Robert A. Teegarden's Blog

December 27, 2012

“Isn’t it rich. Isn’t it queer.”

Late Night Musings while Listening to Beethoven’s 9th:

  • Barry/Barrack Hussein Sorterro/Obama is the first (half-)black American President.  This is the best we could do?  Martin Luther King, Jr., would have to rewrite his dream to where kids are known only for the color of their skin and not for the content of their character. But he is the king of hyphens.
  •  That kids in Michigan cannot buy fake, bubble gum cigarettes but they can purchase real ones anywhere.  I guess the Internet sale of bubble gum will soon be banned in Michigan.
  • That folks in the state of Washington have banned smoking in public.  But the use of Marijuana is okay.  There must be something in the water up there and it better than Olympia beer.
  • The good folks in the government/union schools of Philadelphia installed condom dispensers in several of their high schools.  This was done in the dead of night, during Christmas vacation.  It was quietly announced on a Friday night. Hmmm.  They say that parents are to be blamed if the kids take these condoms without mom and dad’s permission.  And while the dispensers are in the nurse’s office or school office, they won’t be monitored.  Students will be on the honor system apparently.  This is worse than giving a loaded gun to a six-year-old.  Here’s a real weapon of mass destruction.  These folks are destroying the moral integrity of their own children.  But they say, “It’s for the kids.”

A German pastor announced that he believes that Jesus would have a Facebook account were He here today.  “Mein Gott in Himmel.  Ich denke nicht!”  (I don’t think so.)  Jesus didn’t send a message, he sent himself.  He didn’t wire ahead to Jerusalem, he road into town on the back of an ass.  He didn’t send gifts to the wedding at Cana; he came in person.   Presence is much more important than presents.  Our problems stem from our hiding behind technology–it’s hidden, it’s impersonal, it’s empty.  When the batteries drain, when the power fails, when the lights go out–all we have is each other.

Remember:  a network is NOT a community.

The vast majority of these were written by college graduates.  That should tell you something about the state of education in the USA.

  • You can get arrested for expired tags on your car but not for being in the country illegally.
  • Your government believes that the best way to eradicate trillions of dollars of debt is to spend trillions more of our money.
  • A seven-year-old boy can be thrown out of school for calling his teacher “cute” but hosting a sexual exploration or diversity class in grade school is perfectly acceptable.
  • The Supreme Court of the United States can rule that lower courts cannot display the 10 Commandments in their courtroom, while sitting in front of a display of the 10 Commandments.
  • Hard work and success are rewarded with higher taxes and government intrusion, while some slothful behavior is rewarded with EBT cards, WIC checks, subsidized housing, and free cell phones.
  • The government’s plan for getting people back to work is to provide 99 weeks of unemployment checks (to not work).
  • Being self-sufficient is considered a threat to the government.
  • Politicians think that stripping away the amendments to the constitution is really protecting the rights of the people.
  • The rights of the Government come before the rights of the individual.
  • You pay your mortgage faithfully, denying yourself the newest big screen TV while your neighbor defaults on his mortgage (while buying iPhones, TV’s and new cars) and the government forgives his debt and reduces his mortgage (with your tax dollars).
  • Being stripped of the ability to defend yourself somehow makes you “safe”.
  • You have to have your parent’s signature to go on a school field trip or take an aspirin at school but not to get an abortion.
  • An 80 year old woman can be stripped searched by the TSA but a Muslim woman in a burka is only subject to having her neck and head searched.
  • You need a license to drive a car, or ID to cash a check, or take out a loan.  But not to VOTE.  Somehow that’s unfair.

It was reported that one large city in America was handing out cell phones with 250 prepaid minutes to the homeless.  They justified this campaign because the recipients were literally “homeless.”

Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense to give the homeless a roll of quarters?  It would be a lot cheaper.  And if they need more quarters for phone calls to potential employers, all they have to do is document how they used the previous roll: whom they called, when, to whom did they speak and what was the job they were seeking.

Another solution might be to give them a personal 800 code number they can use to make “free” calls to potential employers.  If they want to phone, they’ll find a phone.

These technological give-aways (cellphones or shoes) don’t address the issue–they only exacerbate them.  If you give a man a fish, you feed him for today.  If you teach her how to fish you feed her for a life time.

It’s time to fish or cut bait.

Cory Booker, mayor of a large New Jersey city, declared that welfare checks and cell phone programs are NOT government give-aways, but a safety net.  I once knew and worked briefly with Cory Booker and had respect for his attempts to help people.  But this video cracks that support; he seems to be selling his soul piece by piece to the latest Mephistopheles.  If he cannot distinguish honestly between a safety net and a hand-out, then he is doomed to the nether world of the Democrats.

My gosh, Cory.  When I was in the circus and fell from the high-wire act, I thanked God for the safety net beneath.  My fall was stopped.  But here’s the difference: a safety net has an exit. You eventually get off.  It catches you on the way down so you can bounce up.  What exists are there from the food stamp program?  None.  What incentives are there to get better, to exit the program, to bounce back, to rejoin the human race?  None. There used to be.  But your lord and dictator removed all of those avenues of respect and recuperation.

Let’s see… from whence does the food stamp program come?  The government.  What is the source of the revenues to pay for his program?  The government.  Where does the government get its money?  From taxes.  Whom does it tax?  You and me.  There is no program that collects funds voluntarily or by mandate specifically for food stamps.  There’s no box to check on one’s income tax that says “contribution for food stamps, check here.”  If there are no expectations, no encouragements, no end in site, it cannot be a safety net.  If each citizen doesn’t decide, then the government has stepped in.  Therefore… IT’S A HANDOUT.

What would happen if there was a box on your income tax form that said: “Check here if you would like to pay an additional $28 in taxes to fund the Food Stamp Program.”  Do you honestly think there would be more than $56 in the fund?

Truth is universal, regardless of the participants.  To enslave any people is wrong whether it’s done with chains, education/indoctrination or cell phones.

Business solution for the 21st Century.  Post a sign on your front door: “We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.  Just because you come in doesn’t mean we have to sell it to you.”

Three Benghazi questions that haven’t been asked:

  • Who wanted Ambassador Stevens killed?
  • Who benefits from his death?
  • Who has the power to cover it up?

What’s the cost of maintaining an Army?  It’s the same as the first rule in Economics: Supply and Demand.  The cost of maintaining an army is to maintain an enemy.  If there is no enemy… you get the picture.

Which is more harmful to your health?  A plane full of cell phone talkers or a plane full of smokers? You be the judge

Only in America.

  •  Could politicians talk about the greed of the rich at a $35,000 a plate campaign fund-raising event.
  • Could people claim that the government still discriminates against black Americans when they have a black President, a black Attorney General, and roughly 18% of the federal workforce is black while only 12% of the population is black.
  • Could they have had the two people most responsible for our tax code, Timothy Geithner (head of our Treasury Dept) and Charles Rangel (who once ran the Ways and Means Committee), BOTH turn out to be tax cheats who are in favor of higher taxes for American citizens.
  • Can they have terrorists kill people in the name of Allah and have our media primarily react by fretting that Muslims might be harmed by the backlash.
  • Would they make people who want to legally become American citizens wait for years in their home countries and pay tens of thousands of dollars for the privilege while we discuss letting anyone who sneaks into the country illegally just ‘magically’ become American citizens.
  • Could the people who believe in balancing the budget and sticking by the country’s Constitution be thought of as “extremists.”
  • Could people demand the government investigate whether oil companies are gouging the public because the price of gas went up when the return on equity invested in a major U.S. oil company (Marathon Oil) is less than half of a company making tennis shoes (Nike).
  • Could the government collect more tax dollars from the people than any nation in recorded history, still spend a trillion dollars more than it has per year for total spending of $7 million PER MINUTE, and complain that it doesn’t have nearly enough money.
  • Could the “rich” people who pay 86% of all income taxes be accused of not paying their “fair share” by people who don’t pay any income taxes at all.

Dear Teachers:

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become more human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.    –Haim G. Ginott

 

**”Send in the Clowns” is a song by Stephen Sondheim from the 1973 musical A Little Night Music.

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air..
Where are the clowns?

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move…
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines…
No one is there.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want…
Sorry, my dear!
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career.
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns…
Well, maybe next year.

 

 

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September 28, 2012

Public schools become abortion mills

It has been reported in several sources that at least 13 New York City schools are now in the abortion business.  It seems that Planned Parenthood has its dream come true. They’ve gotten to kids as young as 13 and provided them with the means to kill their own offspring.  And they can do all this without their parents’ knowledge and/or permission.

Some New York City schools are providing their student-wards with morning-after contraceptives. This euphemistic descriptor really means that the pill provided destroys any possible human embryo within 72 hours of sexual intercourse.  Imagine that: 13 year olds having sex outside of marriage.  But the school condones this behavior.

If a parent sent aspirin to the school for a child to take during the day, the school would require a signed note from the parent and, in some cases, a signed note from the child’s physician. The school even needs a signed parental permission slip for a so-called field trip. It seems the school cannot act in loco parentis without a parent’s signature in these cases.  And, yet, these same children are being taught that it’s ok to commit murder on their unborn child and they don’t need to tell mom and pop.  How low you can go.

The school folks say it’s part of an integrated Health program.  Since abortion is considered by them to be part of a “health” regimen (it’s not very healthy for the unborn child) it’s natural to include the day-after pills.  All of this falls on the heels of a previous policy to distribute condoms to students; they say that parents can opt-out of this program by signing a form at the beginning of the year.  So, Johnny can’t participate because his parents said “no.” So Johnny asks Juan to get him a couple because Juan’s parents didn’t bother to read or sign the opt-out forms.

School nurses have been given cause to prove inoculations of contraceptive “medications” that last up to 90 days.  Parent permission?  No.  Doctor’s note.  No.  How in the world can a school board justify this Mengele-type experimentation with children?  Have these so-called “health professionals” checked for potential allergic reactions of their wards (students)?  Have they informed their wards of the potential long-term effects of these measures?  What if the suspected pregnancy is the result of rape?  Have they reported child abuse as is required by law?  Their policy seems to be “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”  But these are children’s lives.

Condoms and contraception are not the business of the government (union) schools.  Murder should not be part of their curriculum as well.

September 11, 2012

It’s time that students and their parents strike!

Teachers can strike.  Cafeteria workers can strike.  Janitors can strike.  Support personnel in schools can strike.  Why not the students?  What happens when students don’t show up?  Who really gets hurt in a strike?

These are the worst of times, to quote the bard.  There is no best.  Because no matter what, no matter if there is a settlement, no matter when, students are hurt irreparably.  The effects cannot be undone; it’s like a lifetime scar.  You see most kids are in second grade only once (save for a few).  And when asked about it in the future, some of these strike victims will have to say, “Second grade was the toughest two years of my life.”

The energy and momentum of a new school year cannot be regained.  It’s unconscionable for these adults to pull this kind of a stunt in September.  It’s effective as a political tool, I’ll grant you that.  But it’s immoral.  It violates every ethic of their profession.  If I were the mayor I’d immediately set up a hot line to seek other teachers willing to work for the $75,000 pay.   I think he could fill those spots in a second.  Since the union broke its own contract, I’d leave them on the street.  Time for a new cast of characters really dedicated to kids.

I think it’s about time students go on strike for better teaching, better learning opportunities, more challenges, less fluff in the curriculum, competent administrators, and guarantees in their educational outcomes like those promised by the teachers’ union to their minions.  Do students have clout?  You betcha.  Schools are paid on what is called ADA, Average Daily Attendance.  If your child is not in school, schools don’t get paid.  If schools don’t get paid, teachers and staff don’t get paid.  And the longer you’re out of school the more it begins to hurt.  So let’s organize and get going, because nothing is going to improve because of this strike.

I have to note an interesting article I found over the weekend where police types were concerned about the possibility of rival gang members being placed in the same school.  They were doing all that they could to make sure this didn’t happen.  Imagine that, criminals get choices in education that law-abiding kids can’t.  Go figure.  Break the law and get school choice.

One of the major stumbling blocks, according to the union representatives, is job security.  Keeping your job is a function of your competence and nothing else.  If you can do the job and do it well—you keep it.  If you don’t, find another job.  That’s like saying to a kid, no matter what you do in four years, no matter your grades, just for being there you get to graduate.  Wait, I’m sorry, that’s what a diploma measures today.

Out of the mouths of babes: Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis said, “We must do things differently in this city if we are to provide our students with the education they so rightfully deserve.”  She’s right.  But the “differently” doesn’t include the union.

I’ve often wondered about teacher picket lines in front of schools.  Whom are they picketing? Students? Parents? Other teachers who disagree with the strike? Administrators?  While they make an impression on them, it can’t be the students.  They’re just the little widgets on the assembly line that they manipulate from 8:00 to 2:30 p.m.  about four days a week for nine and half months a year.  It might be the parents because a strike is a political act.  Maybe they’re trying to influence these parents to support them no matter what.  It might be the administrators, but then, they might have to work with these same folks at the conclusion of the strike.  But, heck, that didn’t mean anything before the strike and it shouldn’t be different after; you see, the union steps in between the administration doing their duty and the teachers doing theirs.  And when things don’t go right, whom do they blame? Administrators, that’s right.  They should fire the union instead.  It must be the other teachers who don’t agree with the strike.  All that energy expended to disallow First Amendment freedoms.  That’s shear thuggery.  Oh, I forgot, this strike is in Chicago.

Even wonder why “some schools stay open” during a strike?  Cash flow.  Remember that ADA figure above?

The second stumbling block, according to the union, was teacher evaluations—it was tied to student performance. Let’s see, Johnny starts this year at 3.1 as a third grader.  At the end of the year he’s grown to a 4.1.  He’s gained 10 months of growth for 10 months of work.  Some would say that’s par for the course.  But if a teacher has 20 students and their average only 3.2 months of growth for 10 months work, what do you think the school should do?  And the union is fighting over student progress…

The Machine—on unions.  Here’s a short piece that explains the unholy, immoral and un-American status of teachers’ unions.

By the way, did you know that 39% of the Chicago teachers have their own kids in private schools.  When they say, “It’s for the kids,” maybe they’re confusing their own for the ones in front of them.  In order to clear up this confusion, I think there out to be a law that says that if you work for the government, especially as a teacher, that your own kids have to go to government schools only.  That should clear up the confusion about loyalties.

Well, what’s a student to do?  Strike.

July 27, 2012

Obama creating African-American education office – WRONG.

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is creating a new office to bolster education of African-American students.

The White House says the office will coordinate the work of communities and federal agencies to ensure that African-American youngsters are better prepared for high school, college and career.

Obama is announcing his election-year initiative Wednesday night in a speech to the civil rights group the National Urban League as he seeks to rally black voters. Aides say his executive order, to be signed Thursday, will set a goal of producing “a more effective continuum” of programs for African-American students

Obama’s recent announcement about creating a new office to bolster the education of African-American students is a perfect example of why politics and education should never meet and why government agencies in America should get out of the business of education. The very suggestion of such an office is an affront to the American citizens in the black community because it relegates black students to the Jim Crow days of the antediluvian South, just before the Civil War and 58 years before Brown v. Board of Education (1954).  And there’s an answer to the needs in Obama’s own USDOE and staring him right in the face.  His decision to create such an office demonstrates how he will use anything, even children, as grist for his political mill.  But Obama’s efforts and announcement does admit one thing.  America’s government schools ARE failing students in the black community, among others as well.

Immediately one has to ask, “Why now?” Obama has been in office for three and one-half years.  Why does he wait this long to create such an office?  The much-tauted Arne Duncan, US Secretary of Education, has had the same time to establish programs and offices to meet these cited needs.  Have things deteriorated that much in such a short period of time?  Not in turns of educational outcomes, unfortunately.  It seems Mr. Obama is using students to regain lost prestige and influence in the Black community of Americans who have lost faith in their leader due to other unpopular political moves recently.  Politics and education just don’t mix.  But Mr. Obama hasn’t learned that lesson.

Some would argue that the entire US Department of Education (USDOE) was established for the very purpose Obama outlines.  Every mandate, every grant, every so-called “competitive grant” from the USDOE is designed to favor young American citizens of color. The department has failed consistent with the failure of their charges. Millions have been spent on programs, offices, equipment, and the employee of thousands of adults but not one cent in achievement or academic  results.  If all this money-spending had succeeded, then why the need for yet another office?  Millions of dollars have been spent but that money failed to achieve results except in two areas—private schools and voucher programs.

Besides the usurpation of the college grants program, the largest federal program for the USDOE is The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) (of which the No Child Left Behind is only the most recent iteration). NCLB has spent over $130 Billion in the past six years to create level playing fields in America’s government schools, programs designed specifically to assist the poor among us. It has failed miserably—except in one area.  The only place where the learning gap between kids of color and all others in the US has closed has been for those attending private schools!  The services rendered under NCLB for poor kids and kids of color attending private schools have had a demonstrable effect: they gained academically. The success occurred because the grants/services went to institutions that knew how to use them.

But now Obama wants to target Black American students with a new office.  He’s basically creating a separate-but-equal office just for Black students.  I thought separate-but-equal was outlawed de facto and de jure in Brown v. Board of Education back in 1954. It was found to be illegal to create a separate program just for black students, separate from all others.  How about the rest of America?  Will he create an office for Hispanic students when he needs their parents’ vote?  How about Syrian-Americans or Muslim-Americans? Will they also get an office?   The very purpose of education is to bring kids out of that singular experience that is theirs into the greater whole of mankind’s experience. You know, e pluribus unum.  Obama hasn’t learned that lesson as well.

The greater irony in this case is that the answer lies right in front of him: the Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) in Washington, DC.  The OSP provides a voucher to needy students (kids of color) to attend the school of their choice, usually a private school. In order to give these students this opportunity, the political dynamics required the buy-out of the local teachers’ union.  But the program succeeded because the students succeeded.  Indeed, the USDOE’s own research has demonstrated the success of the OSP program. The students in this program were “better prepared for high school, college, and career.”  But Obama defunded the program.  Twice.  He put these kids and their families on an educational roller coaster than is unconscionable. Just as they were making progress he pulled the rug out from under them.  The problem was that they were succeeding and he wasn’t.

Education, while valued at a national level, is NOT a Federal issue. Nowhere in the Constitution will you find any reference to schooling… NOWHERE.  It’s not their job.  Likewise, when the USDOE was established under the then Carter administration, the lawmakers included exacting and express restrictions on the office from influencing and/or interfering with schooling at the local level in any way, shape, or form.  This includes creating “a more effective continuum,” whatever that means. That descriptor is vague enough to drive a truck through: it could allow anything.

More money is not the problem, that’s been proven time and time again. American schools have plenty of money; they just don’t spend what they have wisely. Classroom size reduction is not the answer, that’s been proven by research over 270 times. Early Childhood education isn’t the answer; Headstart research has demonstrated that all the skills learned in their program were lost by the time the student reached second grade in the government schools. A new bureaucracy is not the answer, that’s been demonstrated year-after-year since 1965.  Separating kids off into separate-but-equal programs is not the answer, let alone for the fact that it’s against the law. Mandates from Washington are not the answer; that’s like crowd control from the air—it never works.

The answer lies is in competition and parental choice at the local level.  Give parents the opportunity to choose what is best for their kids and they will. And those students will succeed.  We don’t need new offices, new systems, and more regulations.  Simply distribute the funds available per child each year and stick it into the backpack of every school-age student and have their parents decide where they should go.  All kids, regardless of their background or color, will succeed. The key is to get government out of the business and out of the way.

July 20, 2012

Chip-Readers, Scanners and Stud­­ents­­­

On March 20,1933, the new leader of Germany (since January of that same year) established a concentration camp in the Bavarian town of Dachau, a camp for political prisoners—people who disagreed with his politics and that of the status quo.  In April of that same year, the new government of Germany entered into a relationship with the newly-named IBM company to use its developing technology to help identify and catalog the ethnic identification of the 41million residents of Prussia. The American parent company sent over 7,000,000 reichsmarks (about $1 million) to Berlin to build IBM’s first factory in Germany.  It’s estimated that over 60,000 German citizens were housed in Dachau by the end of April that same year.

Fast-forward about 70+ years and now we have Northside Independent School District in Texas planning to “track students” using technology “implanted” in their student identification cards.  They say it’s a trial.

Now these are not passive identification cards like your state driver’s license.  Swiping your driver’s license into an appropriate reader shares a lot of information about you.  But, at least, it requires a scanner then and there.  Not so these new student chips.  No, these so-called identification cards will include what are called RFID tags (Radio Frequency Identification System) somewhat like the GPS tags that are in most cell phones today.  With the appropriate scanner, not only can one identify your name, age, gender, nationality and any other data collected about you, but this chip allows the scanner to identify where you’re located.

The district says it’s all about student safety, but they readily admit that students can be counted more accurately (than their teachers?) at the beginning of the school day to help “offset cuts in state funding,” which is partly based on student attendance.  While they say it’s for safety, it’s more about money and, I believe, the loss of liberty.

The  district notes that this technology will also be for all special education students who ride district buses.

“We want to harness the power of (the) technology to make schools safer, know where our students are all the time in a school, and increase revenues,” district spokesman Pascual Gonzalez said. “Parents expect that we always know where their children are, and this technology will help us do that.” If student attendance is unknown to the professionals in this district now, having a machine count them doesn’t necessarily make kids safer.

The district also noted that the “chip readers on campuses and on school buses can detect a student’s location but can’t track them once they leave school property. Only authorized administrative officials will have access to the information.”  The problem here is that only the school’s scanners “can’t track” students once they leave school property.  Others can.  If only authorized administrative officials have access to the information, how are the teachers to know and/or confirm that students are present?  How does this make things safer?

Imagine a Tom Clancy type-novel where the bad gal gets a hold of a copy of Who’s Who in San Antonio.  It lists the richest families by name.  Our villainess cross references that data to the other data that she’s scans out there on these student identification cards and voila; she finds the exact location of her prey.  Far-fetched, you say?  The US military uses the very same technology to locate soldiers in the field.  It can be done.  It is being done.  If the school is providing a radio-frequency identification chip for their students, student safety might as well be thrown to the wind or the first drone to fly over.

Families weren’t asked if they wished to participate in this so-called pilot program. This isn’t a volunteer program. They’re getting the RFID-tagged cards.  And officials note that students could leave the card at home, which defeats the entire purpose for the system.  The school noted that the cards cost $15 each and, if lost, a student will have to pay for a new one. The article did not say whether parents were required to pay the initial purchase or not.  Nor did they say if a student were to leave their card at home whether they’d be taxed (penalized) for not carrying it.

Why these schools in this district? A district representative noted “the district picked schools with lower attendance rates and staff willing to pilot the tags.” It’s the “attendance rates” that are a problem, not student safety. They need more money.  I love the euphemism “pilot the tags.” Apparently the teachers are unable to motivate students to attend or to count the ones who do.  The problems experienced in this district have little to nothing to do with student safety. Do the teachers have to carry these tags as well?  Maybe that would help their budget problems in a much simpler way.  But if the teachers refuse to “pilot the tags” themselves, why should their students?

The RFID cards have been compared to security cameras. They’re really more like 24/7 drones with cameras.  I need to remind these citizens of the Fourth Amendment of their Constitution.  It says:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

It’s been noted in previous juris prudence that a child does not check their Constitutional rights at the school house door. Just because they attend a government/union school doesn’t mean that they must give up their right to be secure in their persons.  Being tracked electronically is not one of those reasonable exceptions to the rule.

The school district runs a terrible risk by mandating such a program.  They are putting their students at risk from outside sources. Whether the tracking is done by electronics or tattoos, it’s wrong.

February 18, 2012

Outcomes in Education

Outcomes in Education

 Parents, have you ever thought about why you send your child to school? Is it because the law says you must? Is it because everyone else does?  Or are there more substantial reasons why you send your sons and daughters off to learn their 4 Rs?

The second question undergirds the first. In today’s world you either pay for your child’s education with your taxes and/or with cash.  Parents who send their children to private schools wind up paying twice.  They pay their taxes for a service they don’t redeem and they pay tuition.  Now that just doesn’t seem fair at all.  Parents who send their children to the government (“public”) schools don’t pay tuition (although there are more and more charges for labs, sports, AP classes, etc., today) but they do pay upwards of 50% of their taxes for their child’s education.  This so-called “free education” is not really free at all; in fact it’s pretty expensive compared to the outcomes in private schools.  Are you getting your money’s worth?  If you had to shell out a monthly payment instead of the hidden costs and payments through the tax rolls, I wonder if you might make a change.  Here’s why…

Following are 22 possible outcomes for K-12 education.  Read through the list.  This is a mental exercise to help clarify your choices and ambitions with regard to your child/ren.  Rank your choices!  Rank them from the highest, most important, as #1 and the least important as #22.  Granted many of them are intrinsically linked—but the choice is yours.  Push is coming to shove in our world.  Only certain things will be taught, caught, encouraged and allowed.  Schooling is not just about what is being taught, but what isn’t being included.  Which do you want for your child/ren?  When things get tough, when we get down to brass tacks, what is the ultimate outcome you would wish for your children’s K-12 schooling?

[    ]          Behaves appropriately at all times.

[    ]          Knows about/appreciates peoples of other races, ethnic groups and religions.

[    ]          Can enjoy a number of cultural activities.

[    ]          Has the basic skills for acquiring and communicating knowledge.

[    ]          Can get along with teachers and classmates.

[    ]          Has a desire to learn; more intellectually curious.

[    ]          Respects authority; understands duties and obligations.

[    ]          Is informed of occupational opportunities and how people prepare for them.

[    ]          (For faith based) Knows basic doctrines and commandments of the church.

[    ]          Has good health habits and an appreciation of the body.

[    ]          Is prepared to enter personally worthwhile programs in high school/college.

[    ]          Learns material given by the teacher.

[    ]          (Faith based) Attends services regularly and is engaged in faith community.

[    ]          Seeks service to others: family, church community, wider community.

[    ]          Capable of figuring things out alone—an independent thinker.

[    ]          Can manage personal finances and has wise buying habits.

[    ]          Has an individual sense of values; has high personal moral standards.

[    ]          Loyal to the American way of  life.

[    ]          Has a realistic understanding of responsibilities/opportunities of family life.

[    ]          Is an emotionally stable person

[    ]          Is a good person.

[    ]          Is able to get a job.

If you could only choose five, which would they be?

If you could only choose three, which would they be?

If there had to be one, which would it be?

Interesting!

June 15, 2010

Bailout for Public Schools – Every Man/Woman for Himself/Herself

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, authored a missive a week before last for the Wall Street Journal entitled “Public Schools Need a Bailout.”  She advocated for the  swift-boat passage of $23 billion in bailout funds for America’s schools, government schools only.  Weingarten posits that failing these bailout dollars would be tantamount to robbing “an entire generation of students of the well-rounded education they need and deserve.”  One has to ask about the two or three generations that have been failed thus far by the system she wants to bail out–one of three students won’t make it from ninth to twelfth grade, 50% of those who graduate with honors and matriculate at a state college or university will have to take remedial courses just to survive entrance, and 60% of the students attending community college will have to do the same.

When I hear the word “bailout” I’m immediately reminded of the likes of Spencer Tracy having to leave his burning B-25 aircraft after a treacherous but successful raid on some synthetic rubber plant in Tokyo during World War II.  One after the other, the crew leaves the crippled ship, each gliding to safety and a hopeful future under the open canopy of their parachute.  The parachute silk in WWII was white; I’m thinking Ms. Weingarten was thinking more along the lines of a golden parachute, one that protects the adults, but not the students.

 The other image is of that forlorn lifeboat adrift in mid-Pacific.  In high waves and troubled seas, the captain gives the order for everyone to “bail.” All hands muster the energy to remove water from their craft and thus save them all; all try to avoid this harmful situation.  The first rule of sailing is that you cannot run from the wind, you face the music, trim your sails and carry on.  But in the case of Weingarten’s ship of state I have to ask, “Who’s really being saved by this magic bullet bailout?”

Since the early 50s, state teachers’ unions have lobbied, threatened and sued to place their funding (salaries that amass into union dues) as a percentage of each state’s fiscal budget—automatically.  They’ve spent years bloating their budgets to provide what he describes as this “well-rounded education.” Now that the states experience the need to tighten belts, spend less and be more transparent stewards of these fiscal responsibilities, the unions cry, “That’s not fair; we need more.” Why?  It’s for the children.

The author echoes her worst fears throughout his piece.  There will be “sharp reductions (in teachers),” “cutting to the bone,” “eliminating classroom teachers,” “teachers and other school personnel will receive pink slips.”  A good crises is, indeed, a terrible thing to waste.  Ever notice that so-called cuts never seem to occur to the credentialed teachers who don’t have a classroom; in some states there is one “extra” teacher for every classroom teacher.  How come the cuts never reach into the higher echelons of administrators and directors… or union representatives?

Weingarten acknowledges, however, that school reforms are under way, though, “some of the most effective reform efforts in decades.”  Her conclusions about these reforms, however, just don’t follow.  Money is the key to Weingarten’s reforms; money, more money is needed to bring about the changes necessary.

When confronted with the legislative process that government spenders have developed over the years, she cries, “Foul.”  Forget the add-ons, forget the earmarks, forget “everyone’s favorite education initiatives.”  We need a clean bill.  We just need more money.  The funny thing about educational reform and the cry for more money is that we never hear what “enough” really is.  What is adequate? What does it really cost? When is enough enough?   We’re spending close to $25,000 per student in the nation’s capitol and reaping what?  Number one in spending, 51st of 51 states and the District of Columbia in academic progress.  How much more is needed to achieve these taunted reforms of which she speaks?

They had a solution to the academic achievement  problems in DC up through this year; it cost about one-third of the current spending.  When Congress and the Obama administration cancelled the Washington Scholarship Fund, they rang a death knell for the next generation of students in DC.  They cancelled it for political reasons.  So much for the education of the public.

The union boss goes on to suggest that “public schools” are like Wall Street—they’re too big to fail. But failure in this case is not so much due to the recent downturn in the state economies.   Failure has occurred because of the four-fold spending increases that have occurred since 1983, a period in which the student population only increased by about nine percent.  This “well-rounded” spending matrix is at the heart of the problems/crises experienced by schools.  To suggest that they’re too big to fail borders on the height of arrogance and chutzpah. This is one of the problems.

Now don’t get me wrong.  We must support and protect the education of the public in America. But that doesn’t mean that we continue to make the same mistakes year after year.  Our students deserve better; we all deserve better  The problem is that the monopoly that is called “public education” in American has absolute no resemblance to the economic conditions that make this country great.  There is little to no competition and there is no choice in the matter.  What we have in American schooling more closely resembles the nineteenth century Prussian state, or more recently the five-year plan of the failed Soviet Union.  Coerced attendance, forced placement and no recourse are not the stuff of the American dream.  Most government schools and school systems have become iatrogenic: they tend to foster the very problems they were designed to overcome.  But look at what Florida’s achieved.

Florida’s fourth-grade, low poverty Hispanic kids are currently scoring higher in reading and math than the entire fourth grade averages of at least 15 other states.  They didn’t achieve this remarkable success because they kept asking for more money.  On the contrary, the legislature and governor got behind a complex serious of reforms that attacked the core obsolescence of years of draconian spending, false reporting, and coerced failure.  They ended social promotion, they linked promotion to the passage of certain testing protocols, they gave parents transparent measures about their own school’s progress and they gave families a broad and real choice in the education of their children.  It’s a model I highly recommend.

While she does tug at the heart strings, Ms. Weingarten’s piece is biased toward her own agenda not necessarily the truth, her sense of the social structure of America’s government education is skewed only toward adults, her grammar and syntax lean on hyperbole, and a Clintonian-spin of the facts.

It’s time for a change. But change won’t occur in a magic-bullet sort of way.  Real, systemic change can only occur from within—from the people—the parents of kids in school.  Legislatures might flirt with the ideas, but fundamental adjustment and changes will be born at the local level when people exercise choice to educate America’s public. It’s time we abandon the man-overboard drills every funding cycle and finally invest in every child in America by giving them the wherewithal and the ability to choose a school they wish for their children.

May 25, 2010

Arizona’s Parent Rights Bill

In the waning days of the Arizona legislature this year, the lawmakers passed an extraordinary law—S.B. 1309.  Quietly, without fanfare or spotlight this new law slipped into place.  Parents now have a new chapter in the Arizona Codes, Chapter 6 of the Education Code.  The new insert falls right in between the chapter on School Employees and the chapter on Instruction… as it should.  The chapter is entitled “Parents’ Rights.”  This new code outlines remarkable things and fundamental relationships.

The authors indicate that what follows are a parent’s fundamental rights as a parent in this state.  They even go so far as to say that the contents of this new Chapter 6 are not exclusive, that is, they are only part of a parent’s inalienable rights.  Now those are heavy-weight words, constitutional-type words.  Inalienable means these rights cannot be transferred to another or surrendered except by the person possessing them.  The only person who has these rights is a parent.  No one else can presume to share in this authority unless a parent specifically transfers that right.  What are these rights?

Only parents may direct the upbringing, education, health care and mental health of their children.  This means that only parents may direct their children’s education without obstruction or interference by any official of the state.  Parents have the right to access and review all records relating to the child… all records.  It means that only parents are responsible for the moral or religious training.  All health care decisions fall to the parent.  Government agencies must seek out a parent’s signed permission prior to exercising anything that would infringe on these rights.

Obviously, this does not allow a parent or guardian to engage in any behaviors that are unlawful or that abuse or neglect children in violation of the law. 

But Chapter 6 goes a bit further.  It specifies that any attempt to encourage or coerce a minor child to withhold information from his/her parent is grounds for the discipline of an employee of the state.  It seems that no one or nothing should stand between a child and her/his parents.  Wow!

There are restrictions on the procedures used to include materials and programs in a (government) school’s curriculum.  Parents have the right to opt in to specific sex education curriculum for their children; opting in means that the district cannot presume to include their children without prior written permission. Parents have a right to know of the competency requirements to promote a student from one grade to the next.  Parents have the right to review all courses of study and textbooks.   

The authors include a prohibition against what is called “mental health screening.”  Without a parent’s permission, this exercise could constitute a Class 1 misdemeanor; this is serious stuff.

Chapter 6 requires (government) school districts to establish procedures whereby parents may be apprised of their rights under this new code as well as all the laws of the state.  They are also directed to develop the process by which children may be withdrawn from any learning material or activity that is deemed harmful by the parent because it questions beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion. I only hope that whatever procedures are chosen are better than that two inch thick envelope given on the first day of school, a day fraught with confusion and chaos.  And I pray that permission slips are distributed and collected as needed throughout the year, not once-and-for-all up front in the beginning of the year.

Arizona’s new chapter could as easily be called “parenthood.”  This is a lot of the stuff of being a parent.  But the code is correct in this regard: it places this awesome responsibility clearly on the shoulders of the primary educator—the parent—and no one else.  I believe the Arizona Legislature got this one right. It seems rather obvious. I encourage you to read the entire section.

One has to wonder, though, why the voting record in both the House and Senate were split on this issue and the reasons why the lawmakers had to author this common sense language in the first place.

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