Archives for category: Personal

FYI, I am on vacation in France. Yesterday we visited the palace at Versailles. The life of the royals was so sumptuous that it was obscene. For the first time, I viscerally understood the French Revolution. Injustice and inequity breed hostility, rage, and eventually it boils over.

I read my emails and will keep posting. I’m off now to see the sights.

Yesterday was the third birthday of this blog. I started the blog on April 26, 2012. Today it reached 20 million page views!

Thank you to every reader who enjoys the content or who reads it as a reality check about the toxic, failed policies called “reform.” (Or both.) The mainstream media are infatuated with the reformers’ bold ideas to disrupt the education of the nation’s children.

But guess what? Their ideas don’t work. Their ideas hurt children. Their ideas close schools and hurt communities. Their ideas demoralize teachers. They focus everyone on test scores. Thry don’t improve education, they cheapen it.

Education has civic and humane purposes that can’t be measured by a standardized test.

Educating children is hard work that requires dedicated service and a commitment to the children, not for a year or two, but as a career.

Thank you for keeping me going with uour suggestions, your links to local events, and your support. Thank you for reading. Thank you for your loyalty.

This current madness will not last. Don’t quit, stand tall and keep teaching, keep fighting for better education.

Please join the Network for Public Education. Come to our next annual conference. Protect your children. Do what you love. Help is on the way. We are many. They are few. We will win.

I flew to Salt Lake City on April 15, to lecture the next morning at Brigham Young University in Provo, about an hour from SLC. This is the longest trip I have taken since my knee surgery a year ago. BYU is a private, faith-based institution, firmly grounded in the Mormon religion. About 95% of the students are Mormon. The church subsidizes tuition, which is less than $6,000 a year. That is no more than the public university. I learn wherever I go, and I looked forward to learning about education in Utah.

 

As I went to baggage claim, there were several families holding “welcome home” banners. I thought for sure they were welcoming service members back from Afghanistan or some other battleground, but I was wrong. They were welcoming young people back who had served as missionaries in distant lands.

 

When I arrived, it was snowing, which I didn’t mind except for the fact that I couldn’t see the magnificent mountains. I had a couple of hours of down time to rest, then went to dinner with a group of BYU faculty, Dean Mary Anne Prater, and presenters from Boise State. We had a very pleasant meal at a Brazilian restaurant where the food kept coming until everyone had enough.

 

My guide was Gary Seastrand, a veteran and knowledgable educator. He was gracious, attentive, and thoughtful. There are some things I can’t do–like climbing steps to the podium without a handrail–and Gary was always there to guard and protect me.

 

The next day I spoke, then engaged in a lively question and answer session.

 

During and between meals, this is what I learned about Utah.

 

It is the lowest spending state in the nation. The legislature is very charter-friendly. Several legislators gave up their elected positions to open charters. Needless to say, none of these charter founders is an educator. The charters are typically Caucasian, with few, if any, children with disabilities or English language learners. The charters get more funding than public schools. Utah had a referendum on vouchers in 2007, and it was rejected by a margin of 62-38. Of course, there are still voucher supporters in the legislature, but they have already been turned down resoundingly by the voters. So, charters now have become the functional substitute for free-market fundamentalists.

 

Utah adopted the Common Core but dropped out of the SBAC testing. AIR developed new tests for Utah. Last year, when the tests were administered for the first time, most students were found to be “not proficient,” which the media interprets as “failed.” That is the pattern everywhere. When tests are aligned with the Common Core, no matter who develops them, most students fail.

 

Despite the obstacles thrown in their way by the state, the educators I met—principals, assistant principals, teachers, superintendents, and teacher educators–seemed remarkably cheerful about their jobs. I was repeatedly told by people about their love of teaching and their genuine dedication to their students.

 

Of course, many asked for guidance about how best to protect their schools from the wave of privatization that emanates from the legislature. I talked about the inspirational Néw York opt out and encouraged them to work together in unity against harmful policies. In unity there is strength. I was often reminded that Utah has a strong individualistic strain, which somehow co-exists with the Mormon commitment to service and social responsibility. In a state where Mormons are a significant presence, it is that idealism that must eventually prevail if public education is to be preserved.

 

When I left the next day, the clouds had lifted, and I could not take my eyes away from the exquisite snow-capped mountains.

 

I hope to return to Utah, next time as a tourist. What a beautiful state, with beautiful people. I need more time to take in the physical beauty.

Thank you to the many readers who have turned this blog into a go-to place for all interested in the battle to save and improve public education!

Many reporters have told me that they check the blog to find out what is happening in education, since most of the mainstream media either doesn’t report on education or writes stories from the point of view of those who want to privatize the public schools.

 

The blog just passed 19 million page views, as it approaches its 3rd birthday (April 26). It reached 18 million on March 6. That is one million page views in one month. That’s a record for the blog.

 

Today also happens to be the day I fell exactly one year ago and ruined my knee. I am walking again, but I have a permanent disability. Given the fact that I take blood thinners due to previous bouts with clots, I was lucky that I did not get internal bleeding in the knee when I fell. If I had, I would not have survived it. So I have much to be thankful for today.

 

My joy in the blog is that it lets parents and educators know not only what is happening–the good and the bad–but that they are not alone. I try to provide a platform for other people’s voices. I have tried to create a community of discussion, debate, and free expression, all in the service of better education for all. I could have been writing another book. The blog has been my form of activism, and I have enjoyed every minute of creating it, facilitating it, weighing in to the comments, arguing when I don’t agree, offering encouragement when others are struggling.

 

Let me take this opportunity to urge you to sign up for the second annual conference of the Network for Public Education in Chicago on April 24-26. It will be an opportunity to meet with others who share your concerns and to meet some of your favorite bloggers, as well as some awesome speakers and panelists. You will leave feeling inspired and motivated. Join the Resistance to the Status Quo! Anthony Cody will be there, and here are his reasons why you should be too!

 

 

Given the confluence of two major religious events–Easter and Passover–it is a good time to wish you happiness whatever you celebrate.i went to a wonderful Passover Seder with 30 family members on Friday night and to the Easter Vigil at the Oratory of Saint Boniface in Brooklyn on Saturday night.

We must respect one another’s traditions and learn to live and let live.

Mercedes Schneider sends her Easter greetings to all.

Last night I watched the first segment of the CNN special on “Cancer: The Emperor of Maladies.” It was very well done. Most of the program was about childhood leukemia. It brought back many sad memories. Our Steven, a beautiful child age 2, died in 1966 of leukemia after six terrible months of suffering, in and out of the hospital. We thought he had the best of care. We prayed for a miracle that never happened.

The program interviewed the first child to survive. She was about 12 when she was diagnosed. The doctors in Boston gave her a “cocktail” of four drugs. She is now middle-aged. Her treatment started in 1964. When I heard the date, it broke my heart.

I am not a data-driven person. I am driven by ideas, reflection, hopes, worries, idealism, passion, and, yes, rage at injustice, especially when the powerful crush the weak.

 

But I am informed by data, as we all should be. I want to know my weight, my temperature, my blood pressure, my social security number, and gazillion passwords. What I do with my data is my business, not anyone else’s.

 

Today, the datum that just got me excited was that this blog has had 17 million page views since its inception on April 26, 2012.

 

That doesn’t mean the blog has 17 million readers. It means that on that many occasions, someone read something posted on the blog.

 

The blog has turned into something far more time-demanding than what I originally intended. It is my chief preoccupation. But I love doing it because I learn so much every day from readers’ comments, and I love to share what I know. More than that, I have heard from many readers that the blog is their most important source of information about education. More than that, I use the posts on the blog to help build a movement against the warped policies of our day: high-stakes testing and school privatization. Both political parties have bought into the zombie notion that children must be subjected every year to hours and hours of standardized testing. Do they ever ask why? On this blog, we ask why daily. We ask why students in most private schools seldom encounter a standardized test except when they enter and when they leave. We ask why the children of Finland do very well on international tests without ever taking a standardized test in school. We ask why our state and federal leaders are ignoring the rampant fraud and corruption in the deregulated, unsupervised charter sector. We ask why politicians continue to push vouchers even though there is no evidence that voucher schools offer better education nor do they “save” children from “failing” public schools.

 

I will take this opportunity first, to thank readers who so graciously permit me to turn their comments into posts as well as readers who send me links to stories in their own home city or state. And second, I will restate the rules of the blog: one, do not insult the host (me), it’s my blog and I will show you the door if you insult me in my living room; two, no cuss words other than hell and damn; third, no wacky conspiracy theories about 9/11 or Sandy Hook (there are websites for those speculations, this is not one of them).

 

 

The Sony picture “The Interview” created an International brouhaha. From what we know, the North Korean government hacked into Sony’s computer system and caused massive damage to protest the release of the movie. As you know, movie theater chains refused to show the movie, fearing terrorism, and Sony decided not to release it.

 

Within a matter of days, the film was widely available on the Internet and in a few hundred independent theaters. I saw it on the Internet, downloaded from an on-demand.

 

The basic plot line: the host of a late night celebrity-gossip show and his producer manage to get an interview with the dictator of North Korea, who loves his show. The CIA asks them to assassinate the North Korean leader to prevent him from threatening the world with nukes.

 

What did I think?

 

It is the kind of adolescent movie I would customarily never see. The target audience must be young men. It is a buddy movie, two guys embarked on a wacky adventure. It is also the most vulgar movie I have seen in my limited experience, with countless uses of the F word and raucous, wild scenes of sexual encounters. It is also hilarious. I laughed myself silly. The vulgarity is so innocent that it was not offensive. It should be rated RR.

 

See it if you can.

Yesterday I was supposed to fly to Dallas, then drive to Waco to give a lecture tonight. The next night–Wednesday–I was to be the guest of honor at the gala of the Friends of Texas Public Schools. Originally I was going to start the trip today–Tuesday morning–but when I heard that the storm of the century was heading our way, I switched the flight to Monday, to be sure I would arrive in Dallas and not get grounded by the storm.

 

Before I left for the airport yesterday, I checked with American Airlines and made sure that the flight had left Dallas and was on its way to LaGuardia airport in New York City. It was, so the website showed. My flight from New York to Dallas was due to depart at 12:45 pm. I arrived at the airport about 11:30 am. By the time I got to LaGuardia Airport, I received a text message from AA telling me that the flight was delayed by two hours. I checked in, went to the Admirals Club on a day pass, posted a few blog posts, and read the paper. I tried to switch to an earlier flight, but they were full.

 

There was a slight air of panic in the airport, since so many flights had been canceled. Long lines of passengers were trying to find another flight because theirs had been canceled. Passengers heading to Miami learned that their flight had landed at Kennedy airport, and they had to find a way to get there because the airport buses were not running

 

The departure time for my flight kept changing, getting later. When I was standing in line at the desk to check in, at last, the gate agent announced that the flight had been unable to land at LaGuardia due to zero visibility and had been diverted to Boston, where it had landed. That was about 4 pm. I began thinking of giving up and going home. The storm was getting worse. I had to accept the fact that my flight was not there and would not be flying to Dallas. I left the secure area and went to look for a taxi. There were long lines at the taxi stand and no taxis–though one would come along every five minutes. I contacted the car service that brought me and asked if anyone was available to take me home. They found a driver willing to brave the storm and the icy roads, and he was on his way.

 

While waiting for him, I received a text message from AA that my flight was taking off at 5 pm from gate D8. What to do? I called the car service, explained the situation, and they agreed to keep the driver waiting while I found out if my flight was in fact taking off. I checked in again through security and went back to the D terminal. I went to gate D8, and no one was there. I found a gate agent, who said he didn’t know if the flight was coming back. A nearby passenger told me that the flight had landed at Kennedy. At that point, I gave up. I again exited the terminal, found the driver, and headed home. It took an hour and a half to get back, a trip that is usually 30 minutes. Not only was the traffic bumper-to-bumper, but cars were spinning out and some were completely stalled on the icy road.

 

When I finally got home, I checked the AA website and learned that my flight had been canceled. It landed at Kennedy, but went no further.

 

I was so looking forward to speaking at Baylor, seeing my old friend Wes Null, who was going to introduce me, and visiting Waco. It was 75 degrees and sunny in Waco. I deeply regret that I could not meet the leaders of Texas Pastors for Justice. I was very sorry I could not join the Friends of Texas Public Schools for their annual gala.

 

Stuff happens, as we all know. There is much worse that has happened to all of us. I just thought I would share my story of a really bad day at the airport. I was glad I brought a sandwich from home. That was the only thing that was good about my experience yesterday.

I seldom opine about global affairs since I have no specialized knowledge in the field. On the other hand, as a citizen in a democratic society, I feel eligible to comment and put my thoughts out into the free marketplace of ideas.

A recurrent concern among government officials is the risk that citizens will go to war zones or train with terrorist groups, then return to our borders and plot acts of terrorism. Many countries have an estimate of how many people have left to engage in war. According to the linked article in the Néw York Times, governments are trying to discourage their citizens from joining Al Queda or the Islamic State.

For what it is worth, which may not be much, I think we are taking the wrong approach. We should not stop those who want to leave. We should give them fair warning that if they join a terrorist group abroad, they will lose their passport and not be allowed to return.

Call it the hasta la vista policy.

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