forCrossTalk)
    "FairTest has acted as a bully pulpit for test-optional," said William Hiss, Bates' vice president for external affairs, who served as its admissions officer when the college made its original decision. "They have also acted as a visible presence for a broad movement that questions the values of standardized tests and the way they are used in America. I think that amounts to a valuable service." 

     While Bates and FairTest both say they have kept an arms-length relationship, the Bates experience nonetheless has proven invaluable to FairTest's argument that standardized tests have dubious value in predicting the success of college students.

     The results of the Bates program have been documented over the 21 years of its existence, and some of the results have proved startling. Bates has found, for example, that students who did not submit test scores, known as "non-submitters," maintained GPAs that were virtually the same as submitters. 

    The graduation rates of non-submitters were also virtually the same as submitters. Those results are all the more salient because Bates is a highly selective college, and test-submitting freshman have high average test scores. So the non-submitters at Bates compete with high-end SAT scorers, and differences in outcomes still are hard to detect. 

     Hiss said Bates' experience has converted him and other college officials to the theory of multiple intelligences advanced by Harvard educator Howard Gardner. No single test can measure the different forms of intelligence, talents and skills in young people, Hiss said, and such a test inevitably will cut out some promising students whose skills do not appear on the test results. Such a process, he said, raises grave questions for colleges and the country as a whole.

    For one thing, he argues that rejecting students who would otherwise thrive in college can have crippling impacts on their lives, possibly pushing them from college altogether and leaving them with career choices that are far below their real talents. 

     And further, he said, the whole nation suffers. "When you use a test that artificially reduces the pool of people who could go to college and succeed, you are truncating the number of educated people available for higher-level jobs. That is terrible economic policy," said Hiss. 

     In Cambridge, Schaeffer says FairTest now receives several phone calls a month from one college or another asking about the process of going test-optional. In the last three years the list has grown by more than 200 schools.

     "We expect to see the growth (of the list) accelerate," said Schaeffer. "In fact, the question now gets raised as to whether we are reaching a tipping point where the numbers start to mushroom." 

     The implication of the test-optional movement—that the SAT and ACT are expendable—has clearly hit a sensitive nerve within the industry, and there has been at least one attempt to erode its significance. 

     In 2002, the College Board assigned two researchers to conduct a study of FairTest's list of test-optional schools which concluded that FairTest had skewed the list, exaggerating its size.

    Educator Deborah Meier says FairTest can "keep the testing companies honest-there's no one else who does that."
    (Photo by Peter Finger, Black Star, forCrossTalk)

    At the time, the list contained 390 schools. The College Board claimed that 52 of the institutions on the list did not belong on the list because, in fact, they required admissions tests for all students. "Clearly, the FairTest list...is misleading," the study said, and later concluded, "It is imperative that the number of SAT/ACT-optional institutions not be overestimated." 

     But FairTest officials say it was the College Board study, not their list, that contained the error. "There were no 52 colleges that didn't belong on the list," said Schaeffer. "We review the list all the time, and we are vigilant about pulling off any colleges that get placed there by mistake. I'm not saying they fabricated their list, because I don't know how or why the mistake was made, but their claim just wasn't true." 

     Schaeffer's complaint appears to have some justification. The names of the 52 institutions were not supplied by the study, but the College Board made them available to National Crosstalk after a request. A random spot check of five colleges on the list revealed that all five have test-optional programs in one form or another, and all five had them at the time of the study. 

     When FairTest rented its first office just off Harvard Square in 1986, its future impact on the education world would have been hard to predict. Among other things, it was the product of a political odd couple who shared almost nothing except a deep suspicion of standardized testing of all kinds. 

     John Weiss, a college drop-out and left-leaning political operative, had first become involved in the test reform movement in the late 1970s, when he worked for Massachusetts Congressman Michael Harrington. Those reform efforts eventually fizzled and Weiss repaired to Maine to work in community organizing. 

     Weiss was still in Maine when, one day, he was approached by a private detective. The detective told him he had been sent by a man named J. Patrick Rooney who wanted to talk about standardized test reform. The detective gave him Rooney's phone number.

    Indianapolis businessman J. Patrick Rooney contributed several million dollars to FairTest in its early years.
    (Photo by Clint Keller, Black Star, forCrossTalk)

    "Rooney and I talked and at first I said I wasn't interested. I didn't want to start a new organization. I was burned out, that's why I went to Maine," said Weiss, who is now publisher of the Colorado Springs Independent, an alternative weekly, and a member of FairTest's board. "Then I got curious and asked how much money was available. Rooney said $750,000. Well, that was a lot of money back then. So I thought for a minute and said, maybe I am interested."

     Rooney, it turned out, was the founder of the Golden Rule Insurance Co. of Indianapolis, a wealthy man and politically eccentric conservative who also had championed civil rights throughout his life. Rooney's company aimed many of its products at blacks in the midwest, and his interest in standardized testing was piqued when he discovered that white insurance salesmen were passing the licensing exam in Illinois in large numbers but black salesmen were not. 

     The exam infuriated Rooney. "In my judgement the (Illinois) testing was used for discrimination purposes," he said. "The construction of the questions had a disparate impact on minority people, and I believe it was intended." 

     Rooney sued Illinois and the Educational Testing Service, which provided the tests for the state. The result, which is still known as the "Golden Rule Settlement," committed the state and ETS to reform the way questions are formulated for its licensing tests. 

     When Rooney called Weiss, his objective was to expand the reforms he had won in the lawsuit to cover all types of standardized tests, from college admissions to K–12 and employment testing. It was an ambitious plan. At one early point, after Weiss had recruited Schaeffer to join him, the two constructed a back-of-the-envelope organization chart that showed they would need a staff of nine to advance their cause on all three fronts. 

     They never quite made it. Rooney contributed several million dollars to FairTest's operations over a five-year period, and he was followed by grants from the Ford, Joyce and McIntosh Foundations. The group hit its high-water mark in the late '90s when the staff grew to seven persons occupying two floors of the current office building. 

     Laura Barrett, FairTest's board chairman, said that, even then, the struggle with the large test makers was hardly a battle of equals. "On one side you have these very large institutions that make a lot of money from testing. And they spend it on promoting their products. On the other side you have this small organization that represents the constituency of people who have concerns with testing, but nobody makes money from that. So it's been tough."

    Soon it would get tougher yet. By fall 2005 all three of the supporting foundations had dropped their support and FairTest was surviving on crumbs. Several members of the board made personal donations that allowed them to keep the doors open temporarily, and it was decided to give Neill and Schaeffer several months to generate some backing. 

     No one is certain why the foundation support dried up but Neill believes part of the reason lies with George Bush's No Child Left Behind legislation that mandates K–12 testing across the country. 

     "It's affected the foundations in the sense that they perceive there's a national consensus about No Child Left Behind and that more K–12 testing is inevitable," Neill said. "They see Ted Kennedy and George Bush in alliance on this, and they're asking themselves why they should fund this small group (FairTest) that's saying no, no, it's not going to work, it's bad news." 

     The FairTest leaders also acknowledge a more difficult truth: their group is well-known for what it stands against—standardized testing in most of its forms—but less well known for what it supports. 

     Diane Ravitch, education professor at New York University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, said she agrees that standardized tests have their issues but that FairTest has never met a test it liked. "In my experience, FairTest is opposed to all standardized tests," she wrote in an email. "I don't know of any that they think is 'fair.'" 

     This view, not rare in the education world, may also have hurt the group in terms of foundation funding. Foundations often prefer to fund organizations that pursue a benign course toward their goal. FairTest, in the words of one critic, may present to the foundations as "too edgy, too negative."

    But, in fact, FairTest has long promoted its own view of the way student assessment should work. That approach—whether applied to college admissions or the K–12 arena—resembles the "portfolio" method used at some colleges, whereby students present a multi-layered profile of their high school careers both inside the school and out. 

     FairTest would have K–12 teachers evaluate students individually for their proficiency in various subjects, and the portfolios would include samples of essays, projects and other work that revealed their talents or deficiencies. 

     Though any individual evaluation would involve some subjectivity, Neill says, the evaluation of an entire school of students under this system would prove far more reliable and revealing than the single multiple-choice test now used by many school districts. 

     Barrett, who once served as executive director of the group, says this type of student assessment has been tried successfully by a few districts but the effort has not drawn much attention. "It's hard to explain, it's complicated and you can't reduce it to a number," she said. 

     At least one member of the FairTest board argues that the rap about negativity is a red herring and the group should not apologize for playing the role of critic. Deborah Meier, a founder of progressive schools in New York and Boston and a former MacArthur Fellow, said, "I'd think that the foundations would want to keep FairTest around just to keep the testing companies honest. There's no one else who does that.   The testing companies operate in a world of secrecy, and they have this power over people's lives.  We need a counter-weight organization that opens up the process and tells us the other side of the story."

    Bob Laird, former undergraduate admissions director at the University of California, Berkeley, says that FairTest's role as counter-weight also has been valuable in college admissions offices. "The College Board is very skilled at building a web of relationships with deans, admissions officers and college presidents," he said. "They are never so direct as to say, 'We are inviting you to a conference at the Toronto Four Seasons, and then we expect you to use our products,' but the connection nonetheless gets made.

    "FairTest is valuable because they are addressing the other end of that equation. They face a Sisyphean task in many ways, but they are making gains."

    And what of the future? Camara, the research vice president at the College Board, predicts that the movement to diminish the role of the SAT and ACT will be limited by the realities of the admissions process, especially at large schools.

    Camara told the story of a visit he paid several years ago to the admissions office at UCLA. That year, he said, UCLA had approximately 4,500 spaces in its upcoming freshman class and had received more than 40,000 applications. Of those, about 10,000 applicants had high school GPAs of 4.0 or higher.

    "So UCLA was looking at 2.5 applicants with 4.0s for every available spot," Camara said. "In a situation like that, how are you going to make the decision about who gets in? Do you flip a coin? Or do you use the SAT or ACT?"

    Students who do not submit test scores do as well at Bates College as those who do, says William Hiss, vice president for external affairs.
    Laird is not so sure that the tests would be the best way to solve that dilemma. When the UCLA story was described to him, he laughed. "At Berkeley we had years where our situation was more extreme than UCLA's. But I'd say, yes, you certainly could make the decision without the SAT.

    "You look at each applicant, not just in terms of their numbers, but in terms of their range of accomplishments and the environment they come from. What course load did they take? What was their high school like? What kind of community did they come from? You can get a comprehensive picture of what the kid achieved versus what was available to him or her. That's what we did at Berkeley, and it worked extremely well."

    For Laird, the growing perception of the limited usefulness of the SAT suggests that its greatest days might have passed. "I think the College Board is probably preparing for the day when the SAT is no longer its most profitable vehicle," he said.

    As for the future of FairTest, prospects have improved, but a return to flush times is far from guaranteed. The group received several small grants this spring, and the influx of private donations means that the present, scaled-down operation can continue into next year.

    But Neill and Schaeffer would like to see the organization return to its former size of seven or so staff members. "I feel like we've moved out of critical care and now we're ready for rehabilitation," said Schaeffer.

    That will require a several-year commitment from a foundation or private patron. The group's request for funding is now being considered by several foundations, and decisions are expected within several months.

    There is another issue that faces FairTest. Both Neill and Schaeffer have worked at testing reform for decades now. Their hair has turned gray during their tenure, and their years remaining at the helm likely are not long.

    So who will pick up the cudgels when they have left?

    Schaeffer laughs at the question. "We had a great pool of talented young people. The only problem is, we had to lay them off. Maybe we should try and find out where they went."

    Robert A. Jones is a former reporter and columnist at the Los Angeles Times.