Category Archives: environment

2020 Medley #9: Hunkered Down at Home Edition

Dumping the tests, Some things don’t matter, Social Distancing, Focusing on students,
Beating Coronavirus Capitalism, Disasters

DUMPING THE TESTS IS A GREAT IDEA

Why Scrapping School Testing This Year Is a Good Idea

Before I retired, I had the difficult task of serving as one of my school’s co-test coordinators. It was my job to count, secure, distribute, secure, package up, secure, and prepare our state’s Big Standardized Test (h/t Curmudgucation) for shipping. Sadly, I have been trained in tests and measurements so I understood why, for so many years, the Big Standardized Tests were being overused and misused.

Now that the overuse and misuse of testing pendulum is, hopefully, swinging the other way, my fervent hope is that perhaps we can limit the damage done by the tests.

In the meantime, this year’s Big Standardized Tests are being canceled. Jersey Jazzman explains why that’s a good idea and in the process, also explains why the tests aren’t so good for students anyway. They are extremely accurate in assessing the economic status of students, but that’s about all.

Start with the obvious: a “standardized” test has to be administered in a standard way. If some students receive the test in different platforms, or in different environments, the test is no longer standardized. Of course, there were already huge differences between students in these factors… but Covid-19 has made things far worse. There’s just no way to even come close to standardizing the conditions for testing in the current environment. Will the students be at home, in school but “social distancing,” in regular school, somewhere else… we just can’t say.

Next, we have always had big differences in students’ opportunity to learn — but now the differences are greater than ever. Again, there are huge variations among students in their access to qualified educators, high-quality facilities, adequate instructional materials, well-designed curricula, and so on. The best use of test results was to make the case that the variation in these things was creating unequal educational opportunities, and that public policy should focus on getting resources where they were needed the most.

But in a quarantine, we now have to add all sorts of other inequalities into the mix: access to broadband, parents who have the ability to oversee students’ instruction, schools’ ability to implement distance learning, etc. Why implement these tests when inequities within the same classroom — let alone between schools — have grown so large?

PUTTING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

Dear Teachers: There Are Many Things That No Longer Matter

A pandemic puts things in perspective. The health and safety of our students, and their families, are more important than the tests.

If you are attempting virtual learning with your students, now is the time to teach what you have always recognized are the crucial topics in your curriculum. Throw out the state requirements and embrace your professional decision-making skills. The state requirements do not matter. There will be no formal observations. No one will give you some annual professional performance review (APPR). We have known all along that those measures are bullshit. I am continuing to cover the most important content, but I am also asking my students to act as historians through recording a daily diary of this extraordinary time. This time will shape them forever, and we are their guardians.

TOP 10 THINGS TO DO WHILE SOCIAL DISTANCING

Top 10 Things I Want My Students to do During the Coronavirus Quarantine

Steven Singer, who blogs at Gadfly on the Wall Blog, lets his students know that there are things to do during “social distancing.” The first is to read a book. For those without access to books, there are the library apps Libby and Hoopla to get digital books.

He wisely includes writing, immediately after reading. Reading and writing are reciprocal. “Reading is the inhale; writing is the exhale.”

2) Read a Book

I ask all of my students to have a self-selected book handy for sustained silent reading in class. Hopefully, you brought it home. If not, take a look around the house. Maybe you’ve got a dusty tome hanging out in some corner. Or – hey – if you have Internet access, you probably have the ability to get an ebook.

Read something – anything you want.

It will while away the hours, relax you and maybe get your mind to thinking about things above and beyond how much mac and cheese you’ve got stored in the cupboard.

3) Keep a Journal

Do you realize you’re living through a moment of history? People will look back on this and wonder how people got through it. You could fill in the blanks for some future researcher. Just a description of your everyday activities, what you’re thinking and feeling, your hopes and dreams – all of it has historical value. Plus, you’ll get some practice expressing yourself in writing. And just think – a simple story about how you survived the great toilet paper shortage of 2020 could end up being taught in the classrooms of the future!

Make it a good one!

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STUDENTS

Our Students Need Us Now More Than Ever

Are you keeping in touch with your students during this extended coronviracation? You should.

If anything, we teachers and support personnel are needed now more than ever.

Close a school for a while and the community instantly feels the effects. Shut them down across the state and everybody has to adjust.

Our students look to us for guidance, direction, assistance, validation, answers, and the ability to use voice. Nothing has changed in that respect.

Educators advocate for students and schools. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We collaborate with each other and remove obstacles for our students. Nothing has changed in that respect.

We will adapt. We will overcome this obstacle. No one adapts to situations and change like we do.

Because it’s all about the students.

BEATING CORONAVIRUS CAPITALISM

Coronavirus Capitalism — and How to Beat It

Last week, in my post, Public Education, Disaster Capitalism, and COVID-19 (expanded into an op-ed in our local paper here), I discussed how “edupreneurs” will be likely to swoop in and take advantage of public education to further their dreams of privatization. I quoted author Naomi Klein from her book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Today, I saw this post by Ms. Klein talking about the exact same thing.

The COVID-19 disaster is exactly the sort of disaster that disaster capitalists exploit. Klein wrote…

This crisis — like earlier ones — could well be the catalyst to shower aid on the wealthiest interests in society, including those most responsible for our current vulnerabilities, while offering next to nothing to the most workers, wiping out small family savings and shuttering small businesses. But as this video shows, many are already pushing back — and that story hasn’t been written yet.

DISASTER UPON DISASTER

Midwest Girds for Floods While under Corona Lockdown

While we’re worrying about COVID-19, we can’t forget that the Earth is still reacting to human-induced climate change.

As an upsurge in coronavirus infections stretches thin the capacity of health care workers and emergency managers nationwide, the Midwest is bracing for another battle: a potentially devastating flood season.

😷🚑🩺

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Filed under Article Medleys, climate change, DisasterCapitalism, environment, Medicine, reading, Testing, writing

Make Your Own Light

COLD WAR FEARS

Many of us who grew up during the Cold War were emotionally traumatized by the fear of nuclear annihilation. Those of us old enough to remember hiding under our school desks during an air-raid drill remember the feelings of fear. Those of us old enough to understand what was happening in Cuba in late 1962 remember the feelings of fear…

Research on the effects of the nuclear threat on children is chilling. At the end of the 1950s, 60 percent of American children reported having nightmares about nuclear war. Few other comprehensive surveys were conducted at this time, though studies multiplied in the early 1980s. In the 1960s, 44 percent of children in one survey predicted a serious nuclear incident. By 1979, 70 percent of interviewees the same age felt sure of an attack. Researchers noted that the latter survey respondents seemed more resigned than their 1960s counterparts. A 1984 survey of 1,100 Toronto schoolchildren found that many reported feeling helpless and powerless in the face of nuclear war.

I lived in Chicago during the Cold War years of the 50s and 60s. I lived with the worry that the plane flying over my house was sporting the red star of the Soviet Union. Every time I noticed a plane overhead I would look up and try to identify the markings…to assure myself that this one wasn’t the plane that would drop “the bomb” on the city. The fact that I lived on an entrance route to O’Hare Field, at that time the busiest commercial airport in the world, made it just that much more terrifying.

A common “joke” at the time was, “What do you want to be if you grow up?”

The threat of nuclear war still exists, of course, but today’s children and youth have a different existential fear to worry about.

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE EARTH’S ECOSYSTEMS

During the early 2000s, I worked with a gifted first grader. During a parent conference, her mother told me that the child became upset whenever her parents left the radio on. Why?

Her mother said that her daughter’s rationale went like this…

  • The radio used electricity.
  • Electricity in Indiana is overwhelmingly produced by coal.
  • Coal extraction and use resulted in damage to the environment and therefore, climate change.
  • Climate change was an existential threat to her and her family.

An article in the Washington Post earlier this month dealt with the “eco-anxiety” which is traumatizing today’s children.

The Environmental Burden of Generation Z

In a Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll of American teenagers released in September, 57 percent said that climate change made them feel scared and 52 percent said it made them feel angry, both higher rates than among adults. Just 29 percent of teens said they were optimistic.

and…

The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 2015 warning that climate change poses threats to “children’s mental and physical health,” and that “failure to take prompt, substantive action would be an act of injustice to all children.”

Adults interviewed often remarked that the doom-and-gloom surrounding climate change reminded them of the fears they grew up with during the Cold War.

PROTECTING OUR CHILDREN

The fact of climate change is something that we need to deal with — now, rather than later — but we also need to be aware of the emotional damage that it’s is having on our children.  Teachers, especially, should speak frankly with their students about the dangers of a changing climate, but must remember to provide hope so as not to traumatize children.

Although there’s little question that climate change will harm younger generations, there’s considerably more debate about a related concern — that the rhetoric surrounding the issue is equally injurious.

…scientists say that while some warming is baked in, action now could avert the worst consequences. Marvel puts it this way: “There are so many futures between doomed and fine.”

Helping our students understand that we still have time to alleviate some of the effects of climate change will go a long way towards easing their fears. Helping students find ways of participating in solutions is even more important.

Working toward a solution, in fact, is the consensus approach to calming young people’s fears about the future. The key to addressing eco-anxiety at any age, says psychiatrist Haase, is getting “unstuck,” losing that feeling of paralysis in the face of the problem’s magnitude. Haase is a founding member of the Climate Psychiatry Alliance, an ad hoc group that has sprung up to offer patients and doctors advice on discussing climate anxiety. It’s one of a number of such groups that are tackling the growing rate of patients panicked about the state of the world: The Good Grief Network was launched in 2016 to offer group counseling sessions to the climate-anxious.

The emphasis, doctors say, should be on personal responsibility and empowerment. For an overwhelming problem like climate change, being able to take some action — whether eating less meat or switching to an electric vehicle — can help fight paralysis and get patients to recognize that the worst of climate change is not a fait accompli and that some progress can be made…

TEACH HER TO MAKE HER OWN LIGHT

It’s important to feel like there’s something that we can do to help mitigate some of the impact of climate change. It’s important to feel empowered.

As the ones usually tasked with bringing climate change information to their students, teachers are increasingly taking on the weight of the psychological implications. Lisa Balazs, a science teacher at a private school outside Birmingham, Ala., told me she persuaded her school to offer a specialized climate change class last year. She wanted to walk students through the physics and chemistry of the changing climate, but also focus on solutions. “I wanted them to feel like they were empowered in the way you could have an intelligent conversation,” she says. “The scary part is feeling like there’s nothing you individually can do, especially when you look at the government. So turning it around and putting it back in your personal control, this is what you can vote for and work for.”

How climate experts think about raising children who will inherit a planet in crisis

One day last year, Marvel and her son stepped aboard the shuttle that runs between Grand Central Terminal and Times Square in New York City, and found themselves surrounded by a brilliant, bustling coral reef; the subway car was wrapped in an ad for David Attenborough’s “Our Planet” series. Her little boy was awestruck.

“And I remember thinking, suddenly: This may be the closest thing he ever sees to an actual coral reef,” she says. “I felt a jolt at that.”

But Marvel does not dwell on those sorts of thoughts, and when people ask her, as they often do, whether she is filled with existential dread as a climate scientist and a mother, she tells them emphatically that she is not. Her work has taught her that what matters is what we do right now, and the urgency of that edict leaves no room, no time for despondence.

“I think, when a lot of people talk about climate change and having kids, they’re looking to the future and despairing,” she says. “For me, it makes me look at the present and be incredibly resolved.”

We’re here, on the Earth, now. We’re going to have to learn to live on a planet that has a changing climate. We must teach our children how to respond to climate change. What matters is what we do right now.

You can’t save humanity by abandoning it, she says, and these sorts of messages are harmful to the children who are already here…

“My entire ancestral line is built on, ‘You have to figure out how to make it work, how to survive, because no one is going to help you,’ ” she says. “I do not want my children operating in fear. I do not want them operating in a mind-set that all hope is lost. That is not my mind-set.”

A rash of violent storms recently swept through their town in Mississippi, and when the house lost power, Toney saw her teenager immediately reach for a flashlight and her smartphone. The storms, Toney says, have become more frequent lately, more severe, and she knows this pattern will worsen in the years ahead. She watched her daughter cradling her phone and thought of what would happen when, eventually, the battery died.
Toney’s response was pragmatic: She would show her daughter where the candles were kept, and teach her to make her own light.

DON’T IGNORE THE SCIENCE

Stay informed about how the climate of the Earth is changing, but also do whatever you can to change things.

January 2020 was hottest on record, while Antarctica is warmer than it’s ever been

🌍☀️🌎

environment, MentalHealth

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2020 Medley #2

Vouchers, Environmental Toxins interfere with learning, NPE, Why kindergarten teachers quit, NAEP, Reading aloud

SHOULD YOUR TAX MONEY BE USED TO EXPEL KIDS WHO LIKE RAINBOWS?

Louisville Christian school expelled student over a rainbow cake, family says

Kentucky has no plan providing vouchers for students to attend religious schools. Why is that good? As of now, private schools in Kentucky that expel (or force out) a child because they like rainbows, like the one in this article, cannot receive any state funding.

Depending on what happens with the case currently before the Supreme Court, however, this could change.

Public money for public schools!

A Christian school in Louisville expelled a student last week after her family said school officials discovered the girl had celebrated her birthday with a rainbow-themed cake.

Kimberly Alford told The Courier Journal that until Jan. 6, her 15-year-old daughter had been a freshman at Whitefield Academy, a private school at 7711 Fegenbush Lane that serves students in preschool through 12th grade.

That’s when Alford said she received an email from Whitefield Academy’s head of school, Bruce Jacobson, explaining how her daughter was being expelled “immediately due to a post on social media.”

Alford had recently posted a photo on her Facebook page showing her daughter celebrating her birthday in late December at a Texas Roadhouse restaurant. In the photo, the girl is wearing a sweater featuring a rainbow design and sitting by a colorful, rainbow-themed cake.

See also: Gerth: This just in … God expelled from Louisville Christian school for creating rainbow

VOUCHER PROGRAMS DON’T HELP LEARNING

The Danger Private School Voucher Programs Pose to Civil Rights

From last May…

More reasons not to divert public money to private/religious school vouchers.

More recently, evidence has shown that these programs are not effective at improving educational achievement. Recent evaluations of certain voucher programs have shown no improvement in achievement or a decline in achievement for students who use them. For example, a Center for American Progress analysis found that the overall effect of the D.C. voucher program on students’ math achievement is equivalent to missing 68 days of school. Voucher programs are also not a viable solution in many rural areas of the country because these programs can strain funding resources in communities that already have lower densities of students and schools. Public funding should be used to ensure that all students have access to a quality public education, but voucher programs divert funding away from public schools. There have been a number of reports detailing how voucher programs provide public funding to schools that can legally remove or refuse to serve certain students altogether.

POISONING OUR CHILDREN…CONTINUED

The learning effect of air quality in classrooms

Yet another environmental issue that interferes with student learning. We know that environmental toxins like mercury and lead can cause damage to students which impacts their learning. Recent research shows that air pollution can also cause problems.

We’ve known for quite some time that pollution is bad for your health but researchers are documenting how it affects our brains. A 2016 Israel study found that high rates of pollution on the day of an exam tamped down high school test scores. The same students scored higher on different test dates with cleaner air. Boys and low-income students were the most affected. A 2019 draft, working paper of a study on university students in London also found that exposure to indoor air pollutants was associated with lower exam test scores. Again, males were more affected than females and the mental acuity problems were triggered by particulate levels that were below current guidelines at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

FUNDING FOR NPE

The Dark Money Behind Union-Owned NPE: Time to Fess Up.

Just kidding…NPE doesn’t take “dark money.” In fact, NPE hardly has any money at all when compared to groups funded by billionaire privatizers.

The short answer is that NPE is not funded by the “dark money” effort of millionaires and billionaires doling out money to puppet-string a school privatization agenda.

However, let us see exactly who funds NPE and who (like Stewart) is rolling in the dough as a result.

TEACHERS ARE LEAVING

Kindergarten Teachers Are Quitting, and Here Is Why

Appropriate instruction is better for the children. Good teachers understand that…and many are leaving the classroom to avoid doing damage to 5- and 6-year-olds.

• “I had to retire in 2017 because I could not take the pressure of having to force my 5- and 6-year-old students to sit with books… no talking allowed. …. I taught for 18 years and in the last 3 years teaching this stuff to my sweet little kinders I heard students cry, talk about how they didn’t understand, say they hated reading time, and act out. We were basically regurgitating the curriculum script. It was awful. I hated going to work that last 2 years with all the stress of academic achievement expectations… All administrators want to hear is the exact same stuff from one room to another from school to school.

• “Teachers have been complaining about more testing every year. And every year we hear, ‘We’ll look into that,’ and every year someone higher up decides, ‘We need more data.’ That, in turn, means more testing, more seatwork, and less play. I personally couldn’t take it anymore and took early retirement.”

See also: Let the Children Play, by Pasi Sahlberg and William Doyle.

NAEP — MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND LACK OF PROGRESS

We’re Pressuring Students to Read Too Fast, Too Much, Too Soon

First, the disclaimer: On the NAEP test, a score demonstrating proficiency does not mean “grade level.” It means that the test taker can competently handle challenging material. There is some debate that the scoring levels are set too high. See Curmudgucation’s post titled, The One And Only Lesson To Be Learned From NAEP Scores for a discussion of this.

Second, our scores on the latest NAEP moved very little from the previous test. Maybe it’s because there’s too much pressure on students. The main takeaway is that the “reformist” status quo isn’t helping to improve children’s learning or lessen any racial or economic “achievement gaps.”

Recent reading tests report that students’ reading comprehension scores show that just over one-third of students in grades four, eight, and 10 are proficient at reading. Researchers and education policy makers ponder the significance of little to no improvement in reading scores for students as a whole and the widening gap between our high-performing and low-performing students. What many of these thinkers fail to consider is the way education has changed. The system ignores that developmental psychology says when we push students too much and too fast we do more harm than good. The reading pressures we put on students may be one major cause of the stagnant scores.

WANT TO IMPROVE READING SCORES? READ ALOUD

The Most Powerful Family Ritual? The Bedtime Story

As if we needed any more reason to read aloud to our children (and students), here’s an article about the benefits of reading aloud at bedtime. One thing the author neglects to mention in his article is that reading aloud to a child is thesingle most important activity for building the knowledge required for eventual success in reading…

Teachers and parents, if you’re not reading to your children every day for at least 15 minutes, you’re not doing enough. It’s never too early…or too late to start.

There is simply nothing more powerful than the bedtime story—especially in this age of continuous screen time. As we go deeper into the discussion, we start to see how the bedtime story is the perfect ending to the day. So let’s rethink and reclaim this special decompression time for both parent and child.

It is not just something we are doing for our kids—the benefits accrue to us as well. We don’t just read to our kids, we read with our kids. Here are five reasons why the bedtime story is the most powerful family ritual…

Setting Children Up to Hate Reading

This article is from February, 2014. I’ve added it here to help with the understanding of the article above.

The best way to teach children to read is to increase their interest and enthusiasm in reading.

The best way to get children interested and enthusiastic about reading is to read to them. Every day.

Pick up any book about normal reading development and you will find that young children progress when they are ready—at their own pace.

The American Academy of Pediatrics notes the critical factor as to how a student will learn to read “is not how aggressively,” the child is given instruction, but rather their “own enthusiasm for learning.” They also state that many early learning programs “interfere with the child’s natural enthusiasm” by imposing on children to “concentrate on tasks” when they aren’t ready.

Why are young children being made to learn at a faster rate? Why is there this mistaken notion that children’s brains have somehow evolved to a higher level where they are supposed to read earlier and earlier?

📚📊🙋🏽‍♂️

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Filed under Article Medleys, Early Childhood, environment, kindergarten, NPE, read-alouds, vouchers, WhyTeachersQuit

“…you are still not mature enough…”

ADULTS GET A SCOLDING

Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg scolded the world’s adults today at the U.N. Climate Action Summit.

Unfortunately, the American President didn’t listen to Ms. Thunberg’s speech. He dropped by the summit…but didn’t stay. He also hasn’t read the 2015 Department of Defense report on the national security risks caused by climate change. Instead, the current occupant of the White House has spent the last two and a half years dismantling the nation’s environmental protections.

I doubt he would have understood why she was upset since he believes that “…the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese…

MORE THAN THIRTY YEARS AGO?

In her speech, Thunberg said that it’s been more than thirty years since the science became “crystal clear.” In 1971, Isaac Asimov wrote an essay called, The End. In it, he wrote about the inevitable damage to the Earth from the use of fossil fuels.

If the present carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere were merely to double, the average temperature of the Earth would increase by 3.6° C. We might be able to stand the warmer summers and the milder winters but what of the ice caps on Greenland and Antarctica?

At the higher temperatures, the ice caps would lose more ice in the summer than they would regain in the winter. They would begin to melt year by year at an accelerating pace and the sea level would inexorably rise. By the time all the ice caps were melted, the sea level would be at least 200 feet higher than it is and the ocean, at low tide, would lap about the twentieth floor of the Empire State Building. All the lowlands of Earth, containing it’s most desirable farmland and its densest load of population would be covered by rolling waters.

At the rate at which fossil fuels are being increasingly used now, the ice caps will be melting rapidly about a century from now…

It didn’t take a century…the ice caps are melting now…less than fifty years later.

Thirty years ago — in 1989 — Asimov again warned us about the Greenhouse Effect. This time he said there was a need for the world to cooperate and work together to solve what he saw as a threat to our civilization.

We didn’t listen to the science in the 70s and 80s. We continued to play with our toys fueled by coal and oil. Now we have to face the consequences of our actions…the consequences our children and grandchildren will be forced to live with after we’re gone. Are we mature enough yet to solve the problem?

SPEECH TO THE U.N. BY GRETA THUNBERG

This is all wrong. I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I’m one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!

For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight.

You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control.

Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences.

To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons.

How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.

There will not be any solutions or plans presented in line with these figures here today, because these numbers are too uncomfortable. And you are still not mature enough to tell it like it is.

You are failing us. But the young people are starting to understand your betrayal. The eyes of all future generations are upon you. And if you choose to fail us, I say: We will never forgive you.

We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line. The world is waking up. And change is coming, whether you like it or not.

Thank you.

ASIMOV ON THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT

🌍☀️🌎

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Filed under asimov, climate change, environment, Science, Thunberg

A Note to My Leaf-Burning Neighbors

This post was first published on November 2, 2017. Some links have been edited/corrected.

AUTUMN

Ah…who doesn’t love the nostalgic scent of burning leaves in the fall?

 

Answer: Anyone with lungs!

It’s Autumn in Indiana and my woodsy neighborhood is filled with fallen leaves. Many of my neighbors are recycling them by mulching them into their lawns or gardens or hiring crews to pick them up. Some others, are piling them up and setting them ablaze, and by doing so filling the air with poisonous toxins and choking ash.

IT’S JUST ONE LITTLE FIRE

What damage can one little fire cause?

It’s not just one little fire…it’s several since we live in an addition with dozens of houses and hundreds of leaf-dropping trees. The point is that “multiple fires in one geographic area can cause concentrations of air pollutants that exceed federal air quality standards” – at least until the current EPA decides that the right of citizens to breathe is just not a priority.

And, about those lungs…

Besides being an irritant, leaf smoke contains many hazardous chemicals, including carbon monoxide and benzo (a) pyrene. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the bloodstream and thus reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and lungs. So carbon monoxide can be very dangerous for young children with immature lungs, smokers, the elderly, and people with chronic heart or lung diseases. Benzo (a) pyrene is known to cause cancer in animals and is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and coal tar as well as leaf smoke.

[Full disclosure: The above paragraph is about me. Burning leaves make me sick. I have some serious lung issues and, while I hate to use the term elderly when talking about myself, I’m getting there…assuming I last through the leaf-burning season!]

KEEP YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN INSIDE

That benzo (a) pyrene stuff is a big deal. It can negatively affect your nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, it messes with your DNA, and it’s a carcinogen. Why would anyone do that to themselves and their families…not to mention the little children who live next door or two houses down…or the old folks on the corner…or everyone else in the neighborhood?

My neighborhood (Google Earth).
Note the dark green…trees.

INSTEAD OF BURNING

So, you live in the woods…what do you do with all the leaves?

Some cities (such as Fort Wayne) provide curbside pickup of leaves. Pay attention and make sure you get them to the curb in time for pickup.

Or, instead of setting them on fire, follow the recommendations of Rosie Lerner of the Purdue Extension Service.

You could compost those leaves yourself. Dry leaves alone will break down slowly over time, but you can speed that process by mixing the leaves with green plant materials, such as grass clippings, garden discards and produce scraps. Or you could add a source of nitrogen, such as livestock manure or commercial fertilizer. Mix (turn) the pile occasionally to keep a good supply of air in the compost. A good-sized compost pile should be a minimum of 3 cubic feet. The compost will be ready to use as a soil conditioner in several weeks to several months, depending on size and management techniques.

Shredded leaves also can be used as a mulch around garden and landscape plants. Mulches provide many benefits, including weed suppression, moisture conservation and moderation of soil temperature. Leaves can be applied to dormant plants in winter to prevent young plants from heaving out of the ground. Leaf mulch can help keep soil cooler in summer. No more than a 2- to 3-inch layer of leaves should be used around actively growing plants. Chopping or shredding the leaves first will help prevent them from matting down and preventing air from reaching roots.

Directly applying the leaves to a garden or unused area of soil is another option. Try to spread the leaves over as large an area as possible, then till or plow them under. Chopping or shredding the leaves first will help them to break down faster.

My personal favorite option is to simply shred the leaves through my lawn mower until the pieces are small enough to just leave them right there on the lawn! Dry leaves are much easier to handle through the mower than moist ones. If possible, remove the bagger so all of the leaves are deposited right back onto the lawn as they shred.

Click this image for information on how to use leaves in your garden.

My lungs thank you.

🍂🍁🍂

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A Direct Threat to Every Country on the Planet

WE HAVE MET THE ENEMY AND HE IS US.

You may have missed it among all the news coverage of the upcoming midterm election, the tweets, and the World Series. The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report outlining the catastrophe which is approaching if we don’t do anything to head of the warming of the Earth – fires, flood, drought, severe weather, which will invariably lead to climate refugees, fresh water shortages, and conflict over arable land and water.

Only one nation isn’t on board with the rest of the world. The United States.

Last week French President Macron asked the members of the UN to start economic boycotts against us. “Macron’s point is that any country that fails to fight climate change poses a direct threat to every country on the planet.”

The New York Times reported on the UN Climate Report…

Major Climate Report Describes a Strong Risk of Crisis as Early as 2040

The report, issued on Monday by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists convened by the United Nations to guide world leaders, describes a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs as soon as 2040 — a period well within the lifetime of much of the global population.

The report “is quite a shock, and quite concerning,” said Bill Hare, an author of previous I.P.C.C. reports and a physicist with Climate Analytics, a nonprofit organization. “We were not aware of this just a few years ago.” The report was the first to be commissioned by world leaders under the Paris agreement, the 2015 pact by nations to fight global warming. The authors found that if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit (1.5 degrees Celsius) above preindustrial levels by 2040, inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.

…and a link to the actual report.

Global Warming of 1.5C

“One of the key messages that comes out very strongly from this report is that we are already seeing the consequences of 1°C of global warming through more extreme weather, rising sea levels and diminishing Arctic sea ice, among other changes,” said Panmao Zhai, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group I.

The report highlights a number of climate change impacts that could be avoided by limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C or more. For instance, by 2100, global sea level rise would be 10 cm lower with global warming of 1.5°C compared with 2°C. The likelihood of an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice in summer would be once per century with global warming of 1.5°C, compared with at least once per decade with 2°C. Coral reefs would decline by 70-90 percent with global warming of 1.5°C, whereas virtually all (> 99 percent) would be lost with 2°C.

WE ACCEPT SCIENCE WHEN…

We accept the science which makes our cell phones and computers. We accept the science which brings us our television programs and podcasts. We accept the science of medicine whenever we go to the doctor or take a prescription. We accept the science of flying on airplanes.

Climate change caused by human action is as established a science as any of those things. The only “doubters” are those whose millions billions are made by, or supported by fossil fuel companies. These are the same people who brought you the “Cigarettes are not harmful” lie.

Watch…

WILL YOU BE HERE IN 20 YEARS?

Will we come to our senses soon enough to preserve our environment for our children and our grandchildren (and our great-grandchildren)? According to the UN Report, we should change our ways for anyone who expects to be alive in twenty years, too. At “three-score and ten” I may not be around in 2040, but (hopefully) my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandson will be.

Are we smart enough to sacrifice some economic gains for clean air, clean water, and a livable planet? The Earth will be here in 20 years no matter what we do. Will we?

 

For more information, see

Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming by Naomi Oreskes, Erik M. Conway

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Filed under climate change, environment

2017 Medley #30

Testing, Shaming,
Politics: NRA and Mass Murder,
Politics: The EPA,
Pre-School,
Teacher Shortages

THE FAILURE OF TESTING

When Testing Takes Over

The opt-out movement has shown that the general public is beginning to become aware of what teachers have known for years – that standardized tests are overused and misused in the US, they’re expensive, and they don’t improve instruction. In fact…

From Daniel Koretz, author of The Testing Charade

…the pressure to raise test scores has become so strong that testing often degrades instruction rather than improving it.

Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids’ Schooling

When parents review test scores for their children does anyone explain what they mean? Is the relationship between family income and test scores acknowledged in discussions with parents?

From Jack Schneider, author of Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality in The Atlantic

What’s needed, he said, is for parents to understand that test scores track so closely with a person’s background—their parents’ education level and income—that they say little about the quality of a school. “And if we were more honest about that,” Schneider said, “I think that would do a great deal to get parents searching for better information”—information on things like the relationships between teachers and students, how students interact with each other, and “the degree to which students are engaged and happy to be there.”

DISCIPLINE THROUGH HUMILIATION

Ain’t That a Shame

The last half of my 35 year teaching career were spent working with first, second, and third grade students as a pull-out reading specialist and first graders as a Reading Recovery teacher.

One day I went to pick up one of my second graders. He was a difficult child. He struggled with reading, had a home life which was chaotic and difficult, and had attention issues in class. This meant that he had a tendency to get up and do things around the classroom no matter what was going on…because he really didn’t know what was going on.

I opened the door of the classroom and saw him standing by his desk – which was isolated, next to the teachers desk. He was crying.

The teacher turned to me as I walked in and said, loud enough for everyone in the classroom to hear, “Don’t you think that a second grade boy is too old to be crying in school?”

I did the best I could to remain calm; I don’t think anyone heard me gasp. I mumbled a response that was probably something like, “Oh dear…having some problems?” and I took the child from the room to give both him, and his teacher, a break from each other.

This was second grade child…seven years old.

I became a teacher of children with learning difficulties because of my own experiences as a child. I wanted to help kids who were, like me, having trouble functioning in a classroom. I was personally and painfully aware of the frequent shame and humiliation used by some teachers to control students and maintain order in their classrooms. My goal, as a teacher, was to protect my students from that.

When Russ Walsh, in his latest post, described one of his own experiences with humiliation, as a 12-year old, I instantly remembered being frequently humiliated by Mrs. H, my 8th grade math teacher, who seemed to revel in my inability to perform, and I remembered seeing a seven-year old student standing alone by his desk, crying, while his teacher belittled him in front of his classmates.

From Russ Walsh

…shaming works directly against our desire as teachers to develop thoughtful, reflective, self-actualized learners who are willing to take the risks necessary for learning to take place.

POLITICS: NRA BUYS “THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS”

Murphy Statement on Sutherland Springs Shooting

Just another shooting in America. Nothing to see here…

From Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. Ask yourself – how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents.

Career Political Donations from the NRA (NYTimes)

POLITICS: THE ANTI-SCIENCE TAKEOVER OF THE EPA

New EPA Appointment. US Air “too Clean”.

Is the air in your town “too clean for ‘optimum health’?”

From Climate Denial Crock of the Week

Robert Phalen of the University of California, Irvine is a new science board member. He has argued that current air quality in the United States is too clean for “optimum health.”

Trump’s EPA has blocked agency grantees from serving on science advisory panels. Here is what it means

Hypocrisy in the EPA. Former lobbyists and industry executives are charged with policing polluters. Meanwhile, scientists who study the environment are not allowed on science review panels.

From Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking minority member on the House science committee.

Allowing scientists funded by the very industries the agency is tasked with regulating to participate on independent science review panels, while prohibiting leading scientists simply because they have received funding through EPA grants, is the height of hypocrisy.

PRE-SCHOOL

Early childhood education expert: I saw a brilliant way to teach kids. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the United States.

There’s a push for universal pre-school education in the US, but what kind of pre-K education are we going to get for our children? Will four-year-olds be subject to the same test and punish policies that have damaged our K-12 public schools? Will admission to pre-school be manipulated to increase a state’s voucher plan? Will early-childhood specialists be included in the planning and implementation? Will privatization trump developmentally appropriate practice?

From Nancy Carlsson-Paige in The Answer Sheet

I just visited with early childhood professionals in Nova Scotia, Canada. They showed me their new Early Learning Framework for the education of young children. It is a stellar example of what early childhood education could be if a country did it right, and a painful example for someone coming from a country where we do it so wrong.

TEACHER SHORTAGE

Survey: 94% Of Indiana Schools Can’t Fill Teaching Jobs

How to kill the teaching profession:
1. Create a toxic atmosphere for public school teachers.
2. When those teachers quit/retire, and young people avoid the profession, declare a teacher shortage.
3. Save money by hiring under- or unqualified people to fill unfilled positions.

From Terry McDaniel, assistant professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University, in Indiana Public Media

McDaniel says some dispute the notion of a teacher shortage. One reason, he says, is they compare the number of open teacher jobs to the number of people in the state licensed to teach.

“The problem is just because you have a teacher license, doesn’t mean you are applying for teaching jobs,” he says.

…Charter schools and private schools are not part of the survey

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Filed under Article Medleys, Discipline, environment, Preschool, TeacherShortage, Testing, Violence