Saturday, February 28, 2015

From the President

So...I'm a registered Democrat and, therefore, I get these clever e-mails boasting about this or that or condemning that or this. Often they're signed by the President or his wife or the Vice-President, though we all know they may not have even read them. And they address me by my first name: "George," they'll start out "It's been a breakthrough year for America" And they invariably end with something like "We need your help now more than ever, George...If you're with me, then commit to making a recurring donation to Democrats before midnight..."

I'm guessing that Republicans get these sort of messages too. And they probably address the recipient by his or her first name. "Sarah," they'll start out "It's been a tragic year for America" And likely end with something like "We need your help now more than ever, Sarah...If you're with me, then commit to making a recurring donation to Republicans before midnight..."

I regard it all as something of a wash. Everything is reduced to  one or the other end of the political spectrum.

But this past week I got one that was about my favorite blogging subject: education. It was from Barack. (I figure we're on a first name basis now.) He started out by saying that "our high school students are currently graduating at an all-time high, and last year, our younger students posted the highest scores ever recorded in both math and reading." Sounds like we're doing something right, eh?

No. Somehow, he deemed this a failure and went on to say "I'm making the replacement of No Child Left Behind a priority." Does that mean it's not working, I wondered. 

He then said that we "need a better education plan -- one that cuts standardized testing to a bare minimum, invests in our preschools, and gives every kid in every corner of our country a fair shot." This was followed by announcing that he's "calling on Congress to pass a law that makes this vision of a brighter tomorrow for our sons and daughters a reality." 

"This plan" he said "is just common sense," one of the phrases that everyone loves, but has no idea what it means.

And that was followed by the usual request for a donation.

As you may know from reading my earlier comments regarding Jeb Bush and the Federal Government's role in education, I am not in favor of it. 

But I figured I should give the President an opportunity to fill me in. So I sent the following reply: 

    I am extremely offended by the message below. There is no
    way I am going to support a plan without knowing the details.
a better education plan -- one that cuts standardized testing to a
     bare minimum, invests in our preschools, and gives every kid in every
     corner of our country a fair shot”
is not enough

    I have a Ph.D. in education and I maintain a blog on the subject.
    And I am a registered Democrat. Kindly send me (and anyone else 
    whose support you want) a copy of the plan so we can decide for
    ourselves if we want to endorse it.

As of this writing, there has been no reply. And I don't expect one. And as for his
vision of a brighter tomorrow for our sons and daughters, I'd like to point out that there's a slim line between a vision and a hallucination and I'm worried that he may have slipped over it.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Here's where it really gets embarassing. Forget about the test scores and the failure and success rates. Just listen to our elected representatives, most of whom feel obliged to 'dumb down' their messages in order to speak to their poorly educated constituents.
  • Democrats Tom Miles and Michael Evans, members of the Mississippi House of Representatives proposed a bill that would make the Bible the state book. Do they teach the Bill of Rights in the Mississippi schools? 
  •  I think it is high time that we recognize the contribution of our forbearers who worked tirelessly -- men like John Quincy Adams, who would not rest until slavery was extinguished in the country."
    You have to wonder what Rep. Michele Bachmann was doing when American History was taught..or if this is what she actually learned.

  • In 2010, on Bill O'Reilly's radio show, Sarah Palin said we needed to "Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the Ten Commandments."
    Do I need to add anything to this? She also asked for sympathy because she was "schooled with only public education and a lowly state university degree, because obviously I haven't learned enough to dismiss common sense." 
  •  In 2011 Jeb Bush said "I think global warming may be real. … It is not unanimous among scientists that it is disproportionately manmade. What I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view.”The Bush clan has done its best to denigrate all forms of science.
The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed -- socialism doesn't work. You have ... no price fluctuation. - See more at:
The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed -- socialism doesn't work. You have ... no price fluctuation. - See more at:
The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed -- socialism doesn't work. You have ... no price fluctuation. - See more at:
  • In 2010 Rand Paul said "The fundamental reason why Medicare is failing is why the Soviet Union failed -- socialism doesn't work. You have ... no price fluctuation."  Apparently, he never learned that Russiia's economy was a communist system, not socialist.
  • In 2004 President George H.W. Bush said “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”
    Why do I have the sense that his Mom wrote all of his homework essays?
  • But hey, when it came to messing with the English language Bill Clinton went Bush one better with his infamous impeachment defense: “It all depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”
  •  And here's  some seriously convoluted logic straight from the mouth of Nancy Pelosi, spoken in 2010 when she was still House Speaker:“...we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.” This assumes, of course, that there are congressmen and women who actually do read bills before they pass on them.
  • Former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch, confirmed our education system's ability to teach logical thinking when, in 1985 he said: “Life is indeed precious, and I believe the death penalty helps affirm this fact.”
  • Joe Biden was being interviewed by Katy Curic when he flashed back to his childhood and recalled a president's famous fireside chat: “When the stock market crashed, Franklin D. Roosevelt got on the television and didn’t just talk about the, you know, the princes of greed. He said, ‘Look, here’s what happened.'”
  • Texas Rep.Louie Gohmert, speaking on marriage equality said "When you say it's not a man and a woman anymore, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?"
    Did any of his teachers ever explain the logical fallacy known as the 'slippery slope?'
  • Iowa Rep. Steve King, speaking on immigration said of students today "For every one who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert."  
  • In another example of failing the study of sociology, Rick Santorum, talking about the so-called middle class, said "Since when in America are people stuck in areas or defined places called a class? That's Marxism talk."  
  • Barack Obama's knowledge of geography reared its ugly head in 2008 when speaking at a campaign rally he said: ''I've now been in 57 states -- I think one left to go.''
  • Here's a statement from an Arizona bill signed into law by Republican Governor Jan Brewer: "Life begins "from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman."
  • Maybe the best of these examples is summed up by Governor Chris Christie yelling this at a school teacher: "I am tired of you people."
  • Or maybe it's this--George H.W.Bush's comment on the No Child Left Behind Act: ''As yesterday's positive report card shows, childrens do learn when standards are high and results are measured.''
    Yes Mister George, them childrens sure does learn. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015


I had a friend, a British fellow I met when I was at Syracuse  University getting my Masters, who was astonished upon learning how we run our education system. School Boards had him flummoxed. "It's a bloody wonder anybody gets educated," he said.

Mark Twain recognized that long before my friend: "In the first place, God made idiots, he said.  That was for practice. Then he made school boards."

Nowhere  in the U.S. Constitution is education mentioned . The only source of the forefathers views on it come from Thomas Jefferson who said "An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight. It is therefore imperative that the nation see to it that a suitable education be provided for all its citizens." But he was smart enough to keep the federal government out of it.

Nonetheless, presidents keep trying to homogenize, democratize, and untimately euthenize the so-called American education system.Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Lyndon Johnson gave us the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 because (he said) he wanted to equalize educational opportunity. Jimmy Carter established a separate Department of Education. George H.W. Bush (that's the one who does parachute jumps on his birthdays) wanted to be "the education President," and Bill Clinton signed the Improving American’s Schools Act. Bush the Second brought us "No Child Left Behind."

And now comes Jeb, whose actual past experience as an educator is limited to a year when, at the age of 17, as part of Phillips Academy's student exchange program, Jeb taught English-as-a-Second-Language in Mexico (and met his future wife.) As if in preparation for his political plans, as governor of Florida he managed to stick his fingers in the education pie. And the plum he pulled out was the

Foundation for Excellence in Education, a non-profit that defines its mission as building "an American education system that equips every child to achieve his or her God-given potential." (I find those "every child" and "God-given" parts particularly scary.)
Among the things the Foundation supports are policies that "set high academic standards," the use of technology "to offer students customized education," empowerment of teachers, and rewards for those who are effective. To the latter goal, the Foundation supports ending tenure, "implementation of data-based evaluations and compensation, and alternative paths to certification/licensure."
There's more, but I think you get the idea. It all sounds good, but closer examination reveals a string of contradictions. The bottom line (more scary stuff)  is summed up in the Foundation's emphasis on standards and accountability.
Students and schools must be held to high academic standards, with their progress measured and results reported in simple, transparent formats. The Foundation supports standardized measurement of student learning, including annual comprehensive end-of-course assessments in elementary, middle and high school, as well as grading schools on an A-F scale – just like students.

But here's the real bottom line. In all of these presidential efforts the focus is not on what Jefferson spoke of--nothing about the importance of collaboration, crosscultural communication, and respect for multiple points of view, nor anything promoting inquiry, reflection, effective communication, and open-mindedness. Sure, we want kids to learn how to do basic math and compose a sentence, but do Jeb and the others really want them to be independent thinkers, critical readers and listeners, citizens who can spot a politician who espouses bullshit? I think not.