The Enemy Within

In three prior posts I have demonstrated how Charter Schools and the Privatization movement result in higher taxes, more government bureaucracy, and failure in its objective to raise academic achievement.

So why does this movement persist?

One theory is that politicians have become more enamored with breaking unions than they have been with educating children. Wisconsin is the poster child for that story. Another reason is that business’s hold on education has become pervasive. We have seen the purpose of education change in recent years. Instead of education as a path toward good citizenship as a constitution honoring citizen, the goal of education has become to raise good corporate citizens. Education’s job is to enable individuals to participate in our economy, not in our style of government.

An example of this is Newt Gringrich’s rise in the poll. Prior to this election, a politician guilty of ethics violations would not have a serious shot at winning his party’s nomination. Just a few months ago a disgusting and sad figure of a man, Anthony Weiner, was forced from office. How is it that Newt with his congressional ethics violations, his hypocrisy, absence of morality and empathy, is any less of a bad example than Anthony Weiner?

And does Newt know best? His idea for those receiving unemployment compensation is to have them retrained in order to maintain eligibility to collect unemployment compensation. The government in essence becomes the tool of business in engineering our population into a viable work force. Gone is the free choice of choosing your career. (Sounds like big government to me). Frankly, as a laid off teacher pursuing full time employment in a new district, laid off along with 1500 others, (the numbers continue to rise in Philadelphia as nurses are now being laid off as well)(another public school district being dismanteled), I find his solutions to be exactly the opposite of what the Republican Party says it believes in. But then again, do we really ever know what a politician believes? Heck, Gringrich, Santorum, Paul, and Obama will all tell us they believe in children while at the same time advocating for policies which have been proven to be not in the best interests of children. They value public education while they abandon it. They preach freedom and choice while Gingrich seeks to turn all us into peons controlled by government in our jobs, and Santorum would control our lifestyles, and both seek to control our loyalties. The United States is threatened from within in ways it has never been threatened when our enemies were external. I wish I could be certain that no matter who wins we would not be heading in the wrong direction, but my biggest fear is that train has left the station and is rolling downhill.

 

P.S. More about Newt’s bad idea.

Cisco Inc. knows employment can be cyclical. When Cisco laid off 6000 employees they offered them 1/3 of their salary plus benefits and stock options, promised them they’d be first in line to be rehired when economic fortunes and the company’s outlook improved, and gave them an additional nine months longer than usual to exercise stock options. This allowed Cisco to maintain ties to its talent pool. A Gingrich plan increases the cost of government while robbing employers of investments made in personnel. Gingrich’s plan appeals to the naïve. It’s an embarrassment they have such influence in their party, but look who really controls them: Big business in the form of the Koch Brothers. The effects of a corporate education are on display within our country.

Fixing Schools: Short and I hope SWEET!

As school begins one can’t help but notice the amount of newspaper articles concerning education. Arne Duncan says teacher salaries should start at $60K and unions be eliminated. Obama is apparently calling for new school construction and the for profit people say leave to us. I am yet to see anyone have a cure for our educational woes that I can support.

So here in a short list, based on my experience as teacher in urban high poverty schools is what we need to do in order to improve schools.

  1. Kindergarten camp to help youngsters make the transition from pre-school to school. In the inner city many youth don’t even attend pre-school and as a result are unaware of what is expected of them. Studies show kindergarten camp reduces time spent at the beginning of the year on behavioral issues and maximizes learning time.
  2. Involve parents before they are parents. Engaging parents when their children start school is 5 years too late.
  3. Pay attention to school climate. Studies show a positive correlation between positive climate and high achievement.
  4. For children who are unable to meet the social demands of provide them with a combination of online education and brick and mortar social experiences.
  5. Reward children and involved parents by helping them pay for college or technical school. If we believe in lifelong education then let’s fund it instead of abandoning people when they graduate high school.

Greed Is Good

A recent report noted that the recession did not have to occur. It was a result of mismanagement. If you read between the lines this is what in reality is the education news of today.

The economic recession of 2008-2010, the longest and deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929 could have been avoided. It occurred because as the movie line goes, “Greed is Good.”

So America and the world be warned. Big business from time to time in the name of greed will cost you your home, your car, your peace of mind, and perhaps even your family. When we get into trouble like we did in 2008 your tax dollars will bail us out. For your reward you may face a layoff. Certainly someone you know will. To get your job back, after you’ve bailed us out, our taxes must be lowered. It’s a win win for us, of course, and for you, well ask someone who cares.  They masquerade as politicians even when it’s not Halloween.

Those union job protections and pensions which created a middle class and helped society by the masses live the American Dream: we’re not interested. And now that you’ve bailed us out and promised to lower our taxes, we will cut your benefits and pensions so you have to work longer in life. Of course cutting your benefits and pensions makes you more dependent on us, so remember this when we say we want our taxes cut again. There is a reason why we refer to you as the working poor. (Even the president, in his desperate bid to be reelected has caved into our demands).

Now we are demanding that for profit companies run the educational system of America. Remember “Greed is Good.” For profit schools will insure our children are all trained to recognize Greed is Good, that shareholders come first. This is the American Way. It is truth, though maybe not justice, but again, find someone who cares.  I mean look at the track record corporate America has with children: poisoning their environments, advertising cigarettes to them, who better to teach our children? Just imagine how cheaply they’ll find qualified people to care, (I’m sorry. I didn’t mean care, I meant instruct) your children, well maybe brainwash is a better idea. Big business needs a nation of unquestioning drones who accept authority and can recite the core curriculum.

Have no fear, they will all be capable of reaching minimum standards. (That includes the mentally gifted).

Vouchers are OK. They make it possible for many to attend parochial schools. Prayer is good. That way when we screw you, you’ll ask God for comfort, question yourself, and not blame us. If the church screws you, well the church is very good at defending themselves against those they have screwed. Heck they’ll be able to defend themselves with taxpayer money.  But again, ask someone who cares. It’s not like anyone is about demand that church employees be screened like we do for public school teachers.

Of course vouchers will not enable your children to attend the schools our children attend. You know, the ones that have no core curriculum and cost 20K per year, where creativity is desired and the engines of big business are developed. America is on the verge of finally creating what Thomas Jefferson warned us against, a nation divided by a permanent class structure.

Can Teachers and their Unions Vote Republican in 2012

Everyday, a Republican somewhere makes news by bashing teachers. The teacher vote is so predominately Democrat that Republicans don’t try and earn our vote and Democrats take our votes for granted. Those days maybe coming to an end.

NCLB and Race to the Top are both deeply flawed education plans. Could it be that those who call for axing the Department of Education, mainly Tea Party radicals, many of whom are not schooled in economics, history, or education itself are on to something here?

The answer is yes. Years ago Ron Edmonds noted we knew what needed to be done to fix education, but lacked the political will to do it. Since 2000 and George Bush, under both Republican and Democratic presidents, we have had the political will to fix education, but have gone about it all wrong.

Where are the programs that provide training for parents and caregivers, that create incentives for positive parent involvement? Where is the nationwide emphasis on high quality child care and early learning experiences?

We know the home environment is the most important factor in a child’s education and we have done nothing to reach out to stimulate that environment. We’ve done nothing to emulate the highly successful “Promise” program in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Instead politicians like Tom Ridge here in Pennsylvania decided to create a crisis by underfunding the teacher pension program even when the economy was doing well. Other politicians lie about teachers being paid over the summer time. Politicians, like Chris Christie, demonstrate how small they are because a few teachers who gave up their free time to attend professional development and were somehow videotaped without their consent, made fun of how oversized Mr. Christie happens to be. (Let’s face it Mr. Christie, you are a walking role model of why we need to teach nutrition in schools). The Department of Education has shown itself unfit to perform its mandate. There is no doubt we are better off without it. A minimal staff should be retained for the purpose of disseminating research findings and providing funding for research as to what can be done to support academic achievement. The current Department of Education is pursuing a schools turnaround policy such as restructuring and merit pay that fly in the face of research. Who needs bureaucrats to do what we all know not to do? Anyone but a government employee would be fired for mismanagement.

All of that said, with radicals in charge who want to introduce vouchers, support religious instruction, do away with the teaching of evolution, and provide instruction only on creationism; this is not the time to give the money saved by eliminating the DOE to the states.

America is in a tough situation. For the second time in the first decade of the new century, dogma has taken over.

So can teachers vote Republican? The answer is yes. Should we vote Republican? The answer at least for now is no. We need sensible leaders, and they, like Mike Castle in Delaware, can’t seem to even win a primary.

Lawyers run the American Bar Association and Doctors run the American Medical Association. When educators run education, academic achievement will improve.

Let the Taxpayers Decide

Why is it that these days, with the exception of baseball’s Rangers, so little good is coming out of Texas? The latest blow to education begun in Texas has worked its way up the collegiate level.

The Wall Street Journal reported in its weekend edition that Texas is using a new system to evaluate its professors.  Are the professors costing taxpayers money or bringing in dollars to the University? The example given was a tenured professor specializing in osmosis and a new hire building a lab for studying genetic parasites. One was in the black, the other in the red. A spreadsheet similar to this was developed for each professor.

This concept of evaluating professors was begun by a conservative group who Texas Governor Rick Perry invited to a state summit in 2008. The new idea is: “let taxpayers see what’s going on at every public institution and let them decide what’s worth subsidizing.”

That is not how our country works. We elect people to represent us. Hopefully the elected are experts in some field and have the wisdom to gain access in areas where their wisdom is applied but their knowledge is insufficient.

Based on the Texas model what will happen to the study of Economics, English, History, and Philosophy? These are subjects taxpayers may not wish to subsidize because they are in the red.

Whatever happened to the concept of investment? We invest ourselves in these subjects because they improve our command of ourselves as individuals, and jointly as a society. Investment creates outcomes we cannot fully predict. FDR invested in this country back in 1933 and restored our belief in government. Obama is doing the same thing now and the economy has responded similarly. The stock market is up over 30% since he took office. Consumer confidence is low, but business confidence is at an all time highs. The experts who developed a ratio of business confidence to consumer confidence to predict market upswings, suggest, based on history, that the stock market is about to embark on a long profitable run. Conservative financiers say the buying opportunity currently existing, and having begun in March of 2009 is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Unfortunately our expert taxpayers as of now don’t see that, just as they didn’t see the development of DNA.

So let the taxpayers decide. We have nothing to lose, except for everything we have accomplished: Everything that we’ve accomplished, because we have invested in ourselves, but remember, things are just bigger in Texas, including the effect of their bad ideas.

As for me, I’m listening to the experts and putting my money in the market, where dividend yields are now outpacing bond yields. And for perhaps the first time, this taxpayer is not voting for any Republicans on November 2nd. Voting Republican is a bad investment.

Wrong Track?

I keep hearing our country is headed in the wrong direction. I’ve investigated the numbers and here’s the chart I see.

2008                                                                   2010

1.      Involved in two wars                          Involved in one war

2.      Children uninsured                             Children insured

3.      My 403 B Way Down                          My 403B moving on up

4.      Bank lending down                            Bank lending up

5.      Business failures up                           Business failures down

6.      Peace in the Mideast stalled          Momentum in Mideast peace

7.      No stem cell research                      Stem cell research

8.      Global warming doesn’t exist        Global warming exists

9.      United States lost respect                United States is respected

10.  School Reform on wrong  track    School Reform still on wrong track

I’ve heard and read the mantra of the Tea Party and these are exact quotes. “Drill Baby Drill.”“This country was headed in the right direction before 1860.” “Take our country back.” “Don’t retreat, reload.”

Wrong direction? I think not. I choose to stay the present course. I hope you’ll join me by actively campaigning for your Democratic candidate.

School Reform Needs Reform

School Reform Needs Reform. President Obama promised us “Change We Can Believe in.” Instead his Race to the Top accentuates the worst of the No Child left Behind Act, with no plans in place to eliminate the Academic Achievement Gap. Schools are the solution to this gap which stratifies our society. At the mid- point of Mr. Obama’s first term, with no guarantee there will be a second term, teachers and schools are still being blamed for a poor educational system. This phenomenon which many do not feel is a reality in this country, especially when high poverty urban schools located in high crime neighborhoods are taken out of the mix must end. Teachers must become respected professionals if they are to be successful at practicing their craft.

As a lifelong Democrat and union member I would like to see Mr. Obama win his second term. But he has given me no reason to support him with my vote, my money, and my time, as I did previously.

Education requires a surgeon’s scalpel. Instead of lumping all schools: suburban, urban, rural into one lot, let’s x-ray and pinpoint where the problems are. Instead of proposing one solution, such as fire the teachers, which is what reconstitution and charterizing amounts to, let’s look at where the difficulties present themselves. We know the academic achievement gap arrives at school and is not created by schools.

We know what makes a child at risk but we haven’t reached out to anyone to reduce the risk. We know what to do, and one would think that with Mr. Obama’s community organizing experience he also would be in an informed position. Instead our educational policy is a road map to destroying unions, promoting charters in a way never intended by one of its primary developer and late AFT President Albert Shanker. Eventually Mr. Obama’s educational policy may well pave the way for vouchers where religion can dominate education. This in my opinion is the goal of the far right who engineered NCLB.

In short, Mr. Obama’s educational policy is a right wingers dream that Mr. Bush would not have been able to successfully implement. If Sarah Palin were to run for President promising to eliminate the Department of Education, something she clearly has no use for, I would have to believe that for all his eloquence, intelligence, and passion, Palin would be less harmful to the future of this nation than Mr. Obama.

What a way to vote, based on which leader does less harm. These are indeed sad times. But Mr. Obama can still win my active support for a second term. He will have to use his bully pulpit to engage support for educators, he will have to engage parents as partners in promoting the best interests of their children, and he will need to abandon the false panacea created by good marketers known as No Child Left Behind now called Race to the Top.

“Michelle Rhee’s Big Stick?”

Michelle Rhee, Superintendent of Schools in the District of Columbia recently fired 161 teachers for incompetence. She wields a big stick, but is it good management?

Management seeks to achieve certain goals. In the case of education the goal is to better educate our children.

If this goal is achievable whose behavior do we have to modify to reach that goal?  By what means?

Rhee feels that to alter the behavior of pupils we must alter the behavior of teachers. They way to do this, she feels, is through strict discipline and coercion: The big stick.

There are unintended consequences to this approach. Seventy years of strict centralized discipline and coercion created in the Soviet Union an efficient machine for gaming the system. False entries were made  and store shelves were empty as a result of the big stick running the economy. The Soviet government put its own needs ahead of the needs of its citizens, just as Michelle Rhee puts the current  needs of the educational system ahead of the needs of  its children and those who see the needs of children are met.

In communist economies the statistics would meet the plan even though the production didn’t, and that is what our educational system is now doing.

If Washington wants to achieve adequate yearly progress or heads will roll, the statistics will soon show that goal is being met. These are the fruits of strong centralized management vigorously applied.

Education is unique in that that the factors which produce the product arriving at school are, largely beyond the scope of those being held responsible for the quality of the the product. An education system which ignores the influences of parents and meets the need of the state,  is not a Race to the Top. Ms. Rhee and President Obama should rethink their policies lest we end up with a communist system of education.

Teachers and Columbine

I have not heard anyone blame a teacher for Columbine.  And of course teachers should not be blamed for Columbine. So how is it teachers can be blamed for the poor attitudes so many children bring to school with them, the lack of effort these  poor attitudes translate into, and the low levels of  achievement that the attitude ultimately results in?

The number one indicator of how a child does in school is how their parents did in school. To hold teachers accountable as the administration is doing in Rhode Island is beyond believable. Mr. Obama has come out in support of the actions taken. In 2012 he does not deserve the vote of any teacher, nor the support of our unions.

The path taken to improve schools by this administration, reconstitution, is not supported by research. As a matter of fact, the research is clear that the Obama administration could not be going any faster in the wrong direction.

Education leaders and teachers across this country, must unite now and get in this man’s face, or this country will spiral to the bottom of educational achievement as our public schools disintegrate in favor of the for profit model of education.

Elect a teacher

Keith Newman is candidate  for State Representative. His website is http://www.electkeithnewman.com  Please visit and donate just $10 so he can bring a teachers prospective to government. Spread the word.

They did what

We all know what they did, fired the teachers when if they had listened to the students they would have known what the problems are and how to fix them. The quote below is from the NY Times:

““My teachers, they’re there for me. They push me forward,” said Ms. Gomes, a 17-year-old senior whose father is largely absent and whose mother works long hours at a factory. “My parents, they tried to, but they don’t know how. I don’t think they fully know me as a person to help me.”’

Parents love their children but often don’t know how to prepare them for school, what skills they need on day one, and how these skills evolve each year.  There are two groups that can fix schools, parents and teachers. Instead of working to have them cooperate, administrators drive wedges between them.

All the research says that the Obama plan to improve schools is bad policy. His administration has voiced support for the action taken in Rhode Island. If Obama can be this wrong on a no brainer, one must wonder how well thought out are the rest of his policies?