Our National Shame Is At The Top

As we English teachers read great literature with our high school students, the question of what makes someone a hero frequently occurs. We question together what qualities in a person cause us to be inspired by her or him. We discuss what uplifts us about human beings and what we want to emulate in the actions of others. In every discussion about what is heroic, students bring up the idea of a hero having an individual conscience and doing what the person thinks is right, regardless of the personal consequences.

Recently, Captain Brett Crozier, the captain of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt, was fired from the United States Navy for doing just that. He reported that 100 men on the aircraft carrier tested positive for the COVID19, and, to save the lives of the crew, the aircraft carrier needed to dock. He was fired for that action. However, the great grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, for whom the aircraft carrier is named, not only supports what Captain Crozier did but also wrote that his great grandfather did the same thing. The sailors onboard the aircraft carrier were grateful to Captain Crozier for his lifesaving action and cheered for him as he disembarked the carrier. The crew sees their captain as a hero.

Future high school students will bring in the example of Captain Crozier as they analyze the motivations and actions of Harper Lee’s Atticus Finch, Arthur Miller’s John Proctor, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Toni Morrison’s Sethe. They will also bring in examples from the current President and his cabinet who condemn Captain Crozier’s motivation and actions. Those students will, without doubt, analyze the current administration as being totally bereft of real leadership and not possessing any shred of a moral center.

The nature of tragedy in our national life is monumentally expanded by the current President. To our devastating peril and our national shame.

What Our Children Need Right Now

The following article was written by Joel Westheimer, a journalist who writes about pubic education, and was originally posted by Diane Ravitch. He tells us the education that our kids need from us now.

FORGET THE WORKSHEETS AND TRYING TO REPLICATE SCHOOL

I am really struck by the variety of media inquiries I’ve been getting about the impacts of Covid-19 on education, what parents should be doing at home, and so on. The interest doesn’t surprise me (I am an education columnist on public radio), but the preoccupation with whether kids will “fall behind” or with how they will “catch up” has. I see hundreds of stories, websites, and YouTube videos that aim to help parents create miniature classrooms at home. Maybe some parents have folding chairs they can bring up from the basement and put in rows. Where’s that big blackboard we used to have? Is there a run on chalk at Costco?

Stop worrying about the vague and evidence-less idea of children “falling behind” or “catching up.” This is a world-wide pause in life-as-usual. We’ve spent the last 25 years over-scheduling kids, over-testing kids, putting undue pressure on them to achieve more and more and play less and less. The result? Several generations of children and young adults who are stressed-out, medicated, alienated, and depressed.

This is not a time for worksheets. This is an opportunity (for those of us lucky enough to be at home and not in hospitals or driving buses or keeping our grocery store shelves stocked) to spend meaningful time with our children to the extent it is possible in any given family. Parents shouldn’t be thinking about how to keep their kids caught up with the curriculum or about how they can recreate school at home or how many worksheets they should have their children complete. They should bake a cake together. Make soup. Grow something in the garden. Take up family music playing. And neither school personnel nor parents should be focusing on how quickly or slowly children will return to school because none of us know We should be focusing on ensuring that teachers are afforded the conditions they need to best support their students — now when school is out and later when school is back in.

Remember that ditty about the two Chinese brush-strokes that comprise the word ‘crisis’? One is the character for ‘danger’ and the other the character for ‘opportunity.’ We are more and more aware of the danger. But we’re missing out on the opportunity: to spend time as families (in whatever form that family takes in your household).

This brings me back to the questions I keep getting. What are my recommendations for what to do with your children at home when they are missing so much school? Stop the homework (unless you and your children are enjoying it).Stop the worksheets. Stop trying to turn your kitchen into Jaime Escalante’s A.P. math class. But do help your children structure their day. Help them process what is going on around them. Help them engage in activities that do not take place on a screen. Help them maintain physical activities whether that means running around the block, running up and down the stairs, or running around the kitchen.Help them be creative. Give them — to the extent possible in your household — the gift of time and attention.

And when brick-and-mortar school (hopefully) returns next Fall, let’s give teachers a great deal of latitude in what, how, and when to teach any particular subject matter. Their primary job should be to restore a sense of safety, nurture a sense of possibility, and rebuild the community lost through extended social isolation.

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Joel Westheimer is University Research Chair in Democracy and Education at the University of Ottawa and an education columnist for CBC’s Ottawa Morning and Ontario Today shows. His most recent book is “What Kind of Citizen: Educating Our Children for the Common Good.” You can follow him on Twitter: @joelwestheimer.

 

 

President Trump is teaching our children.

 

 

The 7th grade field trip at The Connecticut Science Center was over. The bus arrived to bring the class back to their school. The kids were lined up to board the bus. Two boys, Mike and Pete, broke out of the line and, bumping into each other, ran to the back of the bus. When they arrived there, they began to argue.

Mike: Pete, it’s my turn to sit in the back seat of the bus. You had the back seat on the last field trip.

Pete: Tough luck, Misfit Mikey. You don’t get a turn because you’re a fat slob, dumb as they come, and nobody, nobody at all, likes you.

Mike stood up to push Pete out of the way.

Pete:  You touch me, Misfit Mikey, and, when we get off the bus, me and my three  friends will get you on the walk home. We’ll make you wish you’d never talked to me

Mr. Smith, their teacher, ran down the aisle of the bus and separated the two boys and began to talk to them.

Mr. Smith: I don’t care whose turn it is to sit in the back of the bus. There’s something more important going on here. Pete,  you’ve lost your chance for the seat. What’s important here is how you are treating someone else in the class. Calling someone names is always wrong.  And it’s always wrong to threaten people because they don’t agree with you. Who would do that?  What kind of a grown-up will you be if you call people names and  bully them?

Pete: Who could I be, Mr. Smith? Well, I could be the President of the United States of America, that’s who. He does that. I saw two of his tweets the other day.

One tweet said: Our case against lyin’, cheatin’, liddle’ Adam “Shifty” Schiff, Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nervous Nancy Pelosi, their leader, dumb as a rock AOC, & the entire Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrat Party, starts today at 10:00.  

The other tweet said: Shifty Adam Schiff is a CORRUPT POLITICIAN, and probably a very sick man. He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!

If the President of the United States can insult people in Congress and bully the one he’s the most angry at, then why can’t I?

It must OK, Mr. Smith, or people wouldn’t let him be President. Right, Mr. Smith? But what do you know, Mr. Smith? You’re a terrible, hideous teacher and everyone hates you and you dress like a dork and you can’t even run fast down the aisle of this stupid bus.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

As the song says “Teach your children well….and feed them on your dreams.” Our children become what they see. Our children become what we dream for them.

We must dream kindness for them. We must dream decency for them, We must dream maturity for them. We must dream a President other than Donald Trump for them.

 

 

Mothers, Make A Phone Call Today

 

 

Today, let’s each of us call the office of one Republican senator and ask the question: “Why would an innocent man and you as a jurist interested in the truth not want all the evidence out and all the witnesses to testify? Wouldn’t you if you were innocent?”

Tom Friedman explains why that simple question is what we must ask now. 

For millions of mothers to ask that question now of senators will save our republic from shame and disgrace and could even save the republic itself. It can allow us to prove that we still have a government with three equal branches and that the U.S. Constitution is still the foundation of that government.

We bring up our children to tell the truth, to know right from wrong, to admit it when they have done something wrong, and to face the consequences of their actions.

We can’t hold up as role model for our children a President of the United States who doesn’t tell the truth and has made 16,241 false or misleading claims (what we moms call lies) in his first three years in office, who bribes a leader of another country with money appropriated by Congress for his own person gain and thinks it “perfect”, who has absolutely no sense of right and wrong, and who will destroy any institution in our society, such as the Justice Department, the intelligence agencies and the free press, instead of admitting he is wrong and taking the consequences.

We can’t hold up as role models for our children senators who turn a blind eye to all of this because they condone what we tell our children in wrong.

Call a Republican senator today and insist that the senator act in the way we can hold up to our children as honorable. Leave a message asking the senator to vote to call witnesses and admit documents to the impeachment hearing so that we have a fair trial, so that our government functions as the Founding Fathers intended, and so that our government functions as we tell our children is right and good.

 

Call An End To Closing The Achievement Gap

 

We hear so often, including from the new Connecticut Commissioner of Education, that the most important goal for K-12 education is to close the achievement gap. Well, what if it isn’t? What if that goal to have students affected by poverty and racism achieve standardized test scores as high as students of privilege is not only an impossible goal, because standardized test scores are correlated with family income, but one that is damaging to all K-12 students in this country?

Equating achievement with high standardized test scores does a terrible injustice to all of our children. What if we gave up on closing the achievement gap and gave up on standardized testing? What then could our schools look like?

A picture of what those elementary, middle, and high schools could look like is provided by James Hatch, a first year student at Yale who is a 52 years old retired Navy SEAL, covered with tattoos and accompanied by a service dog. Read his story here. 

James Hatch began his college education afraid of the academic competition from his classmates but left that behind when he became engaged in shared inquiry with a broad range of learners and was encouraged by a professor to recognize his own good mind and not see himself in competition with other students. He developed an appreciation for the diversity of experiences that the other students brought to class discussions and valued their questions and their passion. Through both the subject matter of his classes and interactions with his classmates, he began to think in new ways and see the world differently. He determined his life’s goal – to lead by building bridges between those who are different. He was transformed by his education.

From my experience as a teacher and an administrator in elementary, middle, and high schools, I know that we can offer that kind of education to all of our students. In grades kindergarten through grade 12, students can be taught to learn in collaboration with others so that they see that there is more than one perspective or one interpretation. They can be taught to question rather than merely to answer so that they become deep and innovative thinkers. They can see themselves as learners and thinkers because that is what their teachers encourage them to be. They can develop skills that lead them to believe in themselves. They can fall in love with learning. They can be transformed.

But none of that will happen if the students’ learning is measured by standardized tests. And none of this will happen if closing the achievement gap is the national goal.

 

Correction

In my post entitled “The Cost Of The Dalio Deal Is Too High”, I did not write the correct figure for the amount of the Dalio Foundation donation and the amount of taxpayer funding. The correct amount for each is one hundred million dollars.

Here is the blog post with the correct figures:

https://reallearningct.com/2019/10/03/the-cost-of-the-dalio-deal-was-too-high/ via @reallearningct

The Cost Of The Dalio Deal Was Too High

 Everyone would agree: If we are doing good, we welcome others knowing about it.

Why, then, does the Dalio Foundation make it a condition of giving a $hundred million to Connecticut’s schools that its decisions be kept secret?

 Everyone would agree: Taxpayers have a right to know how their tax dollars are spent.

Why, then, does the Dalio Foundation require that its $hundred million be matched by a $hundred million in taxpayer funds but refuse to tell the taxpayers how it will go about spending their money and demand exemption from Freedom of Information regulations which provide transparency and accountability?

The CT Mirror reported on October 2, 2019 that Gwen Samuel, a Connecticut parent who has children in Connecticut public schools and is a vocal advocate for educational equity for all of Connecticut’s children, asked those same questions of the Connecticut State Board of Education:

The leader of the Connecticut Parents Union made an impassioned plea Wednesday for members of the state Board of Education to review the provision that exempts the new partnership between the state and Dalio Philanthropies from disclosure and ethics rules.

“My main concern, and I’m sure I speak for many parents, is the fact that this could all be done in secret,” Gwen Samuel, president and founder of the Connecticut Parents Union, told the board. “There should never be any entity, including state entities, that have access to [public school] children of this state without transparency.”

Dalio Philanthropies also asked that the partnership be exempt from state disclosure rules, a request that was granted in June by Gov. Ned Lamont and the Democrat-controlled legislature. Since then, legislative leaders who sit on the partnership board have balked at some of the other proposed conditions, such as one that would create a five-member executive committee to oversee most of the partnership’s work while excluding all of the elected officials who are subject to the state’s Freedom of Information Act.

Lawmakers also objected to a request that they unanimously approve — via email — a tentative budget, nearly $250,000 in executive compensation, and various operating procedures before the partnership’s first meeting.

Samuel, and others, have argued that the partnership should be subject to state disclosure laws because $100 million in taxpayer money is being spent in public schools.

Wednesday, Samuel repeated this message before the state board of education.

“We have the right to know what is happening to our children in the public school system and I’m trying to understand why this board has not weighed in to ensure the protection of Connecticut children,” she said.

While the Dalio donation “sounds like a great thing,” Samuel said, “gifts with a string are no longer a gift.” 

We have seen enough of the damage that philanthropic money has done, such as that of Mark Zuckerberg with his donation of millions to Newark, New Jersey and Bill Gates, with his donation of millions for implementing the failed Common Core Standards. The Dalios, however well-intentioned they may be, are not educators and are not parents of public school children. Why would we let them make the decisions for our public schools?  And, even more so, why would allow them to keep their decision-making a secret from us, the taxpayers who fund their secret plans with $100 million?

Shame on the State Board of Education for being bought.

Shame on the Connecticut General Assembly for being bought.

Just as the city of Newark and Mark Zuckerberg himself have come to regret what he did with his money in Newark and just as those knowledgeable about how children and adolescents learn and what they need to know have come to regret the Common Core State Standards, so too will Connecticut come to regret turning over decisions about how to educate our children to the secret Dalio Foundation.

The cost of the Dalio deal is the loss of control by Connecticut taxpayers and educators of our Connecticut public schools. That cost is way too high.

 

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