Sunday, December 14, 2014

In keeping with the holiday spirit: thankfulness, a Christmas wish, and a new year's resolution.

     Thanksgiving has passed, and Christmas is around the corner with a new year not far behind. It's a strange day in New York public schools (and I mean real public schools where doors, desks, programs and services are available to all students in its area), and it would be easy to give in to cynicism and pessimism when things being done in the name of children are so wrong for us all-but giving in is not my style. My style is to start with being thankful- having a full awareness of how fortunate I am. Then, I consider carefully how I can do for others as has been done for me (only the good stuff, of course), and who around me can I rally to make these good things happen. This is where reality and the wish-zone begin to blend. It's easy, after all, to go all Norma Rae (a link for those too young to know that name) in your mind-but the real world rule-makers and game-players present a challenge. After reminding myself of how lucky I am, and then contemplating who is on my side, I make plans and promises to myself. These resolutions are most often about trying harder to change the world. Think big or go home, right? It's the same this year, with the 40-something amendment of dropping ten to fifteen pounds and getting my cholesterol down. 

Being thankful

     I am thankful for my childhood, my family, and all the experiences I have had. I catch myself sometimes making a reflexive mental-diagnosis for students who come from broken homes and bad influences. Judgements regarding why work doesn't get done, why they behave a certain way, and so-on. Despite what education attackers want as the overriding narrative to explain student struggles (failing schools, overpaid/overprotected  teachers, unions...)-poverty and school funding inequities (the real "status quo") prevail as the most correlative factors. But after I mentally slap myself for making that mental diagnosis-I stop and do an assessment of my childhood, and it goes something like this:

1) My mother was a sixteen year old high school girl when I was born.

2) My father was twenty, from the same high school, recently graduated and enlisted in the military during the Vietnam War (it was 1967). I was born on a military base in Georgia, far away from our home state of New York.

3) I was born full-term in October, at a healthy 8lbs 11oz. If I do the mental math and count nine months backwards past my dad's birthday in June, and my mom's birthday in February-I figure my dad was 19 and probably breaking some kind of law with my mother.

4) While there are pictures of my dad, in uniform, holding me as a baby-I cannot remember a day when my parents were "together" living as a couple.

5) When I was little, my dad would pick me up for the weekend, or have me for some extra time on holidays and summer vacations, and we would often hit several bars or visit with his friends where I saw and did stuff that kids shouldn't see and do. Today, as a teacher, if I suspected a student was involved in or exposed to the same-I would be obligated to make a "hotline" call.

So how is it I stayed out of trouble, got good grades, didn't have whatever served as child protective services investigating my situation, basically turned out okay with a beautiful family and what I would call (despite my wife's objections) a pretty good head on my shoulders...?

Easy answer:

     I had and have incredible people in my family, with a combination of depth in character and experiences not often found in this world-especially in this day and age. While I don't remember my parents together, my dad was always there. Calling during the week, picking me up on weekends and whenever he could. To this day my parents come together at my family events and talk, joke, laugh. I have never once seen them be unkind to each other-ever. He has always been the most generous and gentle soul I know, with the funniest, raunchiest sense of humor. To this day, anyone who has ever known him or worked with him can't stop describing what a great guy he is and I always agree: he's the best man I know. That's why he was the best man at my wedding. Everyone should have a dad like mine. His father (my grandfather) was no different, and I recall stories he told of his childhood and youth that serve to illustrate how much this world has changed in a relatively small amount of time. They also serve as the foundation of character I had and try to create for my family.
     Character meant so much more in those days, more than what you owned and who you knew. My great grandmother (grandpa's mother) taught in a one room common schoolhouse in Summerhill, NY, and my grandfather attended the Cortland Normal School located in a building called Old Main on the campus of SUNY Cortland College. In those days there was an honest-to-goodness constable who patrolled the county on horseback, staying with host families as he made his rounds through towns and villages and on the country roads through state forests. Gramp told of how the constable stayed with our family and how he would drop a scoop of wood stove ash into the constable's boots as a joke, and how the constable caught him out skipping school to pheasant hunt one day. Emerging from the woods onto the secluded dirt road, my grandfather found the constable there on his horse. The constable traded silence for one of Gramp's pheasants and Gramp's word that their meeting would be a shared secret. It was the same constable who years later would meet my grandfather at the train station when he returned from World War II. Having traded up the horse for a car, the constable took my grandfather out for a couple welcome home drinks.
     Of his time as a soldier in Europe, one story stands out. It was a story of the German prisoners being held near the end of the war, some of whom my grandfather was in charge of guarding. The officers, he said, were arrogant-believing themselves above even their captors (while likely feeling grateful they weren't being held on the eastern front in Russian camps where the Red Cross wasn't allowed in that often and Geneva Conventions weren't binding principles). The regular soldiers, on the other hand, were happy to have been captured for the most part. Most having been in miserable conditions and often not agreeing with the Nazi agenda, they found themselves better cared for and fed at the hands of the Allies. My grandfather's charges liked being assigned to him very much, for whatever reason, and he could often grab a quick nap-the German prisoners waking him quickly if a superior officer approached. Gramp said when it came time for duty assignment and those German soldiers would practically run to his side he had to tell them to "cool it" or the jig would be up. My grandfather was that kind of guy.
     These stories would sometimes be shared from the front seat between my grandfather and father, as me and my younger brother sat in the back seat driving the roads between Moravia, behind Fillmore Glenn State Park, and back to my grandparents house on Lake Como Road. It would be a warm summer Sunday after church, with a cheap twelve pack of Genny or Old Mil in back with us and empties back, refills up. My grandfather had worked for the state planting trees in some of those out of the way places and he knew exactly where the nudist colony was. Driving with his left elbow out the driver's side window and the can in his hand dangling out of view, his right hand holding the wheel and a well-chewed cigar. "Keep your eyes open boys, you might see something" he'd say.
     When I think of my childhood, there is no regret, no shame. These rides happened after being sent to church with my grandmother where (as it goes in tiny little baptist churches) we learned how sinful we were and how to save ourselves. Some praying, a car ride, and some chicken barbeque usual had us whipped right into shape, and I kept good grades, good attendance, had a room full of books and weekends full of outdoor fun. When I had read all my books, I got into my mother's (a few of which were maybe too "mature" for me). I grew up listening to Joplin, Croce, Hendrix, and the best worst country music there is- staying out and up late doing things that I will publicly say kids should never  do and privately say that this is part of what made me who I am.
     For what my family has provided me with in the past, and what my family provides me with today I am most thankful. As I look at and listen to kids today I know that they have probably done less of the stuff most people would consider near-horrifying for children, but I know that their real struggles have less to do with failing schools and failing teachers. They are losing out on the economic, social, and moral stability this nation once provided. The so called "free market" has bled our nation of it and now it has turned it's sights upon our schools.

A Christmas Wish

I wish for more character in the leadership of our country, our state, and in the direction of "education reform". I wish for our our unions to step up and people to rise up. When NYSUT agreed to a flawed standards/curriculum/evaluation system here in New York-I understood: it was a necessity resulting from Governor Cuomo and the Obama administration's coercion. Had our unions not cooperated-federal funds would have been withheld and that would be political suicide. But our unions have, at times, been front and center in the call for better teachers first, dropping the ball on the call for honesty in the reform debate. When I have to choke down a Governor posing as a "lobbyist for the students", and his complaints about how much is spent on education, I spit back out the fact that evaluating teachers (not providing equity in student opportunity) has been his number one priority and that in New York, best funded schools spend about 80% more per students than worst-funded schools-and get double the proficiency rates on state tests. Disingenuousness isn't limited to where the governor lives with his girlfriend, though: it has infected the state education department. Here is NYSED's soon to be former Commissioner John King in January of this year:

"... They’re committed to the Common Core, they’re committed to the evaluation system; they have to explain why they think we should change the evaluation that we all agreed to that we all believed is in the interest of students.”

This quote, demonstrating the carefully parsed words of leaders undermining public education in the name of reform, and an honest look at the role teacher unions have played can be found in this excellent blog post from January of this yearBut the bottom line is that this sort of politico-speak is running rampant over an endeavor that should have a foundation in honesty, credibility and character. Education should prepare students for truly critical thinking-the kind that enables capable citizens to tell the difference between shit and shinola. Only lately have unions started an attemp at honesty, but in the governor and the commissioner-I am having a hard time locating it. Coercion and agreeing are different things. Yes-to an extent teachers have been sold out by union leaders, but it was for survival (and they all know it). For the governor, the commissioner, seems to be business as usual.
     So my Christmas wish is for an end of this abuse of democracy in the nation that is supposed to exemplify it (even spread it around the world), and a safe and hasty exit from policy-making for all who are making real education less possible for those needing it most. Uber-testing, evaluations and accountability are only going to further inequity because this approach will identify and further disempower those with the fewest resources-resources leaders are reluctant to provide. Same goes for what is being sold as "choice" in education. Market-izing public education is the same as selling out the public. It is wrong. Even our president avoids a competition to be more like developed countries where educational outcomes surpass our own, and chooses countries like India and China as our competion. The President of these united states! Driving us to compete with places where economies are growing because people are crushed and repurposed to serve a heartless market devalues humanity, worships wealth, and is unbecoming of a true leader.

My New Year's Resolution

     My New Year's Resolution is to speak up, and speak out. Right now, though, my beautiful family needs my attention.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wondering what it's worth

Times Union's opinion blog featured a story about NYSED's 10/20 announcement that there were new pathways to graduation-ones that would do more to honor, support and prepare a wider variety of students and their interests, skills, talents, dreams for college and career. I was interested in finding out more because this was the exact subject of an exchange I described earlier this year-one that started late in 2013 as my wife and I sought the opportunity of these multiple pathways (that already existed then) for our daughter in her school. 

Now NYSED is trying to sell us on its worth by promoting their efforts regarding the very pathways that were at that time denied, downplayed then apologetically brushed aside when my wife and I tried to verify them. My fear is that NYSED and PEARSON have simply aligned to sell NY on tests for everything under the sun, and multiple pathways which aren't really new are a cover for a whole slew of tests from PEARSON. Has our NYSED become their PEARSED? 

The link below will take you to NYSED, the description they give of and the video promoting these opportunities.

The New York State Board of Regents approved a ground-breaking initiative (my emphasis) that will offer students new opportunities to develop college and career-ready skills in the arts, humanities, CTE and STEM fields. 'Multiple Pathways' will provide technical skills and work-based learning opportunities, paving the way for students to take a rigorous approved exam within a pathway to fulfill part of the Regents examination graduation requirement.

Check out the page for that Times Union opinion piece, and my comment is further below as well, in case it doesn't get posted (it is awaiting moderation). Included are links to my original posts from when I tried to pursue this issue with NYSED associates. I have spoken with associates, NY Assembly members, had contact with my local regent (J. Tallon), Congressman Hannah...little of substance comes from any of these people regarding the truth: opportunities are not equal. regardless of what NYSED sells as it's efforts to improve student outcomes. The paraphrase of insights and opinions collected as I meet with and make these contacts amounts to:

  • Cuomo is all powerful, and uses that power to secure himself politically, and if you oppose his agenda your future will be uncertain.
  • King is arrogant an cannot be swayed from what he feels is adequate for our children (but not for his own
  • The current state of turmoil in public education is a result of complacent and inactive unions and citizens

  1. Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    While this may be a step in the right direction, I wonder if it is more self-congratulatory PR on the part of NYSED with little investigation into substance. Language for multiple pathways to regents diplomas and even alternative pathways to regents with advanced designation existed already-in regs (100.2h) and described in this NYSED chart:
    This made little difference when I pursued this type of opportunity for my daughter. On February 14th of this year my wife and I reached the sad conclusion of communications with NYSED where we asked about these supposed pathways and opportunities that ALL STUDENTS in ALL PUBLIC SCHOOLS in this state should be getting. Told first by an associate that yes, your school needs to offer this, then suddenly overridden by another saying “no, there is no language saying that” was confusing.
    When I brought up the “all students” and “all schools” language with that second associate in a phone conversation, the response was a sympathetic
    “Well, ‘all schools’ really means all schools that want to or can afford to.”
    And when I asked if that means kids lucky enough to have money or go to a school that has money are the ones that get those pathways?
    “Unfortunately that’s the state of school funding in our state”
    My daughters are lucky enough to be in a school where we will get as much support as they can give, and they have me and their mother. We hunt down opportunities that our school can’t provide. What of other students?
    I have emails saved, think I even have some voice mails saved. This isn’t just about my kids-it’s about ALL kids and holding these supposed ed-reform clowns responsible for earning their badges…not just posing and pretending.
    See my account here:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Just for the fun of it

This was something I just had some fun with. Amtrak was doing a writing "residency" where aspiring writers applied and sent in writing samples, in the hopes of obtaining one of several private cars and long distance rides-in order to hone their craft. Of course many people besides me were interested. I didn't win, but enjoyed communicating with other would-be writers!

5 days ago
I assume this is closed to writers with pets? Who otherwise travel or live with their small, well behaved pets? As per Amtrak's asinine service-animals only policy?

4 days ago
@Goodsoutherngirl101 I had the same question about Huggy, my pet boa constrictor. He is my inspiration as a writer, especially in my apartment house where the neighbors tend to be a little noisy and thoughtless. I told Amtrak that Huggy has only gotten out of his cage three times, but always returns after a few days and is pretty calm for a couple weeks. We should travel together sometime with our pets. Huggy likes other animals...especially small well behaved ones. He is out and about somewhere right now (his 3rd escape...I'll have to do something about that cage lid!) It has gotten awfully quiet in the apartment house these days.

4 days ago
Well aren't we smarmy, @DJMaxMJ? That does sound awfully dramatic. And it Amtrak should decide to do what all major airlines and other modes of mass transit already do and let small dogs under 25 ( or 16 pounds depending) in carriers ride and some how those little dogs do what that have never done before and spontaneously flee their carriers, then perhaps you and your rouge snake can help out? Until then, there's always the (fake) service animal letter from a real doctor more and more dog owners seem to (mysteriously) need to ride the rails... Letters that don't require their furry friends to be contained or in carriers in anyway, by the way. But I'm sure that's as crazy a rumor as a boa constrictor named Huggy who likes to lift his lid, right?

Apr 17, 2014
Does anyone know where a list of awardees will be posted?

@ScottMohnkern   I just read the application again.  They will be selected on a rolling basis, another words, ongoing throughout the year.  They will notify the applicants they are interested in by e-mail.  You only have 3 days to reply so watch your e-mail everyone and good luck!  Wish I was on that train right now!


@ScottMohnkern  I have won. At first, people assumed Veruca would win, but after I flushed her down the vacuum bowl commode on the Amtrak (which everyone had thought was mostly inactive until recently)- I was the soft-spoken but pure hearted shoe-in. Let the rides begin. Just don't push the red button.

Monday, October 6, 2014

NY Assembly members meet with educators

It was nice to have been in a room with many others from so many different places. I have seen Assemblywoman Lifton in her office on a few occasions, and at SUNY last April. Still, it is difficult for me to wrap my mind around what the Assembly can/is willing to do-or what is the nature of what they have already done. During her appearance at SUNY Cortland this past April, I brought up the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Al Graf(R)-one that included a waiver from RTTT mandated responsibilities,  an end to common core and common core testing, and had language for establishing a panel of twenty-some people appointed by a variety of leaders and educators who would have public meetings in several locations throughout the state. 

I have the text, but believe it's still available online (A8844).

Lifton's response during her appearance was an "I hear your pain, but get more active, write your governor...we are sort of powerless in this..." type response. At Saturday's meeting Assemblywoman Nolan's response was to quickly brush aside bill numbers, describe how they go away and come back with different numbers and ask what is important...I think she knew the bill I was talking about but wanted to avoid getting too far into why good bills get killed by who, and why. It is a management technique (and looks good for a politician) to steer clear of details in the part they play and simply listen to you and let you get your stories off your chest. A person walks away feeling "Wow...they really listened to me!" Yeah, they did....aaannnd?  

Here is a quote from someone who was there the day Al Graf's A8844 died (Cue Don McLean music), followed by a link to the page it is on:

"Then came Tuesday, June 3rd.  The day that Assembly Bill 8844 was put to vote in the New York State Assembly Education Committee, chaired by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan. Chairwoman Nolan had been advocating a HOLD on this bill meaning it would die in this legislative session if the vote took that path    I had the opportunity to attend this meeting/vote along with about twenty other parents. We traveled from all over NYS to advocate for the bill one last time. As we know, the bill was killed.  I was heartbroken to say the least. I couldn't believe what had just happened.  After the meeting adjourned, we were given the opportunity for a seat a the table with Chairwoman Nolan.  I thought that was pretty huge.  We were able to go around the table and discuss specific issues.  I had to hold back tears several times.  I do think that Chairwoman Nolan hears us, but for some reason she doesn't think this bill was the answer.  So I wonder, what is the recommendation then?  My kids, and everyone else's kids don't get a do-over with their education.  NO DO-OVER.  This bill would've eased that worry for me.  I'm afraid for today's students, especially those with an IEP.  I was glad that Chairwoman Nolan was listening though."

The Graf Bill, A8844:

An article describing the passing of Nolan's "put it in protected mode" bill

A link to the description of the "truth in testing" bill also sponsored by Nolan, but that she seemed unaware/unfamiliar with when I opened asking about it's status. Having sponsored then overseen the passing of the "on hold for two years" bill after the defeat of the "get rid of it now" bill...this testing related legislation seemed like a decent consolation prize. It calls for more transparency and review of testing companies, practices and results, as well as more access to old test items themselves. Good things, really, if we are to stick with no-bid contracting to testing companies sharing the revolving door between lobbying/policy making/politics:

Sorry, I meant for this to be a simple share-contacts/it was nice to meet you message....but I've been a little steamed since Saturday and came away agreeing with only a few things said: 1) That Tennessee accent is beautiful  2) Our unions have been complacent and 3) We need to form alliances with each other and parents to shake up all the people who think they can get away with forcing this insanity on us, and those who protect the insanity.

Oh-there was one more thing. For the top quality, caring people at that table who hinted at getting out: please don't. Evil only wins when good gives up. Not to be melodramatic but our nation is investing too much in drones and data-mining, and avoiding the real responsibilities-which are then left to pile up on public school educators and the educators of educators. 

So stay, play, fight and find a way. 

You do "...the most important thing on the planet second to parenting." (Jenke, 2014)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My Father in Law. I'm sure he'll be watching my every move.

My father-in-law. I could not have asked for a better "extra dad". This man was pretty damn awesome...I mean, he's the reason I have my wife, my kids...

Saturday, September 6, 2014

What reformers cautiously avoid

The conversation education reformers avoid 

My first daughter was born five weeks early. I remember that night clearly: we had just got back from some shopping and my wife had sent me out for a Burger King cheeseburger (one of those pregnancy cravings that had to be satisfied occasionally). When I got home, not too many minutes later, I found her in our bedroom on the floor-laying on her side with a stopwatch in one hand, and the book "What to Expect When Expecting" next to her. It was one of those "triple-take" wife...the stopwatch...the book. Later I was to find out she had sent me out on purpose, and that she had felt "something" was happening.
            Before long we were in the car, and on our way to the hospital, which was maybe 3 small village blocks away (a five minute walk). I was driving like she might give birth in the car and she had to let me know that I could slow down...that the baby wouldn't come in three minutes, but I had many memories of TV shows and movies where babies were delivered in the backseat of cars by husbands, cab drivers, firefighters, or some other random good Samaritan. It always happened quick with some yelling, screaming, crying, then smiling. Painful, messy, happy...and scary.
            Needless to say, my wife was right and we had plenty of time-but I was right too-it was scary. Not just because it appeared that the moment may have arrived-but because it was five weeks early (at that stage, complications are more likely). But even though there was no backseat birth or waiting room delivery, it became clear that our first baby was coming when they could do nothing to stop the contractions with medication and decided instead to induce labor. The worry was that if birth-weight was too low, our baby would be whisked away to a hospital more than a half hour away, and my wife would remain.
            I'm pretty sure someone had their thumb on the scale-she was so tiny! But she was able to stay in Cortland, close to us. Jen was in recovery, Chloe was taken to the newborn observation room, under a hood with oxygen being pumped into it and being monitored. I went back and forth between Jen and Baby Chloe. Sometimes I would sing softly to Chloe, leaning down close to do "You are my Sunshine", the same way I did while she was in Jen's belly and I would sing with my mouth pretty much on her. I can't remember how long I did this back-and-forth between rooms, singing/ talking/ comforting... but I finally went to one of the nurses on duty and asked if they could bring Chloe to Jen. Jen had just given birth to her first child, prematurely,  and was stressed. Chloe hadn't really spent any time with her mother and was in a bright impersonal room under a plastic hood. It had probably been a few hours-but time gets warped in situations like this. It was almost as soon as Chloe was in Jen's arms that both seemed to be better.
            Chloe is 15 years old now, one of three sisters, one of four of the loves of my life. Parenthood is an amazing, painful, wonderful, awe-inspiring responsibility, and as I write this, I am seeing my wife's post on Facebook. She is home with her own father and family right now. I won't share details, but home with her father is where she needs to be. There isn't much time left for that. I am home with our daughters. Jen's  connection with her father is a powerful one-recognized and respected by everyone in her family (and me). She knows that she's his favorite, (so does everyone else), and while he isn't in the mood for much right now-she is the one he wants with him.

Her FB post:

Me: Dad, remember when you used to take me fishing?

Dad: Yeah, Beansie (her younger sister's nickname, Jen's is "Ding-Ding"...don't know where these came from) went a lot too.

Me: How did we ever catch any fish? We sure did talk alot......... I guess is wasn't about the fishing was it???

Dad: I guess not...

Me: Thanks Dad. 
*****sniff sniff*****

            Chloe is sleeping right now. She's a teen, but gives us virtually no trouble. She is bright, beautiful, creative. Brenna, 13, could be described pretty much the same (in addition to the sleeping thing)-but is already taller and "leggier" than her mother and Chloe...a fact she enjoys razzing Chloe (and Jen) with. Our youngest, Ella (8), sits on the couch with the journal of letters Jen and I wrote to her when she was only "Little Fetus McConnell". There are too many great moments to remember, too many awesome things these kids do every day...We have from day one loved them, held them, supported them, encouraged them, and made it clear we love them unconditionally. And I think you can tell. If you are familiar with them, know them, or have seen any of the crazy stuff they do-you can probably get it. I'm not trying to brag, I think we've merely fulfilled a minimum requirement that many others do as well.

           But fewer parents can or do these days-cut loose to the free market and investment wind as well as policy makers and the silent hands that guide them.There is our real achievement gap problem. Education reformers avoid this conversation like the plague, because it is impacting factor numero-uno on student outcomes. Finding someone in school to blame (not something outside of school they might have to help fix) is the current agenda because it holds opportunities in a new "education reform" market. But what reformers won't engage with is a meaningful discussion regarding the quality of the bond that parents and children share, and how significant that is in determining a student's ability to focus and achieve in school. If their basic needs are met, if they are emotionally secure, they are more likely to succeed.  Reform stars would probably say that they understand and feel this love, this unbelievably strong bond that begins even before the moment you see and hold your baby in your arms. The feeling that parenting is the most important thing you can ever do-to unconditionally love; to put the needs of another first; to give the world the best possible future by laying a loving foundation in your family world first.

            They would say they feel the same way, and that they know lots of others who do as well. Of course they do. That's likely how they were raised, that's the world they live in: where families have the resources and background to form these secure and loving bonds. For the sake of public relations, reformers cherry-pick just that type of family to put out front for their lawsuits or enroll in their semi-exclusive schools. What they are NOT getting, or willfully avoiding, is the fact that more children are coming to public school classrooms without that quality family foundation in place. They are unfamiliar with and/or unwilling to discuss a different type of family and dynamic that leads to a different sort of student coming to many public school classrooms. And more of them are coming as we sacrifice real life truths to the demands of market perspectives.

            The arrogance of enjoying a gated sort of existence and undeserved influence over others, then using outcomes of inequity as criticisms of those combating inequity is aggravating. Using influence from within those equity gates to decide on and enforce a brand of generic education for the masses outside is wrong. All kids should have the connections I see in my family,many families I know. and that those driving reform likely have. But fewer and fewer do.

            No amount of testing, no exclusive "public" charter school, no amount of arrogant rhetoric from those who will not take on the real burdens, no posturing from someone who themselves enjoys a gated sort of existence can do it. It is time for honestly "shared sacrifice". Those who already have sacrificed are being asked for more by those who continue to avoid it.

Think reformers will agree?

Monday, September 1, 2014

Why public schools and tenure are suddenly top priority

            Our public education system is not the source of our state of inequity and outcome-decay, it is a co-victim along with the learners hoping to be more than fuel for the current global economy furnace ( or the gravel under its feet). Still: public school reform has been made a top priority. Why have education reform, failing schools and bad teachers taken the lead position on the "things to do" list? Two possible reasons:

1) There is a lack of will to address the actual problem: economic policy that empowers the greedy and dismisses or covers for failures that result-impacting the economy for everyone else while still enriching the greedy.

2) True education, empowerment, critical thinking, and collaboration in the masses are a threat to the few in power (the greedy mentioned in 1),  so education reform in its current form seeks to control the masses through a standardized education that will merely equip them to serve-not to lead.

            Despite the rhetoric heard from leaders in policy and reform, there is no reason to believe that they really want a nation of empowered, well educated graduates-even though their language is centered around "college and career readiness" and "competition". The implication of the former is that college is appropriate for all, careers are there for the taking (or will be when the "jobs of tomorrow" arrive), or both. Responsibility for any student's failure to achieve either or both lies entirely with public schools and teachers. But little attention is given to either the massive college debt that already exists among the un-and underemployed, or the debt awaiting all of those future college ready students who take on the challenge within a job market that holds little promise.  

            The latter, "competition",  is concerning because it reveals adherence to the cutthroat, me-first philosophy that leads to greed, inequity, market crashes, dishonesty and distrust. I'm not sure many in the forefront of education reform ( being politicians, semi-celebrities, coached carefully by PR experts) would claim that economic competition and individual glory are the primary goals of an education, or that we want to compare ourselves and compete globally with countries like India and China (even though those are often given as examples of who our competitors in the global market are). No one who is calling for America to be economically competitive with these other nations also opens a discussion regarding what our core values as a nation are. They certainly don't discuss whether we really want held up as models either a country where 1 in 6 city dwellers live in conditions unfit for humans or another where child labor is exploited and factory workers sometimes live in filthy dorms working seven day weeks and twelve hour days.

            Is reaching for these conditions the education reform plan for making American children (other than the more privileged) more competitive? I can't believe it, but I'm waiting for it to be proven wrong, namely with healthier models and clearly articulated and shared goals/values- "Common Core Values" (as opposed to standards). But in a world where advancements in technology mean fewer jobs for the majority, and more wealth and power for the minority. conflict is inevitable as inequity increases. Below is a list of five sources, lettered A through D. Each of the technology-related quotes below them can be matched to one of the sources. 

Can you match source to quote correctly?

A) From the "Manifesto" of Ted Kazinski (The "Unibomber")  (1995)
B)  From  a song by Jimiroquai  (1996)
C)  From Bill Gates (2014)
D)  From the July New Tech Schools Annual Conference Keynote Address by Paul Curtis (2014)


1.  ____  Well, technology in general will make capital more attractive than labor over time. Software substitution, you know, whether it’s for drivers or waiters or nurses… It’s progressing. And that’s going to force us to rethink how these tax structures work in order to maximize employment, you know, given that, you know, capitalism in general, over time, will create more inequality and technology, over time, will reduce demand for jobs particularly at the lower end of the skill set. And so, you know, we have to adjust, and these things are coming fast. Twenty years from now, labor demand for lots of skill sets will be substantially lower, and I don’t think people have that in their mental model.

2. ____ The continued development of technology will worsen the situation. It will certainly subject human beings to greater indignities and inflict greater damage on the natural world, it will probably lead to greater social disruption and psychological suffering, and it may lead to increased physical suffering even in "advanced" countries.

3. ____  It takes fewer and fewer people to produce the things that we used to produce. And so the question for us is: where will the people go?...So if computers can access this kind of [massive amounts of] data, and compete against humans in something that we would have expected to be a uniquely human trait...again, what is it that human brings to the table...what's our "value add" to this economy, to society...?

4. ____ Futures made of virtual insanity - now
Always seem to, be govern'd by this love we have
For useless, twisting, our new technology
Oh, now there is no sound - for we all live underground

Tomorrow is day 1...and I'm starting to go stream of consciousness here. Let me just say that clearly, the education reform we are entrenched in is closely linked to the future (present?) conditions described above: class division driven by the market, technology, and who controls them. "Common" standards were not called "exceptional" standards for a reason. "Morality", "equity" and "honesty" aren't words heard when reformers disparage public schools. What would the global economy do with so many exceptional people raised with those values? Reformers will not target the true dangers, because they are the dangers that keep them in power, and everyone else under control. Public schools hold the potential to create change and reform from the base of society upward (not force it from above). Educators are the ones capable of challenging students to think exceptionally (not commonly).
This is why public education and tenure are being targeted.

(Answers to matching: 1:C ; 2:A ; 3:D; 4:B)