Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A teacher laments the state of our public schools, a Netflix special puts the spotlight on priests who prey on young men and the victims society ignores and a son of Bakersfield returns home to share some "cosmic outlaw country at Temblor Brewing Co.

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... STATE OF OUR SCHOOLS: Bakersfield High school history teacher Jeremy Adams has become an important voice in the debate over the state of our public schools, and his latest essay in Newsweek magazine sends a strong message that something has gone terribly wrong. After a career of teaching both in high school and over at Cal State University Bakersfield, Adams has witnessed the decline of public

education in America, whether it be the lowering of academic standards or the lack of discipline in the clsssrooms. Earlier this week he published "Hollowed Out,"a remarkably candid and often alarming look at the state of our public schools, and now Adams is sharing his thoughts with Newsweek magazine. As Adams told Newsweek: "Amidst the vandalism and endless spigot of foul language, standing in front of students who brazenly take out their phones and start playing video games in the middle of class, walking amongst the trash that is left strewn in stairwells after lunch, phoning security to accompany 17-year-olds to the bathroom because they can't be trusted, is the American teacher who knows deep down they have lost the basic quest for decency on school campuses. Within the classroom, we have become softies, asking little, tolerating everything, knowing we are expected to take late work, knowing that open book tests are increasingly the norm, group projects are all the rage, and asking students to engage in sustained reading of texts or master large quantities of information is something a post-COVID student probably lacks the acumen to do."

 * ... PRIEST SCANDAL: For any community that has endured the upheaval of having a local priest accused of sexual abuse, there is a new documentary on Netflix that will undoubtedly hit home. The new movie is called Procession, a feature about six men who survived childhood sexual assault at the hands of Catholic priests and clergy. The film premiered earlier this month at the Telluride Film Festival, where it instantly began generating buzz as a potential Oscar player. At the heart of every abusive priest case are the accusers, who are often - as happened here in Bakersfield when former priest Craig Harrison was put on a "credibly accused" list of wayward priests - denounced as opportunists out only for themselves and money. "Procession" focuses on six men who kept the secret of their abuse for decades, sometimes at great cost to their emotional sanity and happiness. The documentary makes a convincing case that we listen to their stories before dismissing their allegations.

 * ... HERBIE BENHAM IV: Mark your calendars for Thursday, Nov. 18, when a prodigal son returns to Bakersfield to lay down some "cosmic outlaw country" for an audience at Temblor Brewing. Herb Benham IV, son of The Californian's Herb Benham, has been honing his skills in the California desert and returns to town to croon a few tunes. Herbie was born and raised here, lived in Los Angeles and San Francisco before moving to the Mojave desert and was influenced by Buck Owens and the Bakersfield Sound. His own sound has traces of out;aw country, psychedelic folks, punk rock and stadium rock but he makes it all his own. This is a show you don't want to miss. Thursday, Nov. 18, at Temblor.

 * ... SHOOTERS: In the parlance of the newspaper business, photographers are often called "shooters" because of the number of times they "shoot" pictures, and over the course of my 20-plus year career at The Bakersfield Californian I was fortunate to work with some terrific "shooters" - Felix Adamo, Casey Christie, John Harte, Henry Barrios to name a few. Casey Christie was known for his nature shots, and today I share one of his more famous pictures, the owls at CALM. Enjoy and thanks to The Californian for allowing me to republicize them.

 * ... MEMORIES: Here is a remarkable aerial view of the Garces Circle taken soon after its completion, date unknown.

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