Category Archives: FirstAmendment

The Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791

(Note: This is an updated version of an earlier post on the Bill of Rights)

The United States Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was ratified on this date, December 15, in 1791.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: CURRENT CIVIC KNOWLEDGE

The First Amendment within the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, religion, a free press, assembly, and petition.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Today, many Americans are unfamiliar with the details of the First Amendment. The recent State of the First Amendment Survey from the Freedom Forum Institute revealed that Americans’ knowledge of the First Amendment is lacking.

71 percent of Americans could name at least one of the freedoms guaranteed in the First Amendment and nearly two-thirds of those surveyed knew that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment (64%), but far fewer could identify any of the other First Amendment rights: 29% identified freedom of religion; 22% named freedom of the press; 12% named freedom of assembly, and only 4% said the right to petition the government was a First Amendment freedom.

In addition, 16 percent of those who took the recent survey thought that the First Amendment protected Americans’ right to bear arms, instead of the Second Amendment.

The apparent ignorance of Americans about their own government, while slightly improved from previous years, is disheartening.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: RELIGION

As a child, I listened to my grandfather tell stories about growing up in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia). One story which stands out in my memory was about his hiding in their home during one of the frequent pogroms against the Jewish communities. He emerged when it was over only to be told that his grandfather had been killed by the Tzar’s cossacks.

That story has given me a strong feeling of gratitude to the American Founders for the First Amendment. Because of its scope, the First Amendment is, to me, the full expression of the intent of America. It acknowledges the freedom of thought which is, as Jefferson (or possibly another member of the Committee of the Five) put it, the unalienable right of every citizen.

The guarantee of religious freedom is that part of the first amendment which comes to mind when I think about my grandfather’s story, and for that we have Jefferson (The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) and Madison (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments) to thank.

The Virginia Statute was the first time an English speaking country or colony, in this case, the Colony of Virginia, DE-ESTABLISHED the state-sponsored church and gave full religious freedom to people of both all religious faiths and no religious faith. Because of Jefferson’s leadership in this context, when my grandfather became a citizen in the early part of the 20th century, he was not taxed to pay for a state-sponsored religion, and he was given the same rights of citizenship as everyone else.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: SPEECH

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

…freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.

The First Amendment provides Americans with great freedom…which we tend to take for granted.

We have the freedom to misunderstand, ignore, or be ignorant of, the responsibilities of citizenship. Freedom of Speech is one area where many people do not seem to understand the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

Simply put, Americans’ right to self-expression is extensive, but there are limits. You can say what you want unless you’re putting others in danger (e.g. shouting “fire” in a crowded theater), or lying about someone or group of someones (e.g. libel laws). For a comprehensive discussion of limits to free speech, see United States free speech exceptions.

Consequences

Finally, within the limits discussed above, we can say what we want, but with that freedom-with-responsibility comes consequences.

This concept is difficult for some Americans to understand. If you call your boss a vulgar name, you won’t be arrested for your speech, but chances are you will be looking for another job. If you make a controversial statement, you will likely be criticized.

Criticism of your speech is not an abridgment of your right to say it. Criticism of a political candidate’s speech is not an abridgment of his or her right to say things. When a controversial speaker is denied a platform by a University or civic group, the speaker’s Freedom of Speech is not abridged. The speaker is free to speak to other groups or write and publish his ideas.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans expressed the mistaken belief that

…social media companies violate users’ First Amendment rights when they ban users based on objectionable content they post.

Private companies, like social media groups, can restrict one’s speech. The First Amendment guarantee of free speech protects citizens from government censorship.

The First Amendment protects individuals from government censorship. Social media platforms are private companies, and can censor what people post on their websites as they see fit.

There are way too many Americans who believe that criticism of someone’s opinions is akin to restricting their freedom of speech. It’s just not so.

THERE ARE TEN AMENDMENTS…

…in the Bill of Rights. I’ve discussed the First Amendment. The Second Amendment is the source of quite a bit of political debate. My answer to the debate on the Second Amendment is simple…if the Supreme Court has allowed the government to define limits to the rights enumerated in the First Amendment, we should be able to define limits to the Second Amendment as well. The political arguments, then, are reduced to the extent of those limits (i.e. assault weapons, bump stocks, high-capacity magazines, etc.).

The other amendments are even less known, less understood, and less discussed. They include, for example, the right to a

…fair, speedy and public trial, an impartial jury, a notice of the accusation, and the confrontation of witnesses. The Seventh Amendment protects the right to a trial by jury in civil court cases.

Other amendments guarantee equal protection under the law and due process, protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, protection against excessive bail, and protection against self-incrimination.

How much do our children learn about the Constitution and the Amendments?

CIVIC EDUCATION

Understanding how our government works should be an essential part of the education of American citizens. Unfortunately, the obsession with standardized tests in U.S. schools has pushed out content areas including Social Studies and Civics.

Jefferson wrote,

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be…

In order to maintain our freedom, it’s the responsibility of every citizen to understand the basis of, and the processes involved, in running our nation. It’s our responsibility as a society to give every citizen the opportunity to learn how the government works, our rights under the law, and our responsibilities as citizens. When we neglect the Civics Education of our children, we fail in our duty to raise up the next generation of citizens.

How’s your civics knowledge? Take the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Civics Practice Test.

🗽🇺🇸🗽

Comments Off on The Bill of Rights, December 15, 1791

Filed under Civics, Constitution, FirstAmendment, Jefferson, Madison, Religion

2019 Medley #2

N.J. Charters, “Bible Literacy” Courses,
Teacher Shortage, Kg Readiness,
IN General Assembly, L.A. Strike, Vouchers, Science Facts, Happy Birthday Jackie Robinson!

FALSE PROMISES

Broken Promises: Camden’s “Renaissance” Charter Schools

We keep looking for ways to fix public schools, but it’s just as important for us look for ways to fix inequity and poverty. Our schools are just a mirror, reflecting the societal conditions our policy-makers, and we the voters, are unable or unwilling to correct. Until we focus on the source of the problem — that some people are given rights and privileges denied to others — we’ll continue to fail.

[emphasis in original]

Students who enter charter school lotteries are not equivalent to students who don’t. Plenty of research backs this up (see the lit review in this paper for a good summary of this research). Combine this with the high attrition rates in many “successful” charters, and the high suspension rates at many more, and you have a system designed to separate students by critical family characteristics that do not show up in student enrollment data.

…It’s important to note that the Camden City Public Schools do not have the luxury of setting caps on enrollments, deciding which grades to serve, or not enrolling students who move in after the kindergarten year. Everyone in Camden must get a seat at a CCPS school. But only a lucky subset of students get to attend a renaissance school.

 

“BIBLE LITERACY” COURSES

The Threat Behind Public School ‘Bible Literacy’ Courses

Not all of America’s public school students are Christian. Not all Christians in the United States use the same translation of The Bible. When we try to include religious texts in school we run up against the problem of whose version of the text to use, which religious texts should be included, and which religions or sects to include. Teachers who teach such courses need to be well-versed in the law making sure they don’t express a preference for one religion, sect, religious text, or version of a religious text over another.

This is one of the reasons that the First Amendment separates church from state. Madison, the author of the first amendment, grew to recognize the need for the separation of church and state through…

…his own personal experiences in Virginia, where Anglicanism was the officially established creed and any attempt to spread another religion in public could lead to a jail term.

Early in 1774, Madison learned that several Baptist preachers were behind bars in a nearby county for public preaching. On Jan. 24, an enraged Madison wrote to his friend William Bradford in Philadelphia about the situation…Madison wrote. “This vexes me the most of anything whatever. There are at this time in the adjacent County not less than 5 or 6 well meaning men in close Gaol [jail] for publishing their religious Sentiments which in the main are very orthodox. I have neither the patience to hear talk or think anything relative to this matter, for I have squabbled and scolded abused and ridiculed so long about it, to so little purpose that I am without common patience. So I leave you to pity me and pray for Liberty of Conscience to revive among us.”

The current crop of Bible-in-public-school bills does nothing more than attempt to inject religion into public schools. Indiana State Senator Dennis Kruse, in his bill, SB 373, makes it especially plain that this is his goal since his bill adds “creation science” into the mix.

Often, these courses are just a cover to bring a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible into public schools. Essentially, they’re Sunday School lessons masquerading as legitimate instruction.

…Let’s not be misled: Barton, the backers of Project Blitz and other far-right groups behind this new push aren’t interested in truly objective classes about the Bible in public schools. They want classes that indoctrinate children in a specific religious perspective – theirs.

NO TEACHER SHORTAGE

There Is No Teacher Shortage

This post by Peter Greene (the first of two in here) explains that the teacher shortage is the result of stagnant working conditions and lack of respect for teachers.

For almost twenty years (at least) the profession has been insulted and downgraded. Reformy idea after reformy idea has been based on the notion that teachers can’t be trusted, that teachers can’t do their job, that teachers won’t do their jobs unless threatened. Teachers have been straining to lift the huge weight of education, and instead of showing up to help, wave after wave of policy maker, politician and wealthy dilettante have shown up to holler, “What’s wrong with you, slacker! Let me tell you how it’s supposed to be done.” And in the meantime, teachers have seen their job defined down to Get These Kids Ready For A Bad Standardized Test.

And pay has stagnated or, in some states, been inching backwards. And not just pay, but financial support for schools themselves so that teachers must not only make do with low pay, but they must also make do with bare bones support for their workplace.

And because we’ve been doing this for two decades, every single person who could be a potential new teacher has grown up thinking that this constant disrespect, this job of glorified clerk and test prep guide, is the normal status quo for a teacher.

 

KINDERGARTEN READINESS MAY NOT MEAN WHAT YOU THINK IT MEANS

MD: Failing Five Year Olds

When I began teaching my first class of third graders (after a half year of teaching kindergarten) I discovered that the achievement range of my 38 students was much larger than I had imagined. Some students were reading several years above grade level, and some were reading one or two years below grade level. One student in particular, John*, was reading at a pre-primer level. In retrospect it was plain that this child was a candidate for special education, but, as a first-year teacher in a system with minimal provisions for special needs children (at least at that time), I was responsible for figuring out what to do to help him learn to read.

What should a teacher do with a child reading at a pre-primer level in third grade? I decided that I would do the same for him as I did for the students who were reading several grade levels above average. I would provide material at his level. That meant that John wouldn’t be exposed to grade-level reading material. In other words, I changed the curriculum to fit his needs, rather than make a futile attempt to force him into a curriculum in which he would fail, become frustrated, and learn to hate reading. The latter is what many schools have forced teachers to do since No Child Left Behind.

* not his real name

…it is not a five year old’s job to be ready for kindergarten– it is kindergarten’s job to be ready for the five year olds. If a test shows that the majority of littles are not “ready” for your kindergarten program, then the littles are not the problem– your kindergarten, or maybe your readiness test, is the problem…if you still think that children raised in poor families have “too many” needs, then maybe start asking how you can ameliorate the problems of poverty that are getting in the way.

NO VOTER INPUT FOR EDUCATION POLICY IN INDIANA

Bill gives governor unusual power over schools

I wrote about a related issue in this bill last week. This bill, should it become law, would mean that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction would be an appointed position beginning in 2021, rather than a position voted on by the citizens. Since members of the State Board of Education are also appointed, the voters will have no direct input in the state’s education policy except through the governor.

Governor Holcomb will be the one to appoint the Secretary of Education which means that of the eleven members of the SBOE, nine will be appointed by the Governor and one each by the Speaker of the House, and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

With HB 1005, Indiana would become one of 15 states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer. The most common procedure – used in 21 states — is for the state board of education to appoint the chief state school officer.

Indiana’s governor appoints members of the state board of education; so, with approval of the bill, the governor will control both the setting and administering of education policy.

In states where the governor appoints the chief state school officer, the governor has total power to appoint state board members in only Iowa, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia. In other states, board members are elected; or they are chosen by the governor but confirmed by the legislature.

The House approved the measure Thursday by a vote of 70-29, with most of the yes votes coming from Republicans and most of the no votes from Democrats. It rejected a Democratic-sponsored amendment to require the secretary of education to have experience in education.

L.A. TEACHERS STRIKE FOR PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Los Angeles teachers went on strike for our schools – and the country

Americans still prioritize now over future. We have cut funding for public schools through actual reductions and through the transference of tax funds from public schools to charter and voucher schools. Indiana, for example, paid $154 million to school voucher schools. The actual cost of charter schools is much more difficult to find, but a Duke University study of charters’ impact on North Carolina schools determined that

…charter school growth results in a “large and negative fiscal impact” on the districts evaluated.

and

…the findings are consistent with previous studies and show that charter growth generally results in a lower quality of education for students who remain in a district’s traditional public schools.

The Los Angeles teachers who went on strike earlier this month didn’t strike only for more pay and benefits. They were offered a 6% increase before the strike. They accepted a 6% increase to end the strike. What they gained were improvements to the learning conditions of the students in the form of lowered class sizes and much-needed wraparound services.

It was clear, however, that part of the problem with funding in Los Angeles and California, as well as in other parts of the country, is that money is being diverted from public schools to privately run charter schools. States can’t afford to support multiple school systems.

We believe every student, however challenged, ought to have access to success. And we know that in our classes with more than 40 students, there are often five or 10 with special needs and another 10 or 15 still learning English as a second language while as many as half or two-thirds are homeless or in foster care or in a continual state of crisis. Students collapse in class from hunger and stress and fatigue and depression.

Overcrowded classrooms are a brutal expression that our students don’t matter. They are someone else’s kids – and all too often they are no one’s kids. No one except the dedicated teachers who every day give a damn about them. And we’re going to keep giving a damn and hope that one day those in power give a damn.

 

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL

Side effects in education: Winners and losers in school voucher programs

One size does not fit all. Some teaching methods work for some children, other methods work for other students. Some schools are better for some students, other schools are better for others.

Think about this in terms of the evaluation of teachers, for example. Teacher A might be able to help student A, who is homeless, adjust to school, while Teacher B may not. But Teacher B’s classes usually have higher test scores. If you were the parent of student A which teacher would you want for your child?

As much as we might want to seek a perfect solution for all students, one student’s medicine may very well be another one’s poison. As students’ characteristics and education treatments interact, negative side effects may occur. Funding private schools with public dollars probably does not affect all students positively in a uniform fashion. To date, studies of school voucher programs have found their effects to vary among different populations of students.

Moreover, besides the side effects resulting from the interactions between students’ characteristics and education treatments, side effects also occur because of the broad range of desirable and potentially competing education outcomes. So far, evidence of the effects of voucher programs has been limited to a narrow set of outcomes such as academic achievement. Little, if any, empirical evidence has been collected concerning other equally important outcomes of schooling, such as preparing students for civic engagement and betterment of a shared society (Abowitz & Stitzlein, 2018; Labaree, 2018). Thus, we do not know their effects, negative or positive, on other important outcomes. It is, however, reasonable to believe that voucher programs and other forms of privatization of education can have negative side effects on individual students, the public school system, and the society (Labaree, 2018).

A WARNING

The most disturbing news yet

I recently saw a discussion on social media where someone stated…

“Science is facts. Theory is not yet science.”

After a quick facepalm, I responded with the article, “Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words. This didn’t work, of course, because the person in question had been “educated” at a “Bible Institute.” He was obviously mistaught basic science concepts.

This is what we are up against. When the effects of climate change are no longer deniable, these same people will, at that point, point to “god” and claim we are being punished for allowing gay marriage, transgender soldiers, unisex bathrooms, or some such nonsense. Until that time, they will go along with the right-wing talking point denying climate change claiming it’s just a conspiracy to get more money for scientists.

In the meantime, there are places where insects are disappearing and the entire food chain is at risk. Those places shouldn’t be taken as exceptions, but rather as warnings.

“I don’t think most people have a systems view of the natural world,” he said. “But it’s all connected and when the invertebrates are declining the entire food web is going to suffer and degrade. It is a system-wide effect.”

…We are part of a complex web of interdependencies, and it’s also a non-linear dynamical system. There’s a word for when parts of such a system show a pattern of failure: it’s called catastrophe. By the time you notice it, it’s too late to stop it.

JACKIE ROBINSON – JANUARY 31, 1919

Tomorrow is Jackie Robinson’s 100th birthday.

“A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” — Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson Tribute: Baseball Hall of Fame.

📚📝📖

Comments Off on 2019 Medley #2

Filed under Article Medleys, Baseball, Charters, Curmudgucation, FirstAmendment, Holcomb, IN Gen.Assembly, Los Angeles, Madison, Religion, SBOE, Science, SPI, TeacherShortage, TeacherStrikes, vouchers

The NFL, The Bill of Rights, and Limits to Freedom

TAKE A KNEE

The owners of NFL football teams have agreed to require players to either stand during the singing of the national anthem, or stay in the clubhouse. Teams will face fines for any infractions of the new rule. Kudos to Jets owner, Christopher Johnson, who announced that he would pay his team’s fine if any players chose to kneel rather than stand.

Is this a free speech issue? Possibly…but it’s under debate because freedom of speech is not absolute in the United States. We have the First Amendment which guarantees free speech (among other things), but there are restrictions that most reasonable people would agree with. Furthermore, with free speech comes responsibility and consequences. You can’t just say anything you want without accepting the consequences of your words. Colin Kaepernick understands and (mostly) accepts that his gesture of protest against racism and police violence in the United States has consequences (though he is fighting some of the consequences). In other words, there are limits to the First Amendment.

FIRST AMENDMENT AND RESTRICTIONS

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of Speech and Press: Exceptions to the First Amendment

…an overview of the major exceptions to the First Amendment—of the ways that the Supreme Court has interpreted the guarantee of freedom of speech and press to provide no protection or only limited protection for some types of speech. For example, the Court has decided that the First Amendment provides no protection for obscenity, child pornography, or speech that constitutes what has become widely known as “fighting words.” The Court has also decided that the First Amendment provides less than full protection to commercial speech, defamation (libel and slander), speech that may be harmful to children, speech broadcast on radio and television (as opposed to speech transmitted via cable or the Internet), and public employees’ speech.

How much can your employer restrict your free speech? The answer, in a nutshell, is “a lot” if you’re a government employee…”not as much” if you’re not.

Can The NFL Really Fire Players For Kneeling During The National Anthem?

Employee freedom of speech depends on many different laws…

NFL teams are probably private actors, which would mean players do not have constitutional free speech rights in this situation; however, there are some bona fide arguments to the contrary…

As an individual, when you’re not at work, you have the full rights to free speech (with restrictions and consequences as noted above). As an employee, however, when you are essentially representing your employer, there are more restrictions and that’s where the complications come into play.

On the other hand, those opposed to the protests don’t seem to grasp the irony of heaping scorn upon individuals who are exercising the rights guaranteed by the Constitution. President Trump, who rarely lets pass an opportunity to whip up nationalist fervor, said this about the NFL players who exercise their First Amendment rights by kneeling during the national anthem…

You have to stand proudly for the national anthem or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe they shouldn’t be in the country…

To give him the benefit of the doubt, the President apparently doesn’t understand the First Amendment. American citizens have the right to do or say things which are offensive (again, with certain restrictions). It’s fine if he wants to disagree, but that doesn’t mean that they should be fired, deported, or exiled.

DO STUDENTS HAVE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS?

The protests have moved from the world of professional sports to high schools and colleges. Students around the country are exercising their first amendment rights and kneeling in support of the professional athletes and in protest against the depth of racism in America.

Is this legal? Can high school and college students do the same thing or do they “leave their rights at the schoolhouse door?”

AURORA, Colo. — Vicqari Horton dropped a knee to the grass. The varsity choir piped out “The Star-Spangled Banner.” And in the bleachers at a sun-soaked football stadium here on Saturday, parents clenched their teeth in anger or raised their fists in support.

“You can’t continue to slap people in the face and not expect them to stand up,” said Mr. Horton, a junior tight end at Aurora Central High School who is black and began kneeling during the national anthem at games in mid-September. “When Kaepernick kneeled, he gave us an outlet. He gave us something to do.”

Texas high school football players thrown off team for kneeling during anthem

Two Texas high school football players were thrown off their team literally moments after kneeling in protest during the national anthem before a game on Friday.

The two teens from Victory and Praise Christian Academy in Crosby, Texas planned the protest in advance — and even told their coach — who immediately asked his players to take off their uniforms and booted them off the team…

LIMITS TO FREEDOM

Freedom of Speech is not the only First Amendment right given limits by the country’s courts. Here are two links to articles dealing with limitations of other First Amendment freedoms…

And the First Amendment is not the only one with limits…

Limits to the Fourth Amendment

Limits to the Eighth Amendment

Many of those who are arguing that the First Amendment rights of Kaepernick and others be restricted while they are in their football uniform are the same ones who claim the Second Amendment is not subject to any restrictions.

The limits of the Second Amendment

In short, every right has its limits. And that’s exactly what the Supreme Court suggested on Monday, when it declined to hear an appeal of a suit against a law in Highland Park, Illinois, that banned assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the town. Not only did the court hand gun rights advocates a loss, the vote was 7-2, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom had voted in 2008 to create an individual right to own guns for the first time in American history.

What everybody needs to know about our Constitution and gun control

Even conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia acknowledged this in his opinion to Heller. He wrote that the Second Amendment is “not unlimited” and is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

Does it make sense to adopt reasonable limits to free speech, but not to gun ownership? Can you pick and choose which amendments should be restricted and which ones shouldn’t?

[Note: As I was writing this another school shooting was being reported…in Noblesville, IN]

Are those people who are calling for NFL players to “stand up for the national anthem or leave the country,” willing to fight for similar restrictions to gun ownership?

🇺🇸🗽🇺🇸

Comments Off on The NFL, The Bill of Rights, and Limits to Freedom

Filed under Constitution, FirstAmendment, SchoolShootings

2018 Medley #10

Teacher Activism, Retention-in-Grade,
Charters, Testing,
First Amendment, Science

TEACHER ACTIVISM

The 9 states where teachers have it worst

According to CBS teachers have it pretty good, specifically because of pensions,  which they imply make up for low salaries…a debatable proposition at best. Why, if pension programs are so great, did we stop providing them?

In the meantime, Indiana teachers have seen their inflation-adjusted earnings drop by nearly 16 percent since 2000. Have Indiana legislators seen the same drop? What about the CEOs of Indiana’s Fortune 500 companies – Eli Lilly, Anthem, Cummins, Steel Dynamics, Zimmer Biomet Holdings, NiSource, and Simon Property Group? Have they seen the same loss of income? Would you like to hazard a guess?

As a sample, click here for the salaries of Eli Lilly’s executives.

So Indiana is having trouble finding enough teachers. What a surprise.

From CBS News

Pay for Indiana teachers has suffered the biggest inflation-adjusted drop since 1999-2000, according to the Department of Education. They now earn almost 16 percent less.

Average annual pay is about $50,500, slightly lower than the national average.

Indiana is having trouble finding enough qualified teachers to fill its classrooms, with some pointing to pay as a culprit.

“People won’t be as interested in going into a field where they will have to take a huge lifetime pay cut,” said Partelow of the Center for American Progress’. 

Bill Maher Zings Eric And Donald Trump Jr. As He Comes Out Fighting For Teachers

Perennially obnoxious Bill Maher comes up with a commentary in honor of the teachers on strike…

From Bill Maher

We pay such lip-service to kids…they’re the future, our greatest natural resource, we’ll do anything for them. And then we nickel and dime their teachers?

If we really think children are our future, shouldn’t the people who mold their minds make more than the night manager at GameStop?

…Here’s an idea. Don’t give the teachers guns, give them a living wage. 

‘I need a college degree to make this?’ asks Arizona teacher who posted salary online

Arizona teacher Elisabeth Milich reminds us that teachers are underpaid because school systems are underfunded. In what other job would you be forced to buy your own paper clips and tape? Do the CEOs in the article, above, have to buy their own sharpies?

From Elisabeth Milich

I buy every roll of tape I use, every paper clip i use, every sharpie I grade with, every snack I feed kids who don’t have them, every decorated bulletin board, the list could go on.

HOW DOES RETENTION HELP TEST RESULTS

Reforms that work: Worldwide data offer useful hints for US schools

Education “reform” in the United States requires us to use unfounded and even damaging education practices such as retention in grade. Dozens of U.S. states require third graders to pass a test in order to move to fourth grade. Research has found that retention in grade is ineffective in raising student achievement and retention in grade based on a single test is tantamount to educational malpractice.

In Indiana, however, retention of children in third grade is grounds for celebrating. With the lowest achieving third graders removed from the pool, those who did move to fourth grade scored a higher achievement average on the NAEP. High enough to brag about…

Want your students to score higher on standardized tests? Simply remove the low achievers.

From the Editorial Page of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

The IREAD 3 exam, which third-graders must pass to be promoted to grade 4, went into effect in 2012. As a result, 3 percent of Indiana students were retained that year.

“Those who weren’t held back took the fourth-grade NAEP tests in 2013, and got positive attention for how well they did,” Hinnefeld noted. “Advocates credited Indiana reforms like expanded school choice and limits on teacher collective bargaining. But a more likely explanation is that removing the lowest-performing students gave the 2013 fourth-grade scores a boost.”

CHARTERS AND TESTING

Indiana students’ scores lag after transferring to charter schools, new study shows

Another Educational “reform” popular in Indiana is the expansion of charter schools. When a district’s poverty levels rise too high, resulting in lower achievement on tests, the state moves in and hands the school over to private charter operators.

The only problem is…the charter schools are, as we’ve said so many times before, no better. In fact, a recent study shows that kids lose achievement points after transferring to charter schools.

From Shaina Cavazos at Chalkbeat

“Overall, these results indicate that the promise of charter schools as a vehicle for school improvement should be viewed with some skepticism,” said study co-author Gary R. Pike, a professor of education at Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis. “Our results suggest that charter school experience for most students does not measure up to expectations, at least for the first two years of enrollment.”

Never one to miss tossing in an excuse for privatization, Chalkbeat uses an excuse despite the fact that “no excuses” is the cry used by “reformers” to declare public schools “failing.”

ISTEP scores during this time, the researchers note, were not the most reliable. In 2014-15 and 2015-16, test glitches and scoring problems invalidated thousands of students’ scores. Also during this time, the academic standards on which the tests were based changed, as did the test itself and the company that administered it.

WHAT FIRST AMENDMENT?

DHS to Track Thousands of Journalists

Where are the people who were marching to protect the Second Amendment?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From Ed Brayton

Mr. Orwell, please report to your office immediately.

“The U.S. Department of Homeland Security wants to monitor hundreds of thousands of news sources around the world and compile a database of journalists, editors, foreign correspondents, and bloggers to identify top “media influencers.”…”

SCIENCE DEFIERS

Gang of Foxes

The science deniers in the current administration are trying to remove the barriers protecting us from poisoned air and water.

From Dan Pfeiffer, former Senior Advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama for Strategy and Communications.

We do sort of gloss over the f-ing insanity of the fact that one of our [political] parties not only doesn’t believe in climate change, but is actively trying to make it worse.

🎧🎤🎧

Comments Off on 2018 Medley #10

Filed under Article Medleys, Charters, FirstAmendment, NAEP, retention, Science, Teaching Career, Testing

Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana

Religion and Government will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together. ― James Madison, Letter to Edward Livingston, July 10, 1822.

Teachers and administrators in a public school in Webster Parish, Louisiana, were sued by a student and her family for leading students in prayer, encouraging prayer and bible reading, and generally promoting the Christian God.

What happened when a public school student sued over prayer

The Coles [those who brought the lawsuit] say that prayer over the loudspeaker each morning is just the beginning of an unconstitutional indoctrination of students that is promoted and supported by teachers, the principal, the superintendent and the school board.

“Virtually all school events — such as sports games, pep rallies, assemblies, and graduation ceremonies –include school-sponsored Christian prayer, religious messages and/or proselytizing,” according to the lawsuit filed with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is clearly unconstitutional. Neither a public school nor its representatives (teachers, administrators, or any other employee) can legally promote religion or religious beliefs (see Abington School District v. Schempp).

One of the parents who favored continuing the religious instruction in the public schools was Greg Lee.

…Greg Lee’s fifth-grade daughter was upset, not relieved. She and her friends took it upon themselves to pray anyway, Lee says.

Lee, a banker who also views himself as a servant of God, says he’s instilled his sense of deep faith in his children. It has always been a part of their life. They have always prayed — at church, at school, and whenever they feel the need to.

Lee’s daughter’s choice to “pray anyway,” was completely legal, and in fact, it is what should have been happening all along.

Despite the protestations of some on the Religious Right, it is legal for students to pray in school, as we shall see in a moment, which is all Greg Lee claims to want.

That is all Greg Lee and others in Webster Parish say they want. To fight for their longstanding beliefs. For the rights and souls of their daughters and sons — and America.

“If you begin to tell me that my children do not have the right to pray in school, then that’s an attack upon the relationship I have with my God and the relationship that they have with our God,” Lee explains.

If that’s all he wants. It’s true that every child, in every public school in America, already has the right to pray whenever they want to as long as they don’t disrupt the learning process and as long as they don’t harass their fellow students.

According to the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools, a document signed by 35 religious and civic groups,

Students have the right to pray individually or in groups or to discuss their religious views with their peers so long as they are not disruptive. Because the Establishment Clause does not apply to purely private speech, students enjoy the right to read their Bibles or other scriptures, say grace before meals, pray before tests, and discuss religion with other willing student listeners. In the classroom students have the right to pray quietly except when required to be actively engaged in school activities (e.g., students may not decide to pray just as a teacher calls on them). In informal settings, such as the cafeteria or in the halls, students may pray either audibly or silently, subject to the same rules of order as apply to other speech in these locations. However, the right to engage in voluntary prayer does not include, for example, the right to have a captive audience listen or to compel other students to participate.

In other words, Greg Lee’s daughter has always had the right to pray in school.

Is that really what Lee and others who object to the lawsuit want? If so, then perhaps this is all just a misunderstanding about what the law requires and a careful reading of the Joint Statement of Current Law and Religion in the Public Schools will educate the parents and educators of Webster Parish, Louisiana.

It’s more likely, however, that they actually want their own brand of Christianity taught in their local public school. They might be willing to let others, who do not have the same beliefs, attend the school, and sit quietly while the local version of Christianity is being taught, but even with that, it would not be legal.

No, people like Lee and others quoted in the article, seem to believe that they have the right to impose their religious beliefs on a captive audience. They consider anything else an attack on their religion.

Again, from What happened when a public school student sued over prayer

The questions spread far beyond this corner of Louisiana, and were raised by none other than President Donald Trump last summer.

“Schools should not be a place that drive out faith and religion, but that should welcome faith and religion with wide open, beautiful arms,” Trump says during a Faith and Freedom Coalition conference. “It’s time to put a stop to attacks on religion.”

But this is not an attack on religion. It is, however, an attack on their right to use government facilities and spokespersons in the form of public schools and its employees, to proselytize.

It’s clear that the President doesn’t understand the law either (no surprise there). Students are welcome to pray. No one has attacked religion. But our laws don’t allow a government entity to choose one religion over another, or to choose any religion over none. The Establishment Clause requires government, and its representatives, to remain neutral in the area of religion. That means no school sponsored prayer. No captive audience religious services.

I’m pretty sure they would be arguing the exact opposite if their child attended a public school which began each day with a prayer to Zeus, Marduk, or Allah.

Just as I was getting ready to post this blog entry, I read the following by Ed Brayton about the same lawsuit…

The Same Bad Arguments in Every Public School Church/State Case

So if your beliefs are so deeply rooted, why do they need the government to force others to go along with them for you to feel satisfied? Your kids already have every right to pray in schools. They can prayer [sic] any time they want as long as they don’t disrupt the functioning of the school. They can pray 100 times a day if they want. You know what they can’t do? Force others to listen to it or participate in it.

And you know how easy it would be to get you to recognize that reality? One single Muslim prayer would do it.

Exactly right!

Further Reading:

🕍⛪️🏫🕌

Comments Off on Public School Prayer and the Constitution – Conflict in Louisiana

Filed under FirstAmendment, Public Ed, Religion

The Bill of Rights, 1791

The United States Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, was ratified on this date, December 15, in 1791.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: CURRENT CIVIC IGNORANCE

The First Amendment within the Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech, religion, a free press, assembly, and petition.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances

Today, many Americans are unfamiliar with the details of the First Amendment. The recent Annenberg Center civics survey revealed that American’s knowledge of the First Amendment is sorely lacking.

Nearly half of those surveyed (48 percent) say that freedom of speech is a right guaranteed by the First Amendment. But, unprompted, 37 percent could not name any First Amendment rights. And far fewer people could name the other First Amendment rights: 15 percent of respondents say freedom of religion; 14 percent say freedom of the press; 10 percent say the right of assembly; and only 3 percent say the right to petition the government.

The chart below shows the number associated with each First Amendment guaranteed Freedom, as well as the percent of people who included things which are not included in the First Amendment (6, 7, and 8). A full 37% of Americans surveyed could not name even one freedom guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The apparent ignorance of Americans about their own government is disheartening.

[For a recent example, see the TV interview with a spokesman for a U.S. Senatorial campaign and his ignorance of the Constitution.]

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: RELIGION

As a child, I listened to my grandfather tell stories about growing up in Dvinsk, Russia (now Daugavpils, Latvia). One story which stands out in my memory was about his hiding in their home during one of the frequent pogroms against the Jewish communities. He emerged when it was over only to be told that his grandfather had been killed by the Tzar’s cossacks.

That story has given me a strong feeling of gratitude to the American Founders for the First Amendment. Because of its scope, the First Amendment is, to me, the full expression of the intent of America. It acknowledges the freedom of thought which is, as Jefferson (or possibly another member of the Committee of the Five) put it, the unalienable right of every citizen.

The guarantee of religious freedom is that part of the first amendment which comes to mind when I think about my grandfather’s story, and for that we have Jefferson (The Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom) and Madison (Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments) to thank.

The Virginia Statute was the first time an English speaking country or colony, in this case, the Colony of Virginia, DE-ESTABLISHED the state-sponsored church and gave full religious freedom to people of both all religious faiths and no religious faith. Because of Jefferson’s leadership in this context, when my grandfather became a citizen in the early part of the 20th century, he was not taxed to pay for a state-sponsored religion, and he was given the same rights of citizenship as everyone else.

THE FIRST AMENDMENT: SPEECH

Eleanor Roosevelt said,

…freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.

The First Amendment provides Americans with great freedom…which we tend to take for granted.

We have the freedom to misunderstand, ignore, or be ignorant of, the responsibilities of citizenship. Freedom of Speech is one area where many people do not seem to understand the relationship between freedom and responsibility.

Simply put, Americans’ right to self-expression is extensive, but there are limits. You can say what you want, unless you’re putting others in danger (e.g. shouting “fire” in a crowded theater), or lying about someone or group of someones (e.g. libel laws). For a comprehensive discussion of limits to free speech, see United States free speech exceptions.

Consequences

Finally, within the limits discussed above, we can say what we want, but with that freedom-with-responsibility comes consequences.

This concept is difficult for some Americans to understand. If you call your boss a vulgar name, you won’t be arrested for your speech, but chances are you will be looking for another job. If you make a controversial statement, you will likely be criticized.

Criticism of your speech is not an abridgment of your right to say it. Criticism of a political candidate’s speech is not an abridgment of his or her right to say things. When a controversial speaker is denied a platform by a University or civic group, the speaker’s Freedom of Speech is not abridged. The speaker is free to speak to other groups, or write and publish his ideas.

There are way too many Americans who believe that criticism of someone’s opinions is akin to restricting their freedom of speech. It’s just not so.

CIVIC EDUCATION

Understanding how our government works should be an essential part of the education of American citizens. Unfortunately, the obsession with standardized tests in U.S. schools has pushed out content areas including Social Studies and Civics. It’s time to change that.

Jefferson wrote,

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be…

In order to maintain our freedom it’s the responsibility of every citizen to understand the basis of, and the processes involved, in running our nation. It’s our responsibility as a society to give every citizen the opportunity to learn how the government works, our rights under the law, and our responsibilities as citizens. When we neglect the Civics Education of our children, we fail in our duty to raise up the next generation of citizens.

We require immigrants to learn basic Civics in order to attain citizenship. We ought to require the same for our children.

How’s your civics knowledge? Take the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Civics Practice Test.

🗽🇺🇸🗽

Comments Off on The Bill of Rights, 1791

Filed under Civics, Constitution, FirstAmendment, Jefferson, Madison, Religion

How Much Free Speech is Too Much

Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…

The constitutional guarantee to free speech is in the news. On university campuses across the country protestors are lining up to do battle against university sponsored, or university-based group sponsored speakers. Does a speaker have the right to be heard no matter what he or she espouses? The following is a partial list (which I compiled by searching the internet for who has been prevented from speaking at universities) of people who have been “disinvited” to speak at universities, disrupted in their attempt to speak, or prevented from speaking by the threat of protest.

  • anti-feminists
  • anti-muslims
  • anti-semites
  • conservatives
  • mysogynists
  • liberals
  • online celebrity “trolls”
  • police commissioners
  • policy makers
  • politicians
  • pro-Israel supporters
  • pundits
  • racists
  • speakers with violent and sexually explicit language
  • supporters of police
  • transgenders
  • trans- and homophobes

Articles have been written in favor of and against the trend…

No matter what your position on allowing offensive (and everyone in the list above is offensive to someone) speech at a university, or anywhere else, there are certain things about the First Amendment protection of free speech that should be remembered.

FREE SPEECH HAS CONSEQUENCES

You can, in most situations, express your opinion about almost anything, but by doing so you open yourself up to criticism. Criticism is also protected free speech.

For example, if you don’t like what I write on this blog, you can, in the comments, dispute what I have written and tell me I’m wrong. Your comment is the consequence of my self-expression and you have the right to criticize me. (On the other hand, I also have the right to delete your comment if it violates my rules or I find it offensive. That’s the consequence of your speech in my comments. Click here to see commenting rules).

GOVERNMENT PROTECTED SPEECH

The government protects free speech. Private citizens or groups do not. If I own a venue and invite speakers to visit on occasion, I can choose who I want to invite. If I invite Bernie Sanders, but not Mitch McConnell, I have not limited the free speech of Senator McConnell. I simply haven’t invited him to my venue. He is free to find his own venue in which to speak. If I do invite Senator McConnell, and then change my mind, I might be considered an ill-mannered jerk, but I’m still within my rights, and I have still not restricted the Senator’s free speech.

When UC-Berkeley decided to postpone Ann Coulter’s speech (Coulter herself is the one who chose to cancel), they didn’t restrict her free speech, even though you might consider them jerks for changing the date of the invitation. Ms. Coulter still has the option of writing books and op-eds, speaking at rallies, talking on television, radio and podcasts. In fact, she did just that in the article linked in this paragraph. She has every right to rail against those who prevented her from speaking. But she still has freedom of speech.

When universities cancel speeches because of the threat of protest, they have the right to do so. This is not limiting the canceled speaker’s free speech. Every one of those speakers is free to find other locations to speak, or write their opinions, or find broadcasts on which to express themselves.

We can disagree with a group or university who prevents or denies someone the opportunity to speak at a particular location, however, that someone still has the option of arguing against the denial on their own.

[The preceding argument is definitely true when the university is privately owned, but does this change if the university is publicly funded like UC-Berkeley? If so, does that mean that anyone who wants to can demand to speak at a university? See the article by the ACLU, below.]

SPEECH IS NOT 100% FREE

In other words, free speech, under the U.S. Constitution is not 100% guaranteed. There are restrictions and consequences. See here, here, and here for discussions of ways that free speech can be denied in the U.S. Here are a few…

1. First, we’ve already discussed…

  • You do not have a right to free speech in a forum owned by someone else. They can kick you out. They don’t have to allow you to speak.

2. Those folks who incite to riot in order to prevent someone from speaking need to be careful…

  • It’s illegal to incite others to criminal acts or to riot. In Brandenburg v. Ohio the U.S. Supreme Court set the standard for what is permissible. This includes so-called “fighting words” which would also incite violence.

3. The following description is the basis of a settled suit against the defunct Trump University.

  • You are not allowed to make false or fraudulent claims in the course of business.

4. Keep this in mind if you want to keep your job…

  • You are not guaranteed free speech in your workplace, except union organization, which is protected by law.

5. This applies to all students.

  • Students have restricted rights to free speech in school.

6. Is “knock the crap out of them” a violent threat?

  • You don’t have the right to threaten someone with violence.

COMPLICATIONS

The American Civil Liberties Union states that objectionable speech may not be restricted at government-financed campuses.

Academic freedom (and freedom of speech) protects the rights of a person who makes objectionable statements, but does it also protect the right of the governing body of an academic institution to change its mind? Once someone is invited is there no option but to let them speak? What about someone who is not invited? May they “invite” themselves?

Furthermore, in the case of Ann Coulter, as in many other of the disinvited speakers’ cases, the university itself didn’t invite her. She was invited by the Berkeley College Republicans, a university supported, but private organization (Note: The Berkeley College Republicans are the people who also invited Milo Yiannopoulos, who was also “disinvited” by the university).

Hate Speech on Campus

Many universities, under pressure to respond to the concerns of those who are the objects of hate, have adopted codes or policies prohibiting speech that offends any group based on race, gender, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

That’s the wrong response, well-meaning or not. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution protects speech no matter how offensive its content. Speech codes adopted by government-financed state colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution. And the ACLU believes that all campuses should adhere to First Amendment principles because academic freedom is a bedrock of education in a free society.

The American Library Association fights censorship every day…but are they against censoring everything?

Intellectual Freedom and Censorship Q and A

What Are The Most Frequently Censored Materials?

Throughout history, books have been challenged for many reasons, including political content, sexual expression, or language offensive to some people’s racial, cultural, or ethnic background, gender or sexuality, or political or religious beliefs. Materials considered heretical, blasphemous, seditious, obscene or inappropriate for children have often been censored.

Since the dawn of recorded human expression, people have been burned at the stake, forced to drink poison, crucified, ostracized and vilified for what they wrote and believed.

Aren’t There Some Kinds Of Expression That Really Should Be Censored?

The United States Supreme Court has ruled that there are certain narrow categories of speech that are not protected by the First Amendment: obscenity, child pornography, defamation, and “fighting words,” or speech that incites immediate and imminent lawless action. The government is also allowed to enforce secrecy of some information when it is considered essential to national security, like troop movements in time of war, classified information about defense, etc.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Should objectionable speech be allowed on public campuses?

What’s the difference between objectionable speech and hate speech?

Is name calling protected speech?

What about name calling in the form of racial or ethnic slurs?

🇺🇸🗽🇺🇸

Comments Off on How Much Free Speech is Too Much

Filed under FirstAmendment