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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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by: teacherken

Sat Mar 06, 2010 at 09:34:28 AM EST

It is a Saturday morning.  By yesterday afternoon I was so exhausted I left school without some of what I need to plan, albeit only for Thursday and Friday for my AP classes.  When I got home I was too tired to sleep -  the conflict between desperately needing sleep and being unable to fall asleep.  So I began to reflect, a process that continued subconsciously when I finally slept, and during the two times I awoke during that almost ten hour before I awoke a short time ago.

Reflection can be a deliberate process, a slowing down, stepping back, examination of things about oneself, around oneself.  My training as a teacher has always included that as an essential element.  It can also be something else - a not fully rational process, something operating almost in the background while one is in the midst of doing other things, but which arises and insists on full attention when one ceases the activities which have kept in in the background.  

I find I now want my reflection to be deliberate.  For that to happen, I write.  So it is this morning.  Hence this diary.

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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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If we are going to have national standards in education

by: teacherken

Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 06:11:42 AM EST

then something that should be included, for teachers and administrators, as well as students, are these words:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

We think the action of the local authorities in compelling the flag salute and pledge transcends constitutional limitations on their power and invades the sphere of intellect and spirit which it is the purpose of the First Amendment to our Constitution to reserve from all official control.

They were written by Robert Jackson, as part of the opinion of the Court, in the 1943 (note the date) case of WEST VIRGINIA STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL. v. BARNETTE ET AL., 319 U.S. 624.   And recent events in a school in the DC suburb makes it clear why everyone should know about this case.

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On gays in the military - two columnists, two arguments ... and more

by: teacherken

Sun Feb 07, 2010 at 07:15:39 AM EST

From liberal Frank Rich in the New York Times, repealing DADT is the right thing to do, and besides, at this point most conservatives know better than to make an issue of it, because the politics, especially among independents, is against them.  Look at new Senator Scott Brown, who may be with them on financial issues, but like independent is not on social issues, because after all, in Massachusetts gay marriage is a settled issue.

From conservative Kathleen Parker in the Washington Post, there is no right to serve in the military.  The real issue is military effectiveness.  DADT is hurting the effectiveness of the military.  Besides, her former Marine brother, who used to strongly oppose gays serving openly, now says leave it to the troops.  But remember, no one has a right to serve.

And from me?  I'm not a columnist.  Leaders should lead.  DADT was wrong when Clinton was President, it is wrong now.  And politically, most young people want to know what all the fuss about gays is about.

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Education Hell: Rhetoric vs. Reality

by: teacherken

Mon Feb 01, 2010 at 05:40:02 AM EST

When teachers are forced, against their better judgment, to focus on teaching test content to the exclusion of almost everything else, I can only conclude that the high-stakes testing movement nourishes totalitarian regimes.

If the title did not grab you, I suspect that if you really care about what is happening to American public schools, that quote should get your attention.  It is from the introduction to the final book by the late Gerald W. Bracey, taken from us too soon this past October.  

This is a book that will give you all the ammunition you need to oppose the so-called reformers who, despite their professed best intentions, are destroying American public education.  

The book has an additional subtitle, Transforming the Fire Consuming America's Schools, which makes clear Bracey's opposition to much of what has been happening in the past decade or more.  I invite to you come with me on a further exploration of the book, and of Bracey.

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On this day . . . . on any day . . . .

by: teacherken

Sat Jan 30, 2010 at 08:57:38 AM EST

Regular readers of my diaries are aware that it is not unusual for me to focus on an event of the day, perhaps a birthday, a death, an important event.  Some days, such as the birth of Beethoven (Dec 16) or Mozart (Jan 27) are ingrained in my DNA as one intimately involved with music since my earliest years.  Others, such as the 1963 Civil Rights March (Aug 28) I know because I was there.  Then of course there are the personal dates -  the birthdays of my spouse (Jan 29) and me (May 23), or of our shared events (encountering one another at the Bryn Mawr train station - Sept 21;  1st date - Sept 27; wedding - Dec 29).

Each day I check on the events connected with the date, in part because as  teacher I often find teachable moments, perhaps for my students, perhaps in my writing.  I use a number of sites, among which is Scope Systems (which is sometimes a bit off, so I do crosscheck their info).

This morning I cannot focus on one event - I find myself overwhelmed with history.  

Let me explain

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Schools should teach students about gay equality

by: teacherken

Fri Jan 29, 2010 at 10:43:23 AM EST

also posted at the Great Orange Satan

Imagine a political leader saying that.  In fact, imagine a conservative political leader saying that.  Imagine him saying:  

We do need good sex and relationship education. That education should teach people about equality and the sort of country we are - that we treat people the same whether they are straight or gay, or black or white or a man or a woman. It is important that ethos is embedded in our schooling.

You don't have to imagine.  It happened.  In Britain.  The words are from David Cameron, Conservative Party Leader, and the main probably possibly poised to become the next Prime Minister of the UK.  You can read about it in this piece in The Guardian.

Once upon a time conservatives in America looked at what the Conservative party in Britain did for their model of what to do, e.g. Maggie Thatcher on privatization.  Perhaps we can remind them of that as we suggest they read this article?

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An important book about educational equity and our national future

by: teacherken

Sun Jan 24, 2010 at 07:06:23 AM EST

What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children.  Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy.

The words were penned by John Dewey for his 1900 work The School and Society.  You will encounter them as a epigraph to the 9th and final chapter of an important new work on education.  The Flat World and Education: How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determine Our Future is a comprehensive work by Linda Darling-Hammond that examines a wide range of materials that will help the reader understand the real issues in education in an America that is increasingly diverse in its student population.  As James Banks notes in his introduction, we face a crisis, one which Darling-Hammond documents while telling us what will happen if we fail to act and the specific actions we can take to achieve educational equity and create "a more democratic and just society."

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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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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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When "political sense" makes poor public policy : health care and undocumented aliens

by: teacherken

Sun Sep 13, 2009 at 08:16:07 AM EDT

Rep. Joe Wilson called out "You lie" when President Obama said that the health care plan would not cover illegal immigrants. On this the President may be technically correct.  And certainly that is the politically popular approach to take.  

I disagree with the President on public policy grounds.  I especially disagree with him because I teach in a public school.  And I finally decided to write directly on this topic because of Nicholas Kristof's column this morning.  In The Body Count at Home he writes about a young woman who died for lack of health care, about whom T. R. Reid writes in a powerful new book.  Kristof writes of her,

Indeed, if Nikki had been a felon, the problem could have been averted, because courts have ruled that prisoners are entitled to medical care.
  That is where I start.
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This Is My Favorite Weekend of the School Year

by: teacherken

Sat Jun 13, 2009 at 06:21:02 AM EDT

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

Yesterday my students had to turn in their final "fun" projects. This is the weekend where I go through them all, where they blow me away with their insight and their skill.  They have only a very few requirements to the project.

They are not allowed to write an essay or do a research paper.

They must put in a minimum amount of time (most far exceed it).

They have to show me they learned something.

I tell them to have fun.

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Brown v Board of Education after 55 years

by: teacherken

Sun May 17, 2009 at 07:35:53 AM EDT

( - promoted by KathyinBlacksburg)

Fifty-five years ago today the Supreme Court of the United States unanimously issued Earl Warren's opinion in Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, in which it stated unequivocally that
Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.
  And yet even after 55 years the promise of the Brown decision we still have not overcome what is effectively a system of educational apartheid.

Below the fold I am offering the text of a piece by Sam Chaltain, the National Director of The Forum for Education and Democracy.  I am going to urge you to read carefully his words.  I will offer a few additional comments of my own, but the primary purpose of this diary is to make Sam's statement more widely known.

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NY Times Op Ed All Should Read: Iowa Family Values

by: teacherken

Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 07:22:33 AM EDT

originally posted at Daily Kos

Iowa Family Values begins like this:  

IF it weren't for Iowa, my family may never have existed, and this gay, biracial New Yorker might never have been born.
  The author, Steven Thraser, is a writer and media producer.  And he tells us about his parents 1958 marriage in Council Bluffs Iowa.  His Black Father and White Mother could not get married in Nebraska, where they lived -  that state would not abolish its antimiscegination laws for an additional 5 years (although even that was before the 1967 SCOTUS decision of Loving v Virginia which finally outlawed the racial bar).  The obstacles they faced at home?  
My mom's brother tried to have the Nebraska state police bar her from leaving the state so she couldn't marry my dad, which was only the latest legal indignity she had endured. She had been arrested on my parents' first date, accused of prostitution. (The conventional thought of the time being: Why else would a white woman be seen with a black man?)
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