What is wrong with this world

So what is wrong with this world?

My answer is “Nothing that the right people can’t fix”, and I believe it. But boy, it’s starting to approach a crisis situation. To begin with, I have been watching the DNC chair debates, and am now watching the nominations and votes for the next DNC chair-have it running on my phone as I type this. The saddest thing of it all is the unwillingness, both in the debates, in the media, and right now as I watch some of these pretenders talk about a fresh start; talk about reaching out and knocking on doors; talk  about unity… the unwillingness to change and bring a powerfully new and progressive message to the people is glaring. People are desperately waiting for something to vote for (as opposed to being told they have to vote against something), and the tone-deaf and entrenched establishment that had aligned itself stubbornly behind Hillary Clinton still refuses to own up to the error of it’s ways. It isn’t that they’re full of %$#@, god no…They just didn’t organize and unite enough to effectively spread that %$#@ far and wide enough. They didn’t reach out those crap covered hands wide enough to give a fake “I care about your plight” hug and spread the smelly promise of more neoliberalism and Wall Street funded perpetual poverty politics.

Are our leaders working for us? I mean really. Have they been? If you could say that there was something wrong with the world it would be that they are not. Trump is getting the blame for a lot of stuff because he’s an almost cartoonishly deplorable character, but it was Obama who spent his administration demeaning public education, growing income inequality, allowing war crimes to go unprosecuted, and in November, on his way out, microwaving Syrian women and children.

Whoa…what was that, you ask?

Depleted uranium is prized by the US military for exceptional toughness, which enables it to pierce heavy tank armor. However, airborne DU particles can contaminate nearby ground and water and pose a significant risk of toxicity, birth defects and cancer when inhaled or ingested by humans or animals. The coalition’s promise not to use DU munitions in Iraq was made after an estimated one million rounds were used during the 1991 Gulf War and the 2003 invasion. Between Iraq and the Balkans, where they were also used in the 1990s, DU rounds have been blamed on a massive increase in cancer and birth defects.

Yeah, that was President smooth. “Microwaving” is a little specious, but the article that link takes you to describes our government’s willingness to blast some depleted uranium on the collateral damage of our foreign petroleum control conquests. I don’t think radiation hurts the oil, but wow is it bad for babies. But it’s only our leaders doing it to babies in other places. Is showering foreign innocents and babies with depleted uranium how we want our leaders to represent us? Who cares about the in-your-face evils of a Trump administration when our corporate shill Democrats in name only are covertly as evil, and still feel entitled the votes of the millions they have helped to ignore and suppress only because they’ll half-heartedly fight for some health coverage and  some labor rights and some minimum wage standards. If the DNC continues to support policies that fuel economic savagery and war-hawkishness-they will be spreading those %$#@-covered huggy-hands wide, but coming back with far less than they’d hoped for.

Questions for Sam Ronan

In the aftermath of the Hillary Clinton loss and transformation of our representative democracy to authoritarian rule under Donald Trump, I’ve been reflecting on the failures of the Democrats. Specifically, the missteps of establishment Democrat politicians and pundits, the machinations within the DNC, and the obvious bias in mainstream media-all of which combined their forces to bring us to where we are. I’m no Obama-zombie or Clinton fan, but neither did I want the keys to this great nation passed on to Donald Trump-who continually displays lack of grace, humility and common sense and also shows a lack of respect for others and for his own responsibility to the office. But a Trump presidency, if you view it negatively, is something that could easily have been avoided. I won’t say that a DNC nomination for Bernie Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton was the only way, but I am  saying that a major shift in the Democrat’s platform was needed but stubbornly resisted. As a registered Independent voter who has leaned to the “D” over 90% of the time I have had moments of regret, spread throughout my almost 32 years of voting, for how I chose to register. In New York, Independents cannot participate in voting in the primaries. The state saw a challenge to this closed primary approach  in this past season, and I hope to see something done about it in the near future-but for me it might be too late, spiritually speaking. Over the last decade my votes have been wandering into third party territory more and more. I will never vote strategically for any evil, even if it’s “the lesser” one. My vote will be earned by candidates who speak to my values and priorities.

And that’s how Trump won. I didn’t vote for him, but he certainly spoke for those who did. So I have to ask, who speaks for and represents my desires for the future of America? Looking for more, hoping to hear something…anything that might convince me there was some hope in this happening, I came across some video of recent DNC chair debates.

One of the most disappointing things was seeing that the Democrats looking to lead the party want to play their future strategy as a more careful and crafty version of what just lost them the 2016 race. But Sam Ronan, a virtual unknown (I mean, I had never heard of him before) shows up on stage, looking casual and comfortable…I have to admit when I saw the thumbnail image attached to the link I thought a practical joker had crashed the event and somehow taken a seat right next to Keith Ellison. My hope in clicking “play” was that I was going to see a clever smart-ass grab a seat, take a selfie, and then get bum-rushed and dragged off by event-security.

(Sorry Sam, but if it helps- I’m way happier with what I did see.)

Sam inspired me to believe that younger energy, a fresh perspective, and some honesty is making the stage in the debates and conversations regarding the priorities for our next DNC chairperson. It becomes tiresome listening to the cautious tap-dancing some of the “hopefuls” do in addressing the issue of a clearly rigged system meant to deflect needed reforms . This is what has kept the Democrats and Republicans on a steady course taking them further and further away from the will of the majority. Sam’s willingness to be honest about why Democrats lost, and about what needs to be done to bring that party back to its people (as opposed to how to trick people into voting Democrat without changing the party) demonstrates the kind of character lacking in our representatives and our leaders.

So I shot a few questions at Sam to help me figure out what he’s all about. As a teacher, my priority is education-but understand that to me, education encompasses a whole lot more than just what happens within the walls of our schools and our elected leaders bear a significant responsibility for it.

ME: Tell me your thoughts on “education reform”, public schools, and accountability in education.

SAM: What do we really need to do to improve outcomes for today’s students? It’s a necessity to reform our education, and not just University or College. Our education used to be the envy of the world from K – Doctorate school and now we are tailing nation’s that we would call under developed in some areas! This cannot be allowed to continue! We need to focus on improving the pedagogy of our nation’s teacher’s, funding our school’s adequately, paying our teachers much, much more, and in general making school not a grind that brow beats students with information to be regurgitated.

I go into a lot of detail in terms of mixing: Finnish, Japanese, and German educational programs into our own American version that emphasizes growth of the individual, and guides them on their path to adulthood!

ME: Do you see some value in “choice” schools or charter schools that operate under the conditions described in the NAACP moratorium statement? Do you think those conditions are too restrictive?

SAM: On principle I have nothing against Charter Schools, that being said they do not deserve a single cent of Taxpayer’s dollars, nor should they be able to crumble and fail and receive an insurance payout once again at the taxpayers’ expense. This exact scenario happened in Ohio and was called #CharterGate and for good reason! So with that being said Charter Schools that are held to a strict standard equal to or greater than Public Schools is fine in my book, but if they accept public dollars at all, then they will be beholden to the public, completely.

ME:  What message(s) and or platform items should the DNC be committing to? Not so much how the DNC should commit to self-managing, but what should the DNC be more committed to policy-wise? How do you feel about these?

Clean water and air

SAM:Number 1 priority

A higher minimum wage, more stable gainful employment available at sustainable wages for workers

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Sound public education, funded and supported effectively as if it is the priority that it should be.

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Corporate money out of politics, or at least full disclosure

SAM: -Number 1 priority

Notice how all of these things are a number 1 priority? They have to be if we are to ever regain the trust and respect of the American People!

This was just a brief contact and I hope to have more time to follow up with Sam myself. I will be sharing as much as I can here and on twitter (@dmaxmj)

Foreboding?

“…and so it begins…please understand that this is not JUST about immigrants…it is an effort to build the infrastructure for martial law…when all the social programs are taken away and there is no minimum wage or public education ir medical care are decent paying jobs, there will be chaos and this will be the president’s response…to respond to one comment, this is not to disract attention from Russia and other issues…rather, it is the other way around…PLEASE stay woke folks…”

And so goes a comment on Facebook regarding the push to mobilize National Guard troops in the effort to round up and expel all those illegals. Once they’ve gone, who will play the part of danger distraction-who will be the boogeyman? Protesters? Native Americans? Who??? Do you feel the “Great Again” yet?

Alternate Transcript

Here is a link to the actual transcript location the satirical edit below is based on. I am all for direct, plain talk as well as emotionally loaded hyperbole when needed-but this president is like no one I ever thought would end up elevated to the highest office in the land. Even if I have little respect for the smooth, likable talk the former president gave to our face (while doing horrendous things behind our backs)…it is far better than the petulant, oversensitive man-baby talk we are being subjected to.

So again, the “transcript” below, in the words of Kellyanne Conway , might be called an “alternative transcript”.


Well this is Black History Month, or that’s what I heard. I had to make sure it wasn’t more of that fake news you know, because it’s out there. But this is our little breakfast, our little get-together.

Hi Lynn, how are you?

Just a few notes.

During this month, we honor the tremendous history of African-Americans throughout our country and going back in time because that’s what history does you know, throughout the world, if you really think about it, right? And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work, and faith in America. I’ve gotten a real glimpse—during the campaign, I’d go places with Ben to do some stuff and I went to some places I wasn’t so familiar with. Those are some incredible people, let me tell you. Fabulous.

And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s black by the way, and he’s gonna be heading up HUD. That’s a big job. There’s lots of poor people that need to live somewhere in those inner city black neighborhoods. They need housing, I’m told, and I know stuff about building things but that’s a job that’s not only housing, but it’s mind and spirit. Right, Ben? And you understand, nobody’s gonna be better than Ben.

Last month, we celebrated the life of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., who was also black and I have read things about him. He’s an incredible example and is unique in American history. You read all about him a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office. It turned out that that was fake news.

Fake news.

The statue is cherished, it’s one of the favorite things in the—and we have some good ones. We have famous white guys too, and you might have heard them, guys like Lincoln, and we have Jefferson, a guy I heard just loved his slaves and might have had some children with one of them-a beautiful woman the history stuff I’ve seen says so. Sally something, I think.

And we have Dr. Martin Luther King. But they said the statue, the bust of Martin Luther King, was taken out of the office, and it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.

I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn stuff about Reverend King and what he means to the blacks and so many other things. Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I noticed. That railroad lady…Harriet Tubman I think, and that one that rode the bus- Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact. I’m proud to honor this heritage and will be honoring it more and more. When you see how I honor it you won’t believe it. There will be so much honor.

The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters. Darrell—I met Darrell when he was defending me on television. I like people who don’t say bad things about me, and there are some very bad things out there. Not true. Wrong. And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right?

And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community. He’s all by himself. You’ll have seven people, and Paris. And I’ll take Paris over the seven. But I don’t watch CNN, so I don’t get to see you as much as I used to. I don’t like watching fake news. But Fox has treated me very nice. Wherever Fox is, thank you. Tremendous coverage and lots of the real news stuff. Beautiful women, too, am I right? Of course I’m right. Yeah the women there are beautiful.

We’re gonna need better schools and we need them soon. We need more jobs, we need better wages, a lot better wages. We’re gonna work very hard on the inner city. Ben is gonna be doing that, big league.He knows about black stuff and that’s why I brought him on. The schools and the jobs and that stuff-that’s one of the big things that you’re gonna be looking at.

We need safer communities and we’re going to do that with law enforcement. Our police are fabulous and we’re gonna make it safe. We’re gonna make it much better than it is right now. Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really—you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.

I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this: We’re gonna work together. This is a great group, this is a group that’s been so special to me. You really helped me a lot. If you remember I wasn’t going to do well with the African-American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and saying lots of other black kinds of things, we ended up getting—and I won’t go into details—but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years. And now we’re gonna take that to new levels. I want to thank my television star over here—Omarosa’s actually a very nice person, nobody knows that. I don’t want to destroy her reputation but she’s a very good person, and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign, and I appreciate it. I really do.

Very special.

A Letter to the Senate

Below is a letter I just wrote regarding potential Secretary of Education Betsy Devos.

You can write one too by clicking here.

 

I am ditching the pre-written canned response to write this instead.

The suggestion that Betsy Devos should be elevated to a national-level leader of education is evidence that there is either willingness to double-down on insanity, or a complete lack of awareness regarding the true stakeholders and  “boots-on-the-ground” when it comes to public education and what is needed. The privately-managed free market is not the solution to everything, and the word “choices” is not some magic spell that makes our already ignored social and moral obligations disappear. Obama and Duncan were merely elitist, disrespectful and damaging, but Devos is in the same vein as Trump and Bannon-risking the kind of destruction that only the ignorance of wealth, ego and self-entitlement brings to everyone beneath. In this case we’re talking about children who we are obligated to serve and whose needs we are obligated to meet. Offering up “choices”, segregating children based on how efficiently they can prop up the reputation of selective charter schools, and continuing to ignore the most needy and our under-supported traditional schools serving any who come…

This is not the path forward or upward, and Betsy Devos is no champion of that path.

Let’s keep “choice” honest

Instead of repeating the words choice and accountability as if they are stand alone solutions and suggesting that the most important results are linked to fudge-able stats (test scores, graduation rates…) we should be demanding real educational accountability- for honesty; for integrity; for the good of all children, not just the ones with parents equipped to participate in the “choice” market.

And while those streaking across our public commons with their shiny, well-funded behinds hanging out, waving a banner saying “Me saying ‘accountability’ proves how much I care about the poors” can appear honest-we never really get into HOW the exemplar supposed stellar performing charter schools achieve their results.

This should also be part of the conversation.

Now I am fully in favor of parental right to choose. My wife and I  spent a lot of our time chasing down choices that according to regulations should have been available, and then got told it depends on whether a school can afford to or wants to provide them. When alternative choices or settings exist, parents should be free to choose them but better questions would be:

  1. Why are our traditional schools not empowered to bring Al Shanker’s original vision for locally controlled, professionally driven charters to life within the public school system?
  2. Why all the praise for the opaque, privately controlled, selective charters who are held up for comparisons to disrespected and underfunded traditional schools?

A prime example is Success Academy’s Eva Moskowitz who has been clear and proud about how she keeps some students out, gets rid of others, refused to sign standard preK contracts for funding then claims that holding her to them hurts children.

“If they backfilled older grades, [Moskowitz] said, the incoming students’ lower relative academic preparation would adversely affect the schools’ other students.”

Traditional, truly public schools are not free to operate this way and their doors are open to any student coming to them regardless of their readiness to learn. They don’t filter their enrollments to artificially stroke and protect their testing and graduation stats (ala’ Moskowitz). They plow ahead, underfunded and over-mandated, trying to meet the needs of a mixed group of students that include top students and peers needing maximum support. It’s not just disingenuous to disparage obligation and prop up artifice-it’s shameful.

And yet every time a pro-choicer wants to prove the value of “choice”, Moskowitz’s “high performing” Success Academy is held up like a beacon with little examination of how she and the school is allowed to operate in order to make protecting those results first (putting students second). Not only is she more than willing to defend how the school filters in and pushes out students, she is shameless in her self-promotion, willing to  empty her schools of staff and students to lobby in the streets for her private, selective enterprise during school time! 

AND she had the nerve to call it a civics field trip or something. But who wrote that lesson plan?

“An option was not presented. The schools assigned everyone with a job, so you were either going to be an instructional coach or a bus captain,” one teacher explained. “They weren’t really asking us if that’s what we wanted to do. They were telling us that that’s what we were going to do instead of teaching for the day.”

Can you imagine the Education Post articles that would have been written if local schools had done this in order to push for and end to the ongoing failure of the Governor to meet public school funding obligations?

I do believe high quality choice means honest choice through valid comparison of earned (not manufactured) results that include test scores but go beyond.

Maybe the NAACP has some ideas on how to make this happen. Some way where we can have honest choices and valid comparisons instead of transparent campaigns to undermine schools that belong to the public.

Questions to accompany The Flying Machine

If you haven’t yet, read it here first and then consider these for thought/discussion:

 

  1. Does this story lead you to believe the people of China are better off because of Emperor Juan’s rule over them?
  2. What does the story say either about the sacrifices made for the benefits of safety, beauty, tranquility –as opposed to the benefits and beauty to be found breaking away from safety and security?
  3. Does Emperor Juan serve his own priorities first, or his people’s?

 

These are questions I got into with my girls when I shared this story (and I’ve been tempted to do a drama club production but an on-stage beheading in a public school serving a tiny community where I teach and everyone knows me is just unfeasible). When I get the chance to sip some wine and talk deep with friends from way back it’s usually analyzing stories and current events this way, and whenever possible I like to push students to see what might be under the words written and be able to explain it in their conversation and their writing while referring to the text.