Thanks for Bruce VanWyngarden's Editor's Note about Sid Selvidge (May 9th issue). I had just moved to Memphis in 1993, as well, and I suppose I had a chip on my shoulder, having spent the previous six years in Nashville hoping to become a rich and famous songwriter.
Fortunately, for me, most everyone here in Memphis was pretty forgiving and did their best to make me feel welcome. Rod Norcross, my partner at Rod & Hank's, was already a local celebrity, as was our part-time helper, Steve Selvidge. Ward Archer came in regularly, and before long, I was playing violin with Ward and Brenda Patterson in Cooley's House. And being at Rod & Hank's allowed me to meet a boatload of celebrities and musical luminaries — local, national, and international.
Bruce's letter reminded me of those days when I had the pleasure of playing music with Sid Selvidge and just hanging out and looking forward to lunchtime on Tuesdays. What a pleasure to hear Sid sing and enjoy his humor and to share some of that "Memphis vibe."
Life was simpler then, or so it seems 20 years later. I was blessed to call Sid my friend and to have been a part of his music. I've also had the honor of playing with Di Anne Price (another Memphis icon gone and sorely missed) and have been part of the Boscos brunch with Joyce Cobb for the past seven years.
Who would have thought a transplanted Philly boy would have had such a wonderful life here in Memphis music? Sid taught me what Memphis music was all about, and I will always be grateful.
Rush is Right
It's pretty sad that the Flyer doesn't care about the lies of cartoonist Jeff Danzinger when he gutter snipes at Rush Limbaugh. Rush is one really smart guy and speaks the truth 99.9 percent of the time, which makes the Danzinger cartoon offensive to heavy people and to the high-attention folks that know the truth. Sadly, low-attention folks seem to be your readers.
Obama has his foot on this economy and he isn't pulling away, so we won't see a return to 1980-2000 good times, with everybody having a job. If the private sector is not unleashed by this administration, at some point it's going to be real grief. Most of the media is scared to challenge this administration.
Teaching to the Test
Data, according to Tennessee's commissioner of education, Kevin Huffman, is the only thing we should consider in determining how and what our students are taught and how our children's teachers are paid, hired, and fired. If he and other school reformers, like his ex-wife, Michelle Rhee, who heads up StudentsFirst, would quit trying to feather their own nest and be honest about the mounds of data from research through the years, they wouldn't continue to promote paying teachers for test scores.
If pay-for-performance were actually considered for its efficacy, like a drug study, it would have been halted long ago for the detrimental effects it has on the subjects involved in the study. Instead, Commissioner Huffman is trying to force a system that has repeatedly been shown since the 1950s by various major research studies not to work and can cause more harm than good. One of the largest and most recent was conducted by Vanderbilt University, and the data clearly demonstrated that, even if teachers are given large bonuses for raising student test scores, it just doesn't work. Teachers are already working as hard as they can to help students succeed on testing.
Huffman and the state board of education (which contains no educators) are totally ignoring an overwhelming abundance of scientific research data that shows merit pay, aka incentive pay, pay for performance, differentiated pay for teachers, pay for test scores, etc. are ineffective and can actually cause harm. We've seen the curriculum narrowed to only those things tested and teaching to the test. We've seen cheating among some educators in order to gain monetary bonuses and avoid losing their jobs, and we've seen our teaching staffs demoralized and no great improvement in test scores. Isn't it time that Huffman and company were held accountable for ignoring the data?