Category Archives: Education

High School Calendar

Two events coincided this weekend for me. One was the accusations and explanations regarding Judge Brett Kavanaugh and his possible sexual predatory behavior when he was a young man. The other was my 50th high school reunion.

First, Mr Kavanaugh. He has been accused of attempted rape when he was drunk and in high school. The accuser will be heard next week in the Senate committee hearing. He has denied any untoward behavior. In his defense a former Republican Congressional candidate named Gina Sosa came to his defense. I guess.

“I mean, we’re talking about a 15-year-old girl, which I respect. You know, I’m a woman. I respect,” Sosa told CNN. “But we’re talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn’t done this in high school? Please, I would like to know.”   

http://time.com/5404108/brett-kavanaugh-sexual-assault-high-school-gina-sosa/

That got me thinking about my old high school buddies. As I said, the 50 year reunion just took place and I had not seen most of these guys in, well, 50 years. Like Brett Kavanaugh, I went to an all male Catholic High School. My class size was about 100, so we got to know each other fairly well. Now, my memory is not the greatest but I do not recall attempting to rape anyone.

As I looked around the hall at my 50th reunion I saw men who had traversed a wide variety of life paths. Ph.Ds. Scientists. Entrepreneurs. Teachers. Musicians. A whole lot of successful, fulfilled lives. Of course, I remember us all as teenagers. Goofy. Smart. Athletic. Funny. Serious. Mentally undeveloped. Full of potential.

As I looked around the room I could not imagine any of us at the age of 17. Or 27. Or 57. Any of us at any age attempting to rape a girl. Jim? Ed? Jack? Tim? Tom? Dan? Dave? Nope. Not a rapist in the group. Were we the “oddballs” of America? Unsuited to the title of “typical teenage boy”?  Should we be embarrassed by our lack of real manhood? According to Gina Sosa we were far out of the norm. I hope not. I think not.

Which leads me to another point. In the attempt to “prove” that Brett Kavanaugh did not attempt to rape this girl, he has produced a calendar. A calendar he kept as a 17 year old boy. This piece of evidence demonstrates beyond a doubt that this young man never attempted to rape anyone.  While I personally think keeping a calendar of your activities at 17 is a bit odd. So be it. What is even odder is keeping that calendar for 30 years. So be it. But, to his credit, Brett nowhere mentions that he raped anyone. A careful check of all entries and no “Attempted rape tonight” showed up anywhere. Case closed.

This line of thought lead me to investigate myself. Sure enough, in the barn in an old cardboard box covered with bat guano I found my own old high school calendar. After all, what boy would be without such a record. Just as Mr Kavanaugh is able to prove his innocence by his words, I have included some of my own entries below. Like the good judge, I am allowed to pick and choose what the people will see.

October 12. Went to party. Stood around for 3 hours. Ate cake. Went home. Read Playboy. Going to confession tomorrow.

November 7. Worked on homecoming float. Gina S . wore a tight skirt. She almost talked to me. Stayed up half the night. Going to confession tomorrow.

December 3.  Asked Gina S. for a date. She said yes. Going to see a movie tomorrow. Can’t wait. Stayed up half the night.

December 4. Got to first base with Gina S. Well, almost. Was in the batter’s box and got “hit by pitch”. Still. She said she would go out with me again. Yippeee. Going to confession tomorrow.

December 13. Out on a date with Gina S. Got to first base!!!! Then, big mistake. Tried to get to 2nd base and was picked off the bag. Thrown out of the game early. Told me she would call me if she wanted to see me again.

April 1. Gina S called!!!! I got excited. Then she said “April Fool”. Still, just having her call made me think of her. Going to confession tomorrow.

May 20. Got together with 8 of my buddies and gang raped a 12 year old virgin. Now we are real men!!! Gina S. called and said she now considers me “normal”. Wants to go steady!!

All I can say is: Boys will be boys. And the boys I went to school with became men. Perhaps Gina Sosa needs to hang out with a better quality of “boy”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Conservatives, Education, GOP, government, liberals, Politics, SCOTUS, Senate, Society, Supreme Court, United States

Everybody Run, Teacher’s Got a Gun

We live in the age of iodiotic ideas followed by even more idiotic ideas. Most of the “solutions” to problems seem to be designed to create even more problems. And they do. Inevitable.

The latest idiotic idea is that we should start arming teachers in our schools. The NRA supports this idea, of course. As the primary gun manufacturing lobby this will mean more sales. More sales means more dollars to legal gun runners. More dollars to legal gun runners means more dollars in the NRA account. So, the idiotic idea at least has an upside for someone.

As I taught school for 33 years I wondered how I would do if I were armed. Nothing big. Just a small sidearm. A six-shooter. At my hip. Ready to go. Bang. Bang. You’re dead.

It would have proven a useful tool in my arsenal of teaching tricks, to be sure. Before I go on you might consider this. A number of studies have placed teaching as the third or fourth most stressful job in industrialized societies. Third or fourth. Behind soldiers. Cops. EMTS/medical folks. Lots of stress. And not so good on the wages for all those professions. So, even more stress.

http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/be_your_best/page/top-10-stressful-jobs-america-14355387

https://www.tes.com/news/school-news/breaking-news/teaching-among-top-three-most-stressed-occupations

Back to my gun.

I can think of some situations in my long career where a gun may have been useful. And remember the old saying: Don’t point a loaded gun at anyone unless you intend to use it. Use it I would.

There was the 7th grader I will call “Billy Bob”. Billy Bob never did his homework. He almost always sauntered into class late. He shot spitballs on a regular basis. Never passed a test or quiz. Sometimes spit on the floor. He was sent to the office so often he earned frequent flyer miles. And he had a smart mouth. “You’re not my father, you can’t make me do nuthin”.  Wonder what I would have done with a loaded gun?

Then there was Akili . The 18 year old in 9th grade. Came to class once in awhile. Never had a book. Never had a pen or pencil. Never would answer a question. I asked the administration what to do with this kid. Why was he even in school? The answer? He had a “right” to an education and it was my job to teach him. Also, he is selling drugs but we can never catch him. So, once in awhile Akili would show up and take up space. Sit and smirk. Eventually Akili disappeared. Word has it he was “offed” by a rival in the drug business. Still, I wonder? If I had a gun would I have beaten his rival to the punch?

Then there is the monthly faculty meeting. Wherein a person who taught for 3 years and then decided he wanted to make real money but had no skills went on to get an “administrative degree”. This degree allowed such a person to be hired as a principal or vice principal of a school. And to supervise people who actually knew something about educating kids.

Now, this person would hold a faculty meeting. Usually the meeting was designed to inform teachers that they were responsible fo passing all the students. Especially those that did no work. I had one administrator tell me I should never give a grade lower than a 60 on any assignment, even if the student did not turn it in. Not hand it in. Give him an automatic 60. Really. That was his policy. Which I ignored, of course.

Also at the faculty meeting the room full of teachers will be told they must attend “teacher workshops”. Now, a teacher workshop is a place where teachers with 20 years experience sit in student desks and listen to a 23 year old who has never been in a classroom explain how to do the job better. How to inspire every student. How to write individual lesson plans . All 150 of them. Every day. Imagine a room full of armed teachers, after correcting 150 essays, most of which were downloaded from the internet, being told how to do their jobs. Locked and loaded. Yes, give me a gun. Please. Let’s get his meeting started.

Of course there is the dreaded  hall duty. Stop a youngster in the hall who seems to be wandering around aimlessly. Might be lost. Might be looking to bust open a locker. Who knows. So, I ask him very politely: Do you have a hall pass? Where do you belong?

He answers: “Who do you think you are? None of your business. Nobody tells me what to do. Cram it asshole”

Yes, give me a loaded gun.

Now, don’t get me wrong. These are isolated cases and I could give you plenty more. They only happen once in awhile. I might be having a great day and then…bam…some kid destroys it. And, like Rex Harrison in My Fair Lady, ” I’m a very gentle man…

even tempered and good-natured,
whom you never hear complain,
who has the milk of human kindness
by the quart in every vein.
A patient man am I, down to my fingertips,
the sort who never could, ever would,
let an insulting remark escape his lips
Just a very gentle man.”

http://www.metrolyrics.com/im-an-ordinary-man-lyrics-my-fair-lady.html

But some of my colleagues? Nope. They have neither my unending patient nor ability to digest bullshit, from all quarters, above and below.  Arming any of them would put all of us at risk. Every day.

An idiotic idea. Arming teachers. I can see it now. Take Mrs. Nicklebumpkins 9th grade Algebra class. She just can’t take it anymore. And we all understand why.

Shots ring out. Students running down the hall from her class, screaming in terror…

“Everybody run, teacher’s got a gun”

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Filed under crime, Education, gun control, logic, NRA, Politics, Society, Terror, violence

Can Donnie Come Out and Play?

When I was a boy many, many years ago…How long ago, you ask? Before Twitter. Before Facebook. Before the internet. Before Blu Ray. Before DVDs. Before CDs. Before VHS. Before cable TV. Before Fox . Before video games. Before…well…just about everything.

We had a black and white TV and 3 channels. And if you missed the big game or your show, well, you missed it.  If you were lucky you could wait for the re-runs in 6 months.

Where was I? Oh, yes. When I was a boy many, many years ago we did active things for fun. Every weekend and summer we would play softball or touch football. For hours on end. After taking care of a few chores the rest of the day was unsupervised fun.

I learned many lessons from those days. At the time I did not know it. I thought we were just playing ball. But in retrospect the unsupervised hours and days with my friends were filled with life lessons that , unknown to me, stuck. I wonder if Donald ever learned those lessons? I think not.

There was Jack and the Sullivan boys and Joe and an assortment of others. Sometimes Erich. Sometimes Pawlawski. And a few others.

In the summer we would spend all day playing softball at the church parking lot. We knew it was time to go home when the bells rang, I think it was 5 o’clock. Usually 8 of us, sometimes only 6. With that small number of players we devised rules for a pretty decent softball game.

Playing with 3 on a team meant you had a slow pitch pitcher, a shortstop and a left fielder. With only 3 batters you always had to have someone score to take the next slot at the plate. Pitcher’s hands are out. Any ball hit to the right side of 2nd base was an automatic out. No ghost runners. The bases were sometimes pieces of wood, sometimes shirts, sometimes big stones. Never those canvas things used by real teams.

Playing touch football was the same. No first downs. Four downs to score a touchdown. One center, one end and one quarterback. One touch and you are down. No tackling.

No adults to be seen. We played by the rules and had fun. Was Dan safe at the plate or not? Well, Dan knows. If he says he was safe, he was safe. Did the ball get to the pitcher before Joe reached first? Some said yes, some said no. OK. Well, I guess he was out. No arguing. No fights. No instant replays. Someone would just say, OK, I guess you are right.

Did Jack cross the goal line or was he touched at the “one”? Jack said he scored. OK. He must have  scored.  He’s not a cheater. When Doug was touched he  always stuck the ball 6 inches ahead, just like the pro running backs on TV. I always waited until he turned around and pushed the ball 12 inches back.  It worked for both of us.

I can’t recall any serious arguments and certainly no fights. we just figured it all out.

So, what lessons was I learning that I never knew I learned by this unsupervised play?

Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. Doesn’t really matter because we are playing again tomorrow.

If you don’t own a ball, someone else will. If you don’t own a bat, someone else will. That’s why we let everybody play.

If you have a fielder’s glove, toss it to your opponent as he goes to left field. He doesn’t own one and your not using yours when you are batting.

The guys on the other team today will be on my team tomorrow. It is all fluid. 

Uniforms are not needed. You are still a team even if you aren’t dressed alike.

Some people are better than others. Some are better at some things than I am. I am better at some things than they are. That’s the way it is.

Don’t complain about wrong calls. You know if you were safe or out. That’s enough.

Win “fair and square” or lose. Don’t cheat your friends. There is no future in it.

We need all the players we can get. Everyone is important.

It  doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you can catch the ball.

Donald is only 4 years older than me. I don’t know if he was allowed to play unsupervised with other kids. . To figure out how to negotiate human relationships. To learn to respect others and their abilities. To share his baseball glove. It does not appear to be the case.

It’s too late now, but I wonder if he would have been different had he lived on the East Side with the working class mopes like us. I wonder what would have happened had we been able to ride our bikes to his house, knock on the door and ask:

“Can Donnie come out and play?”

 

 

 

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The Reagan Babies

When I was a tyke going to school in a medieval Catholic dungeon I learned about the Pagan Babies.

We would bring in our pennies on Friday and Sister Attila of the Holy Order of Terror would collect the coin. Our little coppers were going to be sent to some missionary in Africa to help convert the “pagan babies”. These little babies evidently had not gotten the word about the all-merciful god. Our job, as little Catholic babies, was to save them.

Whether the money actually went to Africa or to the Vatican I don’t know. Our second grade class did not hire a CPA to check the books. Maybe the load of coppers  went to fund  Sister Attila’s  “Bloody Mary” stash. Perhaps the pennies fed the local liquor economy. Either way, a good cause.

The thing about these Pagan Babies living in Africa was this.

They were ignorant. They were hapless and hopeless. They did not know the truth. They were condemned to a life of squalor and prejudice and stupidity. We pitied them. We felt sorry for them. They knew only what they had been taught. Narrow minded . Ignorant. In the dark. What would  happen when they reached adulthood? How would this ignorance manifest itself?

Which brings me to their American counterparts. The Reagan Babies.

The Reagan Babies were brought up in the 1980s. They were brought up on the mantra that “government is evil” and “greed is good”.  They were told that poor people are poor because they are lazy. And the rich are wealthy because they deserve to be wealthy. They were told that labor should be cheap. Black people are criminals. Most of all, that working people should not have rights.

They were brought up to worship a god that demands obedience and fear. An intolerant, political god who builds hells here on earth for the “fallen” called prisons. And builds “wealth” by buying out real businessmen who actually build real businesses. Then stripping them and selling off the parts. A god that tells us that society is bad. People should not care for each other. The god of the Old Testament.

These Reagan babies have now become politicians. Roughly in their forties . They have achieved power. They want to destroy Social Security. They want to destroy the Civil Rights Act. They want to destroy unions. They want to destroy the concept of a public education for all. Most of all, they want to destroy the very idea of a “social contract”. And they have had some degree of success. The Rubios. The Cruzes. The Ryans. The Brownbacks. The Scott Walkers. The “young studs” of the Republican Party. The Reagan Babies.

We donated out pennies to save the Pagan Babies from ignorance . The Reagan Babies cannot be saved. They have been been taught a narrow view of life. They have been taught to embrace authoritarianism of “supply side” economics and an intolerance for the non-believer. They have been taught that the very concept of “society” is bad. No one is his brother’s keeper. They have come of age and now we are reaping the rewards of Reaganism.

The irony, of course, is that the Reagan Babies are supported by many of the very people they hold in contempt. Working Americans. Older Americans. True believers who  keep sending their hard earned pennies  (and votes) to the Reagan Babies.

Even as 2nd graders we would not have fallen for that scam.

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Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Any More

(In 2012 GOP Governor Brownback of Kansas pushed through the “Great Conservative Experiment”. Bringing the architect of the “supply-side” economics theory, Laffer, he proposed and got massive tax cuts for business and the wealthy, coupled with reduced public  support for the poor along with cuts to education. A conservative’s dream state. It was the experiment that would prove, once and for all, that “supply side ” policies were destined to be a great success…. They have been a massive fiscal disaster)

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/in-kansas-gov-brownbacks-reelection-race-is-case-study-in-republican-party-shift/2014/07/30/3192d86c-1420-11e4-8936-26932bcfd6ed_story.html

http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article62557137.html

Aunt Em: I think she is finally waking up ! Dorothy, get up,  dear. Time to go to work.

Dorothy: Oh, Aunt Em. I had the strangest dream.

Aunt Em: Well, dear, time to get up and go to work in  the poultry plant. Those chicken wings don’t detach themselves.

Dorothy: Work? Chicken wings? Aunt Em, I don’t remember. I had the strangest dream that I visited a new land,  the land of Oz.

Aunt Em: Now, Dorothy.  You simply overslept. Now get your butt out of bed. We need the extra income.

Dorothy: But, Aunt Em. My dream. I dreamed I found myself surrounded by little men with little minds  and squeeky voices.  They were singing about “following the supply-side road” to wealth and fortune. But I kept going in circles. The road lead to nowhere.

Aunt Em: Oh,  that was no dream. That was the Knsas State Legislature, dear. Don’t you recall? They had to close all the roads except the ones leading directly to the chicken processing plant.

Dorothy: Then I dreamed I met a man who had straw in his head instead of a brain. He was silly and stupid. He flopped around and made no sense at all.

Aunt Em: Oh, Dorothy. That was the head of the Department of Education. Don’t you remember? The schools all had to close early because the state ran out of money for silly things like books and teachers. It is all part of the “great experiment”. It will be fine.

Dorothy: But Aunt Em, he didn’t even know what evolution was! And then I met a man who looked like a lion but was scared of everything. He cowered at the mention of the Wizard of Oz. Pathetic.

Aunt Em: You must mean the old Democratic Party. Oh dear, they certainly lost their courage.

Dorothy: Well, what about the man I met without a heart. It mean, he must have been part of a dream. A heartless man. No man can live without a heart, can he?

Aunt Em: Well, Governor Brownback came to town last week to proclaim “Cowboy Day” in honor of the ranchers who avoid paying federal grazing fees. There is no evidence that he has a heart.

Dorothy.: Then, in my dream,  we  walked all the way to the capital and saw this massive building. Covered with emeralds. And I went inside and saw the Wizard of Supply Side. He told me everything would be OK. Just keep working and don’t worry about the budget deficit. Don’t worry about school. Don’t worry about health care. It was final. He had spoken.

Aunt Em: Don’t you remember, Dorothy? We were going to take you on an ocean cruise across Kansas but the Lollipop Guild had taken away our lavish food stamp allowance. So, we went to see the Wizard for help. We DID go see the wonderful Wizard.

Dorothy: Well, what did the Wizard do?

Aunt Em: He told us to drop you out of 9th grade and get you a job. He told us that if you get sick you should “suck it up”. He said never ever use dirty words like”unions” or “climate change”. The great and powerful Koch had spoken.

Dorothy: Aunt Em, I am sick. My brain hurts. I need to see a doctor.

Aunt Em: Sorry, dear. We lost our health care when your uncle got fired for supporting abortion rights. You’ll just have to hope for the best. I am sure the Great Experiment will work itself out. Now, get on your bike and head for work. Those chicken parts are waiting to be sorted.

Dorothy: Look, Aunt Em !! A twister is coming right at us. A big one!

Aunt Em: Quick, Dorothy, into the storm cellar. … Dorothy! Where are you going?!

Dorothy hops on her bike with Toto in her basket and starts peddling frantically. Directly TOWARD the massive tornado.

Dorothy: Good bye , Aunt Em. I have my future to think about. Between living a decent life in Kansas and the twister, I like my chances with the tornado.

 

 

 

 

 

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You Never Know

The idea that Trump or Cruz could be elected president is almost unimaginable to anyone with a…well…to anyone. They both have a long history of dishonesty and fabrication. So,  how could either of these two clearly incompetent men ever win that high office.

Well, as grandma used to say regarding just about anything . “You Never Know”.

After all. There are still people who…..

…are convinced that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. No amount of evidence  like a birth certificate, two Hawaiian newspaper notices or witnesses to his birth (I do believe his mother was there) will change their minds. Was he born in Kenya? You never know.    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barack_Obama_citizenship_conspiracy_theories

…believe that the Affordable Care Act allows the government to establish death panels. These death panels will decide if and when to execute you or me. I should live so long. Have the death panelists earmarked anyone for execution yet? You never know.   https://josephurban.wordpress.com/2014/10/29/clarence-avoids-the-death-panels/

…insist that Sasquatch is real. They know he or she is real because they have seen the videos. And videos, we have learned, do not lie. And for further proof, there is an entire industry devoted to Sasquatch paraphernalia. They couldn’t sell Sasquatch stuff if it wasn’t real!  There is even a Sasquatch DNA site. God, I hope I’m related ! I could be. You never know.      http://www.sasquatchgenomeproject.org/index.html

…deny that the climate is changing. Or, if it is changing , then human activity has nothing to do with the overall increase in global temperatures. Some of the more astute deniers point out that it still snows sometimes, which thoroughly debunks any “global warming” claims. If it was cold today how can the earth be warming up? This entire global warming hoax could be a plot by Al Gore to make millions! (Remember him? The guy who received 500,000 more votes for POTUS than GW Bush?)  Or is it a plot by COMMUNISTS?  The commies are still hanging around. You never know.        http://www.commieblaster.com/climategate/

…insist that Bill Clinton is responsible for 9/11.  ….http://wonkette.com/595179/its-official-bill-clinton-did-911

…are certain that Hillary Clinton refused to send aid to the American ambassador in Benghazi.    http://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/261442/hillarys-benghazi-stand-down-order-exposed-kenneth-r-timmerman

…have been abducted by aliens. No, not all the Mexican/alien rapists that Trump told us about. Real aliens. The UFO-type. Weird eyes. Pointy heads. Pushed in noses. NO, NOT Trey Gowdy. Real aliens. Trey Gowdy…hmmmmm?             https://josephurban.files.wordpress.com/2016/01/157bc-pinhead.jpeg

http://www.ufocasebook.com/alienabductions.html

…will believe whatever they want to believe.   http://www.theflatearthsociety.org/cms/index.php

So, can Cruz or Trump ever be elected president? As frightening as it is…You Never Know.

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I’m Entitled…A Deal’s A Deal

Some states, New Jersey and Michigan come to mind, have decided that pensions for teachers and other public employees are too costly. So, they have cut back. Changed the rules. Old people have become too expensive. People retired, thinking they had a deal. Then the rules were changed. After the game was over.

First, a true story. A guy who delivers my firewood also takes down trees. I’ll call him Luke. I asked Luke to look at a massive cherry tree in my yard and he said he could take it down for 50 bucks. That was a good deal. A 30 minute job. Luke came back in his coveralls with his chain saw and well, it wasn’t as easy as we thought. The tree got caught up. He had to take down another maple next to it. Then he cut up the trunk into usable pieces for me. Took about 2 hours.

Now, it comes time to pay Luke. I give him the $50 and try to give him more. No. He won’t take it. I said, look, you took down two trees, cut them up, the job was much bigger than we thought. Take some more money. No. Luke would have none of it. His exact words. “A deal’s a deal”. End of discussion.

I taught in NY schools for over 30 years. Put money into the retirement system. Every check. My wages were so low that, as a professional teacher there were years when my family was eligible for welfare. WIC. A college degree, graduate school, a teaching certificate all lead to welfare subsidy. Which is okay. I knew what I wanted. Worked every summer to make ends meet. But I paid into the retirement system. Every check. Social security. Every check. Medicare. Every check. Just like public employees in Michigan and New Jersey and Wisconsin and Kansas and every other state in the union.

Am I ENTITLED to my retirement check? You bethcha. I paid in and took lower wages for a reason. A deal’s a deal.

I started working at 16. Paid Social Security. Paid Medicare. Paid federal taxes. Paid state taxes.
Now I am retired and I get free money from Uncle Sam. Social security every month. Now I am on Medicare. Am I one of Mitt Romney’s 47% ? ENTITLED? You betcha. I deserve it. A deal’s a deal.

I get more than a little irritated at the “young gun” GOP governors who are trying to balance their budgets by stripping pensions and retirement plans. Cutting taxes on the better off citizens and taking dollars out of the pockets of retirees. They have no clue. They have no understanding of what people in the past gave up to get those guaranteed pensions. They have no shame. They have no integrity.

They are deaf to the basic contract. They do not believe that “A deal’s a deal”.

Maybe I should order them some firewood. And have Luke deliver it. Maybe, just maybe, a little bit of Luke would rub off . But I doubt it.

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Why Do We Gotta Learn This Stuff?

Billy Bob Baker, sitting in the back row picking his nose in US history class: “Why do we gotta learn this stuff?” What history teacher has not heard that refrain from some of his or her students ?

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama.

In much of Alabama Negroes could not vote. African-Americans and blacks could not register to vote. The state of Alabama had systematically and intentionally prevented minorities from taking part in elections. State’s rights.

The federal government was doing nothing to guarantee this right.

So. People marched. Peacefully. And the local and state authorities responded with violence. With billy clubs. With dogs. With tear gas. With beatings.

Because people marched for the right to vote. Peacefully. For the right to vote.

Today we have seen a resurgence of the “state’s rights” propaganda. In the 1950s and 60s it was a code word for racism. For keeping minorities powerless. For making laws about marriage, schools, drinking fountains, restaurants and even where a person could sit on a bus.

Take a moment to digest that. The state of Alabama,under the doctrine of “state’s rights” decided that some working, tax paying citizens could not drink at a public drinking fountain. Or use a restroom. The state of Alabama, and many others, decided that even though a person bought a ticket to ride a bus he or she could not sit in an empty seat on that bus unless it was in the back of the bus. Even though the law abiding working citizens paid taxes , the state of Alabama decided that these same taxpaying citizens could not participate in elections.

Let it sink in.
It is not ancient history. It is modern America. It wasn’t 1695, it was 1965.

“Why do we gotta learn this stuff?” Because ignorance breeds racism. Because ignorance of recent history allows one to be lead by the nose into another era of “states rights”. Another code word. Because your ignorance condemns you to be a pawn. Because the world is more complex than Fox Entertainment would have you believe. And to help you understand that no battle for civil rights is ever finished. Because if you remain ignorant you are easy pickings for the demagogues and racists. There are always politicians who will use the codewords to gain power over others.

Yes, Billy Bob. You gotta learn that stuff. Not just for yourself, but so the rest of us can live knowing that your ignorance will not help reactionaries turn back the clock of progress.

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What’s Eating Gilbert’s Textbooks?

I applaud the wise and generous school board of Gilbert, Arizona. They have ordered the destruction of a page, well, 2 pages, of an AP Biology textbook. And they continue to search and destroy other Biology textbooks which may be harboring information destructive to the youth of Gilbert.

If you haven’t been following the news. This school board,  by a 3-2 margin, has demanded that 1 sheet (2 pages) be ripped out of an AP Bio book. Why ? Because it has a section about abortion and birth control. Unfortunately for sperm, the other side of the sheet has information about sperm, including a cute photo of an anonymous little critter.

Of course , some folks might think this is wrong. In fact, 2 of the board members who voted for the destruction of evil were just kicked off the board by the voters. Their term ends in January. Still, the uninformed electorate needs to applaud, rather than criticize these Tea Party geniuses.

So, on that note I have composed an open letter to the Gilbert School Board:

Dear Tea Party Brethren in Christ:

I, for one, fully support your desire to keep the youngsters of Gilbert as ignorant of the real world as possible. If we can keep them from knowing about stuff, then that stuff does not exist. For example, if we would stop talking about global warming, poverty, terrorism and penguins I am certain they would all go away. Especially penguins.

While I applaud your intentions I have to say I think you may have miscalculated what the outcome will be. Destroying an academic treatise is always good, for sure. And in this case you have performed a double duty, a two-for-oner, killing two birds with one stone. Or one rip, as it were.

Not only have you destroyed any information about abortion and birth control, but you have also laid to rest sperm. There is very little that is more exciting to a teenage boy than frontal views of the Dalkon Shield or a discussion of condoms. I can still remember sneaking copies of Gynecological Weekly into my bed at night. So, we can all agree on that. And when teenage girls are exposed to actual photos of sperm. Well. Their hormones go crazy with lust-filled thoughts about pregnancy and child rearing and so on. Instant sluts. So, I have no complaints about the destruction of information. Good work.

For example, take my case. When I went to Catholic school back in the late 1960s we had something called “Religion” class. One kid, I will call him “Jim” did a project on birth control He explained the various methods and even brought in condoms, IUDs, the pill, etc. While it was informative I am sure it lead to the sexual revolution. Until then we had no teen pregnancies. (Although a great number of the Catholic School girls did take long vacations to visit Aunties and returned a few pounds slimmer). Would we have had AIDS had Jimmy just did a project on the Ten Commandments instead ? I think not !

So. I am on your side. But I fear you may have made things worse instead of better. For a couple reasons.

First, all those kids who would never have read the textbook in a million years are now going to read it. Plus, they are going to go first to the very pages you do not want them to read. One best thing a teenager likes to do is anything an adult thinks he should not do. So, probably ALL the kids (not just Hubert and Emily, who read EVERYTHING) have already read those passages by now. As Homer Simpson would say, “DOH !”

Secondly. A guy named Al Gore invented something called the “interweb” not long ago. Weird as it seems, kids can get on this “interweb” from their computers and learn things NOT in the textbooks we so generously deface for them. They can learn about sperm and IUDs and abortion and even penguins. It is difficult to rip out pages on the “interweb”. I know. I have tried. Does not work.

So, my fellow keepers of the public morals and purveyors of ignorance. I applaud your intent. However, I fear that kids may somehow learn about abortion, birth control and sperm OUTSIDE the school setting. I fear they may even learn about penguins. I call it bad parenting ! Still, best of luck in the future. And while you are ripping up pages I suggest you look at Amendment 1 of the US Constitution. Sharpen those scissors !

Sincerely, The Old Liberal.

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The Liberals Are Coming! The Liberals Are Coming!

A Poem. With apologies to…well…everyone.

 

The Liberals Are Coming

 

Listen My children and who shall hear

The whining and crying of those who fear

Who dread the idea of rights for gays

And dream of a past of more bigoted days.

 

“The liberals are coming” is what they say

“The liberals are coming to take rights away”

“Gay liberals are coming to marry our sons”

“The liberals are coming to confiscate guns”

 

They ride through the internet,  fearful and mad

And watch Fox and Friends (which really is sad)

They worry that folks colored black, brown and red

Might all vote for Dems, a day they all dread.

 

Lockstep behind pundits their minds go a sail-in

Listening to Rush, Ann Coulter and Palin

Worshiping at the great temple of Cruz

Fearful of Muslims, agnostics and Jews

 

They see immigrants taking all jobs that are fun

Like picking tomatoes in the hot summer sun

And cutting up chickens and waiting at tables

(For non-union wages) and cleaning out stables.

 

But that half-breed from Kenya is the one they hate most

A communist-socialist they’d like to roast

That Marxist purveyor of health care for all

By tearing him down, they think themselves tall.

 

So afraid of the thought that workers have rights

If they could they would make every issue a fight

Compromise is a blasphemy they can’t conceive

For God speaks to them (or so they believe)

 

One wonders what happens to warp little brains

And cause them to focus on hatred and pain

See commies and Marxists behind every tree

And liberals plotting to “get stuff for free” ?

 

Well, the liberals aren’t coming,  so nothing to fear

The liberals aren’t coming, we’re already here

Over 200 years now and still doing fine

Slowly making life better,  one law at a time

 

Some “liberal” ideas that have taken hold?

Everyone voting. No slaves being sold.

Cleaning the water. Cleaning the air.

Minimum wages. Trials that are fair.

 

Medicare. Head Start. The old EPA.

(Well,  that one was Nixon’s…a “liberal” today)

Women have rights to their own personhood.

Social Security. See, it’s all good.

 

Let Fox-nurtured phobics keep crying in pain

With arguments silly and dumb and inane

And when they keep screaming and howling “Impeach!”

Remind them it was “liberals” who gave them free speech.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under ACA, Conservatives, Education, Elections, Environment, healthcare, homosexual, Immigration, Neoconservative, Republicans, Supreme Court

American Schools Part 2: The Great Privatization Scheme

$650,000,000.  Each year. That is what the US spends on public education. A big pile of pennies. A massive gold egg.

As  certain elements of our political system continue to degrade teaching and public education they are keeping one eye firmly focused on this treasure trove of tax dollars. Your dollars. My dollars. Dollars that are going to educate the next generation of citizens.

On one hand they attack teachers and unions and emphasize testing rather than learning. On the other hand they can’t keep their eyes off that big mountain of gold. Ripe for plucking. Privatization.

If you don’t keep the figure of $650,000,000 in mind you will  not get it. Just as the private prison industry has been taking over the housing of criminals, we see a movement in politics to turn over education, and tax dollars, to private companies. What Mitt Romney would call a “transfer of wealth”.

Now, you might think that is a good thing. Public schools can do better. Add to that the ingrained myth that private industry is somehow more efficient that public institutions. And there is no doubt plenty of waste , corruption and failure in some public schools.  So, it may be tempting to turn over the education of kids from highly trained professionals  to for profit companies.

Except it doesn’t work. Well, it depends. If your goal is to simply shift wealth from regulated, licensed, dedicated institutions to unregulated ,  short-term profit scam artists  it does work. If your goal is to  improve schools,  it doesn’t. Of course, the same politicians who are constantly trying to degrade public education, de-fund it and de-unionize  it are the ones who want to turn it over to the private entities. Starve the schools then complain about them.

I took my car to my “government-regulated” mechanic last week and told him to rebuild the engine using only a screwdriver. He said couldn’t do it.  He said he needed better tools to do the job correctly. I told him he was a failure. So, I need to get a new mechanic. I found a guy who said he could do it. He is a “privatized” mechanic. He doesn’t need to follow any stupid government regulations. And he is cheap. Left my car with him last week. I am sure it will be fine. Can’t wait to get it back.

Not a single long-term study has shown any significant increase in student performance in these privately run “schools”. A good example is the Wisconsin “Rocketship” fiasco.  Cut teaching staff. Put kids in front of computers. Emphasize only test scores. And even then test scores did not improve. But “Rocketship”profits did…from $ 2 million to $16 million. Without results. (http://truth-out.org/news/item/23319-scathing-report-finds-rocketship-school-privatization-hurt-poor-kids)

$650,000,000. Each year. Every year. Waiting to be transferred from the taxpayer to the private companies. Like pirates scanning the horizon searching for the Spanish treasure fleet.  The Jolly Roger of the privateers is being raised all over America. And the bullion is your tax dollars.

It’s coming. Every time you hear a politician degrade teaching and schools on one hand you can be sure he is taking something else from the privatization movement with the other hand.

The formula is here: Underfund education. Blame the teachers. Turn it over to privateers.

$650,000,000 each year is too hard to resist.

 

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American Schools, Part 1: The Great Leap Forward

After Mao Tse-tung (or Mao Zedong) the communist dictator took control of China he decided to develop industrial production as quickly as possible. His goal was to catch up with the nation of Great Britain, a hated imperial power, in the production of food and iron and steel. He did this by instituting a series of 5 year plans…the most important  called the “Great Leap Forward”. China was going to “leap” over a century of industrial and agricultural production in a few short years.

To do this,  the Mao bureaucracy assigned production goals of food stuffs and raw iron to  every commune. The commune  leader was responsible for meeting those goals. One of the ways to meet the production of iron ore was a multitude of “backyard” furnaces. Small furnaces in which the communes throughout China purified iron ore, pots, pans and scrap metal  for pig  iron, later to be used in the production of steel. The peasants and communes “enthusiastically” responded. (The toll in human life to these policies is well documented elsewhere).

Now, if a commune failed to meet it’s yearly quota the leader of the commune was demoted and a new bureaucrat took his place. If the commune did meet the quota the government often increased the quota slightly more the next year. After a couple years of this system the Chinese communes were producing massive amounts of pig iron. The Great Leap Forward was a great success. Or was it?

As it turned out the production of food and iron was pretty much a fantasy of the bureaucracy. In order to keep your job you had to turn in production totals. People lied. All the production was on paper, not in reality. After all, the government gave them no help and had production goals that were unreachable. In reality. And the iron that was produced was of such low quality that it was virtually useless.  But on paper all was well. After three years the Great Leap abruptly ended. A massive failure.

Which brings us to the current Great Leap Forward in American public education. We have heard ,  well,  forever, that US schools are “failing”.  Despite the fact that the US has one of the best educated work forces in the world. Just look at test scores. Look at those failure rates. Bring up those test scores. Demolish those failure rates.

Once, teachers were expected to teach youngsters. How to read, write, think, express and do all those other things educated folks are supposed to do. Teaching is hard work. Learning is harder work. It isn’t easy getting 14 year old boy to study . Video games, sports, the internet are all much more interesting than Pythagorean’s theorum. Or the causes of WW1. Or Darwin’s theory. Learning is an active process, after all. And if a youngster does not put in the time he will not get the reward. Should he?

Except. Those test scores. Those failure rates. If the test scores are low we have to blame someone. If the failure rates are high we have to find a scapegoat.  And the principals and superintendents and media and politicians and parents know exactly who is to  blame. The teachers. The unionized, lazy teachers. The overpaid peons. The peasants. The commune workers struggling to make pig iron in those backyard furnaces. Without much help.

So, what do we do? Have a Great Leap Forward. Just like Chairman Mao. Tell the peasants to “produce ” more with less. Just give us those “test results”. And raise those “passing rates”. And we will be happy. Lower the passing requirements. Make the tests easier. Produce test grading systems that boggle the mind (Like 40 out of 50 correct equals a 95). Do whatever it takes. Or heads roll. Superintendents get replaced. Principals get fired. But those damned teachers have tenure. Not what do we do?

Massive dishonesty. If  a student fails it is the teacher’s fault. Or the school’s fault. Or the parents’ fault. Never the student’s responsibility. The numbers look bad. Fix them. Some teachers and administrators cheat. Better to produce good test scores than lose your job. Keeps the community happy. No teacher is ever criticized for having too many passing grades. Drill, baby, drill. Forget about learning. Forget about the process of discovery. Focus only on the test. And then wonder why real students get bored. Doesn’t matter. It is all about the test scores. The production quotas. The pig iron. Forget quality, just produce the pig iron.

And when the Great Leap Forward (No Child Left Behind; Race to the Top) fails miserably, we know what has to be done. Blame the peasants. Blame the teachers. Privatization.

Next essay: The Great Privatization Scheme.

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Why Immigration Reform Will Not Pass

Both political parties have talked about immigration reform for years. More agents on border patrol. More deportations. A path to citizenship.

According to the “patriotic” wing of the GOP,  illegals are blamed for just about every ill you can think of. They crowd our emergency rooms. They overcrowd our schools. They vote in amazing numbers (at a higher rate than US citizens, evidently). They are the reason for taxes. I think they may even be causing global warming (if the deniers would admit it existed).

Of course, the fact that illegal immigrants actually contribute more to the system, in terms of cheap labor, taxes and buying power, is irrelevant. In the age of “Fox Facts” real facts take a back seat.

So, the Dems want , or claim they want, immigration reform. But the GOP has basically said it is DOA, at least for this year.  With good reason.

The last thing the financial interests which support the GOP, and to some extent the Dems, want is closed borders. Too many businesses and industries thrive on illegal labor. The benefits to major corporate interests are legion.

Illegals cannot demand fair wages. Or working conditions. Or anything, really. They live under the constant threat and fear of deportation. The agricultural and meat processing industries make million, if not billions, by harnessing this low wage labor. No union contracts. No overtime. No testy union negotiations to deal with. No factories or fields that have to meet health standards. A capitalist’s dream.

Imagine what would happen if  all the illegals disappeared tomorrow. Who would take those jobs?  Would these industries be non-unionized for long? What would happen to the wage structure in order to attract US citizens  to those jobs? What would happen to corporate profits? What costs would these industries have to incur to meet safe standards for working conditions?

The same is  true in the construction industry. It is no accident that Congress passed a labor law when distributing money for Hurricane Katrina. A law that specifically denied the demand that American union  workers provide the labor for reconstruction of the Gulf Coast. As a result you had thousands of illegals move up from central America  to rebuild the houses, roads, etc. Non-union, underpaid labor.

This is why for all the whining and groaning about the “illegals” that we hear coming from the right wing we should understand that these same right wingers have never been serious about immigration reform. The very folks who keep them in Congress would be financially harmed if any meaningful immigration laws were enforced. That is also why Congress funds only 20,000 people to run the entire ICE program. In a nation of over 300,000,000 the ICE is supposed to control the borders, process citizenship applications and track down illegals. As well as monitor businesses for compliance. Anyone believe that is possible?

Illegal immigration is here to stay. It’s good for big business.

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The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

I was born 64 years ago today. Often we tend to think that we don’t make much progress. But we do. We also sometimes regress. Here is my take  (a quick take) on the good, the bad and the ugly since I was born in 1950.

The Good: Space travel. Understanding DNA. Unimaginable improvements in health care. Blacks can now eat in the same restaurants as whites. And marry each other. As can homosexuals. Cell phones. Air travel.The internet. Understanding of climate change. The disabled are no longer hidden away.The environmental movement.Scientific achievements in evolutionary theory, gene theory  and just about every other field of science. EPA. The Voting Rights Act. And so much more.

The Bad: Vietnam. Iraq. Afghanistan. Trickle down economic theory. Overemphasis on sports in high schools. Fundamentalist religion, here and abroad. Terrorism. 9/11. Weapon sales to petty dictators and gangs worldwide. Genocides. Voter suppression. Science deniers. Environmentally induced cancers.  Over processed food. Vulgarity disguised as free speech. Wall Street. And so much more.

The Ugly: Fox News. Race hatred rekindled. Putin. Drugs in pro sports. The gun lobby.  Many “entertainers”.

 

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Scalia and the Broccoli Conundrum

 

According to the transcript of the Affordable Care Act debate before the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia used broccoli in one of his analogies. Specifically, if the government can force a person to buy health insurance, couldn’t the government force a person to eat broccoli. I think this will go down in the annals of Supreme Court history as the “Broccoli Conundrum”.
I will be the first to admit that I have not read the entire transcript of the arguments, so I may be taking his statement out of context. But that is acceptable. I simply follow Mr. Scalia who has admitted he has not read the law he will be rendering judgment on. So, following his lead, I will limit my comments and analysis to the broccoli.
His analogy was a simple one. Worthy of any 9th grade social studies student. Clear. Uncomplicated. Unfounded. And missing the point entirely. Let us examine.
He compares a requirement to pay a fee or tax to the force feeding of a specific food. Shoving something down someone’s throat is hardly analogous to charging a fee. Yet, giving Antonin the benefit of the doubt, let’s examine this idea. He has drawn the conclusion that if the government can force one to pay a fee for insurance, it can then force any behavior. As I said, not bad for a 9th grader. Not good for someone who fancies himself a legal scholar.
One weak point in the analogy is obvious. While the government mandates that an individual purchase insurance, there is no mandate to actually use the insurance. There is no physical coercion. No penalty for not seeing a doctor. No one is forced to have an operation. It is simply a financial burden.
The government is replete with similar financial burdens. For example, I am forced to pay taxes or fees for the interstate highway system, parks, dams, bridges and other government enterprises. The government does not force me to use the highways. I may never directly benefit from or use these, but I am required to pay my fair share. I am also required to pay Medicare and Medicaid taxes, though I am not a recipient of those services.
I am forced to subsidize the oil and other energy industries, the military, churches and other non-profits and a host of others who receive tax breaks. I make up the difference. And receive no direct benefit.
I am not complaining. I fully understand (as our imaginary 9th grader has yet to comprehend) that as a member of society we all need to pull our weight. All of us. And each of us pays fees or taxes for things which we do not approve.
Back to broccoli. Can the government force me to eat broccoli? In a sense, yes. The government can force feed individuals, against their will. And if I fail to provide food for my children, the government can force me to do so, or take away the kids. In fact, should I choose to die by starvation , the government will not allow it. It will demand that I be force fed against my will. So, in that sense, the government does have a right to force me to eat my broccoli.
Today we have governments that are forcing women to undergo vaginal probes. Forcing employees to give blood for drug testing. Forcing men and women to take alcohol tests. Even force men and women to go overseas to fight and die. The list is pretty long. And I have yet to hear Antonin utter complaints about those intrusions.
So, Justice Scalia’s simplistic analogy falls flat. The answer, Antonin, is “Yes”. We live in a society. We share the fruits, we share the burdens. The government has , for many years, forced us to do things far more personal and more intimate than another tax.
So, Tony, remember what your mother said. “Eat your broccoli, it’s good for you”. And pay your taxes.

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