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)

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.

We ALL owe more to our students than just “choice”

As a teacher, I understand we need to be doing more for more students. The fact is that billionaires, corporations, and the politicians who we believe we elect have done so much damage that more and more children need our help. These “elected” are clearly paid to be unwilling, so it falls upon us to help them-we have no choice.

I say “help” because schooling and teaching them isn’t enough anymore. The needs go beyond connecting them with the curriculum, maximizing their academic abilities, and preparing them to progress through the stages of learner-to-doer and then onto capable, young, productive citizen of the world. Student needs are beginning to fall more and more into the realm of the social, emotional and psychological. Yes, I know that when most teachers signed onto the job, they imagined behavior/classroom management would be part of an essential toolbox- and it had better be. But the tools needed by the regular education classroom teacher are starting to be those that are traditionally found in the toolboxes of the school counselor; the school psychologist; the crisis intervention officer; the family therapist…

But sometimes there’s no time to walk down the hall to borrow that tool from one of those other professionals. Sometimes that person isn’t even in your school because your school can’t/won’t pay to have one on hand. Regardless of toolboxes and tools, when a first grader is throwing a chair around the room in a rage and melts down on a regular basis requiring the room to be emptied (and halting formal instruction); when kids are sleeping in a different “home”/place, on a different couch, and moving frequently because of the economic and emotional instability in their family lives; when kids draw cartoon pictures of why their night was so bad…and you immediately need to make a “hotline” call because what that one big stick figure is doing to that other little stick figure doesn’t look right…and your pretty sure that’s a police officer stick-man taking that other one away with its stick-arms behind its back…the job of “teacher” has gone far beyond what it was meant to be.

And still, the second lieutenants of education reform line up for a spot at the billionaires’ funding trough to spout off on the greedy, recalcitrant unions and the harm they do to children. As an example, I saw a recent twitter-share regarding a Chicago school librarian eliminated, parents willing to somehow “run” the library, and union resistance to that situation. My take is not that the union resists parents, but that unions hold leaders accountable when they cop out on responsibilities to provide quality education and qualified educators. The reform debate is already heavy with wealthy, amoral pirates looking to profit by reducing schools for the poor to second hand stores.

The conversation can become more transparent than artful…which I think it’s intended to be-“spreading freedom and democracy with bombs” type stuff. Blame the firefighters, but never the arsonists. You get the picture. Sadly, people are making money doing this.

and liked a Tweet you were mentioned in:17h :
school faces budget cut. Parents volunteer to fill gap. Union forces library to close. Kids lose. Great outcome.”

So Chicago, the womb that has spat out so many non-teaching education expert-geniuses guts it’s own schools further suppressing the poor and starving it’s children (only the poor ones though, not the Emanuels, Obamas, Duncans…) and Union forces library to close” ??? Good god, folks. Without getting into the dripping sarcasm of “Great outcome”, or the fact that a temporary stint with TFA is the most classroom/school experience I ever see in people wanting to throw these tomatoes:

Where are you and have you been on ANY of the more systemic evils tearing our communities apart and really knee-capping these children and their families?

It’s sad that we have to turn to comedians more and more for a satirical, honest, and often depressing look at what is happening to this nation, the liars trying to spin it, and the rats in the hold looking to feed on the crumbs the liars spread around.

Jimmy Dore is an example of a really funny and at the same time excruciatingly truthful comedian who appears to understand the plight of being truly dedicated to people-especially children, and at the same time attacked by those looking to exploit children. Last April, as the theater called the Democratic Primaries rolled on, Dore tweeted:

while quoting/retweeting this union-tweet from Randi Weingarten:

. :

members making the final push for throughout states -earning every vote

Besides astute and accurate assessments of B.S. limited to 140 characters or less, I have watched and listened to him speak about the narrative cleverly pushed out to the public on “those greedy teachers”. I first saw Dore on The Young Turks when I fell further from the fold of mainstream cable/network news. He’s described himself as an admirer of George Carlin and I would say Carlin is watching and is proud.

If you haven’t seen him-check this out.

But getting back to tools: now we have a President-Elect Donald Trump.

I saw him coming, it made me sad then, and it makes me sad now. Not just because this entitled, arrogant asshat got elected, but because our nation which has become no more than a trademarked corporate tool and a pretend democracy made it happen. They had nothing to offer, nothing to inspire, no promise to get behind other than the continuation of proliferating Mid-East bombing and intrusion, establishment corporatism, de facto Wall Street rule, voter  hypnosis and blind obedience, subjugation of organized and politically active workers…

THAT’S the real sadness, and THAT’S what education reform should be about: TAKING OUR NATION BACK. We owe our children much more than this privatizing “choice” market that stands proudly behind segregating what it deems the good eggs that can be efficiently trained and tested from the bad eggs it has created and now wants to wash its hands of-blaming the very teachers and schools those children will be left in or sent back to when they don’t assimilate to the “choice” model.

So now, faced with the consequences of a nation so disillusioned they are willing to go with a Trump because they were offered no other option to change all of this: they are all wringing their hands like a bunch of ninnies with their knickers in a twist, when they didn’t just do it to themselves, they did it to us and to our children.

And to MY children. I’m okay with making this personal because my three daughters will be here to deal with the repercussions of what our so-called leaders have created someday after I’m gone.

So with my mind on all of this, I get this video from a Facebook connection. The gist is a cheer for the honesty of Rep. Ruben Gallego. I say honesty is great, after you committed a crime. Even better would be to not commit the crime to begin with. Below is the comment I made to the Facebook post of this video.

“These representatives are babies and liars. The ranks of the working poor have grown. We are bombing in more countries than ever and giving more money than ever to take more lives than ever-often civilian…all with no declaration of war or public examination of why. Its all in the middle east…guess why it is. For the iddy biddy babies and democracy? Pshht, right. C’mon. Banker criminals skip away from crimes freer and wealthier, corporations buy influence from the white house to the state house to school boards. Meanwhile the urban poor watch as police crack down on them, undermine schools for their children, see natives hosed and tear-gassed while oil corporations use private troops, local police and push a pipeline through their water supply…Trump is a self-promotional clown, and dangerous. But the greedy liars and babies made him happen. They ignored the people, they were swayed into worshiping a hope and change charmer who didn’t change a thing (except taking habeas corpus away so citizens could be jailed indefinitely without cause). I don’t weep for this loser, I expect more, and they need to get behind real change or this whole planet is in even more danger.”

We owe more than “choice” for our children, and we’ve seen how “hope and change” has worked. It’s time to step up and demand more.

Be cautious, not bold, for our children

November 16th, 2016

Dear President Elect Trump,

First, let me say congratulations. I am not surprised by the outcome the way many are-especially those whiners in the so-called mainstream media. Clearly they are out of touch with Main Street America, but that was pretty obvious the moment they started getting their knickers in a twist over the immense popularity of Bernie Sanders and going out of their way to put a forensics team onto anything you’ve ever said or done-all while ignoring the entrenched establishment connecting lobbyists, policymakers and media outlets. Don’t get me wrong, I think you come off like a jackass when you promise to cover the legal fees of a violent Trump fan willing to assault a protester. The Tic-Tac and “move on her like a bitch” stuff deserves to be hammered hard (don’t get excited, that’s not sexual euphemism) because it’s crass, misogynist, and adolescent in all the worst ways-especially coming from a guy old enough to be my dad and more so considering my perspective: an actual adult man with three beautiful daughters. Don’t get excited-it’ll never happen. In the end, the campaign behind us was a perfect storm: a combination of the ineptitude of the DNC and your ability to play the crowd and the media. You are a true showman, bold-and-beyond, so again-congratulations.

Next, I want to address the issue of education. There is a lot of curiosity regarding how things will go moving forward. I think you should focus less on abolishing the common core standards, and more on:

  1. Reducing federal pressures on and intrusions into the minutiae of how schools prepare their students for the world that is.
  2. Moving away from the exclusionary test-driven rigged system that sheltered, elite and arrogant Democrats say readies students for “college and career”-with zero honesty about what that really does in terms of protecting them in their establishment bubble over addressing student needs.
  3. Ensuring more equity in opportunity for students between less affluent and more affluent districts. The opportunities to be exposed to a wider variety of enriching experiences from an early age is what prepares young learners and then motivates them to excel as they grow and seek out more opportunities on their own.

Your comments on bringing control back to the local level are encouraging-breaking free of the Chicago edu-mob and promoting some honest educators with understanding of what children need and how they learn would be a great step forward. But don’t get too loosey-goosey with it (again, don’t get excited, go for the tic-tacs and start grabbing at anything down-low and within reach, I just mean don’t go too “slash-and-burn”). Some fed oversight into overall common expectations isn’t bad, but those expectations should be based on developmentally appropriate standards and respecting the fact that while teachers should be evaluated-children also need to come to school prepared to learn and freed of much of the physical, psychological and emotional baggage more of them are bringing to school these days. Standardized tests won’t hug or feed these kids, or read to them or help with homework, but stable homes and present parents will. This country is failing these folks at the community and family level by not having jobs and incomes that keep communities and families stable. Stability in these areas is a more powerful booster than any temporary teacher whose claim to fame is firing a real educator on T.V... oops. Please don’t take that wrong, firing people on T.V. might work as a vicarious thrill-I’m just saying I hope that the Michelle Rhee thing is just a rumor when it comes to how we raise and educate children. It’s one thing to inspire tall buildings labeled with giant gold letters-another to rise inexplicably from not good at a job to judging how others do it-could be part of that self-important, image-over-substance “education reform” establishment, I guess.

Let me wrap this up by telling you I did not vote for you, but I felt no remorse at Clinton’s loss (I didn’t vote for her either). The nation has suffered under pretend progressives and while the party I almost never vote with has won-I am keeping an open mind and a hopeful heart. I hope you will do the same.

Sincerely,

Dan McConnell

P.S. I hope you got the letter my daughter wrote you last year and took some of it’s advice to heart. Be a little more cautious and a little less “bold” when it comes to how you model true leadership. I have my own children as well as those I teach to think about.

Pinto Owners are People

They’re kinda ugly-the Pintos, that is. And it’s been a long while since one has rolled off the factory floor-thirty years or more? So you have to imagine if one is still being driven it has left much rubber, many years, and many miles behind. It’s the type of car Jay Leno probably does not have in his warehouse-of-cars collection-nestled between one of the McLarens and a Jaguar (I now know its pronounced Jeg’-yoo-ahh…but maybe that’s only on the other side of the pond).

But should we pass judgment on a car that might be good enough to get someone to work and back, to get their kids to school and yet is not good enough to make it into the Leno collection? When you see a Pinto parked in a neighborhood in decline, or in front of a home that looks as if it’s in disrepair; or if you see a family piling into or out of one (rust around the wheel wells and a bungee cord holding down the hatch-back trunk, maybe even a piece of cardboard duck-taped over the space where a window used to be), cigarette dangling from the mouth of the man climbing into the driver’s seat with a fistful of scratch-off lottery tickets in one hand; four kids, all looking a little unwashed, squeezing and climbing into a backseat that has room for only three…No-you shouldn’t pass judgement.

While knee-jerk judgments might be made about people who spend money on smokes and scratch-offs while their kids skip breakfast entirely, eat bagel bites and boxed mac and cheese for dinner, and hope the “free and reduced” will fill the hunger and nutrition gaps…it is the impact (not the details) of living in poverty that needs to be considered-not how you feel about the people living in poverty and the choices they make. We can’t pass judgment on the decisions people make because they have to, or feel like they have to.

We should, though, counsel those who ignore forces feeding into poverty, and those who dismiss the impacts of poverty-especially if they do it to suit an agenda. I will call them the swollen ticks on the ass of society, for want of a better term. Take, for example, Walmart. Lauded for the willingness to employ, for its profits, and for the founding family’s willingness to support the undermining of public education, the corporation is often overlooked in terms of its genius business model. They have found a way to have taxpayers subsidize their fabulous profits as well as their mission to create more poor people and keep them poor. Their wages are so low that workers often need food stamps to survive. That absolves Walmart of the guilt that would gnaw at your average non-nightstalker because: “Hey…the taxpayers will help feed their babies!” The good news is that you can get real cheap stuff at Walmart-which makes keeping people poor less of a burden on your soul, I guess.

Do nightstalkers have souls? I guess that’s writing for another day.

Where it becomes suspicious, even dangerous, is when the approach to things like education reform is formed and framed carefully by those who live comfortably distanced from poverty. This means they are unfamiliar to any practical degree with the jobs and situations they comment on, and are also protected from the agenda they promote. So while some applaud, for example, Campbell Brown’s efforts to highlight an imagined army of pervert teachers using tenure to protect their sicko inclinations as well as their professional ineptitude, I view it with a mixture of caution, regret, and a pinch of sympathy. This approach is the mac and cheese of the privileged; their cheap-n-easy go-to. That’s all they have because they can’t/won’t and don’t want to do the real work; because they don’t really know what it’s like to have your choices limited to “this” car and “that” food; because they make their money within the very system benefiting from poverty to begin with! If education reformers were to participate in a more truthful and comprehensive examination of what is behind the “reform” movement, and why reform is really needed; if they committed themselves to finding a cure: they’d be undermining their purpose (which is avoiding those cure-conversations and focusing instead on an efficient and marketable prescription-thereby protecting the system that is and pays them to protect it).

But in time, strategies that lean in to profit and away from people are exposed. Consider this description of how Ford negatively impacted their own reputation with their private take on customers:

Much of the negative sentiment toward Ford was in response to their use of an economic risk-benefit decision making analysis which found that the cost of a recall would outweigh the value of the lives it would save.

So for the same reason you cannot pass judgement on the Pinto family, you can’t justify judgement on the nightstalkers. It’s economic risk-benefit. It’s what they know. They move from one unsuspecting endeavor to the next, and as one host is bled out or fails, they are promoted to/shifted to/ pop up in another opportune location with a formula, a sure-fire plan, a consulting position and some talking points to buttress their value… It’s like soulless immortality in a way-and the ultimate in job security. But sooner or later, people who know better find out.

 

And Pinto owners are people.