Call Them By Their Right Name: Asylum Seekers, Not A Caravan

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Questioning As Learning Strategy And Survival Skill

The White House has announced that it is banning the asking of follow-up questions at Presidential news conferences. 

As we educators work to develop our students’ skills in asking questions because we know that asking multi-layered, deep questions is a powerful learning strategy for them and allows them excellent opportunities in critical thinking, the President of the United States prohibits exactly the kind of questions we are teaching our students to form and to shape on their own.

Follow-up questions are at the heart of all innovative endeavors in the workplace and are at the foundation of a functioning democracy. We educators must redouble our efforts with our students because now it is even more important that students learn to question one another and to question what they read than it has been. Questioning is the survival skill of our democracy.

A Beacon For The Future

Desmond Tutu awards international peace award to Parkland students

March for Our Lives activists were awarded this year's International Children's Peace Prize.

(CNN)Survivors of the deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school were awarded the 2018 International Children’s Peace Prize on Tuesday.

In a ceremony celebrated in Cape Town, South Africa, Archbishop Desmond Tutu presented the prize to David Hogg, Emma González, Jaclyn Corin and Matt Deitsch.
In the aftermath of the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in February, students organized March for Our Lives and rallied in Washington, calling for stricter gun laws in the United States. The event was one of more than 800 planned across the United States and in cities worldwide.
The rallies propelled the students into activism, including motivating young people to vote in the midterm elections.
Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work to end apartheid in South Africa, called March for Our Lives one of the most significant movements led by young people, according to a statement posted on the Children’s Peace Prize website.
“The peaceful campaign to demand safe schools and communities and the eradication of gun violence is reminiscent of other great peace movements in history,” Tutu said. “I am in awe of these children, whose powerful message is amplified by their youthful energy and an unshakable belief that children can — no, must — improve their own futures.”
The prize was founded by KidsRights, an organization that works to guarantee the rights of children. Tutu has been the patron for more than a decade. Past winners include Malala Yousafzai, who received the award in 2013 for her work advocating for children’s education.
Marc Dullaert, founder of KidsRights and the peace prize, said in a statement that March for Our Lives topped the list of this year’s nominees because it is a “truly global youth-led and peaceful protest movement.”
“The initiators have utilized the skills and knowledge of young people to generate positive change, whilst mobilizing millions of their peers. … This will shape the way in which children’s rights are campaigned in the future,” Dullaert added.
Hogg, one of the movement’s founders, wrote on Twitter:
“9 months ago we were 25 kids on a living-room floor. Today Desmond Tutu gave us the International Children’s Peace Prize in Cape Town, South Africa.”
March for Our Lives also took to Twitter, dedicating the award to “everyone that has supported us, marched with us, and organized with us. This is only the beginning of our global movement.”

Trump Changes What We Now Must Teach

In April 2015, I began writing about the sorry state of education in the United States if schools adopted the Common Core Standards because those standards would terribly debase how students learn to read and write. Once the standardized tests (SBAC, PARCC, and SAT) were linked to the standards, the fix was in even though it is well-documented that a school district’s scores on those tests depend on one thing only: the income of the parents of the test-takers. What has actually happened is that affluent school districts in which administrators are confident that the income levels of the parents will insure good test scores ignore the shoddy Common Core standards and give their students quality experiences as readers and writers. However, districts with parents of low income or living in poverty concentrate on those standards because administrators worry about low test scores and try to hedge their bets. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Now in November 2018, there is an added worry about what all students everywhere are learning about language because of Donald Trump. Max Boot explains that worry in the following piece he wrote for The Washington Post.

 

America will need years to clean up the toxins Trump has released


President Trump speaks at a rally in Council Bluffs, Iowa, on Oct. 9. (Nati Harnik/AP)

 

Donald Trump won’t be president for life. In a little more than two or (heaven help us) six years, he will be gone. But his baleful legacy will live on. He is turning U.S. politics into a Superfund site and the Republican Party into the leading intellectual polluter in America. It could take a generation to clean up the toxins he has released. Trump is a racist, xenophobe and conspiracy-monger, and his party increasingly reflects all of those mental deformities.

Trump suggests that Florida’s efforts to count ballots after Election Day — a standard practice — are part of a Democratic plot to steal the election. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected,” he tweeted. “Must go with Election Night!” There is no evidence — none — of any fraud. When asked for proof, Trump replied, “I don’t know. You tell me.”

But his conspiracy-mongering is echoed by governor and Senate candidate Rick Scott (R), who vows “I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election,” and by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who claims, “Incompetent law breaking election officials lead to chance for lawyers to steal an election.” I worked on Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, so I am saddened to see “Little Marco” turning into his tormentor’s mini-me.

But that is the Trump effect: He is pushing otherwise sane Republicans down conspiratorial rabbit holes. It is big news when Republican Martha McSally in Arizona is willing to graciously concede her Senate race without claiming she was the victim of fraud. What used to be routine is now extraordinary.

McSally is, after all, a member of the same party as Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.). He tweeted a video of a man handing currency to women and girls under the caption: “BREAKING: Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!” Trump retweeted the video, writing: “Can you believe this, and what Democrats are allowing to be done to our Country?” It turned out the footage was from Guatemala, not Honduras, and it showed local merchants contributing money to the refugee caravan. There was no connection to George Soros, but that hasn’t stopped Trump, Gaetz & Co. from trafficking in this anti-Semitic conspiracy theory.

Trump also hasn’t been shy about insulting the intelligence of African Americans. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), one of the longest-serving members of the House, is an “extraordinarily low I.Q. person.” CNN anchor Don Lemon is “the dumbest man on television” and makes LeBron James “look smart, which isn’t easy to do.” CNN reporter Abby Phillip, a Harvard University graduate, asks“a lot of stupid questions.” Stacey Abrams, a Yale Law School graduate and former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, is “not qualified” to be governor of Georgia. Trump insults lots of people, including whites such as CNN’s Jim Acosta (“a rude, terrible person”), but his barbs about intelligence are primarily aimed at minorities.

Latin American immigrants are another favorite Trump target. In the midterm campaign, he released a commercial trying to make a cop-killer the symbol of a supposed invading army of illegal immigrants. The ad was so racist and dishonest that not even Fox News , his favorite network, would air it.

Such blatant bigotry from the president encourages blatant bigotry among his followers. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) refers to Mexican immigrants as “dirt,” Florida gubernatorial candidate Ron DeSantis warns voters not to “monkey this up” by electing his African American opponent, and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), who represents a state with a long history of lynching, jokes about being in the front row for a “public hanging.”

Trent Lott, a former senator from Mississippi, had to resign as Senate majority leader after “joking” that if only the Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond had been elected president in 1948, “we wouldn’t have had all these problems.” But that was in 2002, when the GOP still had some standards. Today, Trump has given the haters permission to come into the open. Little wonder that the FBI reportsthat hate crimes were up 17 percent last year and anti-Semitic hate crimes up 37 percent. After Trump pronounced himself a “nationalist,” the founder of the neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website gleefully exclaimed: “He is /ourguy/. He is pushing the edges of the limits.”

Trump is not just pushing the limits — he is erasing them. He is normalizing bigotry and conspiracy-mongering in ways that would have seemed unimaginable only a few years ago. After he is gone, and perhaps even before, it will be imperative to rebuild the guardrails of our culture. We cannot eliminate bigotry, but we can reduce its prevalence and make its public expression unacceptable. The anti-tobacco campaign publicizing the dangers of smoking offers a model of the kind of public-education effort that will be necessary to clean up Trump’s toxic residue. Because if history teaches anything, it is that hate-mongering kills just as surely as smoking does.

 

We educators now have an added responsibility. Not only must we, despite the Common Core, teach students to be readers and writers, we must, despite the language students hear from their President, teach students how important it is both for their personal integrity and for the survival of our democracy to use language accurately and respectfully.

 

No Troops Needed, As We All Know

Bulletin: All U.S. troops deployed to the border should be allowed to go home to have Thanksgiving with their families. Everything is OK at the border. 

International law recognizes the rights of those fleeing from threats to their lives to be granted asylum in other countries. We have border patrols and U.S. Immigration officials to make sure that those entering our country are, indeed, fleeing for their lives and to sift out any “very, very bad people” as our President calls all of the asylum seekers – women, men, and children.

Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist and professor at MIT for 50 years and now teaching at the University of Arizona, explains that those making their way to the border are refugees entitled to asylum and not a national threat. 

They are poor and miserable people fleeing from severe oppression, violence, terror, extreme poverty from three countries: Honduras—mainly Honduras, secondarily Guatemala, thirdly El Salvador—not Nicaragua, incidentally—three countries that have been under harsh U.S. domination, way back, but particularly since the 1980s, when Reagan’s terror wars devastated particularly El Salvador and Guatemala, secondarily Honduras. Nicaragua was attacked by Reagan, of course, but Nicaragua was the one country which had an army to defend the population. In the other countries, the army were the state terrorists, backed by the United States.

The most extreme source of migrants right now is Honduras. Why Honduras? Well, it was always bitterly oppressed. But in 2009, Honduras had a mildly reformist president, Mel Zelaya. The Honduran powerful, rich elite couldn’t tolerate that. A military coup took place, expelled him from the country. It was harshly condemned all through the hemisphere, with one notable exception: the United States. The Obama administration refused to call it a military coup, because if they had, they would have been compelled by law to withdraw military funding from the military regime, which was imposing a regime of brutal terror. Honduras became the murder capital of the world. A fraudulent election took place under the military junta—again, harshly condemned all over the hemisphere, most of the world, but not by the United States. The Obama administration praised Honduras for carrying out an election, moving towards democracy and so on. Now people are fleeing from the misery and horrors for which we are responsible.

And you have this incredible charade taking place, which the world is looking at with utter astonishment: Poor, miserable people, families, mothers, children, fleeing from terror and repression, for which we are responsible, and in reaction, they’re sending thousands of troops to the border. The troops being sent to the border outnumber the children who are fleeing. And with a remarkable PR campaign, they’re frightening much of the country into believing that we’re just on the verge of an invasion by, you know, Middle Eastern terrorists funded by George Soros, so on and so forth.

I mean, it’s all kind of reminiscent of something that happened 30 years ago. You may recall, in 1985, Ronald Reagan strapped on his cowboy boots and called—got in front of television, called a national emergency, because the Nicaraguan army was two days’ march from Harlingen, Texas, just about to overwhelm and destroy us. And it worked.

I mean, this spectacle is almost indescribable. Even apart from noticing where they’re coming from, the countries that we have crucially been involved in destroying, it’s—the ability to carry this off repeatedly is quite an amazing commentary on much of the popular culture.

 

Hey, Talking Heads, Listen Up.

Words matter. You know that as journalists and newscasters.

So please:

1. Do not use the word “caravan”. Say what that group really is. They are women, men, and children seeking political asylum from violence and threats of death

The word “caravan” is defined as group of Middle Easterners crossing through a desert. So when the asylum seekers are called a caravan, not only does it stoke fear of brown people coming from the South of the border but taps into Islamophobia as well.

2. When the President declared in a speech from the White House that the caravan is ” marching” towards us, correct that statement with words and/or photos showing that the asylum seekers are not “marching”. They are holding onto one another, walking or hobbling, and carrying their children for mile after mile. They are unarmed and hungry.

3. When the President goes on to claim that he understands women and speaks for women in this country and then articulates what women fear from the asylum seekers, laugh your heads off. When you stop laughing, show on the screen the list of women accusing him of assault and the list of women he has publicly humiliated with his savage tongue.

And maybe, after a commercial break, show a clip of an Obama or Biden rally where they speak the truth about the asylum seekers. Just for a contrast.

The SAT: A Pricey Horse And Buggy

News Flash: The State of Connecticut has wasted its money because it has tested all high school students with a test that proves nothing and keeps them from learning what they need to learn in order to be successful in their future. Too bad for Connecticut.

The only positive news is for the outfit that makes the test. Thanks to Connecticut and 14 other states, it is now doing better financially and gaining back its lost share of the market. Good for the outfit’s profits.

The test is the SAT and the outfit is the College Board. This past week the College Board announced triumphantly that the most recent scores on the SAT are up as is participation and the percentage of college-ready students. But wait.

Peter Greene in Forbes Magazine gives these five reasons why “there is not a need to organize a parade right now”:

  1. The scores went up an average of 8 points; that is only a 0.7% increase. No big deal. For many years, one of my job responsibilities was to analyze standardized test scores for school districts. We would not mention to parents, students, or school  boards an eight point increase or decrease because it was insignificant.
  2. Participation rates are up only because 15 states, including Connecticut, require that all students take the test. Taking the test didn’t suddenly seem like a good idea to thousands of additional kids.
  3. The College Board has no idea who is college-ready. The College Board says that 46% to 47% of the test-takers met the College Board benchmarks for college-readiness, but the thing is that there has been absolutely no field-testing to ascertain if what is tested on the SAT makes for success in college. No college professors or high school educators or college graduates were asked. And there is ample evidence that what is tested is irrelevant to success in the workplace.
  4. The gains are not impressive because the test has been changed to guarantee a huge jump in scores, and that has not happened. The SAT was originally claimed to be a test of aptitude that “leveled the playing field” for kids regardless of what their high school education had been. The SAT never delivered on that, but that is now no longer even the intent. What happened is that David Coleman, known as “the chief architect of the Common Core Standards”, became president of the College Board in 2012 and decided that the new and sole purpose of the SAT is to assess the attainment of those standards. So classrooms across the country, fashioned on teaching the Common Core, became test-prep stations for the SAT. With that scenario, scores should have climbed through the roof. They did not.
  5. The SAT measures only one thing: SAT-taking skills. Proof of that comes from the College Board. Through its free tutorials in test-taking skills, the College Board claims scores rise a lot. So if a high score is what a student or the student’s parents want, it can be had for signing up for a tutorial in test-taking skills.  And voila!

Here’s the thing, though: Colleges and universities know that the SAT is not a good predictor of success in college and are increasingly dropping the SAT requirement for admission, and we have overwhelming evidence that what is measured on the SAT will not be of much use at all to those students when they enter the workforce.

So I say, let’s get our priorities right.

Let’s teach kids what are not Common Core Standards and what is not on the SAT. I can speak directly about the 42 Common Core Standards for English Language Arts because I know how and what students need to be taught in order to excel as readers and writers and know that, without a doubt, the Common Core Standards won’t help them. The Common Core stands in their way of being thoughtful readers and effective writers. Instead, let’s teach them what they need to grow and develop as learners and thinkers and to be successful in college and the workplace.

Let’s teach kids, as Tony Wagner, the lead scholar at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, recommends. Let’s teach them to question, to think critically, to collaborate with other knowledge-seekers, to deal with ambiguity, to be creative and imaginative, to express themselves clearly and with enthusiasm as writers and speakers, and to determine productive actions after analyzing and assessing information. Then and only then will our kids be ready for college and equipped for their future.

The SAT is the horse and buggy of education. Let’s put that horse out to pasture.

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