Archives for category: Personal

These past few weeks have been very difficult for many of us. For the first time in my long life, I fear that our country is going backward, not forward. We have had bumps along the way and regressions from our ideals and dreams. We have had too many wars. We have way too much poverty. We have too much indifference to the sufferings of others. But throughout my life, I have thought that we were moving in the right direction, incrementally but surely. Not now.

 

This election has been a source of great anxiety for me and many others. We were not prepared for a candidate like Trump, for a man who blithely lied throughout the campaign and who appealed to the basest instincts of the electorate and made promises that he had no intention of keeping. We were not prepared to believe that a man with so many business failures and ethical lapses could be elected president. We–I, especially–did not believe that the American people would fall for his promises, his lies, and his bombast. He was selling snake oil and he knew it. Didn’t everyone see it? They didn’t, and now we face the prospect of a government made up of retreads from previous Republican administrations and denizens of the far-right underground. Who knew that Trump’s promise of “change” meant that the editor of Breitbart news would have an office in the West Wing? Who knew that “change” meant an Attorney General who was turned down by a Republican-led Senate for a federal judgeship because of his racist remarks and actions? Who knew that “change” meant the appointment of a billionaire ideologue, a rightwing extremist committed to replacing public schools with vouchers and charters?

 

Instead of fresh faces and new ideas, we get an administration determined to roll back the New Deal and return to the 1920s or the 1890s.

 

Ah, but we still have much to be thankful for.

 

I am thankful, to begin with, for life. I have had many physical challenges in the past few years, some of them life-threatening, but I am still here.

 

I am thankful for my loving partner, Mary, who shares my life and helps me survive from day to day.

 

I am thankful for my children and grandchildren, who give me great joy. I am grateful that I can watch them grow in maturity and goodness and kindness.

 

I am thankful for my five living brothers and sister and sorely miss the brother and sister who died far too soon.

 

I am thankful to be an American, to live in a country where we have a Constitution and the First Amendment and the rule of law to protect our freedoms.

 

I am thankful to live in a society where we can organize and assemble to speak out for what we believe.

 

I am thankful for my friends, who have stood by me through thick and thin.

 

I am thankful for those who read my writings and those who publish them.

 

I am thankful for my friends at the Network for Public Education who are passionate about resisting the privatization of public schools.

 

I am thankful for the many people who want to make America the nation of liberty, justice, and equality for all that it is supposed to be.

 

We will organize, we will assemble, we will write, we will speak, we will make documentaries, we will write plays, we will write parodies and satires, we will paint and draw and sing and laugh. They can’t stop us. We will not acquiesce. We will resist. We will defend our ideals and our dreams.

 

We will fight to protect our public schools. We will not let the Trump administration privatize them. They belong to the public and we will not allow them to steal public funds for private profit or private purposes.

 

Today is a day to thank God for our blessings. (If you are an atheist, just be thankful.)

 

Count your blessings.

 

 

 

 

Several readers have written to say that they were very disappointed that I have spoken ill of the President-elect. They said they would not read the blog any more because I do not share their admiration for our next President. I hate to lose readers, but part of the point of this blog is that I write what I believe and I invite readers to do the same. I will not change my views to pander to readers.

I did not support Donald Trump for the Presidency. I thought he was unqualified to serve, had no relevant experience, and had repeatedly expressed bigotry towards many fellow Americans. I supported Hillary Clinton after she won the Democratic primaries. I would have supported Bernie Sanders with equal zeal had he won the primaries. I did not want Trump to be elected. Okay, he was elected, and I am a loyal American. I respect the office, and I watch with concern as he decides how to staff his administration and which of his campaign promises he will keep.

This is a blog devoted to “a better education for all.” Its central purpose is to support public education as a public good. I oppose privatization of public schools. That much has been clear to anyone who has read the blog on any given day. Donald Trump has pledged to direct federal funding to privately managed charter schools, to vouchers for religious schools, and to homeschooling. He has no problem with for-profit schools. Those are reasons enough for me to oppose his candidacy and to worry about his presidency. I worry that he will damage public education irreparably in the next four years, with his party in control of the Congress and equally committed to privatization of public education.

Thus, if a reader says I will stop reading your blog because you didn’t support Trump, I don’t think they understand that Trump’s promise to privatize public schools is directly in conflict with the essential purpose of this blog.

I opposed him because of the horrible things he said during the election campaign about women, immigrants, Muslims, Mexicans, and others. I opposed him because of his campaign’s use of anti-Semitic images. I opposed him because of the many years he devoted to proving that President Obama was not an American, a charge he retracted during the campaign, with little remorse. Since his election, in a very few days, there have been many incidents of hatred towards people who are nonwhite, Muslim, Hispanic, or “Other.” Just yesterday, CNN played a clip of middle-school students in the Midwest chanting “Build the wall, build the wall,” to intimidate their Hispanic schoolmates.

David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, says that Trump’s election is nothing less than “an American tragedy.”

He wrote on the day after the election:

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. On January 20, 2017, we will bid farewell to the first African-American President—a man of integrity, dignity, and generous spirit—and witness the inauguration of a con who did little to spurn endorsement by forces of xenophobia and white supremacy. It is impossible to react to this moment with anything less than revulsion and profound anxiety.

There are, inevitably, miseries to come: an increasingly reactionary Supreme Court; an emboldened right-wing Congress; a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. The African-American Other. The Hispanic Other. The female Other. The Jewish and Muslim Other. The most hopeful way to look at this grievous event—and it’s a stretch—is that this election and the years to follow will be a test of the strength, or the fragility, of American institutions. It will be a test of our seriousness and resolve.

I am an Other. Probably many of you who read this are Others. I hate to hear the words he uses about women. I hate to hear what he says about women in the locker room or on the bus with the boys. I have grown up with sons and grandsons, and that is not the language they ever use. I hate what he said about Mexicans. I hate the idea that he proposed banning all people of one religion from entering our country. I am afraid that he will remove all regulations on guns, and we will all be armed and suspicious of one another. I am afraid that he will remove all regulations on drilling and fracking, and the air and water will be polluted, and oil rigs will be permitted in our national parks and everywhere else.

I will no longer engage in any arguments about which Democrat might have been a better candidate than Hillary. That’s over. Now we must deal with the fact that the man who will be our President for the next four years has been elected on a platform and promises that resurrect nativism, racism, white nationalism, and division.

He will be our President, and, as I said, I respect the Office of the Presidency. But I cannot endorse any of the appeals to bigotry and bias. I cannot endorse his rejection of the science about climate change. I do not agree that our nation should abolish all controls on guns.

I will watch and wait to see if President-elect Trump moderates his views and policies. I will hope for the best. I want America to be a land of hope and dreams, of idealism and mutual respect, of e pluribus unum, not just unum. We are a quilt of many colors and it is a beautiful quilt. We all belong here. I will wait to see if President-elect Trump is willing to speak to and for all of us and not just for his rabid movement.

I want America to be America. I want it to be a land of liberty and justice for all. I want my grandchildren to learn what I tried to teach my children: kindness, compassion, a commitment to fairness, a love of justice, and a willingness to defend the underdog. I want them to aspire to be good people. I want them to treat others with respect for their individuality and humanity.

If you have read this far, and you hate what I have written, don’t read the blog. Unsubscribe. Delete.

I have always said that I will speak as honestly as I know how, and I would write from the heart. This is written in honesty, from the heart. You don’t have to agree. This is what I wanted and needed to say.

This is off-topic. It is for dog owners only.

 

Those who have read this blog for a long while know that I have a dog and a cat, and I take very good care of them.

 

 

Ever since I got my big mutt named Mitzi, she has had a tendency towards diarrhea. As a puppy, she had giardia, which is a fancy way to say that her intestines are prone to diarrhea.

 

For a year or so, I took her to the vet and almost always got a prescription for a pill called metronidazole. That always works for her.

 

Then the woman who boards her when I travel told me a secret. Metronidazole is sold over the counter and online as Fish Zole. It is used to cure bacteria in fish (i.e., the kind in aquariums). I have since ordered it online, saving huge amounts of money in vet bills and prescriptions. And it works. Although Mitzi hates taking pills, I wrap them in roast beef or cheese or bologna. No problem.

 

I don’t have many helpful hints, but this one is a winner.

 

 

 

 

I have never visited the National Parks and so I decided that 2016 was the year. I didn’t realize when I started planning that 2016 was the centennial of the National Park Service. My partner Mary and I first flew to Los Angeles for our grandson’s 10th birthday. We had a great visit with the family, including his 3-year-old little brother and both my adult sons. On Saturday, I had coffee with Alex Caputo-Pearl, the president of the UTLA, and learned about his views on the issues in Los Angeles and California.

On Sunday night, after my grandson’s birthday party, I felt very lethargic and realized I was coming dowm with Flu-like symptoms. We flew to Las Vegas on Monday, and I was very sick indeed. Our friends Ted and Ray met us in Las Vegas. Ted is a professional cellist, and Ray is a retired New York City elementary teacher. Both are great travel companions. I stayed in bed while the others went to see Cirque d’Soleil. I heard it was spectacular. We were in Las Vegas for two more days. I rested in the hotel room, went out at night to see an amazing young magician-illusionist named Mat Franco. We couldn’t figure out how he did his tricks. He was fabulous. The third night we saw Lionel Ritchie, a singer we all loved but found the show very disappointing. He is a legend, a wonderful singer, and a composer of songs. But his band was so over-miked that it drowned out his voice. And the production was unnecessarily flamboyant, including pyrotechnics (which terrify me in an enclosed space and diverted attentiom from his music.) I’m not a gambler, but I dropped a few dollars into the slots and won about $15. I walked away with it before the house won it back.

The high point of my Las Vegas portion of the trip was meeting Angie Sullivan, who is a second-grade teacher in Clark County (Las Vegas) public schools. She got stuck in traffic and we barely got to speak, but we hugged and took pictures. Angie is my favorite source of news about education in Nevada. She keeps track of school board decisions, the legislature’s hearings and actions, the Governor’s actions. She sends out an email from time to time about what’s happening. It seems to reach every legislator, every journalist, and school board member in the state. She fights for the kids. She is the conscience of the state. She calls out the legislators and governor for ignoring the children who are poor and don’t speak English, this in a state where the casinos, tourism, mining, tech companies, and other industries are rolling in dough. The displays of conspicuous consumption exist side by side with underfunded schools for the children of the people who staff the tourism industry and do the low-wage jobs. When she was late, I was sitting with two of her friends at a coffee shop, and Angie kept sending texts about her progress. They said, “Angie’s crying now. Angie cries easily. Angie is passionate.” My friends were texting me that I was very late for dinner. But I couldn’t leave without hugging Angie.

On Thursday the 29th, we rented a car and drove to Zion National Park. It was astonishingly beautiful. I could not believe that I waited so long to see this great national treasure. The National Parks are our common heritage, like our public schools. I decided to tweet photographs everyday of the beauty I saw, along with a message that I gladly pay federal taxes to preserve our parks for future generations, But Donald Trump doesn’t. Selfish, greedy so-and-so.

From Zion, we went to Bryce Canyon National Park. Very different from Zion. Zion has steep, straight cliffs, Bryan is famous for its Hoodoos, which are startling, singular tall rock foundations, some of them isolated tall peaks, some great clusters of individual Hoodoos. Again, staggering beauty.

Then, we went to Capitol Reef National Park. Very beautiful, different from the others. A striking wall of petroglyphs carved by Native American tribes centuries ago. What I remember about this stay was a visit to a restaurant where our waitress was a very beautiful, very intelligent Mormon woman of 22. She told us that she waitresses to support herself but she is also a teacher in a private Mormon school. She is unpaid, as it is her contribution to her church. She teaches 6th and 7th grade children. We asked her about her own education, and she said she did not finish eighth grade. We urged her to get a GED. She seemed to think there was a stigma associated with a GED, but we insisted it would enable her to go to community college. She plays many instruments, including a pedal harp, and she wants to do something more with her life. We hope we persuaded her to get a degree.

Next stop, the Arches. A national park noted for great rock arches carved by thousands of years of erosion. No way to describe the arches other than to say you must see it.

We spent a night in Page, Arizona, which is centrally located among all the parks. Instead of touring, we went to the local urgent care facility (federally funded, but not by Trump), where I waited a long time, following a large number of Navaho families. There was only one nurse-practitioner on duty that day. I had been coughing throughout the trip, and I also cut my leg when I grazed it closing the car door a few days earlier. The nurse-practioner examined me and told me I had bronchitis and the cut on my leg was infected. Picked up several prescriptions, and we left the next day for the Grand Canyon.

The height of our Grand Canyon trip was a helicopter ride over the canyon. It is magnificent. What a beautiful country we live in. A great vacation. I recommend it to everyone. It will make you grateful to the foresighted leaders like Teddy Roosevelt, who recognized the importance of preserving our national heritage, and the many other Presidents who fought to assure this great gift to the American people and the people of many countries who travel there as we did, to experience awe.

Vivian Connell passed away today in the presence of her loving family.

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know that Vivian Connell was a teacher, a lawyer, a lawyer who returned to teaching, a woman who learned she had ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), a woman who faced her death with courage and dignity.

Several of her posts appeared here. See here and here and hereand here and hereand here and here.

I want to share a small part of this wonderful woman with everyone I know.

Deepest condolences to her husband and children, who loved her so.

Sorrow for the world to lose such a beautiful person.

I just noticed that yesterday the blog reached a milestone.

I have posted 15,005 times since April 26, 2012.

The blog is closing in on 28 million page views.

You have been very patient in sticking with me through 15,000+ posts!

What great readers I have!

You are fast to correct me when I am wrong, fast to correct errors of syntax, spelling or grammar, and fast to alert me to breaking news in your district, city, and state. Sometimes you read the news here before it is reported in the state or national media. More often, you read news here that is never reported in the national media because they don’t pay the same attention to education as we do.

I am trying to limit myself to only five posts daily, but you can see that I seldom meet that goal!

Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, and thank you for sending me news stories from your communities.

A reader sent me this photograph of a wall facing Dr. Steve Perry’s school in Hartford, Connecticut.

 

After posting about it, I happened to meet the artist who created it at a community event. He emailed the photo to me. I enlarged it, framed it, and it sits on my desk.

 

 

I want to share with you something I love watching. It shows my age. It is a dance number performed by Bob Hope and James Cagney.

Yankee Doodle Dandy!

 

They are having such fun that it makes you smile. Made me smile.

 

But then I am so much older than most of you that you may not even know who Hope and Cagney are.

 

If you do, this will bring joy to your heart. We can all use that.

I am very patriotic. I was a child during World War II, when Americans fought for freedom and democracy and to liberate the world from tyranny.

I want America to be the America I thought it would be in my childhood.

I want it to be a place with “liberty and justice for all.”

I want it to be a country where no one is homeless.

I want it to be a country where no one goes hungry, where everyone who wants to work can find a job that pays a living wage.

I want it to be a country where no one who is ill cannot afford medical care.

I want it to be a country where people get enough education to realize their hopes and dreams, without going deep into debt.

I want it to be a country where schools cultivate creativity and the joy of learning.

I want it to be a country where educators are treated with the same respect as other professionals.

I want it be to a country where neighbors help one another and care for one another.

I want it to be the country of the American Dream, a country where every child can grow up loved and live in dignity.

That’s what the Fourth of July means to me.

Dear Friends,

Today is my birthday. I am 78 years old. I was born at 12:05 a.m. in St. Joseph’s Hospital in Houston, Texas, to Walter and Ann Silvers. I was their third child. Five more would follow. Eventually we were five boys and three girls. My dad was born in Savannah and dropped out of high school. My mother was born in Bessarabia, came to the U.S. at age 9, and graduated from the Houston public schools, one of the proudest achievements of her life. She prided herself on her perfect English. She was an American and a Texan.

I went to the Houston public schools from kindergarten to high school graduation. None of the schools I attended still exists, at least not in the same form. I went to Montrose Elementary School (now the Houston High School of the Performing Arts), then my family moved to another part of Houston and I enrolled in fifth grade in Sutton Elementary School (not sure if it still exists). I went to the neighborhood junior high school, Albert Sidney Johnston Jr. High, named for a Confederate hero. Then to San Jacinto High School (now Houston Community College). I may have had a few great teachers. Mostly I had pretty good teachers or good teachers, who worked very hard to do their best. I don’t remember any “bad” teachers. The Houston public schools were segregated during my time there (I graduated in 1956). I thought that was wrong, I read about the Brown decision, and I spoke to our high school principal, Mr. Brandenburg about it. I asked him why we didn’t obey the court. He sympathized but said that if the schools desegregated, a lot of good black principals and teachers would lose their jobs. There was also the matter of the school board, which changed every two years; every other election produced a board dominated by Minute Women and John Birchers who thought the UN was a Communist organization and such groups as the NAACP and Urban League were pinkos. They totally opposed any desegregation.

My Houston public education was good enough to get me admitted to a wonderful Ivy League college: Wellesley. I was friends with Nora Ephron, later a celebrated screenwriter, and Madeline Korbel (later Albright); we worked on the college newspaper together. Class of 1960, nine years before Hillary graduated.

Many decades have passed. Now the body is giving out; the knees don’t work well. One was totally replaced, the other probably should have been. But mentally, I feel like 35 or 40.

For my daily efforts, blogging and writing, at no pay, I am regularly called a “shill” for the unions, they say I sold my soul for “union gold.” Ha! It happened this week on Twitter. This is nonsense. I am 78 years old, and I do and say what I believe. My views are the product of a lifetime of experience and study. No one can buy me. I don’t want a job, a grant, or money. The only good thing about growing old is that your ambitions are put into check. There is nothing that I want of a material nature. I have noticed that the folks in the corporate reform movement seem to think that everyone has a price, everyone is motivated by greed. I am not. I am financially independent. I am free to say what I want. And I do.

I won’t ramble on, but I want to ask you a favor. Since 2010, I have devoted my waking hours to fighting privatization and defending public schools, their students, and their teachers.

If you want to do something for me other than say “happy birthday” (which is also nice), please join and/or make a gift of any size to the Network for Public Education or the NPE Action Fund, which engages in political action. I co-founded these groups with Anthony Cody, and we hope NPE will be the meeting place for all those who are sick of attacks on public schools and teachers, for all those who want to sing the praises of a great democratic public education system that is required by law to provide equal opportunity for all students. We want a transformation, not the status quo. We want great schools for every child, not just for the few. And we won’t tolerate the naysayers who pick on the people, institutions, and values we hold dear.

And if you have the time and resources to join me, come to Washington on Friday, July 8, for the Save Our Schools March. Walk arm in arm with your friends and allies.

Together we will prevail. I will use my energy to make that happen, to win over public opinion. I can’t do it without you. That’s my goal for my next birthday.

Diane