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.




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.

June 28, 2012

Haim G. Ginott’s quote from “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers” (Haim G. Ginott):

Filed under: Uncategorized — by Robert @ 12:47 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Haim G. Ginott’s quote from “Teacher and Child: A Book for Parents and Teachers” (Haim G. Ginott):

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

April 29, 2012

How Far We Have Come — Or Not



“Facts are Stubborn Things” – John Adams

What follows is a verbatim copy of an 8th grade test from 1954.  It is a test on the US Constitution. The teacher’s name is  Mrs. Mildred Niemiec and the student’s name is Kenny Hignite.  Here’s a Photostat copy.  Kenny did well; he score a 98.5%.  Can your 8th grade student/child do this well?  Is this material even being taught in your child’s school? High School? College?

1.-20. List the cabinet positions and the people who hold these positions at the present time.

20.-29.  Give the names of the justices of the Supreme Court

30.-51.  Tell the Provisions of each of the amendments to the Constitution.

52.       What is the Bill of Rights? ____________________ ____________________

53.       Who is the President of the U.S.? ____________________ ____________________

54.       Who is the Vice Vice-President of the U.S.? ____________________ ____________________

55.       What is an unwritten law? ____________________ ____________________

57.       Two things necessary to any good government are? ____________________ ____________________

58.       The plan of government for the U.S. is the? ____________________

59.       A constitutional law is? ____________________

60.       An unconstitutional law is? ____________________

61.       A law is declared unconstitutional by the? ____________________

62.       The President chooses a cabinet in order to? ____________________

63.       The Constitution grants all lawmaking powers to? ____________________

64.-65. The two houses of Congress are? ____________________

66.       The Constitution established two houses of Congress because? ____________________

67.       The number of representatives from each state is determined by? ____________________

68.       The Speaker of the House is? ____________________

69.       The number of Senators from each state is? ____________________

70.       A Senator is elected for? ____________________

71.       The presiding officer of the Senate is? ____________________

72.       The Vice-President does not have a vote in the Senate unless? ____________________

73.       A president pro tempore is? ____________________

74.       The life of each Congress is? ____________________

75.       Congress convenes in regular session on ? ____________________

76.       The President may call Congress into a special session? ____________________

77.       The power to enforce the laws is given to ? ____________________

78.       The President’s term of office is? ____________________

79.       If a President dies, he is succeeded by? ____________________

80.       The President must be a _______________ citizen.

81.       How old must a President be? ____________________

82.       The oath of office is administered to the President by ? ____________________

83.       The President takes office on? ____________________

84.       the President can make treaties if ? ____________________

85.       The highest law of the land is ? ____________________

86.       The Supreme Court may annul laws ? ____________________

87.       A quorum in Congress is? ____________________

88.       A filibuster is? ____________________

89.       The number of Supreme Court justices is? ____________________

90.       A writ of habeas corpus is? ____________________

91.       A bill of attainder is? ____________________

92.       An ex post facto law is? ____________________

93.       A reprieve is? ____________________

94.       A pardon is? ____________________

95.       Who regulates inter-state commerce? ____________________

96.       What is naturalization? ____________________

97.       What is piracy? ____________________

98.       Does a dictator consider the welfare of the people? ____________________

99.       Can a government function without the power to raise money? ____________________

100.    Do wealth and power alone make a nation happy? ____________________

Extra Credit:   Write the Preamble to the Constitution

How did you do?  How are your kids doing? Isn’t it about time we demand academics and not training?  If your school can’t/won’t, find one that will.  Hurry!

February 22, 2012

When God Created Principals

Filed under: Education,principals — by Robert @ 12:45 pm
Tags: , ,

When the Lord created principals, the heavenly workshop looked like the aftermath of a great holocaust.

“What a mess!” exclaimed an angel.  “Who’s in charge here?”

“I am,” responded the Lord.

“Oh, excuse me, Lord,” said the angel, “but you see I was concerned about all the debris here, you know.  And, what with attractive nuisances and the children running around…”

“Not to worry,” said the Lord.  “I’ve got it all under control.  The children won’t be harmed from all this.  I’m creating a principal for them.”

“A principal?” asked the angel, “of a school?”

‘Well, that’s where you’d usually find one,” answered the Lord.  “But there’s more to it than that.  You see, there  are five basic designs and I’m just at the composite stage.”

“That they may all be one?” queried the angel.

“In a manner of speaking, yes,” said the Lord.

“Is this going to take long, Lord?” asked the angel.  “What with the next field trip coming through here in an hour, I don’t know if…”

“It’ll only take a minute,” said the Lord.  “But it will also last a lifetime.  It’s like the first model here. I call it the Hallmark.”

“The Hallmark?” asked the angel.

“When you care enough to send the very best,” said the Lord.  “You see, this is the one doctors and lawyers call ‘in loco parentis.’”

“Lord!”  the angel reacted.  “Such language, even here in the workshop.”

“I can see your Latin has slipped since the vernacular,” answered the Lord.  “loco parentis means you send yourself…  the best that you can give. The Hallmark is the loving, caring parent in all principals.  You see, it has broad shoulders to help with the swings, a large set of  hands to hold all the contents of a six-year-old’s pocket, a lap like a mother’s, that disappears when it stands up, and when it has to do some thinking, intelligent feet that…”

“Intelligent feet?” chortled the angel.  “I suppose you’re going to say next that it has four sets of eyes.”

“How observant you are!” scolded the Lord.  “That’s the Bionic model over here.  You see, this is the model with the photographic memory for remembering all those names, personalities, and families.  It has a set of eyes here for long-distance yard duty and the x-ray set for seeing behind the field buildings.  Then it has the set in front here that listen to every detail of situations.”

“Eyes that listen?” wondering the angel out loud.

“And eyes that speak!” retorted the Lord.  “Eyes that say, ‘you’re wrong and you know it, but I love you just the same.’  Eyes that say, ‘you blew it,’ ‘you’re out!’ ‘no,’ ‘you can’t.’  But eyes that always say, ‘I’m for you.  You can do it.  Try.’”

“But Lord,” challenged the angel.  “The drain on that one would need an energy source as large as Hoover dam.”

“True enough, my friend,” said the Lord.  “But it, too, does not live on bread alone.  Look here at the Univac model.  This one knows all the names of all the graduates of the school,  knows where they are and what they’re doing in life, and gives a welcome ear of support.  It also has an insatiable appetite to learn new ways of solving age-old problems:  problems like loneliness, heartbreak, failure, mistrust, and greed.  It has all these things and can yet support and encourage.”

“I think you overloaded this one,” said the angel.  “The hands are a nervous twitter.”

“Oh, that’s the Xerox model,” said the Lord.  “It has to type 200 words per minute, balance all ledger accounts, keep track of student council funds, be a master printer, a resident postman, a speed dialer on the phone…”

“How come there’s no hair on the hands?” asked the angel.

“That’s from getting burned too often,” said the Lord.  “You know, those cold winter mornings when the furnace goes out and you get a frantic call about the temperature in Room 3. Later on it’s  parents, teachers, school boards, district boards, government intrusions, police, fire and a host of other departments.”

“There’s a leak in that one, Lord,” said the angel.

“That’s the Humilitas model,” answered the Lord.  “It’s not a leak; it’s a tear.”

“What’s it for?” asked the angel.

“It’s for the ain of sometimes knowing too much and not being able to share.  It’s for standing alone, even among your friends.  It’s for realizing there’s so much to be done, and so little time in which to do it. It’s for seeing too much time being spent on making a living and not enough on making life.  It’s for the job of birth and the pain of death.  It’s for letting children in small bodies and in large bodies know that their onceness with me doesn’t really count as long as their isness really am.”

“Your grammar, Lord!” exclaimed the angel.

“That, too,” said the Lord.

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.

April 27, 2010

Hawaii’s Days of Infamy: Redux

Or… “Robbing Iniki to pay Pele.”

For those not familiar with either, Iniki is the name of the famous hurricane that passed dead-center through the island of Kauaii on 9/11/1992.  We’re told that one could not find a frog on that devastated island for five years hence.  Pele is the goddess of the volcano. Prior to the arrival of Captain Cook in January of 1778, the Hawaiians held blood-letting sacrifices to Pele by tossing virgins (male and female) into the fiery calderas—this was to atone, appease, or appeal. Kids in Hawaii are still being thrown into the fires today, albeit political fires.  I’m not sure which burns brighter but a sacrifice is still a sacrifice.

 Governor Lingle, the state School Board and the teachers’ union are at it… again.  Most of the story was covered in my first blog. But this week’s works again strain credulity. If the state lawmakers would approve, funds would be shifted from the Hurricane Relief Fund to “restore 11 teacher furlough days” next year.  The Hurricane Relief Fund is Iniki, and Pele is the cartel of the teacher’s union, state School Board et al.  The equation is elementary: education + politics = $$$.

 The Hurricane Relief Fund was established as a cushion to provide insurance policies specifically in the event of hurricane damage, insurance that was jeopardized and almost extinct after the fiscal disaster that was Iniki. but something required by law.  If you have a mortgage, you have to have it.  Now, the state policy folks are going to shift $57.2 million of those dollars over so that teachers will go back to work for 11 days next year.  Wow!  Sounds reminiscent of Social Security.  What happens if there is another hurricane in the near future?  Will the teachers and their organizations pay the damages?

 But there’s more to it than the crass politics.  It seems the very “Aloha Spirit” that was once common to the islands is itself being swallowed up by politics.  The politics and reporting seem one-sided.  The Honolulu Advertiser noted that parents in the Save Our Schools organization praised Governor Lingle’s actions and hoped that she would tap into more restricted funds and chase after the stimulus funds from Washington.  No where did they speak about site-by-site investigations to determine where costs could be cut further. It’s been three months.  They noted that the Governor wants “to get the kids back to school this year and the next.”  What about the teachers and the unions?  The governor noted that “they want to return to the classroom.”  But have they?

 There has been a lot of hurt.  Healing is needed.  “Good faith” is being tested in every corner.  More than gestures of support are needed to recapture that Aloha Spirit, that trust that once marked an entire culture.   Above all, there needs to be clarity in their analysis and deliberations. As an example, if parents took their children out of school for the times suggested they could be brought up on charges; but when the unions do that, there’s no consequence. Why is that?  What about the promise of (at least) 180 school days and a “world class education?”  Where’s the voice of the young ones sacrificed in this caldera of conflict?

 Everyone needs to start asking much larger questions?

  • What happened to the $600 million surplus in the education budget in 2006-07?
  • Isn’t  $12,786.83 per student spending enough to get the job done?  Or maybe we should ask: When is enough enough?  $200,000 per classroom revenues should be sufficient.  Maybe should look elsewhere for cuts.
  • Are you getting your money’s worth:
    • 4th grade reading – 46th of 50 states; 8th grade reading – 46th of 50 states
    • 4th grade math – 41st of 50 states; 8th grade math – 48th of 50 states.
    • Why would the government want to force children to attend obviously inferior schools when cost-effective alternatives are available, usually on the same block?

 The Enquirer also noted that Hawaii made national news when a group of parents “began a sit-in at the governor’s office in protest of the teacher days.”  They seem to have also forgotten that in education it takes three to teach:  a parent, a student and a teacher.  In government schools, if takes even more: student, parents, teachers, unions.  Why were there no sit-ins at the union offices, at the school board’s offices or outside faculty rooms? You may not have elected them, but they’re part of the government just the same.  Just because they are your neighbors doesn’t make them right!   It’s too easy to find and target a political scapegoat in these matters; the reasons are as complicated as the many kapus in the Hawaiian tradition.

 The history books say that Captain Cook died over an argument dealing with a stolen rowboat.  I think not; he was the captain.  To the people of Hawaii he was considered a god.  I believe Cook was invited to witness one of their sacrifices, the invitation from one god to another; when asked his opinion of what he just saw, Cook probably responded in clear, unambiguous outrage and disdain. They killed him because now he knew.

Like Captain Cook of old, we can no longer allow kids to be sacrificed on the altars of politics and greed.  Parents need other choices.

March 31, 2010

Teacher Jaime Escalante dies at 79

Filed under: Education — by Robert @ 5:26 pm
Tags: , , ,

A teacher has died.

 He died of cancer. 


 High school teacher

 “Jaime didn’t just teach math. Like all great teachers,  he changed lives.”

 Escalante gained national prominence in the aftermath of a 1982 scandal surrounding 14 of his Garfield High School students who passed the Advanced Placement calculus exam only to be accused later of cheating.

Escalante was a maverick… he mesmerized students

“His passionate belief [was] that all students, when properly prepared and motivated, can succeed at academically demanding course work, no matter what their racial, social or economic background. Because of him, educators everywhere have been forced to revise long-held notions of who can succeed.”

Escalante’s rise came during an era decried by experts as one of alarming mediocrity in the nation’s schools. He pushed for tougher standards and accountability for students and educators, often irritating colleagues and parents along the way with his brusque manner and uncompromising stands.

He was called a traitor for his opposition to bilingual education.

 He attended a well-regarded Jesuit high school, San Calixto, where his quick mind and penchant for mischief often got him into trouble.

After high school, he served in the army during a short-lived Bolivian rebellion.

 Before he graduated, he was teaching at three top-rated Bolivian schools.

With $3,000 in his pocket and little more than “yes” and “no” in his English vocabulary, Escalante flew alone to Los Angeles on Christmas Eve 1963. He was 33.

His first job was mopping floors in a coffee shop

He enrolled in English classes.

He was promoted to cook,

 He earned a scholarship to Cal State Los Angeles to pursue a teaching credential

He discovered how watered-down the math textbooks were — on a par with fifth-grade work in Bolivia

At his insistence, they studied before school, after school and on Saturdays

The Advanced Placement program ….For many years it was a tool of the elite…

Escalante’s dramatic success raised public consciousness of what it took to be not just a good teacher but a great one.

Ultimate performer in class

 Cracking jokes

 Rendering impressions and using all sorts of props

He liked to be judged by his results

For the whole story, go here:,0,4111731,full.story

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