Posted in books, Review, Trump

Now is a Good Time to Learn From History

Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the twentieth century. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.

Timothy Snyder’s new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century tells us that history does not repeat, but it does instruct, invoking half of Santayana’s warning – that we would do well to learn from history.

Snyder’s twenty “lessons” relate to the Nazis in Europe during the 1930s and 40s, the Soviets throughout most of the 20th century, and America in 2017. The two former are the examples of tyranny from which we must learn. If we don’t, we risk following them down the road to fascist self-destruction.

IT CAN HAPPEN HERE

In both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, tyranny succeeded because “average” people easily slipped into the role of oppressor in order to support the national tyranny. Austrians who were not Nazis in 1938 looked on in amusement as Austrian Nazis forced Jews to

scrub the streets to remove symbols of independent Austria.

Ordinary people disregarded the obvious signs of tyranny.

On February 2, 1933, for example, a leading newspaper for German Jews published an editorial expressing this mislaid trust:

We do not subscribe to the view that Mr. Hitler and his friends, now finally in possession of the power they have so long desired, will implement the proposals circulating in [Nazi newspapers]; they will not suddenly deprive German Jews of their constitutional rights, nor enclose them in ghettos, nor subject them to the jealous and murderous impulses of the mob. They cannot do this because a number of crucial factors hold powers in check…

The Checks and Balances of society would hold them back, the editorialist believed, but that didn’t happen.

TRUTH

The death of truth…Lesson Ten teaches a subject with obvious parallels to today’s tweets and news reports.

…the open hostility to verifiable reality, which takes the form of presenting inventions and lies as if they were facts.

Sound familiar? Just think about one and a half million attendees at the inauguration, the largest electoral victory since Ronald Reagan, the highest homicide rate in 47 years, the Bowling Green massacre, the terrorists in Sweden, and so on. Falsehoods abound in the attempt to create a fictional world.

The next mode is magical thinking, or the open embrace of contradiction.

How is the President able to reconcile the promise of lower taxes for everyone, increased health coverage in which everyone will be taken care of, and increased spending on social programs as well as national defense? Where will the money come from? As we’ve seen with the recent budget, the promises based on magical thinking had to be altered.

The final mode is misplaced faith. It involves the sort of self-deifying claims the president made when he said that “I alone can solve it” or “I am your voice.” When faith descends from heaven to earth in this way, no room remains for the small truths of our individual discernment and experience.

CLEAN UP THE INTERNET

Snyder urges us to learn the truth for ourselves, to recognize propaganda, and be responsible not to pass it on through social media, to our friends and neighbors.

It is your ability to discern facts that makes you an individual, and our collective trust in common knowledge that makes us a society. The individual who investigates is also the citizen who builds. The leader who dislikes the investigators is a potential tyrant.

Promoting propaganda harms all of us.

…although we may not see the other person in front of his or her computer, we have our share of responsibility for what he or she is reading there. If we can avoid doing violence to the minds of unseen others on the internet, others will learn to do the same. And then perhaps our internet traffic will cease to look like one great, bloody accident.

PATRIOTISM

Finally, patriotism is not the same as nationalism.

It is not patriotic to dodge the draft and to mock war heroes and their families…It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes, especially when American working families do pay…

It is not patriotic to call upon Russia to intervene in an American presidential election…It is not patriotic to appoint as secretary of state an oilman with Russian financial interests who is the director of a Russian-American energy company and has received the “Order of Friendship” from Putin.

The point is not that Russia and America must be enemies. The point is that patriotism involves serving your own country.

The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best…

A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals…

Living up to the Enlightenment ideals of the Founders has been a difficulty for the United States since its beginning. “All men are created equal…” was tainted from the first moment of the Republic by the “three-fifths clause” and “manifest destiny.” The founders themselves had trouble living up to the ideals enshrined in the Declaration and Constitution (ten of the first twelve U.S. presidents owned slaves -John and John Quincy Adams were the exceptions). We’re still working on giving every American full citizenship. We’re still working on ways to “promote the general welfare.”

America is a work in progress and the ideal should be to follow the lead of the nineteenth century Senator from Missouri, Carl Schurz who said,

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

Our goal should be to “set right” the country.

THE ONLY THING WE HAVE TO FEAR

In an interview with Steven Rosenfeld on Bill Moyers and Co., Snyder compares the President’s
attacks against Muslims to the Nazi anti-semitism of the 30s.

…if you can pick some group and make them stand in for some international threat, then you can change domestic politics, because domestic politics then is no longer about compromises and competing interests, domestic politics is about who inside the society should actually be seen and outside the society.

Fear is the catalyst that changes freedom to tyranny, and right now, a lot of Americans are fearful.

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Posted in 1000 Words, Baseball, IN Gen.Assembly, Politics, Public Ed, Testing, Trump, vouchers

Food for Thought

A collection of memes and cartoons from around the internet about public education.

BASEBALL

The national metaphor for hope…a new season.

MARCH MADNESS

No, not basketball – the Indiana General Assembly.

We’re in the midst of the annual attempt by “reformers” in Indiana to

  • extend the misuse and overuse standardized testing
  • expand the voucher program
  • increase funds to charter schools
  • decrease funds to public schools
  • deprofessionalize teachers
  • bust the teachers union

Winners: private and privately run schools, corporate donors, Republican campaign war chests.

Losers: Indiana public school students and their teachers, public school corporations, the future of Indiana.

IMPROVE THE GARDEN, DON’T PLOW IT OVER

Repair our public schools and the neighborhoods they occupy. Don’t close them.

STANDARDIZATION

Teachers are required to differentiate curriculum because all children are different, but give a standardized test which all children have to pass.

FOR THE PUBLIC GOOD

Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?

If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.

TESTING

Now that we know better can we just stop the overuse and misuse of standardized tests? How many instructional hours are wasted for teachers, support staff, and students?

POLITICS

Nothing new for Indiana…

VOUCHERS

A voucher vs. public school comparison.

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

Inside Out & Back Again: We’re All Immigrants

A NATION OF IMMIGRANTS

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

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

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

SOME FAMILY HISTORY: WRETCHED REFUSE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Both my grandfathers left their home and emigrated to America.

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

IMMIGRANTS AND THE “OTHER”

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

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

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

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

IRONY ALERT

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

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

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

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

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

OTHER VOICES

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

Inside Out and Back Again

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

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

President Trump, Meet My Family

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

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

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

Holocaust Exploitation: When the Analogy Is Wrong

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

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

See also

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

(2) Terrorism and Immigration: A Risk Analysis

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

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Posted in Politicians, Politics, Trump

This is what it looks like…

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

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

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

“Do you have any experience…?”

EXPERIENCE MATTERS

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

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

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

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

“No sir, I don’t.”

I said, “Have you ever seen a farm?”

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

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

[Applause]

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

…SOMETIMES

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

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

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

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Posted in DeVos, Public Ed, Trump, US DOE

A More Qualified Secretary of Education

UPHOLDING A TRADITION

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CHOOSE ME INSTEAD

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

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

But it’s not just me.

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

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

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Posted in Article Medleys, DeVos, GERM, NorthCarolina, Politics, poverty, Privatization, reading, Teaching Career, Trump

2016 Medley #33

Privatization, “Good” Teachers, Learning, Happiness–Love–Kindness, Politics

PRIVATIZATION

Every North Carolina Lawmaker Should Read The Recent Research From Stanford University About Public Investment in Schools. I Hear Stanford’s a Decent School.

The NC legislature is worse than most when it comes to lack of support for public education. Even so, blogger Stu Egan’s comments in this article can be universally appreciated just by inserting “Indiana” (or “Ohio,” or “Pennsylvania,” or “Florida,” etc) instead of “North Carolina.” GERM, the Global Education Reform Movement, is everywhere.

The first sentence below is what separates us from the “reformers.”

Public education is a sacred trust of the citizenry, not an open market for capitalistic ventures. If one wants to make the argument that states like North Carolina are free to allow for competition within its public school system, then that person would need to explain how that complies with the state constitution which explicitly says that all students are entitled to a good quality education funded by the state.

…“The data suggest that the education sector is better served by a public investment approach that supports each and every child than by a market-based, competition approach that creates winners…and losers. While competition might work in sports leagues, countries should not create education systems in which children lose in the classroom. This report explains how and why some children can lose in a privatized system and makes recommendations to ensure that all children receive equitable, high-quality educational opportunities”

…It’s almost as if it was written in response to North Carolina.

Privatization or Public Investment in Education?

For the nerdier among us…here’s the study to which Egan (see above) refers to.

Finnish educators attribute a modest dip in 2012 (although their scores remained) as potentially resulting from distractions caused by their popular international status. As a result, the country has refocused on the principles of equity, creativity, and the “joy of learning” that produced their high-quality system in the first place. Furthermore, Finland maintained its position as the top European performer in 2012 (well above the OECD mean), demonstrating the value of the public investment approach in developing and supporting high-quality teachers.

TEACHER QUALITY

Do Poor Students Get the Worst Teachers?

How does one define a “good” teacher? For too long the “reformist” definition has been based on test scores, a misuse of assessment since it’s been long established that test scores are a function of family income more than teacher quality. Students who live in poverty come to school with problems not seen in low poverty environments. David C. Berliner, in Poverty and Potential, notes six areas that

…significantly affect the health and learning opportunities of children, and accordingly limit what schools can accomplish on their own: (1) low birth-weight and non-genetic prenatal influences on children; (2) inadequate medical, dental, and vision care, often a result of inadequate or no medical insurance; (3) food insecurity; (4) environmental pollutants; (5) family relations and family stress; and (6) neighborhood characteristics. These [out-of-school factors] are related to a host of poverty-induced physical, sociological, and psychological problems that children often bring to school, ranging from neurological damage and attention disorders to excessive absenteeism, linguistic underdevelopment, and oppositional behavior.

It takes more than test scores to define “good” teaching. I know this to be absolutely true. I’ve experienced it in my own classrooms. There have been children who have thrived in my classrooms…for whom I have had a major life impact. There are others for whom I was the wrong teacher at the wrong time. Some students had an outstanding teacher when they were in my classroom. Others not so much. What was the difference? I was the same person. I used the same teaching styles in most of my rooms. I read the same books, worked with the same intensity, and spoke with the same voice.

The difference was that, like all teachers, I’m a human being with inconsistencies, good days and bad days, emotional ups and downs. A teacher makes thousands of decisions over the course of a school year. Sometimes those decisions don’t yield the best result. No matter how “good” a teacher is, there will be days when the interactions between the teacher and students don’t go as planned.

In the current article, Peter Greene reminds us of this…

…teacher quality is not a solid state. Over time, we all have better days and not so better days. And how “good” we are is also a matter of which students you put us together with. One student’s terrible teacher is another students life-altering agent of positive change.

LEARNING

Got to remember them all, Pokémon: New study of human memory for Pokémon finds that it is possible to boost memory capacity

One of the most important concepts for a teacher to keep in mind when teaching reading is to “activate prior knowledge.”

Call it schema, relevant background knowledge, prior knowledge, or just plain experience, when students make connections to the text they are reading, their comprehension increases. Good readers constantly try to make sense out of what they read by seeing how it fits with what they already know. When we help students make those connections before, during, and after they read, we are teaching them a critical comprehension strategy that the best readers use almost unconsciously.

A new study has shown that when people are familiar with content they can remember information related to it. Activating prior knowledge does this.

When I was working in my classroom I introduced students to study techniques to help them activate prior knowledge…helping to improve comprehension.

It works with Pokémon, too.

People can learn and remember more of a subject when they are already familiar with it, new research concludes. And the more familiar they are with the subject, the better they remember new information related to it, add the researchers.

HAPPINESS, LOVE, AND KINDNESS

In school relationships, just like in close personal relationships, positive connections are beneficial. A happy classroom is more conducive to learning. Students feel safe and are willing to take learning risks.

Below are three articles exploring personal relationships…

The Evidence is In: ‘Happy’ Schools Boost Student Achievement

A positive climate, most education stakeholders agree, is on most schools’ wish-list. Schools do not aspire, after all, to create environments that are detrimental to students and educators. But the No Child Left Behind era – a decade plus of “test and punish,” a stripped down curriculum, and narrow accountability measures – decoupled school climate from student achievement, in effect imposing a “nice schools finish last” credo. Sure, a “happy” school would be nice, but … about those test scores.

Love and Kindness

The older I get, the more certain I am that kindness is hugely important (though I don’t think kindness always looks like a warm, fuzzy Care Bear). There is science on my side; mean people really do suck, and they really do have a hard time building good relationships. We seem to have entered a pronounced mean streak as a country; the challenge will be to remember that unkind, ungenerous meanness is not beaten by more of the same.

Masters of Love

They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

DUELING ECHO CHAMBERS

Paul Simon sang,

A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest…

The political climate in the US is a perfect example of that. For the most part we stay in our own echo chambers hearing the “news” that supports our point of view. “Tell me what I want to hear, don’t confuse me with facts” is the attitude, and anyone else’s sources are “lies” and “fake news.”

One might have hoped that a new administration in Washington would have come in with the ability to ease the polarization of the nation. If so, one would have been disappointed.

Working in the Irony Mines

In the last eight years the Republicans have done everything they could to stop President Obama from governing…from Mitch McConnell and John Boehner saying they would obstruct everything Obama favored, to Ted Cruz forcing a shut down of the government rather than allow Obama’s policies to work. It’s ironic then – and by ironic, I mean amazingly, monumentally, ironic – that President-elect Trump’s campaign chair is blasting Democrats for establishing a “permanent opposition” to his administration. Was she not in the US in the last eight years? Was she hiding in a cave? Or perhaps she’s complimenting the opposition for adopting the policies of her party.

“The professional political left is attempting to foment a permanent opposition that is corrosive to our constitutional democracy and ignores what just happened in this election,” [Kellyanne Conway] said. Liberals cannot, she added, “wave magic pixie dust and make this go away.”

Trump Opponents and Supporters Have Divergent Racial Attitudes

File this under, “so what else is new.” We all knew that there is an underlying racism in America and that the Trump campaign tapped it and benefited from it.

When economic times are tough there is a tendency to revert to scapegoating. It’s happened before. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

These findings aren’t particularly surprising. Others have also found that priming respondents to think of black people tends to make them tougher on crime and advocate for less generous social programs, like in this study on attitudes toward CA’s three-strikes law. What’s new here is the difference between Trump supporters and opponents. For opponents of Trump, priming made them more sympathetic toward mortgage holders; for supporters, priming made them less. This speaks to a real divide among Americans. Some of us feel real hostility toward African Americans. Others definitely do not.

Donald Trump’s Conflict-Of-Interest Network (COIN) – Otherwise Known As His Cabinet

President-elect Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos is just the tip of the unqualified iceberg in a collection of unqualifieds. Virtually every nominee and appointee has a history of working against the department for which they have been chosen. Trump promised to “drain the swamp,” but instead turned over a rock.

2. A Secretary of Education (Betsy DeVos) who opposes public education and has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting private charter schools.

For more information about Betsy DeVos and her anti-public education policies see here.

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