Archives for category: Personal

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.


As you may recall if you are a regular reader of the blog, I have been posting the beautiful words of Vivian Connell. Vivian is dying of ALS, a degenerative and terminal disease. She started a blog soon after getting the diagnosis. Her blog is called FinALS. She gave her friends regular updates on her condition.

This is her final post.

I first met Vivian a few years ago at what was called the “Emerging Issues” conference in North Carolina. I talked about the terrible things that were being done to schools and teachers. She was on a panel of teachers who left teaching, moderated by John Merrow. She left teaching to become a lawyer to pursue her passion for social justice. She couldn’t leave teaching and she was soon back in the classroom. She joined the Network for Public Education, and we met again at our first annual conference in Austin. I later learned that she was a very dear friend of Bertis Downs, one of our board members.

In my view, the best thing I ever accomplished with this blog was to help Vivian raise the money to take her class to the Holocaust Museum, one of the items on her bucket list.

This is how her last post begins:

[Prelude: It is June 24th, and I have at last finished my final post for finALS. It is not the masterpiece I dreamed of writing, but I am not a writer, and it is from my heart. This Monday, my medical team, husband and I will explore palliative sedation to manage the terrible choking and gagging that now dominate my waking hours. Some people adapt; some never wake up.

Before I go, I must spotlight my husband, Paul Connell, who has, from the beginning, eschewed any limelight. Never has a spouse been more constant or devoted. And though we each have big personalities that clash, he has never wavered in his devotion or care.

I dedicate all I have accomplished in law school and after my diagnosis to Paul, without whose selflessness, I could have done little.


Well, I am back at last.

My doctor has called in hospice and used the phrase “last few months.”

And I have been paralyzed by the composition of this post.

You should all thank my writer friend David Klein that you are not reading my original idea. It involved stories of seeing Ken Burns speak in 2008–a version replete with quotations and commentary, I assure you–of how I wove segments from my beloved TV favorite, Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing, into my teaching (again, with no shortage of inspirational anecdotes) and of how I discovered that the author and star of Hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda, shares my love for the show.

But this is not to be an artful feature delineating again the ideals that inspired my teaching or the late-life leap to law school that validated my life’s work and filled the 27 months since I was diagnosed with ALS with wonder and opportunity. And I would love to regale you with the story of my Network for Public Education friends and colleagues visiting my home with both a signed first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird ( I know, right?) and my education policy hero, Diane Ravitch. I want to describe the tears of joy I cried when they left and the tears of joy my family enjoyed when we were gifted tickets to Hamilton! My husband wept because I couldn’t go. I bawled like a baby because they could.

And I want to tell you how my daughter ended up with an older script of Hamilton that Miranda had given to a journalist!

But this is not another post about serendipitous meetings and virtually miraculous joy that have so fully packed my life since I was diagnosed with this heinous, degenerative, and terminal disease.

I have covered my blessings pretty well.

These are to be my final words. Not a lesson from a dying teacher. Not an argument from a dying lawyer.

But one last time to attempt candor and artless honestly about my passions, my regrets, and wishing that this cup could be taken from me.


It feels important as well that I not leave anyone thinking too highly of me.

I was blessed to accomplish much I am proud of, mainly because I genuinely bought in to the best ideals of those before me and found the courage to follow my callings–to strive always to do more and do better.

Deepest thanks to my teachers and heroes.

I would be terribly remiss, however, if I failed to share at least a few of my representative fears and failings.

I’ve thought often of Hawthorne’s exhortation in The Scarlet Letter:

“Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!”

While I will not spend this post mimicking the poor guilty minister’s self-flagellation (you’re welcome), I will be sharing some of my less admirable choices. In retrospect, in fact, I am certain that my shame and regret–my failures–motivated me to keep striving to do better.

A loud conscience is a benefit, I think. At long as it brings about striving to do better rather than paralysis via self-loathing.

I diverge from many of my progressive parent friends because I take to heart that a reasonable and loving authority figure is healthy and character building.

I have no regrets about that aspect of my parenting: I think my kids knew that we rode them because we love them.

And I think this model is more effective when I ride myself equally.

And I encourage you not to procrastinate or ignore an urge to change or do better. Following these feelings brought all the most rewarding experiences of my life. And though I am far from done–though I have more public ( political) and private ( personal) battles to wage and improvements to make, I am out of time. And terribly sad about it.

This is only the beginning. Read it all.

Farewell to a beautiful soul. Farewell, dear Vivan. You have inspired us all to care more, do more, struggle more, and live our lives in accord with our consciences.

I am not a religious person, but you inspire me to plumb my faith. May God bless you. May God welcome you with open arms into heaven, where angels will shower you with love forever and ever. Please watch over us and guide us to follow your example.

Bertis Downs, a member of the board of the Network for Public Education, is a lawyer who lives in Athens, Georgia. His daughters attended public schools in Athens, where they thrived. Bertis spent his professional life representing the rock group REM. He now devotes most of his time to what he values, as a board member of NPE and People for the American Way. He is a wonderful person! On a trip to London, he visited the historic Church of St. Martin in the Fields. He thought about the famous quote from John Dewey about the best and wisest parent and did a mash-up with the prayer of St. Martin.

And we got this prayer from Bertis:

“It seems that John Dewey was Episcopalian, so I like to imagine him re-writing the St Martin’s Prayer for the World for school purposes:

“God, give us a vision of our public schools, where what the best and wisest parents want for their own children, the whole community and its leaders want for all of its children, leading to a world as your love would make it: a world where the weak are protected and none go hungry, uneducated or poor; a world where the benefits of civilized life are shared, and everyone can enjoy them; a world where different races, nations and cultures study and thrive and live in tolerance and mutual respect; a world where peace is built with justice, and justice is guided by love; and give us the courage to build it.