Posted in Immigrants, Newbery, Personal History, Racism, Trump

Inside Out & Back Again: We’re All Immigrants

A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS

We’re all immigrants to North America. If you go back through your ancestry far enough all of us originated in Africa. Early humans are entirely African. Humans living in the western hemisphere sprung from groups who migrated from Africa.

More recently, however, Europeans traveled west across the Atlantic and settled in the western hemisphere, bringing their families with them. The people who were already here, the Native Americans/First People, were in the way of the Europeans, and were moved, subjugated, or eliminated. The United States was founded by Europeans on a land they occupied as conquerers along with slaves brought from Africa. The first census, in 1790, claimed nearly 4 million including almost 700,000 slaves. First People weren’t counted.

Immigration to the United States of America started with its founding and continues to this day.

SOME FAMILY HISTORY: WRETCHED REFUSE

My family came to America from Eastern Europe…from what was then Czarist Russia (now Latvia and Lithuania). Three of my four grandparents arrived here in 1905-06 during a large migration of Jews from Russia. The fourth grandparent, my maternal grandmother, was born in the U.S. to parents who emigrated from the same area a few years earlier.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum, with the Statue of Liberty in the background

They came through Ellis Island, and were welcomed into New York harbor by the Statue of Liberty, dedicated in October of 1886 – her raised lamp lighting the way to freedom. At her base are the words of Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus”

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

My grandparents left Russia because the economic, political, and social strain of a war with Japan had stirred a virulent nationalism resulting in renewed attacks against Jews. The anti-Jewish pogroms in 1905 resulted in thousands of deaths. Yet that same Czar who instigated the attacks on the Jewish people of Russia, conscripted Jewish men to fight his war on the eastern front; i.e. Siberia.

In a family history begun just a few weeks before his death in 1986, my father wrote,

Both of my parents were immigrants to the United States and both came in 1905 from the Baltic region of Czarist Russia. 1905 was a year of great emigration of Russian Jews probably because of the continuing pogroms in Russia as well as the Russo-Japanese war. The latter, in which Russia was badly beaten by the rising Japanese empire, sparked much unrest in Russia, increased drafting of young men into the czarist army, rising revolutionary disorder with subsequent government repression, etc.

My paternal grandfather, who died a year before I was born, was from the Russian province of Courland (aka Kurland and Kurzeme) which is now in western Latvia. According to my father’s history, he “fled to escape service in the czarist army.”

My mother’s father, who was born six months before the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, told me a story about the pogrom which resulted in the death of his grandfather. He recounted how he was hidden away and could hear the noises of the pogrom…the horses riding through the town and the shouts of people. He came out when it was over…and learned that his grandfather had been killed.

He was from the area around Daugavpils, then called Dvinsk, in the southeast of what is now Latvia. His story is interesting because, at the time of his emigration to America, he was already a soldier in the Czar’s army. My mother recounted his escape in a family history she left behind on her computer.

He had been in the Czar’s army in Dvinsk… When he learned that his unit was to be sent to Siberia, he told his father… A family plan was concocted; (1) his mother…bought him the passport of a dead man… (2) [He] told his captain that he had to go into town to mail a letter and to buy cigars (for the captain, to be sure). (3) Always agile, he raced to his parents’ home in Dvinsk where he was secretly sent to Estonia after spending a night in the hayloft of a friendly farmer.

…in the days of pogroms by the army of the Czar, it was not unusual for young men to disappear with the help of their families, emigrating to America…

From Estonia he traveled to western Europe and from there, to the U.S. The family he left behind likely didn’t survive the Nazi occupation which began 35 years later.

An image of a page from my grandfather’s
passport used to escape from Czarist Russia.

Both my grandfathers left their home and emigrated to America.

Like millions of others who came before and since, they came to the U.S. to escape religious oppression. In the U.S. they had the opportunity to raise their families in relative peace and freedom. The fact that anti-semitism was present in the U.S. didn’t dissuade them from coming here.

IMMIGRANTS AND THE “OTHER”

Nativism and discrimination against minorities and the “other” increases in times of war and economic hardship. The fascist rise in Europe prior to World War II was due, in part, to the economic difficulties of the Great Depression.

The current economic downturn is no different. Hate crimes in the U.S. have continued to increase over the last few years. Most hate crimes in the U.S. are based on race or ethnicity, however, religious-based hate crime has been on the rise with a steady increase of Muslim victims. The chart below, shows the comparison of hate crime victims based on their religion, either Jewish or Muslim. Note that for the last 15 years between 70% and 80% of religious based hate crimes have been against Jews and Muslims. After 9/11, the percentage of Muslim victims grew quickly and continues to increase. There is little doubt that, when data for 2016 is published, the rate of increase of Muslim victims will be even higher.(1)

This discrimination and hatred of the “other” isn’t new. Each new ethnic, religious, or racial group emigrating to America is subjected to similar types of hatred.

The restrictions recently placed on the immigration from seven Muslim majority nations is based on fear of the “other” – in this case, fear of possible terrorist infiltration. The United States has not experienced terrorist activities from citizens of the countries chosen for the restrictions. Other countries, where President Trump has investments, have no such restrictions even though terrorist activities based in those nations have had an impact on Americans. Furthermore, the restrictions will likely hurt Americans by disrupting the economic benefit of immigration.(2)

IRONY ALERT

Of course, the purveyors of the recent upsurge in hate, scapegoating, and discrimination, including the recent immigration policy, are descended from immigrants themselves. President Trump is descended from German and Scottish Europeans. All four of his grandparents (like three of mine) were from Europe and came here as immigrants. During and immediately after World War II, a number of German-Americans were interned in the same way that Japanese Americans were (though not to the same extent or under the same conditions). The last were released from where they were held on Ellis Island in 1948.

Steve Bannon, formerly of the white supremacist site, Breitbart, is descended from Irish-Catholics who were subjected to intense discrimination in the 19th and 20th centuries (see here and here).

Another supporter of racists in the administration (if he’s confirmed) is Jeff Sessions, a mostly “pure” anglo-saxon with ancestry of English and Scots-Irish. His ancestors were possibly among those who were against Bannon’s ancestors (and mine). But even the most “pure” anglo-saxon bigot in America today, has a history which extends back to European immigrants.

In addition to racism, there is, it seems, a long American tradition of bullying newcomers, immigrants, and refugees.

The German transatlantic liner, St. Louis, carrying mostly Jewish passengers from Europe in 1939
was refused refuge in the U.S. The ship returned to Europe where many died in the Holocaust.
January 28, 2017: Demonstrators at JFK International Airport in New York in support of travelers being detained.

OTHER VOICES

The reaction to President Trump’s executive order restricting immigration was swift and clear. It’s unAmerican…unconstitutional…and shameful.

Inside Out and Back Again

This is a children’s book about immigration…because this is an education blog, after all. Inside Out and Back Again is a Newbery Honor Book (2012) about a child who emigrates to America.

For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, and the warmth of her friends close by. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food . . . and the strength of her very own family.

President Trump, Meet My Family

Mr. President, please remember: This is a country built by refugees and immigrants, your ancestors and mine. When we bar them and vilify them, we shame our own roots.

Trump’s Shock-and-Awe Campaign—Stand Up and Speak Out

If Trump can do all this and face no opposition, he’ll do more. Silence will not protect you. If you think what is happening to Muslims will never happen to you, you’re mistaken. We will either survive together or perish separately. [emphasis added]

Holocaust Exploitation: When the Analogy Is Wrong

Let’s be clear: President Donald Trump’s executive order suspending refugee admissions into the United States for 120 days and blocking entry to citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days is both a moral outrage and strategically self-defeating. No refugee has committed an act of fatal terrorism in the United States—the specter of which this directive is allegedly intended to prevent—and while applying a higher level of scrutiny to citizens of anarchic or jihad-plagued nations is certainly appropriate, indiscriminately prohibiting those who already hold visas and green cards from entering our country is absurdly overreaching and vindictive.

Everything you need to know about Donald Trump’s ‘Muslim ban’

See also

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(1) FBI 2015 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2014 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2010 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2005 Hate Crime Statistics
FBI 2000 Hate Crime Statistics

(2) Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis

Foreign-born terrorism on U.S. soil is a low-probability event that imposes high costs on its victims despite relatively small risks and low costs on Americans as a whole. From 1975 through 2015, the average chance of dying in an attack by a foreign-born terrorist on U.S. soil was 1 in 3,609,709 a year. For 30 of those 41 years, no Americans were killed on U.S. soil in terrorist attacks caused by foreigners or immigrants. Foreign-born terrorism is a hazard to American life, liberty, and private property, but it is manageable given the huge economic benefits of immigration and the small costs of terrorism. The United States government should continue to devote resources to screening immigrants and foreigners for terrorism or other threats, but large policy changes like an immigration or tourist moratorium would impose far greater costs than benefits.

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Posted in Mozart, music

Musical Interlude: Mozart, #261

Today is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 261st birthday.

He was born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756. Mozart composed his first symphony at age 8…his first opera at 11. Last year, I showcased some of his early works…a piano piece he wrote when he was five and his first symphony.

Aside from being precocious, he was also versatile. Mozart wrote more than two dozen piano concertos, five violin concertos, four horn concertos, as well as concertos for bassoon, flute, clarinet, trumpet, cello, and various combinations of instruments. In all, Mozart wrote more than 600 pieces of music in his short life of 35 years…

Here are five of his concertos (some complete, some excerpts)…for Horn, Bassoon, Oboe, Clarinet, and Flute. The definition of “concerto” has changed over the centuries and continues to be loosely defined, but generally, a concerto has three movements in which one solo instrument is featured. Accompaniment is usually with an orchestra or chamber orchestra. [FYI, a symphony can resemble a concerto in style and format, however, usually a concerto highlights one solo instrument throughout.]

The nice thing about these videos is that they are of live performances. Enjoy watching the musicians – soloists, orchestra members, and conductors – dance in their own special ways to the music. Most are “head dancers” but quite a few of them move their arms or sway at the waist. Very few, if any, are still while they play.

Mozart’s four horn concertos rank among my favorites pieces of music…

Here is Horn Concerto #1 (here is a link to all four)

…the complete Bassoon Concerto.

The first movement of the Oboe Concerto…

…the first movement of the Clarinet Concerto…

…and the first Flute Concerto.

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Posted in Politicians, Politics, Trump

This is what it looks like…

Thanks to GF Brandenburg’s Blog for this comprehensive list of actions President Trump is going to take to make America Great Again…

To recap: This is what Making America Great Again looks like.

  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the DOJ’s Violence Against Women programs.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Minority Business Development Agency.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Economic Development Administration.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the International Trade Administration.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Legal Services Corporation.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Environmental and Natural Resources Division of the DOJ.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Electricity Deliverability and Energy Reliability.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.
  • On January 19th, 2017, DT said that he would cut funding for the Office of Fossil Energy.
  • On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered all regulatory powers of all federal agencies frozen.
  • On January 20th, 2017, DT ordered the National Parks Service to stop using social media after RTing factual, side by side photos of the crowds for the 2009 and 2017 inaugurations.
  • On January 20th, 2017, roughly 230 protestors were arrested in DC and face unprecedented felony riot charges. Among them were legal observers, journalists, and medics.
  • On January 20th, 2017, a member of the International Workers of the World was shot in the stomach at an anti-fascist protest in Seattle. He remains in critical condition.
  • On January 21st, 2017, DT brought a group of 40 cheerleaders to a meeting with the CIA to cheer for him during a speech that consisted almost entirely of framing himself as the victim of dishonest press.
  • On January 21st, 2017, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer held a press conference largely to attack the press for accurately reporting the size of attendance at the inaugural festivities, saying that the inauguration had the largest audience of any in history, “period.”
  • On January 22nd, 2017, White House advisor Kellyann Conway defended Spicer’s lies as “alternative facts” on national television news.
  • On January 22nd, 2017, DT appeared to blow a kiss to director James Comey during a meeting with the FBI, and then opened his arms in a gesture of strange, paternal affection, before hugging him with a pat on the back.
  • On January 23rd, 2017, DT reinstated the global gag order, which defunds international organizations that even mention abortion as a medical option.
  • On January 23rd, 2017, Spicer said that the US will not tolerate China’s expansion onto islands in the South China Sea, essentially threatening war with China.
  • On January 23rd, 2017, DT repeated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing him the popular vote.
  • On January 23rd, 2017, it was announced that the man who shot the anti-fascist protester in Seattle was released without charges, despite turning himself in.
  • On January 24th, 2017, Spicer reiterated the lie that 3-5 million people voted “illegally” thus costing DT the popular vote.
  • On January 24th, 2017, DT tweeted a picture from his personal Twitter account of a photo he says depicts the crowd at his inauguration and will hang in the White House press room. The photo is curiously dated January 21st, 2017, the day AFTER the inauguration and the day of the Women’s March, the largest inauguration related protest in history.
  • On January 24th, 2017, the EPA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to freeze all grants and contracts.
  • On January 24th, 2017, the USDA was ordered to stop communicating with the public through social media or the press and to stop publishing any papers or research. All communication with the press would also have to be authorized and vetted by the White House.
  • On January 24th, 2017, HR7, a bill that would prohibit federal funding not only to abortion service providers, but to any insurance coverage, including Medicaid, that provides abortion coverage, went to the floor of the House for a vote.
  • On January 24th, 2017, Director of the Department of Health and Human Service nominee Tom Price characterized federal guidelines on transgender equality as “absurd.”
  • On January 24th, 2017, DT ordered the resumption of construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline, while the North Dakota state congress considers a bill that would legalize hitting and killing protestors with cars if they are on roadways.
  • On January 24th, 2017, it was discovered that police officers had used confiscated cell phones to search the emails and messages of the 230 demonstrators now facing felony riot charges for protesting on January 20th, including lawyers and journalists whose email accounts contain privileged information of clients and sources.
  • And today: the wall and a Muslim ban.
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Posted in Article Medleys, Choice, poverty, Public Ed, SchoolFunding, Teaching Career, vouchers

2017 Medley #3

Choice, Vouchers, Poverty, A Public Good, School Finance, Teachers, A Story

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

School Choice: Whose Choice Is It?

It’s National School Choice Week…a time to celebrate (?) the privatization and destruction of America’s public schools.

Private and privately run schools which receive public tax dollars should be held to the same standards as public schools.

  • They should have open board meetings.
  • Their finances should be open and subject to audit by the public.
  • They should have the same requirements for hiring teachers and administrators.
  • They should have the same requirements for curriculum. 
  • They should be required to provide an appropriate education for all students no matter their achievement level, academic ability, first language, physical needs, behavioral needs, religious beliefs, ethnicity, economic status, or skin color.

In addition,

  • No school, public or private, or its teachers, should be judged solely on the test scores of its students.
  • No public funds should be used for sectarian purposes.
  • No student should be turned away from any publicly funded school because they are too expensive to educate.

We should make all public schools high quality. We should improve our local schools, not privatize them. We should give all our nation’s children the resources they deserve, not just those who are chosen by private and privately run schools.

As most people know, public schools are required to accept all students while “choice schools” have the option of choosing the students who fit their agenda. Choice schools are allowed to reject students with behavior issues, students with low scores, students with disabilities, and students who don’t speak English. The probable result of this further expansion of choice schools will be that the children with most difficulties will be housed in the least well financed schools.

Sadly, many legislators have chosen to be willfully unaware of the consequences of “school choice.” While the reformers and the takeover artists and the hedge fund managers talk and talk and talk about the miraculous results of school choice, research shows that these results are uneven at best.

See also…

No, Betsy, School Choice Is Not a Good Thing

Public education is a “common good” provided for all people.

In our society we have come to recognize that choice is a good thing as long as it does not interfere with others’ choices. What if an inner-city parent’s choice is to send a child to a clean, safe, well-resourced, professionally-staffed, neighborhood public school? By draining away the limited funds and resources available for public education, charter schools and voucher schemes infringe on that parent’s choice. Public monies are rightly spent to make that good local school a reality. In public education, as with smoking and seat belts and the military, the government must choose to limit our choice in order to provide for, as the Constitution says, “the common good.” Public education is a common good that privatization in the form of charters and vouchers will destroy.

PRIVATIZATION: VOUCHERS

HB 1228 – Vouchers for Underperforming Schools

Indiana’s voucher plan takes public funds and gives it to schools which are economically unaccountable to the public.

Public dollars for public schools. Period.

If the purpose of “school choice” is for students to be able to get out of failing schools and move to a better school, then this proposal makes a lot of sense. If the point of the exercise is to subsidize parochial education, to bust unions, or to divert public education money to friends and well-wishers, then obviously this proposal would not be met with favor.

Whether this would save the state money or cost it money is tied to the question of how many students that attend voucher schools would otherwise attend public schools. There seem to be a fair number of kids who were going to attend the voucher schools anyway but are now being subsidized by taxpayers to go to these schools. (“[M]ore than 50 percent of students accepting vouchers had never attended a public school.”) So, in terms of financial impact to taxpayers, the question is whether, if their private school underperformed the public school and they were no longer eligible for a voucher, the kids would stay at the private school or go to the public school in their area.

What Mike Pence doesn’t like to admit about Indiana’s school voucher program

I don’t know that Vice President Pence doesn’t like to admit this…my guess is that he thinks that it doesn’t sound good politically, but he and most of his fellow super-majority cronies in the state legislature and the new administration in the executive branch are all in favor of “choice.” There’s a basic cultural divide between those who believe in supporting public education (along with public highways, public libraries, parks, etc) as a “public good” and those who believe that 1) the government can’t do anything right, and 2) privatization is always better.

Those of us who believe that the government has some responsibilities, and needs the resources to provide for its citizens, must start electing representatives who agree with us.

Indiana’s school choice program started under a prior governor as a small pilot, tailored to poor families that did not believe public schools were providing their children with an adequate education. Gov. Pence, however, escalated this program into a de facto entitlement for middle-upper-class families, pulling millions of dollars from our poorest schools so that these more affluent families could subsidize a private school education for their kids. Betsy DeVos wants to expand these voucher programs to as many states as possible.

Pence likes to claim that Indiana has the largest voucher program in the country. What he does not like to admit is that in five years of this program, Indiana’s taxpayers have sent more than $345 million to religious schools with little to no state oversight or regulation. These taxpayer dollars would have otherwise funded public education in our state.

POVERTY

Trump not informed about education

Like many who are ill-informed about public education, President Trump assumes that America’s schools are “failing.” He assumes (as do most Republicans and many Democrats) that the public school system in the United States is not working and in need of an overhaul.

It’s true that we can improve America’s public schools, but the best and most effective improvement would be to reduce the level of child poverty in the United States. Stephen Krashen continues to preach. Will anyone hear him?

In his inaugural address, Mr. Trump said that our educational system “leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.’” President Trump is apparently unaware of the fact that when researchers statistically control for the effects of poverty, American students score near the top of the world.

Poverty means, among other things, food deprivation, poor medical care, and lack of access to reading material. All of these have profound negative effects on school performance. The best teaching in the world will have little value if students are hungry, ill, and have little or nothing to read. Our child poverty rate is 21%, the highest of all industrialized countries. In contrast, child poverty in high-scoring Finland is about 5%.

Martin Luther King was right: “We are likely to find that the problems of housing and education, instead of preceding the elimination of poverty, will themselves be affected if poverty is first abolished.” (1967, Final Words of Advice)

President Trump’s staff needs to focus on the real problem in American education.

Stephen Krashen
Professor Emeritus
University of Southern California

The Real Crisis in Education:An Open Letter to the Department of Education

Students who live in poverty need more educational resources, not less. The United States continues to provide more resources for middle and upper class students. It’s poverty, stupid.

United States’ schools with fewer than 10% of students living in poverty score higher than any country in the world. Schools with student poverty rates that are less than 24.9% rank 3rd in the world, and schools with poverty rates ranging from 25% to 49.9% rank 10th in the world. However, schools with 50% to 74.9% poverty rates rank much lower – fifth from the bottom. Tragically, schools with 75% or higher poverty rates rank lower in reading scores than any country except Mexico.

THE SUCCESS OF PUBLIC EDUCATION

Focusing on the Pebbles

When public schools are supported, great things can happen.

When the history of the United States is written from the vantage of the middle of the 21st century, and the question asked is what was it that made the United States the preeminent nation in the world during the 20th century, the answer will be found in the 19th century.

It won’t be the telegraph, or the telephone, or the automobile, or even the computer that has made America great. Rather, it was the invention of the common school.

  • It was the public schools that gave America some mobility across social classes, providing a modicum of truth to the premise that we are the preeminent land of opportunity.
  • It was the public schools that changed our immigrants into patriotic Americans.
  • It was the public schools, along with public libraries, that gave Americans the skills and opportunities to develop the kinds of knowledge necessary for a democracy to function.
  • It is the public schools that serve most of our nations’ special education students, hoping to give them productive lives, and hoping to give their parents some relief from a tougher parenting role than most of us have had to face.
  • It is the public schools that primarily serve the English Language Learners who, in another generation, will constitute a large part of the work force that we depend upon.
  • It is the public schools that serve America’s neediest children and their families.
  • And it is the public schools, in the wealthier neighborhoods, that provide a large proportion of American students with a world-class education.

SCHOOL FINANCE

Trump says our schools are “Flush with Cash!?” They’re Falling Apart!

One phrase in this article speaks volumes.

“…many schools are still waiting…especially those serving minority students.”

Los Angeles Unified School district routinely has broken desks and chairs, missing ceiling tiles, damaged flooring, broken sprinklers, damaged lunch tables and broken toilet paper dispensers.

They’re flush with cash!?

New York City public schools removed more than 160 toxic light fixtures containing polychlorinated biphenyls, a cancer causing agent that also hinders cognitive and neurological development. Yet many schools are still waiting on a fix, especially those serving minority students.

They’re flush with cash!?

At Charles L. Spain school in Detroit, the air vents are so warped and moldy, turning on the heat brings a rancid stench. Water drips from a leaky roof into the gym, warping the floor tiles. Cockroaches literally scurry around some children’s classrooms until they are squashed by student volunteers.

They’re flush with freakin cash!?

Are you serious, Donald Trump!?

THE CLASSROOM TEACHER

‘The level of workload expected of teachers is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives’

This article is from November, 2016, but it really needn’t be dated. We’ve been neglecting our teachers and schools for decades.

Teachers are reaching – or perhaps have reached – a point where this level of work commitment is becoming corrosive. Children do not benefit from overworked teachers. This level of work is not improving schools, but it is wrecking lives.

This year, this level of work has failed once again to result in a pay rise commensurate to the workload. The 1 per cent rise will make teachers feel unvalued. They also know that they remain without a voice.

The next year will also see the recruitment crisis worsen. Why? Well, graduates will see the pay and the conditions of service and seek alternative employment.

We will also see schools having to continue with a worthless testing regime and even more cuts that will affect all areas of education.

A STORY

THE EMPEROR’S NEW CLOTHES

“Alternative facts” are the new “naked.” This seems like an appropriate time for a “reminder.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on,” a little child said.

“Did you ever hear such innocent prattle?” said its father. And one person whispered to another what the child had said, “He hasn’t anything on. A child says he hasn’t anything on.”

“But he hasn’t got anything on!” the whole town cried out at last.

Posted in DeVos, Public Ed, Trump

“Do you have any experience…?”

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

On her show last night (January 19, 2017), Rachel Maddow played a video of Donald Trump speaking at an Inauguration Eve dinner. At the dinner, then President-elect Trump said the following.

Today as you know we appointed a Secretary of Agriculture. He happens to be a farmer…He came into my office two months ago. Since then I saw ten people that everybody liked – politically correct – and I kept thinking back to Sonny Perdue…a great, great farmer. He loves the farms. He knows everything about farming. Knows everything about agriculture. He’s been successful in farming. He knows the good stuff and the bad stuff.

But people came into my office and they said, “I’m really wanting the job.”

I said, “Let me ask you a question. Do you have any experience with farms or agriculture?”

“No sir, I don’t.”

I said, “Have you ever seen a farm?”

The one gentleman, who’s a great guy, we’ll find something else…ok? But I can’t make him Secretary of Agriculture.

But we just named Sonny Perdue so I want to congratulate you. Secretary of Agriculture.

[Applause]

President Trump said that it was important for someone in the position of the Secretary of Agriculture to have some experience in farming and agriculture. The purpose of his story was to ensure us that Sonny Perdue was a good choice for Secretary of Agriculture because he is an experienced farmer and knows all the “good stuff and bad stuff” about farming.

…SOMETIMES

Apparently, the education of America’s children, and the qualifications for the Secretary of Education are not as important.

The U.S. Department of Education is responsible for the education of America’s children, nearly 90% of whom attend public schools. Betsy DeVos has never worked in a public school. She never attended at public school. She doesn’t “know everything” about public schools. She’s never been “successful” in a public school. She doesn’t have “any experience” with America’s public schools.

On the other hand, she does have a lot of money…

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Posted in DeVos, Public Ed, Trump, US DOE

A More Qualified Secretary of Education

UPHOLDING A TRADITION

It’s been a tradition for American presidents – since Jimmy Carter – to nominate unqualified people to the office of U.S. Education Department Secretary of Education. A quick glance at past Secretaries would give you enough information to understand that the position is not reserved for educators, but for political hacks.

Of the ten past and current Secretaries of Education, and the one nominee and future Secretary, only a handful have had any experience in public education.

John King, the current Secretary, taught for 3 years (yep…three whole years) and became the hated state education chief in New York. Terrell Bell, who got fired from his job as Secretary after one term because he knew too much about education, was also a high school teacher and administrator. Rod Paige, who equated teachers who belonged to their teachers union with terrorists, also had education training, and earned his stripes as the Superintendent of Schools in Houston during the “Texas Miracle” which turned out to be no miracle at all.

Arne Duncan was the “CEO” of Chicago Public Schools – because “CEO” means that we’re running a school system like a business so it’s all good – and he got that job because…why? His mom was a tutor and he watched her.

The rest of the pack’s knowledge of public education was either as a parent, such as Margaret Spellings whose web page at the U.S. ED said that she was qualified because she was a mom, or because they might have been a student in a public school…once.

In other words, knowing anything about K-12 public education has rarely, if ever, been a requirement for the job of U.S. Secretary of Education.

Why then, is it a surprise that President-elect Trump’s nominee for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, knows nothing about K-12 public education?

And like other aspects of the President-elect’s superlative-laden campaign and transition, DeVos is the most unqualified of all. If other Presidents have nominated for Secretary of Education someone with minimal knowledge of public education, then he, Trump, had to nominate someone with the most complete lack of knowledge of all.

CHOOSE ME INSTEAD

I would make a better Secretary of Education for the United States than Betsy DeVos. Like DeVos I have no experience at running any organization the size of the the U.S. ED. And I don’t have her millions of dollars to purchase politicians. On the other hand…

  • I know the difference between growth and proficiency.
  • I understand that federal laws apply to all schools receiving federal dollars.
  • I believe that all children are entitled to a free, appropriate, public education.
  • I believe that public education is a public responsibility which, if fully supported, benefits all citizens, and provides for a more productive society.
  • I believe that if private or privately run schools accept public dollars then they should be held to the same standards and restrictions as public schools.
  • I believe that all schools accepting public funds should accept and provide an appropriate education for all students no matter how expensive they are to educate.
  • I don’t think that grizzly bears are a sufficient reason for arming school employees.
  • Finally, I have 60 years of experience as a student, teacher, and volunteer in public education. I have been a teacher for students from age 4 through adult at the elementary school, community college, and university levels. In fact, I have more K-12 teaching experience than any previous Secretary of Education.

But it’s not just me.

Most public school teachers know more about public education than most of the previous Secretaries of Education, and it’s likely that any public school teacher in America knows more about public education than Betsy DeVos.

The nation’s children would be better served with an education professional as the U.S. Secretary of Education, than with someone like Betsy DeVos, who has no understanding of teaching and learning, and whose only interest in public education is to destroy it.

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Posted in birthdays, Franklin, Quotes

Traitors or Heroes: Ben Franklin

Today is birthday number 310 for Benjamin Franklin. He was born in Boston on January 17, 1706.

Franklin was one of the most well known and well respected scientists and inventors of his day. We have him to thank for (among other things)…

Most people learned about Franklin, the statesman and philosopher. Here are some relevant Franklin quotes for today…

HEALTH CARE

Referring to private hospital funding alone:

That won’t work, it will never be enough, good health care costs a lot of money, remembering ‘the distant parts of this province’ in which ‘assistance cannot be procured, but at an expense that neither [the sick-poor] nor their townships can afford.’ … ‘[This] seems essential to the true spirit of Christianity, and should be extended to all in general, whether deserving or undeserving, as far as our power reaches.’

In 1751, Franklin’s friend, Dr. Thomas Bond, convinced him to champion the building of a public hospital. Through his hard work and political ingenuity, Franklin brought the skeptical legislature to the table, bargaining his way to use public money to build what would become Pennsylvania Hospital. Franklin proposed an institution that would provide — ‘free of charge’ —the finest health care to everybody, ‘whether inhabitants of the province or strangers,’ even to the ‘poor diseased foreigners”‘ (referring to the immigrants of German stock that the colonials tended to disparage and discriminate). Countering the Assembly’s insistence that the hospital be built only with private donations, Franklin made the above statement. Various articles by Franklin supporting his Appeal for the Hospital in The Pennsylvania Gazette (1751) as quoted in Pulphead: Essays by John Jeremiah Sullivan.

LIBERTY

Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor
Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755-1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), pp. 19-21. [November 11, 1755]

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

PRIDE

Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, by Benjamin Franklin

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

CORRUPTION OF THE PEOPLE

Benjamin Franklin’s Final Speech in the Constitutional Convention
from the notes of James Madison

I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

TRAITORS OR HEROES

Letter to Thomas Jefferson (March 16th, 1775).

In 200 years will people remember us as traitors or heroes? That is the question we must ask.

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