I am very excited today to welcome Virtual Author Book Tours to the blog today with a non-fiction memoir entitled Crazy Is Normal. I invite you to read my review, learn a little about the author, Lloyd Lofthouse, look at my interview with the author and visit the other stops on the tour.
In his book Crazy is Normal, Lloyd Lofthouse gives the reader a nitty gritty, down and dirty, not so pretty glimpse into the daily life of a high school English teacher. Lloyd kept a daily journal that recorded his year of teaching 9th grade English and journalism at Nogales High School in La Puente, California. He begins the book on a very personal level by describing his struggles in the classroom during his own childhood and takes us through the process in which he decides to step into a classroom.
Lofthouse’s ninth grade English students are crammed into college prep courses because the school district decides to cancel remedial English courses. The book serves to highlight the fact that teachers must navigate the constant demands of administration and bureaucratic red tape which adds additional stress and pressure on a teacher. Lofthouse’s students range in ability from those who could do college level work to those who are barely literate. Many of them are emulating gang culture and have little to no parent involvement at home. The focus of the book alternates between the author’s interactions with difficult students and interactions with serious and overachieving journalism students. There is a stark contrast between the types of students he teaches. But no matter what the level of ability of a student that Lloyd is interacting with, his demeanor remains calm and steady. He sets an example of professionalism for every teacher in the profession.
At one point Lloyd Llofthouse states that teaching these English classes at Nogales High were actually more difficult than serving in combat in Vietnam. He makes the point that at least in Vietnam there were lulls in the action where he could take a break. The author’s ability to consistently deal with student discipline issues is an important lesson for aspiring teachers, current teachers, parents and indeed anyone who is in a position of authority or leadership. Despite the constant barrage of comments like, “You’re Mean,” “I hate you,” or “This is too hard,” Lofthouse persists in his endeavor to ensure that every child has a chance to learn the material and to attain a proper education. His advocacy of literacy is especially commendable and even when students do not bring in books for Silent Sustained Reading (SSR), he still attempts this exercise every Friday in his classes.
Crazy Is Normal is one of the best non-fiction memoirs that I have read this year. It made me take a step back and think about my own students and my approach to teaching. This book is appealing to a wide range of readers; whether you are a teacher, an aspiring teacher, a parent, an administrator or someone who is just curious about the American education system, I highly and whole-heartedly recommend reading Crazy Is Normal.
About The Author:
Little did Lloyd Lofthouse know in 1999, when he married Anchee Min, that he was beginning a journey of discovery. His first trip to The Middle Kingdom was on the honeymoon with his bride, who introduced him to China and Robert Hart (1835-1911), the main characters in Lloyd’s first two novels, My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. The next decade was a journey of discovery. Lloyd now lives near San Francisco with his wife–with a second home in Shanghai, China.
Lloyd earned a BA in journalism in 1973 after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. While working days as an English teacher, he enjoyed a second job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub. His short story, A Night at the ‘Well of Purity’ was named as a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.
Lloyd has won 15 awards for My Splendid Concubine and 5 awards for Running With the Enemy. Click on this link to watch an interview with Lloyd:
1. Most of the books you have published are historical fiction, what made you decide to change course and write a memoir?
I wish I could say it was awareness of the profit-driven, billionaire funded, corporate war on public education, but I didn’t read Diane Ravitch’s “Reign of Error” until October 2013, and I had already been working on the rough draft of “Crazy is Normal” by then.
The truth is that I’m not wedded to any genre. I tend to blow with my subconscious wind. The next book I write has more to do with what’s on my mind when I wake up each morning, and that wind had been blowing hard toward the memoir for the last few years, and eventually, I made the short trip to the fire-proof safe in the garage where the daily journal from 1994-95 was stored. Then I sat down to read the journal and see if there was enough material there for a memoir.
After starting work on the memoir, I then read “Reign of Error” and several other books in addition to reading Diane Ravitch’s blog on a daily basis. The more I learned about the corporate funded, fake reformers, the more motivated I was to finish and publish the memoir.
2. What is the most important piece of advice you would give to a new teacher just starting a career today?
First, know what you are getting into. I think reading “The Teacher Wars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession” by Dana Goldstein would be a good place to start. Then read “Reign of Error” by Diane Ravitch. In fact, I recommend the four books that are listed at the end of “Crazy is Normal,” and these two are on the list.
Second, seek veteran teachers you respect for support and advice. Eat lunch with them. Drop by their classrooms during your prep period or after school. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, seek advice and ask for help. Trust your instincts to select the right veteran teachers to help you adjust and survive. It won’t take long to recognize teachers who are burned out and those who will be more than willing to help.
3. How would you describe the main issues with Common Core and these false reformers to someone who is unfamiliar with these concepts?
Standards aren’t a bad thing if they are implemented properly, not linked to rank and yank tests, and all the stake holders are involved in their development. For instance, during the last few years I was still in the classroom, teachers, students, administrators, parents, elected representatives and even the courts were all involved in the long process of developing state standards that would work, but when the CCSS arrived out of Washington DC developed from the top down, California tossed out a decade of cooperative effort to develop state standards and leaped on the CCSS bandwagon before those standards had even been written. The reason why so many states signed so quickly was because Arne Duncan, President Obama’s Secretary of Education, offered billions of dollars as incentives to sign the CCSS blank check, and like fools most of the states did just that without any product to examine and test.
And, before that happened, Bill Gates, the richest man on the planet, had already spread hundreds of millions of dollars across the country in support of the CCSS. There was no cooperative effort to develop the CCSS, test it and then adjust. In fact, the CCSS tests are protected by copyright, and teachers, students and parents are not allowed to know the specific results of a test—something unheard of in public education. All the teachers and students get back is the score. In addition, the states can’t change the standards or the tests. They are only allowed to add an additional 15% to them. I highly recommend this video. It brilliantly reveals how the CCSS was built. Hear the lies and the truth behind those lies.
The CCSS was developed in secret by 24 people who mostly worked for the private sector testing industry—that would profit from billions in taxes after the CCSS took over and was guiding education in the United States.
Combined, the 24 people who wrote the CCSS have less experience teaching than I did from my 30 years in the classroom. To discover more, I suggest reading what Mercedes Schneider revealed on her Blog about the 24 people who wrote the CCSS—click the next link. She provides a brief bio for each of them. She’s also written “A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education,” a book that follows the money pushing the Machiavellian Common Core agenda. Click here for the link to more information.
How the CCSS was developed and implemented was a travesty from the start. It might also be unconstitutional because the federal government is not allowed to dictate to the states how to run their schools but that is exactly what the CCSS is doing regardless of the misleading propaganda being funded by people like Bill Gates and the Walton family. When did the American people elect Bill Gates or the Waltons to be in charge of teaching our children?
4. Some critics might say that your “tough love” approach to students is too harsh. How would you respond to such criticism?
I smiled when I read this question. Let them wear my shoes. That means, teach in a high school where 70-percent or more of the students live in poverty. Teach in a high school where less than 10-percent of the students are white. Teach in a high school surrounded by a community that is dominated by violent street gangs. Once they have done that for about 5 to 10 years, then I’ll listen to what they have to say about my “tough love” approach to teaching.
In the memoir, readers may notice that the methods I used to teach my English classes were very different from the way I worked with the journalism students. Why? Answer that one word question, and then you will know why I used a tough love approach to teach my English students.
5. If there was just one thing you had the power to change about the American school system what would it be and why?
If I had the power to change one thing, I’d close every private-sector corporate owned or operated Charter/private school in the country that is supported by the same tax base that supports the public schools, and I’d have the FBI investigate those schools—all of them—and follow the money to see where it went. Then I would have the Attorney General of the United States take any alleged criminals the FBI discovered to court, and put them in prison as long as the law would allow with no chance of parole. In fact, if it was possible, they wouldn’t get out of prison until they paid back every dime that was connected to fraud. When I say fraud, if they promised great results and did not deliver, that means every dime they received from taxes.
Talk about tough love, one of the first people to go to prison would be Michelle Rhee. When she became chancellor of Washington DC’s public schools and started to terminate principals and fire teachers by the hundreds, she boasted and made many promises. Anyone who is interested in learning more about her fraud may do so at G. F. Brandenburg’s Blog here.
So far, Brandenburg has written a 12-part series revealing his investigation of the 78 targets that Rhee boasted she would have miraculously achieved by the end of the 2013 school year.
Brandenburg has investigated 54 of Rhee’s 78 targets, and has revealed that only 1.5 (2.8%) of those 54 targets were achieved.
I’ve read that Michelle Rhee has now changed her last name, left Washington D.C. and moved to Sacramento, California.
6. What writing projects can we expect from you in the future? Will you be writing more memoirs or will you return to the Historical Fiction genre?
No plans for a memoir or historical fiction. I’m already at work on “The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova”, a love story, murder mystery, thriller set mostly in a palace of a night club next to a beach in Southern California. This lusty novel is set near the end of the 20th century, and I used my experience as a maitre d’ of a multi-million dollar night club-restaurant in Southern California to write the novel.
Thanks so much to Lloyd for the review copy of his book and the very thoughtful and informative answers. Please click on the tour banner below to see the full list of blogs on the tour.