Thanks to everyone who sent their submissions! Based on the quality of the candidates, and space/time issues for a proper poll, here are the five finalists (for sake of fairness, the contestants’ names have been left out):
Assholes like to make history-making dick moves, and few moved their member with such ferocity as Henry Tudor, or King Henry VIII of England. Apart from going through six wives–and countless chambermaids–to secure that elusive male heir, he decided to make himself head of a church, which helped lead to centuries of religious violence. As we all know, all assholes think they’re God, and fat Harry was no exception. Even his portraits are symbols of douchebaggery. By Henry’s death in 1547, Hans Holbein the Younger needed double-wide canvasses just to do His Lardness some justice.
If Fidel wins this contest, I’m blaming Miami and Union City, NJ with stuffing the ballots (just kidding). Fidel Castro is certainly worthy of this list. His 1959 revolution in Cuba created the first Communist regime in the Western Hemisphere. Thousands have been killed, tortured and imprisoned for defying him and his brand of Communism. His programs have driven the country into ruin, while aid continues to enter the country just to make the US look bad. He makes lefties swoon and right-wingers squirm, and is personally responsible for Miami and Union City, NJ. Yet the real reason he’s on here? According to legend (and we can’t really substantiate this) Castro made ice cream cones illegal. Now that’s an asshole!
Here’s a wacko that deserves a well-placed kick in the nuts. Pol Pot led the Khmer Rouge guerrillas to power in Cambodia in 1975. For four long years, Pol Pot systematically reduced his country to the Stone Age, literally. He changed time so that everything started at “Year Zero”, forcing cities to be evacuated for slave labor in the countryside. Almost 2.5 million people, or 21% of the population, died on his watch from starvation, torture and execution. The guy hated everybody: foreigners, intellectuals, the disabled, even hated people wearing glasses. It took the Vietnamese, of all people, to end this nightmare with an invasion in 1979, forcing Pol Pot into the hills as his country still recovers from the lunacy. They say he was poisoned–let’s hope its by Pearle Vision.
It is now common knowledge among academics that the father of Jacksonian Democracy was also a bit of a scumbag. As President of the United States from 1829-1837, he was a steadfast supporter of slavery, killed the Second Bank of the United States as a gesture to create an “agricultural republic” (or “plantation republic”, for those with less taste in bullshit) and supported the forced removal of almost 45,000 Native Americans from the eastern US, resulting in almost 4,000 deaths along the way–in defiance of the Supreme Court. If this wasn’t bad enough, consider his temper: he fought 13 duels, killed a man in one, had bullets lodged all over his body, and even had to be restrained from killing an assassin who botched an attempt on his life. No wonder he graces the “yuppie food stamp.”
5. Mobutu Sese Seko (1930-1997)
Only a truly global asshole would change his name. Joseph-Desire Mobutu took over the Congo in a bloodless military coup in 1965. He then proceeded to create a totalitarian regime unequalled in Africa. His personality cult silenced all opposition. Mobutu personally embezzled $5 billion dollars from his country, forcing it into the economic shitter–which was hard considering it was the mineral breadbasket of Africa. He renames the country Zaire, and forced the whole country to adopt African names and dress on pain of imprisonment or death. Finally, in a real classy move, he changes his name to Mobutu Sese Seko Nkuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga (“The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, goes from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake.”).
I will create the poll in a separate post, along with the dates of the poll. May the worst asshole win!
Finally, Someone Who Agrees! Susan Engel on Teacher Education in NY Times
A while back, while I was contemplating life across a lake in the Maine woods, I penned a screed lamenting the lack of respect teachers get in America. I pointed out that part of the problem is that teacher education in this country is of a generally poor quality. It sucks, plain and simple.
Two people have since piped up on the issue. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan addressed this very issue a few weeks back with remarks made at (surprise, surprise) Teachers College at Columbia. Furthermore, Susan Engel, Director of the Teaching program at Williams College, recently wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times that builds on Secretary Duncan’s remarks towards an action plan for the system.
Engel writes about how teacher education has little respect, because of its lack of selectivity and rigor. Thus, according to Engel, “…the strongest students are often in colleges that have no interest in education, while the most inspiring professors aren’t working with students who want to teach. This means that comparatively weaker students in less intellectually rigorous programs are the ones preparing to become teachers.”
Her plan involves a number of points, namely to increase student selectivity while making programs tuition free. This prevents the “diploma mill” mentality of so many university administrators when looking at education.
Furthermore, teachers would be trained in subject areas and in a clinical mentoring model similar to medical school. The best way to learn how to teach is to do it–I know, and it’s quite a learning experience. Engel also stresses the need for intense mentoring, monitoring and feedback on practices. This is a quantum leap from the squishy “reflection papers” that often read like D papers at a Comparative Lit class at Vasser.
Teachers and administrators, take a hard look at what Engel is proposing. It is probably difficult, if not impossible, to implement such a program wholesale. Yet Engel’s argument is definitely a step in the right direction.
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Tagged as Arne Duncan, Commentary, Communications, Contests, Cultural Literacy, current events, Curriculum, Education, Educational leadership, Opinion, polls, Standards, Susan Engel, Teacher education, Teachers, Teaching