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'All politics is personal'

by: teacherken

Tue Mar 23, 2010 at 16:56:54 PM EDT

Another Speaker, Tip O'Neill once said: 'All politics is local.'  And I say to you tonight that when it comes to health care for all Americans, 'All politics is personal.

So said Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sunday night.  And I agree.  It is, and it should be personal.

But it should not be personal in the way we saw with the kinds of attacks and slurs that were part of the actions of Tea Party members and their supporters among Republicans in Congress.

I take these slurs and attacks personally.  So should you.

While I may be a generous and understanding person on differences of personal belief, my generosity does not extend to when you demean and attack those about whom I care.

So let me tell you why this is personal to me, the health care and the slurs.

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A Ruinous Meltdown

by: teacherken

Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 07:04:12 AM EDT

Taxes are being raised. Draconian cuts in services are being made. Public employees are being fired. The tissue-thin national economic recovery is being undermined. And in many cases, the most vulnerable populations - the sick, the elderly, the young and the poor - are getting badly hurt.

What, you say, Obama isn't raising taxes, not even on the wealthy.

Not yet.  And that is not the issue.  Because the quote, the 2nd paragraph is  Bob Herbert's column this morning, is about state governments, and local governments, and especially schools.   Believe me, I know.

I am, after all, a school teacher.  Our system is cutting over 200 teaching jobs.  Those on 12 or 11th month contract are being furloughed for 10 days, those on 10 months (most teachers including me) for 5.  

And that was announced BEFORE we found out that further cuts are forthcoming in the state funding for our districts.

But this is not about me, or other teachers.  It is about children, about the sick and the elderly, about the least well off.  And more.

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Virtual Education: More Assault on the America's Public Education System

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 11:50:54 AM EDT

Virginians have barely awakened to the nightmare that is their own public school system under the dominion of the dominionists.  Thanks to Bob McDonnell and the Party of No, schools upon schools will ultimately close. NCLB has already rendered 1/3 of all US schools as "failing," based upon its rigged measure. Buildings paid for with our tax dollars will be given away via Mickey D's charter "initiative." What then?

Thanks to new legislation, "virtual schools," and their virtual "education," enabled by one of their own literally writing a recent bill to "regulate" such "schools," are poised to proliferate even as public schools are shuttered.  One more governor refuses to get that starving public education hurts Virginia and the nation.  But the incessant tax-cutting monster must be served (sarcasm).  See Elaine in Roanoke's article here and numerous diaries by teacherken's for more on this subject.  According to the Roanoke Times, Carroll County, VA is now the "model" for the entire state.  (Bet NOVA thought it was.)  "Virtual school" get virtual results. Education is not packaged online "curricula." The PC is no substitute for teacher-student and student-class face time and cooperative learning.  But the educational bloodletting via the massive cuts to education will likely never be overcome in our lifetimes. The evidence for this mounts...  

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Ravitch: The Death and Life of the Great American School System

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 28, 2010 at 08:32:00 AM EST

My support for NCLB remained strong until November 30, 2006.  I can pinpoint the date exactly because that was the day I realized that NCLB was a failure.

This is a book review.  Those words appear on p.99, which however odd a starting point is critical.  I learned about this event contemporaneously from the late Gerald Bracey, who informed some of us by email and many more in this Huffington Post blog.  At a conference at the American Enterprise Institute called to answer the question of whether No Child Left Behind was working, we learn from Bracey

Charged with summarizing the day, former assistant secretary of education for Bush I, Diane Ravitch, declared that the answer to the conference title's question was clearly, "No!"

That began an intellectual transformation that leads to the outstanding new book, The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.  I will explore the book, the author and the implications of her transformation.

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A Real Choice for Fairfax County Schools - Next Tuesday, March 2nd!

by: kindler

Thu Feb 25, 2010 at 22:06:15 PM EST

Guess what?  A Tea Party Republican is plotting to sneak onto the Fairfax County School Board next Tuesday -- and she might just make it, if we don't stop her.

The Republican, Samantha Rucker, is a hyper-partisan who has chaired the Republican Party of Fairfax County's Mason District and served as Assistant Attorney General to Bob McDonnell, who is pulling out all the stops to get her elected (to fill Kaye Kory's seat on the School Board). Her qualifications for School Board are miniscule -- in sharp contrast to her highly capable, knowledgeable and experienced Democratic opponent, Sandy Evans. (And please note that Sandy is the Democrat in the race -- don't let the Repubs in a very blue district confuse voters about who's who, as they like to do in these situations.)

Rucker is a smooth-talking pol who is the opposite of everything she claims to be -- she calls herself "bipartisan" without mentioning that she is a highly active Republican who spoke at a Tea Party rally last year; she says she is an experienced teacher based on an entire seven months as an instructional assistant; she says she'll be a full time School Board member -- but won't resign her full time job as Assistant Attorney General if elected. (Speaking of which, isn't that sort of a conflict of interest?)

Compare all this with Democratic-endorsed candidate Sandy Evans:

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... thinking of the young people . . .

by: teacherken

Tue Feb 16, 2010 at 16:33:59 PM EST

I sit in my living room on a day when I expected to see my students for the first time after a ten-day absence due to weather.  Not to be - yesterday evening we were informed that students were not coming to school today, although all staff are required to be there on a two-hour delay - in a sense this is a make-up day for last Friday, which was to be a professional day for teachers.  Yet the lateness of the decision will cause major problems in our school, because today was to be the makeup day for our science fair - originally schedule for last Wednesday - and I now wonder about our ability to get anything close to the normal compliment of outside judges our fair normally draws, an important part of the experience for a school that has within the past decade had the national winner.

I worry about my students, for the loss of continuity in their education.  And with time to reflect, I also worry on their behalf for the loss of continuity in our governance.  Only weather is less of an excuse for the Congress and Administration..  And the damage it done to the future of those students - who are the future of this nation - is potentially far greater than one school year with excessive disruptions due to weather.

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McKibben: Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 14, 2010 at 08:04:27 AM EST

It won't matter to the likes of Sen. Inhofe, who has his grandkids build an igloo next to the Capitol and label it "Al Gore's New Home."  Bill McKibben is realistic about that.  

And for those who want to harp on emails and some errors in isolation, it probably also won't matter, although as McKibben reminds us,

The British newspaper the Guardian just concluded a huge series on the "Climategate" e-mails with the words: "The world is still warming. Humanity is still to blame. And we still, urgently, need to do something about it."

But for those who are sane, whose minds are not already closed, McKibben's Washington Post op ed, Washington's snowstorms, brought to you by global warming, is a well-written piece, chock full of the material which will reinforce the seriousness of global climate change, aka global warming, as something reinforced, not undercut, by what happened where I live in the past 9 days.

Consider the following:

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My Two Cents: Educational Nihilism Masking as Privatization

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 11:15:24 AM EST

"I think the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina," Duncan said. "That education system was a disaster, and it took Hurricane Katrina to wake up the community to say that 'we have to do better.' And the progress that they've made in four years since the hurricane is unbelievable. They have a chance to create a phenomenal school district. Long way to go, but that -- that city was not serious about its education." (Sec. of Education, Arne Duncan)

Politico, reported this story.  And it's illustrative of what we are up against. In what is no doubt one of the more crystal clear utterances of a disaster capitalist, Duncan has shown his true colors.  For all his privatizing inclinations, the Washington Post, apparently thinks he should be more so, as indicated in the slant of this editorial. As if... That there are waiting lines for charter schools only indicates the degree of neglect of the public system, not that charter schools are the answer.  

Duncan has since called NOLA's Mayor to "explain" his statement.  Unfortunately, his explanation does not expunge his apparent disregard for the human life lost in NOLA.  Nor does it justify such a diss of the citizens and THEIR property, the schools they paid for.  

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This is personal

by: teacherken

Fri Jan 22, 2010 at 11:22:21 AM EST

KathyinBlacksburg asked that I cross-post this.  It was written specifically for Daily Kos, and some of it is specifically related to that website/community

I teach government.  I have periodically wrestled with whether I could continue to do so.  I have come close to walking away from it, because I what I saw worried me sufficiently that I wondered what point there was -  signing statements, Military Commissions Act, abandoning Geneva as "quaint"  "enhanced interrogation methods,"  extending executive privilege to energy executive coming to the White House to craft policy could have their identities kept undisclosed, Scalia flying on a private plane across the nation to go hunting with Cheney while the last issue was pending before SCOTUS, ...   was there still a meaningful constitution and political system about which to teach my students?    Meanwhile, educational policy distorting the very process of school itself, depriving those most in need of real teaching and learning of the opportunity to do much beyond prep for low level tests.

Each time I hav wrestled with these issues.   Each time I decided to keep teaching -  "for now" - in the belief I could make a difference, and that the nation would come to its senses.

Now, once again, I no longer know what I will do.

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Education: Debunking the Case for National Standards - Alfie Kohn

by: teacherken

Tue Jan 12, 2010 at 05:40:17 AM EST

originally posted at Daily Kos

Alfie Kohn is one of the most cogent critics of much of what goes on in education.  He is well known for his belief that eliminating homework and grades will lead to more and better learning.  You can explore many of his ideas at his website.

He has a piece coming out in Education Week, of which he has a slightly expanded version at the website, which you can read in its entirety here.   Consider this paragraph from the middle of the piece:

Are all kids entitled to a great education?  Of course.  But that doesn't mean all kids should get the same education.  High standards don't require common standards.  Uniformity is not the same thing as excellence - or equity.  (In fact, one-size-fits-all demands may offer the illusion of fairness, setting back the cause of genuine equity.)  To acknowledge these simple truths is to watch the rationale for national standards - or uniform state standards -- collapse into a heap of intellectual rubble.
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Gulag politics or spending for the future - our choice

by: teacherken

Sat Jan 09, 2010 at 07:59:12 AM EST

cross-posted from Daily Kos

Gulag politics.   The idea of locking up your opponents.  In the old USSR it was political opponents and critics of the Communist regime.  Perhaps it seems inappropriate to use that term here, in what is supposedly a democratic republic.  But consider this:  

With 1 out of every 100 Americans  - more than 2.3 million - now behind bars, the United States imprisons far more people - both proportionally and absolutely - than any other country in the world, including China.  Representing only 5% of the world's population, America has 25% of the world's inmates.
  Those words are from a book by Linda Darling-Hammond (which I will review in the near future titled The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future.  The application of the term "Gulag politics" is courtesy of Derrick Jackson, who writes
It is a good bet that the United States has frittered away a decent chunk of our former global advantages with gulag politics.
 I will examine that column, as well as Bob Herbert's, in which he warns will happen if we do not address the crushing financial burden of the states.   It's related, scary, and our future hangs in the balance.
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Today should be a day of national celebration

by: teacherken

Tue Dec 15, 2009 at 07:45:19 AM EST

for on this day in 1791, Virginia ratified and thus made the first ten Amendments part of the U. S. Constitution.   In a sense that is appropriate, because a key model for the U. S. Bill of Rights was the Virginia Declaration of Rights, drafted by George Mason.  Mason himself had refused to sign the Constitution and opposed it at the ratification convention in Virginia precisely because it had lacked a Bill of Rights.  

Too often we take our rights for granted.  Or even worse, we willingly let our government abrogate rights for some in the name of national security, or perhaps because we believe that there are those who should not be entitled to those rights.

I teach government to high school students.  Today is for me an important day, so allow meto remind us all of the importance of this document.

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Thanks for lives past and present

by: teacherken

Wed Nov 25, 2009 at 17:26:17 PM EST

crossposted from Daily Kos

I was, perhaps appropriately, listening to a recording of the Brahms Requiem when I saw the email:  Greg Kannerstein had passed away.  Let me quote two paragraphs from Haverford College President Steve Emerson's ('74) email:  

A mentor, student, teacher, colleague, coach and friend to thousands, Greg recently stepped down from his role as our Dean of the College after a 41-year career marked by boundless enthusiasm for Haverford.  He had begun work on his new appointment as a Special Advisor to Institutional Advancement and Lecturer in General Programs when emerging health issues forced him to take a medical leave last month.  His illness was diagnosed only weeks ago.

My heart aches at the thought of losing Greg.  I believe it is fair to say that every Haverfordian who has passed through the College since 1968 has been touched by Greg's spirit.  Whether in his role as coach, teacher, Athletic Director, Dean of Admissions, or Dean of the College, Greg was always there for Haverford, and for everyone in the greater Haverford family.  

And that got me thinking about the thanks I want to offer -

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Creating a Democratic Learning Community

by: teacherken

Mon Nov 23, 2009 at 05:37:34 AM EST

is the focus of a new book by Sam Chaltain, National Director of the Forum for Education and Democracy.  Sam previously worked with the First Amendment Schools Project, an experience that helped shaped this book.   He is also founding director of the Five Freedoms Project, which is a community educators, students and citizens committed to First Amendment Freedoms, democratic schools, and the idea that students should be seen and heard (and of which I am a member).

American Schools:  The Art of Creating a Democratic Learning Community has a Foreword by former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - herself long committed to a revitalization of civic education  - and is valuable both as something to read to provoke one's thinking, and as a resource for further exploration of the topic, especially for anyone concerned about preparing our students to learn to be citizens of a democracy.

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Remember the children

by: teacherken

Sun Nov 15, 2009 at 08:37:46 AM EST

Nicholas Kristof has an inspiring column today.  Triumph of a Dreamer will tell you the story of Tererai Trent, who was a cowherd with a 1st grade education and 5 children, married at age 11 in rural Zimbabwe to a man who beat her regularly., who was inspired by a visit by Heifer International.  She came to the US to study, and will soon be Dr. Tererai Trent, having complete BA, MA and Ph.D degrees, ended her marriage to her original husband and married an American.  Read the column.  

And note especially these words:  

Tererai is a reminder of the adage that talent is universal, while opportunity is not. There are still 75 million children who are not attending primary school around the world. We could educate them all for far less than the cost of the proposed military "surge" in Afghanistan.

talent is universal, while the opportunity is not  - words to ponder.  But not merely in terms of impoverished nations overseas with little or no primary school.  Ponder as well those words with respect to the lack of opportunities for many American children as well.

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An open letter to President Obama on schools, education and teaching

by: teacherken

Sat Nov 14, 2009 at 16:11:49 PM EST

Dear Mr. President,

I am writing to you as a National Board Certified Social Studies Teacher who voted for you as President even despite my concerns about your approach to educational policy.  You were not my first choice, precisely because I, like many educators I know, was concerned both about your approach to some educational issues and some of the people advising you.  Nevertheless, we all enthusiastically supported your candidacy, in many cases before you clinched the nomination.

I will not speak for anyone except myself.  Others are also writing open letters, as you can see at this website.  

My focus will be on this -  that the educational policy being promulgated by your administration is being created both without meaningful input from teachers and in contradiction with what much of the available research has to inform us.  Of greater importance, it misses the mark on what really matters - what is best for our children.

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Next Governor Faces Economy in Crisis

by: Elaine in Roanoke

Sun Nov 01, 2009 at 10:52:45 AM EST

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

The Times-Dispatch reporter Jeff Shapiro has written a cogent article today on why the next governor - whoever he may be - will find himself without the state funding for new initiatives, much less the funds needed for carrying on the state services we now have.

Think of what happened to Tim Kaine's dream of pre-K education available for all Virginia's children. This proven way to increase learning and school success, while returning benefits to the state far exceeding the cost of the program, became a victim, first of intransigent Republicans in the House of Delegates, then of the lousy state of the economy.

The first proposal that is going to be dead-on-arrival in Richmond is Republican Bob McDonnell desire to pay for roads, in part, with the taxpayers' credit card by issuing billions in bonds, repaid with interest. The problem with that is the state is already bumping up against its self-imposed ceiling on debt-backed financing: that annual bond costs not exceed 5 percent of revenue.

The obstacle to McDonnell's borrow-and-spend plan is quite simple: As revenues, down another $1.5 billion in the latest state report, continue to fall - and they will - the state will be compelled to have fewer bonds issues, not having the required-by-law cash to underwrite them. That's the reason that proposed bonds for transportation already passed by the General Assembly haven't been issued.

The tripping point to the spend-now-pay-later crowd in the Commonwealth is our intention to preserve Virginia's triple-A credit rating, the highest possible and one shared with only six other states. By the way, this honor was last imperiled by Virginia's last Republican governor,  Jim Gilmore of no-car-tax fame, who blew a billion dollar plus hole in the state budget in order to drive his victory car through it to Richmond.

You'd think that voters in the state would have learned by now that Republicans should not be trusted with other people's money.

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Del. Rust - hostile to education?

by: teacherken

Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 19:23:59 PM EDT

One of the more interesting House of Delegate races is that of Republican incumbent Tom Rust in the 86th (who somehow is studiously avoiding mentioning his party) defending his seat against Dulles Area Supervisor on the Loudoun Board Stevens Miller.  

Rust has succeeded in portraying himself as a "moderate," including on the important issue of education.  And yet when one examines his track record on the subject, it is a far from sanguine picture.  He seems more than willing to follow Bob McDonnell in gutting support for education - remember that the funds McDonnell would pull out of general fund expenditures for transportation would largely come from education.

Below the fold I have provided a list of some of Rust's votes on education.  Please go there to see why I wonder whether he is hostile to education.

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The Real Propagandists of Kids (Hint: It Isn't President Obama)

by: KathyinBlacksburg

Wed Sep 09, 2009 at 12:42:25 PM EDT

( - promoted by kindler)

Two years ago, when my grandsons were 7 and almost 9, I provided day care for a few weeks.  One day I took them to a kids' movie. We got going a bit late and the older one was worried we wouldn't get there in time.  "Don't worry," I said, "they play lots of previews." "I'll drive safely and we'll still get there on time."  The almost nine-year-old was still worried. But he knew a short cut.  For only a second, I hesitated. And then, I thought, of course, he watches every street we drive and knows even subtle changes in routing. Sometimes he even warns "you're going the wrong way" when Mom tries a new route to avoid traffic.  Backseat driving began at age 4! In short, he pays attention way beyond his years. I let him tell me a back-road way and we arrived early.  As we bought tickets, the cashier asked, "What is your zip code?"  I gave my daughter's zip and thought (I wonder what kind of commercials we're going to get?) Even my cynical mind didn't guess what we were about to see.  And, even for kids wise beyond their years, it was to be a handful. Navigating this new terrain requires different skills altogether.
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Two teachers on using test scores to evaluate teachers

by: teacherken

Sat Sep 05, 2009 at 08:19:50 AM EDT

previously posted on a number of other sites, including Daily Kos

One of the more controversial aspects of the Obama Education Department's approach has been its insistence upon using student test scores as a means of evaluating teachers for merit pay.  This is in fact something Sec. Duncan has posed as a non-negotiable requirement for a state to be eligible for $4.5 billion in grants that are part of ARRA (stimulus).  These funds, a part of the badly named Race to the Top (RtTP - as if the purpose of education is a race) have led Gov. Schwarzeneggar to try to change current law which that keeps test scores from being used to evaluate teachers.

I want to share an op ed in the Sacramento Bee by 2 teachers who are part of the Accomplished California Teachers Network.  David Cohen, who teaches in upscale Palo Alto, is like me a National Board Certified Teacher and a member of the Teacher Leaders Network.  Alex Kajitani is California's current Teacher of the Year, and teaches at an inner city middle school in San Diego.  And they clearly make the case in their title: Test scores poor tool for teacher evaluation.

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