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The Failure of American Teachers

For a long time, I tried to fight it.

Whenever someone had the temerity to criticize public schools and schoolteachers, I stood staunchly in the corner of those who practice my profession. I noted that in my 12 years as a teacher, I have had the privilege of serving with hard-working, skilled professionals.

Prior to becoming a teacher, I spent the previous 22 years as a newspaper reporter and had the opportunity to observe dozens of schools doing outstanding jobs of serving their communities.

Sadly, I have finally had my blinders removed and I no longer have the same glowing view of public education.

It has nothing to do with test scores, considering most of the schools are taking poorly-worded tests from companies that are making a mint off selling tests and practice tests. After all, if the tests are any good, there would be no need for these practice tests, which have turned out to be a lucrative sideline for the companies.

It has nothing to do with lazy, incompetent teachers who received tenure and cannot be fired. On the contrary, that is a phenomenon of some large, suburban schools whose failures are then exploited by those who wish to see public education destroyed. From what I have seen over the years, many young teachers who are not cut out for teaching quickly discover that and move to other work. Others are encouraged by administrators to leave education, while others are removed before they can do more damage. Few incompetents receive tenure in Missouri and most of those are as a result of administrators not doing their jobs.

It has nothing to do with the stories about teachers misusing their positions of trust to take advantage of students. Some critics have targeted teachers because of these few who have brought shame on all of us. The reason those instances are so well publicized is because they are still thankfully rare.

It has nothing to do with out of control unions who care about teachers more than children. It has not been my experience that union members put anyone ahead of children.

It has nothing to do with teachers working 8 to 3 and getting three months off in the summer and Christmas breaks. I don’t know many teachers who don’t take their work home with them and most arrive well before first bell and work long after children have gone home. Summers are spent either teaching summer school or taking classes and attending seminars to keep up with the latest developments or to earn higher degrees. Of course, those higher degrees and the debt the teachers have run up earning them will be wasted once laws are passed, including one scheduled to be voted on this week in Missouri that will eliminate years of valuable experience and advanced degrees in favor of a system that relies on the same poorly written tests I mentioned before. Poverty, parents who don’t care, children with no interest in learning (or allowing others to learn) — none of those things mean anything. After all, if you believe the rhetoric from our politicians, the sole problem in American public education is horrible, inept teachers.

And that brings me to the sole reason I have changed my mind about the competence of American public schoolteachers — if we were doing our job, somewhere along the line we would have taught the politicians who are systematically destroying public education, the greatest of all American experiments, something about decency, respect, and developing the mortal fortitude to resist the siren song of the special interests who are well on their way to making the U. S. into a world of haves and have-nots, where public education will serve to provide low paid feeder stock for non-union companies and taxpayer-financed private schools will continue to cater to the elite, with the middle class existing only in history books.

Public schoolteachers have failed miserably by producing the most incompetent, mean-spirited legislators in U.S. history.

By: Randy Turner, The Huffington Post, March 19, 2011-Original Post, March 13, 2011

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Class Warfare, Collective Bargaining, Education, GOP, Politics, State Legislatures, States, Teachers, Unions | , , , | Leave a comment

A Teachable Moment: Character In An Anti-Teacher Climate

It’s a question on a lot of parents’ minds these days: How do we teach character?

New York Times columnist David Brooks was in Cleveland on Monday to talk about his new book, “The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement.” During the audience Q-and-A, the self-described conservative was asked how he would design high school curriculum to include the teaching of character.

Brooks shared a memory of his own teachers: “I don’t remember what they taught me, but I remember how they behaved.” Many in the audience nodded and murmured in agreement.

Like most people, I could easily rattle off the names of several teachers who changed my life by the way they lived theirs. I’ll spare you that walk down my memory lane.

Instead, I want to quote another self-described conservative who had a lot to say about character. His recent e-mail to me echoed the sentiments expressed by many readers who object to various states’ legislative attacks against public school teachers, including those in Ohio. These letters and e-mails are not from teachers, but from those who love them.

This particular reader is a business analyst. He made it clear that, while our dads held similar blue-collar jobs, he and I grew up to disagree on many issues. He’s not a fan.

But he does share my high regard for the men and women paid by taxpayers to teach America’s children. He’s been married to one of those dedicated public servants in Cleveland for nearly 14 years.

“We spend tons of money on supplies for the kids,” he wrote. “I have begged her to leave Cleveland and she refuses to because it is her calling. I should be so lucky.”

To insulate this man and his wife from the current blood sport of teacher-bashing, I won’t name them. He did give me permission to share the recent letter of apology he wrote to his wife:

Dear Honey,

I’m sorry.

I am a conservative husband, belong to the Tea Party and I voted for John Kasich. I have been married to a Cleveland teacher for almost 14 years and my vote let her down.

I apologize:

For letting people tease you about having the summer off and not asking them to thank you for the tough days ahead that begin in early August. I know for a fact you work more hours in those 10 months than many people do in 12. All those hours are earned.

For complaining that my Sunday is limited with you because you must work.

For making you think you have to ask permission to buy a student socks, gloves and hats.

For not understanding that you walk through a metal detector for work.

For leaving dirty dishes in the sink [when you awoke] for your 4 a.m. work session. I should know you have to prepare.

For thinking you took advantage of the taxpayers. Our governor continues to live off the taxpayer dole, not you.

For counting the time and money you spend to buy school supplies.

For not saying “thank you” enough for making the world and me better.

I love you.

In this husband’s apology, we learn a lot about the remarkable teacher who is his wife. Her students sure are lucky. Every day that she shows up with such optimism is another day her students get a chance to believe in a better version of themselves.

Thankfully, this teacher is not an anomaly. Despite recent attacks on their pay, motives and even their supposed lifestyle, the majority of public school teachers across the country continue to bring their talent and high ideals to some of our most troubled districts.

Consider the take-home message for America’s schoolchildren:

Conservative politicians emboldened by brand-new legislative majorities insist that children are our most precious resource, but then pass bills guaranteed to undermine the teachers entrusted with our children’s future.

Nevertheless, those same public school teachers under attack continue to report for duty every day.

We know that children watch, and learn. And what they are sure to understand is that, unlike those politicians, their teachers refuse to give up on them.

Talk about a lesson in character.

By: Connie Schultz, Syndicated Columnist, The Plain Dealer and Creators Syndicated, Published March 16, 2011, Cleveland.com

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Education, Politics, Professionals, State Legislatures, States, Teachers, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Former Attorney General Mukasey Lobbies For U.S. Chamber To Gut Foreign Bribery Law

Bush’s attorney general (not Gonzales, the much less incompetent but equally malevolent) Michael Mukasey has a new gig in which to ply his talents: making it easier for corporations to bribe foreign governments. The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FPCA) is intended to stop U.S.-based multinational corporations from bribing foreign governments. Unlike the previous administration’s Department of Justice, under Mukasey, the Obama DOJ is enforcing the law.

Under Obama, the department collected more than $1 billion in fines during fiscal year 2010, the most the government has collected in the law’s 38-year history, and more than ten times the $87 million collected in 2007 by the Bush Administration.

The U.S. Chamber can’t have that, so of course, they’ve hired Mukasey to lobby Congress to amend the law.

Debevoise & Plimpton, where Mukasey is a partner, filed lobbying registration papers on his behalf this month, according to Senate records. The registration is for the Chamber’s Institute for Legal Reform and is effective back to March 3. It covers possible FCPA amendments and other issues “related to criminal law and policies affecting U.S. corporations.”The Chamber has become increasingly critical of the FCPA in recent months. It argues that the law, which allows the U.S. government to seek charges against corporations and individuals for bribes paid to local officials in other countries, is not working well and could be making U.S. companies less competitive.

In October, the Chamber released a policy paper proposing several specific changes to the law. The ideas included adding a “compliance defense,” so that a company could not be held criminally liable when an employee circumvents reasonable internal procedures….

When the Chamber released its proposals, Mukasey attended its annual legal summit and moderated a panel discussion on the FCPA. He noted the sharp rise in the Justice Department’s enforcement of the law during the past decade. “The expansion in prosecutions and investigations of course has brought a great deal of anxiety to companies in the United States,” he said, according to video of the panel.

See, the law “is not working well” when it is actaully enforced, that’s the message from Bush’s attorney general. That’s no great shock, given the Bush administration’s attitude toward the rule of law, but still pretty ironic. From an actual rule of law standpoint, the law seems to be working pretty well as enfroced. But the U.S. Chamber, and Mukasey, certainly can’t have that.

By: Joan McCarter, Daily Kos, March 18, 2011

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Corporations, DOJ, Foreign Governments, Ideologues, Lobbyists, Politics, U.S. Chamber of Commerce | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Make-Believe Billionaire Candidate Donald Trump Is A Birther Now

Donald Trump, a reality show host and savage parody of post-industrial Great Stagnation-era capitalism, is pretending to run for president, as a sort of performance art piece mocking the contemporary fad among elites of celebrating plutocrat billionaires as our wise superiors and pretending their vanity campaigns for elected office are some sort of charitable selfless “public service.”

And he’s really going all-out. What began as a sort of through-a-glass-darkly reimagining of the Bloomberg-for-president chatter added a dose of Gingrichian “false run to promote unrelated money-making endeavors” as he ramped up his “campaign” at precisely the moment the new season of his television show premiered.

Today Trump even became a pseudo-birther, in an interview with ABC News, which was for some reason taking part in an extensive marketing campaign for a television show that airs on a rival network:

“Everybody that even gives a hint of being a birther … even a little bit of a hint, like, gee, you know, maybe, just maybe this much of a chance, they label them as an idiot. Let me tell you, I’m a really smart guy,” he said.
[…]
He explained the source of his doubt: “He grew up and nobody knew him. You know? When you interview people, if ever I got the nomination, if I ever decide to run, you may go back and interview people from my kindergarten. They’ll remember me. Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he his until later in his life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange,” he added.

Yes, very strange, very strange.

Funny story! In 1990, Spy Magazine actually took a trip to Trump’s boyhood home in Queens. And while Trump wrote of being “something of a leader” in his old neighborhood, the owner of the local candy store said: “I’ve been running this store for 28 years, and I don’t remember him.” Strange, very strange.

Trump went on to say that you should take him seriously as a candidate because he’s very rich and would be able to give himself $600 million if for some reason his fake campaign needed $600 million.

That actually gets at the heart of why Trump would never run for anything: He’s spent his entire career in the public eye scrupulously hiding how much money he actually has, in real life. He’s sued people for saying his net worth is less than he says it is. But lots of people have their doubts about whether or not he’d actually be able to give himself $600 million at the drop of a hat. And if he ran for real, as Ben Smith and Maggie Haberman say, “at some point he’d actually be required to disclose his assets.”

Which is obviously not going to happen, because it would ruin the whole joke.

By: Alex Pareene, Salon, March 17, 2011

March 19, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Elections, Ideologues, Liberatarians, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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