"The whole people must take upon themselves the education of the whole people and be willing to bear the expenses of it. There should not be a district of one mile square, without a school in it, not founded by a charitable individual, but maintained at the public expense of the people themselves." -- John Adams

"No money shall be drawn from the treasury, for the benefit of any religious or theological institution." -- Indiana Constitution Article 1, Section 6.

"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilisation, it expects what never was and never will be...nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe." – Thomas Jefferson

Monday, November 13, 2017

Listen to This #14

LEST WE FORGET

The Margaret Lambert Story

19-year-old Jewish high jumper Greta Bergman left Germany for England in 1934 at the top of her career. Two years later the German government, by then under Nazi control, forced her (by threatening her parents) to return to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. In the end, however, she was not allowed to compete.

She moved to the United States, continued her career by becoming the American women's high jump champion in 1937 and '38, as well as the women's shot put in 1937. She lived in the US with her husband Bruno Lambert until his death in 2013, and her death in July of this year at the age of 103.

This short documentary (23 minutes) is worth your time. Aside from the story of an athlete trying to compete under Hitler's Germany, it has some very familiar, very disturbing images. Click the link above to sign up for the free Olympic Channel, and watch the documentary.

From Foul Play: The Margaret Lambert Story on The Olympic Channel (access with free account).
There was nothing worse Hitler and his people could imagine but a German athlete of Jewish belief winning a gold medal for Germany.



THE OVERUSE AND MISUSE OF TESTING. IT DOESN'T HELP KIDS

Better tests don’t lead to better teaching, study finds

What better way to introduce this quote...than with another quote. Here is what a local public school superintendent tweeted about this article...


From The Hechinger Report
...a more demanding test didn’t help improve the quality of the teacher’s instruction. A teacher’s test-prep lessons were generally of lower instructional quality than when the same teacher wasn’t prepping students for the test. More surprising, the researchers found that the quality gap between a teacher’s regular lessons and her test-prep lessons was largest in a school district where the teaching quality was the highest.

PRIVATIZATION: CHOICE

Stinesville: Can a small school in a quarry town survive Indiana's school choice program?

Funding for public education gets diverted to private and privately run schools. Public schools and the students they serve suffer. Our priorities are misplaced.

From Jenny Robinson
As the voucher and charter programs were explained and advertised as "school choice" to the public, one corollary fact was not included: Indiana residents might lose a choice that many of us have taken for granted for decades: the ability to send our kids to a local, well-resourced public school. The kind of school that serves lunch and participates in the federal school lunch program. The kind of school that provides transportation. The kind of school that has certified teachers and a library and is in a district obligated by law to accept all children in the attendance area, including those with profound special needs, and to provide them a free and appropriate public education.
Reblogged at Alternet: In Rural America, School Choice Poses Agonizing Choices


DEVOS: THE DAMAGE DONE

School Choice: The Old Wolf in New Sheep’s Clothing

From Arthur Camins in Huffpost
During the term of President Obama, there was a push to expand funding for charter schools, despite evidence that they increased racial and socioeconomic segregation and were on average no more effective. The election of Donald Trump and his selection of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education has energized demands for tuition vouchers for private schools. Taken together, these efforts represent a profound bipartisan shift in how we think about the purpose of public support for education and school governance, from meeting community needs and values to attending to the demands and proclivities of individual shoppers in a marketplace.

A quarter of the schools Betsy DeVos has visited are private

Twenty-five percent of the schools that Betsy DeVos has visited since she took over as US Secretary of Education have been private or religious schools. Ten percent of American children attend such schools. Her preference for private and religious schools is obvious.

From the Washington Post
Neither DeVos nor the Education Department have much say in what happens in the nation’s private and religious schools, which have wide latitude in selecting students and are not bound by federal education laws that require public schools to show how much their students are learning.


The Hard Right's Planning Document for Education

Conspiracy, or long term plans? Peter Greene takes us on a scary ride.

From Peter Greene
...there's a group with an explicit plan for destroying the Department of Education and installing theocratic control over US education, and the secretary of Education as well as key folks at the White House are directly tied to that group.


Orlando Sentinel: Betsy DeVos’s Dream Is Really a Nightmare

Accountability is appropriate for every tax supported school – public school, charter school, and voucher accepting school. Every school that accepts public money ought to follow the same rules, and have the same level playing field.

From Jan Resseger
The limited oversight of Florida’s scholarship programs allowed a principal under investigation for molesting a student at his Brevard County school to open another school under a new name and still receive the money...


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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Sagan Day 2017

Carl Sagan: November 9, 1934 - December 20, 1996


For this year's Sagan Day, I offer some quotes on our current condition...

THE PALE BLUE DOT
There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.



THE CHARLATANS ARE HERE

Reversing the anti-science direction of the country will take time and won't be easy. We can do it if we focus on the today's students...tomorrow's leaders.

In his last interview, Carl Sagan warned (1996),
Science is more than a body of knowledge. It is a way of thinking; a way of skeptically interrogating the universe with a fine understanding of human fallibility.

If we are not able to ask skeptical questions, to interrogate those who tell us that something is true, to be skeptical of those in authority, then, we are up for grabs for the next charlatan (political or religious) who comes ambling along.
The charlatans are here...it's time to step up.




FROM THE DEMON-HAUNTED WORLD, 1996
I have a foreboding of an America in my children's or grandchildren's time – when the United states is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what's true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.


FROM CONTACT, A NOVEL, 1985
We could not guess how different from us they (extraterrestrials) might be. It was hard enough to guess the intentions of our elected representatives in Washington.


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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2017 Medley #30

Testing, Shaming,
Politics: NRA and Mass Murder,
Politics: The EPA,
Pre-School,
Teacher Shortages

THE FAILURE OF TESTING

When Testing Takes Over

The opt-out movement has shown that the general public is beginning to become aware of what teachers have known for years – that standardized tests are overused and misused in the US, they're expensive, and they don't improve instruction. In fact...

From Daniel Koretz, author of The Testing Charade
...the pressure to raise test scores has become so strong that testing often degrades instruction rather than improving it.


Why Parents Make Flawed Choices About Their Kids' Schooling

When parents review test scores for their children does anyone explain what they mean? Is the relationship between family income and test scores acknowledged in discussions with parents?

From Jack Schneider, author of Beyond Test Scores: A Better Way to Measure School Quality in The Atlantic
What’s needed, he said, is for parents to understand that test scores track so closely with a person’s background—their parents’ education level and income—that they say little about the quality of a school. “And if we were more honest about that,” Schneider said, “I think that would do a great deal to get parents searching for better information”—information on things like the relationships between teachers and students, how students interact with each other, and “the degree to which students are engaged and happy to be there.”

DISCIPLINE THROUGH HUMILIATION

Ain't That a Shame

The last half of my 35 year teaching career were spent working with first, second, and third grade students as a pull-out reading specialist and first graders as a Reading Recovery teacher.

One day I went to pick up one of my second graders. He was a difficult child. He struggled with reading, had a home life which was chaotic and difficult, and had attention issues in class. This meant that he had a tendency to get up and do things around the classroom no matter what was going on...because he really didn't know what was going on.

I opened the door of the classroom and saw him standing by his desk – which was isolated, next to the teachers desk. He was crying.

The teacher turned to me as I walked in and said, loud enough for everyone in the classroom to hear, "Don't you think that a second grade boy is too old to be crying in school?"

I did the best I could to remain calm; I don't think anyone heard me gasp. I mumbled a response that was probably something like, "Oh dear...having some problems?" and I took the child from the room to give both him, and his teacher, a break from each other.

This was second grade child...seven years old.

I became a teacher of children with learning difficulties because of my own experiences as a child. I wanted to help kids who were, like me, having trouble functioning in a classroom. I was personally and painfully aware of the frequent shame and humiliation used by some teachers to control students and maintain order in their classrooms. My goal, as a teacher, was to protect my students from that.

When Russ Walsh, in his latest post, described one of his own experiences with humiliation, as a 12-year old, I instantly remembered being frequently humiliated by Mrs. H, my 8th grade math teacher, who seemed to revel in my inability to perform, and I remembered seeing a seven-year old student standing alone by his desk, crying, while his teacher belittled him in front of his classmates.

From Russ Walsh
...shaming works directly against our desire as teachers to develop thoughtful, reflective, self-actualized learners who are willing to take the risks necessary for learning to take place.


POLITICS: NRA BUYS "THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS"

Murphy Statement on Sutherland Springs Shooting

Just another shooting in America. Nothing to see here...

From Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)
As my colleagues go to sleep tonight, they need to think about whether the political support of the gun industry is worth the blood that flows endlessly onto the floors of American churches, elementary schools, movie theaters, and city streets. Ask yourself – how can you claim that you respect human life while choosing fealty to weapons-makers over support for measures favored by the vast majority of your constituents.

Career Political Donations from the NRA (NYTimes)

POLITICS: THE ANTI-SCIENCE TAKEOVER OF THE EPA

New EPA Appointment. US Air “too Clean”.

Is the air in your town "too clean for 'optimum health'?"

From Climate Denial Crock of the Week
Robert Phalen of the University of California, Irvine is a new science board member. He has argued that current air quality in the United States is too clean for “optimum health.”


Trump’s EPA has blocked agency grantees from serving on science advisory panels. Here is what it means

Hypocrisy in the EPA. Former lobbyists and industry executives are charged with policing polluters. Meanwhile, scientists who study the environment are not allowed on science review panels.

From Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), ranking minority member on the House science committee.
Allowing scientists funded by the very industries the agency is tasked with regulating to participate on independent science review panels, while prohibiting leading scientists simply because they have received funding through EPA grants, is the height of hypocrisy.

PRE-SCHOOL

Early childhood education expert: I saw a brilliant way to teach kids. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the United States.

There's a push for universal pre-school education in the US, but what kind of pre-K education are we going to get for our children? Will four-year-olds be subject to the same test and punish policies that have damaged our K-12 public schools? Will admission to pre-school be manipulated to increase a state's voucher plan? Will early-childhood specialists be included in the planning and implementation? Will privatization trump developmentally appropriate practice?

From Nancy Carlsson-Paige in The Answer Sheet
I just visited with early childhood professionals in Nova Scotia, Canada. They showed me their new Early Learning Framework for the education of young children. It is a stellar example of what early childhood education could be if a country did it right, and a painful example for someone coming from a country where we do it so wrong.


TEACHER SHORTAGE

Survey: 94% Of Indiana Schools Can’t Fill Teaching Jobs

How to kill the teaching profession:
1. Create a toxic atmosphere for public school teachers.
2. When those teachers quit/retire, and young people avoid the profession, declare a teacher shortage.
3. Save money by hiring under- or unqualified people to fill unfilled positions.

From Terry McDaniel, assistant professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University, in Indiana Public Media
McDaniel says some dispute the notion of a teacher shortage. One reason, he says, is they compare the number of open teacher jobs to the number of people in the state licensed to teach.

“The problem is just because you have a teacher license, doesn’t mean you are applying for teaching jobs,” he says.

...Charter schools and private schools are not part of the survey


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Saturday, November 4, 2017

"There are men running governments who shouldn't be allowed to play with matches..."

...Will Rogers (attributed)

TODAY'S HISTORY LESSON

Will Rogers was born 138 years ago, on Nov 4, 1879, in Oologah, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). He began his career as a rope trick artist...but quickly discovered that he could keep audiences more entertained with comments and jokes than with his rope tricks.

He starred on vaudeville, with the Ziegfeld Follies, and in movies, wrote a newspaper column, and he even "ran" as a "bunkless" presidential candidate on the Anti-Bunk Party (1928), though he did promise to resign if elected. When asked whether voters could be fooled, he said, "Yes..."
Of all the bunk handed out during a campaign the biggest one of all is to try and compliment the knowledge of the voter.
We are here just for a spell and then pass on. So get
a few laughs and do the best you can. Live your life
so that whenever you lose it, you are ahead.
Rogers traveled the world as a writer for The Saturday Evening Post in the mid 1920s and 30s and he feared that Europeans would be involved in a second large scale war. He expressed an isolationist philosophy for the U.S., reasoning that Americans should focus on domestic problems rather than getting involved in "foreign entanglements."

Richard D. White, author of Will Rogers: A Political Life said in a 2011 interview,
From just before World War I, through the Jazz Age, all through Prohibition, the Great Depression, and up until Rogers's tragic death in a plan crash in 1935, he captivated the nation and the world with not only his humor, but his political commentary.

During the last two years of his live he was the top male box-office attraction at the movies. The only person who topped him was Shirley Temple...

He was one of the most widely read newspaper columnists. He put out over 600 weekly newspaper columns, over 2800 daily newspaper columns. He was in 71 movies and wrote six books. All of this outpouring of media – of words – propelled him to a level of influence unequaled in American history.
About his politics, White said,
Rogers loved his fellow man. When he said he never met a man he didn't like, he meant it. But he also mistrusted mankind, and the modern huge monoliths of government, bureaucracy, and large corporations. He defended democracy but had little faith in the political or economic systems of his day to actually improve common man's lot. He thought politics was the lowest of life-forms...He feared extremist organizations from the Ku Klux Klan to the Communist Party yet he could share a friendly cup of coffee with their members...
[I recommend listening to the entire 46 minute interview with Richard White where he discusses Will Rogers and his feelings about a wide variety of topics such as dictators, socialism, populism, Andrew Jackson, his Cherokee ancestry, Hoover, FDR, Democrats, and Republicans.]

QUOTES

Below are some quotes attributed to Will Rogers (found HERE unless otherwise noted)...
  • You know everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
  • Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don't they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition one did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth.
  • People's minds are changed through observation and not through argument.
  • The schools ain't what they used to be and never was.
  • When ignorance gets started it knows no bounds.
  • What's the matter with the world? Why, there ain't but one thing wrong with every one of us -- and that's selfishness.
  • Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans.
  • The more ignorant you are, the quicker you fight.
  • There is nothing so stupid as an educated man, if you get off the thing that he was educated in.


A SHORT BIOGRAPHY



For another more detailed and longer (57 minutes) discussion of Rogers' life, click HERE (from August 1994).

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

A Note to My Leaf-Burning Neighbors

AUTUMN

Ah...who doesn't love the nostalgic scent of burning leaves in the fall?


Answer: Anyone with lungs!

It's Autumn in Indiana and my woodsy neighborhood is filled with fallen leaves. Many of my neighbors are recycling them by mulching them into their lawns or gardens, or hiring crews to pick them up. Some others, are piling them up and setting them ablaze, and by doing so filling the air with poisonous toxins and choking ash.

IT'S JUST ONE LITTLE FIRE

What damage can one little fire cause?

It's not just one little fire...it's several since we live in an addition with dozens of houses and hundreds of leaf-dropping trees. The point is that "multiple fires in one geographic area can cause concentrations of air pollutants that exceed federal air quality standards" – at least until the current EPA decides that the right of citizens to breathe is just not a priority.

And, about those lungs...
Besides being an irritant, leaf smoke contains many hazardous chemicals, including carbon monoxide and benzo (a) pyrene. Carbon monoxide binds with hemoglobin in the bloodstream and thus reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood and lungs. So carbon monoxide can be very dangerous for young children with immature lungs, smokers, the elderly, and people with chronic heart or lung diseases. Benzo (a) pyrene is known to cause cancer in animals and is believed to be a major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke and coal tar as well as leaf smoke.
[Full disclosure: The above paragraph is about me. Burning leaves make me sick. I have some serious lung issues and, while I hate to use the term elderly when talking about myself, I'm getting there...assuming I last through the leaf-burning season! Oh...and keep your young children inside!]

That benzo (a) pyrene stuff is a big deal. It can negatively affect your nervous system, immune system, reproductive system, it messes with your DNA, and it's a carcinogen. Why would anyone do that to themselves and their families...not to mention the little children who live next door or two houses down...or the old folks on the corner...or everyone else in the neighborhood?

My neighborhood (Google Earth).
Note the dark green...trees.

INSTEAD OF BURNING

So, you live in the woods...what do you do with all the leaves?

Some cities (such as Fort Wayne) provide curbside pickup of leaves. Pay attention and make sure you get them to the curb in time for pickup.

Or, instead of setting them on fire, follow the recommendations of Rosie Lerner of the Purdue Extension Service.
You could compost those leaves yourself. Dry leaves alone will break down slowly over time, but you can speed that process by mixing the leaves with green plant materials, such as grass clippings, garden discards and produce scraps. Or you could add a source of nitrogen, such as livestock manure or commercial fertilizer. Mix (turn) the pile occasionally to keep a good supply of air in the compost. A good-sized compost pile should be a minimum of 3 cubic feet. The compost will be ready to use as a soil conditioner in several weeks to several months, depending on size and management techniques.

Shredded leaves also can be used as a mulch around garden and landscape plants. Mulches provide many benefits, including weed suppression, moisture conservation and moderation of soil temperature. Leaves can be applied to dormant plants in winter to prevent young plants from heaving out of the ground. Leaf mulch can help keep soil cooler in summer. No more than a 2- to 3-inch layer of leaves should be used around actively growing plants. Chopping or shredding the leaves first will help prevent them from matting down and preventing air from reaching roots.

Directly applying the leaves to a garden or unused area of soil is another option. Try to spread the leaves over as large an area as possible, then till or plow them under. Chopping or shredding the leaves first will help them to break down faster.

My personal favorite option is to simply shred the leaves through my lawn mower until the pieces are small enough to just leave them right there on the lawn! Dry leaves are much easier to handle through the mower than moist ones. If possible, remove the bagger so all of the leaves are deposited right back onto the lawn as they shred.

Click this image for information on how to use leaves in your garden.

My lungs thank you.

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